TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Importance of the Publications
- The Value of the Publication Work
- Elders Overseeing the Book Service
- Formation of the Book Service
- Burden and Goal of the Book Service
- Learning the Truth in the Service
- Selection of Inventory
- Setting up a Display/Library Corner
- Need of a Solid Foundation in the Word
- Promoting Reading and Distribution
- Business Matters
- Sustaining the Book Service
- Appendix A: Chapter 3, Faithful and Diligent Spreading of the Truth
- Appendix B：Lending Our Books
The book service in a local church plays a vital role in introducing the ministry publications to saints and visitors, displaying the wealth and variety of publications for the saints’ personal and corporate pursuit of the truth. This document contains suggestions for establishing or strengthening the book service in a local church. The portions which follow below are intended for personal and corporate reading to keep the book service full of vision, life, and enjoyment.
A key reference that all those burdened with the book service should read is “The Faithful and Diligent Spreading of the Truth-Concerning the Publication Service”, Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1984, Volume 5, pp. 167-331. Chapter 3 of this publication is included in appendix as a resource to read together during the book service meetings.
Importance of the Publications
“God initiated the publication work. God is a speaking God (Heb. 1:1) The Gospel of John tells us that God is the Word (1)….If we did not have the Bible, Christians would suffer an incalculable loss. The Bible is God’s publication work; this is a marvelous thing.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 209)
“The Bible reveals that God’s work is carried out through His speaking. In His work of creation God spoke, and it was; He commanded, and it stood (Psa. 33:9). In the Old Testament age all of God’s work was carried out through His speaking to man….God’s work in the New Testament is altogether a matter of the word. The Lord Jesus came to accomplish God’s work as the incarnated Word. In the apostolic age the apostles carried out their work mainly through the word….Through His word God’s work has been able to advance on the earth throughout the ages. In church history we can see the progress of God’s word. Whenever God’s word cannot spread, God’s work cannot advance. This has been especially the case among us. From the time that Brother Nee began to minister until now, the Lord’s recovery has been a recovery of the truth, a recovery of God’s word. Because of the degraded situation of today’s Christianity, we can definitely say that God has commission us with His word and His truth in these last days.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 169)
“The publication work is very effective in spreading the ministry in the Lord’s recovery throughout the earth. Local churches have been raised up in Europe and Southeast Asia by the distribution of ministry literature….Because the publications really work, it is altogether profitable to distribute the booklets we have prepared….Local churches in six countries in Africa have been raised up mostly through contact with our publications….Therefore, we must do our best to send out ministry publications locally and internationally….The more we distribute the publications, the better.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 1, p. 9)
“Most of these churches (650 churches in SE Asia in 1984) were not started by coworkers; instead, they were produced by the publication work in coordination with the migration of the saints. The main thing that raises up and builds up churches is the publication work in coordination with the migration of the saints…. Almost all of the churches in Latin America were raise up in this way….This shows that the publication work is the greatest help in the spreading of the churches. Those serving in the publication work should have this vision….you are a very important link in the service of the Lord’s recovery.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 302)
“The churches in Southeast Asia have been able to maintain their spiritual life for the past thirty years mainly through the publications of the Book Room. Despite the fact that the co-workers frequently go to help the churches, their true, long-term help has come from the supply of the publications….Moreover, during the past twenty years, eighty percent of the more than 300 churches in the West have been raised up through the publications. Therefore, we must see that serving in book sales is really to be the Lord’s co-worker, to promote His truth, and to spread His divine economy and divine speaking to the whole earth. ” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 207)
“…I hope that we could live to be eighty or ninety, even to over a hundred, so that we might be able to see the fulfillment of all that we have fellowshipped today. I wish to live on this earth and witness with my own eyes the truth of the Lord not only being printed into books through our hands, but also being sent through us to every part of the world and prevailing in every place. I absolutely believe that this will hasten the Lord’s return because it is through this that the Lord will prepare His bride. I hope that we all can see the manifestation of such a situation.” (The Economy of God and the Mystery of the Transmission of the Divine Trinity, p. 163)
The Value of the Publication Work
