THE AFFAIRSPrint This Page.
“And they sold their properties and possessions and divided them to all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:45).
“For neither was anyone among them in need; for as many as were owners of lands or of houses sold them and brought the proceeds of the things which were sold and placed them at the feet of the apostles; and it was distributed to each, as anyone had need” (Acts 4:34-35).
“And in these days, as the disciples were multiplying in number, a murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews occurred, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily dispensing” (Acts 6:1).
“Let a widow be enrolled, not under sixty years old, having been the wife of one man” (1 Tim. 5:9).
Today we want to come to the sixth matter, that is, the affairs of the service office—the church business office or work office.
THE BIBLE RECORDING THE ARRANGEMENTOF THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF THE CHURCH IN DETAILAND THAT OF THE PRACTICAL AFFAIRS NOT IN DETAIL
In the New Testament it is quite amazing that the arrangement concerning the spiritual aspect of the church is shown in a very detailed and complete way. Concerning the arrangement of practical affairs, however, the Bible tells us only that there was such an arrangement. It does not tell us how the practical affairs were arranged. The Bible speaks in great detail regarding how the spiritual gifts should operate, how the meetings should be conducted, and how the goal of the meetings should be for the building up. It is also sufficiently clear how the church is organized and how the church is local and has brothers, deacons, and elders. It is also quite clear how these elders, who are the overseers, should behave in the church. This time we have seen that the work is also regional. Within a region there are apostles being sent out by God to work and later returning to their own center of work. It is also very clear that there are apostles who take care of the affairs of the church in that region. The Bible, regarding spiritual things, has given us very clear guidance. If any person before God is sufficiently simple, sufficiently pure, sufficiently careful, and willing to learn, then he will not have much problem in understanding the ordination of God; he can obtain clear light.
THE BIBLE HAVING NO DETAILED RECORD OFARRANGEMENT OF PRACTICAL AFFAIRS
In the New Testament one peculiar thing we repeatedly see is that the church needs a great many arrangements, yet the Bible does not spend much time speaking of the arrangements of practical affairs. It is very reluctant to mention these things.
Today I especially want to read the three portions in Acts. Two passages tell us that we should distribute to people according to each one’s need; one passage tells us that a few widows, the Hellenist sisters, were overlooked. The church in Jerusalem at that time had tens of thousands of people, but today you read only these few words: “Distributed to each, as anyone had need.” You see that it was very simple. But today in Foochow there are only one thousand believers; yet we still are not able to find out everyone’s need. In Shanghai there are a little more than one thousand believers, and we still do not know what the actual need of everyone is. At that time in Jerusalem there were tens of thousands of believers, all newly saved. How could the apostles distribute “to each, as anyone had need”? Please remember how much work and arrangements were needed among them. This is not a matter of one or two days, nor a matter of one or two persons, nor a problem of one or two meals; this is everyone’s need.
I believe that anyone who has managed practical affairs knows how difficult this is. For instance, this time on the mountain we have only one hundred persons, and already we are aware of the difficulties. We have three or four brothers at the foot of the mountain and two or three brothers up here. They are busy specifically for these one hundred. They still cannot do a perfect job. What would it take to care for over ten thousand people! The Bible simply says, “Distributed to each, as anyone had need.” It was a problem to find out how many “each”s were there. It was another problem to find out the needs of these “each”s, and even more of a problem to distribute to their need. Even though there are only seven words here, we do not know how much labor is involved with these seven words, how many problems, how many responsibilities, how many records, how much calculation is in the background, and how many people need to be sent out to do the distribution. However, this is a peculiar thing in the Bible. Although what they were doing may have taken several days to complete or even several months, the Bible simply records it in a few words, as if the thing happened within half an hour. The events on the day of Pentecost were recorded in great detail, but when it comes to distributing “to each, as anyone had need,” which is related to the management of practical affairs, the Bible does not give us a detailed record.
LEARNING IN TWO ASPECTS
The Need to Arrange Practical Affairs
Therefore, today I want the brothers to learn something here, because there is a basic principle. We have to learn to see that there are two aspects. On the one hand, the Bible clearly shows us that arrangements are needed for practical affairs. There may be brothers among us who misunderstand to the point that they think that practical affairs need no arrangements. They seem to think that things will take care of themselves. There is no such thing. The Bible clearly tells us to distribute to each, as anyone has need. In this there is arrangement, not careless dividing and careless distributing. It is distributing to each, as anyone has need. Therefore, please remember there are arrangements. There are affairs that are carried out in a clear and strict way with clear procedures.
