THE CHURCH IN HAMILTON
The Lord’s Table Meetings of the Local Church
In the Lord’s table meeting, or the bread-breaking meeting (1 Cor. 10:14-22; 11:17-34) of the local church, the believers gather to participate in the fellowship of the Lord’s blood and body for their enjoyment (1 Cor. 10:16-17) and to remember the Lord for His enjoyment (1 Cor. 11:24-25). In partaking of the Lord’s table in the local churches we must “discern the body” (1 Cor. 11:29); that is, we must examine ourselves concerning the Lord’s Body, so that our standing as the local church expresses the genuine oneness of the Body of Christ.
Some basic matters related to the Lord’s table meetings in the local churches are:
The Lord’s table meeting is the bread breaking meeting (Acts 20:7), in which the believers come together to eat the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11:20) and attend the Lord’s table (1 Cor. 10:21).
The Lord’s table meeting is the most important meeting of a local church; it is for remembering the Lord with the remembrance of the Lord as its center for the Lord’s enjoyment.
Everything done in the meeting — whether the singing and speaking of the hymns, prayer and praise, Bible reading, or words of inspiration — should take the Lord as the center.
The attendants in the meeting should speak concerning the Lord’s person and work, His love and virtues, His living and suffering on the earth, or His glory and honor in heaven, that others may consider or realize these things in order to remember the Lord Himself.
Prayer Meetings of the Local Church
The prayer meetings of the local churches are crucial for the carrying out of God’s will on this earth.
In the following excerpt, Watchman Nee exhorts new believers to practice being in one accord in the prayer meetings of the local churches:
“The basic requirement for brothers and sisters to pray together is to be in one accord. In Matthew 18 the Lord tells us to be in harmony, that is, in one accord. The prayer in Acts 1 was also a prayer in one accord. Hence, the first condition for carrying out a prayer meeting is to have the one accord. No one should come to the prayer meeting with a different mind. If we want to have a prayer meeting, we must ask in one accord.”
“If two of you are in harmony on earth concerning any matter for which they ask, it will be done for them from My Father who is in the heavens” (Matt. 18:19). This is a very strong word. In Greek the word harmony refers to music. Consider three persons—one playing the piano, another playing the accordion, and the third playing the flute. When they play together and one plays out of tune, the sound will be very irritating. The Lord wants all of us to pray in harmony, not with different tunes. If we can be in harmony, then whatever we ask, God will accomplish. Whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. The basic condition is to be in harmony. We must learn to be in harmony before God. We should not pray capriciously with everyone still holding to his or her own idea.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 48, 203-204)
According to Watchman Nee’s fellowship, in a prayer meeting of a local church, the brothers and sisters must be in one accord, that is, in harmony. This harmony in the local church prayer meetings allows God to accomplish His will on the earth.
Small Group Meetings (Home Meetings)
We can’t emphasize more of the importance of the small group meetings, the home meetings in which all the believers are able to function, from the youngest believer to the most mature. From the very beginning of the church age as recorded in the book of Acts, the believers met from house to house (Acts 2:46). These meetings, which are still held in the homes of the believers, afford the believers the way to be nourished with the Word of God and to enjoy the Lord through prayer, singing, fellowship, and Bible study. In these meetings all the believers can mutually participate in teaching, asking and answering questions, and caring for one another’s needs. In this way all the believers can be helped practically and all can exercise to minister Christ to others for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Everything must begin at the beginning. When a church is founded, the believers from the very outset must learn to meet by themselves, either in their own homes or in some other building which they are able to secure. Of course, not every church is a church in a house, but a church in a house should be encouraged rather than considered as a drawback. If the number of believers is great and the sphere of the locality wide, they might need to meet, as the saints in Jerusalem did, in different houses (which may mean homes, halls, or any other building) instead of in one house. There was only one church in Jerusalem, but its members assembled in different houses. The principle of houses still applies today. This does not mean that the whole church will always meet separately; in fact, it is important, and of great profit, for all the believers to gather together quite regularly in one place (1 Cor. 14:23). To make such meetings possible, they could either borrow or rent a public place for the occasion, or, if they have sufficient means, they could acquire a hall permanently for the purpose. But the meeting place for the believers could generally be in a private home. If this is not available, and not suitable, of course other buildings could be acquired. But we should try to encourage meetings in the homes of the Christians.
The small groups comprise the major portion of the church life. If a local church is to be strong, the number of people attending the groups must be high. It is better that the number of people attending the group meetings exceed the number attending the Lord’s Day meeting. If this is the case, our church life will not merely be worship services, but a practical church life.
In keeping with the pattern established in the New Testament, we also emphasized the need for gospel meetings to be held in the local churches .In order for there to be a local church, the church must preach the gospel and the church must serve.
In the four Gospels, Acts, and the beginning of church history, the gospel meeting was always a very important meeting. After the church had become degraded, by the third and fourth century, the gospel meeting gradually lost its place and was replaced by teaching meetings. In order for the church to be strong, it must recover the place of the gospel meeting.
The church exists on earth not only for the purpose of building up itself but also so that others might know Christ. As far as the building up of the church is concerned, the gift of the evangelist can be relegated the last place. However, as soon as the church starts to spread out, the gift of the evangelist becomes the first gift. Philip’s journey to Samaria in Acts 8 is a strong proof of this. God first sends evangelists out to gain people to Himself with their gifts. We must change our old habit, the habit of meeting only for listening to messages. Instead, we must pay much attention to the gospel meeting.
