By Titus Chu
In the previous message we said that we needed twenty brothers and sisters willing to leave their labor at the bronze altar, drop everything, progress through the holy place, and spend time appearing before God at the golden incense altar. After this, they can pick up their labor again in a fresh way, charged by the Lord. Of course this is not limited to twenty. If there is any limitation, we are that limitation. We may be too young, too old, too routine, too fearful, or too contented to go this way. If so, we should be at peace, but we should not limit those have such a desire.
Fellowship with the Elders
If we choose to go this way, we must be prepared to leave the comfort of the routine, assignment-oriented church life. Of course we must always respect the leading ones and those who shepherd us by continuing to have good fellowship. We are not rebellious.
The first thing we must do is go to the leading ones and tell them that we will always fully support and participate in the Sunday meeting, but we request to be free Monday through Saturday. We need to be exempt from the routine church life. There must be a full understanding so that no one is bothered and so the leading ones can cover us. Many will not understand what we are doing, so we need their covering.
We want to be out of the routine meeting life, not to be wild, but to appear before God at the incense altar to be infused with Christ. When we come back, we will be in the full enjoyment of Christ to serve in life instead of routine or duty. We will no longer belong to a Tuesday prayer meeting or a Friday home meeting, but to Christ.
We want to be free the whole week, but how we use our time is important. If we waste our time, it becomes a loss. If this is the case, we had better rejoin the old church life. At least then we will be kept.
If I took the whole week off, I would have dinner one night with this one, have dinner another night with that one, and have lunch with another one. I would take a walk with that one, have a cup of coffee or tea with another two, then have a hot dog with a gospel friend on campus. Every minute is valuable and should be used well.
Building Our Team by Opening Our Home
If we are married and have a house or apartment, we have the best situation. We can open our home and have all the young people in the church over. We can have the older ones too. After spending time with so many, we will begin to know who has a spiritual desire. These will become our team members.
Maybe our team will start with six, then seven, then eight. Eventually we may grow to ten. We come together because of our common spiritual desire, not out of assignment. We want to have a new beginning and have a happy life together. We each come out of our own burden, pursuing, concern, and labor. We spend all our time together at this point just to become a family, with no thought of what we should do. We would often quote the question from the Bible, “How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight?” (Deut. 32:30). And then we would all answer, “Because the Lord is with us!”
The First Three Months
I hope there will be at least twenty teams scattered throughout the churches. They should practice exactly what I say in this message for the first three months. They need to focus on it to the point they seem to forget everything else. It should be just like when some study for an exam. Until the exam is over, they concentrate on studying so much that it seems they no longer have a mom or dad. But when the exam is over, their moms and dads are still there.
Do not skip or shorten this step. Take the full three months just to know one another. It is so tempting to want to do something right away. During this time, we shouldn’t care about gospel preaching or doing any other kind of work. Such things are just side issues. We should only care that when we see each other, we feel happy. We can sing hymns together, pray together, and read the Bible together. We only want to make sure that a loving, homey atmosphere is generated among us. This becomes the base for everything else.
After three months, we will really know one another and like to spend time together. We will miss one another when we can’t be together. Each one has been written in our heart. We are genuine companions. When one has a problem, we all bear it. When another makes a mistake, no blame is laid. We are not together out of assignment to do a job, but because we love one another.
Now that we have had fellowship with the leading ones, have an open home, and have spent three months building up our team, how should we continue?
One of the most natural and organic things to do together is to preach the gospel. For this I suggest three things:
First, determine together that each will speak the gospel to at least one person every day, then help one another to do so. This will build up a healthy habit. Set up a practical way to be accountable to one other. With today’s electronic communication this should not be hard. If one forgets, drive over to preach the gospel with him or her. Time and distance should not be an issue if we have spent the time to build up the team.
Second, memorize at least eight gospel verses that can back up our gospel preaching. Then our gospel will have authority, because it is not just our opinion, but the word of God. Remember:
The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
– Hebrews 4:12
It is our best weapon.
Third, find a bridge that helps us turn any conversation to the gospel. I like to ask people if they have seen the three circles. Of course they will say no. Then I draw the three circles on a piece of paper and tell them that this is them. It is easy to show them how their spirit is dead until it is enlivened by letting Christ in.
Of course we must each find our own bridge. If we play a musical instrument that we can carry with us, we can play a gospel hymn and then talk about the words. If we have a big smile, we can tell people why we are so happy. If we have had a dramatic event in our lives in which we can give glory to God, we can use that. Spend time considering what our bridge is and then practice using it so we are ready when the Lord brings someone our way.
The Bible is God’s divine speaking. It is our spiritual food and encouragement. Without it we will become weak and disheartened. All of God’s promises to us are found there so we can stand solidly. How should we as a team take advantage of this amazing resource?
First, memorize it. Memorizing the Bible is the best way to get it into us. It is the same as pray-reading. As we memorize a verse, we are actually pray-reading it. We should memorize verses together as a team, recite them together, and recite them to each other. That will nourish us and exercise our spirits.