The Persons Being Important,Not the Method
On the other hand, I want the brothers and sisters to take note that God does not emphasize these arrangements. God has arrangements, but God did not record all these arrangements in the Bible. The fact that there are arrangements is spoken of in the Bible, but the method of arrangements is not recorded. God does not recognize that the method of the arrangements is important enough to need to be recorded in the Bible. Perhaps you will ask why. I would like you to know that there is the need of people who have the wisdom and the spiritual way before God to be able to obtain the spiritual wisdom from above. If a person is one who can receive God’s grace, he will receive grace even when he is handling practical affairs. If a person is one who is filled with the Holy Spirit, he will know how to carry out spiritual affairs; he will also be a skillful worker to build up God’s tabernacle. This is also a spiritual work. Therefore, God wants us to pay attention to learning spiritual matters. From the beginning to the end of the Bible you can see spiritual arrangements and spiritual principles, but you do not see the arrangement of practical affairs. It is not that the arrangement of practical affairs does not exist, but very little is said concerning it. The fact is recorded, but not the method.
The Danger of Recording Methods
God knows the temptations and the dangers that are in man. After a period of time what is spiritual is lost, but a whole set of business procedures still remains. There can be such a situation with us that the method of taking care of things is of God, but the person who carries it out may not be a spiritual person. If the rules, the details, and the methods by which the apostles took care of practical affairs were clearly laid before us, the readers of the Bible would love to learn these methods first and would not learn to be spiritual first. Because man is of the flesh, man would rather learn what is of the flesh than learn what is spiritual. When many brothers hear about baptism, they argue whether baptism is by immersion into water or by sprinkling. Only afterwards do they pay attention to what the spiritual significance is. Man does not pay attention to the significance of baptism; he argues first about the outward method and circumstance. This is man’s nature. Therefore, if there were a handbook for carrying out practical matters in the Bible, I am afraid that the twenty-seven books of the New Testament would be cast aside and this handbook would be the book everyone would have to read. This handbook would gain the attention of the church and would have gained the attention of Christians throughout all the centuries. Therefore, in the Bible there is this characteristic: God shows us only His grace but not His methods for doing things.
There are many churches that have published such handbooks. You may have seen in church history that every time God had a revival, He gained many people, and He used one or a few servants to raise up a group of people. After some days they realized that the church needed some arrangement concerning practical affairs. Therefore, they made many arrangements for church affairs. For fear that they might forget about these arrangements, they recorded them, kept the records, and used them as procedures for doing things so that they could have rules to follow. After some time the spiritual blessing leaked out, the living water was lost, and the power was gone. The second generation could not match the first, the third generation could not match the second, and the spiritual blessing almost completely leaked out; however, the procedures for doing things still remained. This has been the situation of Protestantism.
Therefore, in the Bible we see that God does not tell us the methods for doing things; rather, He left the methods for doing things to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the filling of the Holy Spirit, and to the Holy Spirit Himself giving wisdom. This was to avoid a day when the shell would be present, the methods would be present, the procedures would be present, but the blessing would be gone, the living water would be gone, and the spiritual power would be gone. This is a fundamental problem. In church history a method comes out when a group of people are raised up. Yet only the method remains by the time of the second, third, and fourth generation.
For this reason, we have avoided having a method all these years. We do not want a method among us. If the spiritual power is there, if the spiritual life is there, and if we always have the Lord’s blessing, then maintaining a method is appropriate. If one day all these spiritual things leak out and all that remains is a method, then that will be like the situation that has existed in Protestantism for so many years. All that remains is an empty frame with all of the inward spiritual things having leaked out. Therefore, we never want a method to come out.
Not Going to the Other Extreme
However, today we cannot go to the other extreme. Many people do so, thinking that there is absolutely no method in the church. I want you to pay attention to this one thing. You are people who study the Bible. You need to see that there are definitely methods in the Bible. Just look at the arrangement at the time of Pentecost. You will see that there was definitely a method to carry out affairs. Frankly speaking, even if you had only one or two thousand people, you would be unable to deal with the situation. If you were like the apostles with over ten thousand people, there would be total confusion. We see that the record of the Bible, however, only touches the matter lightly and then goes on. There are not too many words, but just one phrase: “Distributed to each, as anyone had need.” It seems very simple. Behind these few words, however, much work was done. Therefore, I want you brothers to be able to see that during the time of the apostles there were methods for doing things in the churches. But God did not want to leave these methods for later generations to imitate. If God’s Spirit is working in a certain place, a method for doing things will naturally come out. If the Lord blesses greatly on a certain occasion, a method will come out spontaneously. When the spiritual blessing dies out, the method for doing things will die out with it. We have no desire that the days of the methods for doing things would be even one day longer than the days of blessing.
