THE PRISTLY SERVICEPrint This Page.
THE PRIESTLY SERVICE
We should first establish the principle that all of God’s children are priests who should serve God. With this principle in view, let us see how we can lead all the brothers and sisters to be priests in a local church. In other words what kind of arrangement should we have in the spiritual work so that all the believers can participate in the spiritual things, both the new believers and those who have known the Lord for many years? We need to see which spiritual things in a local church can be taken care of by the brothers and sisters.
A FEW SPIRITUAL MATTERSTHAT ALL THE BELIEVERS SHOULD DO
In the beginning in Foochow and also in Shanghai, we arranged a few matters which were to be done by all the local brothers and sisters. First, there is the preaching of the gospel.
Second, after a person has heard the gospel and received the Lord, we should go to visit him, bringing him into the right way and showing him how to become a Christian.
Third, there is the visitation of new believers. How should we render help to those who have come from other religions, have believed in the Lord, have come to the right way, and have been baptized?
Fourth, in the church there are still many other needs. Some believers have difficulties in their families; some have sicknesses; some suffer in poverty; some have funerals or other special occasions in their families. There are all these kinds of situations among God’s children. These people also need the service and help of the church. We can categorize such services as the visitation of those in special situations. This is another thing which all the brothers and sisters can do.
Fifth, there is the care for the brothers and sisters who have moved away and for those who have moved from other places. I have always felt that this is a very important matter. If brothers and sisters move away to other cities, even though they have a letter of recommendation, we should still take care of them afterwards. We also need to take special care of those brothers and sisters who have come from other places.
These five items are sufficient for our consideration of spiritual matters.
Preaching the Gospel
The first thing we need to pay attention to is that among the ministers of the word established by God in the church, one is called an evangelist. However, Paul told Timothy that he should do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). When we compare these two, we see a very important matter, that is, God has established a category of people in the church called evangelists; but to those who are not evangelists, the command of the apostle is that they should do the work of an evangelist. In other words, those who are evangelists should preach the gospel, and those who are not evangelists should do the work of an evangelist. An evangelist is a gift specifically established by God. If God has given you the gift to be an evangelist, then you should concentrate on preaching the gospel to bring people into the church. However, if you are not established by God as an evangelist, the Lord’s word is that all of God’s children should do the work of an evangelist.
In other words, concerning the work of preaching the gospel, he who can do it should do it, and he who cannot do it should also do it. The evangelist, who is one who can do it, has to do it. Those who are not evangelists, that is, the ones who cannot do it, should do it also. This work should be everywhere. Young ones such as Timothy should do it. In fact everyone in every place should do the work of an evangelist.
For this we have to encourage all the brothers and sisters to spend time going out to do the work of preaching the gospel. We should never allow them to be lazy and forget about sinners and should never allow just a few to do the work of preaching the gospel. It should be made known to all the brothers and sisters that everyone is a priest and that everyone should serve God. There is a service that is called the service of the gospel. In spiritual work and spiritual service, there is one item called the work of an evangelist. We must help the brothers to pay special attention to this point.
Caring for the Gospel
Caring for the gospel is something that we should practice before God. I hope that all the brothers and sisters can bear the responsibility of caring for sinners in the work of preaching the gospel.
This responsibility starts with bringing a person to the meetings until he is baptized. You need to show the brothers and sisters how great their responsibility is in bringing a person from home, from school, from a hospital, or from an office to the meetings. They should keep bringing him until he has been led to know the Lord, has received the Lord, and has been baptized. This is what should be done in the care and visitation of the gospel.
Bringing People to the Gospel Meetings
When you take care of a sinner, you have to find a way to bring him to the gospel meeting. One should not bring too many at one time. Of course, if you bring many, it is also good. But if you want them to be well taken care of, it would be better for one person to bring only three or four. If you bring too many, then you will not be able to take care of them. We do not want to set up a law, but two to four is a good number. Do not bring too many; but this is not to say that if opportunity allows, you cannot bring more. If you can bring thirty or fifty students from school, that is good too. But when you do, you need to immediately ask the responsible brothers to help you find some brothers or sisters who can share the responsibility of taking care of them. Suppose you can take care of only four persons, but you have brought forty. There are still thirty-six whom you are unable to take care of. Therefore, you need to ask the responsible brothers to make arrangements for a few brothers and sisters to help care for them.
