3.Guidlelines for the Propagation of the Lord's Recovery(Chapter 3)

CHAPTER THREE LOVING TO LIVE THE NORMAL CHURCH LIFE OUTLINE 1. The church life: 1. Christ as life living in all His members for His ...



CHAPTER THREE

LOVING TO LIVE THE NORMAL CHURCH LIFE

OUTLINE

1. The church life:
1. Christ as life living in all His members for His unique Body—1 Cor. 12:12; Rom. 12:5.
2. The Christian life not being an individualistic life but a corporate life—1 Cor. 10:17; 12:14-22.
3. The church life being a meeting life that is communal, not isolated—Heb. 10:25; Acts 2:46; 1 Cor. 14:23a, 26.
4. We being able to enjoy the richer presence of the Lord in the meetings—Matt. 18:20.
2. Loving to live the normal church life:
1. Longing for the meetings—cf. Psa. 122:1; 42:4.
2. Functioning in the meetings to exhibit Christ—1 Cor. 14:26; cf. Deut. 12:5-7, 13-14; 16:16-17.
3. Ministering Christ.
4. Enjoying Christ together with God.
5. Receiving the fine oil, the dew, and the blessing of eternal life—cf. Psa. 133.
6. Serving the saints—1 Cor. 16:15; Rom. 16:2.
7. Caring for and shepherding the Lord’s lambs—John 21:15-17.

DELIVERING THE MEETINGS FROM PROCEDURE

Traditional meetings in Christianity follow certain procedures, but we need to be delivered from rigidly following procedures in our meetings. In the meetings we sing hymns, give testimonies, expound the Bible, and release God’s word, but we should not be influenced by traditional Christianity and follow traditional procedures whenever we meet.

We have fellowshipped concerning the exercise of the spirit and the release of the spirit since 1960. From 1960 to 1961 I wrote eighty-five new hymns in Chinese, which were mainly concerning the spirit. However, it seems as if the more I promoted the release of the spirit, the less the saints released their spirit, and eventually there was no release of the spirit. Paul says that we should not quench the Spirit (1 Thes. 5:19), because it is easy to quench the Spirit. As believers, we all have a mingled spirit—the Spirit and our spirit mingled as one spirit. The Christian life, work, testimony, and meetings depend on the mingled spirit. However, if we quench our spirit instead of exercising it, our life, work, testimony, and meetings will be empty.

If our spirit is not exercised, any work that we do will not be the work of the Spirit, and our living will be merely a religious display; we will live and walk according to doctrines. A life that is according to doctrines is not a genuine Christian life. The Christian life depends on the life of Christ, and the life of Christ is our mingled spirit. Our mingled spirit is the life of Christ (Rom. 8:10).

When I went to the United States in 1962, I began the work by speaking concerning the spirit. As a result of this clear speaking, in 1969 the Lord’s recovery in the United States reached a climax. I still appreciate the condition of the churches from 1969 to 1972. During this time the meetings in all the churches in the United States reached the highest point. The meetings did not begin in the meeting halls; they began in the homes. If a meeting began at 7:30 in the evening, the saints began to release their spirit in their homes at 6:30. Many brothers and sisters actually lived in the spirit all day long. When they woke up in the morning, they released their spirit and drew near to the Lord. That was the beginning of the evening meeting. In other words, the evening meeting began when the brothers and sisters had their morning watch. During those years the saints were filled in spirit every day.

As a result of daily exercising their spirit, the saints wrote many hymns that are in the English supplement. In addition, an hour before every meeting one could see groups of saints singing on their way to the meeting hall and shouting Amen, Hallelujah. When in the meeting, the saints did not follow any procedures. They praised the Lord and shouted Hallelujah. The meetings were living, and it was easy to release the divine word. The atmosphere of a meeting can function like a water pump and draw words out of a person. Even if a person did not want to speak, it was impossible for him to remain quiet, because the atmosphere of the meeting pulled the words out of him.

However, it is not often that such a situation is seen in Taiwan. This meeting is comparatively good, because it is better than most meetings. According to our habit, we do not testify at the beginning of a meeting. We always testify after the message. This time, we departed from tradition and testified at the beginning of the meeting. I agree with this practice, and we all sensed the freshness. Therefore, in the future we should not go back to our old regulations and follow tradition. Our testimonies should be living. We should never keep our old regulations. We need to learn to be living. Moreover, the saints who did not give a testimony should not consider themselves superior and criticize the saints who testify.