We hope, brothers, that you will find a way between these two extremes. There are groups of people, such as the Protestants, who always pay attention to the method. Please remember that the less water a glass has, the more people examine the exterior of the glass. When the glass is no longer used to hold water, it is hung up on the wall as an antique. People always pay attention to external things. We know that God does not allow such things to remain. However, it is not that there are no methods. Chapter six of Acts shows us very clearly that since the problem of a few widows of the Hellenists was not solved, the apostles felt that this matter was not taken care of properly. There were only a few widows who had an unresolved problem among more than ten thousand people. Yet the apostles were not satisfied.
Remember the words that Paul spoke to Timothy. It seems that Timothy recorded the names of the widows in a record book. But in the Bible you cannot find out what a widow’s book is. It was mentioned in a casual way. It seems that Timothy was very familiar with this record book. Paul did not say to set up a record book of a certain size, nor did he say how to fill it in. He did not say any of this. He only spoke of enrolling the widows. This means that at that time everyone knew about this way. Later, he simply said not to enroll anyone in a careless way. A problem was discovered—only those sixty years old and above should be enrolled—and the matter was thus settled. He did not say where this record book came from or where it should go.
Prayer Being Neededconcerning How to Carry Things Out
I do not know whether you know this way. In the Bible there are arrangements and there is a record book, but the Bible does not emphasize the details related to this record book. God does not want to spend the effort to speak even two more sentences about it. What is there is sufficient for us when we need to carry out some affairs. There is a principle that there is the need for a record book. The principle of a record book is here, but as to the way of setting up this record book, you and I need to pray: “Lord, we know that in the early church there was a record book, but we do not know how to set it up. Lord, teach us how to do it.” We know that there are arrangements in the church on the one hand, and we need to endeavor before God to find the way on the other hand. God is not willing to lay out before us in the Bible a detailed form of a record book that we can conveniently use to know how to do the work so that we do not need to pray at all. Please remember that God is not willing to do this.
Brothers, I want you to see this before God. Do not pay attention to the method for doing things, because that is dead. Once you pay attention to the method, you will make things dull and deadened. The methods will be set up in such a strong way that one day, when the spiritual blessing is lost, the empty frame of a corpse will still remain. Neither do I want the brothers and sisters to be careless, not expending even a little effort to find out how to take care of affairs, nor ever considering a way to do things in the church. This is also wrong. The Bible does not tell us how to work, but there is a principle in doing things. Today we need to seek out that way. It is not that God does not have a way; God does have a way. Let us be careful never to be so spiritual that we do not have any methods at all. There was still a method there—“Distributed to each, as anyone had need.” We still need to carry this out.
THE METHODS THAT WE SEE TODAY
The Need for a Service Office
If there were only seven or eight believers in a local church or if there were only two or three gathered into the name of the Lord, we would not need a business office. If there are a good number of saints in a locality, one hundred, several hundred, or more than a thousand, it would be difficult and confusing without a business office. This is the first problem. Today we want to see something regarding the methods the apostles used to do things in their time.
The Principle of the Record Book
From my point of view, the second thing that I want to specifically point out is the principle of the record book. This is the principle of the widows being enrolled in the record book. If the record book were a method instead of a principle, then God would have told us the length and the thickness of it and its format. But God described the record book in a very brief way. Therefore, you are able to know that there is a principle of the record book. If anything in God’s Word is described with only one phrase without any details, then you know that that matter is a principle in the Bible and is, therefore, not in detail.
Man’s Memory Not Reliable
Why do we need a record book? We need it because man’s memory is not reliable. People depend on their memory to do things. If a person’s memory is not reliable, he will not be able to do things. If he sometimes remembers and sometimes forgets, what shall he do in order to carry out anything? Of course, I recognize that some brothers and sisters among us have very good memories. But if one day your memory were faulty, what would you do? What is recorded in the record book is likely to be more accurate than what is in your memory.
Not Easy to Find People
Furthermore, even if one’s memory is good, it may be difficult to find him. The one who is taking care of this matter may remember everything, but if he has gone away, what shall we do? If there were a record book, we could open it and read and understand the situation. When Timothy was in the church in Ephesus, he had to take care of the churches in the surrounding area, establishing elders to take care of them. When Timothy went to Rome and Titus went to Jerusalem, what would have been done concerning the problems of the widows if there had been no record books? Maybe they would have had to send a person to Rome to ask Timothy. If Timothy had said, “I have forgotten what I did. I do not know whether I moved one from Pergamos to here or one from Thyatira to there. I have forgotten.” Then what would have been done? If record books were there, no one would need to remember, and anyone could open them up.
Therefore, we need to see that church records and the keeping of records in the church are important. This is the principle of the record book. You cannot say that you or I will remember. The whole point is to write it down. It does not matter who it is; once time passes, even the one with the best memory can forget. In the world there are not that many people who can still remember things accurately after many years have passed. Even if you can remember, if suddenly you cannot be found, what shall we do? Therefore, the principle of having the record book comes in. The New Testament does not show us how to write things down in this record book or what kind of records we should keep, but the Lord has shown us that keeping records should be our principle. Therefore, many church matters need to be recorded in a good way.
