THE WAY OF THE WORKPrint This Page.
THE WAY OF THE WORK
Our former pathway in the Lord’s work has caused us to encounter some practical difficulties. This year we have spent considerable time to solve our problem through the two meetings in Foochow and Shanghai. Today we will come back again to this matter.THE PROBLEM OF THE PASTWhile we saw the light concerning the church quite clearly in the past, we did not see the light concerning the work so well. The Normal Christian Church Life, which was published following a co-workers’ conference in Hankow, shows that our vision was clear about the matter of the church. We saw that the churches are local, a matter which is much clearer today than throughout the history of the church. By reading many books, we certainly can realize that the local character of the church has never been as clear as it is today. In relation to the work, however, we have always felt that we lacked the same clarity. This was because Jerusalem seemed to be superfluous when viewed from the perspective of Antioch. When we were in Hankow, we surveyed the entire book of Acts, but we were not able to take Jerusalem into account. Starting from chapter thirteen, the book of Acts lined up with our work, and our work lined up with the book of Acts. However, we did not know how to apply the events that occurred before Acts 13. At that time we did not have sufficient light.Due to the trials and difficulties we have encountered during these several years, we now see the usefulness of the first ten or more chapters of Acts. We have discovered the usefulness of these chapters. Please pardon me for speaking in this way, but this is the fact. We have to acknowledge that through the meetings in Foochow and Shanghai the first twelve chapters of Acts have become clearer to us than ever before. Just as the local churches after Acts 13 have never been seen with such clarity as in the time at Hankow, the work has never been seen with such clarity as it is today. The difficulties in the past are in the past; today the situation is different.THE WORK BEING REGIONALOne of several matters that we discovered relates to regions. While churches are local, the work is regional. This, I feel, is very clearly revealed in the Scriptures. We did not see this five or ten years ago because we just did not see it; we could not help it. Now, however, we have definitely seen it, and it can be stated in just two phrases: The churches are local, and the work is regional. In other words, the church is local, but the work is regional, being composed of many localities combined together to form a region.In the book of Acts it can be clearly seen that the twelve apostles had a definite region for their work. Peter, John, and their group worked in one region, while Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Barnabas worked in another region. In the first chapter of Philippians, we can see many different regions. In 2 Corinthians 10:13-14, we find these words: “But we will not boast beyond our measure but according to the measure of the rule which the God of measure has apportioned to us, to reach even as far as you. For we are not extending ourselves beyond our bounds.” Here we are clearly shown something related to a region, a measure that God apportioned to the apostles. God drew a circle for them, and within that circle there was an area of work for them. Therefore, the work is related to the matter of region.The churches, however, are not related to a region. No church should exercise control over other localities, because the churches are local.In the past we made a great mistake in confusing the sphere of the work with the locality of the church. Now we clearly see that the work includes a number of localities within a certain area called a region. Just as Peter and John were in the region around Jerusalem, Paul and Timothy were in another region around Antioch. Although they maintained contact and fellowship with each other, their respective regions were not the same.Today we cannot speak too much, but it is more than clear that the work is regional and the churches are local.REGIONS HAVING CENTERSThe second matter involves a center in each region. The churches do not have a center. The church in Jerusalem had no control over the churches in Samaria. Those who study the Bible know that churches are local and that a church in one locality cannot exercise control over a church in another locality. Moreover, the church in one locality cannot control the churches in many localities. The highest place a church can appeal to is its own locality; there is no district council or headquarters for the church. However, this is not so with the work, because the work has a center. In the book of Acts we can say that Jerusalem was a center in one region, while Antioch was a center in another region.The Special Characteristic of JerusalemIf we did not realize that the work has a center, Jerusalem would become a problem rather than a help. Even though the Bible reveals that churches are local, Jerusalem seems to be somewhat special, and even though the Bible reveals that the churches are local, Antioch seems to be special. Consequently, Antioch can become a problem rather than a help to us also. Both Jerusalem and Antioch can present problems