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Thread: Informal Apostles & Elders

  1. #11
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    Default Needs of Workers

    The Needs of the Workers

    Before we look at the needs of the workers, let us mention first this matter of offerings. A Christian’s offering is not just for the sake of supporting workers as individual believers but is for the reason of supplying the needs of those who work for the Lord. In other words, it is not because a certain person is a worker that he is therefore being supported. He is supported because he serves the Lord. He as an individual person is one thing, and he who is in the work is another. So long as he works for the Lord, he deserves to be supported. The issue lies not in whether or not he is financially well, but rather whether he is working for the Lord. He who works for the Lord is worthy to be supported. It is similar to the matter of paying a taxi driver, wherein we would never ask whether he is poor or rich. His poverty or abundance has nothing to do with it. It is simply that for his labor he must quite naturally receive his wages. Nobody can say that because a certain worker has money he therefore need not be supported. Not so. Once there was someone who was thinking of giving an offering to brother Bright, a co-worker of Dr. Scofield; but then he heard a person beside him say that the Lord could supply brother Bright’s need. With the result that he withdrew his offering and left brother Bright in want. Let us see that the offering of a believer is not decided on the basis of the poverty of the worker. If support is given on the basis of poverty, such support is not an offering but is an expression of alms giving.

    To present an offering is the least a person who has received grace must do. Without this, he is useless before God. His having received grace ought to produce the result of offering up all he has to the Lord. It is quite irregular for the one who has received grace to withhold offering. This is because as one’s heart is touched by God that one’s purse will decidedly be offered up. How can a person’s heart be touched by God and yet his possessions not be touched? Offering is the clear evidence that our all has been touched by God, and thus there will be love flowing out from us. A person who fails to offer has no outflow of love.

    In this world today there are only two gods: the one is Mammon (riches, wealth, possessions, etc.), and the other is the true God. If we do not love God, we must love Mammon. But when we love God, our heart is expanded and we just give. We have a believer in our midst who for twenty years met in a certain church without ever greeting anybody. But then he commenced giving an offering, and immediately his entire being was transformed. Formerly I dared not speak or report on the matter of offerings, but now I have turned myself around on this issue because I realize that this matter of offering up of our substance is a way to receive more grace. The more a person offers up, the more fully he receives of God’s grace. And what I have said here today to you workers I say to all local churches.

    Now let us see how offerings ought to be managed locally. Out of the offerings received by the assembly, a portion should be taken to support workers—both those locally and those abroad. This is for the purpose of expressing fellowship. In Philippians 4 we read how Paul commended the grace the Philippians believers had exhibited in their conduct. For they had continuously had fellowship with the apostle in their financial gift-giving. The situation of the Corinthian believers, though, was just the opposite. Because a problem existed between them and Paul in fellowship, Paul would rather do what he felt compelled to write in 2 Corinthians 11.8 ("I robbed other churches, taking wages of them") rather than be a burden to the Corinthian believers. And why? Because fellowship between them was a problem. But where there is fellowship—as in the case of Paul with the Philippians—there is offering.

    Thank God, the brethren in some localities have received grace in this matter. You workers abroad, please do not misconstrue that the assembly in one of these localities is so rich that it always sends out gifts. The reason why it is able to send out gifts is because the workers in that particular locality receive less local support. This constitutes the grace of the assembly.

    Offerings can be given by contacting the Apostle for your region of churches or the Elder of your locality, and they can forward the gift onto the worker you wish to give the gift to.

    The Way a Worker Manages Finance

    (1) A worker should not let people know that he is poor. For a worker lives by faith, not by philanthropy. It is a shameful thing to let people know about his poverty in order to receive supply. A worker must possess a proper attitude in receiving supplies. He represents God in receiving offerings from a brother. He stands on God’s side, and therefore he must not give people a deplorable feeling. When Paul mentioned this matter of finance, the impression he gave was honorable and decent. Such is the right attitude each and every worker must have.

    (2) Among the workers themselves, whenever there is a surplus in supply, it needs to be distributed. Do not by this action be afraid of being misunderstood as rich and wealthy. Then, too, for your personal family livelihood, some short-term savings is a principle agreeable to the word of God. The Book of Proverbs contains such teaching and exhorts us to do so.

    (3) The spending of money should be planned. Many tend to buy unnecessary things when they have excess funds. Such behavior will hinder God’s giving. The use of money should be planned according to a budget. The things to be purchased need to be well considered before God. Do not buy carelessly, and do not spend wastefully.

    (4) A worker must not fall into debt. A servant of God would rather die than ask for money. If he does not have the faith for his livelihood, then he should seek some other "employment" by which to support himself. If he has faith in God to sustain his living, he will not stretch forth his hand towards man.

    The Principle of Manna

    Today Gods wants us to live according to the manna principle, which is this: "he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack" (Ex. 16.18). This is not just the record of the Old Testament. The New Testament, too, teaches this principle (2 Cor. 8.15). Much or little is equally wrong. If in an assembly some brothers have no means to maintain their living, either the church there or some individuals should help them. The local church cannot look upon the plight of unemployed brethren without its helping them the best way it can. This does not, of course, include those who refuse to work. People who are unwilling to work should not be helped; only those who are willing to work ought to be assisted.

    Furthermore, to those brothers who work but earn less than is sufficient for their livelihood, the local church must also render help. In the early Church, this principle was observed by the apostles.

    As regards the order of rendering help and assistance, the local assembly must first take care of the brothers and sisters within the local church, and then help the poor outside. If a believer has near relatives who need help, he should help them first before he helps other people.

    Do not offer aid casually without careful consideration. A person who is naturally "hand loose" in his giving is not blessed because he gives more. For he who would be "hand loose" is also carelessly loose in other things of God. We need to learn to be responsible offerers and not "hand loosers."

