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Our Church Life in the Face of Covid-19 (5): The Practice of the Church Life during the Community Quarantine

Over the past two and a half months of community quarantines in various parts of the country, we have previously written four messages to the brothers and sisters. Now we feel burdened to share a word regarding the practice of the God-ordained way in the church life during these times, in four major aspects: (1) the vision of practicing the groupings—entering a new revival; (2) the importance and formation of the groupings; (3) the God-man living required for the practice of the groupings—a life of morning revival; and (4) the God-man living that the practice of the groupings should have—a life of prayer. Although we cannot predict when the quarantines will be lifted or know when the pandemic will stop, whatever the environment may be, we still need to actively practice the church life. We must endeavor to go on in the vision, living, and practice of the God-ordained way to become the means and channels of the Lord’s blessings.

The Lord’s servant, Brother Witness Lee, taught us in his book “The God-ordained Way” that there are three aspects of the church life: (1) the high peak of the divine revelation, (2) the God-man living, and (3) shepherding according to God. These are all for entering a new revival. In the book “The Vital Groups”, he mentioned that the group meetings should constitute 80% of the church life. Therefore, the small groupings are the focal point, the life pulse, and lifeline of the church life. The six items mentioned in Acts 2:46-47 are all needed for the increase of the church: (a) day by day, (b) continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, (c) breaking bread from house to house, (d) they partook of their food with exultation and simplicity of heart, (e) praising God and having grace with all the people, and (f) the Lord added together day by day those who were being saved. All these points indicate that many practices in the early church life were from house to house. Although we cannot go out in the midst of the pandemic, with the help of modern technology, these practices from the early church life can still be universally practiced among us.

The Vision of Practicing the Small Groupings—Entering a New Revival

Habakkuk 3:2 says, “O Jehovah, revive Your work in the midst of the years.” Among God’s elect, there has been a longing for a revival. As long as we are saved, whether intentionally or unintentionally, there will always be a longing or a prayer within us day by day: “O Lord, please revive us.” Today, we can reach the high peak of the divine revelation and enter into a new revival through the ministry of the age. If we are to serve God, our vision must be from the first vision of Adam in Genesis all the way to the consummation of the church, the New Jerusalem. This is the complete vision.

In the Lord’s recovery, we only have one vision, one seeing. We speak the same thing and serve the Lord in one accord. God in Christ became a man so that man may become God in life and in nature but not in the Godhead in order that we may be mingled together to become one organic entity. Towards this end, we need to pass through the processes of regeneration, sanctification, renewing, transformation, conformation, and glorification. First John 3:2 says, “If He is manifested, we will be like Him because we will see Him even as He is.” We may have seen the high peak of the divine revelation, but we still need to put what we have seen into practice. This practice will bring in a new revival, the greatest revival, and perhaps the last revival before the Lord’s return.

For this purpose, we need to practice living a God-man life, that is, a life that constantly passes through death and resurrection. This new, heavenly, and divine living, where divinity and humanity are mingled, will govern every aspect of our lives and deliver us from opinions, divisions, contempt, criticisms, and murmurings. If we live such a life, we will surely go out to contact people and preach the gospel. The vital group is composed of such people. If we live such a life, we are able to lead others to salvation, edify people, establish local churches, and even build up the Body of Christ. Let us all declare, “Lord, I want to live a God-man life and become an overcomer. I want to be the Zion of Jerusalem. I want to have a part in this new revival.”

In addition, we need to shepherd according to God, with the loving and forgiving heart of the Father, and the shepherding and seeking Spirit of the Savior. In this way, we can enter into a new revival. We must learn to shepherd according to the Lord’s pattern when He ministered on the earth. In Matthew 9 and Luke 15 we see that the Lord came to the world to take care of everyone. Everyone rejoiced, was comforted, and rested because of Him. We also saw in 1 Corinthians 15 and Philippians 1 that in resurrection, He became the life-giving Spirit, that is, the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ to feed people. When we all accept this burden to shepherd, there will be a genuine revival in our midst. If all the churches would accept this teaching to participate in the wonderful shepherding of Christ, there will be a great revival in the Lord’s recovery. 

The Importance and Formation of the Small Group Gatherings   

Acts 2:46 tells us that on the day of Pentecost, the believers were gathered from house to house. The meaning of the original text “from house to house” refers to the believers taking the home as the meeting place, taking the home as the basic unit of their meeting. Hebrews 10:24-25 say, “And let us consider one another so as to incite one another to love and good works, not abandoning our own assembling together, as the custom with some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more as you see the day drawing near.” The gathering here refers to the “small group gathering” we are talking about. Small groupings constitute the main part in the church life of a Christian. The New Testament also tells us that aside from the small group gatherings in homes, the entire church should also meet in one place (1 Cor. 14:23). However, we must see that the small group gathering is more basic. If there are no small group gatherings, it will be difficult for the church to increase. The lack of increase among us is mainly due to the lack of saints having small group gatherings in the homes. Hence, the Lord’s servant, Brother Lee, fellowshipped to us that the small group gatherings should constitute 80% of the church life.

