THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EVERY BROTHER
In practice, we have to ask: What responsibility should the brothers bear? Every brother should bear the responsibility not only of the local assembly but of the brothers and sisters who are in fellowship with them in the whole of China. Actually, he should care for those in the whole world who have fellowship with them. At present, we can only consider all those who have fellowship with us in China. But to be more scriptural, we should eliminate the thought of China and consider all the believers everywhere in the whole world who have fellowship with us. We share with them the same fellowship with God and His Son. One of our shortages is that we who meet in Shanghai only see the ones meeting in Shanghai, while those meeting in Peking only see the ones meeting in Peking. The greatest lack today is that believers do not have a world view and worldwide love. Many people only see their own sins; they only know that when they believe in the Lord, their sins are forgiven, and they are saved. They do not know what the fellowship among the brothers is. Many only see the brothers in their own localities and do not care for the brothers in all the places. This is not according to God’s will.
God saves men in order to gain living stones for the building up of the spiritual house. If there were only individual, isolated stones, there would not be a spiritual house. Our breaking of the bread is a manifestation of the whole Body of Christ. Everyone who breaks bread should be responsible to the whole Body of Christ; he should see that he is responsible to all those who have fellowship with him. Therefore, every time we are about to receive a brother into our bread-breaking meeting, the responsible brothers should show him that the breaking of bread is for the discerning of the Body. It is not only a discerning of the Lord’s body but a discerning of the Body of Christ. If we do not discern the Body, we are committing sin.
Therefore, all the brothers who are breaking bread should realize the scriptural requirement for breaking bread: (1) A person must be saved, and (2) he must not be one who commits the sins in 1 Corinthians 5. Moreover, he should know the responsibility he bears as a brother who partakes of the bread. He is responsible to the local brothers, and he is responsible to the assemblies in all places. If any brother is not clear about the responsibility he should bear, we should not reject him but allow him to consider, and we should show him the consequences of not bearing this responsibility. He should realize that the breaking of bread is not only for the remembrance of the Lord but also a matter of responsibility to the fellowship of the church. If a brother is clear about all these matters and is willing to take the responsibility, he can be received. Otherwise, we should allow him to consider carefully and think clearly. He should then make the decision by himself whether or not he wants to fellowship with us.
This is not a new invention. It was present two thousand years ago. If a brother wants to go to a certain place, he should first try to find the brothers who are in fellowship with us. Do not move to a place for four or five months without looking for the place to meet and without letting others know where you are. Before you leave your own locality, do not neglect to ask the elders to write a letter of recommendation for you. You have to realize that wherever you meet, you are responsible to that assembly. Your conduct there should be worthy of a brother. You should not act like one who is not a brother. If all of us take care of the mutual fellowship and act according to the Scriptures, our fellowship will become very precious. Our responsibility is to care for the whole Body of Christ, not only for the things related to the local assembly. We should not be like those in the denominations, who are pew members only, who do not care for others, and who do not know anyone else except the pastor. The Presbyterians only know the things related to Presbyterians, while the Methodists only know the things related to Methodists. But we should be different. We should know all things related to all the brothers and sisters who are in fellowship with us; we should know the things related to all the brothers and sisters in the whole world. May God bring us to the position of the church at the beginning. May He show us this matter.
If a brother or a sister has the opportunity to go to another city, he or she should first investigate if there are brothers in that place who are in fellowship with us. If in that place there are two or three places that one can have fellowship with (such as the Brethren assemblies or other independent meetings), and if the choice is up to him, he should choose to fellowship with the brothers who have fellowship with us. This will bring benefit to their meetings and bring benefit to him as well. We admit that the way we take is a lonely way and that the number of those taking this way may not be large. But God will open doors for us so that everywhere we will find some people of the same mind who will meet with us. May God show us what the Bible requires of us.
RESPONSIBILITY AMONG THE ASSEMBLIES
The Bible tells us that a rule that God sets for one assembly is the same rule for another assembly. If the rule in two assemblies is different, there must be something wrong. Either the rule in one place is wrong or the rule in the other place is wrong. Of all the books of the Bible, 1 Corinthians is the clearest in dealing with the affairs concerning the church. First Corinthians 1:2 tells us that it is written not only to the believers in Corinth, but to all those in every place who call on the name of the Lord. In other words, all the churches should take the same way; it should not be different from one church to another. In 1 Corinthians the apostle taught about the sister’s head covering. After he finished his teaching, he said, "But if anyone seems to be contentious, we do not have such a custom of being so, neither the churches of God" (11:16). The apostle did not allow the action of one local assembly to be different from another assembly. From this, we see that our meeting cannot act independently. Every assembly should care for the other assemblies. Before we do anything, we should consider how our actions will relate to the other assemblies. A sister cannot be free of her head covering in the meeting in Peking while covering her head in the meeting in Shanghai. In the churches of God everything has to be in one accord. In 1 Corinthians 14 it is said that women should not open their mouths in the meetings, "as in all the churches of the saints" (v. 33). This shows us that all the churches of the saints should keep the matter of sisters not preaching in the meetings.
However, the meetings in the various churches begin at different times: some begin earlier; others begin later. In addition, the condition of the various churches is also different. Some are clear about the truth of the church, while others are not so clear about the truth of the church. What then should we do? We should learn in a humble way to follow the other assemblies. The apostle said, "And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thes. 1:6). Again he said, "For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus" (1 Thes. 2:14). This verse tells us that the church in Thessalonica were imitators of the churches in Judea. Why did the church in Thessalonica have to imitate the churches in Judea? It was because the gospel was first preached to the Jews. The Judean churches were the more "senior" churches. (I am taking the liberty to use this expression for now. Please note that the Bible never describes the churches in Judea in this way.) No assembly can act independently. Not only should individuals not act independently, but the whole assembly should not act independently.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 22: The Assembly Life & The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)