    A believer’s offering of assistance does not end with his giving out funds. He must in addition live a proper life before God so that his giving will be blessed. Thank God, not all are Lazarus, and not all are the rich man. What God wants is neither a Lazarus nor a rich man, but the offerings of those who live worthily before Him. The flesh commits either one of two sins before the Lord—either exercising "severity to the body" as Paul spoke of in Colossians 2.23, or else exercising overindulgence to the body. What God ordains is neither severity nor indulgence to the body but the living of a godly life before Him. Any surplus funds should be freely distributed.

  2. #12
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    Default Priestly Ministry

    Priestly Ministry

    Concerning priestly ministry, I believe the first thing to do is to set forth the basic underlying principle, which is, that all God’s children are priests and all should therefore serve God. If we are governed by this principle, we shall see how to help all the brothers and sisters to function as priests in their local assemblies. In other words, we shall seek how to arrange spiritual activities so that the entire body of believers—both beginners and those who have trusted the Lord for a number of years—may participate. We will now spend a little time together finding out what are the various spiritual endeavors in a local assembly the brothers and sisters can all take part in.

    Several Spiritual Activities All Believers Should Do

    A few things to begin with which all the local brothers and sisters can participate in are the following:

    (1) Preach the gospel.

    (2) Visit those who profess to have received the gospel they have heard, and lead them into the right path of being Christians.

    (3) Visit new Christians. They have believed, and have been led into the right path; now they need to be helped to go on.

    (4) Take care of special needs. In the church there are many such needs. Some have family problems, some are sick. Some experience distress, some have funerals, and some have weddings. All these should have the help of the church. We may put all such activities under the general heading of "care visitation." This is a kind of work in which all the brothers and sisters can be involved.

    (5) Care for saints who go abroad or come from abroad. I look upon this kind of service as being a very important one. For after we issue letters of recommendation to brothers and sisters who go to other localities, we still need to look after them. And with regard to people who come from outside, we must provide them special care as well.

    Let us take up each of these various works one at a time.

    (1) Preaching the gospel. Let us notice that among the ministers of God’s word whom the Lord sets up in the Church is the evangelist (Eph. 4.11). But Paul exhorts Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4.5). By comparing these two passages, we shall see that some people are called by God to be evangelists whereas some may not be evangelists and yet they are to do the work of an evangelist. In other words, the evangelist must preach the gospel, but whoever is not an evangelist should nevertheless do the work of an evangelist. An evangelist is a special "gift-person" from God given to the Church. If God calls you to be an evangelist, you should preach the gospel with singleness of heart and bring people to the Church. If God has not appointed you as an evangelist, you and all God’s other children should nonetheless "do the work of an evangelist"—even as the word of the Lord has indicated.

    To put it another way, "the work of an evangelist" is to be done by those who cannot do it as well as by those who can. This work must be carried on universally. Young people like Timothy should do it. Everybody else should do it.

    For this reason, encourage the entire assembly of brothers and sisters to spend time in doing the work of an evangelist. We should never be lazy and forget the sinners, nor should we simply let a few carry on this work alone. Let all the brothers and sisters be reminded that they all are priests and all must therefore serve God.

    (2) Gospel care. This is also what we ought to do before God. We expect all the brothers and sisters to learn responsibility in this area too.

    This responsibility starts with bringing unbelievers to the meeting and does not cease until they are baptized. The work of gospel visitation includes bringing people from home, school, hospital or office to the meeting, and looking after them until they know the Lord themselves and are baptized.

    Bring People to Gospel Meeting

    Have the brothers and sisters bring people to gospel meetings. Do not have them bring too many at one time. Though it is good to bring more, yet in order to take care of them properly it is better that only three or four persons be brought each time. This is not a rule, but probably four is a good maximum number. This does not mean that if there is opportunity to bring more, people cannot bring them. In case they wish to bring more, have them seek out the responsible brothers and ask them to arrange some other brothers and sisters to share their responsibility.

    Sit with Them

    Let us discuss how we should take care of the friends in a gospel meeting. If you bring four people, seat two of them on each of your two sides. When the Bible is read, find the place in the Scriptures for them. When singing, find the hymn for them also. Do not treat them as geniuses. Since they may never have sung hymns or read the Bible before, you must help them.

    During the preaching, if someone does not understand, explain it in a whisper. When G. Paget Wilkes was preaching in Shanghai, he told the following joke. An Englishman went to Japan and preached the gospel in a large public auditorium. Many people were there that day. At one point the English preacher said to his audience, "You all know, of course, how the children of Israel came out of Egypt." Paget Wilkes hurriedly went up to him and whispered that he might have to spend two hours to explain to the people who these Israelites were and what the exodus was all about! From this story we should realize that there are many things our unbelieving friends may not understand. Although we cannot spend two hours as humorously suggested by Paget Wilkes to explain, we may at least use two or three sentences to do so.

    Strengthen and Help the Preaching with Prayer

    The greatest work any of the brethren can do is to support the gospel preaching. For the preaching of the gospel is not for believers to hear or to criticize. It is aimed at the sinners. So that while you sit by the people you have invited, and as you sense that certain words spoken carry a great impact, or that the spirit of the preacher is being released, you should silently pray, saying something like the following: "O Lord, send this word into people’s hearts. Use this word to save this person. Lord, use this word to save even these two people." Thus you add weight to the word preached with such prayer. And you also pray for the people in your care.

    Accept Seating Arrangement

    Some who have not brought anyone to the gospel meeting may help by taking care of those who have brought more. It will be good if all the brothers and sisters sit either on one side or at the back, or stand near the door so that the brothers in charge of care that day may make the necessary arrangements. The friends from outside who attend need to be escorted. They are coming to hear the gospel, hence we can keep them company. Even if they are not brought in by you, you can still be one of those who sit with them. Gospel care is therefore twofold in nature: one is to bring people in, the other is to take care of them in the meeting. We who are responsible for the management of the church must so work until all the brothers and sisters are serving in the assembly.

