THE MEETINGSPrint This Page.
THE GOSPEL PREACHING MEETING
In the church there are different kinds of meetings. The gospel preaching meeting is one kind of meeting. The local brothers should find a special time for the gospel preaching meeting, perhaps the Lord’s Day morning, to gather together to preach the gospel or to go to various districts to preach the gospel. Always preach the gospel with all your strength.
When you have a gospel preaching meeting, as we have already mentioned, you need to bring people with you. You need to sit with the people you have brought. If you bring two people, you should sit between them and keep them company. You should also talk to them and listen to the message with them. After they finish listening, accompany them home. You should follow up on them until they are baptized.
The preaching of the gospel message should be done in a strong way. At the same time, we need two or three brothers to do their best to send gospel material to the meetings of various localities. We need to compile gospel stories, gospel illustrations, and things which have been used in the past, and send them out so that the various localities will have materials for gospel preaching. By doing so, the meetings in various localities will receive much benefit.
At the same time, the attitude of the brothers while listening to the message in a gospel preaching meeting has to be right. Many times it is our own brothers who ruin the meeting. The brothers need to realize that the gospel is not preached for them to hear. You need to help that meeting and not cause it to become weak, and you need to learn to lead the people who sit next to you to believe in the gospel. Of course you do not need the gospel. But they do. It is much easier on the gospel preacher if the attitude of all the brothers in the gospel preaching meeting is right. Otherwise, the person who preaches the gospel must be concerned about the sinners and also about the reaction of the brothers. You need to realize that he is not here taking a test on gospel preaching, but he is doing his best to get people saved. If everyone would do this, the gospel preaching meeting would have few difficulties.
I hope that the gospel preaching meeting is not too long or too short. To preach for an hour or two is no problem.
Two-thirds of the time of the gospel preaching meeting is always for casting the net, and one-third is for drawing the net. This is a good way to take.
THE MEETING FOR THE EDIFICATIONOF THE NEW BELIEVERS
The subject of this meeting is definite; therefore, the preaching also has to be definite.
In every local church you have to find two or three brothers to preach the word in this meeting. There should always be two or three such brothers in a meeting. Sometimes a brother may not feel well or may be absent for other reasons; another brother may then speak in his place.
When the meeting becomes large, divide it into several districts. At this point, there should be a few more brothers responsible for the edification of the new believers.
I hope that the topics used for the edification of the new believers will not be changed, but will be repeated each year. I also hope that the topics and the order of the topics spoken in various places are uniform. Every week there should be speaking on the same topic so that when a person goes to any locality, he can still continue to attend this meeting without interruption. If he goes from Shanghai to Hangchow, he can continue. If he goes from Hangchow to Canton, he can also continue. And if he goes from Canton to Hong Kong, he can still continue. Thus, a new believing brother may be able to continue wherever he goes. In this way he can receive edification in many subjects.
These few years we have realized one thing: The edification that the brothers in our midst have received is not the same; it is really different! Therefore, there is considerable difficulty. This time when I took a trip to the inland area, I had many impressions, even deep impressions. In many places there are those who claim to be brothers among us, who are also quite polite and quite good. I feel that they are brothers. But I found out that they have not even learned the ABC’s. Therefore, many problems have occurred in those places, and difficult situations arose. For this reason, I hope that starting from today, the meeting for the edification of the new believers will be carried out properly. This meeting will enable all the new believing brothers to acquire the basic lessons.
Being Careful to Make Up Lessons
In the meeting for the edification of the new believers, there is one point that we need to pay attention to. Those who are responsible for visiting the new believers must learn these topics well. Otherwise, when they go out, they will not be able to help the new believers make up the lessons. I hope the brothers could realize this problem. Perhaps the new believers’ message is an hour and a half long. However, when they make up lessons for the new believers, they finish it in two minutes. It is not that they speak just the outline; they speak an outline of the outline. I remember that some brothers, when they made up lessons for others, spoke just one sentence: “The message for the new believers today says that we need to read the Bible every day.” They did not say anything wrong; what they said was correct. But when you go to a person’s home to make up lessons, if you only speak a sentence such as, “You need to read the Bible every day,” I think this word is equivalent to not speaking anything, unless the Holy Spirit works in a special way. You should not speak just one sentence; you must be trained to speak carefully paragraph by paragraph so that those who listen may feel as if they have gone to a meeting. Otherwise, the loss is quite great.
