Building up believers and the New Testament church


The Work of Ministry

Building in God's house

In I Corinthians 3:9-17, Paul speaks about ministry: "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."

Here we see that God has a building, and that each man is building in it with gold, silver, and precious stones, or wood, hay, and straw. Some ministries are precious, and some have no value. A minister of the word of God must have been dealt with by God to have a ministry of gold, silver, and precious stones, building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. To build with things that last, everything of God that comes through a minister must pass through death. To be precious to God, it must pass through the cross. It must come under the testing of God; it must be proven.

Paul goes on to talk about us being the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelling in us as a church. His epistle to the Ephesians also speaks of this in the first chapter. Then in the second chapter, he speaks about the Spirit of God dwelling in our midst, building us together as a habitation for God. Every person in the body of Christ is called to build in some measure, even brothers that don't have a gift of ministry, or sisters that don't have a ministry of the word. Each one has a responsibility to build, but there are some to whom God has given grace for ministry to bring the church to God's end purpose. Ministers are given a gift and called to build in the church. What does this mean? Do we know what building entails?

"We are labourers together with God..." We're not laboring alone, or even collectively. We are laborers together with God. Without God, we cannot build in the church. Without the Holy Spirit, the anointing, the direction, the spiritual material we need, we cannot build. Preaching and teaching are intended to build in the church. We may be able to preach and teach with natural ability--or at least expound truth--but we cannot build. We must have confidence in God, because with that confidence comes a boldness in the Spirit to build. Then, with compassion and love, we can move with purpose to build.

Remember that you can never touch the person. They are always in the hands of God. But you have the responsibility to sow and to spend what God has given you. There are needs in all of our lives, and to meet those needs with the supply of the Spirit is ministry. It is building. There will never be a day that we attain and sit down to rest. We will always see the ultimate, and we will always see the needs, come with the supply, then leave the place for God to do the work. We ourselves never expect anything from the person, for they are in God's hand. This leaves the minister free. God puts a burden upon ministers, and the ministers release that burden so God can use it and the anointing can touch lives.

We need to know what it means to build. Some feel that this passage describes individual believers whose works will be burnt up, although the individual will be saved. But I personally think Paul is speaking to ministers, laborers with God, those that are given a gift, those that are responsible. Ministers will have to answer to God. Their labor may be burnt up, while they may be saved. However, they are responsible for their labor. Every man's works shall be manifest. What God has given us, what we build, will be manifest. We cannot escape the test. If we fail--if we have built with wood, hay, and stubble--our works will be burnt up. We ourselves may not be lost, but we will have wasted our time. If we're not building with gold, silver, and precious stones, our labors will be burnt up. So we need to realize what it means to build.

We need to have knowledge of what we are doing--a design, a plan--before we can move in it. You can't put on the roof before you lay the foundation. When there is a plan for a building, a man does not come in and build randomly here and there. We need to give direction. We can't say "Put on the roof" if there is nothing to put the roof onto. God builds precept upon precept. The minister must build upon a foundation that is already established in a person's life, and we are laborers together in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the superintendent, and He is building in an orderly way, building "line upon line, precept upon precept" (Isaiah 28:10). This is more than just going through a book of the Bible, although that may be done. If the Spirit of God sees a need and puts a burden on a brother to bring a series of sermons, and the Holy Spirit is moving through him, then we will listen to those sermons because we believe God can build something on our hearts. God may do something through one message, but the whole truth of God's word reveals that the work in you cannot be completed in one sermon. God will continue to sanctify you as long as you walk on this earth.

There is a balance between the inspiration of the Spirit and labor in the Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit must be in our midst to lead, but I don't believe He leads spasmodically or without order. Everything God does is to edify and build up the church. Ministry is systematic--meaning that we know what we are doing, and we build in God's plan. A man with a ministry will have a constant revelation coming to his heart, and he will labor with the revelation God has begun in him. When we come together with other ministers, we will be laboring for one purpose, because we see. The revelation possesses us, and we are the revelation. We are being made disciples, so we become the message and we give forth the message.

