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Message One

THE MINISTRY, THE WORK, AND THE CHURCHES

The ministry, the work, and the churches are quite different in function and sphere, but they are really
coordinated and interrelated. Ephesians 4 speaks of the Body of Christ, but no discrimination is made
there between the churches, the work, and the ministry. The saints of the churches, the apostles of the
work, and the different ministers of the ministry are all considered in the light of, and in relation to, the
Body of Christ. Because whether it be the local church, the ministry, or the work, all are in the Church.
They are really one; so while it is necessary to distinguish between them in order to understand them
better, we cannot really separate them. Those who are in the different spheres of the Church need to see
the reality of the Body of Christ and act relatedly as a body. They should not, because of difference of
responsibilities, settle themselves into watertight compartments. “The church, which is His Body,”
includes the churches, the ministry, and the work. The churches are the Body expressed locally, the
ministry is the Body in function, and the work is the Body seeking increase. All three are different
manifestations of the one Body, so they are all interdependent and interrelated. None can move, or even
exist, by itself. In fact, their relationship is so intimate and vital that none can be right itself without being
rightly adjusted to the others. The church cannot go on without receiving the help of the ministry and
without giving help to the work; the work cannot exist without the sympathy of the ministry and the
backing of the church; and the ministry can only function when there is the church and the work.
This is most important. In the previous chapters we have sought to show their respective functions and
spheres; now the danger is lest, failing to understand the spiritual nature of the things of God, we should
not only try to distinguish between them, but sever them into separate units, thus losing the
interrelatedness of the Body. However clear the distinction between them, we must remember that they
are all in the Church. Consequently, they must move and act as one, for no matter what their specific
functions and spheres, they are all in one Body.
So on the one hand, we differentiate between them in order to understand them, and on the other hand,
we bear in mind that they are all related as a body. It is not that a few gifted men, recognizing their own
ability, take it upon themselves to minister with the gifts they possess; nor that a few persons, conscious
of call, form themselves into a working association; nor is it that a number of like-minded believers unite
and call themselves a church. All must be on the ground of the Body. The church is the life of the Body in
miniature; the ministry is the functioning of the Body in service; the work is the reaching out of the Body
in growth. Neither church, ministry, nor work can exist as a thing by itself. Each has to derive its
existence from, find its place in, and work for the good of the Body. All three are from the Body, in the
Body, and for the Body. If this principle of relatedness to the Body and interrelatedness among its
members is not recognized, there can be no church, no ministry, and no work. The importance of this
principle cannot be overemphasized, for without it everything is man-made, not God-created. The basic
principle of the ministry is the Body. The basic principle of the work is the Body. The basic principle of
the churches is the Body. The Body is the governing law of the life and work of the children of God
today. (The Normal Christian Church Life, pp. 186-188, Watchman Nee)