Sitting between Them
Now we must see the way of taking care of the gospel meeting. You have to prepare Bibles and hymnals. You should arrange the four new ones so that two sit on your left and two on your right. No more than two should be on one side. Any more than that would make caring for them inconvenient. When the Bible is read, you need to help them find the verses. When hymns are sung, you need to help them find the hymns. To many, you need to explain the way the pages are laid out. If the chorus of a hymn needs to be sung each time, you need to tell them this as well. You should not consider that everyone is so capable. They may have never sung a hymn or read the Bible before, so you need to help them.
During the time of preaching, if someone does not understand, you need to explain to him in a soft voice. Do you remember the story Mr. Wakes once told while he was preaching in Shanghai? He said that once a British preacher went to Japan and was preaching in a very large public area on a day when many people were there. The preacher’s first words were, “You all know how the Israelites went out of Egypt.” When Mr. Wakes heard this, he immediately ran up to tell him that he might need to spend two hours to explain who the Israelites were and what it meant to go out of Egypt. We have to realize that there are many things that people do not understand. Although we may not be able to spend two hours to explain as Mr. Wakes suggested, we can at least use a couple of sentences to explain to them in our softest voice.
Strengthening with Prayerthe Word Being Preached
Your greatest job is to help the preaching in the meeting. The preaching of the gospel is not for you to hear, nor is it for you to criticize. The preaching from the podium is for sinners to hear. Many times the gospel has not been preached well, because the brothers did not listen properly. Keep in mind that you are not there to criticize, but to help. The gospel is not being preached for you to hear; the gospel is being preached for sinners to hear. Therefore, when you realize that some weighty words are being spoken or that some words are being spoken with a released spirit, you need to pray quietly while sitting next to them. You may pray, “O Lord, impart this word into the people!” or “O Lord, use this word to save this person!” or “O Lord, use this word to save these two!” It may be that the Lord will give you two because you asked for two. If you say one, the Lord will give you one. If you say five, the Lord will give you five. You strengthen the word being preached with your prayer for the four who are under your care. As you are taking care of them, you are praying. This is what you should do in the meeting, and this is something everyone should be responsible for.
Willing to Be Assignedto Attend to the New Ones
Those who did not bring anyone should take care of the surplus brought by others. During the gospel preaching, all these brothers should sit aside and wait to be assigned by the brother who is responsible for handling the care of new ones that day. Listening to the gospel requires companionship. They listen to the gospel and you attend to them. You need to sit next to these new ones, perhaps two or four of them, to listen with them, even though you did not bring them.
During the preaching, the brothers and sisters should either stand by the door or, if space allows, sit at the back of the meeting to wait to be assigned by the brother who is responsible for handling the care of the new ones that day. If you see several new people come in, you should go and sit next to them to help them. Caring for the gospel has two aspects. On the one hand, we need to bring people, and on the other hand, we need to take care of them in the meetings. Everyone should bring people and take care of those whom he brings. Those who have not brought anyone should also learn to take care of the people that others have brought to the meeting. All the brothers and sisters have to be brought to the point where they all have something to do.
While the Net Is Being Drawn
Whenever we preach the gospel, we must always draw the net. To cast the net is one thing, and to draw the net is another. You are not asking the fish to jump into the net; you are drawing the net. When the preaching is over and the one at the podium begins to draw the net by exhorting people to raise their hands to indicate their willingness to receive the gospel, you need to help in this work. It does not matter what method he uses. Some may use one method, and others may use another method. None of these things matter. These things are flexible. As long as he can draw the net, even if he has to jump into the ocean to do it, it will be all right. At this time you need to help him do the work of drawing the net. You also have to help the ones who have been brought. Among those you care for, you will have much to do. On the one hand, you need to pray, and on the other hand, you need to be quite strong to persuade them, saying, “I think you should stand up to receive the Lord due to your sin.” If you have the assurance that pride has hindered them from standing up, you could say, “You should be humble. You should not be proud. You should receive the Lord.” Or if you know that the love of the world is the reason that they will not stand up, you could say, “Is there anything in the world worth your lingering? Why should you wait for another time? If you feel that the time is ripe, do not wait.”
