Speaking for Godby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the church life we have seen that many brothers want to be the head. This is true in both the West and in the East. However, in Matthew 20 the Lord Jesus told the disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you shall be your slave” (vv. 26b-27). Hence, every elder must realize that he is not the head but a slave.
Twenty or thirty years ago in Taiwan, there were some sisters who loved the Lord very much. They had hoped to be the leading sisters of some home meetings, ones who at that time were called “home responsible ones.” Some among them were very spiritual, but due to certain improper family situations, they were not assigned to be responsible ones. Greatly disappointed, these sisters were not able to eat well and sleep well for a few weeks, and their meeting life became abnormal. It took several weeks of becoming ill or encountering some situations before they came back to the meetings. There have been many such stories.
Ever since the meetings in Taiwan went through the change in the system last year, the emphasis has no longer been on the big meetings. Rather, like two wings, the big meetings and the small meetings have been balanced. When the group meetings were first established, we fellowshipped with the saints, saying that henceforth there would be no leading ones in the group meetings. Everyone was surprised upon hearing this, wondering how they could have a meeting without someone taking the lead. If no one takes the lead, then that means everyone is a leader and everyone can lead. However, whoever takes the lead is not humanly appointed but is under the leading of the Holy Spirit.
To be more cautious, we studied and considered the Scriptures anew concerning these matters. We saw first that when the Lord Jesus was on the earth, He Himself appointed twelve apostles, but He did not establish a leader among them. Second, after the day of Pentecost, when the number of disciples had multiplied and the practical affairs of the church had increased, the twelve apostles called together the disciples and told them, “It is not fitting for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. But brothers, look for seven well-attested men from among you, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint over this need” (Acts 6:2b-3). From this portion of the Bible we do not see the apostles selecting one out of the seven to be the “head deacon.” According to the human concept, there ought to be a leader, but there is no record in the Bible of such a thing.
Third, going further, we saw that in 1 Timothy Paul charged the elders concerning many things, saying that the elders should be this and that. Nonetheless, in the end he did not ask the elders to choose one among themselves to be the “head elder.” From these three portions, we clearly see, and can boldly say, that in the Bible there is neither a “head apostle,” a “head elder,” nor a “head deacon.” We cannot even find an example of someone being designated as the one who assembles the apostles, who calls the elders together, or who gathers the deacons.
Our experience tells us that once there is an arrangement, there will be damage. Someone may become not only the head elder but may even become the “elder-emperor.” This is the danger of someone becoming the head. Due to these difficulties, the church has suffered no small injuries and wounds over the past thirty years. Therefore, in changing the system this time, we declared that we would have the small groups, but we would not have someone designated to take the lead, because everyone should be a leading one.
According to Acts 2 and 5, the way to meet as Christians developed from the way the Jews met in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 12 God told the people of Israel through Moses that when they entered the land of Canaan, they should not meet and worship in any place that pleased them. Rather, they should wait until God chose and designated a place in the good land for them (vv. 5, 13-14). Subsequently, God chose Mount Zion in Jerusalem and designated that place as the unique place where the people of Israel were to meet together: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before Jehovah your God in the place which Jehovah will choose” (16:16). And the people of Israel did so; three times a year they all gathered in Jerusalem. There is no hint in the Old Testament that there were any small meetings besides these big meetings.
Later, the people of Israel in their degradation were taken captive and carried away to foreign lands, far from the holy temple. History tells us that in those Gentile lands the Jews built synagogues for themselves in which they assembled to read the Pentateuch and expound the Old Testament. That was the origin of the practice of Scripture reading on the Sabbath in the synagogues. This custom was brought from the land of captivity to the land of their ancestors to which they returned. When they first returned, the temple had not yet been rebuilt, so on the Sabbath they continued to go to the synagogues for Scripture reading and exposition of the books of Moses. According to Jewish history and New Testament records, the Jews did not forsake the practice of reading the Scriptures in the synagogues on the Sabbath, a practice which they initiated while they were in captivity in the Gentile lands, even after the rebuilding of the temple had been completed.
After the birth of the Lord Jesus and while John the Baptist was going forth to preach the word, these synagogues still existed. At that time there were numerous synagogues apart from the temple. Furthermore, they could be found not only in Jerusalem but also in Capernaum, in Galilee, and in many other places. Therefore, while the Lord Jesus was carrying out His ministry, He went to the synagogues, not to keep the Sabbath nor to worship God but merely to take the opportunity to preach to the Jews while they were gathered there (Luke 4:15).
Acts 2:1 says, “The day of Pentecost was being fulfilled.” The Feast of Pentecost was one of the three great feasts of the Jews. On the day of Pentecost all the Jews in every place in the land gathered in Jerusalem; even the Jews who were in dispersion in the Gentile lands had to return to Jerusalem. Therefore, Acts 2:5 says that the Jews came back from their dispersion from every nation under heaven; some of them could not even speak the Jewish language but could speak only their own dialects. Therefore, there was the need of speaking in tongues. On the day of Pentecost while the people were all together in the same place, the Holy Spirit descended and Peter preached the gospel to the crowd. As a result, three thousand were saved. Once they were saved, they came out of the Jewish religion. This was what the Lord Jesus referred to in John 10, that He would lead His sheep out of the fold that they might become one flock under one Shepherd (v. 16), that is, to form them into one church. Once a person was baptized and left the Jewish religion, he became part of the church. As soon as the church began, the meetings from house to house were brought forth.
This shows us that the big meetings in the temple were not the church meetings; rather, the church meetings were the meetings from house to house. Today if we rented a large conference facility and gathered thousands of people so that we could preach the gospel to them, that would not be considered a church meeting. That would only be a big gathering in the temple for gaining people through the preaching of the gospel. If out of ten thousand who came, five hundred were saved and baptized, these five hundred then would be given to the church. Following this, they should meet from house to house as the church. This is the origin and background of the way to meet as Christians.
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