Elders' Training, Book 09: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (1), by Witness Lee

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The leading ones’ care for the church is not an organizational matter. The church is not an organization. The church is God’s family, God’s household (Eph. 2:19; Gal. 6:10). All the elders should be the teaching fathers and the nourishing mothers (1 Thes. 2:7, 11). This is the way to take care of the church. It is altogether an organic matter, not organizational. The term elder also indicates something organic, something of life. An elder is a person who is mature in life.

To see more concerning the organic service in the Body of Christ, let us read 1 Corinthians 12:28: "And God has placed some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then works of power, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." Administrations refers to the eldership in the church. Helps refers to the services of the deacons and deaconesses (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Administrations and helps are listed with apostles, with prophets, with teachers, and with works of power, healing, and tongues. This proves that both the helps by the deacons and the administration by the elders are not organizational. They are from the Spirit.

Now we need to read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7: "But there are distinctions of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are distinctions of ministries, yet the same Lord; and there are distinctions of operations, but the same God, who operates all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for what is profitable." The word distinctions in these verses can also be translated as distributions. These verses are a summary and a governing word of the whole chapter. Of course, they govern verse 28, which lists administrations and helps.

According to our natural thought, the government of the church has nothing to do with the distribution of gifts by the Spirit. But 1 Corinthians 12 tells us clearly that even the service of the deacons as helps and the function of the elders as administrations are distributions of gifts by the Spirit. This has to be something of the Spirit organically, not something of organization. Many years ago, I considered that the administration by the elders was not a gift from the Spirit, but later I received the light to see that it is a gift from the Spirit. Since this is the case, it has to be organic.

The spiritual gifts are of two categories—the miraculous gifts and the gifts of life given according to grace. Romans 12:6 speaks of the gifts of life given according to grace. These gifts are the issue of the development of our spiritual function in the spiritual life. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul puts the gifts of life and the miraculous gifts together. Helps and administrations are gifts of life. Since they are gifts, they are something of the Spirit, and they are organic.

In Romans 12:8 Paul refers to taking the lead as a gift according to grace. This refers to the elders in the church. To lead in the church is to administrate. We may consider that the administration of the church is not of any gift, not of life, or not of the Spirit. We may think that it is altogether a positional, organizational matter. But Romans 12 tells us that to lead, to administrate, to function as an elder in the church, is one of the gifts given according to grace. This indicates that the leading of the elders is organic. It is by life and not organizational. These three words—eldership, administration, and lead—are misunderstood by Christians as something organizational. After much study of the Word, we can see that they are not organizational. They are organic.

(Elders' Training, Book 09: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (1), Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)