“It would have been very difficult for the ministry of Brother Nee to spread without the publication work. The usefulness of the publications is long lasting and widespread. Like water, the publications can spread widely and imperceptibly “seep” into people. A published message can have a great effect simply by “flowing” into a home and reaching someone whom we do not know. The effect of the publications lasts forever and is not as shallow as the effect of only hearing a message. A person may be touched as he listens to a message, but after three days his feeling may wane, and he may forget it. However, the more a person reads the messages, the more he will understand, and the messages will stay in his memory a longer time and give him a deep impression….Thus the value of the publications lies in the fact that their effect is long lasting and widespread. The Bible has been among human beings for a few thousand years, and its effect is self-evident.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 216)
“In the Lord’s full time service the publication work is the top area because the publications are long lasting and widespread, able to touch people, and convey a deep impression. “ (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 224)
“It is neither a boast nor a deception to say that all the books in the Lord’s recovery are the extract of the truths in Christianity. They are the crystallization of the study of the Bible and the spiritual life-experiences of Christians throughout the last two thousand years. Hence, we should endeavor to enter into all these spiritual riches and not waste our time or money on other unnecessary pursuits. We should save all our time and money in order to spend them on studying the Bible and spiritual books.” (The Economy of God and the Mystery of the Transmission of the Divine Trinity, p. 152)
The truths conveyed in the footnotes of the New Testament Recovery Version and the Life-study messages are the cream of the saints’ understanding of the holy Word in the past twenty centuries. They are the accumulation of the revelation that the church has received from the Bible as the holy Word. The style of writing used in composing the footnotes and the Life-studies is simple, yet the points presented are profound, and the contents are very rich, nourishing, and enlightening….after reading the footnotes and the messages on any particular book of the Bible, a person will surely begin to understand that book….These characteristics make the footnotes and the Life-studies very valuable.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 1, p. 387)
“In the future each of us will have to settle our accounts before the judgement seat of Christ. The publication work is very valuable, and I believe that the Lord will acknowledge this….we must ask the Lord to have mercy and to give us people like-souled, who would have the will, vision, and view to see that it is absolutely worth laboring on the publications with our whole heart and our whole strength because the effect of this work is long lasting and widespread, and it touches people deeply. “(CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 228)
Elders Overseeing the Book Service
Brother Lee felt that it is very important for the elders of each church to oversee the book service, since its function is to minister truth and life to the entire church. Hence it was Brother Lee’s practice in Taiwan to annually gather elders and responsible saints serving in the book room of each church and take them away for a special fellowship regarding the book service. There was a direct correlation between the health of the church and the saints’ reading and enjoyment of the ministry publications. Therefore, the elders should firstly pray much and be committed to establishing and maintaining a vital, active, and aggressive book service to promote the purchase, reading, lending, and giving of ministry books as a vital part of the church’s pursuit of the truth.
“The book service is a very important service in the churches, and it has an especially important relationship to the elders.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 191)
“The higher the truth we (the elders) present to the saints, the faster their growth in life will be, but the lower the truth we present to the saints, the slower their growth in life will be. If the elders in a church do not present certain messages that they think are too high for the saints to understand, they will lower the standard of the truth in that church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15). The elders must be desperate to raise the standard of the truth in the church year after year. We need to educate the saints in the divine truth and maintain a high standard of the truth.” (CWWL, 1983, vol. 2, p. 141)
“The higher truths in the Bible are not for a special class of believers but for all of God’s children (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; Eph. 3:9)….The saints have a God-given capacity by which they are able to comprehend much more than we realize (cf. 1:17)….We (the elders) should not consider the higher truths that the Lord has shown us from His Word as too difficult for the younger ones to understand; rather, we (the elders) should be desperate to present these truths to them.” (CWWL, 1983, vol. 2, p. 141)
“I hope that the elders in each locality will give the saints some help and encouragement so that each household will have a supply of spiritual books. The saints can place a copy in various places within their homes−on their dining table, on their nightstand, on their bathroom counter, and in their kitchen−to make enjoying the Lord’s word in every place convenient for all the members of their family and even for their guests.” (CWWL, 19834, vol. 5, p. 190)
Formation of the Book Service
A group of burdened saints, under the oversight of the elders or responsible brothers, should be raised up through much and thorough prayer and fellowship. The formation of the book service should issue out of the same principles of forming a vital group, that is, through much prayer and fellowship. Thus, to establish such a core of saints given to this service, it is highly recommended that such prayer and fellowship be regular and weekly just as other service groups meet for prayer and fellowship.
