The Ministry of the New Testament Priests of the Gospelby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The primary emphasis of the small group meetings is to lead and cultivate the saints so that they may open up and fellowship with one another. If they have any need or problem, they can honestly tell it to one another for mutual intercession in fellowship. They can go further to care for and shepherd one another so that, whether in spiritual matters or in matters related to their living, they may bear one another and minister to one another. Hence, every group meeting is very organic, having no fixed procedures or programs. They depend altogether upon the attendants who fellowship according to the practical situation by following the Spirit. Furthermore, in this kind of meeting any question related to the Bible may be brought up for mutual answering that all may learn and teach the truth. A sister who has recently believed in the Lord may ask about the meaning of regeneration, and then the rest, after hearing the question, may answer according to what they know. Someone may say, “Regeneration is to have the life of God in addition to our natural, human life.” When he says this, others are taught, realizing that regeneration does not mean that all things in the past have died and all things henceforth are born, just as yesterday is over and today has begun. Then someone else may add another point, saying, “Yes, through regeneration we have received the divine life, which cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit. We have to walk according to the Spirit. Then we can live by the divine life.” In this way everyone, whether older ones, younger ones, brothers, or sisters, can speak according to his own experience and realization. It takes only a few minutes for the brothers and sisters to receive a good teaching from a question like this.
In this kind of group meeting there is no need for a “preacher” who specializes in delivering sermons and answering questions as in leading a Bible-study meeting. When we meet in groups, we practice mutuality. I can ask a question, and you can also ask a question; I can speak, and you can also speak. I can add a little, you can add a little, and someone else can also add a little. As a result, the meeting is living and rich. All the attendants can see something, hear something, and learn some truths. This is much better than having one preacher speaking on one subject from the beginning to the end. We should neither say that this kind of meeting is too difficult nor too easy. It all depends on our exercise. In the group meetings we need to learn to open up to one another, to fellowship with one another, to pray for one another, to take care of and nourish one another, and to ask one another questions concerning truth or life. In this way we can all learn and teach together that we may pursue together and guide one another in the growth in life.
By this we can see that our group meetings have multiple functions. For this reason we should first have singing and praying in our homes in a normal way. Second, when we come together, we should simply open up and fellowship with one another for mutual intercession, care, and feeding. Third, we can ask one another questions and answer the questions together. We can bring up any question concerning truth or life, and everyone can answer according to what he knows. Those who know more can answer more, and those who know something deeper can answer something deeper. All the answers added together become the riches in the church. The more we all exercise in this way, the more able we are, and the more able we are, the richer we will be. Thus, everyone in the small group will be perfected.
Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God has given to the church some who are particularly gifted, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints. These gifted ones do not use the gifts given to them by the Lord to directly develop the Lord’s enterprise. Rather, they are for the perfecting of the saints. The prophets perfect the saints to prophesy so that everyone can speak for God; the evangelists perfect the saints to preach the gospel so that everyone can be a priest of the gospel to save sinners; the shepherds and teachers perfect the saints so that everyone can nourish and teach others; and even the apostles perfect the saints to be apostles. Even if a person is nourished and cared for after being saved, this is not enough. He still does not know how to preach the gospel, prophesy for the Lord, and nourish others. Therefore, he needs to be perfected by the gifted ones. After being perfected, every saint can do the work of the ministry, that is, the building up of the Body of Christ (v. 12). Instead of building up the Body directly, the gifted ones perfect the saints to do the building.
For this reason, in the group meetings we need to exhort and console the saints, as a father does his own children (1 Thes. 2:11), and at the appropriate time teach them all the counsel of God as the apostle Paul did (Acts 20:20, 27, 31), admonishing and teaching every man in all wisdom until we can present every man to God full-grown in Christ (Col. 1:28-29). At this point the perfected saints are able to do what the gifted ones do. They can be appointed to visit people and preach the gospel to them, they can nourish and take care of the new believers, and they can lead the believers to attend the group meetings. Furthermore, they should lead the believers to attend the bigger meetings of the church so that they can care for and teach others and also prophesy for the Lord to minister Christ to others. This is the major part of the practice of the church life, and it is also the third step in the ministry of the New Testament saints as the priests of the gospel. This is something that we all can do and should do. May the Lord bless us.
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