Do the Co-workers "De-emphasize" the Local Church?
In Titus Chu's letter of July 22, 2006, he falsely accuses the co-workers in the Lord's recovery of "de-emphasizing the local church":
No wonder you brothers keep on de-emphasizing the local church by quoting what Brother Lee once spoke, that the local churches are merely the procedure. Dear brothers, don't you all realize that Christ and the local churches are the basic commitment revealed to us by our dear respected brothers Nee and Lee.
Titus is wrong because:
- He mischaracterizes what the co-workers have spoken;
- He dismisses Brother Lee's fellowship concerning the Body being the goal and the local churches being the procedure to reach that goal as "what Brother Lee once spoke;" and
- He misstates the goal of the ministry of Brother Nee and Brother Lee.
Titus Chu's False Accusation of the Coworkers
Titus' statement that the co-workers ministering in the international gatherings belittle the local aspect of the church is false. For example, in the 2003 summer training, Ron Kangas said:
We are in an organic entity that is of God and in God and that is an expression of the Body of Christ. We need a vision of the very church we are in, a fresh thrill of being in a local church , a genuine church. Please read the book A Genuine Church. Read that fresh presentation from 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 concerning a genuine church, and rejoice in the fact that we are members of a bona fide, genuine local church . We are in something that is of God and in God and in something that by its nature and function is an expression of the Body of Christ. (Ron Kangas, "The Body of Christ and the Local Churches: The Unique Body of Christ Expressed as the Local Churches," The Ministry Magazine, vol. 7, no. 6, Aug. 2003, p. 175)
For the church to be real and practical, there is the need of the local churches (Matt. 16:18; 18:17). Without the local churches we cannot have the universal church , for the universal church is composed of all the local churches. Do not misuse the word of the ministry concerning the church being the procedure as a pretext to not respect and honor a local church and the elders in that local church. We cannot live without this procedure , and we need the local expression of that procedure right where we are. We honor it and respect it to the uttermost. Otherwise, we have nothing except talk and a vain dream about a universal church. We cannot live directly in the universal church; it is impossible for us to live in the universal church without living in a local church (Rev. 1:11; 2:1). (Ron Kangas, "The Body of Christ and the Local Churches: The Unique Body of Christ," The Ministry Magazine, vol. 7, no. 6, Aug. 2003, pp. 185-186)
Clearly such speaking disproves Titus Chu's accusation that the co-workers depreciate or de-emphasize the matter of the practice of the church life on the ground of locality.
The Local Churches as the Procedure
1 Cor. 1:2 — To the 1church of God which is 2in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours.
fn. 1:2 1 — The church of God! Not the church of Cephas, of Apollos, of Paul, or of any practice or doctrine, but of God. In spite of all the division, sin, confusion, abusing of gifts, and heretical teaching in the church in Corinth, the apostle still called it "the church of God" because the divine and spiritual essence which makes the assembled believers the church of God was actually there. Such a spiritual address by the apostle was based on his spiritual view in looking upon the church in Christ. Such a simple address alone should have eliminated all the division and confusion in both practice and doctrine.
fn. 1:2 2 — The church is constituted of the universal God, but it exists on earth in many localities, one of which was Corinth. In nature the church is universal in God, but in practice the church is local in a definite place. Hence, the church has two aspects: the universal and the local. Without the universal aspect, the church is void of content; without the local aspect, it is impossible for the church to have any expression and practice. Hence, the New Testament stresses the local aspect of the church also (Acts 8:1; 13:1; Rev. 1:11; etc.).
Titus Chu dismisses Brother Lee's word that "the local churches are merely the procedure" 1 as something he "once spoke." This is untrue and a grave disservice to our brother's ministry and to the saints in the Lord's recovery. Brother Lee's speaking on this point is full of burden as the following excerpts illustrate:
After this God showed us the Body of Christ through Brother Nee. The Lord showed us that the local church is the procedure and not the goal. The goal of the local church is the building up of the Body of Christ .... (The High Peak of the Vision and the Reality of the Body of Christ, p. 9)
We may think that the local churches are the goal of God's economy. However, they are not the goal, but the procedure God takes to reach the goal of His economy. We should not forget that the local churches are not God's goal. Many of those who have been brought into the recovery love the local church to the uttermost, and they stress the local church very much. However, we should not think that when we enter into the local church life we reach the goal of God's eternal economy. No, we are still far away from God's goal. Since the time of Brother Nee the local churches have become a very precious item in our Christian life. Some of the saints may be disappointed when they hear that the local churches are not God's goal. Nevertheless, if we are just in the local churches and do not go on, we are far off from God's goal. (The Practical Points Concerning Blending, pp. 9-10)
... Are we just building the local churches? No. We are building the local churches for the building up of the Body of Christ, which will consummate in the New Jerusalem. Then, does this mean that we just forget about the local churches? No. The local churches are the procedure for God to accomplish the building of the Body of Christ. God still has to greatly use the local churches. Thank the Lord, through this kind of fellowship I hope that we all know where we are today and also where we should be and what we should do. (The High Peak of the Vision and the Reality of the Body of Christ, p. 17)
Therefore, we must pay much more attention to the Body of Christ than to the local churches .... (The Practical Points Concerning Blending, pp. 23-24)
The speaking of the co-workers concerning the Body of Christ being the goal and the practice of the local church life being the procedure to reach that goal are, as the above excerpts demonstrate, a faithful respeaking of Brother Lee's emphasis in the last stage of his ministry.
