The Practical Building Up of the Local Churches
Additional Quotes about the Local Church
The following quotes express Witness Lees understanding of the God-ordained way to build the church:
4. Prophesying in the Church Meetings
The following selected excerpts from Witness Lees ministry speak of the direct building of the Body of Christ by prophesying:
We want to begin our fellowship by studying 1 Corinthians 14. The subject of this chapter of forty verses is not only prophesying but also the encouragement to prophesy. In verse 1 Paul says, Pursue love, and desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy. This verse shows that we need to have an earnest desire to prophesy. In verse 5 he says, I desire that you may prophesy. Then in verse 12 he says, Seek that you may excel to the building up of the church. To prophesy is to excel because .he who prophesies builds up the church (v. 4). The gift of prophesying is an excelling gift. All the other gifts are not as high or excelling. In verse 39 Paul says, Therefore, my brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy. From these verses we can see that the Apostle Paul is encouraging, charging, and urging us to prophesy. After covering many items in the first thirteen chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul encourages us in chapter fourteen to seek this excelling gift for the building up of the church.
To prophesy in 1 Corinthians 14 is not in the sense of foretelling or predicting. To prophesy is to speak for the Lord, and in our speaking for the Lord, we have to speak forth the Lord and speak the Lord into others. To prophesy is to dispense the very Christ whom we have experienced into others. The subject of 1 Corinthians 14 is prophesying, which is speaking Christ forth into others, dispensing Christ into others by our speaking. This is not human or ordinary speaking but divine and extraordinary speaking.
According to verse 2 of chapter one, 1 Corinthians was written not only to the church in Corinth but also to all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, theirs and ours. This Epistle is to us. It is an Epistle to all the local churches. First Corinthians is a book on Christ as our portion, so verse 2 refers to Christ as being theirs and ours. Christ is their portion and our portion. He is the portion of all His believers. A believer in Christ should be an enjoyer of Christ, a caller on Christ. Our calling on Him is to receive Him, to breathe Him in, to enjoy Him, and to take Him as our portion for our daily practical needs. Every day and every minute, we need this Christ as our support, as our supply, so we have to call on Him all the time. To exercise our spirit to call O Lord Jesus is our spiritual breathing. By this kind of breathing, we receive the life supply and the enjoyment of Christ to live Christ. We live Christ by calling on Him as our portion.
(Witness Lee, Eldership (1), 89-90)
Teaching and perfecting the saints by informal group meeting is for the building up of the Body. There is a little difference between the building up of the Body and the building up of the church. The group meetings cannot directly build the church because a group is not the church; a group is only a part of the Body. First, we must feed the new ones. Then we must teach and perfect them to build each other up. This is to build up the Body. (354)However, when we come to a local church meeting, we must prophesy. This is to build up the church. In Ephesians 4 the perfecting of the saints is for the building up of the Body of Christ (v. 12). In 1 Corinthians 14 prophesying is for the building up of the church (vv. 3-5). The building of the church is local, but in the small groups we build up the Body.
You must not forget these four points. It does not matter whether you know how to carry them out or not. When you return to your locality, you must look to the Lord for His grace so that you can practice these points and live such a life. You should not tell people that you are going to do a work. To promote such a work is wrong and will stir up trouble. You do not need to say anything, but just live such a life. As you live such a life, you spontaneously go to bring people to the Lord. Some will see what you are doing and will want to have fellowship with you. They may then become your team members and go out together with you. There is no need for any kind of promotion or propaganda but a daily practice.
To repeat, first go out and bring people to be saved. No one will criticize you for doing this. Immediately after their salvation, you should go back to cherish and nourish them. When there are a few of you doing the same thing with these three or four, you can bring them together for an informal group meeting. Then you need to bring them to prophesy in the church meetings.
(Witness Lee, Instruction, 41)
Brother Nee saw the truth concerning the church meeting in mutuality revealed in 1 Corinthians 14 in 1937. His ministry on this is in the book entitled The Normal Christian Church Life. In 1948 he spoke concerning this again in the book entitled Church Affairs. But throughout the years, we did not find a way to replace the system of one man speaking with all of the saints prophesying. In 1984 I purposely went to Taiwan to restudy our situation in the recovery. In that study I was encouraged and strengthened by the Lord to pick up the practice of the church meetings revealed in 1 Corinthians 14.
Eventually, starting from the church in Taipei, we gave up the practice of one man speaking on the Lords Day. Now we practice prophesying in the meetings by all the saints. We realize that we cannot do this in very large meetings, so the church in Taipei divided their three thousand attendants into a number of district meetings. Each district meeting has about fifty saints. Today many of the local churches are practicing the prophesying of all of the saints instead of the Lords Day message meeting by one speaker.
In Revelation 2:6 the Lord Jesus says clearly that He hates the works of the Nicolaitans, the clergy-laity system (see note 61 Recovery Version). We need to reject anything of this system. All of us should be the functioning members of the Body of Christ. Wherever clergy and laity are, hierarchy is being built up. Such a system changes the nature of the churches in the recovery.
(Witness Lee, Overcomers, 69)
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