rather than help to us.Today, we see clearly that the church in Antioch is one thing, while Antioch as a center for the work is another. When speaking of the churches, Jerusalem stands equal with Antioch and also with the churches in Samaria. When speaking of the work, however, Jerusalem is the center of the work. God’s command was that there would be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Jerusalem was a center of the work.In Acts 13, there was another beginning in Antioch, and Antioch became another center of the work. The Holy Spirit started something there. The Holy Spirit made one start in Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit made another start in Antioch in Acts 13. In both places the Holy Spirit started the work. From Antioch, some went forth to other places to do a work. When churches came into being, elders were appointed to be responsible for the oversight of the churches. But it seems that Antioch was responsible for them, because the workers lived in Antioch.Peter Also Being an ElderHere we see the preciousness of Jerusalem. In reading the Scriptures we also see the preciousness of Peter being an elder in Jerusalem. In the past we only paid attention to Peter as an apostle rather than to Peter as an elder. He was in a double position. In relation to the locality of Jerusalem, Peter was an elder, James was an elder, and John was an elder. In relation to the work, however, they were all apostles. Therefore, when they wrote letters to the church in Antioch, they signed as apostles and elders. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for the elders in Jerusalem to write and give orders to the church in Antioch, because the church in Antioch had elders as well. As elders, they told the church in Antioch what decisions they had made for the church in Jerusalem; as apostles, they also made the same decisions for the work.Today this matter is very clear among us. With us this problem has been entirely solved; it is behind us. Not only is it behind us, but this very teaching has been gloriously brought forth. Now we see that God’s work is carried out by a region. For His work God wants to establish a locality as a center. All of the workers should be centralized in that locality, sometimes going out and sometimes coming back. The elders are responsible for a local church, but if a locality is also a center for the work, then the workers should also be elders to share in the responsibility of church affairs there, in addition to just the elders.The Scriptures do not offer one example of sending workers to reside in a locality. Such a practice is not found in the Bible. The only exception to this is when a worker migrates to a locality and becomes an elder there. An elder may choose to reside in Jerusalem or he may move to another city to be an elder in that city. He can take up responsibility in the respective cities where he resides. However, if a person wants to be a worker, he should move to Jerusalem.The church has accused Peter for the past two thousand years, but we have to say that Peter was not wrong. The church has accused Peter during the past two thousand years of not leaving Jerusalem, but it was right for Peter to remain in Jerusalem; it was not wrong. Some have said that Peter should have left Jerusalem, but I do not believe this! Who can say that the Lord wanted Peter and John to leave Jerusalem? Some have said that Peter and John brought persecutions to the church in Jerusalem because they did not leave. This, however, has no scriptural ground. If the Lord desired that Peter and John leave Jerusalem, He could have caused persecution to fall upon Peter and John, not upon the church. It is not right for me to be wrong and others suffer for it. If the Lord caused others to suffer, then surely I am not wrong. If it was wrong for Peter and John to remain in Jerusalem, God should have rebuked Peter and John; He should not have brought persecution to the church in Jerusalem.However, the Lord said that the world would hate us because we are not of the world, and that if the world persecuted Him, it would also persecute us (John 15:19-20). When we follow the Lord, the world hates us because we are not of the world. Persecution does not occur because we fail to leave our home. If this were the case, all Christians who left their homes would be spared from persecution. Persecution is experienced equally by Christians who stay at home and those who leave their homes.Going Out and Coming BackYou will remember that Peter went out to Caesarea and returned to Jerusalem. Then Peter went to Samaria (because the work of God was in Samaria) and then returned to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the center, whereas Samaria was a city in that region of work. The co-workers gathered in Jerusalem. They went out and came back, came back and went out.Having a worker rule over a church in a locality is a Protestant thought; it is not the thought of the Scriptures.Only God can make the decision as to which locality should be taken as the center for the work. Only God knows how and where to start; only the Holy Spirit knows how to initiate the work. Man’s decision is of no use. We cannot decide which locality is “Jerusalem” through our own discussion, because God wants