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THE MINISTERS OF THE WORD IN THE CHURCH
Today we want to spend some time to see the situation concerning the ministers of the word in the local churches.
NO NEED TO MAINTAINTHE LORD’S DAY MESSAGE MEETING
According to our past custom, the churches in every locality have always maintained the Lord’s Day message meeting. In the co-workers’ meeting in Hankow, we saw quite clearly that there was no need for a local church to maintain the Lord’s Day message meeting, because this kind of meeting is not a church meeting. The messages recorded in The Normal Christian Church Life speak concerning this in a very detailed way. The prayer meeting is a meeting of the church. The supplying by the ministers of the word in 1 Corinthians 14 is a meeting of the church. The table meeting is a meeting of the church. The Lord’s Day morning preaching meeting, however, is something of Catholicism and Protestantism; it is not a meeting of the church. Actually, it is a meeting of the work rather than a meeting of the church.
The Reason We Could Not Abolish It
Following What the Nations Do
Although there is no need to maintain the preaching on the Lord’s Day in a local church, what has been our experience in the ten years since the meetings in Hankow? We are still maintaining the Lord’s Day message meeting, following what the nations around us do. It seems that many localities cannot endure the absence of preaching on the Lord’s Day. Because the nations around us have preaching on the Lord’s Day, we find it hard to relinquish it. We have followed the nations. In the ten years from 1938 to 1948, we have seen that the preaching on the Lord’s Day is not a meeting of the local church; what we saw in Hankow was right. However, we have been unable to leave it even until today. What is the difficulty?
Having Nothing to Replace It
I think a big reason for this is that there would be nothing with which to replace it if we abolished the Lord’s Day preaching. The nations practice this, so if the brothers in our midst do not, it would be very difficult to maintain the meetings in their localities. Since the people in the denominations listen to a message, we seem to feel that it would be very hard if there were no messages to listen to when they come into our midst on the Lord’s Day.
The Result of Not Abolishing It
Still Needing to Build Up the Pastoral System
Therefore, within these few years not one locality has successfully carried out what we saw in Hankow. We still have the problem that we had before the meetings in Hankow. Before the meetings in Hankow, we saw that it is wrong for a brother who is a worker to always remain in the same place. Brothers who are workers should be scattered to many localities. But today it seems that a worker still needs to live in a particular place in order to maintain the Lord’s Day message meeting. As long as we need to maintain the Lord’s Day message meeting, we build up the pastoral system. If we need to maintain the Lord’s Day message meeting, then there is the need for a worker to live in a place to do that work, since local brothers have no way of maintaining the Lord’s Day message meeting. I hope that when you brothers have time, you will again read the messages given in The Normal Christian Church Life. The meetings for edification, the table meetings, the prayer meetings, and the gospel preaching meetings are all meetings of the church, but maintaining the Lord’s Day message meeting is the behavior of the nations and not something of the church. We admit our failure of the past ten years; we cannot be proud.
The Problem with Not Abolishing It
The Outward Problem—Desiring to Listen to Messages
Why have we not practiced what we saw in the past ten years? There are reasons for this, one inward and the other outward. The outward reason is that all the nations have a Lord’s Day message meeting, and if we do not have one among us, we fear that without a message to listen to many brothers and sisters will go to other places to listen to messages. However, if this is the case, we should realize how few are the priests among us. Many among us still want to be those who are served, and we are not able to be those who serve. To be a priest is not a matter of being served, but a matter of serving. To be one who listens to messages is to be served, not to serve. This is the outward problem.
The Inward Problem—Having a Habit
The inward problem is that if there is not a Lord’s Day message meeting, many brothers and sisters, after being Christians for ten or twenty years, will feel that this is absolutely different from their former habit as Christians. They will feel that being a Christian today is different from what it was in the past. This is also a problem.
The Need to See Accurately
Today I want to discuss with the brothers and sisters what we should do concerning this matter. The words that I speak here are only suggestions, not my preaching, because we must see accurately before we can practice.
A Local Church Not Maintainingthe Lord’s Day Message Meeting
To this day I have not been able to find the Lord’s Day message meeting once in the Bible. Especially in a local church, you can see that there is no way to maintain a Lord’s Day message meeting. If a local church wants to strengthen the Lord’s Day message meeting, then it must have a worker. Whether you call him a worker or a pastor, it is the same. There is still someone to maintain the Lord’s Day message meeting.