Ministering with a growing revelation

We all must realize that to understand God means to understand Him in the spiritual realm. No man can understand God in the natural. We must come to a spiritual understanding of God and a spiritual understanding of God's purposes. The revelation we see, the overall basis of our ministry, is the revelation that comes to our heart of who Jesus Christ is and what He is doing. Everything else that starts to become alive in a minister's or brother's heart will fit into the basic "building" or plan of God, and everything that comes forth must be "tied" to the word of God. The Holy Spirit ensures that each new area of truth fits into the revelation, on the basis of what God says in His written word. This provides a solid place. If ministry does not fit into the word of God, we should be questioned. Our desire should be for our ministry to be a ministry of God's word.

The vision or revelation we have received from God must stay with us constantly, because all that we continue to receive from God must fit into that overall revelation. As we grow in grace, our understanding of the overall plan will continue to become clearer. It will grow, and we will see more, and become more mature, even "mellowed" in our understanding. We will not compromise, but we will see more clearly the gray areas that we did not see clearly a year or two ago, or five years ago. These will start to clear up as you walk with the Lord. But in every time of ministry you will know what you are doing. Ministry is not "raising the shotgun" and blasting out, hoping you will hit something.

Our revelation can only grow as we step out and start to build. If we never step out and give what God has given us, we will never grow in understanding. We cannot wait until we see everything clearly. When we step on out, God will show us more. And as you really partake of the word, it is different from just reading it. You're partaking of it so God can share it through you. It is working. God is building Christ in you. Your life is being disciplined so that God can feed others through your life, and through the word that has become life in you.

The ministry as a whole must know where God wants them to build today. This must be fresh. It's not a matter of what you or I have learned, or what we read last month that was real to us then. We may have heard someone minister and it sounded good, and we can expound it as well as he did, but none of that is life to us! When we gather, we want to partake of life. We must know what God has for us today.

All ministry comes from the cross

All ministry that builds up the body of Christ comes from the cross. The ministry of life must come forth from the principle of death. All real ministry begins in who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. Everything that brings forth life must stem from what God has done at the cross. Your ministry--every time--must bear up under this scrutiny. No matter what depths of understanding you reach in the Lord Jesus Christ, this principle will always remain true.

What does the cross mean? It may seem like a simple question, but it is profound, with profound answers. This is one of the principles that will carry on throughout your entire ministry with other brothers. It affects how you minister what God is showing you, and whether you leave it in God's hands or bring it over into "the letter." We need to be very careful how we minister. Henceforth we know nothing "after the flesh" (II Corinthians 5:16). Everything is in the Spirit now, a completely different working. The cross is the tremendous secret that divides the Old from the New.

Read Romans 6, Ephesians 1:18-21, 2:16 (and all of that second chapter), and I Corinthians 1:17, 18,23. At Calvary, God not only forgave our sins, but He brought judgment on all sinners. When we realize this in more fullness, we will be able to realize what Paul said in II Corinthians 3:6: that God "hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." The cross is the difference in our ministry, and all ministry should be positive. It must end up in Jesus--who He is, His resurrection, what we are in Him. We are now moving from the basis of the resurrection of Christ. Romans 6 tells us that we have been crucified with Him, we are buried with Him, and now we are risen with Him.

Our responsibility is to hold up the vision of Christ, in whatever ability He has given us, so high that He can draw men to Himself. The vision of Christ will sever us from our connection to the world and bring true repentance. It will let us see how awful we are. Many people have never been brought to repentance because Christ has never been held up, and they do not realize that the cross severs. God has judged our old life, and salvation is not trying to live a good life. We are saved only if we have died and been resurrected with Christ, by faith. On the other side of the cross, all ministry will bring us into the fullness of what God has done.

