THE SERVICE OF THE CHURCHPrint This Page.
If the church has the proper ground outwardly and the proper content inwardly, it is still insufficient. She must also have the service, the service of the church.
The service of the church has been neglected through all these generations. Even today we do not have an adequate realization concerning it.
The service of the church is a spiritual coordination, a coordination of the saints in life and in the Holy Spirit. It is the spiritual activity of the saints, who are members one of another in the Holy Spirit, as one Body, each member functioning according to its office. It is not the independent movement of an individual, but the coordinated movement of all the saints. It is not the service of one person individually, but the serving together of all the saints. It is not the service of one pastor plus a preacher and several elders and deacons, but the service in which all the saints participate together.
If a church is normal, the number of people saved should also be the number of people serving. In the New Testament, all the saved ones are priests; therefore, all the saved ones should serve. If in a church only a minority or a part are serving, there is something wrong with that church; it is still weak. Only when all are serving is the church strong.
SERVICE IN THE BODY
First Corinthians 12:14-21 says, “For the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.…If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were the hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He willed. And if all were one member, where would the body be? But now the members are many, but the body one. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” Verses 28 through 30 go on to say, “And God has placed some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then works of power, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all have works of power? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret tongues?”
There are many members in the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit dispenses all kinds of gifts and ministries to them according to the need of the Body. The Lord grants the members different kinds of gifts and ministries for the purpose of supplying the need of the whole Body. The Lord knows that He will not make the whole Body the eyes or the whole Body the ears. The Lord gives the members different gifts and ministries to supply the whole Body. As the human body needs all the members, so the church needs the different kinds of gifts and ministries for its spiritual service. Some serve in the ministry of the word. Some serve by performing works of power. Some exercise the gift of healing. Some render helps. Some speak in tongues and some interpret tongues, etc. The church must provide ample opportunity for all the brothers and sisters to serve. All the members, including the uncomely ones, are useful in the ministry of the Spirit. It is impossible to have a useless member in the Body. Every brother and sister is a member in the Body and every member has his or her function and service. As long as you are a Christian, you are a member of the Body of Christ, and as a member in the Body, you must have your own service before God. We must honor such a practice of universal service. Every Christian must have his or her respective function and must serve the Lord according to this function.
Every member in the church should find a place to serve. Everyone should serve and there should not be any monopoly. A member or a few members should not replace all the members in doing everything. Any system that does not provide opportunity for all the members to function is surely not of the Body. In the physical body, the eyes, the mouth, the feet, and the hands may all be very busy. Yet they do not contradict each other. Something is wrong if only the eyes function while the mouth, feet, and hands do not. If the eyes, mouth, feet, and hands all function together and coordinate as one entity, we have the body. If some serve and others do not or if only one or a few serve, we do not have the Body of Christ. We must be very clear about this principle.
Romans 12:4-8 says, “For just as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or service, let us be faithful in that service; or he who teaches, in that teaching; or he who exhorts, in that exhortation; he who gives, in simplicity; he who leads, in diligence; he who shows mercy, in cheerfulness.”
Another matter which requires special attention in the Body is that both the grace and the gift that everyone receives are different. The passage in 1 Corinthians 12 emphasizes the ministry of the word and the miraculous gifts. The passage in Romans 12, in addition to speaking of the ministry of the word, includes ministries of other services in the church as well. Some give, some lead, and some show mercy. All these can be considered works of the Levites. They are services that pertain to practical affairs.
Romans 12 shows us that everyone who is gifted must function according to the gift which God has given him, whether it is in the ministry of the word or in the ministry of service. He who prophesies, let him prophesy. He who serves, let him serve. He who teaches, let him teach. He who exhorts, let him exhort. He who leads, let him lead diligently in the church. In other words, everyone should serve. Everyone should have his or her specific service and should be faithful to this function. Everyone should know what he can do before God and what gift he has received from the Lord. This knowledge should direct him to function in a specific way. No one should go beyond his own function to take over the service of others. No member should take the place of another member, and no member should relinquish his own function. All should serve together, and everyone should fully apply himself to his own work. In this way the Body of Christ will be expressed.
The Body cannot allow one member to neglect his duty. The whole Body is in darkness if the eyes do not see. The whole Body cannot walk if the feet refuse to walk. The eyes should see and the feet should walk. Even though the gift that you have received from God may be small, you should not hide your gift. Even if the gift you have received from God is just one talent (Matt. 25:14-30), you should not keep it or neglect it. Whether one’s gift is big or small, whether it is “five talents,” “two talents,” or “one talent,” he should exercise what he has and serve accordingly. If he refuses to give himself to his service and instead buries his “one talent,” the church will suffer. If a few members in the Body refuse to function, the Body will suffer great loss.
