THE PRACTICE OF THE GROUP MEETING
Speaking and Singing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
Now we need to consider the way to have a group meeting. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be filled in spirit. We believers who love the Lord Jesus, who are seeking His purpose, and who are burdened for His recovery should be persons filled in our spirit all day long. We should be filled with the Triune God, who is today the all-inclusive Spirit to us. When we are filled within, surely we will utter something out from our spirit. Ephesians 5 tells us to be filled, speaking and singing. Our speaking and singing are not in common language. We may speak or sing a psalm, which is a long piece of poetry. It may be like Psalm 119, which has one hundred seventy-six verses. There are twenty-two sections with eight verses in each section. Twenty-two is the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each section of Psalm 119 is according to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We may speak or sing a hymn, which is somewhat shorter than a psalm, or we may speak or sing a spiritual song, which is shorter still.
We need to speak and sing these psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs long before coming to the meeting. Even in our home, it is very good to be speaking and singing. The husband may say, “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior.…” Then the wife may respond with, “All the day long” (see Hymns, #308). Or she may say, “I have passed the riven veil. Here the glories never fail.” Then the husband responds with, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! I am living in the presence of the King” (see Hymns, #551). If we are filled in spirit, we will have something to utter. The small group meeting may begin at 7:30 p.m., but if a couple begins to sing at dinnertime, around 6:00 p.m., the small group meeting will have already begun. Such a meeting can continue as they drive together to the meeting with the other saints.
If I go to the meeting place and no one else has arrived, I should not sit quietly and wait for others to arrive. I should begin to speak, pray, or sing. At least I have an angel with me, so I am not alone. The Bible says clearly that when Peter was released from prison and went to Mary’s home, some there thought it was his angel (Acts 12:15). The Lord Jesus said that even the little ones in the kingdom have angels (Matt. 18:10). The group meeting can be started very spontaneously by speaking, praising, or singing.
Fellowship, Interceding, Mutual Care, and Shepherding
The New Testament does not give us the details of the group meetings, but in the verses we have mentioned, there are some small “windows” into the practice of the group meetings. These will help us to see what happened in the ancient days in the group meetings. By considering the Word, we can see that there was much fellowship, interceding for one another, mutual care, and shepherding. The fellowship brings the awareness of one another’s condition and situation. This will lead into prayer for one another. This will then cause us to go to one another to render a mutual care. Through the fellowship we may find out that a brother has been in an automobile accident. This leads us to pray for him and his family. Then we may consider his financial needs and be burdened to care for his health needs. All of this should not be in a formal way. It should be a spontaneous issue of the Spirit. I hope that from now on we can have all our group meetings in such an organic way.
Teaching in Mutuality
For the perfecting of the saints, there is the need of teaching in the group meetings, and in the group meetings all are teachers. There should not be a particular teacher. Even one who was saved two weeks ago can be a little teacher. After there has been some fellowship, interceding, mutual care, and shepherding with the exercise of the spirit in the small group meeting, a brother may suddenly ask a question. He may ask what God’s dispensing is. All the eyes may turn to the oldest one in the meeting, but it may be better for one who has been recently saved to answer the brother. This gives him the opportunity to speak. This newly saved one may say, “God’s dispensing is for Him to distribute Himself into our spirit.” Suppose such a one has been saved for only one or two months. Everyone would be encouraged by his speaking. It is much better if six or seven speak for a few minutes than if one person speaks for a longer time. This kind of teaching is rich and all-inclusive. Its many aspects are much better than a meeting where only one is speaking. If everyone speaks, all the saints will be happy, and all will learn. This is the way for all to be perfected. If there is someone there who is really high in spiritual knowledge and in the experience of life, he may give a conclusion of perhaps ten minutes.
If the saints will come to this kind of meeting forty-five times a year, much teaching will be gained by all. The new ones will be perfected in this way. Furthermore, because this is a group meeting, many things will be worked out. This kind of practice is the proper way to fellowship, to intercede, to give mutual care, to shepherd, and also to perfect one another by the mutual teaching.
Carrying Out the Church Service
If we are experiencing the riches of such a meeting, we may pick up a burden to take the first step of the God-ordained way to go out to visit others. Then we must take care of the new ones whom we gain. This means the group meeting will carry on the church service. Eventually, this will make the small group meeting just a miniature of the church life.
(The Exercise and Practice of the God-Ordained Way, Chapter 24, by Witness Lee)