Always Abolishing the Classof Those Who Want to Be Served
What has our situation become? Among us we do not believe in the priestly system. We are all priests. We do not believe in the priestly system disguised as the clergy system, we do not believe in the priestly system disguised as the pastoral system, and neither do we believe in the priestly system disguised as a system of workers. Hence, if we do not resolve this matter, when we go out, we cannot expect to be able to work in a proper way. We must learn to raise up all the brothers and sisters to be priests. When all come to serve, those among us who are being served will decrease. We must abolish the class of those who are being served. If there are still those who are being served and who expect others to be the priests while they remain simply as God’s people, there will never be a way to eliminate the Lord’s Day message meeting. There will never be a way to have the representation of the Body in that locality, because there will always be those who are passive, who listen to others speak, and who do not speak themselves. If the church wants to be successful as the church and successful as the Body of Christ in a locality, then the entire Body must serve. The service of the entire Body is that all the people, whether five-talented, two-talented, or one-talented, rise up to serve God. Please remember, this is the requirement for a group to become the Body of Christ.
The Way of the Church
Working Replacing Listening to Messages
I believe that the way of the church is as follows: Save and gain a person from outside, and after he is saved, immediately put him into the work so as not to produce the habit of listening to messages on the Lord’s Day. We need to change to the habit of working on the Lord’s Day. I believe that our failure over these ten years will be completely changed from today. In these ten years we have taught that it is right for the saints to have the habit of listening to messages on the Lord’s Day; we have not replaced it with something. We did not substitute preaching with working on the Lord’s Day. Today we have found that working on the Lord’s Day is what should be done and what is proper. Because our practice has not been proper, that which is wrong has come in.
The Entire Body Being Mobilizedto Preach the Gospel
If the churches in every locality cause all the one-talented members to rise up and to stand and work, it is very possible that we can return to the situation of the early church. The Lord’s Day mornings should be used to preach the gospel. The Lord’s Day is the time for everyone to be mobilized to save people. You have to gather the new believers and let them know that every Lord’s Day is the day on which all of us are busy. We must preach the gospel every Lord’s Day.
No doubt the church on the earth needs to be fed. I believe in feeding, and I also believe that in China there is no one who believes in feeding as I do. However, I admit that the mission of the church on the earth is not feeding but the preaching of the gospel. Therefore, we need to use every Lord’s Day for the preaching of the gospel, whether in the morning or in the afternoon, but especially in the morning because this is the time when everyone everywhere “goes to worship.” We will have a message meeting every Lord’s Day morning, but it will be for the gospel.
All of the brothers must go out to lead people to the meeting. We can also have advertisements, but we do not stress this. We can use other methods, but we should stress the need for one to invite two and another to invite four. By working in this way, we will immediately see that all will be busy, because all the brothers and sisters will be preaching the gospel and saving people. We should not only do this on the Lord’s Day, but we must go to seek out people and talk with them at other times, and we must also bring them to hear the gospel and seek out new ones to come and listen. If we bring many people, we will have to find others to help care for them. This kind of work in the care of the gospel is the primary work of the brothers and sisters.
If we lead people to believe and be saved every Lord’s Day, it will not be long before the brothers’ habit of listening to messages will be gone. Then the true nature of the church will be manifested. Who are the ones called church members? They are those who listen to messages on the Lord’s Day. But after a period of time, their nature will be changed. Eventually, everyone who goes out to preach the gospel and save people will be called a church member. He who actively goes out to save people will be called a church member, a Christian. There will no longer be a passive habit of listening to messages.
The Whole Church Being Priests
You must see what the church is. I believe the light is very clear now: The church is everyone being a priest. This type of universal priesthood has been preached for more than a hundred years. From 1828 until today, a period of one hundred twenty years, the eyes of God’s servants have been opened to see that the priesthood is universal. However, even today the priesthood is still not widespread. The church is the Body of Christ. The recovery of this testimony has been going on for more than one hundred years. Of course, within the last ten or more years some have especially seen its spiritual weight. However, in the church it is very possible that the Body of Christ is still merely a doctrine. In actuality we are far from bringing it into the church life.
Every Member Functioning
Therefore, you need to ask God to open your eyes to cause you to know what the Body is. The Body is every member functioning. In the body there is not one member that does not function; likewise, there is not one person who belongs to the Lord who is not a priest serving the Lord. All the members function. All the priests serve.