Please remember that after the gospel has been preached, the future condition of our meetings depends on whether or not the new believers’ edification meeting is strong. There are those in our midst who have just heard the gospel. If the meeting for the edification of the new believers is not strong, then we have no way to meet their need. We must learn to lead them onward. How strong the new believers’ meeting is determines how strong the next generation will be. If you cannot help the new believers’ meeting to be strong, the next generation cannot be strong. Yes, the people have all believed in the gospel and are all saved, but there is no church. That is something similar to what a revival meeting does. There is preaching and there is a result, but no church.
The Teaching and the Fellowship of the Apostles
I want you to especially remember what is spoken in the book of Acts. Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Verse 41 speaks of baptism, and verse 42 says that they continued in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles. Please remember that the apostles gave teaching and fellowship immediately after the church had three thousand people saved. Hence, the edification of the new believers is a very crucial matter. What the apostles were doing there is what we are doing here today. The so-called edification of the new believers is the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles. Today you cannot say that once a new believer is saved, you can indifferently let him go. You must give him teaching and tell him to continue steadfastly in this teaching.
The gospel preaching meeting brings the new believers in. After this we need to raise them up. If we have begotten so many and are not able to raise them up, the church will never be strong. Therefore, the gospel preaching must be strong and the new believers’ edification must also be strong. Both must be strong in order that we may have a future.
THE MEETING ACCORDING TO 1 CORINTHIANS 14
We all have to learn and wait much before God concerning how to have this meeting. This meeting is all the brothers and sisters gathering together and some preparing themselves before God to be led to rise up to function. Many people can surely give the church much help when they function. Therefore, in this meeting you can have personal testimonies, sharing, and more than one brother speaking.
The Responsible BrothersTaking Care of This Meeting
We have to seek out saints who are especially helpful to the brothers and sisters. The responsible brothers need to tell them, “We hope that you can speak more.” There are many brothers and sisters who possess no judgment of propriety in their speaking; it is rather clear that they have little gift and little grace. The responsible brothers may inform them privately to speak less. You need to give some people a time limitation, but do not offend the Holy Spirit. If some brothers stand up to speak for only two minutes, they can really render help to the brothers. But they may like to drag on, and when they drag on, their speaking becomes too long. You need to tell such brothers that if they speak for two minutes, the brothers and sisters will receive help, but that the help is reduced by the third minute and exhausted by the fourth minute. Therefore, you must bring them to see that they should speak in a simple way for two minutes. You need to tell some people that it is sufficient for them to speak for five minutes. If everyone who stands up to speak is dealt with thoroughly, this meeting will be strong.
Many people are very self-confident, always believing that they can help others. They do not know that they must touch man’s spirit, and they think that they can render help to people. If no one tells them this, they will not know. Therefore, the responsible brothers need to tell them that their words should be brief when they speak before God; when their words are lengthy, they cannot give people help. If the responsible brothers would speak in this way, that would help them. If a certain brother speaks and gives help to people, the responsible brothers should encourage him to speak again. Although the responsible brothers are not all ministers of the word, the care of the church is their business. Therefore, you should not be loose. Encourage some brothers to speak more that the church may receive the supply. You need to restrain some other brothers. When they speak briefly, the church can receive the benefit, but when they speak too long, there is no help.
If the responsible brothers are not passive but active to take care of the meeting, I believe that the type of meeting in 1 Corinthians 14 can bring many riches to us.
The crucial point is that the responsible brothers should not speak loosely or deal with people carelessly. If they are not careful, they will offend the Holy Spirit. As an elder of the church, the most feared thing is to offend the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the true representative of Christ to execute His authority on earth. The elders must understand the mind of Christ and then speak. If they do not know the mind of Christ, they should not speak. If they do not speak carefully, they will offend the Holy Spirit.
The Sisters Giving Testimonies
Question: In the type of meeting according to 1 Corinthians 14, can the sisters give testimonies?
Answer: I personally think that testimonies may be all right.
Question: According to 1 Corinthians 14, they should not open their mouth.
Answer: Yes, according to 1 Corinthians 14 they should not open their mouth. However, if a sister wants to give a testimony, it would be better for a responsible brother to ask her. This is a different matter, and the responsibility is on the responsible brothers. Her head is covered, and she is not presuming headship.
THE PRAYER MEETING
There are two or three special matters in the prayer meeting which the brothers should pay attention to.
First, tell all the brothers who pray to learn to be short. Ten out of ten prayer meetings are ruined by long prayers. In the prayer meeting everyone should learn to pray in a short way. The elderly brothers may have a few long prayers. But tell the new believers from the very beginning to learn to be short. For the prayer meeting to have power and be strong, the prayer has to be short. Long prayers are often padded with many empty words. When you come to a prayer meeting, you should remember to tell the brothers to pray short prayers.