It is not easy to find five-talented ones in the church. Yet every child of God, no matter how small his gift may be, has at least one talent. If all the one-talented ones will rise up to serve, they will be more effective than the few who have five talents. If all the one-talented ones will rise up to serve, the church will surely flourish. All those with one talent should rise up to serve. Whether or not the church will prosper depends on whether the one-talented ones will rise up to serve. If only a few people are laboring and working, we do not have the church. If all the brothers and sisters are working and laboring, it will be the church serving and the Body functioning. A few members no longer will take over the function of the whole Body. We hope everyone who has “one talent” will dig out his talent from the earth. Everyone who has the “mina” should realize that the handkerchief is for wiping sweat, not for wrapping up his mina (Luke 19:20). We must learn to serve according to our ability. When everyone rises up to serve and no one passes his responsibility to someone else, we have the church.
ALL SHOULD LEARN
With regard to the practical affairs of the church, the brothers and sisters must be very concerned and very clear. Regardless of what kind of affair it is, all must put their hand to it. For example, the cleaning of the meeting place and the care and arrangement of the blankets and sheets that belong to the church are all in the nature of the service of the Levites. The care of those who are needy among us and the receiving and sending off of visiting brothers and sisters are also work in the nature of the Levitical service. There is a great amount of work in the nature of the Levitical service. There is much work in the church service office, which is also Levitical.
When a person serves God, there is the priestly work on the one hand, and there is the Levitical work on the other hand. Both should be accomplished. On the one hand, you participate in the spiritual service, and on the other hand, you should also take care of the practical affairs. Remember that Stephen and some others took care of serving food. That was the service of the deacons, the work of the Levites. When the disciples distributed the loaves and collected twelve baskets of fragments and on another occasion collected seven baskets of fragments, they were doing the work of the deacons. In particular, Judas’s responsibility for the purse was the business of the deacons. The Lord Jesus at the well at Sychar sent His disciples away to buy food. Their buying of food also was the work of the deacons. These things occupy a great part of Christian work. This category of things is what everyone in the church must properly learn before God.
HELPING IN HOUSEHOLD CHORES
Brothers and sisters, at this point I think I can make a suggestion. Please pay close attention to this. There are many brothers and sisters who have some spare time. There are also many sisters at home who have no time whatever. They have to cook, and they have to take care of their children. Why would the brothers in the service of the Levites not take responsibility in this matter by actually arranging for someone to go to their home to help them? The responsible ones can tell them that there are two sisters among us who can help them do the laundry two hours every week. This is also the work of the Levites. At the time of the apostles, the widows of the Hellenists were not adequately being cared for, and there were murmurings. Such was the church. Although this was not something spiritual, but rather a practical affair, it still needed to be done.
TWELVE ITEMS OF PRACTICAL AFFAIRS
There are many things that we can consider before the Lord: (1) the cleaning work; (2) the arranging of the hall and the work of ushering; (3) the need for a group of brothers and sisters to take care of the breaking of bread and the baptisms. Some need to be responsible for the bread and the cup for the bread-breaking meeting. We also need some who are trained to take care of the matters related to baptisms, such as helping those who are being baptized go down and come up out of the water, change their clothes, etc. (4) Giving to the poor among the unbelievers. When unbelievers are involved in disasters of floods or fire, the church should take care of them. (5) Caring for those who are poor among us; (6) the receiving and sending of brothers; (7) the bookkeeping; (8) the kitchen service; (9) the service office; (10) the transportation service. In places where cars or vans are available, some need to oversee their use. (11) The clerical work, which includes handling the incoming and outgoing mail; and (12) helping the poor brothers and sisters do their household chores, including laundry, sewing, mending, etc.
I also expect that every brother and sister will bear the burden in practical affairs. Never let a situation exist where some have things to do and others are doing nothing. The service of the church is always for everyone. If there are some brothers and sisters in our midst who have time, it would be good for them to help other brothers and sisters in their housework. Every week they could go to another brother’s or sister’s house to help for an hour or two, doing some miscellaneous things for them. Especially, it would be good for those sisters who are housewives with wealth and good standing to go to some brother’s or sister’s house to do some washing and mending. They should not just have people working for them, while they themselves do nothing. It befits them as Christians to go to the homes of poor brothers and sisters and do things with their own hands.