Being Able to Find the Church Everywhere
After you go out, you should completely change the brothers’ and sisters’ way of thinking. Formerly, they thought that there were many workers in the church. Today we need to turn this around and say that everyone in the church is a worker. I have said before and I repeat it today, you have to speak this kind of word until one day everyone understands it inwardly. If the church does not endeavor until everyone in the church is working and everyone in the church is serving, then there is no church. If the whole church rises up to work and serve, you will immediately see the Body of Christ. Everywhere there will be three or five or seven or eight people serving God; you will be able to find the church everywhere.
However, once you have gone down from the mountain, I do not expect you to eliminate the preaching on the Lord’s Day and change immediately. There can be no such thing! It is a matter of working until we reach that point.
In the Morning Serving Man;in the Evening Serving God
I do not know if you have seen this vision. Let me tell you how wonderful it would be if one day in the mind of God’s children there was no thought of attending worship services. We could eliminate this manner of listening to messages and, instead, have the entire church serve according to God’s word in the Bible. The Lord’s Day mornings would be for all the priests to serve man, and the Lord’s Day evenings would be for all the priests to serve God. On the Lord’s Day mornings whether or not you go to a meeting would not matter. It would also be acceptable to change the day of the gospel meeting to another day. The Lord’s Day mornings should always be for the priests to go and serve man; everyone must serve man. On the Lord’s Day evening everyone should serve God, offering up sacrifices. When you see such a people, then the church will be as it should be. When you can see that all the believers, once they are saved, are for the Lord, have the thought of saving others, and are working and caring for people, then you can really see the church.
Working after Being Saved
Once a person is saved, he should always consider whom he should bring to salvation. Once a person is saved, he should be one who works; once a person is saved, he should be one who testifies. I do not know whether or not you have seen this. We must lead people to the point that the church is as it should be before God. I want to speak a very frank word. Today in the church the persons are right, but the situation is indeed wrong. The persons belong to God, the persons are right, but the situation is completely wrong. The situation is passive.
Therefore, when you go down from this mountain, you need to change not only the way of the work, so that now you have a definite center, but also the nature of the work. What is the nature of the work? It is to lead people to begin to work from the moment they are saved. The workers must lead the brothers to work and must not replace them by doing the work.
From now on there should not be much difference between the workers and the brothers, except that your spiritual condition before the Lord is strong, while theirs perhaps is weaker. In the matter of the work there is no difference, because they also are co-workers. It is only when you reach this point that you can understand the New Testament. The entire New Testament regards all of God’s children as co-workers, because they all are working. The only difference is that you have been sent to work, you have presented all of your time and energy, and you have been sent to different places to work. I especially want you to see this matter.
Being Able to Overthrow Our Tradition
If within you are capable and strong enough, you will always push and always work, and you will be able to tear down our entire tradition.
The weight of tradition is very heavy. This tradition is oppressing. If you want to overthrow it, you must use considerable strength. This is not something quick. It will take a year or two before you can produce a new situation.
THE SUPPLY OF THE WORD
Let us first speak concerning the supply of the word. Then we will come back and talk about the way of the church.
The Supply of the Word for Edifying New Believers
Regarding the ministry of the word, for now we will use the following arrangement: We will have fifty-two topics for the regular year. In addition, we will have one or two topics on the side for use in the leap years. Please remember, when we are strong in the matter of preaching the gospel, many will be saved. Once many have been saved, there will be more trouble for the church because all kinds of people will come in. All kinds of fish will be pulled into the boat; therefore, we will need to take good care of them, providing the new believers with edification once a week.
We do not plan to change the topics for the meeting for edifying new believers. Every local church in every locality will speak the same topic on every Thursday or Friday. Tsingtao will do this; Shanghai will do this; Foochow will also do this. Every locality will be working in the same steps. From now on we do not plan to modify the topics used in the meeting for edifying new believers. It will not be one way this year and another way next year. We desire that every group of new believers that comes in would receive the same edification by being brought together in each locality every Thursday or Friday. We need to spend an entire year to touch all the main matters in the Word of God and the way to be a Christian. In this way there will be no lack with respect to the supply of the word for the new believers. Do not be afraid that something might be lacking if there is no Lord’s Day message meeting. At least with respect to the new believers, there will be no lack; the supply will still be there.