LEARNING TO GAIN PEOPLE FOR THE LORD

A young brother testified that he wants to preach the gospel in Africa. I would advise him not to go and preach to the Africans yet but to stay in Taiwan and preach to the Chinese first. We should not have unrealistic dreams. I never dreamed that I would go to America and preach to the Americans. It was the Lord who took me there. My initial consideration was only to spread to northwest China with the manpower from the north and the financial strength from the northeast. However, the Lord took me to America.

Instead of considering where to go, we should first learn some skills. After we learn some skills, we can go anywhere and be able to “catch fish” wherever we go. We will be fishers of men who gain people regardless of their nationality. If we do not have any skills, we may not be able to gain a single person when we go to Africa. I never dreamed of going to America, but when I went there, I was able to catch a large number of “fish,” and they are all Caucasian “fish.” God does not pay that much attention to the place where we labor. God cares for people. Taiwan is a good “fishpond.” In Taipei we do not even need to get into the pond; the fish are jumping at us. Therefore, we must first catch the “fish” that are on the streets of Taiwan. After we bring in all the people, we can go forth for the propagation.

For many years I often asked the saints whether a person who loves the Lord but is unable to lead one person to salvation in a year could be excused by the Lord. Now I would ask, “Is it too much to ask that we lead one person to the Lord in a year?” Regardless of our consideration, this is not a high requirement. We need to make a vow to the Lord to lead one person to salvation every year.

If one thousand saints lead one thousand souls to salvation this year, next year we will have 2,000 saints. At present there are about 5,000 saints who participate in the church life in Taipei, and 3,500 of these saints attend the meetings regularly. If every one of the 5,000 saints gains one person this year, next year there will be 10,000 saints; in the second year, 20,000 saints; in the third year, 40,000 saints; in the fourth year, 80,000 saints; in the fifth year, 160,000 saints; in the sixth year, 320,000 saints; and in the seventh year, 640,000 saints. If we continue to increase in this way, in the tenth year everyone in the city of Taipei will be saved and will be our brother or sister. In other words, the entire city of Taipei can be gospelized in ten years.

In 1949 when we began the work in Taiwan, there were 500 saints in the meetings. In seven years, by 1956, our number increased to 50,000. However, at present there may not even be a total of 50,000 saints who meet in Taiwan. This shows that there has not been any increase during the past twenty-eight years. Even though everyone is busy attending the meetings, our number has not increased. However, the real estate assets of the churches in Taiwan have increased. Twenty-seven years ago there were only three or four meeting halls in Taipei, and they were built with wood. Today there are twenty-one meeting halls in Taipei, and they are all modern buildings. This is also the situation in the other localities. There has been an increase in real estate, but the number of saints did not increase. It is as if we have been boxing for twenty-eight years but have not been able to knock down one person. This shows that our boxing skills are not good, because we have not been able to hit the mark. We need to study our situation to see if there are mistakes in the way that we carry out the work for the Lord’s testimony.

The problem of having no increase exists all over the world, not just in Taiwan. We have over five hundred churches on all five continents, but the churches do not have large numbers of saints. We need to be concerned and to study our “farming techniques.” We should farm in order to reap a harvest.

The elders in Taipei will do a “census” by organizing the information cards of the saints. They probably have more than twenty thousand information cards. After this conference, the other churches in Taiwan will also organize their information cards. We should not throw away the information cards of the saints whom we cannot locate, because the cards have historical value, and we should ask the saints who do not have an information card to fill one out.

After the churches have finished their “census” and have organized their information cards, we will know the actual number of saints in Taiwan. We will also know how many are meeting regularly and how many are dormant. The dormant brothers and sisters are the “field” that we should cultivate. We need to labor on them in love. All the responsible brothers in all the churches in the recovery need to conduct a similar “census.”

During the past thirty-five years, the Lord has shown mercy to and blessed the church in Taipei. The saints who participate in the church life in Taipei are our “land” that needs to be cultivated, but we have not cultivated our farmland. These saints work in hospitals, schools, and other places. Even if five hundred full-time serving saints will go to contact these saints, it will not meet the need.