    At Time of Drawing Net

    At each gospel meeting, there should be "the drawing of the net" so to speak. To cast a net is one thing, to draw a net is another. When the gospel net begins to be drawn in either by asking people to raise their hands or to accept the Lord, brothers and sisters need to join in and help. The ways of drawing in the net are varied. There is much liberty as to the ways, so long as the net is eventually drawn. At that time, there are many things one can do. Some hitherto unconverted ones need a little nudging and then they will come in. Others need to be pushed and then they fall in. Brethren should pray on the one hand and persuade on the other. If you know for sure that your friend’s refusal to stand up is due to pride, then you should exhort him to humble himself. Or if you know it is the love of the world that hinders him from standing up, you can plead with him by saying, "Why do you still long for the world? Why will you wait until the next time? If you feel you are ready, do not wait".

    Do Not Wait Till Four Months Later

    One matter which is of great importance in the preaching of the gospel is this: do not wait till four months later. Many people involved in gospel preaching have the wrong concept of waiting four months; but the Lord Jesus declares this to us: "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest" (John 4.35). How very strange is the Lord’s answer here. We need to see that the harvest of the gospel far exceeds human expectation. Do not be so foolish as to imagine that there must necessarily be four months until harvest once the seed is sown. The Lord Jesus views it differently here, for He says that whenever you sow, you may harvest immediately! There is no such "four months’ principle" in His thinking!

    Some people may appear to be totally ignorant. Yet keep in mind that whether their understanding is opened or not does not depend on you but on the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. I know of at least a few brothers who pretended to believe but who nonetheless ended up being really saved. We therefore must encourage them in season and out.

    After the Meeting

    After the meeting is over, brethren can stay with their friends, praying with them and conversing with them. Bring them to the Lord, lead them in prayer, and help them to accept Christ. Then you can obtain from them their names and addresses. Be sure the address is correct, since this will save the time of those who do gospel visitation. If possible, ask them when they will be free and what will be the most convenient time to visit them. Write all this information down quickly lest they get bored. Then give the record to the responsible brothers as reference for future visitation.

    Instill Need and Knowledge

    Some people accept Christ out of felt needs, but they do not have any gospel knowledge. Other people have gospel knowledge but they do not sense need. Still others have both need and knowledge, yet they cannot make a decision at once. All these people must be helped. Create need for those who feel no need, supply knowledge to those who have no knowledge, and help the hesitant ones in making a decision.

    Tell Them of Baptism

    After people have been brought clearly to the Lord, they should be informed immediately of baptism. Look after them, seek them out many times until they are brought to the place where they are ready to be baptized.

    Before Meeting Begins

    Another thing to be added here is that sometimes it may be embarrassing for people in a gospel meeting. For example, long before the gospel meeting has ever started people may already be sitting there. Some of them may come as much as an hour early. I can assure you that there are two places where time seems unbearably long: one is in hell, the other is in the church. For the one who goes to hell, he finds time intolerably long there. But to the unsaved who come to church, he too feels that time is terribly long. If these people come early and the gospel is not being preached yet, they may go away or they may sit there wondering what it is all about. At times I have a deep feeling inside me as I have looked out at the faces of the people sitting there waiting: they have always appeared to me to be like sheep without a shepherd. They surely need to be taken care of before the meeting starts.

    One of the ways they can be taken care of is to not let the unbelievers sit together. Instead, try to arrange at the beginning to have one or two believers sitting on either side of them. All who participate in such work must be fully equipped with tracts, gospel messages, and a Bible. If because of our neglect these unbelievers just sit there unattended, even the most enthusiastic among them will turn cold.

    All Function As Priests

    None of the work already described can at all be accomplished without the entire body of believers participating in it. Show the brethren they all are priests, and that accordingly everyone has something to do. This will make the gospel meeting strong, for this will be the entire church preaching the gospel rather than just the few. Unless all are involved, where is the church?

    As Many As Are Priests

    Let me underscore what we have said before, that as many as are the people who serve, so that many are the people in the church—as many as are priests, so that many are the people of God. Do not invert the order and say that as many as are the people of God so that many are priests. That is the wrong order. It should instead be: as many there are who serve, so just that many are the people of God.

    Functionless Members

    When I was in England, a brother once said to me: "Many in the body are functioning members, but many others are functionless members." To this I replied, "According to the Bible, all are functioning members, there is none functionless. If there is any who is functionless, that one probably is the appendix." My response caused that brother to laugh. But is it not true that in the thinking of many brethren some members in the body of Christ have functions while some other members have no function at all? But may I ask this, Where in the physical body is there a functionless member? Where can you find any? Let me answer that in the whole body, the only functionless member to be found is probably the appendix. Can it be that in the spiritual body the appendix happens to be you? Let me remind you that all members have functions. And so it follows that as many as are functioning members, that many are the members in the body of Christ.

    We Are a Priesthood

    Let us correct our thinking here. Today we must see that service pertains to the whole church. It is the church preaching the gospel and not just a few brethren. Priesthood includes all the brothers and sisters. As many brethren as are serving, just that many are there who are brethren in the church. Let it be that the number of those who serve determines the number of brethren who are in the church. We cannot let it be that only a few serve among five thousand brethren or even among just a thousand brethren. We cannot allow any non-functioning members. All are members of the body of Christ; and therefore each of the brethren must be reminded that he or she has his or her function; none can be functionless. This fundamental principle must be seen and maintained. Otherwise, this work that we are about is not New Testament work. It is but a modified form of Catholicism—a system of limited priesthood. Since all are priests, we all belong to the priesthood.

    (3) Care for the beginners.

    Meeting for Beginners

    After a person has believed and been baptized, he should be brought into a series of meetings for beginners. In such meetings, a special subject involving one single aspect of basic truth and conduct will be presented every week.

    Help and Care

    After a person starts to come to the beginners meetings, he should be assigned a more advanced brother to take care of him. How will that brother take care of him? By helping him to enter into every subject lesson experientially.