I hope that the brothers who go out to work will not change these topics, but simply work accordingly. If you want to change, let us wait until our next gathering to discuss how to make adjustments. Today I believe the topics which we have selected are already prevailing enough and sufficient to supply them.
Once we have the work related to the gospel, plus the fifty-two topics for the edification of the new believers, I believe it will be very easy to meet the need of a local church regarding the matters of the faith and our conduct. In this way the brothers will not need to search everywhere for food.
The Word and the Anointing Being Repeated
If you are living, then these things will be living. If you are dead before God, these things will become like publicly recited prayers; they will become dead things. If all of you are living, then even that which is dead will become living. If all of you are dead before God, even the living things will become dead, even a book as living as the Gospel of John. In the same way, if you are living, I believe that by speaking the things we have arranged year after year, both the words and the anointing can be repeated. The words can be repeated, and the life can also be repeated. In this way you can edify the new believers.
The Supply for the Gospel andthe Supply for Edification
Now you have seen that there are two meetings. The first is the Lord’s Day morning gospel meeting, stressing gospel preaching for saving people. Once some have been saved and brought in, you must pay attention before God to give the new believers a clear leading in the word. The Lord’s Day morning supply of the word is related to the gospel. The supply of the word on Thursday or Friday night is related to edification.
The Supply of the Word in 1 Corinthians 14
Some may ask how we should supply the older brothers, and many other brothers and sisters among us, with the word. This is the purpose of the Saturday night meeting, the meeting for the exercise of the spiritual gifts. This meeting is conducted according to 1 Corinthians 14. In this meeting each one has a word, has a revelation, has a hymn, has a prayer.
If today some feel that the meeting for edifying new believers is not sufficient, please remember that every Saturday night you can let several able ministering brothers take care of a stronger and fresher meeting. Every Lord’s Day morning we have to preach the gospel and every Thursday we must have the meeting for edifying new believers. Perhaps every Saturday night we will have an additional meeting according to 1 Corinthians 14, in which we can supply God’s children with God’s word. Either one, two, or three can speak. The Saturday night meetings have to be very living, not like today’s Lord’s Day message meeting, which is maintained in a dead way. Today maintaining the Lord’s Day message meeting is quite hard even for a worker because if he has a word, he must speak, and if he does not have a word, he still must speak. It is also very hard for a local brother to maintain because, similarly, if he has a word, he must speak, and if he does not have a word, he also must speak.
But if we do not maintain the Lord’s Day message meeting today, the brothers and sisters will be scattered. It is as if we use the Lord’s Day morning meeting to bind the brothers and sisters together. I hope that what binds them together from now on will not be the Lord’s Day message meeting, but the gospel preaching work. What will bind them together is everyone testifying, everyone preaching the gospel, and everyone saving people. If we get them accustomed to working, and they move to another locality, they will feel that they cannot do without the opportunity to work. We must give every brother the opportunity to work, lead everyone to have a habit to work, and lead everyone to have a habit to preach the gospel. Then we will have a church in a locality that is very stable.
For example, in a locality on every Lord’s Day morning, there will be a gospel meeting with different brothers taking turns to be responsible for one or two months with some arrangement before God. That will be a corporate gospel preaching, corporately leading people to be saved. When someone is saved and receives the Lord, you then may bring him to the Thursday night meeting. After being there for a year he will have received his basic edification. Those who are burdened for the word and those who have a burden before God and are not passive will stand up on Saturday nights to speak.
Everyone Being Responsible
Today there are many localities where the Saturday night meetings cannot be strong because all the brothers are passive, even though many are gifted with a ministry. If there is no pressure on them, as with the Lord’s Day meetings which force them to go before God, then every Saturday night meeting will be a time to relax. If all the brothers relax, bearing no responsibility, how can the meeting be strong? If no one bears the burden, how can the meeting be strong? We should not allow anyone to be passive! Who then would take the initiative? The meeting according to 1 Corinthians 14 is not a meeting where everyone shirks responsibility; the meeting in 1 Corinthians 14 is a meeting in which everyone bears responsibility. For one person to bear the responsibility is wrong; for no one to bear the responsibility is also wrong.
