2018 Labor Day Message 4
The Divided Testimony of the Body of Christ
I realize that the next meeting is very crucial. It has six pages — it’s pretty long. When I wrote this, the whole thing was written in two mornings. One morning, we began at 10 and finished around 12. The next morning, Sunday, we began around 10, had lunch together, then we finished the last message. So, I didn’t realize there were so many riches in this. For that I am very thankful, because I didn’t have time to prepare; I just have a basic view. When I tried to develop it, I found out: there’s so much! All I have to say is, it is marvelous. The marvelousness of the creation of man, the marvelousness of judicial redemption, the marvelousness of organic salvation, and the marvelousness of the one unique body of Christ.
Then we see, it is so marvelous that even if many things come in, Christ cannot be divided. We have to see things from two sides. The body of Christ can never be divided — it doesn’t matter what you belong to. If I’m a Catholic or I’m a Christian, it’s fine. One day, I was talking with a gentleman and I said, “Are you a Christian?” He said, “I’m a Catholic.” I said, “I’m a Christian, too.” He was a little bit concerned. How can a non-Catholic call himself a Christian? My concern was, then what do you want me to call myself? A Jesus believer? No, I’m just a simple Christian, right? Outwardly, there’s so much division. But divisions really do not divide the body, because Christ’s body cannot be divided!
Divisions divide the testimony of the one body of Christ. So, people are frustrated because there are so many divisions. Many unbelievers ask, “How come you are so messy? Why is it that on this block there’s a church, on another block there’s another church? Aren’t you all Christians?” Yes, we are. “Then why don’t you come together?” We say, “We can’t.” “Why can’t you come together?” “Because when we go to them, they say get out. If they come in, we don’t know how to receive them.” You know, it’s not the division of the body, but the testimony of the oneness of Christ. The testimony of the body of Christ is damaged.
So when you consider the body of Christ, you must see a unique fact. It is a unique entity that cannot be divided. Even if you say I’m a Catholic, I would respond, I don’t know “Catholic,” I only know “Christian.” If you are regenerated and a brother, I’m very happy — I respect you, I honor you, I’d like to have fellowship with you. That should be our basic attitude to all the people in all the denominations. We should not say, you are causing division! We can say, you are my brother. But we also can say, these divisions frustrate the testimony of the body of Christ because there is only one body in this universe and we express this one body in this universe, yet what you see is all kinds of divisions.
Non-Institutional Division: Free Groups
Now, we come to these points: the four main sources of institutional division. There is also another source which is not institutional, it’s called free groups. Free groups can use all kinds of names; they’re not organized, and they don’t have a headquarters, just like we don’t. I know sometimes people ask you, “Where are your headquarters?” Then you can say, “Well, our headquarters are at Ashland Woods, because there is a lake.” Well it doesn’t work right? “Our headquarters are in Cleveland,” but brothers, be fair, when has the church in Cleveland ever been involved in the administration of your local church? Your headquarters are not at Ashland Woods at the lake, your headquarters are not in Cleveland in this place, your headquarters are in the heavenlies. See, if somebody asks you where your headquarters are, you have to say, Christ is in the heavenly operation — that operation is our headquarters. We all, all the Christians, must follow that operation. However, we can say, it is sad. Because Christians are very much divided. You have so many free groups.
Recently, the government in China made a decision. If you have any Christian gathering, you must register through your neighbor. You must call the administration. For instance, the location of the church in Cleveland belongs to the West Park of Cleveland, but I don’t know whether West Park has an administration or not. Is there an office for West Park? West Park association? You have to go to that district to register.
I was unwise — once, I talked with the government officials and asked them, “Wow, this is hard to practice. Why? There are some Christians who have been meeting together for a long time and there are thousands in their congregations. How can you separate them, cut them into pieces, fifteen each, to register? You can’t.” He got so mad, he gave me a hard time. No officers had ever given me a hard time; they were always very polite. That day the officer was bothered. Then, I realized I was not wise. I shouldn’t touch that administration. That’s the government thing, right? How to carry it out, that has nothing to do with me. You carry it out, fine. You can’t carry it out, I love the Lord, that’s good enough. They didn’t bother us, so we should be very happy. Praise the Lord for that.
You know, brothers, there are so many Christian groups, free groups. There are so many free groups called the local church. For instance, we have some saints in the Bay Area, San Francisco, Northern California. I was very much considering what we should do with the thirty, forty saints coming out from the churches in this area and moving to the Bay Area.