Not Waiting for Four Months
The most important thing in gospel preaching is not to wait for four months. Many people make a common mistake of waiting for four months. But the Lord Jesus told us not to wait for four months. The word of the Lord Jesus was very peculiar. He said, “Do you not say that there are yet four months and then the harvest comes? Behold, I tell you,...they are already white for harvest” (John 4:35). Two or three days may be all right, but four months is too long. The harvest of the gospel goes far beyond man’s concept. Do not be so foolish as to think that you still have to wait four months after the seeds are sown. The Lord Jesus said that if you sow the seeds today, you can harvest today. There is not such a principle of waiting for four months.
As the gospel is being preached while you are sitting next to people, according to your feeling the time may or may not be ripe. However, you should not be limited by the time factor. If the person is ripe, you need to encourage him to believe; if he is not ripe, you still need to encourage him to believe. There is absolutely no such principle of waiting for four months. You may not expect someone to believe, but when he believes, he believes. You may consider another to be ripe, but it turns out that he is absolutely unreliable. Therefore, you must encourage all to believe.
Some people seem to be completely ignorant. But please remember that whether or not someone can understand does not depend upon you; it depends upon whether or not the Holy Spirit shines on him. I know at least several brothers who first believed in a false way but who were eventually saved in a genuine way. They were forced by others to believe, but eventually they genuinely believed. Therefore, as far as encouraging others to believe, you should not decide beforehand how you will do it. Sometimes the opportunity is ripe, so you need to encourage them; at other times the opportunity is not ripe, but you still need to encourage them.
After the Meeting
After the meeting is over, you should stay with them to lead them to pray and to talk with them. You should always bring them before the Lord, lead them to pray and receive Him, and then help them record their names. When recording their names, you need to make sure the street address and the house number are correct. In the past many report slips had wrong house numbers, so a great deal of effort was wasted when we tried to visit them later. If possible, add a question such as, “When are you most free?” or “When is the most convenient time for you?” When you record their names, you should write them down quickly so that the new ones will not be annoyed by your slow writing. After the report slips are completed, you have to turn them in to the responsible brothers. Afterward, other brothers can visit them to share more with them.
Imparting the Need, the Knowledge,and the Decisiveness into People
Some people receive the Lord because they have a need, but they do not have the knowledge of the gospel. Others have the knowledge of the gospel, but they do not have a need. Still others feel that they have a need and also the knowledge, but they cannot make the decision at that very moment. All these are matters that you need to work on. To those who do not have a need, you have to impart the need. To those who do not have the knowledge, you have to impart the knowledge. To those who lack decisiveness, you have to impart decisiveness.
Telling Them about Baptism
After you have brought them to the point where they are quite clear, you need to immediately tell them about baptism. You have to visit them once, twice, or three times; how many times, we do not know. When you get to the point that they can be baptized, you should then turn them over to the responsible brothers.
Before the Meeting Starts
Another matter presents a very difficult problem when attending a gospel meeting. Before the meeting starts, we see five or ten rows of people just sitting there. Some might have come one hour early. There are two places in which the passage of time is particularly long: one is hell and the other is the church meeting. When a person goes to hell, he feels that the time there is very long. When an unsaved person comes to a church meeting, he also feels that the time there is very long. He is not saved and he feels that the time is long. He may come quite a while before the preaching of the gospel starts. If he leaves, he does not feel right, and if he just sits there, he feels like he is in a fog. This hour of waiting is very unbearable. Sometimes I do have a deep feeling concerning this matter. I saw some who brought new ones to the meeting and had them sit there row by row, waiting for some period of time. Some had to wait for half an hour, some an hour. If you looked at their faces, they were just like those whom the Lord Jesus saw, who were “cast away like sheep not having a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). What do you expect them to do? If you ask them to go home and come back again, there is not enough time. If you have them sit there and wait, they have nothing to do. Therefore, before the meeting starts, you also need to take care of them.
Never allow the unbelievers to sit together by themselves. From the very beginning you should always seat two or four of them next to one believer. The ones who do this work must be equipped with full armor by having tracts, printed gospel messages, and Bibles ready for the literate to read, and they have to talk to those who cannot read well or are illiterate. In any case all the brothers and sisters should be there taking care of them. If you let them sit there without anything to do, they will become cold even if they were like hot water at the beginning. Therefore, you have to learn to sit among them.
