THE NORMAL WAY
What is the normal way? The normal way is not to use our human effort; nor is it to depend upon a revival campaign with a giant preacher. Fruit-bearing is the outflow of life; so we must grow in life and also take the responsibility of fruit-bearing. The church should encourage every member to pray for the bringing in of new converts to the church. We should spend at least two or three hours weekly to take care of some new ones. It is not right for a church to remain the same in number year after year. Suppose that after five years we still have the same number. This is absolutely wrong. This means that we do not have the exercise of the flow of life.
What do I mean by the flow of life? I mean that we must abide in the Lord and enjoy the riches of His life. Then we must be burdened for fruit-bearing. We must pray, “Lord, my daily life is to bear fruit.” Then the Lord will give us a deep realization for two or three persons for whom we should care. We may know fifty persons, but at that time the Lord will burden us with only two or three. We will pray for them, mentioning their names to the Lord. Then we need to seek the Lord’s guidance regarding how to contact them. Perhaps we will invite them to dinner along with some of the brothers and sisters; then there will be others to help in ministering life to them. The brothers and sisters in the church should help one another in a mutual way in the matter of fruit-bearing. We should not do this just once in a while but constantly. This is our daily life. We should spend at least two or three hours weekly in this matter. Do not expect a quick job. It is by doing it steadily and constantly that we will see the results.
If every year each one would bring in one new convert, within a year’s time the church would be doubled, and after another year it would be doubled again. The young people should bring in one new one every six months. It is not too much to bring in one new convert in one hundred and eighty days. In fact, it is too little. If each one could bring in two a year, by the end of the year, the church would be doubled twice. This is the increase.
Some may say that this is too much. Suppose then that each one brings in one every two years, or that two brothers bring in one each year. In six years the church will have doubled three times. That is not bad. And you cannot say that it is too much for each one to bring in one every two years. What an increase there would be!
We must not trust in the big gospel campaigns; we must trust in the increase of the church. The increase of the church is the fruit-bearing, not a great campaign. As a branch we must bear fruit, and one fruit every two years is so easy.
LIMITATIONS TO THE INCREASE OF THE CHURCH
The increase and fruit-bearing of the church can be greatly frustrated and limited by the disposition of the leading ones in the churches. Some leading brothers possess a natural disposition against having many people. They always like to have around seventy-five or eighty in the church, and certainly not more than one hundred. This is their disposition. They like to be a leader of a small number, not a large one. If the number is too large, they feel they cannot handle it. This is why our natural disposition must be broken. In a city with nearly three million people like Los Angeles, how can we be limited to just seventy or eighty? We should expect to see one day in Los Angeles more than one hundred meeting halls, with a thousand brothers and sisters in every hall. Even that is not too many, for one hundred thousand is just three and one-third percent of three million. We need to be enlarged.
Do not condemn those who bring in twenty but lose eighteen. If you bring in twenty and lose eighteen, you still have two left. It is better than nothing. Where are the ones you have brought in? Eighteen may have gone, but there are still two. How many do you have? However, I do not believe that many will be lost.
Our disposition must be transformed. We must bear fruit. In some of the places I have visited, I have cried silently to the Lord, “Lord, be merciful to this place. They have been here five years, and there is still no increase.” This simply has been due to the disposition of the leading ones. They did not like to have so many. They were satisfied just with a moderate number. The Lord be merciful to us that we may never have such a disposition.
Some of the leading ones do not like to be so busy in taking care of new ones. That is their disposition. This kind of disposition restricts the increase of the church. Do you know what the Lord told us? He told us to go to the streets and the byways and force people to come in. We have to be aggressive in this matter.
A few things are very necessary for the church life: to walk and live in the spirit, to experience Christ as life, to take a firm standing on the proper, unique ground, and to bear fruit for an adequate increase. If there is a vine with many branches, spontaneously fruit will be brought forth, and this will be the real increase of the tree. I am not against any gospel campaign or any famous preacher, but the normal Christian church life is that of every member bearing fruit. This is the normal condition. It is unnecessary for the local church to hold a large campaign. If a number of believers are meeting and fellowshipping together week after week, month after month, new fruit should spontaneously be brought forth. There may be no preaching, yet new fruit is brought forth. This is right. It is exactly similar to putting our trust in all the members, not in the teachings and ministries, to build up the church. In the same principle, to bear fruit we must trust in all the members.
The leading ones of all the churches must be enlarged in their disposition. It is true that to have more people is a kind of trouble, but we must be enlarged. The leaders must learn to share the responsibilities with others. But again, this is a matter of disposition. Some of the leading ones do not like to have others share the responsibility; they like to have everything in their hands. This has to be broken if the church is to increase.
(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 21, by Witness Lee)