    In case of absence, the advanced brother should go and give him the lesson(s) he missed. Whenever he attends the beginners meeting, the advanced one should find out afterwards if he understands what has been taught. On this point, let me share my feeling with you workers, especially with those of you who are ministers of God’s word. I think we all have had that painful, shameful, and even indignant experience of having preached a rather deep message in a meeting, but later as you made contact with the brethren you discovered that your message had been like the wind which blows over the roof—it did not touch the ears of the audience. If you do not believe this is true, then you should try to encourage them to ask questions after you have finished speaking. I have often observed that asking questions reflects the condition of the hearer, while giving a message reflects the condition of the preacher. How frequently it is that when a most spiritual message has been given it has fallen a thousand miles distant from the mind of the hearers.
    For this reason, do not assume that people understand what they hear. These beginners must be visited and helped until they clearly understand these words.

    Beginners to Look After Unbelievers

    All the beginners should be engaged in looking after unbelievers. Put a few stronger saints in their midst to help them do the work. Show them that since they have believed in the Lord, they are now priests of God, and all priests are to serve. How well these beginners shall serve will depend on how well they are helped.

    Be a Foreman

    Today it is no longer the workers who go out to work, it is instead the workers who help others to work. If the worker always does the work, he can never finish the work. I repeat, if you go out to work, if you yourself only work, you are a failure. Paul not only works with his hands, he also is a foreman. Learn to work and learn to be a foreman. Learn to train other brothers and sisters to work.

    (4) Care for special needs. In this regard do not have too many brothers and sisters involved. In gospel work, in gospel care, in care for beginners—almost all the brethren should be mobilized. But caring for special needs is a different matter. It should be done by a few brothers and sisters who carry spiritual weight before the Lord.

    When a brother encounters difficulty, let him be helped by these few. In case of joy or sorrow, again let these few help and pray with such ones. Or if there is a family problem, let these few pray and comfort them. Or if there is need for relief, let it be done through these few brothers and sisters.
    As soon as brothers and sisters hear of anything of this nature, notify those who are responsible for special needs. They will distribute money to the poor, send food to the hungry, give clothes to the naked, render comfort to the troubled. They will visit prisons, pray for the sick, and help solve problems for the family.

    A Foolish Concept

    I do not know when this foolish concept commenced, but many seem to have the thought that the church ought not to have any problems. But do not forget that from the time of the early apostles the Church of God has encountered many difficulties. Do not fancy such difficulties as being abnormal for the local church. The Church since the apostolic days has been marked by many, not a few, tight situations.

    Let us recall that not long after the day of Pentecost, there occurred the affair of Ananias and Sapphira. This was followed closely by the matter regarding the Hellenistic widows. Not many days after that, Stephen was martyred; and then Peter was jailed. Such problems have continued on without ceasing. So that from ancient times till now, the history of the Church has been full of obstacles and problems.

    In this regard, we need to look more closely at the seven Asian churches mentioned in Revelation: five of these local churches were corrupted and seemed to have no difficulty; yet one of them received no reprimand—even the church in Smyrna, but it was a suffering, "martyr" church; and there was one church among them that was praised by God—Philadelphia; but interestingly, the Lord said to it, "Thou didst keep the word of my patience" (Rev. 3.10). That is the word of the Lord the Church of God is always to keep—not the word of success, but the word of patience and "steadfastness" (margin). A local church must pass through many difficult times requiring patience in the face of many problems and hardships. Only a worldly church will meet with less hardship. A true church will encounter many problems and some defeats.

    So never say if a local church is always peaceful and uneventful that that is the sole evidence of the blessing of the Lord. What usually happens is that it is blessed on the one hand and encounters difficulties on the other. A church may undergo many hardships, yet still have the Lord’s blessing.

    (5) Care for those who move and for the brethren from abroad. When a brother has departed for another locality, the writing of a letter of recommendation on his behalf is not the last responsibility of the church. At the very least, there should be some people responsible for corresponding with him to keep him informed on the condition of the local assembly as well as to supply him with the gist of the messages spoken during his absence. For quite a long period of time I felt ashamed and as though I had sinned, as I thought of the many brothers and sisters who over the past five years had gone to other places without anyone having corresponded with them. We could not and did not know how they had fared.

    Let us today see that whenever a brother or sister goes out from us, there should be one or several of the brethren taking up responsibility to do some correspondence: a letter a week or a letter every other week or at least a letter a month. In that letter inform the brother or sister of the condition of the church and of the other brothers and sisters. If we send out ten letters of recommendation today, we must find two or three people to take up the responsibility of corresponding with those ten or so who go out. No matter how busy we are, we must correspond; for this is a service unto the Lord. And in writing such letters, they should not be just chit-chat, but a summary of the spiritual condition of the church. And in so doing, we will be blessed by God, and all the brethren who go out may perhaps stand even more firmly in the Lord.

    Another thing which can be done is to send to them the gist of any special message given during the week. It is not necessary to relay the whole message but simply give the central thought. Nor is it needful to record all the messages spoken during the month but to share merely the essential points. This will at least supply the needs of the absentees. Some may have gone to places where they have no fellowship or perhaps they are lonely and in precarious situations. Except they are kept by God, they have no way to grow. How can they grow if they receive no supply? Therefore, such sharing of the principal thoughts of messages will help stabilize the spiritual condition of these brethren.

    Write to Local Assembly As Follow-Up

    I often consider the writing of a letter of recommendation as not being the last thing for us to do. So far as the church is concerned, after a month or two a letter should be written to that local assembly where the brother or sister goes, making an inquiry about him or her and asking for a reply. In the letter, such questions as the following should be included: What is the current spiritual condition of that particular brother or sister? How do you help him or her to grow? How do you take care of the person? Let me say that the lazy church will find itself unable to answer such questions as these. Frequently people are lazy, and sometimes churches may be lazy too. Laziness is what we are fearful of. Let me say, in addition, however, that such letters as the above will awaken some of the churches from their laziness, for they must answer them.

    Take Care of Brethren Coming from Outside

    Brethren from abroad need to be taken care of too. I hope there will be many people in the assembly serving in this area, for this also is to be included in the various priestly functions of the church.

    Let those who are responsible for taking care of the absentees take care of the brethren from abroad as well. And why? Because they read the reply letters from other assemblies, and this thus enables them to know the problems of those who have gone out from those same assemblies. It is therefore most convenient for them to take care of the brethren from abroad.