For this reason, we hope that any church with a considerable number of people would have a business office. If you do not want to use this name, there is no problem. You can call it whatever name you choose. In Shanghai it is called the service office because deacons are the ones taking care of affairs there all the time. We want to keep this principle. We do not want to be like many Protestants who pay attention to these titles; we only want to do things according to the principle. In the church it is acceptable to call it the service office or the business office. The business office is a secular term; the service office is a name given by us.
THINGS HANDLED IN THE SERVICE OFFICE
For Contacting One Another
In this office the main work is to do two things. One is to meet the need of the brothers and sisters who wish to discuss matters face to face. In a local church there is not much problem if there are not many brothers and sisters. If a church is in a large city or the number of brothers and sisters is more than several hundred, it is not easy to find someone. If someone comes from out of town, he would not know whom to look for. Therefore, the deacons in the church should come to the business office to work. There must be a place, and there must be someone available so that when people come, you have a way to make arrangements to take care of them. You should distribute to each, as anyone has need. You should have a place to keep records, knowing what the needs are, how many people there are, how many family units there are, and how many children there are. There should always be someone supervising and arranging. In other words there must be a place for making arrangements and for contacting one another in order to take care of matters. This is the first use of the service office: mutual contact of one another. Otherwise, if some brother or sister comes to that church to look for other brothers and sisters, he would not know where to go to look for them. There must be a place where he can find them. I do not know if you have seen this principle or not. Such contact with one another requires a business office, or we might call it the service office.
For Keeping Many Records
The second use of the service office is for keeping many records. There are a considerable number of affairs in the church. Every week there are quite a few letters of recommendation written and sent out, quite a few announcements to be made, quite a few things to pray for, quite a few people to be received, and quite a few people baptized. All these things need to be recorded. There may be brothers and sisters who have moved; there may be some who are sick and some who have family problems. It will not work to have one or two persons trying to remember all these things. Even if you could remember all this, when anyone needed to check the information, he would have to look for you, but even so, he could not look into your mind. People need something that they can open up and look into.
I do not mean that these things need to be kept forever. I hope that when the spiritual aspects are gone, these things will be gone too. When there are blessings, these things and these methods are needed. When the blessing is gone, there will be no need for these methods to exist. However, as long as there is blessing, before God we need to seek a way for an arrangement to be made to meet the need. There is a need for a place, for someone to serve, and for the records to be available. This place is our business office. Both the place and the personnel must be available; then it will be possible for all the affairs to be handled. Someone needs to be there to receive people. The records need to be readily available. There should be no need to ask a certain brother for information, for man’s memory is not reliable, and man’s life is not reliable either. Having records available is more stable and more reliable.
I want the brothers and sisters to understand why we need to have the service office. For what purpose have we had a service office in Shanghai since 1938? The service office meets the local needs and is able to take good care of the affairs of the brothers and sisters. If you do not intend to take good care of the affairs of the saints, then you do not need an office. If you remember, you remember; if you do not remember, you just let it go. That is easy. If, however, you want everything to be well taken care of, you must have the service office.
THE NEED FOR THE SERVICE OFFICE
For this reason we need a training; we need some knowledge concerning this matter. Therefore, I hope that in all the places, although we do not need to be in absolute uniformity, our procedures would be somewhat similar. I believe that the needs among us are similar. Bear in mind that what we should do will be according to the principle of Acts 2 through 6, according to the principle of the record book. We ask God to give us a method which will match our need. In the Bible there is a method to take care of things, but the Bible does not pass it on. So we also do not expect to pass on our method. Those in the beginning had a need; therefore, they sought out a method. Presently, a few of our brothers have found a suitable method. Perhaps there will be a new method, another method, after five or ten years to meet the need of that time.
The Need for a Room to Receive People
Since there is such a need, there is a place, which we temporarily call the service office. At least in this place we can put a few tables and a few shelves. The place needs to be large enough to accommodate those who are looking for others. We should be able to receive people and handle all the affairs. This place can be either near the meeting place or within the meeting hall.
The Need for People to Work in the Office
Second, there is a need for people to be in the office, especially a group of deacons, to learn to take care of others. Of course, it is good for some brothers and sisters to come and help, but it is best to let the deacons bear the responsibility.
Brothers and Sisters Taking Turns to Work
It would be very easy for the church to use the funds from the offering box to hire people to work for the whole day, but I feel that this is not the church. If the church can spend money to hire Levites, it can also spend money to hire priests. This would restore the system of salaries. I hope that the work of the Levites and the priests would be done without pay and by brothers and sisters who take turns. Therefore, it is the same with the work in the business office. (Forgive me for using the word business, which is a secular term.) I would like for the brothers and sisters to separate some time during the week to put themselves into this kind of Levitical work. One brother may be willing to give one day. Another brother may be willing to give two days, an hour, or two hours. In this way there will be brothers and sisters taking care of the practical affairs in the office.
