III. THE LESSON OF THE ELDERS
The lesson the elders have to learn is absolutely not methods, ways, skills, or tactfulness. The lesson for the elders is brokenness before God. A clever person is not necessarily capable of managing a church. Neither is a capable person necessarily competent to manage a church. A person who reasons well may not be competent at managing a church, and neither is a person who has resources for everything necessarily competent at managing a church. Only one kind of person can manage a church—a broken person. All the lessons that an elder has to learn are lessons of brokenness. When God put Moses over His flock, Israel, He first put Moses in the wilderness for forty years, with the purpose that he might learn the lesson of brokenness. In Numbers 12, even when Moses’ sister Miriam and his brother Aaron rose up to slander him, God’s word testifies for him, saying, "The man Moses was very meek, more than all men who were on the face of the earth." During those forty years in the wilderness, Moses did not learn a set of methods concerning how to manage God’s people. He learned only one lesson, the lesson of brokenness. God had broken him. When he was forty years of age, he was indeed a very shrewd and capable person. It was as if God said, "Shrewdness will not work; capabilities will not work; the fist that killed the Egyptian will not work; the brute method that slew the Egyptian will not work." All these must be torn down. All these must be broken. God put him in the wilderness for forty years to teach him one lesson only—the lesson of brokenness.
In any local church, or in any district meeting, only a broken person can manage and build. Over a long period, time will be the test. Your wisdom, your capability, your shrewdness, your cleverness will not stand the test of time. If you manage the church with your skill, tactfulness, cleverness, and methods, you may get by this year, but you will not be able to get by another year. Even if you can get by the next year, you will not get by the following year. At most you can get by up to the fourth year, but by the fifth year, you will not be able to get through. Time will be a trial, and time will also be the test. However, if a broken person is to lead and manage the church, he will withstand the test of time. As time goes on, the church he manages will have more and more the measure of reality.
Therefore, please remember that the lesson for the elders is brokenness. Reasoning is absolutely of no use, and negotiation is absolutely of no use. In the church the one who is most capable of reasoning is the one who is most incapable of managing. The one who is most capable of negotiating is the one who is most incapable of building up the church. There is only one kind of person who can manage the church, and that is a person who is broken. It does not mean that such a person cannot reason, but he has been broken and is no longer trusting in reasoning. It does not mean that such a person does not have ways to manage things, but he has been broken and is no longer using these methods. He is capable, but after he has been broken, he no longer makes use of his skill. He has wisdom, but once he is broken, he will not use his wisdom. Only such a broken person can manage the church.
These days we have been studying Numbers. We see that Moses was nearly one hundred twenty years old. He passed through forty years of life in the Egyptian palace, forty years of testing in tending the flock in the wilderness, and thirty-eight years of experience in leading the Israelites. Each time the Israelites rose up to trouble him, however, he did not exercise his own tactfulness. This is an amazing thing. He never negotiated, and he never reasoned with the people. It may seem that Moses was reasoning in Numbers 16:28-30, but actually he was not reasoning. He never exercised his own ways. Each time difficulty arose, he did not reason; he had no methods, arguments, or tactfulness. He only submitted himself to God and let God solve the problem. He was truly a broken man.
The Scriptures tell us that Moses had exhaustively studied the knowledge of the Egyptians. Historians also tell us that he was not only a statesman and an educator, but also a military strategist. He was such a capable man, yet look how much he was harassed by the Israelites! He was like a man without knowledge, without capabilities, and without resources. He only knew to prostrate himself before God. The more the Israelites created disturbances, the more he fell down before God. If there were any methods, he let God work them out. If there were any words to be said, he let God speak to the people. Here we see a man who had wisdom, knowledge, and capabilities, yet he was a broken man. Brothers, only when the church is in the hand of such a person can it be a vessel that truly expresses Christ. Only when the church is in the hand of such a person can it have a genuine building up. The more the elders are broken, the more the church will be built up.
(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)