Burden and Goal of the Book Service
“In 1 Timothy 2:4 Paul says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth.” Today most of the churches pay attention to the first half of this verse by preaching the gospel to bring people to salvation; however, we are not up to the standard of God’s goal in the matter of leading the saints to know the truth. The responsibility for filling up this lack and arriving at God’s goal lies with us.” (book service) (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 191)
“The most important burden of the book service is not to care for the inventory of books but to study and find a way to spread every book into all the homes of the saints in your locality and, once the books are in the homes, to find a way to deposit their contents into the saints’ hearts.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 191)
“Regardless of whether we are full-timers going out to work or those who serve with books, our goal is to spread the divine truths for the accomplishment of God’s goal of establishing and building up churches in every place so that they may become the expression of Christ.
I would like to make something clear from the start. If we think that the goal of the publication work is to make money, we are wrong. From the first day until now we have not had the slightest thought of making money or earning a profit. Our burden is to spread the truth and to serve the churches.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 198)
“What the Lord wants to accomplish in this age is to recover the truth…when you look at the publications among us, they are full of rich truth. This is not my boast; it is proof that the Lord has blessed us. Therefore we should receive the burden and not worry that there are too many books piled up in the meeting halls; instead, we must find a way to distribute these books, and we must first get them into the homes of the saints.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 205)
“Today the Lord has gained saints who have a heart to serve Him; some serve as elders, some serve as deacons, and some serve in book sales. We thank the Lord for this, but please forgive me for speaking honestly to you in love: I am afraid that even you are not clear about the truth. This is the matter that concerns me the most. If we are a group of believers who have only been saved but do not understand the truth, what will be the future of the Lord’s recovery? The present teaching in the homes is insufficient; we must get the truth into the saints’ homes.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 206)
“The primary matter is not to promote the books but to stir up the saints interest in pursuing the truth and to encourage them to enjoy reading the spiritual publications….The Lord’s word will require that we bear the responsibility to labor willingly to zealously encourage and urge everyone in all the local churches to pursue the truth and read the spiritual publications.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, pp. 207-208)
Learning the Truth in the Service
The serving ones in the book room should all endeavor to be the first to enter into a daily exercise of pursuing the truth by a scheduled reading of the Bible and the ministry publications to serve as a living pattern to those they will be serving.
“First, we must learn to speak the truth….Second, we need to spend the time to learn, practice, and equip ourselves with these rich truths. It would be excellent if there were such a prevailing atmosphere among us. The co-workers, elders, and serving ones should all be full of the truth and speak the truth in their daily conversations. If our living is according to the truth, this will spontaneously produce an uplifted atmosphere….Third, we should not neglect the riches on our bookshelves; instead, we should read, study, discuss, and even write about them. If we can learn a little every day, we will spontaneously and gradually gain a great accumulation of truth.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, pp. 232-233)
“Since the truth among us is very rich, I especially hope that those who serve in the Book Room would develop the habit of studying, speaking, and using these riches to produce, uplift, and strengthen the spiritual atmosphere in the Lord’s recovery. If we do this, the future of the Lord’s recovery will be bright and full of hope.” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 233)
Selection of Inventory
Through prayer and fellowship with the book service saints and the eldership, make a determination as to what the content and quantities should be purchased by the church. A variety of display packages have been designed by Living Stream Ministry to simplify the ordering process. Choose from their lists, or come up with your own custom-tailored set, then place the order with the Living Stream Ministry book section.
If you have a special need for a large quantity of a single book, contact Living Stream Ministry five or six weeks in advance. Living Stream Ministry has a print-on-demand service that can print books that are presently out of print. Contact the book section early to get pricing and shipping information for print-on-demand books.
Setting up a Display/Library Corner
The primary function of such a display or library corner is to provide a physical sample of the books for one of the following: 1) a display counter for the saints; 2) a lending library for borrowing; 3) a sales counter for the saints to order or buy books.
If you want to use it as a library to loan out books, some of the books will be missing from the display some of the time. Churches can also set up two sets, one for display and one for lending. If you are selling some of the books, saints can fill out order forms and leave the books in the display, or you can give them the books they want and replenish them by reordering them from LSM right away. If a church wants to keep a stock of more than one copy of a book, order that from the LSM book section.
The Living Stream Ministry display package information includes approximately how much physical space should be allocated for each of the display packages. Based on the books purchased, determine a spot for the display whether it is a home, rented room, meeting hall, or even a retail space.