In the Lord’s recovery we need to contact and gain people, but we must have the truth. We gain people by the truth. Another way to gain people is with the hymns. Hymns are related to our meetings, and they are related to the Christian life and living. Hence, we need to speak a further word concerning growing in life to live Christ. Growth in life is the foundation of our meetings. If we do not have the growth in life, we will be like little children in our meetings. As we grow and mature in life, we will be mature people in our meetings. The condition of our meetings depends on our growth in life. If we follow the Spirit’s leading and pay attention to life, we will grow in life. It is not appropriate for us to remain passive in the meetings. We should bear responsibility for every meeting that we are in. Everyone should bear responsibility for the meetings.

ALL THE ACTIVITIES IN THE MEETINGS BEING LIVING

How should a Christian meeting be conducted? Currently, while we are waiting for everyone to arrive and take their seats, some saints talk and others pray. Then after everyone is seated, we wait for a brother to call a hymn, for another brother to read some verses, and for still another brother to give the message; then after the message we have a time for testimonies. This is a degraded, religious way. A meeting of the church should be a gathering of the saints with their riches that are released with a strong, rich spirit. Everyone should release his spirit and function according to his spirit, not according to any procedures. We do not have written procedures among us; most of our procedures are unwritten. These unwritten procedures are our “customs.” According to these customs, we do not function in the meetings; we only wait. This is wrong.

We need to have a change. We should not be concerned about what we should do in the meetings. Whether we pray, praise, or sing, it should be living. We need to be delivered from our old way of meeting. If a sister is the first saint to arrive at the meeting hall, she may begin to pray, and as the rest of the saints arrive, they can join the prayer. The brother who gives the message should not follow the old way. Whether he reads the verses in the Scripture reading depends on the sense in his spirit. If he has the sense in his spirit to read the verses first, he should read them; otherwise, he does not need to. During the message a saint may feel led by the Spirit to call a hymn. Everyone should sing. This meeting is according to 1 Corinthians 14:26, which says, “Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

SINGING THE HYMNS ACCORDING TO THE LEADING OF THE SPIRIT

The brother who is speaking may consider that calling a hymn during the message would be a distraction, and the saints may think that this would cause confusion. However, if everyone is exercising their spirit, we must believe that the leading of the Spirit will not be wrong.

The leading of the Spirit needs human cooperation. Suppose everything in a meeting is focused on life: the prayers are for life, and the burden of the message is also on life. When a saint feels led by the Spirit to call a hymn, which hymn should he select? If he does not know the hymns well, he will not be able to select a proper hymn. Hence, we need to know the hymns as well as the truth.

The hymns in the Chinese hymnal are classified into twenty-nine main categories and three hundred forty-five subcategories. If the saints want to study theology, they should spend four years to study the theology in our hymnal. This word is not an exaggeration. If someone really wants to study the hymns, he will need to spend much time and effort to learn the twenty-nine categories and the three hundred forty-five subcategories.

When we compiled the English hymnal in America from 1963 to 1964, our purpose was to show American Christianity that the truths in our hymns are high and comprehensive. We accomplished that purpose. There are one thousand eighty hymns in the English hymnal, but we regularly use less than three hundred hymns in the meetings. There are seven hundred eighty hymns in the Chinese hymnal and six hymns in the appendix, but less than three hundred hymns are regularly used in the meetings. The hymns that we do not sing serve as a contrast. It is difficult for new ones to select a hymn, because they do not know which hymn is appropriate. There should be only one line of hymns in our hymnal, and that is the line of life. All the hymns should be under the category of God’s economy.

We will now learn how to use the hymns in the meetings with Hymns, #499. Stanza 1 says, “Oh, what a life! Oh, what a peace! / The Christ who’s all within me lives. / With Him I have been crucified; / This glorious fact to me He gives. / Now it’s no longer I that live, / But Christ the Lord within me lives.” According to our custom, when we call a hymn, we ask the sister at the piano to play the tune once before the saints sing the entire hymn. From now on, we should not remain in our old ways. If a brother senses that we should sing this hymn, he can call it. We do not have to sing all four stanzas. We may sing only stanza 1. The sister at the piano needs to be alert. If she waits for a brother to ask her to play the tune once and then plays the tune, the meeting will be deadened. Every saint needs to kindle the fire. If the sister serving at the piano is not quick enough to respond when a hymn is called, any saint in the meeting should begin to sing the hymn. Then everyone else will follow.