I heard of one place, they called themselves the church in a certain locality. So I called a brother I knew, a real good, warm brother, and I said, “I will be in Southern California. Can you come down and see me?” So he flew down and I appreciated that. We had some time to fellowship. I asked him, “We have many saints who are now in Northern California, the Bay Area. We don’t know where to introduce them to. Are you a church? If you are a healthy testimony, a church that’s healthy, we’d like to introduce them all to you, just to meet with you.” You know the first thing he answered? I never thought of it. “I thought you were going to start a church yourself.” As in, since you have so many saints there now. I said, “But that’s not our view. Our view is not a group with a sort of association.” As in, if saints from Cleveland move to that place and they begin a meeting in that place, they’re an extension from the church in Cleveland to the church in that place. “That’s not our view,” I said, “No, that’s not our view. We like to find local churches and have fellowship with all the local churches.” But eventually, after I fellowshipped a little more, I realized, no, you can’t do much.
This is why I asked Joseph Chin, “Can you go to Northern California to meet with some of the saints who have moved over there for jobs?” Because in that place, you can easily get a job. The only thing is that their housing prices are five times more than Cleveland. In Cleveland, you can buy a good house for $200,000. Over there, any house that is considered a house is one million dollars. So you want to get a good job? Go there and pay your mortgages. Let your mortgages take away all your salary. Plus, everything there is expensive.
But you know brother, I’m very thankful to the Lord, so when Brother Chin went there, we’re still exploring to see if we can find some healthy congregation that really exhibits a stand on the ground of oneness, on the ground of locality for the testimony of the Lord. Meanwhile, we begin to meet with some brothers so that they will not all be eventually lost. Our conscience will forbid us to tell them to go to any denomination.
But if a brother asks me, if I must choose a denomination, I would say, choose an open one, not an exclusive one. Do you get my point? Because with an open one, at least their mind is more open, their stand is more open. They don’t lay hold of their members because they are a congregation that is very simple, that loves the Lord, or tries to love the Lord at least, and tries to preach the gospel; but the exclusive ones, like exclusive brethren, like the Amish, they’re pretty exclusive. I would never introduce a brother to go to be Amish. But some people would like to live that kind of life, so they become Amish.
Amish do have their increase. Their increase comes from people who like the manner of their living. You know, how marvelous, you don’t have a car, but you ride a buggy. You call it a buggy right? You have a horse, right? Buggy. And I saw they cultivate the land, I actually want to salute them. You are blind, so you don’t know how to follow the Lord, but you really are following the Lord. You see, when you cultivate, you just cultivate right? With a machine. He has a horse. He works together with the horse, and that horse, I don’t know how they find that kind of horse, their legs are so big! So they know how to stand. Then the horse will go in there and he is plowing like that. Brother, actually, the whole day’s work is five minutes by machine. Five minutes by machine. But because they love the Lord, at least they honor their religion, I better not use the word they love the Lord. Because they honor their religion, they’d rather live such a life. This is to be respected. When I saw that, driving by and saw that, I wanted to stop my car. I wanted to go over and tell him, I respect you. I don’t respect your manner of life, but respect your sincerity in upholding your religion. Even though that religion may not have much Christ at all now.
Brother, there are many, many free groups. Some free groups even name themselves the church in “what what place.” Most of those churches in “what what place” are decaying because when they left Brother Lee, they were offended by Brother Lee’s doing, so they began to have a gathering about thirty years ago. If they were around thirty-five, forty, now they are, average, eighty, seventy. And they don’t know how to preach the gospel, they don’t have much increase, they’ve got their limitations.
But beside these free groups, free groups are very easy right? Like you. You are pleasant, you have a pleasant personality, you, you. Are you going back to mainland China? I don’t know yet? Where will you go back if you go back to China? Which city would you go to? Beijing? No problem, there’s a church testimony there. So just join the brothers. If you ever want to go to a certain place nobody knows, do you get my point? And there’s no saints, it’s very easy for you to form a free group. Preach gospel, meet at your home, and you’re very happy, and you know some free groups can come to forty, fifty, sixty, seventy. Can be bigger. But still it’s a free group. You know, the main division comes from these four main sources right? Basically that’s what’s common with them.