to do that Himself. This matter is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Only the Jerusalem appointed by the Holy Spirit is Jerusalem.In the first part of Acts, we see Peter going out and coming back to Jerusalem. Later, we see Paul going out and coming back to Antioch. They never remained in a locality but always came back. We must see that the work has an area as well as a center.Whether we call it a region, an area, or a center, these are but terms. We need to emphasize the essential thing behind the terms. In the work in Jerusalem there was something essential. It matters not whether we call it an area, a center, or a region. The same is true with Antioch. Since the Lord measures a portion to a work, it is right to call it the measure of the work. One group of workers dwells in one area, region, or center, while another group of workers dwells in another.Elders are not assigned to certain places from other places. In the case of Peter, he was not simply an apostle, and he was not simply an elder. He was both an apostle and an elder. Therefore, brothers, when you, as a co-worker, reside in a locality, you are there as both an apostle and an elder. Taking this path in such a way is correct. It is right that some of our brothers go out to help, but they must come back. It is not right for them to stay and not return. Either they go out and travel a large circuit and then return like Paul, or they go out and immediately return like Peter—both are right. Coming back is a must. If men blame Peter for not going out, they have to blame Paul for returning as well. Peter returned to Jerusalem, and Paul to Antioch. This is God’s Word; nothing can be clearer than His Word.THE APOSTLES’ PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL AND THE PREACHING BY THE WAY OF MIGRATIONNow we will see the third matter, that is, how the work of God is carried forward and how the gospel is preached. Here we have two ways. As the work of Jerusalem is different from that of Antioch, so we have two different ways of preaching the gospel and two different ways of establishing churches.The Way of Antioch—the Apostles Going OutFirst, it can be done according to Antioch’s way. Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Timothy, or Paul and Silas went to one place after another to preach the gospel and then returned to Antioch. It was the apostles who went out to preach the gospel and the apostles who went out to establish churches. This is one way.The Way of Jerusalem—Going Out by MigrationThe second way is Jerusalem’s way. In this way all the believers migrated. They preached the gospel in every place. This migration resulted in the gospel spreading everywhere (Acts 8:4). Whether a migration is done peacefully or as a result of persecution, a migration is still a migration. The way of Jerusalem is to migrate. The only thing special was that they went out because of persecution.I think that the Lord has left very clear footprints here. We should never think that the first half of Acts is of little significance. Acts, like Genesis, is a record of God’s way. When we see how God worked at the beginning, we can do the same todayThe Measure of Increase Being in Proportion to the Number Going OutGod used persecution to force the saints to migrate. They could not stay; they were compelled to leave. At that time thousands of people were constantly going out. But Paul still found thousands of believers in the church upon his return to Jerusalem. When he came back to Jerusalem and went to see James and all the elders, he was told of many thousands of Jews there who had believed (Acts 21:20). Wheat that is harvested this year will grow again next year. We must leave the ground we have occupied in order to allow others to become Christians. We should not remain stationary all the time. The number of Christians going out is indicative of increase in the same proportion. Staying all the time in one place will not cause our numbers to increase. The disciples in Jerusalem continued to go out to preach the gospel, yet the Bible says that there were thousands of Jewish believers when Paul returned to Jerusalem. God’s way is to send people out group by group like scattered seeds.Before God we need to see clearly these three principles before we can engage in so-called missionary work.The Need to Preach the GospelWhen I was in London, I once told Mr. Austin-Sparks that our work in China is different from their work—we must take care of the gospel first. Since there are so many Christians in all parts of London, it seems as if the whole country is Christian. But in China, we must work according to the primitive pattern of first preaching the gospel. It seems that the work our brother is doing in London is only a work of ministry. As for us, we must preach the gospel.Not Being SlackTherefore, brothers, we must never be slack regarding these three points. During the many years of the Sino- Japanese War, we encountered numerous difficulties. Through these difficulties we learned these things. For many of us, at least half of our time is gone. The remaining half must be spent in taking a straight course. We should never walk as in the past. I believe (this is my personal feeling) that this light is sufficiently clear. For two thousand years