The Foresight of Brother Lee
Before the Lord comes back, how the church will be? Brother Lee had seen it. He had seen further than all of us. He saw that the church will gradually, slowly be recovered back to its original way. What is the original way of the church? It is the way in the first century, where there were no big meetings, but only small meetings. As the day of the Lord approaches, the church will increasingly return to its original way.
Changing the Concepts, Changing the System, and Changing the Ways
The recovery of the church needs the change of systems. In order for the change of systems to be successful, first we need to change our concept. We must first change our concept, and second, change our systems, and third, change our ways.
For example, in the nineteenth century, the Manchu government promoted the Hundred Days Reform, hoping to enforce the new law. However, her fundamental system was not changed; they merely changed some of their ways. For instance, the Westernization movement was just a way of doing things, by merely changing the ways of factories and shipbuilding. However, the system was not changed; it was still the feudal system. Eventually, the new law failed and the reform stopped. In contrast, why was Meiji Restoration successful in Japan? It was because the government not only changed a certain ways of doing things, but also westernized the entire system and adopted the western law. This not only ended the feudal system with the samurai that had lasted for more than six hundred years, but also established a new government with the separation of powers.
Turning from Meetings to People, Big to Small, and Coming to Going
A few years ago, I spoke of “turning from meetings to people, from big to small, and from coming to going.” This is to change the concepts and to change the system. Actually, I am not the one who first spoke this; it was Brother Lee. When Brother Lee began speaking of the
new way, the God-ordained way, he spoke of changing the concepts and changing the systems. And then he endeavored to discourage big meetings and promoted group meetings and district meetings. He said, “The heaven and earth can pass away, but we must go to the small group meetings!” This is to turn from big meetings to small meetings. But after speaking much of it, he realized it was still not good enough, so he turned from groups to homes, turning to even smaller gatherings. This was what he spoke in Taiwan. After he returned to the US, he began to speak of the vital groups. Actually, vital groups are small groups, which are even smaller units than the home meetings and group meetings that he spoke of in Taiwan.
This means that after big meetings are divided into groups and districts, the saints go from the group meetings, to the home meetings, and then to the vital groups. Actually, the gatherings are getting smaller and smaller. This is to turn from big to small. Furthermore, in that period of time, he constantly spoke of door knocking, visiting people, contacting people, caring for people, nourishing people, seeking the dormant and backslidden ones one by one, and also visiting and contacting gospel friends one by one. From this we see how much he regarded people! This is to turn from meetings to people, and from coming to going.
Surely, this does not mean that we no longer have “meetings,” nor does it mean that we no longer have big meetings or we do not ask people to come. Rather, it means that “meeting” is no longer the central figure. The most important central figure is every single “person.” However, many brothers and sisters still have not changed their concept.
For example, some local churches say that they are practicing the God-ordained way, but the responsible brothers still regard the Lord’s Day meetings the most. On the Lord’s Day, they dress neatly. Why do they regard the Lord’s Day meetings the most? Because the number of attendance in the Lord’s Day meetings is the most! Because the number of people in a local church is basically their Lord’s Day meeting attendance. Furthermore, whether a church is strong is also determined by theLord’s Day meeting! When others ask
about the condition of a certain church, they also refer to
the condition of the Lord’s Day meeting! Therefore, we need to hold good Lord’s Day meetings. However, this is “meeting,” “big,” and “coming.” There is no question that the Lord’s Day meeting should be good. When we say “turning from meeting to people,” it does not mean that we are abolishing the Lord’s Day meeting; rather, it means that your mind, attention, and concepts need to turn from “meeting” to another direction, to be set on “people.”
This is first thing: our concepts need to be turned completely; we need to see that the most important matter is every single member, every single person, and we must build up personal relationships with them. In order to build up personal relationships, we need to be “small.” If we are not “small,” we cannot build up personal relationships. Since you can go to where a person is to take care of him, why do you ask him to come? Actually, you want him to come to support your facade. Without the facade, will you still ask him to come? For example, if today the government stops you from having big meetings, or you yourself feel that the facade does not matter and you do not need to have a facade, you will not ask people to come. You would even give up asking people to come, and “coming” would no longer be a problem. Actually, it is tedious to ask people to come to the meetings. Therefore, the concept is crucial. This is a matter of changing our concepts!