Having Half an Hour of Prayerand Preparation Beforehand
Now I want to talk about how the responsible brothers in each locality should carry out the Saturday night meetings. The Saturday night meetings are the same as the other meetings in that the responsible brothers should pray together. Before every meeting the responsible brothers should arrive at least half an hour early to have some prayer. It should be the same with the gospel meetings, the meetings for edifying new believers, the prayer meetings, and the bread-breaking meetings. The responsible brothers should always be there half an hour or fifteen minutes early to have some prayer and preparation. Especially for the Saturday night meetings, you may need a little more time. You should usually arrive fifteen minutes early, but for this meeting you need to arrive half an hour early. You have to ask the responsible brothers to come for half an hour of prayer first, and then you need to help them to the extent that even if others have not prepared, they would be prepared. The responsible brothers can enter into the meeting only when they have the assurance before God. There should be no responsible brother who can simply remove his hat and rush into the meeting. Every responsible brother must first have some preparation before he can go in.
There are many localities with many unspiritual persons who want to occupy the podium. You need to pray much for them so that they would not come in and control the podium. Those that enter in should be the ones who have a genuine burden before God, those who are fearful of having a poor meeting. Hence, you need to pray beforehand and then take good care of the meeting so that it may be uplifted.
Those Who Are Apt to TeachNeeding to Bear More Responsibility
The responsible brothers should especially pray regarding the Saturday night meeting. You need to ask whether there are brothers among you who are particularly burdened. This does not mean that the ministering of the word is limited to responsible brothers. However, we must admit that the responsible brothers should bear more of the responsibility in ministering the word. The elders are for serving the church, and even though they are not for the ministry of the word, they should be apt to teach. Therefore, when all those who are apt to teach are gathered together, they should ask whether anyone has a special burden before God that night, whether there is a particular burden (even though everyone should be burdened), and whether there is anyone with a special word to say. Every time you come to the Saturday night meeting, there should be at least a few responsible brothers who are not passive. When the responsible brothers are passive, everyone becomes passive.
I am amazed that often three to five brothers are ministers of the word before God, but they think that they can open up the Saturday night meetings for other brothers to speak. When the meeting does not turn out well, they shake their heads and say that the meeting was not good. If the mouth does not speak and the nose goes to speak, it is no wonder that the voice is not clear. This is often the problem. When it comes to the fellowship meeting or a meeting according to 1 Corinthians 14, many brothers who can bear responsibility do not do anything, yet they criticize. This is a strange thing.
The Supply of the Apostles’ Word
The supply of the apostles’ word is the supply of the ministers of the word. The gospel preaching and the edifying of new believers in the regular meetings should be sufficient for the brothers to have the habit of serving in the gospel and edifying the new believers. If we desire a stronger supply of the word, then we need meetings such as those in 1 Corinthians 14. This is the case in a local church. Then what is the responsibility of an apostle? During a certain time, when a brother passes by a certain locality, he should stay for a few days as Paul did when he passed through Troas and stayed for seven days. You may stay there for a few days, a week, or a month and hold a conference. Perhaps a local church or several local churches in the area may join together two or three times to get some special help.
The Lord’s Day Message Meeting Being a Waste
I have considered before God many times for many years, and I deeply believe that the help rendered to people by the Lord’s Day morning preaching cannot match what God desires to do. Frankly speaking, if we are not careful, the Lord’s Day preaching will become a waste and a loss. It is best to turn that message into gospel work. The Lord’s Day is the time for everyone to be mobilized to go out to save people. Thursday is the time for all the new believers to be edified, and perhaps Saturday is the time for the brothers and sisters to be gathered together to be mutually edified. On special occasions in a locality, an apostle may have a three to five-day conference. After finishing, he may go to another place to have a three to five-day conference. In this way you will see that the church will be very balanced in the matter of the supply of the word, and her way will be straight.
Today we are not talking about the locality which is the center of the work, but the localities outside the center of the work. They cannot bear the burden of a Lord’s Day message meeting. Once this burden is present, you almost have to place a worker there. Once you do this, you have quite a problem. This is the time every brother should rise up to serve God. We cannot have a system of workers.
The pressure of tradition is very strong. When we first begin to push against it, it is very heavy. The pressure on my spirit is heavy. We need to push against it day after day. After two or three years the situation will change. Then all the brothers and sisters will desire to have the gospel preaching work on the Lord’s Day. If you say, “Let us preach a message to you,” no one will want to listen to your message. They will see immediately that this is not the church. If, after two years, you send these brothers and sisters to another place or another church and ask them to listen to messages, they will not be able to sit still. They will sense that they should not be there, that their being there makes them just like members of Catholicism, where everything is done by a priest and where they could not have a portion.
