Fellowship concerning service (5)

Fellowship concerning service (5)

  Date:Morning, February 25 (?), 1950 Place:Jordan Road, Hong Kong Speakers:Watchman Nee, Witness Lee

The need of home meetings and the arrangements of these meetings

  Watchman Nee: I would like to say something about the meetings of the church in the homes. Suitable homes should be located within each district for conducting these meetings. Meeting in the homes is a practice recorded in the Bible. When Peter was in prison, the church prayed earnestly for him (Acts 12:5). At that time the number in the entire church in Jerusalem was very big. They did not gather in one place to pray but prayed in the homes. When Peter came out of prison, he had to “consider” (12:12, KJV) which home he should go to before proceeding to the house of Mary the mother of Mark. Many were gathered together to pray there. This shows that there were many homes that he could go to at that time. This is the reason Peter had to consider before deciding which house to go to.

  At Pentecost over three thousand people were saved. Day by day, they continued steadfastly with one accord in the temple and broke bread from house to house (Acts 2:46). Due to their great number, the believers met regularly from house to house. They met in the temple only when they all needed to gather together. Other than these times, the brothers and sisters assembled in different homes.

  Of course, we have to be on the alert that our next generation does not make the district subdivision a tradition. When this happens, it will be difficult to change things around again. All the brothers have to act according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. There should not be any set form. A district meeting can have fifty people or a hundred people. Such a division is convenient, but this is not a legal number. We are merely saying that fifty or a hundred is a convenient number. The Lord did not feed the multitude by dividing them all into groups of fifty or all into groups of a hundred. Rather, there were groups of fifty and there were groups of a hundred. This shows us that the Lord was merely supplying a convenient number. Based on this principle we should have some arrangements. When the number becomes big, we should subdivide into districts. There can be fifty to a district or a hundred to a district. Such meetings are very convenient because the number is small, and it is easy to care for and visit everyone. It affords more opportunities for everyone to function in the meetings. The advantage of the home meetings is that they give more opportunities for the brothers and sisters to open their mouths to speak (cf. 1 Cor. 14:31).

  A few days ago we announced that the bread-breaking meeting would be conducted in five districts or “homes” [Translator’s Note: home is another term for “district” in the usage at that time.] Now we want to increase that to six districts.

  The main responsibility of the elders is to oversee. They should all be headed up by Brother Witness. Together they should oversee the entire church in Hong Kong. The leadership in the various districts is: Chu Zhi-yuen for the Jordan Road meeting hall, Hsu Jin-ching for Hsu’s home, Cheng Him-yuen for Bao’s home, Chan Shi-re for Chan’s home, and K. H. Weigh for Shen’s home.

A fellowship for all the “home” responsible ones

  Witness Lee: I have a word of fellowship for all the “home” responsible ones. Concerning the practical affairs in the districts, such as the preparation for the meeting facilities, the arrangements before and after the meetings, the supply of drinks, etc., we should not overburden the hosts of the homes where the meetings are held. Instead, we should share the work by assigning different brothers and sisters to do the various jobs. We have to identify the various responsibilities and come up with proper ways to discharge them. Do not wait for the hosts to ask about them and do not overburden them. From today forward, the works in the “homes” are officially passed on to the various districts. We have to write down everything we need to do and should not allow anything to slip through our fingers.

  Do not try to be too spiritual in conducting the meetings. Do not try to be non-spiritual either. On the one hand, we have to function aggressively and positively. On the other hand, we have to touch the flow of the Holy Spirit. Conduct everything in an orderly way in spirit, following the Spirit’s leading in such a way as if being borne on the wings of the Spirit.