the church has tried to make Jerusalem fit into the whole picture, but it has never been made to fit correctly. Today we are able to make it fit correctly and even clearly. This matter is now as clear as the truth we saw in Hankow concerning the locality of the church.To us, it is clear that the churches are local, and it is clear that the work is regional. For this reason our work needs to be on the right track. If we still think that a worker should handle a locality, we will reach an impasse. Unless this matter is dealt with, the work can never go on. The old way will not work. For example, if the old way were right, then we would not have enough co-workers to take care of the more than one hundred meetings in the P‘ing Yang region, even if we sent them all. We would not have enough co-workers for the Wenchow region. We would need the sisters to be pastors. Following this way, we would never be able to meet the needs.Maintaining the Testimony at the CenterWe must see that the work has its region and its center. All matters pertaining to the localities can be placed in the hands of the local churches. The workers always go out to work. After a short while they return to Jerusalem. Then they move out again and return again to Jerusalem. For this reason, it is good to maintain a strong testimony in Jerusalem. It is an easy task for the twelve apostles to maintain the ministry of the word in Jerusalem, but it would be too difficult for them to maintain this ministry throughout Samaria and all Judea.Therefore, before God we need to have much prayer and clear light concerning which locality can be used as the center for the work in a region. It has to be a place where a group of co-workers, both brothers and sisters, may dwell together and establish a center. It should also be the place where they serve as members of the local church to maintain the local testimony. By going out and coming back, the ministry of the word in that locality is properly maintained.Shanghai Being a CenterFor the provinces of Kiangsu and Chekiang, the center of the work along the Nanking-Shanghai and Shanghai- Hangchow railways lines is in Shanghai. Therefore, Shanghai must maintain a strong testimony, and Shanghai needs workers to maintain the work. The responsibility of the rest of the localities in this region should be left to the brothers of their own locality. At the same time the brothers in Shanghai should migrate to other places. After a period of time, the brothers in Shanghai should move out group by group. This is a very important matter. Going out to preach the gospel is in the hand of the brothers and sisters; we are not sending people out to be pastors, but just to be emigrants. Please remember that the principle of Jerusalem is migration. This was the method for preaching the gospel in the early churches. One can say that they went out because of persecution. But then where do we find children of God who do not suffer persecution? Hence, we must bear in mind that the path is clearly laid before us.Foochow Also Being a CenterThis is how I see this matter today. I may illustrate it in this way: If the province of Fukien and the island of Taiwan are one region for the work, we believe that Foochow may be taken as a center. Of course, the brothers must support and maintain such a center by going out and coming back. When we bring people to salvation, we should admonish them that they too must go out by the Lord’s grace. We should encourage twenty people to move to Nan-Ping, thirty to Putien, thirty to Amoy, thirty to Taipei, and thirty also to Tainan. When they move out, the gospel will go out with them. The gospel will simply follow them. If we are expecting a considerable number of evangelists to be raised up within a certain number of years, not only will the expense be high, but the number of people going out will be limited. Eventually, we will not see much result. Remember that the whole church must go forth to preach the gospel. It is right for group after group to go out.In Foochow there are apostles and elders. Sometimes two or three of them may go to a locality to visit and then return. Two or three more may go to another locality and also return.I am not saying that all the gospel work must be left in their hands from now on. Perhaps one or two brothers and sisters need to visit from village to village. But the gospel will go out only when these two ways of carrying the gospel are taken at the same time.The Ministry of the Word and the Sending OutWe now can see that the work at the center becomes very important. There we not only need to maintain the ministry of the Word, but we also need to send people out for the work. Regardless of whether they are peddlers, rickshaw coolies or domestic servants, they all must be sent out to preach the gospel.For this reason, we need to give all the brothers and sisters a proper training so that they will be brought to the point where they are ready to be sent out. Fifty will be sent to one place and thirty to another place where they will be able to help the local churches without becoming a burden to them. If the many who are sent forth become a problem and the local churches cannot deal with them, what good is this? Therefore, the brothers and sisters need to be properly trained in