    Such care does not need to be prolonged beyond two or three months since by that time these brethren from abroad will have now become local brethren. As local brothers and sisters, they should by that time have begun to fulfill their local functions.

    I wonder if you have now seen what is the ministry of the church? The local church is to serve in all of these areas. These five areas which we have just discussed pertain to the spiritual side of the church. There are many other miscellaneous things which can be added to this list, but these that have been mentioned already are only meant to serve as a suggestive outline, but even these few need to be done well.

    Rather Not Have Sunday Morning Preaching

    I do not know if you have ever thought about what I am going to say next, but I would like to have a heart-to-heart talk with you all. Are you able to see that perhaps the Protestant churches currently put too great an emphasis on Sunday preaching? I for one consider this emphasis as contributing to today’s problem. I hope you will think very carefully on whether you would like to maintain such Sunday preaching. I myself would rather have no Sunday preaching if I could witness the fact of every brother and sister busily serving: if I could see everybody involved at the time when the gospel is preached; if I could see everyone engaged in gospel care, if I could see everyone taking part in harvesting, and after harvesting, everyone participating in gospel visitation; and if I could see that the various kinds of needs were being met by brothers and sisters assuming their responsibilities to meet them. This that I have just described is the church. Let me illustrate it in this way. Suppose in a certain locality, the Sunday preaching is very strong but not all the body is serving. That is Protestantism. If only four or five brothers are active there and the rest of the body is passive, that is the priestly system of the Roman Catholic Church or the pastoral system of the Protestant churches. It is certainly not the church as God would have it.

    No Non-functioning Member

    Our future lies in the whole church serving. I hope all the brethren will pay special attention to this rule. Although this vision may easily be forgotten because of much activity, we must put it before ourselves each time we go out to work. With vision we can work. Without vision we cannot work. Brothers and sisters must rise up and serve. We need not be anxious about the greatness of outward difficulties or the amount of people’s resistance. The real issue lies in whether we have truly seen the way of service. If we are clear, let us focus our entire strength on it. And never mind the number of people, as long as all of them serve; for it is bewildering if in an assembly of, say, two thousand people, only five hundred serve and the rest do not. Let us see that if there are five hundred brethren in a local church, all five hundred of them must serve. (The Church and the Work: Church Affairs, Volume III, CFP white covers, 37-52, by Watchman Nee.)

  3. #13
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    Default Relationship of a Worker and the Assembly

    The Relationship and Position of a Worker to the Local Assembly

    According to the Scriptures an assembly should have three kinds of people: (1) those who believe in the Lord are basic to an assembly. Each and every assembly must at least have this kind of people; (2) those who serve in physical things. Theirs is mainly the mundane works such as managing various affairs for the brothers and sisters, together with assisting in the managing of church affairs. This group of people is called "deacons" in the Bible, and include both male and female; and (3) there are several brothers whose work is to be responsible for all the major matters of the assembly such as leading the meeting, deciding on issues, caring for the brethren, and dealing with the outside. This group of people is called "elders" in the Bible.

    All three kinds of people should be present in an assembly. Here we include no worker because he has no special position in the local church. Since a worker is not someone special in the assembly, he must belong to one of the three kinds of people just now mentioned. He does not form a fourth kind of person in the local church.

    The relationship among these three kinds of people may be illustrated as follows: Suppose the brethren in a certain locality need to build a meeting place. At the beginning the elders would make the decision on the matter. Then they would notify the brethren and designate various responsibilities to the deacons, who in turn would invite brothers and sisters with related professions to proceed with the job. At the most, the worker might contribute his part to the project; he could never control the whole work. He differs from the other believers only in his being able to bear more of a load. Such is the relationship between the worker and the local church.

    As regards the position of what we today call "workers," it is no different from that of the apostles in the early days. They indeed have the work of the apostles today, but they do not have the authority of the apostles. Nonetheless, if a worker receives a special burden or commission from God, the local church should show its sympathy and support the work. We cannot find in the Bible any instance in which the local assembly disapproved of the burden of the apostle or in which the local church controlled the work of the apostle. The work of God would suffer greatly if such were ever the case.

    The Relationship between the Older and the Younger Workers

    What is the nature of the relationship between the older and younger workers? According to the Scriptures, the latecomers should submit to the early comers: "the younger be subject unto the elder" (1 Peter 5.5). It is quite evident that Paul led Silas, Timothy, Titus and others. The latter clearly accepted the leading of Paul and also submitted to him.

    Today two types of situations are found in the denominations. One extreme is that a worker is totally controlled and bound by the people above him. All decisions are made by human will. The other extreme is that with the so-called free-lance evangelists, they move independently and alone, eating their own food and preaching their own gospel, and are under the control and restraint of no one. Neither of these two kinds of people really knows the way of the Lord. For the first kind puts sovereignty into the hands of men. They do not recognize the Lord. The second kind of people holds sovereignty in their own hands and likewise fail to acknowledge the Lord. To place full sovereignty into the hands of the Lord alone, we must break away from both extremes. A worker must not be controlled financially by man nor can he surrender the authority of the Lord to other people.

    Acts 8 tells us that Peter and John were sent by the Jerusalem church to preach in Samaria. Their footsteps were constrained by the local church. A worker is one who is under restraint. Many misconstrue a spiritual man to be one without restraint.

    As regards the fulfillment of young people, the Bible does not bear any evidence of having offered or promoted the establishment of a theological seminary. Although we find in the Old Testament that some did set up a school for prophets, the fact of the matter is that no recognizable prophet had ever been produced by that school. Studying theology does not make one a worker. The training of a worker comes by way of the path of following and of obedience.

    Timothy and Silas followed Paul. The Scriptures provide us with a system of apprenticeship, not a system of scholarship. Unless a young worker learns well in the area of obedience he is not able to learn well in any other area. This is of tremendous importance. Before a young worker becomes useful he must be pressed under the hand of God. Each one who has ever been used of God has gone through strict discipline. This you can readily see, for example, in Paul’s letters to Timothy. How very strict were Paul’s instructions to this young worker. He was neither casual nor indulgent towards Timothy.

