THE LIBERTY TO CARRY OUT OUR BURDEN
In the past the elders have been too exercised in making arrangements and in selecting saints to do things. Instead of this, we should give the saints the liberty to carry out their burden and encourage them to do so. Not long ago I proposed to the elders that many homes be opened for Bible studies. Although a number are burdened for this, they are waiting for the elders to arrange something. Do not wait for the elders to make arrangements or to decide who is qualified to have a Bible study in his home. We all can study the Bible. Can you not gather a few of your neighbors together for a Bible study on the Gospel of John? Certainly you can. Whether or not you can carry on a Bible study does not depend on eloquence; it depends upon your burden. People do not want eloquence—they want reality. I encourage you, according to your burden, to have a living, informal Bible study according to the spirit. This is simply one example of the many things the saints are able to do.
Since coming into the church life, we have heard message after message. The saints not only need to eat the spiritual food; they need to work and to be useful. All the brothers and sisters can be useful and do something. I would encourage the elders to stop making arrangements and to let the saints be busy. In the church I like to see that the saints are busy and that the elders have much time to pray. Although the saints should not wait for the elders to make arrangements, they should not be rebellious or independent in what they do.
The church needs the elders, but the elders should not do everything, for this will produce the clergy-laity system. We need the eldership, but not the clergy. As long as the saints are not rebellious or independent and as long as they are for the Lord’s recovery, whatever they do is all right. They need to be given their freedom. Selection always forms a class among the saints, and this causes division. The elders should give the saints the liberty to drive the “car.” As long as they are moving toward the same goal, it does not matter if they drive differently.
We have pointed out that we need some experienced ones to minister Christ in specific ways to the new ones. Suppose a certain brother, skilled at carpentry, serves with the maintenance group. Although many things in our meeting hall require maintenance, our goal is not merely to take care of the practical needs, but to bear Christ as the ark to those serving in the maintenance group. A new one with ability in carpentry may spontaneously share in this service. The more experienced ones should be thankful for this new one, not for the help that he can render in maintenance, but for the opportunity to minister Christ into him as the ark. This is shepherding. If those in the maintenance service minister Christ to others in this way, this service will be full of Christ.
However, this is not yet the situation among us in the church service. Instead of ministering Christ to others, we care for the group itself and, for the sake of the group, we often make a selection among the saints. Do not think that ministering Christ is solely the responsibility of the elders. It is the responsibility of all the saints. There are innumerable opportunities to minister Christ. If there were thousands of us ministering Christ, we still could not exhaust the opportunities.
SERVING THE LORD IN THE SPIRIT
With respect to the tabernacle, Moses and Aaron did not do very much. They did not do the packing nor the carrying. The elders in the churches today, on the contrary, do too much. The elders should not promote organization. Organization leads to hierarchy, which in turn issues in the clergy-laity system. There is a strong tendency, even among us, to have the laity. But if we have the laity, then we have the clergy also. The church needs the elders, not to control the saints nor to do everything for them, but to fulfill their own duty. The elders should decide the time of the meetings, and they should represent the church in certain matters. Instead of waiting for the elders to make arrangements, the saints should pray and function according to the spirit. However, there must be no tendency to independence or rebellion. If we are either independent or rebellious, then we are not concerned for the Lord’s recovery.
We need to carry out the Lord’s recovery according to the heavenly vision. Under the light of this vision, we care for a living testimony in oneness. Nevertheless, in this oneness there is great variety. The saints are free to set up a Bible study in their homes or to engage in other spiritual activities to care for others. They do not need to wait for the elders’ approval or permission. The elders have no right to grant this permission. Every saint has the freedom to serve the Lord in the spirit as long as he is neither independent nor rebellious. This is the way to build up the church.
(All Ages for the Lord's Testimony, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)