The proper attitude in a meeting

Knowing the Lord’s will

  Watchman Nee: Before every meeting, the responsible brothers must come together to open their hearts to the Lord. You have to ask the Lord together: “What do You want to achieve in tonight’s meeting?” In every meeting the Lord goes on. He has a purpose. Do not take anything for granted. Do not think that since the meetings are regular, one can be loose. Brother Weigh plays tennis. Surely he does not make his plan at the last minute before the game. He has to consider beforehand. The same is true with spiritual things. We cannot meet in a routine way or leave things to chance. We have to learn to touch the Spirit of the Lord.

Not exercising human hands too much

  The responsible ones should not take the attitude of a spectator; they should not sit back and watch what the brothers and sisters are doing. The responsible brothers cannot be passive. They must be active. Their heart must be open to the Lord. In leading the saints on, they should not exercise human hands too much. They should not monopolize everything. They should learn to wait and give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to inwardly lead the saints.

Believing in the Holy Spirit and touching the Holy Spirit

  The responsible ones should also believe that the Holy Spirit will work as long as we do not hinder His work. We do not need to encourage or stir up the Holy Spirit. The heart and spirit of every responsible one must be open. They must push their spirit out in the meetings. Some people never open their mouths. This means that there is something wrong with them. There are times in the meetings when the saints cannot lift up the spirit. We have to charge forward at such times. Sometimes the brothers and sisters go off on tangents, and we have to bring the meeting back on course with hymns, prayers, or speakings. On the one hand, the responsible brothers cannot be too artificial. On the other hand, they cannot be too loose. We must learn to touch the Spirit ourselves first and learn to conduct the meeting according to the leading of the Spirit. The elders and district leaders must come together often to study together. They should make adjustments for the meetings and correct the meetings as needed. They have to discuss the way the brothers and sisters selected the hymns, prayed, and spoke in the previous meeting. They may observe that if a brother had stopped his prayer at a certain point, it would have been most excellent. There was no need for the brother to go on. The same thing can be said about speaking. They have to adjust and correct the saints one by one. Some people should stop at a certain point; everything they say after that point is redundant. A person should stop his prayer at the point where the “amen” is the loudest. But some people pray until all the amens are drained away, and even then they do not stop. If everyone learns this way, we will be more accurate in touching the Spirit in a meeting.

  The Holy Spirit in the church works beyond what we can ask or think. Therefore, we should not expect to receive merely what we hope to receive; we should expect something higher, not something lower. In the meetings a brother may stand up to correct something. His correction may not be accurate, but he may consider himself to be perfectly right. If, in the course of their fellowship, all the brothers feel that something was wrong with this one’s correction, he should put a question mark on what he thinks is right. Such fellowship will deliver us out of subjectivity and enable us to touch the thought of the Holy Spirit more.

Dealing with the flesh, yet at the same time encouraging everyone to function

  If a brother or sister is in the habit of speaking contrary things, the elders alone may not be that effective in dealing with him or her. There is the need of a few more brothers and sisters to speak the truth in love to this brother or sister. It is wrong to have love without the liberty to speak the truth. Sometimes a man speaks the truth, but he does not have love. This is also wrong. If you want to correct anyone, you must learn first to pray and then correct him in a spirit of meekness (Gal. 6:1). At the same time, you cannot do this in a sectarian way. You cannot base your decision on the idea of a few people. You cannot say that anyone who opposes your will is automatically wrong. You have to be clear about the will of the Spirit and touch the flow of the Spirit. A brother may decide not to pray after he is rebuked. You have to exhort him and encourage him to pray again. On the one hand, we have to believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, it will be easy for the flesh to be set loose if we give the brothers and sisters too much liberty. Hence, we must exercise authority to deal with the flesh. If we do not exercise authority, the meetings will be in confusion. At the same time, we must not allow the brothers and sisters to quench their spirit; they must function.

Concerning visitation

  Witness Lee: Visitation is the most important work in the church. We ask all the responsible ones in the districts to make arrangements for the brothers and sisters to make visitations.