When you see what the cross means, it will shed light on law and grace. We need to see this in ministry, because we cannot give an uncertain sound. If one ministers in the law and another ministers in grace, do you think people won't pick this up? Even if they can't put it into words, they will be confused, because the demands will be those they can't meet. The demands of the Spirit can be met every time! Even if we begin to expound from the Old, it must lead us into the New, because this is the only thing that will impart life. We do not live by the letter any longer, but in the Spirit. The cross meant that the ability of men was no longer recognized, and Christ was ascending. The cross brought the intervention of God into man. The cross had to come before the Holy Spirit could come to indwell man. The Holy Spirit now brings the reality of all that the cross means.

God judged the old creation. None of it was good. Not only did Jesus die on the cross for my sins, but at the cross God judged all of mankind's sin. The cross is the beginning of the ministry of the New Covenant. Everything in Christ Jesus is now in the new creation, the New Covenant. In the old, all is negative--what we were in Adam, what we couldn't do. But in Christ we're not under the law any longer; we are under grace. Everything here is positive. The cross is the only thing that can show us this. On the other side of the cross is resurrection, and this is what we must have. When we start to minister on the positive aspect of what we are in Christ, it brings the demands of the Holy Spirit upon each life and we begin to see each one submit to His authority. No matter what the cost, we must have this kind of ministry--the kind that demands the obedience of every member.

Paul said, "I don't know anything except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). All that was in God's heart is represented at the cross, because that is where He began, in His Son. It was His Son who pleased Him. It was God who raised His Son from the dead, and we are in Him. It is positive. None of us have ability in ourselves. What we are in Christ is our ability. We are more than conquerors in Him. Faith makes us partakers of all that Christ is. It is a baptism by faith--we died with Him, and now have been raised with Him (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12). Knowing Him in the power of His resurrection must become the expression of our lives. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Colossians 2:11-14: "In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross." The power of darkness was defeated at Calvary. He is not going to do it...He has done it. All we have to do is stand in what He has done.

So we need to preach the cross, what the cross really means, and let it be seen. Our lives should be saying "Amen." If we stand to minister, but our lives do not have that "amen" behind the message, we may as well sit down. The message must affect us first, or it will not affect anybody else. How can we expect God to use it for others if He can't use it in our lives? This doesn't mean we will be "spiritual giants" compared with everyone else, but if the message really grips us, if we really see what Jesus has done at the cross, we can't escape it!

Look at Ephesians 2:13-16: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end." The cross is the basis of unity. It is the basis on which the Holy Spirit is making us one. We need to see what the cross accomplished, and we need to be convinced of it. You may already see the revelation of the body of Christ, but you need to see this also, because the new body came out of the cross.

Ministering Christ by the power of the Spirit

"If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth..." I can only move in the ability God has given me. I can't be anybody else. If God has given me this ministry, He is my source of ability. "...That God in all things might be glorified through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 4:11), That is why we're ministering. The need is Jesus; the supply is Jesus. Your ministry is Jesus, whether it's feeding, stirring up, or comforting. Every supply is Jesus. Every need is a capacity for Jesus. Jesus is our sufficiency and completeness. God must show us what that means. We know in a measure that He is everything, but we need to experience it, and realize that the ministry God has given you is all Jesus. It doesn't matter if the truth He has shown you relates to the family, to discipline, to spiritual authority, or whatever it may be--it's all Jesus. You must relate it to Him, so that it all fits into the end goal.

The word must stay in Christ. It cannot wander into other areas. We are prone to get off track, but God will discipline us and bring us back. If we stay humble, I believe God will continue working in the life of each brother so that when we preach the word, we are always ministering Christ--not just in one-time ministry, but a continual supply. If we don't have this goal, this desire, we won't labor in what we are seeing, because we can become discouraged if we see something and want others to see it, but we can't make them see it. We must continue to labor in season and out of season, to give the Spirit of God a place to make the word alive in the other person.

Even with the "negative" that must come from time to time, our ministry must be positive. There must be judgment at times, a revealing of lacks, but in the end, ministry should give the people a positive place to move. "You can be this... (It doesn't matter what you are not.) "You are in Christ, and if you are in Christ, this is what you are." It is easy to condemn when we are not "measuring up." But ministry is given to bring us up! So we must get away from ministering in response to the lacks we see in each other or in the body of Christ. We are here to lift up Christ! We see the lacks, we see the needs, but that isn't what we minister to. We minister Christ.