Shortages Within Christian Groups
If we observe different Christian groups or institutions, we may say there are at least four reasons they are formed. A charismatic leader, a ministry, a special doctrine or practice, or a special culture. We understand that in every group, in principle, both leading ones and the majority of saints have Christ. Do you get my point? Don’t say that they all are not saved. This could happen in Africa. I mean, I’ve been in, I’ve seen some of the groups in Africa. Even the pastors are not saved. They don’t know, they don’t even know what is saved. But they can sing some songs that’s quite charismatic. You know when you sing this song, that makes you very happy, you know. But there’s something short. But basically both leading ones and the majority of saints have Christ. What, love Christ. Then what, some even love Christ. Not all. You should add “some even.” Some even love Christ. Even live a godly life and some are zealous in serving. But I tell you, there’s a very basic difference. Even up to today I’m considering why. For some reason, when you are in a great free group or a Christian group and not with the testimony of Jesus, you find out this.
1. Short of Christ
Number one, they’re short of Christ. They don’t quite know Christ. They can accomplish something with or without Christ. I do things for Christ, yet I made it without Christ. Do you get my point or not? Do you know a kind of English? If you go to China, it’s very interesting. You see the small markets, the ladies all speak English. And their English so funny. Fifty. Fifty. Fifty. Fifty. Three. Three. Three. Fifty. The American or the foreigner still goes on, ignoring them. So she follows you. Four fifty. Four fifty. If you keep on going. Five fifty. Five fifty. Their pronunciation is much worse than I do. It’s interesting pronunciation, but they made it. They speak English without English. Do you understand what I say? You’d be surprised, how can they be so bright? They speak English without English. And you’ll wonder, how can so many Christians do things for Christ yet without Christ? Cause they do it. Cause something ought to do. One brother asked me, “Brother, I want to serve the Lord.” I said, “Well, praise the Lord, that’s very very good.” “Then can you make me a youth director?” I said, “But we don’t have a youth director. And we don’t have that many young people anyway. We’re not doing that good. So we don’t have a youth director.” “Then can you give me any office that I like to serve the Lord?” Do you realize? Here’s someone so desirous: For the Lord, yet without the Lord.
2. Without a vision to serve according to God
Then more than that, further, without the vision to serve according to God. You don’t see what God is after. Number one, I do something for Christ without Christ. Number two, I do something for the Lord yet I don’t know what the Lord is actually after. That’s getting very serious. Do you get my point or not? Sometimes, some young kids love their parents. So they find their parent’s picture, they begin to draw real ugly stuff, nobody can see that that’s his dad. But he finishes it, he will show his dad – dad, isn’t that you? I just painted it. Isn’t it marvelous? The dad will say, wow it’s good, it’s good, but you know that he doesn’t see what he’s doing. He’s just doing something because he feels that’s good for the Lord. Or for his father.
Now let me read to you. Number one. Many times you do things without Christ. Number two, most of the brothers live a life without a vision. A vision is really something. Here, where’s that brother? Where? He disappeared? Where’s that pleasant brother? The one smiling all the time. What’s his name? David! Where are you? Come on, come on, David. Come on, David. Ahhh do you know that particular sister before? “Yeah,” then why did you begin to love her or feel attracted by her and then begin to try to pursue her? “I got a vision?” Yeah. Do you understand what I mean? His was a good answer right? It is true that that girl was there, but was common to you. One day, all of a sudden, for some reason, maybe you look at her and she’s looking at you? No, you just looked at her and she ignored you. And the more you look at her, the more you think she’s beautiful, you know? To date you need a vision. If you don’t have a vision, you don’t date. You say, “are you a female?” “Yes.” “I’m a male. Hallelujah let’s get married.” That would be stupid to the uttermost right? Brother, you marry somebody with a vision. I saw her, or I see him. Oh he’s handsome. He never changed, he was always like this, but a particular day he became handsome to a particular young lady. What is that? Vision. To follow the lord, you cannot just go dating as you know it. Whom should I date? Just pick up any girl, pick up any boy. This is ipad stuff. When I had my ipad, sometimes a notification comes up saying, “Are you single? Punch here.” My feeling was, who would be that stupid, to do this kind of stupid thing? Whether I’m single or not, what do I punch here for? Can I trust the picture they show? That picture may not really be that lady. Even if that picture really is that lady, how do I know what’s her history? How do I know what’s her disposition? How do I know what’s her background?