  4. #14
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    Default Apostle is Not a Gift, but a Commission

    Apostles, since they are first, are included with these workers with spiritual abilities in 1 Cor. 12.28, but apostles don't have an apostolic gift, since no such thing exists.

    "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues" (1 Cor. 12.28).

    Ministry and Gift

    Apostles belong to the Ministry, but they are quite different from the prophets, evangelists and teachers, because unlike these three, it is not their gifts that determine their office; i.e. they are not constituted apostles by receiving an apostolic gift.

    It is important to note that apostleship is an office, not a gift. An office is what one receives as the result of a commission: a gift is what one receives on the basis of grace. "I was appointed . . . an apostle" (1 Tim. 2.7). "I was appointed . . . an apostle" (2 Tim. 1.11). We see here that apostles are commissioned. Being an apostle, therefore, is not something which is subject to receiving an apostolic gift but is that which is subject to receiving an apostolic commission.

    What is the difference between office and gift? Whatever is commissioned is office and whatever speaks of enabling is gift. Natural gifts are what we naturally possess, whilst spiritual gifts are what we possess through the Holy Spirit. Office is the result of commission. Apostleship is an office. This is clearly told of in both First and Second Timothy.

    It is not that an apostle is not gifted, but that his giftings, whatever they may be, are not the reason for his being an apostle. She or he is an apostle because of the direct commission from God and is not based on ability or gifts.

    The Personal Gift of the Apostle

    Who are the apostles, then? Apostles are those gifted persons whom God has chosen to be His fitted vessels by sending them out to preach the Word and to build up the Church. They are those gifted ones who have received a special office, they being appointed by God to travel around for the work of the Ministry. Although apostleship is an office, the apostles without doubt have their personal gifts.

    An apostle may be a prophet or a teacher. Should he exercise his gift of prophecy or teaching in the local church, he does so in the capacity of a prophet or a teacher; but when he exercises his gifts in different places, he does so in the capacity of an apostle. The implication of apostleship is being sent by God to exercise gifts of ministry in different places. It is immaterial to his office what personal gift an apostle has, but it is essential to his office that he be sent of God. An apostle can exercise his spiritual gifts in any place, but he cannot exercise his apostolic gifts, because an apostle is such by office, not by gift.

    Nevertheless, apostles do have personal gifts for their ministry. "Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Symeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13.1-2). These five men all had the gifts of prophecy and teaching—a miraculous gift and a gift of grace.

    From that company of five two were sent by the Spirit to other parts, and three were left at Antioch. The two sent out were thereafter called apostles. They received no apostolic gift, but they did receive an apostolic commission. It was their gifts that qualified them to be prophets and teachers, but it was their commission that qualified them to be apostles. The three who remained in Antioch were still prophets and teachers, not apostles, simply because they had not been sent out by the Spirit; the two became apostles, not because they had received any gift in addition to the gift of prophecy and teaching, but because they additionally received an office as a result of their commission. The gifts of all five were just the same, but the two received a Divine commission in addition to their gifts, and that qualified them for apostolic ministry.

    In the beginning, the Lord Jesus called twelve disciples to Himself and gave them authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all manner of disease. Then the Scriptures follow this up by saying that this same group of men, now sent forth by the Lord, were called apostles (Matt. 10.1,2,5). The gift they received was a miraculous one, but the office they received was the apostleship. It was not because they became apostles that they were given a special apostolic gift. A mathematician, for example, is skilful in mathematics, though he may not necessarily be a professor of mathematics. He will not become a professor of mathematics until he is employed by a university. To have the knowledge of mathematics is an ability, to be a professor of mathematics is a position. Gift is spiritual ability, whilst apostleship is a position. If a person has gift but is not sent forth by God, he is not an apostle, just as a mathematician is not a professor until he is engaged to be such. Accordingly, apostles are not identified as such by their having any ability but by their having a special position. A professor must have ability, but his having ability does not guarantee him a position. Paul and Barnabas had the same gifts as Lucius, Symeon and Manaen; nevertheless, they became apostles and obtained a special position because they were commissioned by God.

  5. #15
    JoeAdame Guest

    Default JoeAdame


    I enjoyed reading your post. Most important, I totally agree with the points you have written.

    I am looking forward to read your other posts.

    God Bless!


  6. #16
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    Default The Basic Idea to Organize the Church

    The basic idea is the body of Christ is not divided by denominations, for there are no denominations in Scripture, so don't say "I of Cephas" or "I of Apollos", nor even "I of Christ". The latter is like saying one is non-denom or a congregationalist. What is most important, the Bible always has in view the church as a city of believers, e.g. church of Ephesus in the churches of Asia Minor, church of Antioch in the churches of Syria, or church of Dallas in the churches of Texas. There are reasons for this (to prevent the flesh from extending itself past the locality as it would spread in a denom). It's an amazing revelation the Bible never violates this principle. So using googlemaps, I want to have a Meeting Place Finder on this basis, where Apostles work in those region of churches and appoint Elders of localities and identify their meeting places on the map.

    "And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. But we will not glory beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the province which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even unto you. For this reason I left you in a region of churches, that you should set in order the things which remain, and appoint elders for every city as I directed you...without taking sides or showing special favor to anyone. Never be in a hurry about appointing an elder" (Acts 14.23, 2 Cor. 10.13, Titus 1.5, 1 Tim. 5.22).

    Rev. 2.1-7: "hast tried them which say they are apostles" (v.2); commend not to seek power of "Nicolaitans" (v.6 - those who conquer the people); "thou hast left thy first love" (v.4) of Biblical locality, for this is the way it was in the first century church period of Ephesus.

