The Service of the Overcomer
IV. Building the church for the Kingdom
When the fingers of a pianist glide effortlessly over the keyboard in playing glissando like a second nature to him, it is because he truly knows the technique of piano playing and music theory. So, he can ‘will in his heart and accomplish with his hand’. His performance will spell bind the listener. The audience will be delighted in their hearts and uplifted in their spirits. On the contrary, if the performer is a Mr. ‘lip sync’ who haven’t got the faintest idea of doe ray me, he can only pretend. Other than fooling himself and others, what else can he do! If he really has to come through and pay up, then it would be like forcing him to jump off the cliff. The only way out for Mr. ‘lip sync’ is to exit stage left! So, for a person to ‘build a church’, there must be true knowledge.
The Chinese ancients classified people in acquiring knowledge into three groups. They are those: ‘who are born with it’; ‘who acquire by studying’ and ‘who acquire through suffering’. Confucius said, “Those who are born with knowledge are superior. Those who learn and know are next. Those who know through suffering are next. Those who suffering and learn not are inferior.” (Confucian Analects, Book XVI Ke She, Chapter IX.) In the millions of people in the world, most know by learning or through suffering. It is extremely rare to be born with knowledge. So, if we really want to have the true knowledge, we have to work hard on ‘knowing’! Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesis: That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give your spirit by revelation in the true knowledge of Him (Eph. 1:17). We also desire that God the Father would treat us graciously in this way! The following is a brief discussion on the three ways to true knowledge obtained though what I have once gathered:
A. Have to know the order.
1. Prayer should precede planning.
When Christ was on earth, He prophesied, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) What does this word ‘faith’ refer to? According to the principle of Bible interpretation, the scope of the boundary of a technical term is determined entirely by context. Since the word ‘faith’ is sandwiched between two the parables on prayer, there can be no doubt that the faith here refers to faith in prayer. The Lord clearly said that on the eve of His return, prayer meetings to seek His will in the church would be forgotten. What has replaced prayer meeting today is strategic planning. They are the products of the human mind. In other words, it is the model of the ‘Laodecian’ church (Lao - people; decia - habit, custom; autonomy, authority; judgment, demand. When all combined, it becomes ‘people’s customs, people’s authority and people’s decision.) People authority replaced God’s authority. There are only people’s activities and Christ’s authority cannot be seen. The church is unwilling to find God’s method, procedure and planning through prayer. On the contrary, it copies the unbelief of the world and loves the worldly customs of the unrighteous. It leads to God’s absence with the church! We trust that the overcomers would never be like this. We should know the importance of prayer. All the coordinating activities and orchestration of the church should be born in prayer and proceed through prayer. One would rather have no plans without prayer! One would rather have no progress without prayer! Everything in the tabernacle must be in accordance with pattern given on the mountain. Otherwise, one cannot have God’s presence!
2. Family comes after the church.
The present popular teaching among the western seminaries is frequently putting the family ahead of the church. They often use the three concentric circle illustration. From the center outwards would symbolize the three levels: Christ, family and church. Being polite, they place Christ in the core. But in reality, they severed Christ and His church into two halves. This is so sacrilegious! The reason is that the divorce rate among preachers today is rising at an alarming rate. No one calls it sin. The sin is: ‘Since the preacher puts the church as top priority, he has neglected his family responsibilities and personal duties!’ This kind of theory has completely forgotten the command Christ gave in Matthew 19:29. In reality, it is a smoke screen. It is a cover up using circular reasoning! A preacher has a divorce not because he loves the church too much. It is because his words and action are inconsistent! If he behaves like two different persons in the pulpit and off the pulpit, how could the wife who is with him day and night respect him? Let us say that after every sermon or Bible study, his other half would say to him, “My dear, you sermon has helped me a great deal today!” Or she says: “I received a lot of enlightenment!” The author would have a difficult time believing that she would divorce him! Dear preachers, if you are the pastor of the church, you are also the pastor of your wife. If you cannot build up your wife to love the church, how can you build up the congregation to love the church? “But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God? (I Tim. 3:5)
B. Have to know the priority.
1. Transformation education should be more than ordinary education.
Since the church is God’s school and the center to train personnel for the Kingdom, the education it offers is different from ordinary education. It is not so much in the process of education but rather the heart and desire of the teacher and learner. In particular, does the teacher have the ambition to ‘transform a spring breeze into a rain’? In ordinary education, if the teacher has discharged all his teaching responsibility in class, he can have peace of mind, go home and enjoy a well-prepared dinner! As to the student’s behavior after the class, he can take the attitude that ‘it is none of my business.’ If church education is also like this, what is the future of the church? I don’t think there is any need to comment!