Needing to Walk the Way of Recovery
The situation of the church today is altogether not according to the New Testament! Therefore, we need to reverse it. God wants to take the way of recovery; we also need to take the way of recovery. We should always lead the brothers and sisters to the point where they are the ones working and serving. There is service toward the sinners, and there is also service toward the new believers. Among them there is also the mutual edifying as in 1 Corinthians 14, that is, help rendered mutually by the saints from the word before God.
If you live in a locality for a while, you can add your portion of the word to the Saturday meetings. Even if you are not a worker, you can still add your portion of the word to the Saturday meetings.
If there is a need for further spiritual supply, we can immediately release many workers to go out and travel from place to place. Formerly, you fixed them one by one in a single place, but today it should not be so. They must be mobile, going from one place to another. They should go out, being in one place for three to five days and in another place for three to five days.
Not Needing Highly Gifted Persons
If we work in this way, I believe that the situation in every locality will be very balanced, and we do not know how many times the increase in numbers will be multiplied. It is a great thing, a most wonderful thing, for the church to preach the gospel! For the church to preach the gospel in the Lord’s Day meeting is the most glorious work! If we can have a breakthrough in the way of the Lord’s recovery at this time, if the church can rise up to preach the gospel, there will be the dawning of a new day everywhere. This does not mean that there must be a few highly gifted persons in the church, such as Philip or Charles Stanley, Whitefield, or Wesley. The power of the church’s gospel preaching is much greater than their power!
If we want a five-talented member to be manifested, it may take twenty or even fifty years to produce one. How difficult that would be! But if we take the five worst brothers here in Kuling and put them together, there will be five talents. If we put the five least spiritual ones together, there will also be five talents. If we expect to see a five-talented member rise up, we will realize that there are not very many in the church. But if the church preaches the gospel, then the effect will not be that of only five five-talented members, but that of ten, one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand five-talented members. Moreover, we will continue to see this effect everywhere. Whether or not the gospel can get through is not a matter of preaching by the workers, it is a matter of preaching by the church. The church will overturn the world.
The Work Being Placed upon the Church
Therefore, today before God you must see this vision accurately. Your view must be accurate, and you must thoroughly see the Lord’s spiritual revelation. “O Lord, You place the work on the church.” The Head directs the Body, not individual members. It is necessary that the entire Body develop all of its strength. Therefore, I desire that there would be the local representations of the Body in China. Do not think that the Body of Christ is something in the heavens. Looking for a local church in the heavens would be idealistic. You must see that the Body of Christ is manifested on the earth. The Body of Christ is spiritual to the point that it can be manifested on the earth.
The Supply of the Word Being Very Important
Since this is the case, you can see that the supply of the word is very important. We need to preach the gospel, edify the new believers, and have mutual and special edifying. Therefore, many, including the sisters, need to go out, group by group, in twos or threes, so that every locality may be able to stand on its own.
Without this, today’s problem will remain. There will still be a need to maintain a Lord’s Day message meeting. You have to overturn this habit of listening to messages. You must overturn it completely. The Lord’s Day is the time for all of us to go out and save people. If this habit is overturned, it will be impossible to ask the brothers and sisters to just listen to a message on the Lord’s Day.
Perhaps there will be times when we pause for a while and have a conference for a whole week. If co-workers come, we will have a feast for one whole week, and then we will go out to work again. In these few years I have especially seen what God has done in the hearts of brothers everywhere. Gradually, the church must preach the gospel and do the work. This way is already quite clear.
New Believers Needing to Migrate
You will probably ask what the new believers should do in the second year after listening for a year to the fifty-two topics, which neither advance nor change. The answer is that you need to send them out in migrations. If not, we will definitely have to build a “Solomon’s Temple,” because there will not be a place that is large enough to meet in.
Therefore, after a group of believers has been raised up at the end of a year, you have to deal with them concerning their going on. They then will care for new believers. At the same time, you have to cause them to see that living on the earth is for preaching the gospel and for the Lord’s interest; they cannot choose their own professions or their own places to live. Thus, we will see that we can send out five hundred or a thousand people after one or two years. If a place does not have the church, there will be a church there after one or two hundred people have been sent out. After a few years we can send many out to places where the gospel has not yet come. We must send them out group by group.