If a brother learns to participate in the preaching of the gospel immediately after he believes in the Lord, he will not pick up the habit of sitting in pews and listening to messages. Instead, he will pick up the habit of preaching the gospel. In the gospel meeting everyone should participate actively in the work; no one should sit passively to listen to the message with little concern for the salvation of others.
The gospel meeting is a time when the whole church is mobilized. Every brother and sister has his or her responsibility. Everyone should pray much before the meeting. Those brothers who are more advanced in life and prominent in gifts can serve as the oracles for the gospel. The rest of the saints should pray in one accord for the speaking brothers, that the latter may release the gospel with power.
The children’s meeting is also needed. This is also a meeting of the local church in the aspect of the work.
We have children’s meetings in various localities. This requires that a few brothers and sisters specifically come forth to do this work. Sisters are perhaps more appropriate. In some places they use the Bible to teach the children to read and to memorize. The songs that they sing are composed from Bible verses.
There are brothers and sisters among us who are especially experienced with and burdened for the children. They prepared and provided some materials that the children in various localities may receive the benefit.
Prophesying Meetings of the Local Church
It is a very crucial recover the practice of the local church meeting in which all can prophesy (1 Cor. 14:31). In the prophesying meeting, all the believers exercise their spiritual function to speak their realization and experience of Christ for the building up of the Body of Christ. Such speaking is what Paul calls prophesying. In this meeting the believers prophesy; that is, they speak for God and speak forth Christ from the Word of God for the edification of the believers and for the building up of both the local church and the universal church (1 Cor. 14:3-4). The prophesying meeting provides believers the opportunity to participate mutually for the building up, encouragement, and consolation of all those in the meetings of the local churches (1 Cor. 14:3).
We have to help these perfected saints learn how to prophesy, how to speak for God. Prophesying in the church meetings builds up the churches for the building up of the Body of Christ. If only a few speak in the meetings of the church, the Body of Christ cannot be built up.
We must try our best to perfect and to build up all the saints to prophesy, to speak for the Lord. The more speakers there are in the church meetings, the better it is. This kind of speaking edifies the saints locally and builds up the Body of Christ universally. First, we need to exercise ourselves to speak for the Lord. If we will speak for the Lord every week, we will build ourselves up and we will grow. Then we will become living members not only of one local church but also of the universal Body of Christ.
We need to prophesy in the church meetings for the building up of the Body of Christ through the local churches (1 Cor. 14:1-5, 12, 31). We need to learn to prophesy, that is, to speak for the Lord and to speak forth the Lord in order to minister Christ to people. If we all exercise our spirit in the meetings to prophesy, we will have living, fresh, uplifted, and rich meetings. Then the universal Body of Christ will be built up through the local churches.
From these quotes by Witness Lee, we see that all the believers should learn how to prophesy, that is, to speak for God in the local church meetings. This kind of speaking ministers Christ to people and builds up the Body of Christ in all the local churches.
Bring Riches to Church Meetings for All to Enjoy
The ancient Israelites brought the rich produce, the harvest of their labor on the good land, to the feasts to offer to God. There they enjoyed fellowship with the Lord and with one another. Similarly, all Christian meetings should be a rich exhibition of the Christ experienced by His believers in their daily lives, through their spiritual exercise to contact and enjoy Him.
In the Old Testament type, all the children of Israel must come to Jerusalem with their hands full of the produce of the good land (Deut. 16:16-17). No one was to come with his hands empty. Each had to have something to offer to God, and that offering was the real worship to God. Today, in principle, it is exactly the same. Whenever we come together in the church meetings, the important matter is how much of Christ we bring. In the proper worship meeting, all the saints must bring something of Christ—not Christ in teaching or in doctrine, but Christ in their experiences.
The people of Israel first of all had to labor on the good land. They had to till the land, sow the seed, and reap the harvest. Afterward they had to grind the grains to obtain the flour for the meal offering. Then when they came together to worship God, they had something to bring and present to God as real worship. Today the Lord is going to recover this worship not only in spirit, but also in reality. Reality is just Christ as so many kinds of offerings.
When the Samaritan woman spoke with the Lord, she told Him how the Jews insisted to worship in Jerusalem, but her fathers worshipped God in another place. The Lord Jesus then told her that the dispensation had been changed. Real worship to God is not in this place, but in spirit and in reality (John 4:20-24). The reality is Christ as all the offerings typified in the Old Testament. We must have something of Christ experienced by us to bring to the tent of meeting, which are the meetings of the local church.
The second of the four things which we need in order to properly present the offerings to God is the tent of meeting. Leviticus 1:3 says clearly that we must present our burnt offering at the door of the tent of meeting before the Lord. What is the tent of meeting? This is the meeting of the local church. Without the church meetings, how could we present the burnt offering to God as His food? We all need the church meetings.
Today, many Christians say that they do not care for the meetings. As long as they are fellowshipping with the Lord in their home or somewhere else, they feel that it is all right. In a sense, it is all right, but it is not all right for offering Christ as the burnt offering to God. No Israelite in ancient times could kill a bullock for a burnt offering to God in any place he chose. He had to be at the tent of meeting. Only at the door of the tent of meeting was he able to present the burnt offering.
In the meetings we have a certain kind of sensation that is so sweet and pleasant. There is the sensation that something here is so unique, so pleasant, and so good. Try to imitate this sensation at home. You simply cannot do it. We all must come to the church meetings to present our burnt offering to God.
Lord's Table Meeting
The Church in Hamilton, 92 Youngs Road, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619
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