The Elders' Management of the Church, by Witness Lee


The way for elders to coordinate is a very important subject, but it is hard to define. We will consider this matter under several points.

A. Learning to Accept Authority

Once we touch the matter of coordination, we will realize it is not something two-dimensional, but something three- dimensional. Anything that is two-dimensional is not very useful. Once it becomes three-dimensional, it becomes useful. For example, a house is three-dimensional, and a body is three-dimensional. The church is a house. As such it must be three-dimensional. The church is also a body. As such it must also be three-dimensional. Since the elders represent the church, in all aspects they must be three-dimensional. It is a big failure for the elders to practice democracy among themselves. What is democracy? It is the consent of the majority. On the other hand, if there is autocracy within the eldership, and there is only one man giving commands, we also have a worldly situation. The administration in the church is neither a democracy nor an autocracy. It is not the opinion of the people, nor the proposal of one. It is fully a matter of God’s presence. God’s presence is the authority. In order to have the coordination, all the elders have to accept authority and to accept the ordering in the authority. Every elder should know where he stands in this order. As an elder, you have to find out among the elders your authority. Coordination in the church is neither a democracy nor an autocracy, but a body principle.

Those who are the authority need others’ coordination to touch the sense of God. The head feels through the members. In the same way, many times those who are the authority do not sense anything directly, but their sensing is through those with whom they are coordinating. Those who coordinate with you as elders may not be your authority, but they are your sensing organs. If you as the authority lack these sensing organs, you will not be able to touch the sense of the body. This is why we cannot be proud here; we depend on each other with our lives. I can have a certain sense, yet I am not the authority. Another may be the authority, yet he does not have the sense. Hence, we must all depend on each other with our lives.

Under normal circumstances, when eight or ten elders come together, they should not adopt a congressional system and should not look for a democratic solution. Rather, they should open to one another and fellowship in the Holy Spirit. Every elder should learn to fear the Lord and to live before the Lord. They should learn to present all their feelings concerning a certain matter. Those elders who are the authority should also learn to fear the Lord, to be without preconceptions, prejudice, or bias, and to listen to this fellowship and to touch the brothers’ feelings. After they have sensed the intention of the Holy Spirit, those who are the authority can make the decision and can announce that the matter should be taken care of in a certain way. If they do this, the result will not be democracy or autocracy, but will be something that issues from the Holy Spirit.

The situation in Acts 15 was neither democratic nor autocratic; it was a situation like the one we have just described. Everyone opened himself in the Holy Spirit and fellowshipped what he had encountered, what he felt, and what he had observed. In the end, James, who was the authority at that time, after hearing all the words, stood up and stated the way they should proceed. Immediately after James stood up and spoke, no one had anything more to say. This is the principle of authority.

(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)