After we sing stanza 1, a brother might stand up and say, “Brothers and sisters, I have a deep sense today concerning this stanza: ‘Oh, what a life! Oh, what a peace! The Christ who’s all within me lives.’ I never saw so clearly that Christ lives in me and that I am crucified with Christ. This is a glorious fact that He gives to me. Now it is no longer I that live, but Christ the Lord lives within me.” These few sentences are sufficient; if he speaks too long, there will be less time for the message. After he sits down, we do not have to sing the next stanza. If we do sing stanza 2, the saint at the piano needs to play immediately. The entire process should be living, and everyone should follow the Spirit.

It is proper to abide by the law in society, but we should not abide by the law in the meetings. This does not mean that we want confusion. We need to follow the Spirit. Our standard and our law are the Spirit. Everyone needs to follow the Spirit.

The saints who play the piano need to play in a tempo that is suitable for the meeting. When a person learns to play the piano, he will play at a certain tempo. However, the saints who play the piano should not be mechanical when they play in the meeting. Some hymns should be played a little faster. Otherwise, it will seem as if “an old ox is pulling a cart.” The tempo used in singing a hymn does not need to be so consistent. For example, the first stanza of a hymn used to open the meeting can be a little faster and the rest of the stanzas slower to stabilize the meeting. Furthermore, all the hymns should not be played at the same tempo. Music is expressive; it should not be rigid like steel. Therefore, the saints who are experienced in playing the piano can play a hymn fast or slow; they can also play it in a higher key or in a lower key. We all need to learn the hymns so that we are not limited by the piano.

If we sing stanza 2, it will be more meaningful to us. Formerly, our singing was not that much in the spirit, because we sang in a habitual way. Now we can touch the reality because our singing is the result of the Spirit’s leading. From now on, we should not sing in a routine way. I remind myself not to give messages or read the Scriptures in a routine way. This fellowship should help us to understand that the meetings in the churches should be living. They should not be routine and follow a set of rules or procedures.

In a big meeting it is appropriate to have a concluding prayer on certain occasions. However, it is not necessary to have a concluding prayer. Whether there should be a concluding prayer depends on the leading of the Spirit. If the meeting needs a concluding prayer, a leading brother does not have to be the one to give the prayer. Every brother and sister in the meeting should exercise their spirit and follow the leading of the Spirit. It would be wonderful for a young brother in junior high school to be led by the Spirit to release a concluding prayer after the message. His prayer will be refreshing and living.

Our meetings in the past were killed by procedures and routine. Christianity annuls the function of the believers. We should not repeat the mistakes of Christianity and become dead. Therefore, everyone needs to rise up and stand against our customs, but there should not be confusion. After hearing this word, some of the saints may think that they are now free to do what pleases them. This will not be permitted.

CHRISTIAN MEETINGS BEING TO EXHIBIT CHRIST

Christian gatherings were formerly called “worship” in China. In the local churches, we did not follow this old custom of calling our gatherings “worship”; instead, we called our gatherings “meetings.” Most Christians said that it was worship time, and we said that it was meeting time. Now most Chinese Christians, whether in China or overseas, have dropped the term worship and instead use the term meeting. When I went to America, I wanted to change the concept of Christians in America concerning meetings. After much consideration, the Lord showed me that Christian meetings are for the exhibition of Christ. I believe that this was of the Lord. According to the type in the Old Testament and the revelation in the New Testament, whenever we meet, we should bring Christ. You bring your portion of Christ, and I bring my portion of Christ. We all bring our portion of Christ.

Concerning worship to God, John 4:24 says, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.” When we expound this verse, we should not take it out of context. The Lord Jesus was conversing with a Samaritan woman whom He wanted to lead to salvation. The woman was sinful; she had had five husbands, and the one she had then was not her husband. When the Lord Jesus revealed her sinful condition, she changed the subject to the matter of worship. She said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, yet you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men must worship” (v. 20). Instead of rebuking her, the Lord said, “The true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truthfulness, for the Father also seeks such to worship Him” (v. 23).

