CONCERNING THE CHURCH LIFE
A CORPORATE LIFE
By its very nature the Christian life, which is the living out of Christ as life from within us, is a corporate life. Many expressions in the New Testament confirm this: we are sheep in God’s flock, we are living stones in God’s building, we are branches in the vine, we are members of the Body of Christ. Although we remain individuals, as Christians we should no longer live individualistically, that is, caring only for our own interests, activities, and goals. On the contrary, God desires that we live a corporate life, conscious of the Body of Christ, mindful of the things of others, and concerned for the building up of the church. Therefore, we are experiencing a recovery not only of the normal Christian life, but also of the normal church life.
THE HEADSHIP OF CHRIST
In the church life we all need to honor the headship of Christ. We are the Body, and He is the unique Head of the Body. No one and nothing can presume to usurp Christ’s headship. We cannot tolerate any system, organization, or leadership that insults the headship of Christ. Among us there is no permanent, official, organized leadership. Furthermore, there is no hierarchy. Rather, all the members of the Body are encouraged to have direct fellowship with the Head and receive from Him all directions concerning their life and movements. We recognize no subheads, no intermediaries between Christ and the members of His Body.
Even as we honor the headship of Christ, we also enjoy the fellowship of the Body of Christ. We recognize that, in Christ, we should no longer live in an individualistic way. On the contrary, we greatly value the fellowship among the members of the Body. How we enjoy the flow of life that circulates through the Body of Christ! We testify that this flow, this fellowship, is a blessed reality.
Another vital concern in the church life is the keeping of the oneness. Before He was crucified, the Lord prayed that those who believe in Him would be one even as He and the Father are one. Therefore, we must diligently maintain the unique oneness of the Body of Christ, which is expressed in local churches established on the ground of oneness with all believers in a locality. We must care for the oneness; therefore, we must repudiate all division and abhor it. What a shame and a reproach to the testimony of the Lord is the divisive state of today’s Christians! In the church life, we stand for the unique oneness of Christ’s Body. In order to maintain this oneness, we meet as believers on the ground of oneness, we receive all believers according to the common faith, and we seek to grow in Christ so that we may be with Him in the Father and in the Father’s glory, where we are perfected into one. We believe that the Lord’s prayer in John 17 will be answered on earth and that as we are perfected into one, the world will believe and know that the Father has sent the Son.
MUTUAL CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER
In the practice of the church life, we care for the saints, the believers in Christ, in a practical way. We delight to bear one another’s burdens, to extend hospitality to visitors, to open our homes for fellowship, and to meet the practical needs of the brothers and sisters through loving service in the name of Christ. We encourage one another, refresh one another, minister Christ as life to one another, and build up one another. Our church life is not limited to meetings in our place of meeting; it goes on all the time.
In the church life we also honor the conscience of others. This means that all the believers in Christ have the liberty to follow the Lord according to their conscience and in the light they have received from God through His Word. There is no external control molding and manipulating our daily lives, and there is no authoritarian disregard of our conscience. There is no coercion nor compulsion. Rather, all are encouraged to deal thoroughly with their conscience in the sight of God and to maintain a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man. Thus, we care for our conscience and for the conscience of others.
Because the church life is a meeting life, we usually have meetings several times a week. To us, meetings are not a drudgery; they are an enjoyment. In the church meetings we are supplied, instructed, strengthened, encouraged, enlightened, inspired, equipped, built up, and commissioned by the Lord. In the proper church life there is a balance between the personal Christian life and the corporate meeting life. The personal time with the Lord cannot replace the meetings, and the meetings cannot replace the personal time. We delight to meet with Him individually, and we enjoy even the more meeting with Him corporately. We testify that in the church meetings the resurrected Christ truly is with us as we are gathered into His name.
THE FUNCTION OF ALL THE MEMBERS
In the church life every member of the Body can function. Although we do not all have the same function, we all have a function, and the function of every member is appreciated. We absolutely repudiate the clergy-laity system as a strategy of Satan to frustrate the function of the members of the Body of Christ. In the local churches we have no clergy and we have no laity; rather, we are members of the Body, all of whom have the right to function according to their measure. Furthermore, we have no pastor and no janitor. All the saints may share in the meetings, and all may also partake of the cleaning service.