Yes, to the sinner we minister differently. Here the law must have some effect, but we should always minister the reality in Christ. If we slip back under our own rule, the law will affect us: "Thou shalt not." But we need to see our liberty in Christ, a positive message: "We're free!" We need to know what that freedom means.

Power in the Spirit is ministry. Jesus told His disciples to go tarry in Jerusalem until they were endowed with power. That power was for ministry, for serving, and for living. God has given the power of the Spirit to do all the work that He has purposed to do. In everything that pertains to the body of Christ, our personal relationship with God, and our corporate relationship in the body, the power of the Spirit is the only way we can move. If our time of gathering is not in the power and anointing of the Spirit, it will have very little meaning. It cannot bring forth what we are looking for; it cannot feed our hungry souls; it cannot bring us together. It cannot bring us to a closer understanding and a sweeter fellowship.

So the power of the Spirit is the most important thing, if we will understand what that really means. The power of the Spirit, the anointing of the Spirit, the leading of the Spirit, the timing of the Spirit: all of this is embraced in the "power of the Spirit," because it's the ability of the Spirit that is ministry. God knows what we need, and to see His end results we must gather in Christ, allowing the Spirit of God to move through ministry in His timing.

It's important for the minister to be exacting with what God is speaking to his heart, because he is not just dealing with sermons or sermonettes. We're dealing with life-giving words, words that come from God, a vision that comes from God. It can only be given by God. It cannot be given by man, even though man is the instrument. Jesus said that His words were spirit and life (John 6:63). Many times, our humility will not allow us to rise to that declaration, but this is what God wants. He wants our words to be spirit and life. Jesus said: "I do not speak unless the Father speaks" (John 12:49-50). This does not mean that the Father spoke and then Jesus spoke; it means that Jesus did nothing separate from the Father. The Father and the Son move in union with one another, in perfect harmony. We too must come to be in perfect harmony with the Holy Spirit.

Functioning in the life of God

If we are not controlled by the Spirit, not being moved by the Spirit, directed in everything that we do, if we're not knowing the anointing of the Spirit in our lives, then we will not see God's results. We will only see what man wants to do. We must learn what it means to function in the life of God. The Spirit, the person of God, has been given, and we are to function in His life. He is to be in control. Our thoughts should be "in Him"--under His control--and now we must learn what it means to function in the Spirit, because if we can't let the Spirit of God control us so we can function together as ministers, how will we ever get the body of Christ functioning together?

We need to make every meeting meaningful to every member of the body of Christ. Every person should want to be there and moving up to the front seat where they can hear everything. God can do this, but I think it is partly the ministers' responsibility to function in the Spirit of God, to help make this happen. The Spirit of God will bring life through you--through the ministry He has given you. He will use you, and He will use us together. It's not all on your shoulders. The Holy Spirit is present, and it is on His shoulders. The authority and the control of the gathering is in the hands of the Holy Ghost moving through different brothers as channels to bring forth life to every member and build us together. The full responsibility is not on the minister, but the minister has a responsibility for what the Holy Ghost has given him.

There can be old concepts in our minds that block us from really knowing why we are here. We need to throw out some of these concepts and come into the life principles of what it really means to function in the Spirit of God. We must fellowship in the Lord with each other and in the revelation of God, until the measure of grace that is working in each one starts to give us confidence to move as the Spirit of God directs. We will find that God directs our fellowship, and what we say and how we lead. By the leading of the Spirit, He will use us. There may be a time when we "wait upon the Lord," but in those situations there is peace. It is a place of worship in our souls. It's not the uneasiness where everyone is waiting for someone to lead--so someone throws in a hymn!

Maybe we have trouble understanding how this all works, and we're not functioning together. The understanding will be born out of fellowship--not fellowship to see the revelation, but fellowship in the revelation. We don't share with others to help them see with their understanding, in their minds, but so that after we have seen the revelation, we can look at it, pray about it, see how God wants us to move, and realize that we each have a responsibility. God has given you a gift for one reason: to use it!

