THE DISTRIC MEETINGSPrint This Page.
If the locality of a church is large and also has many saints, district meetings become a necessary arrangement. We do not believe as the Congregationalists do that each congregation is a unit, for that is not the teaching of the Bible. The teaching of the Bible does not allow for taking a congregation as the unit, but a locality as the unit. For example, Corinth was a locality, and Rome was a locality. Therefore, if the number of brothers and sisters in a locality is quite large, as in the case of Jerusalem, which had tens of thousands of believers, you will realize that it is impossible to meet in one place. Moreover, there were already three thousand or five thousand saved in the first few days in Jerusalem; perhaps they were unable to meet in one place within the first few days. Therefore, we see clearly that there must be some kind of arrangement for the meetings.
FIFTY IN A GROUP OR ONE HUNDRED IN A GROUP
We are not taking the following section of the Bible as the basis; we are only taking this section of the Bible as our guide; it leads us and guides us. Remember the occasions when the Lord Jesus fed the five thousand and the four thousand. The Lord could not distribute the bread to the people because of the large number. Spontaneously, the Lord made an arrangement either with fifty in a group or with one hundred in a group. Today we accept the principle of this arrangement of the Lord. When the number of saints is quite large in a certain place, we can learn from the way of the Lord to divide people into groups of fifty or one hundred.
I already mentioned some days ago that the Lord did not always divide the people entirely into groups of fifty or one hundred. The Lord divided some of them into groups of fifty and some into groups of one hundred, meaning that these two numbers were convenient numbers. Therefore, when the number of people in the church becomes large, we need to divide them into groups. This does not mean that we must form a separate meeting when we reach a certain fixed, legal number. Rather, we say that based on convenience, geography, and the size of the congregation, there can be a meeting of about fifty people or perhaps a meeting of about one hundred. The number one hundred is twice as much as fifty; therefore, the Lord was only giving us a convenient number.
Based upon this principle, I think that the responsible brothers in all the localities should learn to make arrangements to have the people divided into districts whenever their number becomes large. The number could be fifty, one hundred, or a little more than one hundred. In any case we should begin to have district meetings when those meetings reach these two numbers. This kind of meeting is most convenient because it is easy to take care of the saints and visit them when the number is small. There is also more opportunity for the saints to function in the meeting when the number is small. Numbers between fifty and one hundred are very good for meeting. They are very convenient in every way.
Meeting Separately in Districts
The gospel preaching meeting as well as the prayer meeting and the new believers’ meeting may be carried out in the different districts. If we want to do so, even the edification meeting can be carried out by separate districts. If we wish to combine some meetings together, I think that the edification meeting would be a good one to combine and perhaps the gospel preaching meeting as well. If there are brothers who are workers in this region and if they want to have some message meetings for the brothers and sisters, it is obvious that combining them is more convenient. All the other meetings may be held separately—the prayer meeting, the bread-breaking meeting, and the new believers’ meeting. All these may be held in the districts.
Caring for the Saints by Districts
In this way we can care for the saints by districts. If there are meetings by districts in a locality, the responsible brothers should learn to make arrangements so that there will be someone bearing responsibility in every district. The responsible ones in every district should listen to the overseers. The responsible ones need to learn to bear responsibility and to take care of the whole spiritual situation in every district. They should concern themselves with all the work and take care of it. These are their responsibilities.
Having Balanced Growth
If the number of people in any church has increased, the area has been well divided into districts, and there has been adequate caring in each district, then you will see that all the saints will be involved in the meetings. This is because many people will be able to have balanced growth, and they will all be able to pray and fellowship before God. As long as the number is small, there is no need to divide into districts. When the number is large, there is such a need.
MEETING BY DISTRICTS IN JERUSALEM
The Bible does not show us how Jerusalem was divided into districts. When we read the book of Acts, we know that there were districts, although they did not use our terminology. The prayer meetings were in individual homes. When Peter was put into prison, as you recall from the story of Rhoda, the house of Mark was a place of prayer. Let me repeat that the Bible does not give us all the particular detailed items of the affairs of the church, because God is not pleased when everything is structured. However, in the Bible there are some clues concerning the arrangement of all the affairs. These clues are placed in the Bible. This causes the church in every generation to learn to seek God and to make arrangements according to the Lord even though the church encounters the same situations again and again.
According to the actual situation, it would have been impossible for all the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem to meet together to break bread. It would have been impossible in practice. If there had been only one cup, how large should that cup have been? If there had been only one bread, how would you have distributed that bread? How much time would you have needed to spend to pass the bread to several thousand people? Later, the number became tens of thousands. Passing the bread to so many people would be impossible. Even if they took all seven days of the week to meet, it would nevertheless be very hard to distribute the bread and pass the cup in a good way. Therefore, we can see very clearly that they met by districts in those days. The house of Mark was a house among many houses.
Keeping This Principle
Therefore, I hope that we would always keep this principle before God. On the one hand, we acknowledge that the Bible mentions arrangements concerning these matters. On the other hand, we also acknowledge that the Bible does not give us a regulation concerning the arrangement of these matters. In the Bible, God always maintains a principle rather than giving us detailed regulations concerning how outward things should be done.
For example, these days we write letters of recommendation or letters of introduction. In the Bible we see only the letter of recommendation, but the Bible never tells us how this letter should be written. Paul said that he did not need letters of commendation. “Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some do, letters of commendation to you or from you?” (2 Cor. 3:1). This tells us that there was a recommendation letter, but we are not told how it was written. Therefore, we are learning year by year to have letters of recommendation and how to write them in a good way. Paul did not leave us a form or a handbook of form letters so that we would only need to fill in the blanks. We should be learning all the time how to write such letters.
When God does things in the church, He always gives just a principle. He only shows you that He is doing something; He never reckons that the Holy Spirit is apart from the church. From God’s view the Holy Spirit is in the church to represent Christ; the Holy Spirit dwells in the church. Therefore, as long as we have the principle concerning a certain matter and are willing to submit ourselves to the Head of the church, the Holy Spirit can teach us how to carry it out.
I hope that you can see this matter, especially the matter of dividing into districts. Even though we have no details or regulations of the Bible to tell us how to do it, we know that in practice it is impossible not to have meetings by separate districts. Moreover, in the book of Acts we see the principle of meeting by districts. The saints met from house to house. The house of Mark was one of those houses. Acts 2:46 says, “From house to house.” This verse shows us the principle of the districts. Today we ask God to teach us how to carry out these things based on the principle in the Bible.
I wish you would remember this principle—the Bible does not keep anything from us regarding spiritual things. It speaks in a very detailed way. However, concerning the aspect of practical affairs, concerning the Levitical service (in matters of serving God, there is service in the nature of the Levites), the Bible gives us only clues, not regulations. It shows us that there are such matters, but it does not show us how these matters are carried out. Today when you are going to carry them out, you will find that the Holy Spirit has not left you, that the Holy Spirit is still in the church, and that Christ is still the Head of the church through the Holy Spirit. In order to know this matter, you can wait and pray. Then you will be able to gain the light. I hope that the brothers will see the matter of meeting by districts and practice according to this principle.