THE LACK IN THE LORD’S RECOVERY TODAY
After I had completed the Life-study of the New Testament in 1984, I began to observe the development of the churches in the Lord’s recovery. I found out that although the number of churches was large, the number of saints in the churches was not large enough. Although we preached the gospel, the result was short of what we expected. For example, when I left the church in Manila in the Philippines in 1962, there were about two hundred saints. Now after twenty-seven years, it has increased only up to five hundred saints or more. Obviously, the rate of increase is not high. This is the common problem among all the churches today.
In the Preaching of the Gospel
In this fellowship, I want to prove to you one thing, that we come short in the matter of the preaching of the gospel. It is not enough for us to have so small an increase within so long a period of time. This warning sign tells us that we should all humble ourselves before the Lord and should ask for the Lord’s forgiveness.
In the Nourishing and Teaching of the New Ones
At the same time, we saw that the prevailing lack among us is not only in the preaching of the gospel, but in the nourishing and care of people after salvation and in the further edification, teaching, perfecting, equipping, and spiritual supply of the saints as well. Although we say that all the saints are the priests and that there is no distinction between the clergy and the laity among us, the fact that we have not perfected the saints properly causes many saints to become incapable of serving. What we considered as church services were merely the miscellaneous affairs such as mopping the floors, cleaning the windows, arranging the chairs, and serving as ushers in the meetings. There are few who serve truly in the spiritual services as priests and who are able to teach the truth and to minister life. Many times, unavoidably there develops the taste of the clergy-laity system.
In the Perfecting of the Saints
Ephesians 4 shows us that the goal for the perfecting of the saints is the work of the ministry unto the building up of the Body of Christ (v. 12). However, we must admit to the fact that we have not attained to this goal. The Bible reveals to us that whatever the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the shepherds and teachers can do, should be something that all the saints can also do. This is like starting a university; it is not enough only to invite famous speakers to speak to the students. There must be courses, and there must be an adequate number of professors. The students must also be divided into classes. The smaller the classes are, and the greater the number of professors there are, the better it will be. The professors need to teach the students personally. After four or five years, the students will graduate, and they will be able to do what the professors do. This is the only way to have a successful university.
The problem with the church today is that everyone comes only to listen to the famous speakers. This has gone on year after year. After thirty years, not many have been perfected. We should return to the practice revealed to us by the Scriptures: “And He Himself gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints’’ (Eph. 4:11-12). Furthermore, we have to learn from Paul’s example of perfecting others. Not only did he travel to work, but he also remained in a place to perfect the brothers and sisters. For example, he remained in Ephesus for three years to teach publicly and from house to house, admonishing everyone night and day with tears, not shrinking back from declaring to them everything concerning the counsel of God, the apostles’ teaching, and that which was profitable to them (Acts 20:20, 27). After the saints received this kind of perfecting, every one of them was able to do what Paul could do. This is the normal way.
Today, although the Body of Christ has not been built up yet, and the whole earth is still in a state of desolation, I believe that the Lord will surely recover what is recorded in Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 14, so that every saint can become an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, and a shepherd and teacher. This will surely come to pass in the advanced recovery of the Lord today. May the Lord be merciful to us.
(A message given by Brother Witness Lee in Quezon City, Philippines, on March 25, 1989)
(The Riches and Fullness of Christ and the Advanced Recovery of the Lord Today, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)