    The Bible gives the simplest guideline concerning the church. It is clear and unconfused. If we read the beginning verses of the epistles, the Acts, and the first chapter of Revelation, we meet such names as “the church which was in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1), and “the seven churches that are in Asia” (Rev. 1:4), which are the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, the church in Pergamum, the church in Thyatira, the church in Sardis, the church in Philadelphia, and the church in Laodicea (Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). In the Bible the churches are divided, but what makes the division? One and only one rule divides the church. Anyone can see the answer, for it is crystal clear.

    However, neither should the scope of the church exceed that of a locality. In reading the Bible, we find “the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2), “the churches of Asia” (1 Cor. 16:19; see also Rev. 1:4), and “the churches . . . throughout all Judea” (Acts 9:31 Authorized Version). There were many churches in Judea, in Galatia, and in Asia; hence in Acts they were called the churches in Judea, in Galatians the churches in Galatia, and in Revelation the churches in Asia. Judea was originally a nation, but at that time it had become a Roman province. The various churches in the different localities of that province could not be combined to form one church, so the record in Acts terms them the churches throughout Judea. Galatia was also a Roman province, not just a city. There were a number of churches in that place too; consequently the plural of the word “church” was used to designate the churches in Galatia. These churches were not named “The Church in Galatia,” thus showing that the church should not be bigger in boundary than a locality. In the same vein, the churches in Asia were mentioned not in the singular but in the plural form. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea were seven localities in Asia. They were not united together as one big church; rather they remained seven churches.

    "Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2.20).
    “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3.3). "Have you tried them which say they are apostles" (Rev. 2.2)? We will bring together 12 Apostles, with more to follow in agreement, which God "hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5.18).

    Peter being an Apostle for the churches of Judea, he was also an Elder for the church of Jerusalem. In speaking to "the elders [of various localities] which are among you," "a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder" (1 Peter 5.1). Take "care for the flock of God" (v.2) in your locality and in approving the Elders of a meeting places. The church, which is usually younger, ought to "submit yourselves unto the elder" and "accept the authority of the elders" (v.5), both Elders of a locality and Elders of meeting places. Peter said, "I plan to keep reminding you of these things...Yes, I believe I should keep reminding you of these things as long as I live...So I will work hard to make things clear to you. I want you to remember them long after I am gone" (2 Peter 1.12-15) "He is especially hard on those...who despise authority" (2.10), even the authority of the Apostles and Elders.

    "Hast tried them which say they are apostles...God hath set some in the church, first apostles" (Rev. 2.2, 1 Cor. 12.28).

  7. #17
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    Are the Apostles in Today's Church?

    Most evangelicals reject outright the idea that there could be apostles today. One reason for this is because the Twelve were personally handpicked by Jesus to represent Him. They also were instructed directly by Jesus. No one alive today meets those qualifications. Another reason that evangelicals do not believe in modern apostles lies in the unique authority vested in such men. Jesus told the Twelve, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Mt 10:40). During the Last Supper, Jesus exclusively promised the Twelve that the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). Accordingly, after Jesus’ ascension, the early believers devoted themselves not to what Jesus had said but rather “to the apostles’ teaching” (Ac 2:42). This was because the apostles’ teaching was identical to Jesus’ teaching.

    When Paul visited the brothers in Galatia, they welcomed him “as if [he] were Christ Jesus Himself” (Ga 4:14). Indeed, the apostles consciously realized their unique authority as Jesus’ representatives. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul said, “if anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command” (1Co 14:37). Speaking directly to the Twelve, Jesus said, “if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (Jn 15:20b). It is no wonder that few have been bold enough to claim the mantle of modern apostleship!

    However, further data comes to light when one examines all the New Testament data on the apostles. Paul wrote that our resurrected Lord appeared to “the Twelve” and later to “all the apostles” (1Co 15:3-8). Are “all the apostles” different from “the Twelve”? Matthew 10:2-4 gives a listing (by name) of the “twelve apostles” and yet 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6 also refer to Paul, Silas and Timothy as “apostles.” Romans 16:7 may refer to two more apostles, Andronious and Junias. In Acts 14:14, Luke referred to Barnabas as an “apostle.” Finally, James (the Lord’s brother) certainly seems to have been grouped as an apostle in Galatians 1:18-19 and 2:9. In what sense were all these other people “apostles”?

    In Scripture there were essentially two types of apostles. Foremost there were those apostles who had physically seen the resurrected Lord Jesus, who had been personally chosen by Jesus to represent Him, and who had been trained directly by Jesus (1Co 15:8-9, Ga 1:11-2:10). This first group consisted of the spiritual heavyweights. They were the norm for doctrine and practice in the early church. It was they who wrote or approved all books now in the New Testament canon of Scripture. Whereas this first type of apostle was prepared and sent out by Jesus in person, the second type of apostle was prepared and sent out by Jesus in Spirit and carried much less authority (Ac 13:1-3; 2Co 8:23; Php 2:25). Not having been trained by Jesus when He was on the earth, the second type of apostle merely studied and repeated what the first type of apostle taught (1Co 4:16-17; 1Ti 3:14-15; 2Ti 2:2; Tit 1:5). [Even so they were directly commissioned by Jesus by the Spirit.]

    The word apostle in our English Bible is a transliteration of the Greek apostolos. The actual translation would be something like “envoy, ambassador, messenger, sent one.”1 The verb apostello carries the notion of “to send with a particular purpose,” thus, apostolos would mean “one commissioned” or “accredited messenger.”2 When translating the New Testament from Greek into Latin, the translators rendered apostolos with the Latin root missio (the basis for our “missionary”). Did you ever notice that the word missionary is nowhere to be found in an English Bible? Yet virtually every evangelical believes in missionaries. This is because missionary is the dynamic equivalent of apostolos. The justification for the existence of contemporary missionaries lies in the New Testament patterns of and teachings about the existence of apostles.

    Thus, while there are not likely to be anymore of the first type of apostle, modern church planters certainly do correspond to the second type of apostle. That is, they have been sent out by the Holy Spirit to evangelize and to plant churches. Church planters are truly apostles in the secondary sense, and they are as much needed today as they were in the first century.

