I believe that pondering this item will be of much benefit to those who will hear it.
During the past conference, we saw that before times eternal, God had a will and a foreordained plan of His own. His goal is to have a group of people containing His life who are like His Son. The goal of God was to establish not just the individual Christ, but also the corporate Christ. This corporate Christ is the church. From this we can know that it is the church which God pays attention to today. Unfortunately, it is not only the carnal believers who fail to emphasize what God stresses, but even the spiritual believers fail to emphasize it. They always replace the church of God with many works.
Today what Satan causes man to do is substitute the church of God with various kinds of work. However, we know that the purpose of God from beginning to end is to have a corporate Christ, which is the church, so that Christ might be the Head and the believers might be the members. Satan is determined to destroy this plan. This is why he causes man to pursue various works in order to replace the church.
Today some lay much stress on preaching the gospel, and by so doing they replace the church with gospel preaching. There are many today who can surely preach the gospel and save sinners. And preaching the gospel is good, but if gospel preaching replaces the church and causes men never to think about the church, then we are definitely deceived by Satan. What I have said is not too strong. God's intention in gospel preaching is merely to collect stones for the church. If gospel preaching substitutes for the church, that is wrong.
There are some who establish missions, encourage foreign evangelism, zealously donate money, form national councils, set up organizations for foreign evangelism, and send missionaries to foreign lands for evangelistic work. But why do many people today know only missions and not the church? The reason is because from eternity past God's emphasis was the church, but man's emphasis in this age is missions. Many have forgotten the church! Mr. Gordon has said, "God never sets up missions; He only establishes the church." However, men today set up mission boards, evangelistic organizations, schools, hospitals, humanistic societies, orphanages, charitable associations (as the Methodist Episcopal Church does), and even Sunday schools to help others. Are these good or bad? They are good, but if man uses these to replace the church of God, God will never be satisfied. Do you see Satan's craftiness? Satan's subtle method is to utilize works used by God and substitute them for the church, which God in His eternal will intends to establish. If your eyes are open, you will see that all these things should be dropped and that you should turn your attention to the church, because the church life, the life of the Body of Christ, is the goal of God.
Many Christians may say, "We have not established mission boards, humanistic societies, Sunday schools, schools, and hospitals." Please do not speak so fast. You may not have done these wrong things on the negative side, but what have you done on the positive side? Many would think, "As long as I am zealous, victorious, and a holy Christian, that is good enough." Brothers and sisters, I say a strong word; these are not what God is after; they are not His unique goal. I am by no means saying that zeal, victory, and holiness are insignificant. These are significant, but they are not God's ultimate goal. What God desires is the corporate church, the building, the spiritual house. He is not after fragmentary or individual pieces of brick, tile, wood, or stone. God desires a body, not a finger or any other member. What God wants is the church. His desire is for Christ to have the preeminence in the church and to be Head of the church as well. Although wood, stone, brick, and tile are necessary, they are by no means the goal of God. You have been a Christian for these many years, but how much time have you spent considering what God is after? Have you ever thought about this matter of the church? Or has your primary attention been paid to how to pray, how to overcome sin, how to help sinners be saved, and how to study the Bible well? Do you only think about these things, or have you really considered what the church is? What God wants is a church. Anything that falls short of this fails to meet the goal of God. I am by no means saying that these other things are not good, but I am saying that anything short of the church cannot be counted as the goal of God. If Sunday schools are merely for the sake of Sunday schools, orphanages merely for orphanages, humanistic societies merely for humanistic societies, and gospel preaching merely for gospel preaching, it is fine as long as they do not replace the church. For all these things fall short of the church of God. What God wants is the church. The death of the Lord Jesus was for the church, and the coming of the Holy Spirit was also for the church. From beginning to end, in the New Testament, one principle can be found: Everything is for the church. Take, for example, the fact that the Lord's death was for the church. The book of Ephesians tells us, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." The Lord was raised from the dead to be far above all rule and authority, and He is above all to be Head over all things to the church. The Lord builds the church on this rock. The work of the Holy Spirit for the past two thousand years has been for the building up of the church. God saves sinners and enables men to overcome in order to establish the church. It is for the building up of the church that God has given us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Ephesians tells us that the Lord cleanses the church by the washing of water in the word and sanctifies her in order that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Here again it is a matter of the church. God's ultimate goal is to have the New Jerusalem, and what the New Jerusalem typifies is the church. God's goal as recorded in the Old Testament, New Testament, the four Gospels, and Revelation is to have the New Jerusalem, which is for the church. I say strongly that unless our aim, work, and living today are for the church—that is, for the accomplishment of what God is after—we are a big failure. May the Lord have mercy on us and deliver us from our limited vision into His goal and into what He emphasizes in the Scriptures.
-from [i]The Assembly Life[/i] by Watchman Nee