Second, we must warn the brothers and sisters that the words of their prayer in the prayer meeting must be honest. Warn the brothers and sisters that their prayer in their own personal prayer time and their prayer in the prayer meeting should not differ too greatly. Learn to be real. It is true that the words uttered in the prayer meeting need to be clear. When you are having your personal time before God, you may stop before a sentence is fully uttered; of course, you would have to continue this sentence in the prayer meeting. However, there are times when the words you use in the prayer meeting are not the words you use in your personal time of prayer. Many prayers in the prayer meeting are indeed not genuine. Sometimes when you are in a prayer meeting, you do not know whether a certain brother is praying for you or for God to hear. Whenever some people pray, they give the impression that they are praying for man to hear. Therefore, we need to charge them to pray from their heart; they must pray for God to hear. Do not let some brothers or sisters make prayer a kind of preaching of the truth nor let them give an intelligence report to God. Charge the brothers to learn to pray short prayers and to pray genuinely. These are the basic requirements of a prayer meeting. Speak only the words that you have. Do not go beyond what is genuine.
The Topic Needing to Be Focused
Third, those who are caring for the church in various localities must make a decision concerning the topics of prayer in the prayer meeting. We need to learn to do this one thing: Never allow the brothers to pray as they see fit. We have seen this in our prayer meetings for twenty years, perhaps close to thirty years. As a result, our prayer meetings are almost powerless. In a prayer meeting with twenty or thirty topics, with each topic being prayed by a different person, the one accord mentioned in Matthew 18 is nonexistent. Without the one accord, how could God listen?
Therefore, the prayer meeting in various localities must also be completely changed. The items for prayer need to be determined, but not necessarily determined beforehand. However, on the night of prayer you need to mention these items. Perhaps you would pray only for one item in one prayer meeting. For example, there might be problems in a locality, and we would pray just for that one locality. In our prayer there must be only one matter, and we must ask all the brothers and sisters to lay aside everything else and pray for this one matter. From beginning to end, the church should pray for this one matter, with everyone bringing this matter to God. A real prayer meeting will be like this.
A prayer meeting does not mean that everyone brings the prayer in his home into the meeting place to pray. In a prayer meeting we must pray specifically with one accord. The responsible brothers should say, “Today we must pray specifically for this one matter.” Everyone then prays for this one matter.
If there are five or six items to pray for and a responsible brother stands up to announce them, he should announce one item first. He may say, “We have several matters to pray for; however, we will pray for this one item first.” Do not mention other matters. After three or five prayers, you have to see whether the burden is discharged or not. If you feel that you should still pray for that matter, let them continue to pray. If the burden is gone, while the brothers are still sitting there or kneeling, a responsible brother should announce another item. Then the prayers of all the brothers and sisters will be on this topic. After five, ten, or twenty minutes, it may seem that the burden is gone again, and that no one has anything more to pray. The responsible brother should then stand up again and say that there are still a third and a fourth item which need prayer. Do you see? The topic must be focused. Even if there are three or four topics, they should not be announced at one time. Wait until the first topic has been thoroughly prayed for; then announce the second topic. In this way you will be able to make all the brothers and sisters pray for one item. After the first topic is over, bring in the second; after the second is over, bring in the third. Therefore, in the meeting the responsible brothers should learn before God to guide this meeting. The spirit of the responsible brothers must be open and sensitive. One responsible brother may say, “The prayer for this matter can stop here. There is no need to drag it on any longer.” Perhaps there are times when you still need to continue praying. At any rate, after the first matter is finished, the second matter can be brought in. If the burden is finished, you should then rise up immediately to announce the next item.
Sometimes during the entire meeting we can pray only for one matter, perhaps just for a sick brother. At other times we may pray only for the sick ones the entire night. At still other times we may pray for all the unemployed brothers or for just one unemployed brother. Always pray with a focus so that God’s children can pray with one accord. I think that this is a very crucial matter. Many prayer meetings are not strong because there are too many topics.
The Real Worship Service
The bread-breaking meeting is already quite clear among us, but we must always tell the brothers in various localities to take note that the bread-breaking meeting is the real worship service, the real worship.
Divided into Two Sections
In this meeting we need to see that the first section is always toward the Lord and the second section toward God. In the first section we see the One who was sent; in the second section we come to the One who sent. In the first section we always meet the Lord, and in the second section we meet God. Spontaneously, when these two sections are joined together, the bread-breaking meeting is on the mark.