  There are two kinds of visitations. The first is the visitation of new believers. As soon as a man believes in the Lord, the responsible brothers have to arrange for brothers and sisters to visit him, to strengthen his faith, and to make him feel that the church cares for him. The second is special visitation. This includes visiting saints who have lost their jobs, who are sick, or who have problems with their studies or their living. It also includes visitation under special occasions like death in the family, celebrations, or marriages. If we can cover these two kinds of visitations in a proper way, the church will be strong and will grow.

  Visitation requires all the brothers and sisters to work together in coordination. In a district there may be twenty brothers and sisters on the list who are somewhat indifferent, cold, or passive toward the Lord. The responsible ones have to find the zealous, compassionate, burning, and positive ones among the fifty saints meeting in that district and coordinate them together to make the visitations. If possible, visitation should also cover all the other brothers and sisters in the form of regular fellowship. The more fellowship there is among the brothers and sisters, the better it is, and the more blessing we will see. The Lord promised His followers that they will receive a hundredfold of everything, including parents, children, brothers, and sisters (Matt. 19:29).

Concerning the bread-breaking meeting

  The saints should not return home right after the meetings. They should stay behind and fellowship with the other brothers and sisters, or spend twenty to thirty minutes visiting other saints. The time for the bread-breaking meeting should not be too long; it should be at most one hour. As soon as we bring the saints’ spirit to a high peak, we should briskly move on to the worship of the Father. After the bread-breaking meeting, we can leave half an hour for fellowship.

Concerning eating together

  We should encourage the brothers and sisters to come together to eat more often. They should open their homes and invite three to five brothers and sisters over for meals and fellowship. But they should not prepare anything special. If they prepare too much or too elaborately, the elders have to step in and intervene. Many brothers and sisters encounter problems and weaknesses in their daily life. Sometimes a little spiritual fellowship will bring the saints through these trials. This is like the circulation of blood in the human body. Where the circulation goes, germs and waste materials are eliminated. Sometimes it is not necessary to mention the problems at all; they go away spontaneously through such spiritual fellowship. Dr. Stearns in Chefoo once said that it is an easy thing to invite people over for a meal. All one has to do is to add a pair of chopsticks. There is no reason we cannot do it more often. We have to encourage the brothers and sisters to open up their homes to others. If many people practice this, we will accomplish ninety percent of what we set out to accomplish with the visitation work. Single brothers and sisters can also use the married ones’ homes to invite others for a meal and fellowship. In such fellowship, there is no need to touch problems or weaknesses. All we need to do is to exercise loving concern and provide spiritual nourishment one to another. Spontaneously, the guests will be stirred up, and something will happen within them.

Learning to ask others for the general principles of doing things, and trusting in the leading of the Holy Spirit for the details

  The above few matters is a general fellowship of principles related to our service. The brothers and sisters should not act presumptuously; they should ask the elders. After the elders have laid down the principles, they should act accordingly by the leading of the Holy Spirit when they set out to execute the fine details. If the brothers and sisters do not learn to ask, they will be in confusion. But if everyone asks, there will be no confusion even if a thousand or two thousand people are serving together at the same time. The brothers and sisters must keep learning. In doing everything they must learn to ask the elderly brothers and sisters, but they should only consult them as far as the general principles are concerned. As for the small details, they have to learn to touch the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes young people can ask too much. They give the older ones a headache. Some people even ask if it will rain tomorrow, and if they should bring an umbrella with them. The young people have to learn to touch the feeling of the Holy Spirit. They should also learn to adjust themselves according to outward needs while moving according to the principles set forth by the elders’ fellowship.