    Granted that there is indeed a New Testament pattern to justify the existence of church planters today, how should our modern apostles carry out their ministries? Based on Acts 1-7, 8:12, 15:1-2 (cp. Ga 1:11, 1:18, 2:1, 2:9) and 21:17-18, it appears that most of the Twelve worked out of Jerusalem for at least seventeen years (it was their base of operations). While there, the apostles devoted their time to evangelizing the lost in Jerusalem and to teaching the saved. They also occasionally took short missionary journeys while based out of Jerusalem (Ac 8:14, 25). By the time Paul went there, however, they seem to have left (Ac 21:17-18). Only James was still present. However, looking again to the New Testament, it becomes obvious that near constant movement characterized many of the other apostles. They itinerated, preached the Gospel and organized churches. Rarely did these traveling apostles settle down permanently in one place.

    Occasional training stops were made in strategic locations, but then the circuit continued. For instance, Paul spent one and a half years in Corinth (Ac 18:11), two years in Ephesus (Ac 19:8-10), and two years in Rome (Ac 28:31). He managed to resist the temptation of staying any longer. Similarly, Paul told the apostle Timothy to “stay in Ephesus so that [he] might command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1Ti 1:3); but once that job was done Paul wrote for him to “do your best to get here before winter” (2Ti 4:21). Despite what is commonly supposed, Timothy was an apostle to Ephesus, not a pastor there. Another example is Titus, left in Crete to “straighten out what was left unfinished” and to “appoint elders in every town” (Tit 1:5); once this was accomplished Titus was to join Paul at Nicopolis (Tit 3:12).

    What objectives did the early apostles have that motivated their travels? One was evangelism. In discussing the rights of apostles, Paul referred to apostles as “those who preach the gospel” (1Co 9:14). Similarly, Timothy was charged to “do the work of an evangelist” (2Ti 4:5). Even a cursory reading of Acts will show this to be an important function for apostles.

    Another objective of those sent out by the church was to organize and strengthen the newly converted. This was partially the reason for the one or two year stays. Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that God gave apostles “to prepare God’s people for works of service.” Paul planned a visit to Ephesus, but in case he was delayed he wrote instructions so that they would “know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household” (1Ti 3:15). Timothy’s job was to “entrust” the truth to “reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2Ti 2:2).

    A major difference between an elder and an apostle is that a elder’s sphere of service is concentrated in the local church, whereas an apostle’s field is universal and temporary. Once an apostle has trained and appointed elders, he moves on. From then on, it is up to the elders to teach the church and train future elders, with occasional help from apostles who pass by.

    Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, no words recorded in Scripture are accidental or without importance. All written there is for our profit. Just as we ignore New Testament patterns for ecclesiology to our peril, so also to disregard New Testament apostolic practices is unwise. The existence of mobile, traveling, itinerant church workers is a New Testament pattern. Virtually every church mentioned in the New Testament was started by apostolic teams, and continued on in relationship with these teams for years after their founding. Blood circulates all over the body, bringing in oxygen and taking away impurities. Itinerant church workers are to the new church as the blood is to the body. Their ministry is a part of God’s design for growing, healthy first generation churches. The New Testament pattern is for existing churches to support church planters who will start new congregations in unchurched areas. We still need the ministry of such men today. These modern apostles can also serve existing churches by helping ground them in sound doctrine and practice. In this sense they serve as seminary professors on wheels, training and equipping church leaders in their local settings (1Ti 1:3; 3:14-15; 4:1-6, 13; 2Ti 1:13; 2:1-2, 14; 4:1-5; Tit 1:5; 2:1-15).

    Twenty-first century apostles are to be servants of the church, not lords over it. Though they will naturally have the influential authority of an elder over the churches they begin, a modern apostle is really no higher in rank than any elder. Modern apostles are not like the Twelve of old. It must be remembered that the faith was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). No “new” teaching is needed. No essential theology has been withheld from the church. Thus, a church planter’s teaching must be in harmony with the previous revelation from the Twelve. No doubt there will occasionally arise false apostles, and because of this we must be like the Ephesians who “tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false” (Re 2:2).

    It is not likely that we shall ever again encounter an apostle in the sense that the Twelve were apostles. However, the church always has had and will continue to have apostles in the sense that Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, and Epaphroditus were apostles. That is, church planters sent out to evangelize, start churches, train and appoint leaders, and then move on to another location.

    Apostolic bands were integral to the spread and maturity of the early church. Their existence and ministry is a New Testament pattern. They evangelized, made disciples, taught, organized, and appointed elders. Can you start a church without an apostle present? Yes. Can an existing church function without apostolic input? Yes. Can a church elect its own elders? Yes. Yet all this is much easier if apostolic workers are around to draw upon.


    What the church does not need are:

    1. So-called apostles who try to lord over (rule) the local church. Apostles are to be servants of the church (Col 1:25, 2Co 13:4). The apostles are to strengthen local leadership, not supplant it. In fact, apostles should be accountable to the leadership of the local church.

    2. Apostles who dominate the meetings of the local church, and who try to turn it into a one man show. Apostles are to be like coaches, not players. The church “belongs” to the brothers, not to the apostles.

    3. Parasites on the church. Apostles do have the right to support, but ought to be able and willing to work secularly if need be.

    4. Apostles who peddle the Word of God, charging for their services.

    What the church does need is for you to:

    1. Pray for God to raise up modern day apostles of the church who will plant Biblical house churches, Matthew 9:37-38. [Elders of a city locality.]

    2. Pray for those who are already doing evangelistic work, Ephesians 6:19-20, Colossians 4:2-4.

    3. Give to support full time apostles (and evangelists), 1 Corinthians 9:14.

    4. Be open to the ministry and input of apostles. The influence of itinerant church workers can keep a house church from becoming ingrown. Isolated groups can easily lose sight of God’s desire for the church to evangelize and reach out to the lost. [Houses initially but the goal is an Elder of a locality which is the NT pattern.]

    — Steve Atkerson
    Revised 10/08/08


    1 (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Brown, Vol. 1, 126).
    2 (New Bible Dictionary, Davis, 57-60).

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