For Notification and Inquiry
One brother may want to notify us that another brother is sick. He only needs to come to the service office, and the deacons can immediately notify the responsible brothers or other brothers. Perhaps after a short time, the service office can send out this information. The service office should always have a set of pre-addressed envelopes. Whenever something happens, they can prepare copies of the information either by mimeograph or by hand and immediately mail them out. As soon as something occurs, the brothers and sisters throughout the whole city could be informed within one or two hours. Whenever they have time in the service office, they should address the envelopes and prepare them for later use. We are not copying the methods of the world, but we have to take care of affairs.
For example, during the past ten years or more in Shanghai, if you did not know where a brother resided, you could telephone the service office. All that is needed is to check the card file. Perhaps that brother went to Nanking and would not return for one or two days. If there had been no service office, it would not have been easy for you to find him. We are not copying the ways of the world; we want God’s children to know how to handle affairs.
In another case someone may go to another locality. The church in that locality may write to ask if that person was baptized in our midst as he has claimed. If the elder says that he does not know, or that this person seems to have been there before, what can we do? When the number of brothers and sisters increases and the number of baptized ones also increases, there is the need for records. If you have the records, once you look them up, you will find out. This one was baptized on a certain date and met with us for more than two years, but since then we have not seen him. Today this one has been found in another city. We know what his situation was during those two years, but not since then. Now we can ask him: “Since those two years, where have you been? Whom have you met with?” Then there is a way to take care of him and to help him. Things of this sort require records.
Today in a large city like Shanghai or in a place like Foochow, there are district meetings. When anyone comes to ask about the location of the meeting place or about the time when the responsible brothers can be found, someone needs to be available to answer these questions. Therefore, everyone who serves in the business office should know these answers and be able to reply immediately and render help. If there is something the serving one cannot handle, he should refer the matter to the responsible brothers. If the serving one can handle the matter, there is no need to look for the responsible brothers. Otherwise, the responsible brothers would need to receive people all day long, and they would not have any way to get anything done. Many things need to pass through the hands of the deacons, and from the hands of the deacons to the hands of the responsible brothers or to their homes.
I thank God that during the time of the apostles, they handled their affairs well. We can see this because the apostles heard the murmurings concerning the Hellenist widows. It was the duty of the brothers and sisters who were deacons and deaconesses to have their eyes open. Once something happened, they notified the responsible brothers. Then, as you can see, Peter immediately took action. Therefore, in order to take good care of a church, it is not as complicated before God as we think, like Protestantism is. Neither is it as simple as we think. Protestantism has too much organization, but we have overthrown the biblical organization. Both are wrong. Therefore, we need to have a place to conduct business.
For Receiving Others, Caring for Others,and Speaking the Word
Next, we need to have someone there to receive people every day. From morning to evening, if anyone comes to ask about something, there should always be someone there to answer. Therefore, you need to tell the local brothers and sisters to serve not only in other matters but also in the business office. However, the service office should devote a great deal of time every day to helping the church. From the viewpoint of some people, this is not spiritual. We can answer by saying that David said that he would rather be a doorkeeper in God’s temple. We should not be spiritual to such an extent that we could not keep the door of the Holy of Holies well. Do not consider that the Levites and the priests are different. Both are important! Without the Levitical service, there is no church. May we all have a heart to serve two or three hours in the church taking care of God’s affairs, serving God, and serving His people so that the entire Body will go forward. Never make the work your own work. We need the entire Body to work there and to learn there. Therefore, we need brothers and sisters to come and be on duty to take care of the affairs.
There are many church affairs that require face to face discussion. For example, how do we make arrangements for brothers from out of town? Some brothers coming to your place do not know the way, so you have to pick them up. Or how should you take care of orphans and widows who are passing through your place? There may be some people coming to your place to look for certain brothers and sisters, but because they do not know their way, they need deacons to help them. There are many things that the church needs to do. Seek out some who have the time to help those in need. Often there are accidents, family problems, and sicknesses. The church should be notified of these things immediately. The brothers who are deacons need to find brothers at once who can help these ones.
Some people find their way to the church meeting place to hear a message, and there are many who knock on the door and want to come in to hear the gospel. You cannot say that the owner is not home, that you do not know how to speak, or that you are a servant. When people come to the door, either you yourself take care of him or find a brother to come right away to preach to him. In the future, if God grants us grace and we distribute tracts in an adequate way, many people will come knocking on the door of the meeting hall to hear the gospel as a result. You cannot say it is not yet time for the meeting. You need to speak to them, or perhaps ask them to take a seat while you find another person to come to speak to them. It will happen very naturally that people will want to hear the gospel. Therefore, I hope you will pay attention to this service office; you need a place and you need deacons.