A few things to watch out for

  We have said that the brothers and sisters should beware that they do not build up any friendship outside the love of the Lord. In doing something, we may come across some knowledge of the brothers and sisters. Other than trying to understand what we need to know, we must avoid trying to know too much about the brothers and sisters. Even if you do know something, you should not tell others about it lightly. Man has a lust to know and to probe into other people’s business. For example, we may see two brothers talking to each other, and within us there is an urge to eavesdrop. This lust must be dealt with strictly. We have to remember that the Lord Jesus’ Spirit knows everything that goes on in man’s heart (Mark 2:8). Yet the book of Isaiah tells us that he is a blind and deaf servant (42:19). Our Lord seemed to be ignorant about many things. For example, Judas was a thief, yet the Lord asked him to take charge of the purse. We have to learn from our Lord’s example. We should only pick up knowledge of other people’s business under the Lord’s sovereignty. If a man has a craving to know others’ business, he is a very fallen man indeed.

  Moreover, the responsible ones should not lightly talk about the spiritual strengths or weaknesses of others. We have to learn to speak under the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our speaking has to be discreet, and we have to be in fear and trembling when we speak. Unless God measures the knowledge of the saints’ problems to us, we should not probe into them. We should not scheme to know the brothers’ and sisters’ problems. Even if they reveal their secrets to us, we should keep this information secret. We must all learn to speak under the restriction of the Holy Spirit. These rules should be adhered to closely.

The advantages of fellowship

  Watchman Nee:The most intimate kind of fellowship is the fellowship in the homes. Hence, there is much profit to the saints opening up their homes for fellowship. The responsible ones in a district should set a good example for the other brothers and sisters to follow. When Timothy and Silas reached Paul, he was constrained by the word (Acts 18:5). Later, Paul went to Troas for the gospel. When he did not find Titus, he had no rest in his spirit, and taking leave of them he went forth into Macedonia (2 Cor. 2:12-13). Paul had intimate fellowship with Titus. When Paul did not see him, he had no rest in his spirit. Christians do not necessarily have to communicate their problems with each other through words. Many times because of intimate fellowship, they are able to touch each others’ condition in their spirits. Some brothers and sisters are reluctant to obey the Lord and forsake the world. But through fellowship their problems are solved. It is not our ability that solves the problems but the flow of God’s life through fellowship that spontaneously washes others’ feet, renews and invigorates them, and solves their problems.

Divine love and divine fellowship

  The meals among the brothers and sisters cannot be an ordinary meal together. They must be a kind of agape as described in Jude 12. That word can be translated as “love feast.” In the original language, there is only the word love, not feast. It is in the eating that the love is expressed. In the early churches, the believers often took meals together for the sake of fellowshipping and worshipping together in love (Acts 2:46). Such feasts were often linked to the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11:20-21, 33); they were called the agape. Hence, when we come together to eat, we express our mutual love one for the other. We break bread together for mutual fellowship; this is our communion. This is the meaning of our breaking of bread. The Lord never charged individuals to break bread by themselves. He gave this commandment where at least three or five people are gathered together (cf. Luke 22:19-20). The breaking of bread is for remembering the Lord on the one hand and for fellowship among the believers on the other hand.

Supplying others with life

  It is not too hard for the leading brothers to lead the saints with the truth. Since the feeling within each person’s spirit varies, you have to learn to touch the feeling within man’s spirit. The brothers and sisters may be depressed or elated in their spiritual feelings. The degree of depression and elation may be different. In fellowshipping with them, you have to have some spiritual discernment. With discernment you will render them some practical spiritual supply in life. Man’s real need is the supply of life, not zealous words. A man cannot be zealous all the time. The responsible ones have to be sensitive in their spirit. They have to feel what the brothers and sisters feel.

A few reminders

  In dealing with the brothers and sisters, you have to act in the principle of “two or three.” If the feeling of the whole church is to deal with a certain brother, it will be easy to touch such a person’s conscience.

  The responsible brothers must learn to be bold on the one hand and to be in fear on the other hand. They must not be loose with themselves. When the Holy Spirit is in control and He wants you to be bold, you can be bold. When the Holy Spirit is in control, no one will dare be loose even if you allow him to be loose. Some brothers make mistakes all the time, but when they come to the meeting, they do not make any mistakes. The difference lies in the control of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is in control, even wrong things can be turned right. Those with little faith often hold the meetings tightly in their hands and do not let go. But you have to learn to allow the Holy Spirit to have the full authority. Do not keep everything in your own hand.