All Becoming Priests
There is no way for this work to be done without everyone serving. You need to show the brothers and sisters that everyone is a priest; hence, everyone should have things to do. If this is the case, immediately you will see that all the gospel meetings in every place will be quite prevailing. This is the church preaching the gospel. We must pay special attention to this word. It is the church that is preaching the gospel. All the brothers and sisters are working; they all are priests and they all have come to serve. If this is not the case, there is no church. So do not boast that you have the local church in such and such a place. Where is the church today?
The Number of Priests Determiningthe Number of God’s People
Let me repeat something that I have said for many years. I have a particularly deep feeling about this today. The number of people serving determines the number of people in the church. In a locality the number in the church is the number of people serving. The number of priests determines the number of God’s people. You should not turn it around and say that the number of God’s people determines the number of priests. This is wrong. The number of priests determines the number of God’s people. The number of serving ones determines the number of God’s people.
No Useless Members
When I was in England, I met a brother who was very knowledgeable. He said that there were many members with a function and there were also many members without a function. But I said that in the Bible all the members have a function and that there are no members without a function. If there is a member without a function, it is probably the appendix. When he heard that, he laughed. Many people think that some members have a function and that other members do not. Can you tell me which member does not have a function? Where is the member that does not have a function? In the whole body the only member without a function is the appendix, and you should not consider that it refers to you by coincidence. The appendix is the member of the body which is most frequently removed. Please remember that all the members have a function. May we see today that the number of members with a function is the number of members in the Body.
A Body of Priests
We have to change our way of thinking. Today we must see that serving means that the whole church serves and preaching the gospel means that the whole church preaches the gospel. To serve as priests involves everyone. The number of brothers and sisters serving determines the number of members in a locality. The number of people serving determines the number of brothers and sisters in the church. We should always determine the number of brothers and sisters in the church based upon the number of serving ones. Hence, there should not be one thousand or five thousand brothers in a locality and only a few serving. Among us we cannot tolerate any members being functionless. We cannot have even one member without a function. Please remember that as a member of the Body of Christ, you have a function. It is impossible for you not to have a function. If you do not see this basic principle, you will not do the work well. Brothers and sisters, frankly speaking, you cannot do the work. That is not the New Testament; that is deformed Catholicism with the system of priests. We do not have a system of priests; rather, we are a body of priests. Everyone is a priest.
Caring for New Believers
The Meeting for Edifying New Believers
After a person has believed, is baptized, and becomes a new believer, we should bring him to our prearranged meeting for edifying new believers. In this meeting we will have a special topic for them to get into every week.
Making Up Lessons and Rendering the Care
Once a person has started coming to the meeting for edifying new believers, he should be placed under the care of those believers in the church who are more mature than he. How should this care be rendered? Those who take care of the new believers must make sure that the new believers are practicing the lessons presented every week.
If they do not come to a meeting, you must immediately visit them and give them a make-up lesson. Of those who come to the meetings, during the week you must seek out the five or ten under your care and see whether they understand the lesson that was shared that week.
At this point I want to have a little fellowship with you brothers, especially with those who are ministers of the word. I think that we all have had many experiences which may have been heartbreaking, shameful, and embarrassing, and even some experiences which made us angry. Today you may have shared a message that was quite high, but if you check with the brothers, the message was like a wind passing over the rooftop. There was not even a breeze next to their ears or even above their heads. If you do not believe it, just ask them to raise questions after your speaking and see what kind of questions they have. I have always said that the questions asked reveal how the listeners are doing; the preaching reveals how the preacher is doing. After a most spiritual message is presented and the listeners are given opportunity to ask questions, you often see that they have veered off considerably, even to the extent that it is beyond what you could imagine.
Therefore, we should not think that the new believers will understand simply because the message was spoken from the podium. You need to go and visit these new believers. This is the visitation of the new believers or the care for the new believers. You have to make the message up for anyone who has not heard it, and you have to see how it was received by anyone who did hear it. They do not have it simply by hearing the sound or by counting the number of times per second my voice vibrates in the air. We want them to hear clearly the words of the lesson. Therefore, concerning this matter, the brothers responsible for the care of the new believers need to labor in a careful way.