Changing the System
If the concepts are changed but the system is not changed, it will still be a problem! What system should we change? We have the elders administrate the church. How do the elders administrate the church? There are always three to four elders administrating together. This is equivalent to a decision-making council. Basically, the first circle are the elders, and the second circle are the district responsible brothers. In a big church, the elders need to oversee the district responsible brothers; otherwise, if the district responsible ones take their own way, it is equivalent to having another church. Therefore, the elders need to spend a lot of energy to oversee the district responsible ones. The most important responsibility of the district responsible brothers is to maintain the Lord’s Day district meeting by devoting their effort and strength to the district meetings. Besides the districtmeetings, areas that require much devotion of
strength are various services: children service, young people service, college service, the managing of church finance, as well as the maintenance and usage of the meeting hall, concerning the different assignment of rooms in the meeting hall, etc. In the early days, the district responsible ones needed to take care all these things.
Now we have improved a little, that is, we have the infrastructure of the gospel, home meetings, group meetings, and district meetings. From homes we expand to groups, and then to districts. However, not many elders can oversee the homes; they can mainly oversee the districts. As far as groups, only a few churches can oversee them. For example, in some localities, now the elders do not even oversee the groups, but let the groups take care of themselves. The elders do not know the condition of the groups, let alone the condition of the homes. So you say, Oh, now our infrastructure is gospel, homes, groups, and districts. Not to mention the churches that have not established the infrastructure of gospel, homes, groups, and districts, even those churches that have established such infrastructure, they have but only the skeletons without the muscles, blood vessels, or nerve endings.
Building the New System of Organic Relationships
Now we speak of changing the system, but how to change? In addition to the old system, the entire administration of the church needs a new system that is more fitting to the organic relationships. In other words, it is not to annul the current old system, but to establish a new system in addition to the old system. The old system is established upon “meeting,” whereas the new system is established upon “relationship.” For example, if a church is to establish an organic relationship now, it will be like a neural network that has the first circle, the second circle, the third circle, etc. The establishment of this organic relationship can be carried out by the home, group, and district responsible ones taking care of the same group of people, or it can be carried out by another group of people, or even the sisters. Moreover, we need to at least spend half the time to build up and strengthen these organic relationships. Actually, it would not be too much if you spend all your time on doing this.
This means that you cannot take building relationships as a peripheral matter, but a particularly important matter. If you still treat it as a peripheral matter, of course it will become a secondary matter, and you will still take the homes, groups, and districts as the major, important matter; it will still be about meetings, and you will still ask people to come. For example, it used to be that the district responsible ones need to go to take care of the district meetings. If he does not go, the church will fall apart. But now whether the district responsible ones go to take care of the district meetings, it does not matter, because the new system has the reminders to oversee and to sustain the relationships. For example, two people take care of ten, and ten take care of one hundred, and one hundred take care of one thousand; they call and use WeChat daily, weekly, to connect and supply, so the church will never fall apart.
From the Church of “Meetings” to the Church of “Relationships”
This means that when the responsible ones cannot meet together with the ones they are caring for, they can connect by phones and WeChat daily and weekly to supply, maintain, and strengthen that group relationship. The saints can also use phone and WeChat to supply, maintain, and strengthen the group relationship. Brothers and sisters all learn from patterns. When they see everyone doing things, they will follow to take this way. In this way, the system of the entire church will gradually and slowly turn and change until the church becomes a church of “relationships” and not a church of “meetings.” However, as yet we do not see such a condition! This is to change the system. Actually, this is to spend more time emphasizing, building, and strengthening this new system, and there will spontaneously be a leaning, developing, and building in this direction.
Concerning the district meetings meeting once a month, if we are unable, it is not a problem to meet once every two months. Nevertheless, we still have the district meetings; but in daily living there should be the constant connecting to build the organic relationship. This is to say that there is no question that the local church is one church in one locality, but the one church in one locality does not necessarily mean having weekly meetings. Even sometimes the Lord’s table meeting can take place in the middle of the week. Therefore, to practice the new system
is not to demolish and dilute the old system that is presently practiced, but to put a greater part of our energy on the new system, that is, to build, strengthen the framework of “relationships.” This framework of “relationships” has layers just as the physical body has layers and every layer is organic.
Practicing the New Way under the New System
Once there is a change in the system, what follows will be the practice: door-knocking, gospel preaching, home meetings, drip-dispensing online, and so forth will automatically come into place. In this way, the entire church life will advance and be built up and strengthened in the direction of the new system. In other words, the new system has its framework, but it is not of the former framework. Presently in the Mainland China there is already this framework, and it will be more so in the future.