Traditional Chinese education is originally a combined approach in teaching and transforming. There are such proverbs as ‘the spring breeze blows on the people and the summer rain falls on the people.’ There are also compliments on teachers such as ‘the spring breeze brings rain and transform all things.’ Things have reached the stage nowadays that not only ordinary education has forgotten the goal of education, even the seminaries are also imitating the world. They have abandoned their traditional responsibility and are running after the tail of the universities! Consequently, when the seminary graduate enters into the church, he is at best qualified to be a lecturer. He is unable to wake the deaf and give neither light to the dim nor able to turn the corrupt into the wonderful. So, the church ends up going down hill at every step! Overcomers, you are not only to teach ‘faithful men who will be able to teach others also’ (II Tim. 2:2), but also move and transform them! This is what said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (I Cor. 11:1)
2. Preaching should carry less weight than worship.
Lately, the Chinese churches that have been established or are in good health are still in the minority. The churches are either preemies or suffer malnutrition! As to the cause, it seems that they do not know what is the procedure in building up a church! While some of the coworkers are able to preach the gospel but as to building up a church, it is like groping in the dark. They spent their whole life messing around here and there without success. Consequently, nothing is accomplished except their hair has grayed! As a matter of fact, building up a church is not that difficult as one imagines. Our Lord should have the premier position in all things. The procedure in building up a church should also be so. The Lord’s day worship should be established first. Then the other things will follow accordingly. In the last days, the church has unknowingly turned the Lord’s day into the pastor’s day. The reason is that the believers come to church not to worship God but to hear the pastor’s sermon. In this way, the pastor of this church has unknowingly become the master rather than the guest. He has stolen the glory that God deserves. How can this please God? How can this have His presence? Overcomers, the first step in building up a church is to teach the congregation that they have to have a true knowledge of the Lord’s day worship. Worship is first. Hearing the sermon is secondary. Because “... You should worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” (Matt. 4:10) This is the eternal teaching of my Lord!
C. Have to know the limits.
1. No one has the power to make another believe in the Lord.
In this world, no one is able to make another believe in the Lord! For a person to believe in the Lord, it is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit restores the function of a person’s spiritual understanding, or in other words, has opened his spiritual eyes, he will see the practicality of salvation. He will also very naturally receive the Lord. God will accomplish in his heart the promises in accordance with the New Testament. He will make him obey God very naturally. He will understand his high and precious position in God’s sight. He will recognize the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent. He will also enjoy the peace and joy from the forgiveness of sins. All these are accomplished in a flash! (instant) In other words, the salvation of a person is entirely God’s work. It is our duty to tell others what God has done in our lives. The Holy Spirit will ask that person to believe that God will also accomplish the same in his life. God will complete it according to his faith! This is salvation. This is the gospel. This is what God does personally in people. Overcomers, you should know what you have and what is missing in your life. You cannot open people’s spiritual understanding. As for using worldly wisdom in accomplishing spiritual things, it is like using a knife with a dull edge. You have to be forthright in asking people to receive Christ and not drag the seekers in running round and round. Just treating a person in love and not guiding him to invite Jesus into his heart is only mixing him up! You should be direct and lead him to the Lord. Once, the Lord enters into his heart, everything else will take care of itself! In Hebrews 8:10-12, there are several ‘I will’ statements. Say Amen to them all. Praise the Lord.
2. There is authority as the son of God.
The Scriptures clearly says “... He gave the right to become the children of God, even those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) The believers not only have a new identity, but they also have a new authority. This word ‘authority’ is the same word Jesus said before His ascension: “All ‘authority’ has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18) Unfortunately, it has forgotten by the church in the last days. Or it can be said that it has been neglected. As a result, the mighty power of the resurrection of Christ cannot be magnified in the last days. This is such a tremendous loss! Especially for those of us who were sent by Christ and those who serve God, the loss is even greater! When the Lord sent out the twelve disciples, the Scriptures clearly say: “He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” (Matt. 10:1) But when the seventy were sent, the Scriptures did not say that they received any authority. But when they returned, they all said to the Lord, “Even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17) The Lord replied, “Behold, I have given you authority.” The Scriptures clearly tell us that God has given authority to those who believe in Him. (John 1:12) After we have authority, we should use it. Otherwise, having authority is the same as without authority. It is very pitiful! Overcomers, you are certainly clear about your calling. You were even sent. Since the Lord has His eyes on you, He definitely would not give hollow words. He has already given you authority and you ought to use it to magnify God’s presence and His mighty power. Because the Lord has promised: “... the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do!” (John 14:12) Praise the Lord! Learning has no end. Knowledge is as vast as an ocean, yet their end is never far away from ‘application’. While the content of theology is tediously detail and the truth of the Scriptures is extraordinarily deep, they are also precious for application. Because everything from God is intended not only just to turn our hearts and minds around, it also wants our body to practice them. May we overcomers know the order, priority, and limits when we do them. While there must be a plan to pastor a church but the plan must be born through prayer. The family must not be neglected but everything from the church is even more precious. Teaching with words is important but teaching by example is more important. While it is desirable to be a prophet to preach but the worship of God must surpass everything else. Lost souls need to be saved but we must rely completely on the Holy Spirit to open their spiritual understanding. The devil must be resisted and authority requires practice. When all put together, “... let your mind dwell on these things ... practice these things and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9) Amen!