The "Basic Commitment" of the Ministry of Brother Nee and Brother Lee
Eph. 4:12 — For the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ.
Eph. 4:16 — Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.
Col. 2:19 — And not holding the Head, out from whom all the Body, being richly supplied and knit together by means of the joints and sinews, grows with the growth of God.
Titus Chu says that Christ and the local churches, not the Body of Christ, are the "basic commitment" of the ministry of Brother Nee and Brother Lee. By saying this, Titus Chu misrepresents the burden and clear goal of our brothers' ministry. Both Brother Nee and Brother Lee stressed the practice of the local churches with a view to accomplishing God's goal, which is the growth, building up, and expression of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:12, 16; Col. 2:19). In the same way, the co-workers' emphasis on the goal, the Body, does not belittle the procedure, the local churches. It does, however, calibrate the practice of the local church life to properly aim at the accomplishment of God's goal. 2 This, too, matches the ministry of both Brother Nee and Brother Lee.
Concerning the practice of the church life, we must stress the local church. Without the local church, you could not have a practical church life. However, concerning the testimony that the church bears, we must stress the Body, which is the universal aspect of the church.... (Elders' Training, Book 4: Other Crucial Matters Concerning the Practice of the Lord's Recovery, p. 41)
In the living of the church life in a locality, our living is local, but our fellowship should be both local and universal (Rom. 16:1, 16b, 22-23). We should fellowship not only with the brothers and sisters in our own locality, but also with the brothers and sisters in all the other localities.... The church life is both local and universal. But it is universal to a greater extent than it is local. (To Be Saved in the Life of Christ as Revealed in Romans, p. 32)
We all need to consider this matter. We have the term and we have the doctrine, but practically, we do not have the reality. The purpose of the blending is to usher us all into the reality of the Body of Christ. I treasure the local churches, as you do. But I treasure the local churches because of a purpose. The local churches are the procedure to bring me into the Body of Christ. The churches are the Body, but the churches may not have the reality of the Body of Christ. Thus, we need to be in the local churches so that we can be ushered, or brought, into the reality of the Body of Christ. (The Practical Points Concerning Blending, p. 10)
The problem with Titus Chu's unbalanced emphasis on the matter of the local church is that it results in a disregard for the Body of Christ.
...Here, regretfully, among us there were quite a number of brothers who were weighty, yet they saw only the importance of the local church and did not see the Body of Christ. Hence, they rose up to argue, saying that Brother Nee said very clearly that all local churches are autonomous, each having nothing to do with the others. Not one local church, whatever it may be, should interfere with another local church. This is their total disregard for the Body of Christ.... (The High Peak of the Vision and the Reality of the Body of Christ, pp. 9-10)
Sadly, this is what has happened among some of those who have been under Titus Chu's short-sighted emphasis on the local church as an end in itself. They have deviated from the practice of the local churches in one universal organic Body. Some leading ones in places like Toronto have isolated their churches from the fellowship of the Body, refusing to let saints from other churches have fellowship with their members. Others in places such as Mansfield and Columbus, Ohio, have asserted their authority to the extent that they have ex-communicated large numbers of members because those members desire to continue in the fellowship of the Body. To make anything other than the Body of Christ the focus of God's intention is to create an environment in which ambition flourishes and brothers are tempted to seek to build up their own kingdoms, be that a local church or a region of the work.
By contrast, the co-workers' speaking, taken as a whole, presents both the need of the local church in the practice of the church life and the need to care for the Body of Christ as God's goal. It recognizes the need for the local churches as the practical manifestation in time and space of the one Body of Christ, but it does so in the context of the building up of the universal Body and in the maintenance of the testimony of one Body by all the churches. Only such a practice can maintain the churches in a healthy condition and give the Lord the opportunity to work out His eternal economy for the accomplishment of His goal, the building up of the Body of Christ.
1Actually, Brother Lee did not use this expression. It is Titus' characterization of Brother Lee's speaking.
2A major test of whether a group of believers is a genuine local church is whether they are open to fellowship with other churches. If a group of believers claims to be standing on the ground of locality but cuts itself off from the fellowship of the other local churches in the one Body of Christ, that group is not a local church but a local sect (see, for example: The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 22, p. 66-68; The Spirit and the Body, p. 214; Elders' Training, Book 10: The Eldership and the God-ordained Way (2), p. 122; Life-study of Genesis, p. 456; among many such passages in the ministry of Brother Lee. Brother Lee also spoke many times on the tests of a genuine local church (Young People's Training, pp. 185-198; The Spirit and the Body, pp. 210-214; Elders' Training, Book 10: The Eldership and the God-ordained Way (2), pp. 130-132; The Testimony and the Ground of the Church, pp. 153-160). A consistent theme throughout the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee is the need of a local church to maintain open fellowship with all the other local churches on the earth.