A vision means you see something, right? When I have a vision, it means I see something that controls my life. I can do a lot of things like the worldly people. Dating is very easy because they don’t think they need to be held responsible. With believers, especially Jesus lovers, they will be much more careful because they realize how serious the matter is. So there is a vision that is needed. When you follow the Lord, it’s the same. Number one, you can do things for Christ, without Christ. Don’t do this. Number two, you can do things for Christ, to serve, without vision.
3. The purpose justifies the means
Thirdly, you can easily justify the means you use as long as certain spiritual purpose is attained. What does that mean? The purpose justifies the means. Do you get my point? This is why you see so many Jesus lovers. These Jesus lovers, for some reason, they do things that just do not even make sense. You can feel, ”This is not proper,” “This is unhealthy,” “This is ungodly,” “This is actually hurting, insulting to Christ.” But they will say, “We will do it because it accomplished a purpose.” So, preachers lie. Do you understand that? Preachers lie! I tell you, once you are a preacher, you lie a lot. Some are white lies, some are dark lies. Some are real lies, some are fake lies, but you lie. Why do preachers lie? It is so that they can convince you. Do you understand what I mean? So this is the way they say something just to convince you. Brother, be careful. When you serve the Lord, how do you know you are not the testimony of Christ? Number one, you do things for Christ without Christ. Number two, You do things for God, without vision. Number three, you do things to attain a purpose. You may want to gain more people. You may want to be successful with the congregation. So what? So you do things that may not necessarily be healthy. So the purpose justifies the means. All these will take you away from bearing the testimony of the Lord.
4. Lacking inner life
Then, fourthly, You may lack inner life. My biggest concern is if you don’t have inner life. Suppose there are two brothers who both love the Lord, are willing to give everything to Christ, and even willing to give one year to Christ. They may both be extremely lovely young men. But what’s the difference between these two? One has inner life. As for the other, can the older ones pray with him? Can you read the Bible with him? Can you help him to know how to follow the anointing? Can you help him know how to enjoy the Christ who is living in him? Can he have an intimate relationship with Christ, through the inner anointing in his spirit? Brother, this is called inner life. If a man, a sister, a brother, do not know what is inner life, they can never follow the Lord properly.
He’s a good man. You know, you see this brother, there is something so precious. I see many of you, I have the same feeling, you are so precious. But if I say, something is lacking, it would be inner life. You got to understand the anointing. You got to understand how to live in the presence of the Lord. You got to have the experience of abiding in Christ in making your decisions. You got to learn to have the Lord’s presence in your walk. Whatever you do, you can say, Lord I am so thankful you are with me. That’s inner life.
You know what’s the problem with us? We have been through turmoils, no doubt about it. And that turmoil doesn’t just destroy us and damage us outwardly, but it also takes away most of our inner appreciation of Christ. We feel, ”Oh well, so what.” Then, if you say, “Okay, don’t come to the meeting.” You would still feel, “Well, no, I still have to come to the meeting.” But then, how can the saints love the Lord? I don’t know how or why, but the inner life part is gone. All the leading ones, I beg you, please, you have got to learn to have an inner life. Live a life according to your inner life. Then in your serving, please, it’s not how zealous they are or how much they can do, but that they know how to abide in the anointing. They know how to be one with Christ in their daily walk.
So there are four things that it says here. Why does religion come in? Why does division come in? Outwardly, it is the leaders. But more than that, it is the Christians themselves. You want to do things for Christ, but without Christ. You want to do the things of Christ for God, but without vision. And then what? You want to accomplish something for the Lord, and you justify the means for whatever you do. Don’t ever do things that use the purpose, or the end, to justify your means. You have to be healthy before the Lord. Then finally, you are lacking inner life.
Four Main Sources of Institutional Division
Now then, we can read the outline. There are four main reasons Christian groups are formed. Number one, a charismatic leader. These are apart from free groups. Free groups are short lived, they come and go, and usually they are small in number: thirty, fifty, or twenty people. There are many, many free groups. I tell you, just in Beijing, and in Shanghai, I would not be surprised if Beijing could have twenty thousand free groups, and Shanghai could have twenty thousand free groups. Most overseas students get saved in the United States, or in Europe, and they come back to China. They start a free group because they don’t want to go to the Three-Self church, but they have to meet with Christians. Eventually they all have free groups meeting at their homes, until they become bigger, and their number becomes bigger. Then what? There could be arguments, then with arguments, one group divides into two. Some follow this one, some follow that one. Do you get my point or not?