The World Situation Becoming More Dictatorial
Many people hope, pray, and ask the Lord to get rid of the dictatorial governments; however, according to the Bible, the world situation will become more dictatorial and not more democratic. The Antichrist will take the way of dictatorship and in the end, it will be a dictatorial form of government. Therefore, the present one-party dictatorship in the Mainland China will definitely continue. Even in the United States, democracy is tending more towards dictatorship. The worldly form of government is heading towards dictatorship more and more and there will be more restrictions in religion with increasing limitations and even suffering of persecutions and tribulations. At that time, the church will return to the way taken by the early church.
The Church Needing to Take the New Way
This is to say that before the Lord returns, the world will become more and more dictatorial and the church will be more and more restricted. However, this does not mean that the church will become weaker and shrink; rather, it should become stronger and blossom all over the earth. If the church is not like this, she will not be able to confront and exist under such a dictatorial system. For the church to cope and adapt to the coming worldly situation, the dictatorial governments, she must take the new way, the God-ordained way. Therefore, I say that Brother Lee
had the foresight to lead the Lord’s recovery in the new way. He did not only look at the expansion of the church, the increase in numbers; rather, he saw what kind of world situation there will be before the Lord returns and the direction that the church must take.
Building according to the Pattern on the Mount
Just as Brother Nee said, this direction that the church should take is to build according to the pattern on the mount. When the church takes this direction, the world will begin to see what the church is. In other words, until now, this kind of church has not appeared. When will the world see what the church is for the first time? It will be during the time of the great tribulation. The great tribulation will be the result of the victory of the dictatorship and not the result of the victory of democracy, because this world will become more and more dictatorial. Some people say, due to the severity of the current coronavirus, So-and-so will be removed. From what I see, he will not be removed! In actuality, the more authoritarian the way he handles this situation the better! If the onset of this virus had been in the United States, the free press of the US would have scared everyone to death! For the virus of fear is more dreadful and more harmful than any material virus.
Christians Needing to Pray for the Government
We Christians need to pray for the rulers and governments of the countries. Praying for the government is the responsibility of a Christian. This is God’s command and revelation. In terms of the world, the government is the highest organization; although it is the highest organization, it needs Christians to be the priests to intercede for it. If this world does not have Christians, there would be no one in the world who can intercede for the countries, the governments, and the rulers. Therefore, Christians in this world do not only have the right but also the responsibility to pray. What to pray for? To pray that God would help the country, pray that the head of the governments would be upright, have wisdom, make the correct choices, and pray for them to be healthy. This is the basic responsibility of a Christian.
Some people say that Christians should have a mission in society. This word is correct but to implement this mission in society is to pray for the leader of the country, for the government. This is the prime and
greatest responsibility of a Christian as God’s priest. This is like what a church father said to Emperor Constantine, the gist of which is: You are not the one having jurisdiction over me but it is I who is praying for you. If I do not pray for you, you would not have a way to go on! This is really so. As the ruling one, if he persecutes and slaughters the Christians, when he has tribulations, who will pray for him? Only the Christians can pray for him! Praying, interceding, is the way for Christians to participate in their mission in society. The way is not to be like some people in Christianity in Hong Kong, participating at a level below that of Christians. Christians participate in the mission of society mainly by interceding for society and thegovernment.
Negligence in Prayer Being the Forfeiting of Christians’ Responsibility
The clamor in society and in the government is already so confusing, so raucous; if Christians were to add their voice, what kind of participation is this? Marching, demonstrating, protesting, and resisting are things that everyone, whether Republicans or Democrats, knows how to do; but what they cannot do is to intercede for society and for the government. Therefore, the proper job of Christians is to intercede. For Christians not to pray for society and for the government is to forfeit their responsibility. Today Christians are on the streets marching, demonstrating, and protesting, just like what the Hong Kong Cantonese say “Gao Gao Gong”—having nothing to do, so they are just messing around. This is not the way the Christians participate in their mission in society.