The First Section Needing to Be Quick
Brothers and sisters, the first section of the bread-breaking meeting must be quick. If your appreciation for the Lord Jesus comes slowly, there will not be enough time. Therefore, if the first section is slow, there will not be enough time for the next section. You must touch the Lord in a quick way during the first section. Perhaps there should not be too many hymns or too many prayers. As soon as you touch the Lord, begin to break the bread. After you break the bread, immediately come before God. I am afraid the problem today is that we begin to break the bread too late.
Perhaps I can say it in this way. Many times you may feel that before God the brothers have already reached the climax of their feelings toward the Lord, yet they have not broken the bread. Therefore, the meeting goes down. After a while a high point is reached the second time, and they still do not break the bread. The meeting goes down again. Perhaps not until a high point is reached a third time do they break the bread. In principle you should break the bread when you reach the high point the first time. If you break the bread when you reach the high point the first time, you will have time to worship God later.
The Need for the Burdens to Be Discharged
The principle of two or three persons in 1 Corinthians 14 is the principle of speaking the word, not the principle of prayer. If we limit the time and the number of people for prayer, I am afraid that some burdens may remain. I am afraid that if the burdens are not discharged after a while, people will go home with their burdens still heavy. This is because when people come to the bread-breaking meeting in the Lord’s presence, there are many burdens to be discharged, and if we limit the time and the number of people, their burden will not be discharged, and the burdens of the church will not be discharged either.
I have much feeling concerning this matter. Very often we have not broken the bread when we have reached a high point. We break the bread after we have climbed to the top two or three times. This is indeed too late. The moment that we reach the high point is always the time to break the bread. Perhaps after a few prayers or hymns, we have already reached the high point. We should then break the bread. Then there will be sufficient time for the worship of the Father.
The Lord Leading Us to Worship Together
The brothers must see that during the time for the Father, the Lord’s position is not the same as it was in the first section. At this time, the Lord begins to lead us to sing hymns. It is the Lord who leads us to approach the Father together. It is the Lord who leads us to sing hymns of praise to the Father together. The Son Himself is involved, and He and the many sons praise together. During the second section it is always the case that the children of God together with the Lord Jesus come before God to worship Him. The meeting should reach such a level.
THE SISTERS’ MEETING
The sisters’ meeting is also a meeting to help the church. There is the need for this meeting in some places, but perhaps there is not the need in other places. At any rate, the sisters’ meeting is arranged in the following way:
Giving Opportunity for the OnesWho Have Received Burdens to Exercise Their Gifts
If one or two sisters who have received burdens from the Lord come to a certain place, we should arrange a sisters’ meeting for them so that they may have the opportunity to exercise their gifts among the sisters. If there are sisters in the churches in various localities whom the Lord uses and burdens, we will set up a sisters’ meeting. If there are no such sisters, then we do not need to set up a sisters’ meeting. Since that need is due to certain sisters being used by God, we need to make arrangements for them so that they may have the opportunity to supply the sisters. Otherwise, there is not this kind of need.
Teaching Illiterate Sisters How to Read
There are other sisters’ meetings, especially in the countryside, whose nature is different. Some sisters are illiterate and are not able to read the Bible. Teach them to read. This also counts as an aspect of the work, an aspect in helping and caring for those who have already believed in the Lord. For example, among the new believing brothers and sisters, find out who are illiterate and teach them to read. Perhaps in every locality we should make arrangements to teach those who are illiterate to read so that they can read the Bible. Do not let go of this matter by any means. However, this is not an official meeting of the church; rather, this is a work done when the church is serving and preaching the gospel. This is also a part of the Levitical service for the new believers. This is especially for the brothers and sisters to learn to read and to be able to read the Bible.
THE CHILDREN’S MEETING
The children’s meeting is also needed. This is also a meeting of the local church in the aspect of the work.
We have children’s meetings in various localities. This requires that a few brothers and sisters specifically come forth to do this work. Sisters are perhaps more appropriate. I do not know what materials they are now using in various localities.
In some places they use the Bible to teach the children to read and to memorize. The songs that they sing are composed from Bible verses. They also use pictures.
As to pictures, take heed that this does not lead to deviations. Using pictures of the Lord Jesus is especially inappropriate. Pictures of flowers and birds do not present any problems.
Perhaps there are brothers and sisters among us who are especially experienced with and burdened for the children. They should come forth and give us some materials that the children in various localities may receive the benefit. Perhaps there are already some brothers who are preparing songs for the children.
If the children’s meeting is carried out properly, it will also provide a good opportunity for more people to believe in the Lord. This meeting indeed needs to be strong. In the future I hope that there will be a few brothers and sisters who will come forth to prepare some materials for the brothers to take care of the children. When the number of saved ones in various localities increases, spontaneously the children’s meeting becomes very crucial, because they are our next generation.