order to be prepared to go out as missionaries group by group.The co-workers must see that the work has to be centralized, not scattered. The locality which is the center first must be set up in good order before the saints can be trained and sent out.During the past few years we have encountered many sufferings and difficulties. We have learned some lessons. May we not treat these lessons lightly. We need to learn from these thingsTHE NEED TO RECEIVE BASIC TRAININGNow we come to the fourth point, that is, the need for all the brothers and sisters to receive the same training.The New Believers’ Training MeetingWe need to offer the new believers a special kind of meeting. In Shanghai and Foochow we have already offered this training to the new believing brothers and sisters. This meeting is the same every year. We do not want to move on to something new. Of course, we do not want these training lessons to be recited like the Lord’s prayer to some people. If the speakers are living, there will be life. These instructional lessons are given in sequence from the beginning of each year to the end. After fifty-two weeks, the cycle is repeated again. When each brother goes out, he will at least have received all the basic instructions. In this way, we will eliminate some of the problems.If some come into our midst, regardless of which week they join, they will finish the whole training in one year. After fifty-two weeks, the cycle will repeat itself again. If they come in at the tenth week of the first year, they will complete the cycle of training and teaching when they approach the ninth week of the following year. Everyone should get the same instructions and then be ready to be sent out.Sent Out to Preach the GospelAdvise them that when they migrate to a place they should try their best to save souls in the locality where they live. Thus, we should first bring men to salvation in the locality which is the center. These people should be edified and sent out to other places. They should be given the opportunity to go out to preach the gospel.In this way the whole church will preach the gospel, not just the evangelists. If only the evangelists do the preaching, they can never complete the preaching of the gospel throughout China in their lifetime. Today the population in China is 450 million, but not more than one million are Christians. If these one million Christians are in our hand and everyone is sent out, we can evangelize China. We need to help them receive the same kind of training and then send them out. Then we will see the church preaching the gospel everywhere.They go out to preach the gospel because they are sent out, not because they are persecuted. Perhaps they will meet persecution, but the main thing is that they must go out.Some arrangement is necessary, and the leading brothers must make these arrangements. Some localities are strategic geographically, and we must take them. Perhaps we first should send three or five men there to take up some kind of employment. Then we might send a few more to take up other employment. When people are brought to salvation through them, the co-workers can then go there to raise up a meeting. In order to go on, we need a change from the present situation. This is the way to go on in the work.The Church Being Fruitful When It Preaches the GospelToday all the brothers and sisters acknowledge that when the church preaches the gospel there is always more fruit. Only the work of the church can become more fruitful. Recently, a group of brothers went to Kutien to preach the gospel, and a total of more than fifty were saved and baptized. Brother Chen returned and said that when he left he did not know what the result of the church’s preaching of the gospel would be. But after his trip to Kutien, he had no more doubts: When the church preached the gospel, men were saved. Without advertisement, one person simply took hold of one or two other persons. In a short time more than fifty were saved.In the past Nan-Ping had only a few saints in the meetings. After the brothers went there recently, more than twenty people were baptized. These people heard the gospel during the great fire in Nan-Ping, when only one fourth of the city was spared. About ten homes of our brothers were also burned. Brother Huang‘s store was burned too. But when the whole church preached the gospel, a number of people were saved. Our brothers wrote and said that since they discovered this way, they would give their lives for it and not turn in any other direction.While the church is preaching the gospel, the Lord is working. We did not have to use any advertisement or apply any human methods. The brothers simply went out, each one bringing in another, and the people came. It matters little if the message is somewhat weak. As long as the church is preaching the gospel, scores upon scores of people will be baptized. In the future this work will be passed on to the local brothers; they will do the work themselves.Kuling Will Furnish HelpWhat should we do here in Kuling Mountain? The local churches should send promising ones here to be given one or two months of spiritual help. Then they will be sent back to their localities to bear some responsibility. The co-workers should always bear the responsibility of the work in