Gospel preaching, nurturing, cherishing, nourishing, and perfecting must all be done in the small groups. The small group gathering is the lifeline of the God-ordained way. Any work among the saints requires the small group gathering. Without the small groups, people cannot be retained. However, if we have the groupings, then all our labor on them will be successful. We do not bear fruit mainly because we lack the small group gatherings. If we do not have small groups, then it would be difficult to overcome our barrenness. The big meeting is like the tree trunk, but a tree cannot bear fruits by simply having a tree trunk. The tree trunk needs new and tender branches. Branches can bear fruit. In the church life, the branches are the small groups. According to the New Testament, if we would live in the Body, we need the small groups. Without the small group gatherings there will be no way to expand, increase, and multiply. 

How do we form the small group gatherings? First, in spiritual principle, we need to coordinate with the brothers and sisters to have much, thorough prayers. This enables us to be filled with the essential Spirit inwardly and to be clothed with the economical Spirit outwardly. Second, in the element and realm of Christ, according to our spiritual situation and present condition in and before the Lord, we need to have “intimate and thorough fellowship” with the coordinating saints. Through much and thorough prayers, and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, we must forsake our own preferences and choices, and respect and care for the feeling of our fellow members, to bring forth the condition of one accord. Lastly, we need to make a corporate Nazarite vow to the Lord (Num. 6:1-4), renewing our consecration, so that we can be the overcomers in the present age.  

In practice, we need to rearrange the name list of all the saints; everyone needs to be part of a small group to allow every member to function. The basic number of people in a small group is seven to eight people. When the number of people increases to fifteen or sixteen, then they may be “propagated” into two small groups. In forming small groups, we also need to consider the location, age, status, personality, character, and spiritual condition of the saints. We hope that through the practice of the small groups, every saint can use the talents bestowed on them by the Lord to function one by one. 

The God-man Living Needed to Practice the Small GroupingsA Life of Morning Revival

We need to have a living of being revived every morning and being renewed day by day (Lam. 3:22-23; 2 Cor. 4:16).  In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart; but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” The word used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “day by day” points out that the Christian living is not a one-day matter. We are being renewed day by day. This indicates that we must gain the Lord to be revived day after day. We emphasize being revived every morning; this is a revival in the inner life. Every morning, our spirit needs to be like the rising of the sun in its might (Prov. 4:18; Judg. 5:31). Regardless of how busy we are, we must spend time to contact the Lord by exercising our spirit. We must be revived persons. Hence, we need to establish a steadfast living of morning revival. We need to enjoy Christ as the best spiritual breakfast, coming to God’s throne of grace before the Lord who supplies us with bread and wine (Gen. 14:18-20). We need to gather Christ as our daily manna, sustaining us to live day by day. Morning revival causes us to be rooted in the Lord in order to grow and be built up (Col. 2:7a; Matt. 13:21). 

To exercise our spirit during morning revival, we need to do the following:

(1) Call on the name of the Lord:  David said in Psalm 119:147, “I anticipated the dawn and cried out; / I hoped in Your words.” “Calling” here is to call on the Lord, “Oh, Lord!” Crying out is to pray, to tell the Lord (Rom. 10:12a-13; Psa. 119:147-148). The longer we do this, the better.

(2) Pray-read the word of the Lord:  After calling, David said, “I hoped in Your words.” When hoping in the Lord’s word, it is best that we do not speak, lest we interrupt the speaking of the Lord. David also said, “My eyes anticipated the night watches, / That I might muse upon Your word.” This shows us that in the experience of the Old Testament saints, they had prayer, hope in the Lord’s word, and they mused upon His word. Today, for us New Testament believers, the easiest way to gain the Lord’s word is not to muse upon the Lord’s word but to pray-read His word (Eph. 6:17-18). We all must learn to call on the Lord’s name and pray-read the Lord’s word to exercise our spirit in order to touch Him. 

Morning revival has two aspects: 

(1) The individual aspect: The Lord’s charge to Moses in Exodus 34:2-3 shows that we all need to set aside a time alone to contact the Lord, to meet Him privately. In meeting the Lord privately, people and other matters must be set aside. Forget your possessions, education, career, and future. Do not bring along any person, matter or things, but go to meet Him privately (Life-Study of Exodus, Message 178, Section 2). If we do not go to the Lord directly and privately to meet Him, our relationship with Him will not be practical or detailed (Exo. 34:3; Matt. 6:6). (Life Messages, Volume 1, Chapter 2, Section 2) 

(2) The corporate aspect:  We also need to establish a corporate morning revival living to enjoy the Lord with the saints (spiritual companions). The practice of morning revival can be carried out (a) by two or three coming together face to face, (b) over the telephone, or (c) via internet video, i.e., Zoom, Messenger, etc. 