The Church Becoming More and More Organic
Therefore, what is most important to us today is to transform, to change our system. The entire world is tending more and more toward the direction of dictatorship; how can the church in the Lord’s recovery confront this situation? This is relevant to the advance of the Lord’s recovery and to the increase or decrease of the number of people in the future. To handle the dictatorial way is by becoming more and more organic and not by becoming more and more political. Let me give you a real example: In 2019 in the midst of the protest in Hong Kong, the loudest noise came from those so called “megachurches.” Having thousands of people, their noise
was quite loud. However, I am waiting to see how many
years will their noise last. After a few years, their mouths will be shut and the noise will be gone. Once China completely takes over Hong Kong, they will have nothing to say.
I spoke to the brothers in Hong Kong in this way: You should now repent; you must wake up! When in 1949 the Communists took over mainland China, the leading brothers did not have time to prepare adequately; therefore, facing a sudden change in the situation, the churches truly did not know how to handle the government. However, now, you have the equivalent of over twenty years to properly prepare. One thing is certain and that is your future will definitely be the same as that of the mainland China. How could you suppose that it will not be the same? You suppose that by making noise on the streets, doing this and that, you will not have the same future? Actually, once these twenty odd years are over, everything will be over. You say, Oh, I will go abroad for my education and migrate to another country; that is fine, but that applies only to a few. The entire church of thousands of people still needs to change its way in order to adapt; if you do not change now, you must do so then. Why not be wiser now and start changing so that when the dictatorial system comes, you will not be caught short-handed.
This is the situation in Hong Kong; actually it is the same everywhere in the world. According to my observation, the world is going in the direction of a centralized authority, not democracy. To want to go the way of democracy, just like Hong Kong, is a naive way of thinking. They say that now Hong Kong is entering into the age of democracy. Actually, democracy is gradually declining; it is near evening, and about to die. You are just beginning to engage in democracy when others have been doing this for decades. You have boarded the wrong boat because the world is not following the trend of democracy. Now they are saying, “Oh! Democracy is right; centralized authority will one day collapse.” But look at the history of China. Since the time of the Chinese revolution of 1911, it is not that China has not tried democracy, but that they were not successful even after several attempts. Even Sun Yat-sen struggled and had to request help from Russia.
Sun Yat-Sen worked on democracy, but eventually the presidential orders could never be carried out. Even
men like Yuan Shikai and warlords during that time also worked on democracy by having presidents, vice- presidents, congress, etc. Go and study the histories of Yuan Shikai and the warlords. Although Yuan Shikai wanted to be a king, which certainly was a misstep, he actually had always wanted to work out a constitutional monarchy. Constitutional monarchy is both monarchic and democratic. He was also working out democracy! I am not afraid to tell the American brothers and sisters that democracy is a dream! Out of the thousands of years of human history, how much of that is in democracy? Speaking from the point of human government of the recent 300 years, democracy is actually an infant.
The great human image in the book of Daniel signifies human government. At the end, human government will be partly democratic and partly autocratic. For this reason, some people say that half of the countries in the world is democratic, and the other half is autocratic. Actually this is not the case; rather it means that there is democracy within autocracy, and autocracy within democracy. For example, such is the case with the United States now as well as mainland China. Currently, they are condemning China for being autocratic, dictatorial; actually China not only has the People’s Congress, but they also have different parties and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). What is the CPPCC? It has all kinds of parties, including the nationalist party. But as far as China is concerned, democracy belongs to the periphery, whereas one-party autocratic rule is central. They even clearly stated that one-party rule is the dictatorship of the proletariat. Basically, they do not speak of autocracy. Actually, capitalist rule is also an autocracy!
Similarly, can United States be considered a model of democracy? Today, if you want democracy, just like Sun Yat-Sen’s Three Principles of the People, which is nationalism, civil rights, and people’s livelihood. Civil rights are actually the working out of democracy. The Zealots in the Bible were purely political; at the end, they were all destroyed by the Roman Empire. Did the Bible tell us to pray for the Zealots? No! The problem is the world is not going in the direction of democracy. Democracy is only a naïve idea, a childish dream. This is speaking from the viewpoint of the government of the world. But today, we are saying that under today’s
environment of autocracy, we need to take the God- ordained way!
Traditional Christianity Being a Dead-end Road
Today, we are talking about taking the God-ordained way. This is not a question of whether to take it or not; this is a question of life and death. If you do not take this way, there will be no way for you to go. If you do not change, and still continue in the way of traditional Christianity, the way of big meetings, you are on a dead- end road with no way to go on. It does not matter if you have two thousand, three thousand, or five thousand people; you will have no future. This is because this is the world situation; it will not allow you to go on this way. Actually, the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan is also going the way of autocracy. Taiwan says they do not want the autocracy of mainland China, and mainland China says they do not want the autocracy of Taiwan. Today, those who are working out democracy are really nonsensical!