For Recording Various Worksand Keeping a Name List
Third, you need to always remember the principle of the record book. The deacon on duty needs to record all of the matters in the business office, with the exception of things that happen incidentally or things that still need to be carried out. In other words, except for the slips of paper underneath the glass on the table, the rest of the matters, which are those that have already been carried out and are finished, need to be recorded. The procedure that was used to carry these things out should be written down, and the record kept there. In this way, when the need arises to check the facts, they can be known. These records are very important. All of the people baptized in a meeting must be recorded. All of the people received in a meeting must be recorded. All of the people who have had hands laid on them in a meeting must be recorded. All of the letters of recommendation sent out from a meeting must be recorded. Furthermore, copies of all the letters of recommendation must be kept on file. In every meeting place there must be a record of the names of all the brothers and sisters, their address, age, date of salvation, and any other important information, such as the date of their spiritual turns or their present spiritual condition. Everything must be written down completely. All those who have signed their names in the gospel meetings need to be recorded. You need to have the new believers go to visit those who came to the gospel meetings. Whatever number of people came to hear the gospel, that many new believers are needed to go and visit them and care for them. These new believers need just as many older believers to care for them as well. These new believers are there, one generation after another. You need to record their affairs in detail. Through this you will know the present situation of those who are being cared for by the ones whom you have sent. The arrangement of the work of the priests also needs to be recorded. We assign them one by one. How many are placed in this work and how many are placed in that work are all recorded at the same time.
The Responsible BrothersUsing the Records for Oversight
Not every brother and sister will keep good records. In the beginning there will be things that are overlooked, and there will be difficulties. You need to check the books to see who has been overlooked. As soon as you check, you will know by whom a certain person is being cared for or why he has not been cared for. Whether this job is done well or not depends on whether or not the worker has a good system. With good records you can follow people closely. The greatest use for records is in following up on people; it is not merely for recordkeeping. Records can keep you informed. If you need to check, you can find out. When someone is about to go to another city and wants to find out about the situation of a certain brother or some spiritual matters about him, they can give him an answer based on the records. In another aspect, a responsible brother can often find out from the record book whether certain brothers or sisters have done what they should have done. The responsible brothers in all the localities need to look up on their cards the names of these people frequently. This is their responsibility.
With all these cards, you can divide and assign certain ones to be responsible for a certain number of people. You have to map out districts to find out who is in this district and who is in another district. As responsible ones, the overseers need to oversee. Your job is to oversee. Often you need to observe and ask, “Brother, have you done this?” “Brother, have you taken care of that matter?” Everywhere you go, you should ask, “What is the situation with the five brothers you have just finished visiting?” “What is the situation with the ten brothers you have just finished visiting? Have you overlooked one and not visited him? During this past week, have you visited all of them?”
All the Brothers Serving Being the Way Today
The responsible brothers should not merely preach a message once from the podium and then consider the job over. It is your responsibility to motivate the brothers who are with you to work. This is what you need to accomplish; this is the way today. If you do not have this, you have no way. If it were the same as before, with only one message preached per week, then everyone would be a preacher resting six days and working one day. God worked six days and rested one day; today we rest for six days and work one day. No wonder all of the preachers have become lazy! Therefore, every one of you needs to labor every day, and you also have to cause all of the brothers to serve. Brothers, the question is not whether you have done the work, but whether you have done it and have a way to cause others to do it as well.
On the one hand, your job is to do the work yourself, and on the other hand, it is to lay hold of others to do the work and then follow up on them. After you go down the mountain, I will write letters to ask you how many people you oversee in a week. We cannot have an elder who does not oversee. Today if I hire ten laborers to work on the mountain and assign one brother to supervise, I do not expect the supervising brother to pick up a bamboo basket and carry it. I want him to supervise. He should not say, “Not one of the ten would carry it. Therefore, I carried it.” If the brother were to say this, he would not be worthy to be a supervisor. He would be useless. We have the ability before God to make sure that others carry the load. We have the ability before God to make them work. If you can cause six or ten brothers to serve, there is the church. Do not complain to us, saying, “Why should we stress this matter?” The reason is that if we do not work in this way, there will be no church. You may go out to preach to two or three people and may continue doing so. True, you have your own work, and I cannot disregard it. Yet you also need to lead other brothers and sisters to do the work. Never go astray from this way. If you do, you are wrong.