Then sometimes, it becomes older and older until it is terminated, disappeared. Brother, here we can say, how can you have larger, bigger institutional divisions? Number one, you have a charismatic leader. I will tell you very honestly, there is not one Christian, not one servant of the Lord that is used by the Lord very much, that is not charismatic. There must be some quality with that man. If there is no such quality, people will not like to listen to them. So, number one, they have a pleasant personality. That part, I disqualify myself, because my personality is not pleasant. People are often bothered by me.
Then secondly, they have eloquent speaking, preaching. That I do have. Am I right? If you don’t believe me, you try to come up, let’s compete. Right?
Then thirdly, they are able to communicate with people. In that part I am disqualified. Oh, I have a hard time. Brothers, it is not easy. To be with brothers is not easy, but I know that. Every servant of the Lord must have the ability to communicate with people, so that they can feel that the ministering one, the leader, loves them. Do you get my point or not? That is not a small thing.
Then finally, they have a strong administrative ability. They can handle administrative things.
Four things, right? Are you a charismatic person? Number one, are you pleasant with people? Do you have a pleasant personality? Number two, are you a good speaker? Eloquent? Number three, are you able to fellowship with saints very easily? I am not, you know why? So many are afraid of me. It bothers me very much. I’m a nice man. Aren’t I? Why do you laugh? Who laughed? I’m a nice man. I try my best not to become offensive. I do sometimes get mad at you, and if I do get mad at you, you ought to be mad at me. Anyway, number four, you have to have a strong administrative ability. All four things.
The Benefit of the Upcoming Ten-Month Labor
Actually let me tell you, If you want to serve your locality, practice these four things. Number one, learn to be pleasant. Nobody owes you anything. If you see a brother and he addresses you, “Brother Titus.” Don’t respond harshly, “What!?” He’ll say, “Nothing.” It’s gone, right? You got to learn to be very pleasant. If you have a pleasant personality, people like to be with you. Then you are a good preacher. Learn to preach. Learn to speak. Eventually in the ten-month labor, we will help everyone in three things. Number one, you must know how to know your inner life. In these ten months, every morning, you will practice things related to inner life. Secondly, we will equip you with rich truth. And thirdly, I hope you all are able to minister.
If you are with us for ten months, every message will be tested. So far in this conference, I didn’t give any message, I have only given you all talks. If I do give you a message, every message will be tested. You have to come up, to repeat, to even develop what I say. So then, through ten months time, you have many times to come up, to say something, for brothers to amen, for brothers to criticize, for me to help you, why you didn’t do well, how come you have these kinds of limitations in your speaking. Do you get my point? That’s why, brother, you’ve got to come. You don’t waste your life like that. You don’t get a professor to teach students that closely and at the same time, that often. I am 83. You know what that means? That means to have another ten-month labor may become harder and harder. Except, I just talk. You must learn how to preach. You don’t even know how to begin, right? And you never even preach, do you? Have you ever preached in the meeting?
You should speak a lot. They like to hear young people speaking. They don’t like to see old men speaking, believe me. This is why I try my best to make myself look younger. Haha, whether it works or not, right? Because nobody likes to see old men. People, even babies, go ahh when I try to go say hi! When a young girl, especially a beautiful young girl, goes there and says “hi,” the baby smiles. Even babies by instinct like young ones and don’t like old ones. So, young man, go back, tell the leading brother, the church is in my hands. Make me a speaker. Every day and every meeting. (Well, that’s under the condition that you come to the ten month labor, otherwise forget about it.)
Four Main Sources of Institutional Division
1. A charismatic leader
But anyways, these four things produce leaders. And more than that, these kinds of good things can gain crowds to follow them. Many will follow. However, most of these crowds will not last. The overall congregation will not last, as they are man-centered. The center of the congregation is a man, right? They can easily be divided, or fade away. You know, if you don’t see the one testimony of the Lord, or all the blessings of the Lord that have been given to you, the congregation is easily divided. Unless you take the policy, every saint I serve, I make them foolish. Do you get my point? I just make people listen to my messages, then they can survive. Otherwise you try to help them read the Bible, you try to help them love the Lord, you try to help them to really develop, you try to help them to have the ability of ministering, and you try to develop them, help them to have leadership. But then they will be divided with you.
You say, how come? There’s nothing unusual. That’s very normal. Only those extremely high dare to perfect people; most people dare not. If I try to perfect you, I may get myself into trouble. I might just as well collect tax from you, that’s it. In other words, come to the meeting, make your offering, listen to my message. You are very happy because you are not being demanded of and you are going nowhere. But anyway, eventually the leaders, the charismatic leader, will die. Such as what, for instance, as Melodyland.