The New Pattern for the Church Being the Establishing of Relationships
Today, the new model for the church life is built on relationships. As I have spoken previously, there are four kinds of relationships: first, friends; second, brothers, third, partners; fourth, disciples. This means that the contact, the connecting network of the new model for the church life is a network of relationships; its principal object is to establish relationships. Then there can be gospel, home, group, district, Lord’s Day meetings, etc. In other words, gospel, home, group, district, and the Lord’s Day meetings all hang on the network of relationships. Thus, gospel, home, group, district, and the Lord’s Day meetings are not everything; just like a man’s body does not only have bones, but also has muscles, nerves, blood vessels, etc.
Good “Relationships”: Full of Caring, Sharing, and Fruit-bearing
You say a person has a good complexion because his blood circulation and nervous system are healthy. Similarly, when you say a church is good, it does not mean that she only has good Lord’s Day meetings, but much more she has a good network of relationships. Apparently, meetings are first in the church life, but
actually, the real nucleus and spirit of the church life are in the relationships built up through care, share, and bear. Thus, everything is carried out in the relationships. What use is any church that merely has many so-called good meetings yet without the caring, sharing, and fruit-bearing?
If you ask those who attend today’s “mega churches” why they meet there, most of them will tell you it’s because of the speaker or for financial reasons. There are no personal relationships! He comes by himself and leaves by himself. You say he belongs to a church, but actually he does not belong to a church; he just comes to make up the number. Is there anyone in the Lord’s Day meetings who comes just to make up the number? Yes, many! Because there is not one who is building up relationships.
Building Up Relationship with the Lord
After my stroke, I was recuperating in Korea. In my reading of John 14—17, I realized that the thought in that passage was basically on relationships. The Lord Jesus said in chapter 5, “You search the Scriptures…Yet you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (vv. 38-40). Actually, “come to Me” is to build up a relationship with Me. What is meant by eating the Lord, drinking the Lord? Actually, that is to come to Me, eat and drink of Me, and have a relationship with Me. For example, the Lord Jesus said in chapter 14, “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me,” and “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in You” (vv. 10, 20). These are actually speaking of a relationship, not a congregation nor an organization. He is speaking of the relationship between the Triune God—the Father, Son, and Spirit, and the relationship of the Triune God with the believers.
Building Up Relationship with Man
After you have a relationship with the Triune God, then you need to build up a relationship with others; that is the fruit-bearing in chapter 15. Once you have borne some fruit, you will have a relationship as believers with others, progressing from friendship to brotherhood. Then in chapter 17, the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father, “I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected into one” (v. 23). All this is speaking of building up relationship. The entire book of the Gospel of John does not speak of congregation or organization. It does not care for those things.
Taking the New Way Being to Work Out “Relationship”
Thus, now that we are taking the new way, regardless whether it is the vital groups, one-on-one shepherding, shepherding by “dripping”, or home meetings, they are all for the working out of relationships. The first relationship is not so spiritual: just have an enjoyable time as friends. Just like Brother Nee said in a message that the Lord Jesus came first to be a friend of sinners before He became their Savior, not first to be a Savior then a friend. You see from the record in the Gospels, He was first a friend, then a Savior. But some of us pursue spirituality to such an extent that we cannot be friends unless we are brothers. However, the Lord Jesus was first our Friend, and then He became our Savior. This is not my word; it is Brother Nee’s.
Relationship of Love and an Open Home
At the end, when Brother Lee spoke on love, actually it is on cherishing and caring. At that time, he performed “surgery” on a brother’s house: he said they were making the brother’s house like a fortress, and that was not right. If you only allow those who are spiritual to live in the brothers’ house, how can you gain those who have not met in a long time? How can you care for man, gain man, and bear fruit? It will become a closed brothers’ house. Back in the days when we met in Elden Hall, as soon as a brother and a sister got married, they immediately opened their home, and in the earlier years, they opened even their bridal chamber and never built up their own nest. But later, for the sake of better blending between the newly-weds, they were allowed to move out to live on their own. After a few years, their homes are not open anymore. This opened a big back door for the younger generation. Actually this is very important. Once you do not have a good beginning and there is not a good pattern, what follows will be worse.