THE PRINCIPLE OF EVERYONE SERVING
I have said enough concerning the practical affairs. You have to be clear before God about this principle that all the brothers and sisters must have spiritual service as well as practical service. It does not matter how much everyone can do. I expect that everyone will work and do his best. If this matter can be properly arranged, the church will be able to progress step by step. Brothers, I say again that you must realize that the responsibility upon you is very great and that the things in your hands will keep you very busy. You have to work to such an extent that you bring all the brothers to the same condition that you are in. When all the brothers come and serve together, the church in that locality will have a foundation. When others see this, they will know the church is in our midst. Everyone works, everyone shares in the practical affairs, and everyone participates in the spiritual things.
CAUSING ALL THE ONE-TALENTED ONES TO DO BUSINESS
I would like to speak to the responsible brothers. You have a natural habit of using only the two-talented ones. The history of the church has always been like this. The five-talented ones can advance by themselves; there is no need to take care of them. But as for the one-talented ones, it is really hard to help them. A word or two to them and they bury their talent again. The two-talented ones are the most available ones. They have some ability, they can do things well, and they do not bury their talents. But if you can use only the two-talented ones and cannot use the one-talented ones in every place, you have failed completely. I have said this in Foochow, I have said this in Shanghai, and I will say it again today. What is the church? The church is all the one-talented ones coming forth to partake of the church service on the practical side and on the spiritual side. You cannot shake your head and say, “This one is useless, and that one is useless.’’ If you say that this one is useless and that one is useless, the church is finished and you fail completely. If you think someone is useless, he will really be useless. You can tell him that according to himself he is indeed useless, but the Lord has given him one talent, and He wants all the one-talented ones to go out and do business. The Lord can use them. If you cannot use the one-talented ones, it proves that before the Lord you cannot be a leader. You have to use all those brothers and sisters who are “useless.’’ This is the job of the brothers who are workers. They must not only use the useful brothers and sisters but also make the useless brothers and sisters useful.
The basic principle is that the Lord has never given less than one talent to anyone. In the Lord’s house there is not one servant without a gift; everyone has at least one talent and cannot have less than one talent. No one can excuse himself by saying that the Lord has not given him a talent. I would like you to realize that all of God’s children are servants before Him. If they are children, they are servants. In other words, if they are members, they have a gift; if they are members, they are ministers. If we think that there is someone whom the Lord cannot use, we do not know the grace of God at all. We must know the grace of God so thoroughly that when God calls someone His servant, we would never stand up to say that he is not. Today if you did the choosing, perhaps you would pick only three or four persons from the whole church. But God says that all are servants. Since God says this, we must let them serve.
Brothers and sisters, from now on whether or not we have a way in our work and whether or not the way will succeed depend upon what we can say about our work before the Lord. Are there only some who are working? Are only some specially gifted ones doing the work? Or do all the Lord’s servants participate in the service, and is the whole church serving? This is the entire problem. If this problem cannot be solved, we have nothing.
THE BODY OF CHRIST BEING LIVING
The Body of Christ is not a doctrine; it is something living. We all must learn this one thing: Only when every member functions is there the Body of Christ. Only when every member functions is that the church.
Our problem today is that we have inherited the priestly system of Roman Catholicism and the pastoral system of Protestantism. If we are careless at the present time, there will also appear a certain kind of mediatorial system among us. We will be the only ones who take care of the matters in God’s service. Merely preaching the Body of Christ is useless; we must let it work and show forth its functions. Since it is the Body of Christ, we need not fear that it will lack the functions. Since it is the Body of Christ, we can place our faith in it. The Lord wants every member in every locality to rise up and serve.
GOD HAVING GONE AHEAD OF US
If I am right, according to my discernment it is possible that the time has come. The letters I have received from different places and the news I have heard from every place indicate that today in every place all the saints are ready to come forth to serve. God has gone ahead of us; we must follow Him.
It is not my desire that even one brother from among us would go out and fail to lead the brothers and sisters to serve but would replace them instead. I hope that when you go to a certain place, you will lead eight or ten to serve at the beginning and then after a certain time they will lead sixty, eighty, or a hundred to serve. Then on your next visit you may see one or two thousand people serving. This is proper. If you must use the five-talented ones to suppress the two-talented ones and the two-talented ones to suppress the one-talented ones, you are not the Lord’s servant. If you must use the five-talented ones to replace the two-talented ones and the two-talented ones to replace the one-talented ones, you are not the Lord’s servant. You must cause all the five-talented ones to rise up and serve and all the two-talented ones to rise up and serve, and you must also cause all the one-talented ones to rise up and serve. You must also cause those whom you think are not useful to rise up and serve. Thus, the glorious church will appear.