Second, read it. This will maintain our healthy daily life. Everyone should read at least one or two chapters a day, no matter if it is in the Old or New Testament. Consistent reading balances us and makes sure we are speaking the truth, not our religious concepts. It makes the Bible an anchor for our daily life.
Third, be inspired by it. The Bible is a book of inspirations because it is the living word of God. God shines from it and it divides our soul from our spirit. Although each book has its historical setting, it also contains words to inspire us today. If some on our team claim to read the Bible but not get anything out of it, we should help them. Finding personal inspirations in the Bible should become normal because it is always speaking to us.
Forth, perfect others with it. Once we know the Bible ourselves, it becomes the right tool in our hands to help young ones to grow. Don’t just teach them with it, but help them to memorize it, read it, and be inspired by it.
Hymns, especially the classics, are full of the experiences and inspirations of saints who have gone before us. Hymns can bring people the gospel, confirm their salvation, and lead them to love the Lord. They can lead us to consecration, a deeper inner life, and a more complete vision of our Christ. They can lead us to tears of repentance and inspire us to labor more for the cause of Christ. Through hymns we learn to love our brothers and sisters and build up the church. If we only use the hymnal in the meetings, we greatly shortchange ourselves.
We should learn in our team how to take full advantage of our hymnal. Our goal should be that in one or two years, everyone in our team will know the hymnal very well. How enjoyable it would be to memorize twenty, thirty, or forty stanzas or choruses from different hymns. Then God can call them to mind at the right time, and we can spontaneously sing them. What a blessing!
Although I love the Bible, much of my growth came through hymns, not the Bible. When I was very young, the hymn I loved the most was The Way of the Cross. It begins:
The way of the cross means sacrifice,
As to God you yield your all.
To be laid on the altar, the place of death,
Where fire will surely fall.
– Songs & Hymns of Life, #329
I used to sing that hymn and others on my twenty-minute bicycle ride to school every day. By the time I got there, I was always full of tears. My habit was to sing a hymn every time I rode my bicycle, so of course I had to memorize them first. Those who only sing a hymn when it is called in a meeting never experience this blessing.
Another good exercise is to write short songs ourselves. Even if they are not good enough to be published, our team can enjoy them. We may write many songs that have a very short life, but eventually we may write one that becomes a blessing to the whole church.
We need to make hymns a part of our life. Maybe for a whole month, our team will just sing hymns. After that month, everybody will know some hymns. In this way hymns become part of us. This is very sweet.
Many authors of spiritual books were special gifts from God to His body. Their writings help convey the great doctrines of the Bible in an inspirational way. We owe it to our team to get into some of these riches. Watchman Nee is a great source of such books, but he also gleaned from such authors as Andrew Murray, Brother Lawrence, Madame Guyon, Pember, and others. Of course there are far too many books for most of us to read, so I recommend that we read at least one book from as many of these authors as we can just so we can know them a little.
As for Watchman Nee, I recommend we read a little more. Start with the first four volumes of Twelve Baskets Full. Each chapter is a short, stand alone, very inspirational message. I am sure everyone will enjoy them. Then read his training material, such as The Release of the Spirit, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and The Normal Christian Worker.
These books will not only help us to love the Lord, but they will help us help others to love the Lord. Many of the chapters in Twelve Baskets Full have been reprinted as individual booklets that we can read together, such as And Peter, and Mary. All we have to do is read these booklets with them and their spiritual understanding will open up.
Every three months or so the team should go out to visit some churches. This is for our enlargement and will be a blessing to the churches we visit. Everyone does not need to visit the same church. If the team divides up and visits two or three churches, we can fellowship what we learned when we come back.
Enjoying God’s Creation
Sometimes is is good to plan an outing just to enjoy God’s marvelous creation. All the young people like this. When apples are in season, we can go to an orchard and pick some. When strawberries are in season, we can go pick them. In good weather, we can go to a park and have a cookout. If there is something someone in the team wants to go see and it is not too far, we can plan an outing. Think of all the enjoyable fellowship we can have on the way. There are many things we can do just to be together while we enjoy God’s creation.
Serving the Church
After we have been together a while, we can fellowship with the elders that the team wants to learn to serve the church. We can pick a service, such as baptism, ushering, or parking cars, and ask if the team can carry it for two or three months. We should be full of prayer and learn to serve spiritually, not to just do a job. Later, ask to serve in another area. After three years the team will have experience serving in many areas of the church life.
Once the team has a few new ones to care for, we can ask an elder to join us for a Saturday mini-conference to cover some basic, helpful topics. We can ask him to talk about how he enjoys the Bible, what caused him to love the Lord, or how to exercise our spirits.
This is not really a conference, but an intimate living room fellowship. Make it comfortable with a warm atmosphere and some tea or coffee. The team gains from the elder’s experience and the elder gains by being related to the saints.
We need this kind of church life. Remember what the Psalmist wrote:
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God….
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.”
— Psalm 84:3,7
We are just swallows nesting between the altars. We go from strength to strength together, but each one of us appears before God. May the Lord have mercy that some will pick up the burden to practice this.