Purchase suitable book display furniture (shelves, racks, bookstands, etc.) for the books purchased and the location of the display. Churches may order from the internet or purchase book displays from local retail stores. One internet source for book displays, both permanent and portable, is Hannecke, a German manufacturer. There are many other manufacturers on line.
Need of a Solid Foundation in the Word
The serving ones should become familiar with the book titles and be prepared to recommend books based on their knowledge of the truth contained therein and the spiritual need of the brother or sister they serve.
“We must do our best to get ourselves into these truths and to get these truths constituted into our being….I also am burdened that all the leading ones, either the elders or the serving ones taking some kind of lead, should have a real burden to pray for the saints in your locality that the Lord may stir up their interest, their seeking heart, and their spirit to seek after the Lord in His truth.” (Elders’ Training Book 3, The Way to Carry out the Vision, p. 108)
The quotation below was spoken by Brother Witness Lee in 1986 to the trainees of the full-time training in Taipei, Taiwan. The message subject was becoming a useful vessel. Although these messages were given to trainees, the principles can be applied in general to those serving in the book room.
“As those who serve the Lord we must be equipped in these two matters: the growth in life and familiarity with the truth. Therefore, we should be diligent not only in reading the Bible, but also in reading the spiritual books. We have to spend time to study every page of every book that has been published from Brother Nee until this day. We have to try our best to make good use of our time, reading a little bit even after every meal. We have to practice this to the extent that we have a book in hand all the time. Even before bedtime, we should study a little more.” (The Economy of God and the Mystery of the Transmission of the Divine Trinity, pp. 151-152)
Promoting Reading and Distribution
Through the prayer and fellowship of the weekly meetings of the book service, the book service in coordination with the elders or leading ones, may promote the saints into reading and distributing the publication by various activities such as:
- Read books together during the book service meetings and speak or read your enjoyment to the saints either one on one or corporately in various church meetings.
- Developing some reading schedules among the saint s: whole church reading schedules, working adult/young people reading challenges, special one-time reading gatherings, reading and posting on social media platforms, internet reading, weekend retreat reading camp, etc.
- Consider giving book room gift certificates, books, Bibles, or other prizes as incentives to fostering reading and speaking for the activities in point (b) above.
- Promote borrowing by actively going to the saints one by one, especially the young people, to encourage borrowing.
- Set up a personal library at home (for sales display, personal use, or as a lending library) and encourage others to do the same, or sponsor display racks or bookstands in public places for sales or loaning.
- Initiate mini-conferences or trainings to heighten awareness of reading and distributing through outlines, viewing videos, or guest speakers, either in person or via internet.
- Coordinate with the responsible brothers to have a weekly, short (10-15-minute) reading overflow time after the Lord’s Table or prayer meeting. Allow 30 seconds per person so that many can share.
Fellowship with the church elders regarding the business matter related to the book sales such as: obtaining a business license for the sale of the books if required, setting up a business entity for compliance with state and local tax regulations as needed, setting up bank accounts if needed, deciding on payment methods (cash, check, credit/debit cards). Contact the State Franchise Tax Board or similar government agency to obtain information regarding the collection of sales tax if any.
Sustaining the Book Service
The steps above to develop a book service group outline essential steps that must be taken to establish and maintain a vital and active book service group. The steps related to the actual set up and operation of the sales and display counter are brief and intended to provide the minimal steps needed on the business or operational side of this service. Continuing steadfastly in prayer and fellowship, in one accord with a group of committed saints, in coordination with the church eldership is the essential ingredient for a successful and living book service. Such a service will be a great source of blessing to all those serving and especially to the entire church it serves.
We recommend the following activities to keep the book service fresh, focused, and motivated:
- Continue the weekly prayer and fellowship meetings of the book service and .
- Fellowship with other church book service serving ones via the designated website Faithful and Diligent for mutual sharing and learning.
- Attend the special publication service meetings at the seven feasts.
- Read portions of CWWL, 1984, vol.5, Faithful and Diligent Spreading of the Truth on a regular basis throughout the year until finished and reread portions from time to time.
- Review the status of the book room on a quarterly basis to see if business is “improving” more books are being read.
- Meet with the elders at least every other week to keep them apprised of the health of the book service and the church reading habit.
- Maintain frequent dialogue with Living Stream Ministry to coordinate with them effectively.
Chapter 3, Faithful and Diligent Spreading of the Truth
Lending Our Books