The Migrations Also Being a Wayto Preach the Gospel
In Acts there are two different ways of preaching the gospel: one way is that of Antioch, sending apostles out to preach the gospel. The church has paid special attention to this way throughout these years. However, Jerusalem had another way of preaching the gospel which was different from that of Antioch. Jerusalem’s way of preaching the gospel was that of sending out a group of people through migration to preach the gospel after they were saved. After reading chapters eight, ten, eleven, and twelve of Acts, you will then realize that whether they went out because of persecution or whether they went out according to arrangement, the migrations for the preaching of the gospel were always right. As soon as one is saved he should go out. It would also be good if among us there were three to five brothers and sisters who wanted to go to preach the gospel to a certain primitive tribe. If, in a certain place such as Jerusalem, many have been saved, you must then send them out. If you do not send them out, persecution may come. When you send people out, you will find that they will go to preach the gospel. Workers, we should never think that people are always gained by the workers. Sometimes, the workers go out and gain people, but sometimes the sent-out saved ones gain people. We must take both of these ways.
If we can carry out migrations on a large scale, I believe that it will not be many years before we take China. If, as before, we are saving people one by one, there will be no way to do this even after a thousand years. Today the total number in China who claim to believe, not counting Catholics, is merely a few hundred thousand Protestants, perhaps six hundred thousand. After more than one hundred years of gospel preaching, there are only six hundred thousand! Among these six hundred thousand, we do not know how many are saved. Therefore, if God will work here, I believe there will be a prevailing way for the gospel to go out.
Needing to Change Our Habit
Therefore, you need to see that the supply of the word in a locality is already sufficient. At the same time, the former habit also needs to be changed. This is a basic requirement. As soon as a person is saved, he should not be one who desires to come and listen to messages. Rather, he should be one who realizes the need to work right away, to preach the gospel right away, and to save people right away, carrying out these things without delay before God and hurrying to save people.
The Need for New Apostles to Rise Up
At the same time, if we want to be strong in the matter of preaching the gospel, we need new apostles to rise up. This is the purpose of Kuling. If you find new brothers and sisters who are able to go on, you must send them here when they have learned something of this way after two or three years. We will coordinate with you. We will ask them to live here for one or two years. Then we will send them out and let them begin to work from place to place. I hope we can coordinate and go on in a good way. I believe this matter is a great thing.
Regarding the supply of the word in a local church, I hope that we would not make the Lord’s Day message meeting our center. If the Lord’s Day message meeting continues to occupy the central position in a local church, there will be no way for the gospel to advance. We must allow two or three brothers to rise up in every local church to preach the gospel on the Lord’s Day and continue this work there. The rest of the brothers and sisters will continue to help. I believe that all of the former problems will go away. We might have problems in other areas, but there will be no problems in the area of preaching the gospel. Once we have the preaching of the gospel, all the other problems will also be easy to resolve.
What to Do in the PlaceWhere the Center of the Work Is
What shall we do with the locality where the center of the work is? I believe that the local church at the center of the work also needs to have these several kinds of meetings. However, if the locality where the center of the work is desires to maintain a Lord’s Day meeting, I am not personally against that. I do not know how you brothers feel. This is one issue that I wish to discuss with you. Perhaps we will reverse the situation. Formerly, we preached the gospel once a month; now once a month we preach a message to the brothers, or if there is a strong ministry of the word, perhaps we will select one day out of the week and use it specifically for preaching a message. Perhaps, we will preach the gospel every Lord’s Day morning and have the ministry of the word in the afternoon.
My personal feeling is that we do not need to immediately eliminate the message meeting in the locality where the center of the work is. I have spoken about this previously, but it was not clear. What I am saying is that our direction has to be accurate. Then we can work gradually, step by step, until the brothers and sisters see that the Lord’s Day is the day for our service, particularly the service of the gospel. The situation from locality to locality is not the same. We should not immediately endeavor to stop having the message meeting; rather, we should observe the situation and make arrangements gradually to lead the brothers into this way. At a certain point we will see that working can replace listening to the messages.