In the Old Testament God wanted His people to go up to Jerusalem three times a year to hold a feast unto Him. In order to attend a feast, the children of Israel could not be empty-handed; they had to bring offerings with them. Every offering is a type of Christ. Hence, we need to bring Christ with us to the meetings. In the Old Testament Jerusalem was God’s dwelling place, but today God’s dwelling place is in our spirit. The church is the dwelling place of God in spirit (Eph. 2:22). When we are gathered in spirit, our spirit is today’s Jerusalem.

The Lord Jesus seemed to be saying to the Samaritan woman, “The hour has come, and the age has changed, because I have come. We are not in the Old Testament age but in the New Testament age. This is not the age of types; it is the age of reality. In the Old Testament I had not yet become flesh, but in the New Testament I have become flesh. God desires that you worship in spirit and take Me as the reality of all the offerings. I have become flesh, full of grace and reality. I am the reality. Today God is not worshipped in this mountain or in Jerusalem; He is worshipped in your spirit. Moreover, you do not need the sacrifices. All the sacrifices have passed away. You need to take Me as the offerings. I am the reality.”

According to John 4:24 our Christian meetings to worship God should not be religious worship. We worship God by contacting Him with our spirit. Therefore, in order to overturn the old impression of Christianity, when I compiled the English hymnal in the United States in 1963, I translated the Chinese hymn on exhibiting Christ, which says, “Whene’er we meet with Christ endued, / The surplus of His plenitude / We offer unto God as food, / And thus exhibit Christ. / Let us exhibit Christ, / Let us exhibit Christ; / We’ll bring His surplus to the church / And thus exhibit Christ” (Hymns, #864).

Our meetings are to exhibit Christ. When we come to a meeting, we need to bring Christ with us. We exhibit Christ by offering Christ to God. In the Old Testament the sacrifice that the people offered to God had more than one function. The sacrifice typifies Christ, whose blood washes away our sins. Then God and the offerer enjoyed the sacrifice together. This is to enjoy Christ together with God. Whenever we meet, we offer Christ to God. On the one hand, He is our sin offering through which we are forgiven of our sins. On the other hand, God is here and we, the offerers, are here to enjoy Christ together in one Spirit. This is a genuine Christian meeting.

However, the worship in Christianity has followed the custom of the nations and has become deformed. It is according to the custom of worshipping idols that cannot speak, cannot see, and cannot hear. In 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul writes concerning the exercise of gifts in the meetings, he says, “You know that when you were Gentiles, you were always being led away to dumb idols, whenever and however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that...no one can say, Jesus is Lord! except in the Holy Spirit” (vv. 2-3). In the past we served and worshipped dumb idols, but now we can say, “Jesus is Lord!” Paul says, “No one can say, Jesus is Lord! except in the Holy Spirit.” The meaning of this statement is twofold. On the one hand, we must be in the Spirit to say that Jesus is Lord, and on the other hand, when we say that Jesus is Lord, we are in the Spirit. Even though we may not be in the Spirit when we come to the meeting, as soon as we exercise to say, “Jesus is Lord,” we are in the Spirit. We exalt Jesus as Lord in our meetings by saying that Jesus is Lord. This causes us to exercise our spirit. This is the way to exhibit Christ and speak forth Christ. First Corinthians 12:3 is a basic verse concerning Christian meetings and the exercise of gifts. We are in the Spirit when we say that Jesus is Lord.

THE TESTIMONY OF LIVING CHRIST AND LIVING A NORMAL CHURCH LIFE

This is our testimony. We are not here to merely do a gospelizing and truthizing work without living Christ. Christ must become our living. He is not only the life within us; He is also the living expressed by us. Our preaching the gospel depends on this testimony, and our speaking the truth also depends on this testimony. The focus of our testimony is that we live Christ. We preach the gospel, speak the truth, and come together to live the normal church life as those who live Christ. This is the testimony of Christ.


Bible verses are taken from the Recovery Version of the Bible and Words of Ministry from Witness Lee and Watchman Nee.published by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA.

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