Having the New BelieversCare for the Unbelievers
Another aspect we need to pay attention to is that all the new believers can immediately take care of the unbelievers. However, we should place a few strong brothers to work together with them. A brother who has been saved for a number of years should coordinate with them and take care of them by leading them step by step. You have to show the new believers that as they have already believed in the Lord, they are priests before Him. All the priests must have a service. Today this service before God is to serve either the unbelievers or the new believers. How well the new believers do in this matter depends altogether on how well you take care of them.
Laboring on the Fifty-two Topics
Everyone knows now that fifty-two topics have been prepared for edifying the new believers each year. From these fifty-two topics we will prepare one topic each week to speak on. The older brothers need to be very familiar with these topics and should practice them themselves. After they have practiced them, they have to lead the new believers to practicea lso. Furthermore, they have to become very familiar with the new believers because many of these fifty-two topics stress the matter of conduct, and therefore they require concentrated effort to apply them. After they have done it themselves, they can know the real situation with the new brothers so that they can encourage or even urge them to do it also. This is not something we can take care of merely by listening to messages. Just listening to messages will not suffice; there needs to be the practice. We need to reach the point where we can say, “I have to practice it myself.” Therefore, on the one hand, you have to preach this message to them, and on the other hand, there must be brothers who will make the effort to deal with them concerning the particular topic each week. Go and seek them out, urge them, make them decide, and make them practice. With many problems, it is not a matter of just one visitation, but a matter of caring for them for several weeks or months. With the matter of reading the Bible and prayer, you have to see whether in fact they have read the Bible in an adequate way, and whether they have progressed in their prayer. The church needs to lay great stress on these matters before she can be brought to a proper condition. Therefore, I hope that we, especially the co-workers, would see that it is for this reason that I stressed that the problem today is not a matter of knowledge but a matter of taking the lead. All the local churches need to do this wholeheartedly. Since this work is so heavy, we cannot let it pass by carelessly.
Being a Master Builder
The way we are taking today is absolutely different from our way in the past. Today the workers should not do the work, but the workers should cause others to do the work. Is this clear? If the workers are always working by themselves, this matter can never be done well. I say again that if you go out to work and only you yourselves are working, you have failed. Paul not only worked by himself; he was also a master builder. You need to learn to work, and you also need to learn to be a master builder who leads other brothers and sisters to work. This is the way we should work with the unbelievers as well as with the new believers.
There are enough things to keep you busy just with the new believers alone. You have to learn before God how to lead many brothers one by one to give make-up lessons to these new believers. These brothers should go one by one to the homes of the new believers and examine how well they are practicing the lessons. They should check carefully one by one whether or not the lesson was practiced that week. The brothers should exhort the new believers to read the Bible every day and should check to see if they have read it the day they visit them. It is not a matter of whether or not the message was spoken; it is a matter of whether or not, having heard the word, the new believers have practiced it. The brothers must suggest that they use a prayer notebook. They then need to go and check how their prayer has been and whether or not they have written names in their notebook. One brother may have written down five names and another may have written down five thousand names. What should the brothers do? Is the one with five names right or is the one with five thousand names right? The brothers should advise them that they should not write down five thousand names; that is too many. You have to arrange things one by one and show them how things are arranged.
Caring for Problems
In caring for problems there is no need for too many brothers to be involved. The work of preaching the gospel, caring for the gospel, and caring for the new believers requires the mobilization of almost everyone. Caring for problems, however, should not be carried out in this way. There are brothers and sisters who have a spiritual measure before the Lord which is weightier than that of others, and it should be quite weighty. There need not be too many of this kind of brothers. Not more than four or five of these brothers are necessary to address a particular need. If a brother has encountered hardship, these brothers then need to help him. If there are some who have joyous occasions, these brothers should rejoice with them, help them, and pray with them. If there are some who are sorrowful over a death, these brothers should be sorrowful together with them, helping them and praying together with them. There may be some who have difficulties and conflicts in their family; these brothers need to resolve the problems for them, pray for them, and comfort them. Problem matters such as these or matters such as helping the poor can all be given to the brothers and sisters responsible for taking care of problems.