Moving with knowledge

Are you moving with knowledge to accomplish the aim and purpose of your gift? Do you know what you are doing? Is each minister, with the measure of grace that he has from God, moving with knowledge in what God has given him, to bring forth the aim of his ministry? It sounds like a simple question, but it touches every part of our lives.

For example, those who have wives, are you ministering to your wife with knowledge and purpose, or do you only minister when an action becomes absolutely necessary and you see that there is a need? In training your family, do you minister only when you are encouraged to give of yourself a little more--or are you moving with knowledge? In everything we do, we must move with knowledge--with an end in view. It is not our end, but God's end. We need to know what God is doing, and move in the knowledge God has given us, even if it seems small to us. We don't need to be as knowledgeable as someone else, but we need to know what we're doing with what we've got. We cannot just function because it is expected, nor go beyond what God has given us. Maybe at times we think too much is expected, but let us move with the knowledge that we have, and not be ashamed of it, because we may have more than we realize.

This is very important, because unless you can move with knowledge, you'll not move with faith. If you're not moving in faith, it is easy to become discouraged if your message is not received. If you're moving with knowledge, you can continue to bring forth the word until there is an expression. But if you're not moving with knowledge, you'll be looking at people's faces, looking at situations, and not judging according to spiritual knowledge. To judge by spiritual knowledge is to actually see what God wants rather than what you see before you, and to leave it in God's hands at all times to bring it about.

There are reasons why we may not do this, including self-condemnation, past teachings, and looking at ourselves in the natural rather than the spiritual. We do not want to think too highly of ourselves, but we should still see the value of what God has given us and move with His knowledge in how to use it. It is one thing to know a truth that God has spoken to our hearts, but we can destroy people all around us with that truth, if we don't move with knowledge.

For example, the assembly is not a place for ministers to come and work out God's personal dealing with them. Your dealing with God needs to be in your private place before Him. Often we find that this creeps into ministry. God is dealing with the minister, and it is a genuine dealing, but he mistakes it for a revelation to be brought to the church. The assembly is not the place to air God's dealings with us. It does not edify. It does not build up the body. When we do this, we are not moving with knowledge, not building precept upon precept from God.

On the other hand, a brother once said to me, "I don't know if what God is revealing to me is what the assembly needs right now." All of us might feel that way, but there is nothing God has given you that the assembly doesn't need. It affects the ministers first, and then it starts to affect other people's lives. As ministers start to fellowship, we find out how it functions. Whatever is real in our lives, no matter how varied it is, let us not think too lightly of it, because God has worked it in. Maybe He hasn't worked the same thing yet in another brother, but He will do it through your ministry--through what He is doing in you and revealing to you. You may not see at this moment how it is needed, but in our fellowship as ministers I think God can give us understanding and fit it all together. We can move in knowledge to bring what God is making real to you, and as we move together and start to function, we will see what God has revealed to us come into expression.

Do we know when the word that God wants to speak has been spoken? When it has been spoken, there is no need to say more. What is needed after the message has gone forth? At that point we may need brothers that discern what the next step is. For example, it may be a call to prayer, or we may need to go home and meditate upon the message, or pray for each other. This is where the functioning of elders and ministry comes together. We need the spiritual authority that flows through them to bring the assembly to a place of unity. We need to see together and function together, so none of us will get out and destroy what God has already tried to do through another brother.

Discernment and sensitivity

To reiterate, I think it is of utmost importance to learn how to function in the Spirit and how to move with knowledge to build. Man cannot work this; God has to work this in our lives. We should minister in such a way that people are brought to the point of action, or to the place where more ministry, more building can follow. Are we able to discern whether there is a need for more building? We can minister in such a way that we have "shut them down," and there is no point in anybody else following.