We need to bring every brother into this way. In matters pertaining to the gospel, let them preach the gospel and let them share in the care for the gospel. You need to take care of the new believers. You need to lead them to do the work and to take care of practical affairs. Do not turn matters over to them and consider the job done. You need to follow up on them until the work is finished. You need to continue watching over them to see how they are doing. You need to ask, “Do you have any problems? If you do, I am here to help you solve them.” In this way, you will see the church come forth.
For the church to come forth, there is the need for people to come forth. The day will come when you see the church serving and the entire church preaching the gospel. Then I would say that God’s way of recovery on the earth has begun and then He will have the church on the earth. Otherwise, Christianity has been taken captive to Babylon, and to this day it has not returned. Today there are still those who are passive. Today there are still some who are the mediatorial class—on one side is God and on the other side is man with a mediatorial class in the middle through which people must pass before they can serve. I do not know whether or not you have seen this. This is the whole problem.
The Service Office Being the Instrumentfor Carrying Out the Affairs
Therefore, the service office is the instrument with which the brothers take care of affairs. From it you can obtain information and find out about different situations. The deacons and deaconesses have things recorded there. Based on their records, you can see what is the situation of the church today. You can observe the brothers and sisters, oversee them, and tell them what they should do. Tell the lazy ones that they must labor. Tell the proud ones that they should learn humility. Step by step, bring them to be attentive to what they do. Brothers, have you seen what is called the work of God? It is not merely a matter of preaching from the podium. We recognize that we cannot do away with the ministry of the word; this ministry is very precious. But you also have to bring every one of the brothers and sisters to serve. When that time comes we will thank God that He has a way in China.
In the beginning you need to tell the deacons and deaconesses that when the brothers and sisters come to ask questions, they need to be courteous, polite, and not cold when replying. All of these matters are your responsibility. You need to go and carry it out and not let it go by carelessly. You need to be firm and at the same time meek, not letting things go by. You need to learn to serve in these matters; do not be afraid of troubles. You need to tell them, “He who transcribes must transcribe well; he who records must record accurately. If there is a little inaccuracy, you are responsible. Therefore, when the brothers need to retrieve what you have recorded, it will be easy. You should not handle it carelessly. This is God’s work.” When you handle things in this way, the lazy ones will have to resign. We do not work only six days and rest one day; we work every day, seven days a week. Many people are lazy because they put aside other things and use all of their time to study the Bible. Once you are careless, of course, you have nothing to do. If you mean business before God, you only need to invest an extra hour, and then the church will be built up one day earlier. If you invest an extra hour, pay attention to one more person, ask one more person—today you ask five brothers, and tomorrow you ask ten brothers, “Have you done your job?”, then, I tell you, the service of the church will be raised up one day earlier. On the one hand, we need a very good system and we need arrangements, and on the other hand, we need a record book to write everything down. Finally, you who are the responsible ones need to follow up on people. Although there is a business office and a system set up there, if you do not adequately follow up on people to do the work, it is useless. Never be slack; cause them to see that every one of us needs to serve. One day you will see that all of you have a habit of overseeing each other. Affairs should be taken care of properly; there should not be only one brother doing things there. Learn to go on together.
If you are clear about God’s purpose, you will bow your head before God and worship Him, saying, “Lord, have a way among us so that You can go on!” You can see that there is only one purpose for all the children of God, that is, to serve Him. Otherwise, there indeed is a problem. May God give us the grace.
NEEDING TO BEGIN WITH CONSECRATION
Question: How do you motivate all the brothers to work?
Answer: I think that this way still has to begin with consecration. This is a new way, and we need to have good arrangements. First, we need to show the brothers that the service is the whole church serving, with every member of the Body having its function. Everyone should be a priest. You need to remind them of this one matter and do so emphatically. You also have to tell them about the matters of authority. I believe that we also need to pay attention to the matter of selling all. If a person does not sell all, his talk of service is false and will not work. There is the need for him to give all he has in order to serve God. Therefore, the basic thought is that everyone needs to offer all in order to serve God. Today God is calling those who belong to Him to come forth and serve Him. Otherwise, everything that we have seen this time will be dead. It will become merely a viewpoint and a method, and you will find it unworkable as a result. Therefore, it is not a matter of method but a matter of God opening up a way for us.
Nevertheless, when we go to speak this matter, we should speak in a strong way. We should not speak in a begging way, as if service is to patronize God and do Him a favor. If we are standing on that ground, we are altogether wrong. We need to let the brothers see that their service to God is a high and glorious thing. Today we should by no means live carelessly on the earth as before, but we must follow the Lord in all things. Therefore, we must be strong. Once we are strong, we will cause others to come forth. We need to tell them, “Today our occupation is something on the side. We must learn to serve God.” The way that we take must be straight, and our tone must be right. We should not bring ourselves down to a low level; do not beg people for God. We cannot beg people to believe in God, and even the more, we cannot beg people to serve God. To serve God requires that man come to God to be accepted. Man needs to believe in God by himself. Yet what is this that we beg people to believe in God? Today God wants us to serve Him. We have no choice but to come and serve. We need to be very clear about this before God. We must see accurately. If we see accurately, then others will see accurately. Everyone must serve God; otherwise, there will be no church. When the brothers and sisters fall prostrate before God, when they crawl to come and serve God, then we will see that what we have talked about is not a difficult matter.