In the church, when brothers encounter problems, or if some special situations arise, you need to allow these brothers and sisters to make some arrangements concerning these problems among the saints. Whenever brothers and sisters hear that something has happened among some of the brothers and sisters, they need to immediately notify these brothers and sisters and allow them to find a way to meet the need. Send money to those in poverty; feed those who are hungry; clothe those who have nothing to wear; comfort those with difficulties; visit those who are in prison; pray for those who are sick; solve the problems of those who have family difficulties.
A Foolish Thought
I want the brothers and sisters to know about a foolish thought. I do not know when this thought began. Some people indeed have the thought that in the church life we should not encounter problems. But please remember that problems have existed from the time of the apostolic church. Since the time of the apostolic church, the church has always been a church of problems, not a church without problems. You should never consider that a situation in which there are many problems implies an inadequate condition of the church. Please remember that not many days after the day of Pentecost, the problem of Ananias and Sapphira occurred in the church, and not many days after that, the problem of the Grecian widows happened. Later, Stephen was martyred, and Peter was thrown into prison. These kinds of things continued to happen. The history of the church since the beginning is one that is full of problems. Only a worldly church will have few problems; the genuine church always has many problems. I do not know the source of this foolish thought. There is not one church that is always serene, without any difficulties or failures. There has always been blessing on the one hand and difficulties on the other hand.
At the time of the apostles, the church had the most difficulties. Look at the seven churches in Revelation. The five that were damaged had little persecution. One church, the church in Smyrna, was not rebuked by the Lord, but Smyrna was a church that suffered martyrdom. One church, the church in Philadelphia, was praised by God. The Lord said to that church, “You have kept the word of My endurance” (3:10). There were many things that required the church there to endure. To keep the Lord’s word is not to keep the Lord’s word of tranquillity, but the Lord’s word of endurance. There were many things the church had to pass through. You should never think that if the church is peaceful and tranquil, going on steadily, then this is the unique proof of the Lord’s blessing. The church may have many problems, but that does not mean that the Lord is not blessing. Therefore, the brothers responsible for caring for problems have to make arrangements to handle all the difficulties in the church.
Caring for the Believers Who Have Moved Awayand for Those from Other Places
The last item related to spiritual affairs is the care for the brothers and sisters who have moved away and for the brothers and sisters who have come from other places.
Regarding Brothers Who Move Away
Writing a Letter of RecommendationNot Being the Last Responsibility
After a brother moves away, the writing of a letter of recommendation should never be the last responsibility, as is the situation today, where once a brother moves away, we simply write the letter and everything is over. How is it going with him since he moved away? How is the church where he is? We do not know. This may be how the brother is lost. The brothers in Foochow have suffered in this way. Only letters of recommendation were written, and this is how some were lost. This clearly is a failure of the work of a local church.
The Need for Some to Be Responsiblefor Correspondence
I hope that when there is a brother or a sister who moves away from your locality, there would be a number of brothers who would do two things with them. Some must be responsible to correspond with them and inform them of the situation in their former church. This should be something definite. When a brother moves away, we need to investigate who in the meetings was especially close to him and whether anyone corresponds with him. For a long time in Shanghai I felt ashamed, even to the point of condemnation, that one person moved away and no one corresponded with him for five years. That was the end of him. We do not even know the situation with him. We are really ashamed. I thought that there must have been brothers who were corresponding with him. But, as it turned out, no one was corresponding with him, and that was the end of him.
Some people have moved to the villages and have become lost. We would need to spend much labor to recover them. We cannot continue to lose people and at the same time preach the gospel. This is not profitable.
Whenever a brother moves away, there should be some brothers who are assigned to correspond with him. We should write him either one letter a week or two letters a month, but no less than one letter a month. We should always correspond with him by letter to inform him of the situation in the meetings and of the situation of the brothers and sisters. We cannot be loose about this kind of situation. If there were ten letters of recommendation written today, these should be brought to the responsible brothers, who should tell two or three other brothers that a brother has now moved to Peking or Amoy. They should say, “We would like you to write him at least one letter a month. Whether or not you are busy, you need to correspond with him.” This is a service. In our correspondence, we should not write vain things nor should we write in a loose way. We should specifically mention what the situation is among the brothers in the meetings and their spiritual condition.
