THE RESTRICTION OF SUBDIVIDING ONE ASSEMBLY
INTO TWO LOCAL MEETINGS
When can one assembly be subdivided into two "home" meetings? It must wait until the number becomes large before subdividing into two meetings. Moreover, after the subdivision, both meetings must remain strong. It is better to have a hundred, or at least fifty or seventy-five, in each meeting after the subdivision.
We want to mention the brothers’ request for a meeting in Bao-shan. At present, the brothers in Bao-shan are an outgrowth of the meeting in Gordon Lane. These brothers wrote to the brothers in Gordon Lane and wanted to start another meeting in Bao-shan and break the bread there. What should they do in order to be scriptural? They should not merely realize that it is scriptural for brothers to meet together, but they should make sure that they have the leading of the Holy Spirit and consider the condition of their meeting. They should take care of the meeting in Gordon Lane. First, they have to consider the number meeting in Gordon Lane and see whether that number is becoming too large for everyone to meet together and whether the time is ripe for them to subdivide. If the meeting in Gordon Lane is a weak meeting, a subdivision will further weaken the situation and make it even more difficult to go on. Second, we should not think that we can set up the Lord’s table recklessly just because we want to break bread and remember the Lord in a place. Actually, the minute we set up the Lord’s table in a place, the question of the church immediately comes up, and we have to bear the responsibility of the church. Can these brothers deal with the problem of receiving and excommunicating people? Can they be responsible to take up other burdens? Therefore, we have to pray much concerning this matter before we can have the proper answer.
Suppose it is time for the brothers in Bao-shan to start their meeting. What are the procedures? They should inform the assembly in Shanghai (both the meeting in Wen-teh Lane and the meeting in Gordon Lane) and tell it of their intention to start a meeting. Those brothers who intend to meet in Bao-shan should pray much, and the brothers in Shanghai should also pray much. If in their prayer, both sides feel with one accord that this can be done, the brothers in Bao-shan can then have their own meeting, and they will have the blessing and the laying on of hands of the brothers. This shows that the brothers in Bao-shan have received the approval of all the brothers and are not acting according to their own will. This is like bees multiplying their hives into smaller colonies. This kind of move is done in a happy way because it is done through much prayer and much fellowship with the brothers. This way is the way of the laying on of hands; it is not the way of an independent move. I have to add a few words. Even though we may meet separately in this way, it does not mean that Shanghai does not need a meeting place that is bigger than what it now has. In Shanghai we still need a meeting place that can hold five hundred or more because every year people come to our conferences from everywhere.
Question: In Taichow someone asked about the matter of the laying on of hands. Should we practice the laying on of hands today?
Answer: There is such a thing as the laying on of hands in the Bible. But it is not the so-called laying on of hands (or ordination) that men know of today. Today it is always those who are greater who lay hands on those who are smaller. But in the Bible, we find both the greater ones laying hands on the smaller ones, and the smaller ones laying hands on the greater ones. Acts 8 mentions Peter and John going to Samaria. They laid hands as the greater upon the smaller. But Acts 13 tells us that the teachers and prophets laid hands on the apostles. This is clearly a case of the smaller ones laying hands on the greater ones. In the church in Antioch we see some prophets and teachers. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit told them that they should send Barnabas and Saul out for the work which He had called them to do. They laid hands on the two and sent them out. We know that Paul and Barnabas were apostles, but the prophets and the teachers were the ones who laid hands on them. Ephesians 4 clearly puts the apostles first and the prophets and teachers second (v. 11). Acts 13 shows us that the ones who were second laid hands on the ones who were first. This shows that the laying on of hands is not an act of the greater upon the smaller, as some have imagined. In the Bible, the laying on of hands merely signifies fellowship, sympathy, and mutual union. The laying on of hands in Acts 8 indicates that the Samaritans were joined to the Body of Christ in the same way that baptism signifies one’s union with the death of Christ. The laying on of hands in Acts 13 signifies that the church was joined to, sympathetic with, and in fellowship with Paul and his companion. Their going was the whole church’s going. This laying on of hands shows that it was not just Paul and Barnabas who went on their missionary journey, but the whole church in Antioch went with them. It shows that their work and move were not just related to the two of them; they were related to the whole church in Antioch. The laying on of hands did not only signify their fellowship with those who laid hands on them; it also signified fellowship between the ones on whom the hands were laid and the whole church in Antioch. If any person goes out from us for some kind of work, it is best if he goes out after we lay hands on him.
We should brush aside or wipe away the dust of human tradition from biblical teachings as dust is wiped away from a mirror. Many people do not wipe away the dust. Instead, they think that the mirror is too dusty and break the mirror altogether. Many people think that talking about elders, deacons, and the laying on of hands will make us the same as the denominations. Actually, the original thing was not wrong; what was added later is wrong. Our goal is not to destroy the work of the denominations but to recover what God has ordained in the beginning. We cannot throw away the examples in the Bible just because all the other things are wrong. Our aim is to ask whether God has commanded something. When I go out to work, many times I wish that the brothers would lay hands on me. This shows that I am not going out alone but being sent by the whole assembly, and the whole assembly is sympathetic to what I am doing. I hope those who serve as elders among us would practice the laying on of hands in the future.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 22: The Assembly Life & The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)