When you stand before the people, you can discern in the Spirit whether they're going to sleep, getting restless, or whether they are opening up and listening. Sometimes even the natural person sitting in our midst can discern more than we who are supposed to have the Spirit. We shouldn't be engrossed in our own message. We should be moving with knowledge. When we see that hearts are open, we are sowing seeds, and we're building. But when people start to shut down, we might as well quit and go home, if we have shut them down. It's also possible for people to come in already "shut down." Wrong ministry over a period of time can close the hearts of people so that they're not expecting anything. But now ministry must exhort, stimulate, and bring back openness so that they can feed. The Holy Spirit puts His demand out there so that we want more. People start to experience the word, talk about it, fellowship in it. When God begins to speak to our hearts, we can't keep quiet. We're going to talk, to share back and forth. We can see over a period of time whether people are starting to partake of the ministry as a whole.

If we go around and ask people, "What was the message last week?" and nobody remembers, something is wrong! The ministry is having no effect. People don't have to remember everything, but if it hasn't had some effect, if God hasn't spoken something to them, then we haven't done any good. We should know what is happening. God hasn't called us to be blind men. We must be able to discern the spiritual atmosphere in which we are ministering. If we come together and everybody is tired, we ought to be able to discern it and see what is needed. Maybe we need to go home and sleep! That's not unspiritual; that's just being spiritually wise. Why preach a message of tremendous value which nobody hears because they're physically tired? Or maybe the people need to be exhorted or stimulated, to be brought to a place where they're able to receive what is needed. As our appetites grow and our capacity increases, we will be able to take more. We'll be brought to a place where we no longer just praise God when we feel like it; we will have more capacity for praise, and there will also be a greater capacity for ministry. But the ministers should be able to discern, or we will just be floundering rather than moving with purpose.

If we have moved with knowledge, yet there is a need for more, we leave a place for other ministry. We don't need to ask, "Is there any other ministry?" If we realize that our ministry has not brought the climaxing demand of the Spirit, but we have built, then we should leave a place for the next brother to continue to build, so that everyone doesn't "close down." If you ever stand to speak after people have closed down, you might as well sit down. Even if the message is burning in your heart, you'll be "fighting" because the people have been wearied.

So as we move together with knowledge, we must also move with spiritual discernment. Together, we should be able to discern the capacity of those that are hearing. God might want three to speak, or four, or just one. But whatever He wants, can the ministry discern it together? The elders have their responsibility in this, and they need to move in the grace that is working in them. But ministers must be mindful of both need and capacity, and when the listeners have had enough, there is no sense in going further. The Spirit is the only one who can tell us this. We will make mistakes, but in our mistakes we need to learn.

For the body to hear clear direction means that the ministry will have to work at it. Just because we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led doesn't mean we won't also have to work at this. Our fellowship is not only coming together and sharing what we have seen, but in the love of God, evaluating and encouraging one another by sharing things we may have done wrong, as we move together from week to week. All of us should be willing to adjust ourselves. We cannot think of ourselves more highly than we ought to. We don't necessarily change the message; sometimes we just need to adjust how we are presenting the message.

This will require us to think in God! It will put a discipline upon us that we have not had to exercise before in any great degree--a demand upon us that maybe we haven't allowed before. In the past, we may have moved in a kind of "sloppy freedom." But this will allow us to keep ourselves in the love of God because each one of us will have to change some of our ways. We will have to adjust what God is revealing to us so that it can fit in, and so we can function together, because this is what we are expecting the body to do! Isn't this what we expect our message to do: to get everyone functioning together, not looking at each other, but at Jesus? We must be doing the same thing. If we see the seriousness of this, and we see what God has done, we will start to move. It may take a little time, but the message will clear up as it comes through us, whether we are few or many. The message will start to be single, and the demand will be put on the body by the Holy Spirit because we have submitted more and more to the Lord.

We must see that some of our ways just don't meet the need! Whatever it is, let us cut it away. I find that in cutting something away, there is a greater force released. Where we are losing energy in certain areas, if we cut that away, maybe God can blossom out some other fruits that we haven't been able to see before.