the center, but they also should go out and return again and again. If we do this, the work will have a way to go on.The Need for CoordinationFor this reason, during the conferences in both Shanghai and Foochow, we paid much attention to the matter of coordination. Nothing will work without coordination. In the past, we were all going our own way, but without coordination nothing can be done properly. No one should act independently; everyone must give himself to be properly coordinated.I believe that the gospel will spread quickly. Moreover, I believe that it will be easy for us to take over the whole of China. For instance, if the brothers in Foochow are faithful, it will be very easy for them to take over Fukien province and the island of Taiwan. If the brothers in other localities are also faithful and learn to take this way, they will also be able to take over their places.Today we have found the way. Now it is altogether a matter of the person. The way cannot be clearer. If we do not see the principle of Jerusalem, we will feel that there is something in the Word of God which does not fit; it seems as if there is some problem. Today we have to declare that the whole book of Acts fits in very well; there is no problem. Furthermore, each time I read the book of Acts now, I marvel at the way Peter conducted himself in the first part. I think Peter has been unjustly accused for two thousand years. Peter’s going out and coming back to Jerusalem was altogether correct. Undoubtedly, there are centers for God’s work.The Ministry of the Word No Longer Being a ProblemIf we take this way, the matter of the ministry of the word will no longer be a problem. All we have to do is maintain such a ministry in one central locality. The other localities need to be led to take care of themselves. There will be no problem with the ministry of the word if the local ones are the ones that are taking care of the matter themselves. It is for this cause that we in Kuling are preparing a place for training. In the future we will bring all the good, prospective ones from all the churches here to receive some training. Then we will send them back. Thus, I will do my work and you will do your work, each one attending to his own work. I believe that we can soon get through this way and strong testimonies can be built up continuously in many localities.The Foundation of the WorkThe foundation of all the work today is here. If this becomes confused, everything will be confused, and we will revert back to the situation before our gathering in Hankow. In Hankow we only saw the matter of the church; at that time we did not see the matter of the work. Now the way of the work is before us. If we have the right people and the mercy of the Lord is with us, within a few years the gospel will be spread all over China. I believe this is a great eventuality—to preach the gospel to all of China. Unless we take this way, the situation will remain the same for fifty years.I acknowledge that much of God’s blessing has been in our midst. In the past I have said that God always saves people. As a matter of fact, God has saved quite a number of people in our midst. However, I always feel that this is not enough; we still have not saved enough people. Recently, we all gave ourselves to study the Bible again. I myself have read God’s Word once or twice again. I find God’s Word becoming so very clear. In the past we only saw the way of the church. We did not see the way of the work. When the way of the work is not proper, the way of the church is not proper either. We thank God for His mercy upon us that today He has opened our eyes to see this way after so many years. The brothers in a locality must always bear their responsibilities. They must practice coordination, and they must migrate to other places group by group to preach the gospel.This is a very simple matter. Jerusalem had great success in this matter. Before God, Jerusalem represents the church. The heavenly Jerusalem represents the church, and the earthly Jerusalem also represents the church. Peter was always working there, and as a result, many people went out to preach the gospel. Never do we see the gospel coming to an end when the people left. The gospel will go on continually. This is exceedingly glorious.TODAY’S REQUIREMENT—BEING FAITHFUL IN COORDINATIONTherefore, today there is a requirement not only for the co-workers to be coordinated but for the leading ones to be coordinated as well. None of us can choose freely. In this way the church will preach the gospel. Every person, no matter where he goes, must go for the gospel. Their mouth must be for the preaching of the gospel. We need to go out as the Body. I believe that the Lord will have His way today.If we are not trustworthy and faithful, the Lord will choose others to take this way. I believe that it is possible for Him to do this, but it would take at least another twenty years. Do not say that the Lord will not lay us aside. The Lord can easily lay us aside, but it would waste another twenty years. We expect to save twenty years for the Lord. May the Lord have mercy on us so that we may catch up. Let us give our all for this. After passing through very burdensome and difficult experiences, He has shown us this way. May we not forsake it.