For each person moving away, there should be at least a few who correspond with him. Or two can be assigned specifically to be responsible for all these ones. They have to be responsible for taking care of the brothers who have moved away. They need to find out regularly if the ones who moved away have corresponded in return and whether they have encountered difficulties; they need to find out how they are doing.
If we work in this way, God will bless us. Every one of these brothers who has moved away will be accounted for, and each one of them will be able to stand firm. We have to labor on this matter attentively. This is something we have learned after suffering for many years. We have lost many people in this way. Therefore, I hope the brothers from every locality will be quite strict in this matter. When a brother among us moves away, we always need to tie a string to him as if he were a kite. A string should always be in our hand. There should always be two or three brothers who have fellowship with him. If this is the case, the problems will be greatly reduced. If he has some special situations in the other place, we can notify the brothers in his locality. There will always be a way to take care of him; otherwise, we will lose him. Then there will be nothing more that we can do.
Sending Him Excerpts
When there are special messages in the meetings or when there is a good word in the preaching of the gospel, some brothers need to record them. They should record the central point of the message. They do not need to write down everything, nor do they need to record all the messages given in a particular month. They need to write down only the important and central points. At the very least, this can be a supply to the brothers who are absent from the meetings.
Suppose a brother moves from Foochow to Shanghai. Never consider that since you have already written a letter of recommendation, you have washed your hands of the matter. If you do this, after recommending the person, you will not know whether or not the other side has received him. You will not know where he lives and what his situation is, and you will not know the situation of the church there. Therefore, on the one hand, there is the need among us for several brothers to correspond with him; on the other hand, some brothers need to be responsible to record the words spoken in the meetings, whether they are words spoken to believers or words of the gospel, and send them to that brother at least once a month. They can be sent in a letter or as a printed copy. You can tell him that in a meeting a certain brother gave a very good illustration or that in a meeting a certain brother spoke some words that rendered you great help. This can be included in your correspondence. You can also include some word that you felt was weighty. You can either print or copy these excerpts and mail them to him month by month. In this way you can hold on to these brothers one by one.
If we labor on these two aspects, there will be no problems with brothers who move away. Furthermore, there are places in China where there are no meetings. Sending excerpts by correspondence can be very helpful to those who move to these places. Furthermore, there are brothers who go overseas from Shanghai. They frequently ask us where they can attend meetings. We do not dare tell them where to meet. Their moving away like this can cause them to feel lonely and can be quite dangerous. If they are not guarded by God, there is no way for them to grow. If there is no supply, how can we cause them to grow? Therefore, if these messages can go out continually, we can at least cause the brothers who have moved away to be quite stable. Although their condition may not be excellent, at least they can be fairly stable.
Corresponding with the Receiving Church
My thought is that in the future, regarding the brothers who move away, letters of recommendation can never be the final thing. As the church, after one or two months, we should write a letter to the church where the brother is. We should pay attention to this one thing: Ask them, “Last month a brother was sent to your locality. How is that brother doing now?” We need to ask them to reply. We may say to them in the letter, “We have sent a brother to your locality. How are you helping him? How is the spiritual condition of this brother since he has come into your midst? How are you taking care of him?” If you ask these questions, a lazy church will not be able to answer. Many times people can be lazy. A church can also be lazy. We are afraid of people that are lazy. When we work in this way, many local churches will not be able to be lazy. They must respond. Either they will say, “We are leading him in this way,” or they will say, “We are not leading him.” If they have never helped him, you can write letters exhorting them that in the future they need to help the brothers who move from other places and that they should pay attention to this matter.
Regarding Brothers from Other Places
Now we come to the care for brothers who come from other places. I hope that many brothers and sisters in our meetings will rise up to serve these saints. This is also one of the duties of a priest. We need to preach the gospel, we need to care for the gospel, we need to care for the new believers, we need to care for problems, we need to care for those who are absent from the meetings, and we need to care for those who come from other places.