Systematic ministry and the timing of God

We need to have such a liberty in ministering, that if God starts to reveal to a brother and give him a burden to prepare a series of messages on a certain topic, a "systematic ministry," rather than individual messages, we are open for any ministry God moves on any brother's heart to fulfill. Rather than only "spontaneous" ministry on certain subjects, we also need to have a place for ministry God would give to bring forth sound and grounding teaching. Sometimes we come together to hear different ones each bring a segment of truth, but we are not in a set order. God can change our order at any time it suits and fits into His working. There should be a wide area, a complete freedom in which we move.

We cannot move to the extreme of "only inspiration," or we get away from what God is building when He wants to lay down some teaching in our lives. It is not a "program" if the Spirit is moving on a brother to bring a series of teaching. God wants to ground and settle us, and we should leave place for everything. I don't feel it is out of place for the Spirit to move on a brother to say, "I feel God wants to work through me and use me to bring a series of teachings on this topic..." If God sets aside a special time, that is the order of the Spirit until it is finished. The brother continues to labor until the message God is working in him is delivered. We need to set aside time for it to continue to unfold. It shouldn't be one message, then another one two or three weeks later, or it doesn't build. We should also know that what God is working through a brother in this way harmonizes with the other ministry. The ministry and the oversight should be responsible to evaluate the Spirit's moving.

If a man lets it be known that he will minister more than just one time, hearts can be prepared to receive that message. There could be times when it is important enough for understanding in a certain area to call a week of meetings. But we must always keep it open to what the Spirit of God wants to do in our time of meeting, without getting into a "program." God might want to do something else, and we should let the Holy Spirit move through each one to bring what He wants. If we don't do this, then we do get into a form, and there are many who would move toward a completely "spontaneous ministry" quicker than they would a "grounding and settling" teaching and breaking of the word, because it tends to meet an emotional need for the moment. But God is moving in a full-rounded of ministry in all of our lives. It is not "lopsided," and it will produce the purpose God has in mind.

If you come to a meeting with something burning in your heart, but you see that the Spirit of God wants to do something else, you don't want to press past what He is doing. You can wait. Any of us can wait. You don't have to give that ministry "right now." I believe that if a brother stands up and says, "I must give this right now..." he is in himself. When we are building for eternity and we are here week after week, we know each others' lives. If we say we have to give this message "right now," we're not building. We're moving in our feelings. When a man is building, he sees and builds with purpose, bringing forth a revelation God has given him, building over a period of time. You don't build in lives in just one message. So we can wait on God and we can wait on each other, and we can still look for the perfect timing of God. Then, when we know that a message is what God wants now, we can move in it with confidence, assurance, and understanding.

Here's another situation. Let's say a brother is seeing something, and he sees the need for it in the body. He goes before God and asks God to show him how it can be given to others so they can partake of it. He ministers once and it is not received--others don't see it. I feel that he should go back and ask God to break it on his heart again, and to give him a new way to present it. But what if he comes again and the brothers and sisters still don't see it, and the brother is still convinced it is true and needful? Maybe he has shared it with other brothers and they started to see, and agreed that it was true, and what God wants. But the overall brotherhood or the overall congregation does not see. Then he should start to get different brothers to pull together, to pray together, and work together in it, and he comes again with further instruction, with one purpose: to allow those that are hearing to partake of that truth he is presenting.

We need spiritual knowledge and wisdom to know how to continue with any particular area of ministry, not just repeating the same things over and over, but actually building, time after time. When we build in people's lives, we don't stop with one message. One message can stimulate us, give us truth, and start us off, but more building is needed. Ministers need spiritual understanding to know how to continue laboring in one area and not weary people.

As ministers learn to function together, we need to learn confidence in one another, confidence in ourselves with what God has given us, and not to be in a hurry, yet be "on time" with God. We should say what God is saying and move as He moves, in union with Him, and then sit down and be still. If you only have a twenty-minute message and that's what God is saying, say it and leave the impact of the message! Don't try to carry it on and on, just to take up time. We're here to build with knowledge and understanding, and we should gain these wherever God gives us the opportunity.