In 1984 I realized that we were lacking something related to the third item of the Lord’s recovery, the universal priesthood of the members of the Body. In the service among us, there was the danger that the system of the clergy and laity was being built up. Almost every local church depended on a good speaker for the Lord’s Day morning meeting, and not many saints were participating in the proper church service. As a result, our service was not fruitful. For almost ten years our increase in numbers was very low. After six years of study, practice, and experimenting, the Lord has given us a clear view concerning the universal service. We have received mercy of the Lord, and He has shown us the God-ordained way revealed in the New Testament.
The God-ordained way is to practice God’s New Testament priesthood of His gospel (Rom. 15:16; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). This way mainly consists of four practices. First, we must preach the gospel regularly by visiting sinners. God so loved the world that He gave His Son, the Savior, Christ, that the sinners, the people of the world, might believe in Him and have His eternal life (John 3:16). God desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). The Lord’s main charge to His disciples after His resurrection was to preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15). To preach the gospel is the first thing the church must do for the Lord. If we mean business with the Lord in His God-ordained way, we must bear the burden to preach the gospel to get sinners saved.
Then we must feed the new believers regularly in their homes. After the new believers have believed and have been baptized, we must consider them as our babies and ourselves as their begetting parents. After their delivery, babies need the adequate care to be nourished and cherished that they may grow. If we help them to be saved and baptized and then leave them alone, they will die spiritually.
We also need to perfect the saints in group meetings. After feeding, nourishing, and cherishing their children, parents must educate them. Almost twenty years are needed to properly perfect children through education. In the same way, we must do our best to raise up the new believers by teaching, instructing, and correcting them through the group meetings.
Finally, every believer should prophesy in the church meetings for the building up of the church as the organic Body of Christ. Everyone must be trained to prophesy, which is to speak the Lord, speak for the Lord, and speak the Lord forth into others. All the believers have been charged by the apostle to pursue, to desire earnestly, and to seek to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1, 12, 39).
We have been weak in all four aspects of the priesthood of the gospel. We have been weak in preaching the gospel regularly by visiting sinners and weak in feeding the new ones. Moreover, we have depended on the Lord’s Day morning meetings and the conference and training meetings to raise up and perfect the saints. We have not practiced the direct perfecting of the saints. Likewise, we have been weak in prophesying in the church meetings. The practice of one man speaking and all listening has annulled 1 Corinthians 14 for us.
We all, without exception, must learn the four practices of God’s New Testament priesthood of His gospel. First, we must learn to bear fruit by visiting sinners. We are the branches of Christ as the vine (John 15:5). As branches of the vine we should bear fruit yearly. Although many of the saints have been listening to the messages of the ministry for many years, they have not borne fruit. This is a great problem.
All the large denominations have been bothered by the decrease or slow increase in their numbers. We also in the Lord’s recovery have been very weak in the increase. In 1975 there were about ten thousand saints in the local churches in America. Today we have less than eighteen thousand. We have not doubled our numbers in fifteen years. It is not too much for a church with one hundred saints to gain thirty new ones in a year. All one hundred saints meeting in a local church do not need to go out for the gospel. If only thirty go out and each one bears one fruit yearly, the church will have a thirty percent increase yearly. However, we have failed to practice this.
The God-ordained way is a diligent way. To maintain a job, one must be regular and on time. Otherwise, he will lose his job. In the same way, we must be very diligent and regular in the new way, the God-ordained way. We must not say that the new way does not work. It is very workable. However, it does not work if we do not work regularly. To remain in the Lord’s recovery indicates that we love the Lord, but if we love the Lord, we must mean business with Him. Many of us have been barren for many years. We must reconsider our situation and even make a vow to the Lord to give Him three hours a week to reach some sinners.
We may not need to visit new people for the gospel. We simply can make an appointment with our friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues and visit them with some other brothers or sisters. Sometimes it is difficult to help our own relatives to be saved, but if two brothers or sisters come with us, they may be saved on the first visit. Then once they are saved, they may have several more acquaintances for us to meet. Ten saved ones will lead to many new acquaintances with whom we can make appointments. This requires our time, but we do not need to use too much time. It is sufficient to go out once a week for three hours, regardless of our situation.
(The Basic Principles for the Practice of the God-Ordained Way, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)