Giving This Responsibility to Those Who Carefor the Brothers Who Have Moved Away
Those brothers who are responsible for the care of the brothers and sisters who have moved away can at the same time care for the brothers who move from other places. Because these brothers receive the letters from the ones who have moved away, they can realize the difficulties of the brothers who have moved from other places. For instance, thirty brothers move away from Foochow. A group of brothers write to them and they write back. These brothers are able to realize the difficulties in the other places. They especially understand the hardships, the temptations, and the dangers for the brothers who move away. They see this more than anyone and they also know it more clearly. Therefore, it is most convenient to ask these brothers to guide and take care of those who have come into our midst from other places.
The Time Not Needing to Be Long
The length of time for this care may not need to be long. After two or three months, these brothers who have come from other places can be considered as local brothers who can be asked to take care of things on their own. The brothers and sisters who have been responsible for their care can go on to take care of other new ones who have come. If this is not done, they will not be able to take care of everyone. It should always be that each group should make room for the next group. In this way, you can labor on many others.
For example, if two brothers from Tsinan come to Tsingtao, the brothers who take care of this matter need to personally be in fellowship with them for two months. Perhaps they will eventually stop, but within this period of time the brothers must be in fellowship with them. These are the tasks for those who are responsible for taking care of the brothers from other places. If the two brothers want to settle down, other brothers can begin to have particular fellowship with them after two or three months have passed. In this way, the two who came from Tsinan can be turned over to others. After a while, two more brothers may come from the church in Weihaiwai; the brothers who took care of the two who moved to Tsingtao then need to go and take care of them. It should always be group by group, letting some go on the one hand, and picking others up on the other hand. Any special needs or special difficulties need to be taken care of properly. If these matters can be practiced more, there will not be much problem with the brothers who move from other places.
THE WAY OF SERVICE
Not Preferring a Message on the Lord’s Day
Brothers, I do not know if you have ever thought about this. I desire very much to have a heart-to-heart talk with you. Have you seen that Protestantism today emphasizes the messages on Sunday? I feel that this is the problem today. I hope that you can have a thorough consideration these days. Do you want merely to maintain a Lord’s Day morning message meeting on the surface? Next year when I go to Tsingtao, Canton, or Peking, I would rather see no messages given on Sunday morning, but rather see each and every brother in Peking serving and each and every brother busy. During the preaching of the gospel, everyone would be there preaching; during the time for taking care of people, everyone would be there taking care of people; during the time of harvest, everyone would be there harvesting; after the harvest, everyone would be there caring for others; when there are matters needing responsibility, there would be brothers there bearing the responsibility. I would say that this is the church. If in a locality there is a very strong Lord’s Day morning message meeting, but it is without the service of each and every brother, that is not the church; that is Protestantism. If among us there are four, five, or ten brothers doing well while the rest are immobile, what we have is the priestly system of Catholicism and the pastoral system of Protestantism. That is not the church.
No Inactive Members
The church in the Bible is a church that preaches the gospel, a church that visits people, and a church that cares for others. It is the Body of Christ in a locality. In the Body there are no inactive members. If one day there could be a group of brothers or even a whole church in which everyone serves, everyone carries out spiritual matters properly, everyone bears responsibility, and everyone is busy, then that would be the true Body of Christ.
The Service of the Church Being Our Way Today
Our way today is different than before. We should not consider ourselves to be proper simply because we have done much work and have had many experiences in the past. Today we have turned around completely. We do not recognize Catholicism! We do not recognize Protestantism! The way of Catholicism and Protestantism is absolutely different from our way. Our way is the service of the church.
I hope you brothers will pay special attention to this matter because when you go to work in different places, it is very easy to forget the vision. It is very easy when the work is heavy to lose the vision. I hope that whenever you work, you will always put the vision before you. It is only when you have the vision that you can work. If you do not see the vision, you will not be able to work. What you have may merely be what you saw two months earlier. Although you feel that the burden is still upon you, it is of no use. The brothers and sisters have not yet risen up, and they are still not working. Therefore, we should not worry about how great the outward difficulties are or how much people talk. The question is whether or not we have genuinely seen our way of service. Because we have seen clearly, we are putting all of our strength into this so that we may cause everyone to work in this way also. If there are many people, thank God; if there are few, it does not matter. The church must take this way.
If there is a local church with two thousand brothers and sisters and only five hundred are serving while fifteen hundred are not serving, it should be strange. If there are five hundred brothers and sisters, then there should be five hundred who serve; otherwise, the brothers will not be able to bear the load.