THE ORGANIC RELATIONSHIP


BETWEEN THE CHURCHES AND THE WORK

Question: Could you share something concerning the organic relationship between the churches and
the work?
Answer: In every age since the time of Abel, the son of Adam, God has done some work. God has
never been silent. He has always done something in every age. Actually, the age is designated by God’s
work. God carries out His work by speaking. In every age God works by His speaking. For His speaking,
His divine oracle, He always uses a speaker. At Moses’ time, Moses was the speaker. At David’s time,
David was the speaker. At Paul’s time, Paul was the speaker. The speaker used by God does God’s work
by speaking, by the releasing of God’s word. Surely this speaking, the oracle of God, will result in
something.
Today we are in the twentieth century. God is surely working in this century. What is the work of God
in the twentieth century? In the twentieth century, God is doing the work of His recovery, and His
recovery is to build up the Body of Christ. If this is not the work of God today, what is? Surely God does
not want to establish and strengthen the Catholic Church and all the denominations. What is God doing
today? He is recovering the organic building up of the Body of Christ by the speaking of His ministry.
The speaking one surely wants the result of his work to cooperate with him to carry out God’s work.
Let us say that a brother preaches the gospel and some are saved. Would he not expect that these saved
ones would cooperate with him to extend the work of the gospel? Is this not needed? Then this brother
may go further to establish all these saved ones as a church through his speaking. Would he not expect
that this church would cooperate with him to carry on this work? Paul told the Corinthians that he and his
coworkers did not extend themselves beyond their bounds. But he expected that as he and his co-workers
worked with them, they would grow, and through their growth, Paul could extend his work. In order to
see this, let us read what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:12-16:
For we do not dare to class or compare ourselves with any of those who commend
themselves; but they, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves
with themselves, are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond our measure
but according to the measure of the rule which the God of measure has apportioned to us,
to reach even as far as you. For we are not extending ourselves beyond our bounds, as if
we did not reach you, for we were the first to come even as far as unto you in the gospel
of Christ. We are not boasting beyond our measure in others’ labors, but have the hope,
as your faith is increasing, to be magnified in you according to our rule unto abundance,
so that we may announce the gospel unto those parts beyond you, not so that we may
boast in another man’s rule in things already prepared.
The apostle Paul expected that what he preached to the church in Corinth would cause them to grow.
Then through their growth, Paul’s work would extend (see 2 Corinthians 10:15 and note 1—Recovery
Version). In other words, the work establishes the churches, and the churches cooperate with the work for
its furtherance. This is organic, and it is logical and normal.
Paul told the Philippians that he thanked God for their fellowship unto the furtherance of the gospel
(1:3-5). What is the fellowship unto the furtherance of the gospel? This was the saints in Philippi
participating in the furtherance of the gospel through the apostle Paul’s ministry. This was to help the
apostle’s preaching and to share with his preaching.
What is the relationship between the work and the churches? The relationship is this—the churches
should always help the work and cooperate with the work to promote God’s work, and the work should
try the best to always strengthen the churches, edify the churches, establish the churches, and build up the
churches for the building up of the Body of Christ. Thus, the churches and the work should be very much
in cooperation and coordination with each other. This is why we say that the churches should be one with
the ministry. This means that the churches should cooperate with the work for the promotion of God’s
move on this earth. It is logical for a Christian worker to expect the result of his work to cooperate with
the work for the promotion of God’s move.
I brought the recovery to the United States, and you received it. You are the result of my work. Should
I not expect that you all would be one with me, cooperating with me to promote the Lord’s recovery?
What is wrong with this? Some opposing ones have said that we should not say that we need to be one
with the ministry, that is, the work. They think that this is to build up the ministry. They are wrong. To be
one with the ministry is not to build up the ministry. To be one with the ministry is to help the ministry to
go on to further the Lord’s move on this earth. Eventually, the ministry does not build up anything for the
ministry itself. What the ministry builds up is the churches. Today there are over one thousand churches
around the globe. In Mexico, Central America, and South America, hundreds of churches have been
raised up within the last few years through the ministry, mainly through the printed publications and the
audio and video tapes.
In order for the ministry to go on, the ministry needs the churches’ cooperation, support, and prayer.
This is what it means to be one with the ministry. To be one with the ministry does not mean to build up
the ministry. To be one with the ministry means to strengthen and to help the ministry build up more
churches. When I speak to the churches in a conference, this does not mean that I am speaking to build up
my ministry. I am speaking to build up the churches. The more the churches cooperate with the work, the
better. Then the work will receive more strengthening, more help, and more encouragement to build up
and to raise up more churches, and even to edify the churches more, to strengthen the churches more, and
to build up the churches more. Then the churches will be greatly helped through the ministry.
By the Lord’s mercy, I have passed on the Lord’s recovery to you by speaking. I have been outside of
mainland China now for thirty-nine years. Through my ministry in these past thirty-nine years, over one
thousand churches have been raised up. The credit for this, without question, all goes to the Lord who
spoke through me, but without the support and cooperation of the churches, how much could I do? I did
not build up the churches directly. I just spoke the word of God. You brothers build up the churches
directly. I was surprised when I came here to see how the brothers are so much for the Lord, with the
Lord, and of the Lord. This has been your work. My part is to speak the word of God.
All of the churches today around the globe were raised up and built up by the Lord’s speaking through
Brother Nee and through me. The foundation was laid by the Lord’s speaking through Brother Nee. Then
the Lord used me to speak. But the direct building up of the churches is the work of you brothers. Moses
did not build up the tabernacle directly. The tabernacle was built by the children of Israel. Suppose that
the children of Israel did not cooperate with Moses. What could have come out? I came to this country to
pass on the Lord’s recovery to the saints, but if the saints had rejected this, nothing would have come out.
But so much has come out through you brothers. A great part of the credit for the Lord’s move should be
given to you brothers and to the churches. We have to realize that the enemy hates this. We need to pray
concerning anything negative that rises up against the proper, organic relationship between the churches
and the work, the ministry. (Elders’ Training, Book 9: The Eldership and the God-ordained Way (1), pp.
84-87)

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