Daily revival causes us to be transformed. After having morning revival, we must exercise to keep ourselves in the spirit. We must do things and speak in the spirit. This is the living of being revived every morning and overcoming every day. If we live such a life of being revived every morning and overcoming daily, we will be able to lead new ones to enter into the same practice. With this revival comes a daily living of consecration. In this kind of living, we fellowship with the Lord, walk with the Lord, live in the Lord, become one spirit with the Lord, and even live out the Lord. This is an overcoming living. We do not need to wait for revival; rather, we must be proactive to be revived. We must determine, from now on, to be willing to live to the Lord and to be willing to live a life of revival. In this revived and renewed living, we will spontaneously (1) care for others, (2) share to others the Christ that we enjoy, and (3) go out to contact people. 

The God-man Living Needed to Practice the Small GroupingsA Life of Prayer 

Every saint must establish a life of prayer (Eph. 6:18). In everything we do, we can pray and we must pray. Prayer is the means for us to contact God. Prayer enables us to exercise our spirit to contact God. If we are a man of prayer, whenever we reach out to people, our words will come out of our spirit. Prayer can overturn our natural being. Some people do not care about releasing their spirit but only pray out of habit. Maybe we need some time of silence during the prayer meeting to overturn our natural life. Every moment, in every aspect of our lives, we should remain in His crucifixion and be conformed to His death (Phil. 3:10). In this way, we will be able to live Him out spontaneously, taking Him as resurrection (John 11:25). This is the God-man living.

We must pray together with our companions in our vital group for us to be vitalized. There is no other way to be vitalized except through prayer. Prayer is to be one with the Spirit. If we do not pray, we do not have the Spirit. Every morning, we must spend time to pray, drawing near to the Lord. In this life of prayer, we pray ourselves into the Spirit, which is the essential Spirit, the economical Spirit, and the all-inclusive Spirit. Then we learn to follow this Spirit by exercising our spirit. In addition, for us to be vitalized through prayer, we need to pay attention to the following points: (1) We need to rekindle our first love for the Lord through prayers of repentance; (2) In our prayer of repentance, we must thoroughly confess our failures, wrongdoings, evil ways, transgressions and faults; (3) We need to have close, intimate and thorough fellowship with our companions in the vital group. We must have companions who can labor together with us. According to the example in the Bible, Daniel had three companions (Dan. 1:6); we also need to have two or three to be our vital companions to pray together for the vital group to move forward; and (4) We must renew our consecration before the Lord. In Romans 12:1, Paul told us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

We should establish a life of prayer with our companions in our vital group (Jude 20). We must learn to pray in new ways to meet new needs. We should not repeat old prayers, which have the form of prayer, but are not genuine prayers. We should simply tell the Lord directly what we want: “Lord, we want to be revived. We are dead and cold. We want to be burning.” (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, p.67). Our prayers must be steadfast, persistent and watchful (Acts 6:4; 2:42; Col. 4:2). Because the enemy will stir up many things to hinder us from praying, every day we need to allot three periods of time for prayer. In the morning, we can pray for at least fifteen minutes. At around ten in the morning or at noontime or in the afternoon, we can set another time for prayer. At night, before going to bed, we can set another time for prayer (Dan. 6:10). Do not waste our time. On the contrary, we need to fill the gaps in our times with prayer. This means that we should pray unceasingly (1 Thes. 5:17).

Finally, we hope that every saint would do his best to attend the prayer meetings of the church. In 1960, 70%-80% of the saints attending the meeting during Lord’s Day in Elden Hall of the church in Los Angeles attended the prayer meeting. Let us pray to the Lord to increase the number of saints attending the prayer meetings of the church. In the matter of prayer, we must learn to stop praying with your own self as the means, praying habitual prayers or natural prayers. Not praying is a failure, but praying according to our self is also wrong. Matthew 6:7 teaches us to pray concisely yet full of revelation. Therefore, when we come to the prayer meetings, do not pray long prayers. The best prayers use short sentences. There is no need to make explanation or reasoning to the Lord in prayers. We simply need to tell Him what we want. We also need to pray for the increase in our number. We need to pray, “Lord, bring your people in like sheep.” We should never comfort ourselves when we fail in the matter of expansion. We really need an increase in the number of people. We need to pray for multiplication. We need to pray that the Lord will enlarge us and that He will bring people in like sheep (1 Tim. 2:4; Ezek. 36:37-38).

Brothers and sisters, we hope that during this time, we can make good use of technology platforms like Zoom, Messenger, Viber, etc. to exercise with our vital companions to practice the God-ordained way, to establish our morning revival and prayer life, and to bring in a condition of revival in the church.  

(A Word of Fellowship from the Co-workers in the Philippines)