More Emphasis Being Given at the Apostles’ Timeto Preaching the Gospel thanto Listening to Messages
When we read the book of Acts, we must see that at that time there were not as many ministers of the word as we have now. At that time God’s children probably paid more attention to preaching the gospel than to listening to messages. However, today it seems that the basic factor of being a Christian is listening to messages rather than preaching the gospel. Therefore, I hope that we can see this way very accurately and thoroughly. We must lead the brothers in every locality into this way. We must carry it out to such an extent that all the brothers and sisters are preaching the gospel before taking care of other matters. If this way can be carried out, the number of those saved in the past will not be comparable to the number that will be saved. At the same time, there will be no need to maintain so many workers in every place, and we will also begin to see churches rising up.
I thank God that Romans 12 says that he who exhorts should attend to exhorting and he who teaches should attend to teaching, but Romans 12 does not say that he who listens to messages should attend to listening to messages. If those who listen to messages attend to listening to messages, then the church will be brought to naught. There is no such thing as attending to listening to messages. To listen to messages is not a function of the Body. We need to ask God to give us grace so that every child of God may rise up to serve and preach the gospel.
When you practice this, I hope that you will hold fast to your direction. It is your own responsibility before God as to how you will turn your way around and how much time it will take. You must take good care of the saints in order to lead them into this way, not quickly dropping one thing and quickly picking up another. There should be no such thing. You must always preach in this way and work in this way. If you come to the point where the brothers and sisters have risen up, then make the change. You must see that the Lord’s Day morning is their busiest time. It is not a time for old and young, men and women to come hand in hand to listen to a message. Rather, it is a time for everyone to come to preach the gospel.
The Vision of the Work
The work in every place today has not been carried out well. It is in the initial stages. However, the vision is before you. From now on you need to work in this way every day. Only after we reverse the direction will we be right. If all the brothers and sisters have not yet risen up, you must continue working until they all rise up to work and preach the gospel. It should always be the church that serves and preaches the gospel. This way is right, and this is the New Testament church.
The Need to Rise Up to Build the Temple
Please remember that Catholicism is the church in captivity in Babylon. Many Bible readers admit this. As the children of Israel were taken captive to Babylon, the church was also taken captive to Babylon. Protestantism came back from Babylon, but they did not build the temple. Even though many came back from Babylon, the temple was not there. Today you and I must be those in church history who rise up to build the temple. We are a people like Nehemiah, building the temple and learning to raise up God’s church again in this age. Many have come out of Babylon but still have a Babylonian appearance. Even today they still do not look like the church. Catholicism is very structured. Protestantism is less structured, but being less structured is still not the church. In order for there to be a local church, the church must preach the gospel and the church must serve. Within the next few years, I hope to repeat these two phrases ten thousand times: The church needs to preach the gospel and the church needs to serve. Only then is it the church; otherwise, it is an incomprehensible gathering, very much unlike the church.
Brothers, in the beginning it will indeed be hard. But you need to see the vision accurately and clearly. What is the church? Being the church requires that we preach the gospel as the church; being the church requires that we serve as the church. Therefore, responsible brothers and sisters, you need to gather together often to discuss and to pray: “O Lord, how can we cause all of the brothers and sisters to rise up?” Our way is not that we ourselves always put our hands to the work, but that we cause others to work. It is wrong for us to take care of everything while the brothers and sisters do nothing. It should be that we work with the purpose of leading them to work. If we work in order to induce them to come out and work, this is correct. They must be busy. We should place each one of them, making arrangements so that everyone is preaching the gospel and serving. At that time we will realize that this way is correct.
The Church Always Needing to Bein the Freedom of the Holy Spirit
I think that in the local churches the service in the word is already adequate. These few points are sufficient to meet the local need. Concerning the mutual edifying in 1 Corinthians 14, if the local brothers are strong, the Saturday night meetings will be strong. If the local brothers are not strong, the Saturday night meetings will not be strong. I think every child of God must admit that the strongest supply of the word was that which was among the Brethren a century ago. This is something amazing. Why was the supply of the word so strong and so abundant in the last century? It was because they were working according to the principle of 1 Corinthians 14. The Holy Spirit had freedom there. Even though they had much insignificant speaking, they also had much substantial speaking. Without this principle they could not have had what they had at that time. Therefore, during the Saturday night meetings, even though many who should not speak will rise up, there will also be the opportunity for those who should speak to speak. Once the Holy Spirit has the freedom, you can expect the Holy Spirit to speak in the church and operate in the church. The church must always be in the freedom of the Holy Spirit.