THE UNIVERSAL PRIESTHOOD
We also need to practice the universal priesthood (Rev. 1:6; 5:10), which means that every believer is a priest. In the practice of the church life, we should not have clergy or laymen, but only priests. In the Body of Christ we are members, and in the service to God the Father we are priests. Therefore, we not only must function in the meetings; we also must serve. In the church there is much service, and everyone should take part in these services. Be a serving priest, not just a functioning member. We all must practice this.
ENDEAVORING TO BEAR FRUIT
In the church life we all need to bear fruit. The Lord Jesus said, “I chose you, and I appointed you that you should go forth and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). This is not solely to have the outreach by preaching the gospel. Nor is it only to have “soul winning.” It is to impart life to others. In Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, and Luke 24:47 we are told to go and preach, but in the Gospel of John we are told to go and bear fruit. The Gospel of John is a book on life; therefore, the preaching, the outreach, in this book is the impartation of life to others, causing them to become fruit.
Never say that numbers do not mean anything. In Acts 11:21 the divine record says, “A great number believed.” If numbers do not mean anything, the Holy Spirit would never have said this. In married life we need children. If after a long period of time a married couple does not have children, this indicates that something is wrong. Also the bringing forth of children is simply to impart the life we have into our children.
We also need some spiritual children. We need to impart our spiritual life into our spiritual children. If the local church in a certain place has fifty this year, the next year fifty-one, the third year forty-nine, and the fourth year forty-five, the church should not try to vindicate itself by saying that it does not care for numbers, but only for quality. A local church needs numbers. Although in a spiritual sense, some members that are brought forth may be crippled, blind, deaf, or lame, it is still good. In appearance it may be a mess, but it is better than nothing, and something will come out of it. Physically, some lame fathers have brought forth very strong sons.
All local churches must encourage every brother and sister to produce. All the saints must endeavor to bring forth fruit, even remaining fruit. Do not be troubled thinking that if we bring forth many, the church cannot take care of them and some will die. Perhaps this is true, but some will remain, and this is better than nothing. Every marriage that is normal produces children. We have to stress this very much and put it into practice.
FEEDING THE LAMBS
The next point is the feeding of the lambs (John 21:15-17). Bearing fruit is one thing; feeding the lambs is another. If we are proper, on one hand, we bring many unbelievers to the meetings and, on the other hand, we take care of several new believers. We have to bear fruit, and we also have to feed the lambs. In these two matters we should not be special or particular. The church is for everyone, including the young people, the middle aged ones, and the older ones. The church is for all kinds of people. We do not know from what direction the Lord will bring people into the church. While Peter was suffering persecution in Jerusalem, he might have thought that Saul of Tarsus surely was going to hell. But beyond Peter’s expectation, the Lord turned Saul into an apostle.
The church is not built up with the persons we intend to have, but with the persons God has chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). We cannot predict whether our children, our parents, our cousins, our schoolmates, or our neighbors will be the church people. Only the Lord knows. We just go in a general way according to the Lord’s leading and bear fruit. Do not do anything special, strange, or peculiar, and don’t classify people. The Lord may even raise up some good saints from the opposing ones. Who will be saved, who will be the elders, who will be the spiritual ones, only the Lord knows. It is not up to us; it is up to Him. Yet we still have to do our duty to bear fruit and feed the lambs. This is not your work, nor my work, nor even our work; it is the Lord’s work.
SPREADING BY MIGRATION
In Acts 8:1 we see that persecution came against the church in Jerusalem, thus scattering the saints and forcing them to migrate. Acts 11:19 shows that the scattered ones preached the gospel as they went, and some local churches were raised up. Reports went back to the church in Jerusalem, and it sent Barnabas to have fellowship with them (Acts 11:22). The spreading of the gospel and the church life in the first century began by the migration of the saints. The going out of the apostles began from Antioch (Acts 13:2-3).
Therefore, a good number of the saints in the local churches should be migrating ones; first migrating from city to city, and state to state within this country, and then migrating to other countries. For the sake of the Lord’s recovery, we should not be narrow sighted and only set our eyes on the local church in the city where we reside. We need a larger view.
The more a church gives up people for migration, the more people it gets. The more a church keeps, the more it loses. Do not try to keep people. Do your best to give them for the Lord’s spread. Do not be narrow sighted, thinking you will lose something. You will never lose. Even if you lose on this earth, surely you will gain in the heavens. Praise the Lord for the way of migration!
A FINAL WORD
None of the points that we have covered in the last three chapters are aspects of our Christian faith. However, all of them should be put into practice; otherwise, a local church could never be strong and prevailing. If all of these points are put into practice, a local church will become strong and prevailing. These are not items of our Christian faith. But they must become part of the practicality of the church life.
(The Speciality, Generality, and Practicality of the Church Life, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)