THE BROTHERS’ MEETING AND THE SISTERS’ MEETING
Since Shanghai is so large, the brothers and sisters are all scattered, and there is little fellowship between them. Therefore, there is a special need for the brothers’ meeting and the sisters’ meeting. Every Saturday afternoon at 4:30, we have the sisters’ meeting. In the evening at 7:30, we have the brothers’ meeting. During this kind of meeting, the emphasis is on mutual fellowship and on discussing ordinary affairs. We may talk about how the brothers ought to behave as brothers, and we may also cover something related to the meetings. In these meetings, we bring up problems of brothers and sisters who are out-of-town, problems of those who are unemployed, and other needs of the brothers and sisters, spiritual or material. This is very important. Through these meetings, we can avoid many mistakes and make many corrections. We cannot be individual believers before God; we have to learn to bear the responsibility of other brothers and sisters. A pew member in the denominations can remain a member for twenty years without knowing anyone. Some can be a pew member for five years without acknowledging anyone even once. Many people are only concerned about their personal salvation; they are concerned only about their Christian life and do not care for the other brothers and sisters. They do not care for the corporate life. But God has not made a heaven for each one of us and put us into our own heaven. Rather, He has put us in a corporate body so that we can help one another and fellowship with one another.
Many poor brothers dare not go into the houses of rich brothers. Many rich brothers do not like to go to the houses of poor brothers. In the world, there are distinctions between the rich and the poor, and in a family, there are distinctions between the master and the servants. But in the meeting, these distinctions should be removed. All differences in our position in the flesh should go through the cross. This is what the cross has done. We should not bring to the meeting what the cross has removed and put in the grave. The cross has not only removed the middle wall of partition between Jews and Greeks, barbarians and cultured ones, but it has also removed the separating wall between slaves and free men. In other words, all classes, ideologies, and systems that exist in society should be removed. In the family, there is a distinction between the master and the servants. But in the church there is no such distinction. If a brother is the servant of another brother, he is, of course, a servant at home and should be obedient to his master in everything. The brother who is the master should, of course, be a master at home. But in the brothers’ meeting or the bread-breaking meeting, there is no distinction between master and servant. Both sides should avoid going to extremes. A servant should not think that just because he is a brother, he can tell others what to do at home. On the other hand, a master should not think that just because he is a brother, he should not rule over his servant in a proper way. In the family, there are differences of position. A Christian should still be a proper human being. For example, a father and a son may be Christians together. In the family, they are father and son. In the meeting, the son can call the father a brother. But in the family, the son cannot call his father a brother. Therefore, in the brothers’ meeting, when brothers meet together, we should help the brothers understand that in the Lord there should be no question of being rich or poor, educated or uneducated, with status or without status. These distinctions should be removed. Therefore, the brothers and sisters should make an effort to come to the brothers’ meeting and the sisters’ meeting. These meetings are for fellowship, for helping the brothers and sisters solve their problems, and for living the corporate life. This is not a time for listening to sermons. Although there may be messages in these meetings, one does not meet for the sake of listening to messages. Otherwise, the meeting would be disbanded if the speaker went to sleep. The danger with many revival campaigns is that as soon as the revivalist is gone, the people are gone. God’s way is to save individuals and put them into the church so that they can be blended together and help each other.
Since this is a matter of practice, I have to say a few words that may not be so nice to some. First, there should be more communication between the brothers not only for mutual care but for mutual oversight. Some matters should, of course, be handled individually. But with other matters, there is a need for us to know our brothers’ problems. Suppose a brother has lost his job. We should find out how he lost his job and the reason for it. If it was a proper and honest layoff, we should bring this matter up in the brothers’ meeting and help the brother according to the teaching of James 2. The main thing is to do something and not just to believe. It is useless to believe as the one in James 2. If a brother has lost his job through dishonesty, we should help this brother, exhort him, and deal with him. If he is truly unemployed, we should try to support him. Things like this cannot be brought up in the prayer meeting, the bread-breaking meeting, or the gospel meeting. We can bring them up only in the brothers’ meeting. If there is anything that is related to personal reputation, which does not need to be announced in the brothers’ meeting, then it should not be announced in the meeting.
It is wrong for us to be ignorant of the weaknesses and problems of the brothers, to not know whether a family has encountered difficulties, to be ignorant of the spiritual problems, needs, and sicknesses of others, and to fail to care for these ones. The denominations have hired pastors to do this work. But we do not have this class of people; every one of us has to take up this work. Poor brothers should not purposely try to avoid rich brothers, and rich brothers should not ignore the need of poor brothers. None of us can give up being a brother just because we do not want to communicate with certain ones. The brothers should express the assembly life through the communal life, and they should express the proper life of brothers. All those who do not see this are bound to fail, because this is what God wants us to do today.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 22: The Assembly Life & The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)