THE BUILDING UP OF THE CHURCH NEEDING THE WORKERS TO PERFECT THE SAINTS INSTEAD OF REPLACING THEM
Third, the co-workers and responsible ones have to see a great principle in Ephesians 4. In the building of the church the gifted persons are meant to perfect the saints so that they will become useful ones. They are not meant to take the place of the saints in serving the Lord; rather, they are meant to perfect the saints so that they can serve the Lord together. There is a big difference here. It is very easy for those of us who are co-workers or responsible ones to fall into the danger of replacing the saints in the matter of service. Often, the more we work, the more the responsibility of service falls upon us. The more we work, the more the brothers and sisters let things fall out of their hands. As a result, they only come to the meetings to hear messages. If this is the case, we are not perfecting them but replacing them in the service.
All those who have seen the light of the building of the church must guard against this. In the church we may be doing a very important work, but our work should never replace the service of the saints. Instead, our work must be to perfect the saints to serve. The normal situation should be that the more we work, the greater will be the number of those who are perfected by us to serve. The number should increase to the point that all the services are in the hands of the saints. This is what it means to perfect the saints to carry out their respective functions for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Of course, having all the saints fulfilling their functions is the responsibility not only of the co-workers and responsible ones but also of all the brothers and sisters. In general, the brothers and sisters often have this kind of feeling: “The co-workers and responsible ones can do a much better job than we can in the services in the church so we should just let them do everything.” On the other hand, some brothers and sisters do not serve because they simply prefer to be at ease. These ones may say, “Since we have these co-workers and responsible ones to do everything, let us relax and enjoy. During the day we have already been so busy working in our offices, teaching in schools, and taking care of our homes. It is not easy even for us to come to the meeting in the evening. Therefore, let us just leave the service to the co-workers and the responsible ones.” Please remember that if this is the case, then all the gifts of the saints will be buried, all their functions will be annulled, and all their responsibilities will be neglected.
Sometimes after the meetings we divide into groups for fellowship. I would like to go to visit these groups to have some fellowship with the brothers, but I am afraid to go. The reason is that no matter which group I go to, the brothers in that group stop their fellowship. Immediately they say, “Brother Lee is here. Let us ask him to speak.” The group leaders say, “Brother Lee, we have a difficult question. How would you explain this?” This forces me to pick up my Bible and leave. If I leave, they will do their job. If I stay, they will not do it. They say that I can do a good job while they cannot. But I do not believe that, because from what I hear, they actually do a better job than I.
Therefore, on the one hand, the co-workers and the responsible brothers must believe that the brothers and sisters are able to serve and must give them the opportunity to serve. On the other hand, the brothers and sisters ought not to let the co-workers and the responsible brothers do everything. They are not angels; they are human beings like everybody else. You have to believe that sometimes you can do a better job than they can. If every one of us would stand in our own position to fulfill our function, then not only a small number, but all of the brothers and sisters in the church would be serving. This would build up the Body. I hope that everyone who works for the Lord or bears responsibility in the church will firmly grasp this principle. We are perfecting others so that they may all participate in the service. We should not replace others in the service. We should not act as pastors and preachers, replacing others.
One time a brother came to invite me to his home to preach the gospel. I asked him, “Why do you invite me and not the other brothers?” He replied, “They cannot speak as well as you can.” I said, “Your word is not accurate. I know that there are brothers who speak much better than I do. I beg you to believe me, but even if you do not believe me, I am not going. You just have to ask someone else.” Eventually, he had no choice but to ask another brother. Thank the Lord, He proved that what I said was true. Later the brother who had invited me said to me, “Thank and praise the Lord, that day the other brother’s speaking was really good.” I said, “Among the brothers there are still many more who can speak even better than he can, so do not invite him only.” He asked, “Who is better than he is?” I answered, “Everyone else is better than he is; go and invite them.” This sounds like a joke, but I know what I am talking about.
If we believe that only a few persons are able to serve and therefore always depend on them, then the church can never be built up. All the wise parents know that to train their children to do a certain thing, the best way is to let them do it and to believe that they are able to do it. For instance, if you want to train your children to cook rice, you just step back and let them cook. Even if the rice they make is uncooked, you should still let them cook. I tell you, after they have cooked rice five times, the rice will no longer be uncooked. By doing it again and again, eventually they will know how to do it. In the same way, in the church we must believe that the brothers and sisters have the Spirit of God and the life of God in them. We have to believe that this Spirit gives gifts and that this life has functions. Hence, we have to give them sufficient opportunities. At the same time, every brother and sister should have this conviction: “I am a saved person. I have the Holy Spirit, and I also have the Lord’s life. Hence, I surely have a gift, and I surely have a function.” We should not be proud, because self-pride is an accursed thing. However, we also should not keep saying humbly that we cannot do anything. We need to learn in humility to fulfill our function. This is not to have confidence in ourselves but to trust in the Lord’s Spirit and the Lord’s life. In this way we will see that our function is manifested.
I hope that those who work for the Lord and the brothers and sisters who are serving together would continually learn this matter. We have to constantly provide opportunities for the brothers and sisters to serve. We need to guide, perfect, and instruct them in all things, turning over our responsibilities to them so that they may rise up and serve. If this is the case, surely the church will be built up.
(The Building Work of God, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)