In Foochow I would rather see all the simple villagers serving than three or five outstanding ones preaching. I do not admire the outstanding ones. I like the one-talented ones.
In His graciousness the Lord could give us more Pauls and Peters, but He has not done so. The whole world is full of one-talented brothers and sisters. What shall we do with these people? Where are we going to put them?
PHILADELPHIA MUST APPEAR
In this training here on the mountain, if God really deals with our self and with our work to the extent that we go out to provide a way for all the one-talented ones to serve, for the first time the church will begin to see what brotherly love is and Philadelphia will appear.
Today the church needs not only oversight but also brotherly love. I believe in authority, and I also believe in brotherly love. Without authority the church cannot go on. “And have kept My word’’—this is authority. “And have not denied My name’’—this is authority. Philadelphia had these two kinds of authority. But Philadelphia herself is brotherly love. All the brothers come forth and serve in love. When such a day comes, we will begin to know what the church is. Otherwise, if the present condition continues, we will still be hanging on to the tail of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism; we will not know what the brothers of Philadelphia are and what the authority of the church is.
TWO WAYS—GIFT AND AUTHORITY
Today I think that two ways are clearly set before us. If the Lord can really break through in our midst, the way we have taken for the past ten, twenty, or thirty years will be completely reversed. Our view cannot be the same as before; it has to be broken and crushed.
Not Leaving Anyone Out
First, you should not use a brother just because he is useful and leave him out if he is not useful. In the church no member should be left out. This is not the way taken by the Lord. Today, if the Lord is going to recover His testimony, He must make all the one-talented ones rise up. All who belong to the Lord are the members of the Body. Everyone must rise up and be in his function. If this is the case, you will see the church. While you are here on the mountain, consider every place. You almost have to say, “Where is the church? Where is Christ?’’ It seems that neither the church nor the Lord is there. When you go out, never despise the one-talented ones, never replace them, and never suppress them. You have to trust them from your heart. You have to cause them to work. If God has the assurance to call them to be servants, you too should have the assurance to call them to be servants.
Authority Dealing with the Flesh
Second, in the church we are not afraid of fleshly activities. Two lines are to be established in the church—one is authority and the other is gift. All the one-talented ones must come forth to serve, work, and bear fruit. You may ask, “If the one-talented ones come forth with their flesh, what shall we do?’’ Let me say that the flesh must be dealt with, and the way to deal with it is by using the authority which represents God.
Gift and authority are two entirely distinct things; gift is gift, and authority is authority. The one-talented ones must use their gift, and with those who are fleshly, you must use authority. If a brother brings in the flesh while he is working, you must tell him, “Brother, that will not do. You cannot bring that in.’’ Tell him, “This attitude is wrong. We do not allow you to have this attitude.’’ When you speak with him in this way, he will probably go home the next day and not do anything anymore. Then you will have to look him up and say, “No, you still should do the work.’’ The flesh may come in again, but you still must let him do the work. You must say to him again, “You must do this, but we will not allow you to do that.’’ Always use authority to deal with him.
This is the greatest test. Once the Lord uses the one-talented ones, their flesh will immediately be brought in. The flesh and the one talent are joined together. We must refuse the flesh, but we have to use that one talent. Today‘s situation is that we bury the flesh, they bury the one talent, and the church has nothing. This cannot be! We have to use authority to deal with the flesh, but we also have to ask them to bring forth their talent. Perhaps they will say, “If I work, it will not do, and if I do not work, it will not do either. So what shall I do?’’ You must say to them, “Indeed, if you work, it is wrong because you bring in the flesh; but if you do not work, it is also wrong because you bury the talent. The one talent must come in, but not the flesh.’’
In the church if the authority can be maintained and the functions of all the members brought in, you will see a glorious church on the earth, and the way of recovery will be easy. I do not know how many more days the Lord has set before us. I believe our way will be clearer and clearer. We need to use all our thought and all our strength so that all the brothers and sisters may rise up and serve. When that time comes, the church will be manifested and the Lord will return. May the Lord be merciful and gracious to us so that we may do the best.