Concerning sanitation

  Concerning the cup that is passed around during the table meeting, some have asked if we should disinfect it a little before passing it on to the next person. Even if the air is disinfected, it will contain many germs after an hour. From the hygienic point of view, this matter is a hard call. We have three doctors here; they are the director of the Health Department, the director of the Army Medical Department, and the principal of a medical school. I believe they can give us a clear understanding of the subject. For example, Dr. Mei said that he is not afraid of drinking from the same cup because he believes that God is sovereign to keep germs away from us. Even if we touch the germs, we will not be infected. In His divine arrangement, God has not ordained that man isolate himself from germs. We have germs around us everywhere, and those who are healthy are not harmed by them. We should fear not, but only believe (Mark 5:36). But we should allow those who are weak in faith to do what they want to do. We should not condemn or stop them.

  If a person is sick, we can ask him to sit in the last row. This is for the sake of practicing brotherly love. We have to take care of those who are weak in faith. This is not a legal requirement. If any outsider who smokes comes, we can ask him to sit in the last row in order that the weak brothers and sisters will not be affected. This is like a family with a son who has tuberculosis. When he speaks, others have to cover their mouths. Of course, the parents love the children and want to be close to them, but neither do they want the whole family to get tuberculosis. Our brothers and sisters have to learn from the Lord Jesus, who in His compassion touched the leper with His hand (Mark 1:40-42). We have to believe in the power of the Lord’s protection. We should not be afraid of infection. If we do not have faith, we can be infected anytime, not just through drinking from the cup. Men living near the North Pole can die from the cold, but no one dies of a cold. Cold viruses are everywhere, but not everyone who comes in contact with them catches a cold. We have to believe and trust in the Lord’s protection.

A question of church service

  Witness Lee:The responsible brothers have to pay attention to the standard of the church service. If they set the standard too high, they may create a problem. Some problems arising in the service must be dealt with according to general spiritual principles. When a problem arises, it cannot be dealt with as an isolated case. There are, of course, exceptions when things that do not edify the saints occur in the church. But if such things happen again and again, something must be wrong within the church or with the leading brothers. If something happens only occasionally, there is no need to pay too much attention to it. But if it happens again and again, something is wrong. Therefore, this is not a matter of dealing with isolated cases. It is not a matter of dealing with things case by case. The elders have to make confessions before the Lord. They have to be dealt with, to receive enlightenment, and to follow the spiritual principles. When the immune system of the church is strong, it will not worry about germs.

  Hong Kong is a civilized country. If the service in the church is strong, many problems associated with modern civilization can be overcome. The responsible brothers should turn the saints’ attention to the big things. Do not pay too much attention to the small and secondary things. If we can show the saints something more important than hygiene in the church, their attention will be turned. Once a man is enlightened by the heavenly light, he will not be bound by earthly worries.

  In Shanghai we have a lady who grew up in a very protected environment. She is like a bulb in a little pot; no one can touch her. Such kind of people get sick very easily. Those who are used to a rough and rugged life, however, can overcome many sicknesses. Sickness is a tool of Satan; he applies it especially to those who are weak. We are not talking about hygiene. If the church is heavenly and strong, it will transcend earthly hygiene and human weaknesses.

  Brother Chien’s concern is mostly a psychological fear. His inward spiritual capacity is not big enough. This is the reason he is worried about physical hygiene. Those who are spiritually strong judge things according to the science of spirituality. Those who are spiritually strong can sleep with the dead, put their mouth upon his mouth, their eyes upon his eyes, and their hands upon his hands (2 Kings 4:32-35). But those who are spiritually weak can only weep before the dead (Mark 5:38). We have to learn to be strong in our spirit and learn to transcend all physical and fleshly limitations.

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