USING ONLY THOSE PEOPLE GAINED BY GOD
Question: In a certain locality, not everyone has given up all. Some have given up all, and some still have not. What shall we do about taking care of the practical affairs?
Answer: We cannot use people who have not been gained by God. As many people as God has gained, we will use. We have to be cautious of the rest of the people. We must endeavor to bring them over to God’s side. We need to continue working until that happens.
The Need to Labor until Everyone Serves
Our way is to learn to build up. Everyone must have the goal of building up. Therefore, this time we would not relax our requirement for service. They need to put their whole being into it. This word must be spoken clearly. Today all the co-workers need to put everything into this work. We will ask some of the brothers also to put everything into this work. We need to tell them, “This is not something that only a few should do. We are putting everything into this work. You also need to put everything into this work, including your material possessions, your strength, and your life. All that you have needs to be put into this work.” Before God, the higher you can climb, the more God will bless you. The more you lower your tone, the fewer people will come. The more afraid you are, the fewer people will come, because God does not bless that attitude. Therefore, you have to put yourself in a right position.
If your position is wrong, people will not come. God will never bless that kind of attitude. It will be quite evident that even your own service is not healthy. Before God you must see that being a servant of God is not a favor to Him, but His favor to you; otherwise, how could you serve God? If someone invites you to participate in a worldly occupation, many would thank that one. Today when people are asked to come to serve God, should they expect God to thank them instead? When you go out to invite people, do you beg them? If so, your standing is wrong.
Please forgive me, there are a few things I have no patience for. If I hear a brother in a certain place say, “Today God loves you and you need to come and serve Him,” as if God will be very happy if this one will just come and serve Him, I have no patience for this at all. You need to tell them, “If you serve God, you should be very happy that a person like you can serve Him.” Service to God is an opening; you have to go after it. It is not that you are doing God a favor, that you are doing God an honor, and that even intelligent people like you should also come to serve God! Formerly, it was those who could not earn a living who came to be preachers, but now such ones as you should also come! It is an honor to the preaching profession to have a person such as you! I tell you, this attitude is entirely wrong. A Japanese Presbyterian preacher once said that all those who study theology are poor students. However, though he was not a poor student, he went to study theology also. As soon as I heard that, I realized there was no way at all with this man. There is no such thing as a good student doing God a favor by doing His work! When I hear this kind of word, it makes me angry before the Lord.
To Serve God Being Our Glory
We need to see that in our lifetime it is our glory if we can even crawl to God to serve Him. If you consider that God should use a person like you, then you are foolish, very foolish. If God can receive a person such as you, this is the greatest grace and the greatest glory. How strange it is that people would consider that serving God is doing Him a favor! Therefore, I hope that before God you will see that there is nothing more glorious than to serve God. It would even be a glorious thing if I could serve God by standing at the door as a beggar. It is a wonder that God wants us. God said, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” It is His mercy that He wants me to be His servant. Suppose that you are more intelligent than most people, your position is higher than that of most others, your family has a good financial situation, and you did very well in school, and you now become a preacher. In the eyes of most people this would be a very strange thing that you also would come to serve God! Let me tell you that this attitude is altogether wrong.
Therefore, brothers, when you go out this time, you should not exhort people to come and serve God, nor beg them to serve Him. If that happens, this work will be damaged by you; it will be finished. You must have this kind of attitude: If people think that to serve the president is glorious, they need to know what a great difference there is between the president and God. If I can serve God, this is my greatest glory. When man offers things to God, the consideration is not how painful it may be to give up those things; rather, the consideration is whether or not God will accept what you offer. How do you know God will accept it? You need to remember that this is not merely a matter of consecration, but also a matter of being sanctified. You need to show them that the big question is whether or not God will accept their offering. If God accepts it, this is their glory. It is not a matter of whether or not man will offer something; it is a matter of whether or not God will accept it. Therefore, your way before God needs to be straight, you need to keep your position, and you need to stand on God’s ground to speak. As soon as you lower your position, you have nothing to say and everything is finished. Forgive me for saying this, but I would even doubt your own service.
Man cannot be proud before God. If a person thinks that it is a waste for someone like him to come out to preach, you can ask him, “Within these ten years, has God used you to do anything? You are a person that God would never use!” What a great glory it is for man to serve Him! We ask God to grant us grace that in the matter of church affairs, we could do well and walk a straight path.