You possibly might not know Melodyland though. Fifty years ago, there were two congregations confronting Brother Lee’s ministry. One was called Melodyland, it was very successful. Just think about the name – Melodyland. In other words, you come to meeting for what? You come to the meeting for joy, for fun. The other congregation was called Calvary Chapel. Melodyland, I had never been to Melodyland. I knew it wasn’t good. Calvary Chapel, I was questioning, what is it like? I went to their meeting. Then I found out, they play dramas. Melodyland had a preacher as a leader. Calvary Chapel, they played a show, a show according to the Bible. After the show, a Christian speaker came up, gave a short message, and that’s how they survived. At that time, it had quite a few thousand people. Melodyland had at least five thousand. Now, after the leader died, they sold the property, and after they sold the property, different people went to different places to develop whatever they had. Why? They never saw the crucialness of the testimony of the body in oneness. It’s just a Christian’s work.
2. A ministry
And more than that, a ministry. Now it becomes harder. A spiritual ministry is from God for the building up of the body of Christ. So you can never despise ministries. I mean, whether he is the founder of Wesley, whether he is the founder of Lutheran, you know what, whether he is the founder of whatever, even if we say that, people will declare that Witness Lee is the founder of the Living Stream division. I would say, no, he’s not. His ministry has nothing with that division. His ministry is from God, because it is for the building up of the Body of Christ. This is high, spiritual, and even approved by the Lord.
These ministries have supported the twenty centuries of the testimony of the Lord. Do you get my point? In the twenty centuries, in every century, every period of time, God raised up some ministry to become the core of the Lord’s work at that time. So, God has raised up many many rich ministries to bear the testimony of the Lord. What the Lord has shown these saints is absolutely heavenly. What the Lord has shown to these ministries is absolutely heavenly, precious, and according to Christ. You must respect Luther. You must respect Calvin. You must respect all the rich ministries God has raised up because God never raised them up for division. God raised them up for His testimony. They supported the centuries of the testimony of the Lord, the Lord has raised them up, they are heavenly, they are precious according to Christ. But for some reason, it can develop into a ministry centered congregation. I’m happy we’re not that big. I’m happy that we’re coming out of the low place. We’re coming up now. I believe more local churches will be brought up. Not only globally, but also in the United States. I cannot tell you how promising the work was in China. Hundreds of full-timers. There are about two hundred full-timers raised up in the last few years who love the Lord, are consecrated, and are very giving for the Lord’s testimony. I believe five years later, if the Lord has mercy, if the Lord protects us, there will be immigrants from China and the US who will go to Europe or South America to raise up more testimonies. I would encourage them to learn a trade, especially sisters. If your husband goes there to minister, you can open up a bakery selling bread and cakes. You could make a good living and people won’t feel awkward.
“What are you doing?” “I’m a full-timer” is very awkward.
“What are you doing”? “I have a little business to support my life, but meanwhile I have so much time to serve God.” Isn’t that marvelous? I learned to be a barber. I learned to be a handyman. Learn something basic. I would encourage some brothers in Mainland China to do that, I would encourage some of you to do this in the US. Eventually we can come together, join strength, and go to Europe. I hope sooner or later we are able to go.
I’m happy we don’t have much, so you brothers don’t have to fight. You brothers just abide in what the Lord has given to us, so Brother Lee, Nee, and us just go on as the testimony in localities. We don’t need institutions because we’re not big enough to be an institution. Aren’t you happy about it? If we’re very big, I’d be very worried about what we should do in case someday the Lord says “Good enough. Come to be with me.” What would happen to the thousands of saints, the thousands of churches? What would we do with these thousands of churches? For some reason, the ministry goes away, but the followers of the ministry refuse to believe the ministry goes away. Watchman Nee made a statement in A Table in the Wilderness, he said that, “A ministry can come, a ministry can go. When the ministries go, you should tear down the ministry from its roots.” Nothing left. When you tear it down, what do you do? When you cut up everything, what does it do? It becomes fertilizer for new ministries to come up.
Who determines who has a new ministry? The Lord does it. It’s not man appointed; man never appoints ministries. Ministry is from God. Watchman Nee has a grand thought: When a ministry goes away, not only the works should be dissolved, but even their ministry should be moved away to open a space for a new ministry to raise up. If we know how to bury Watchman Nee and Witness Lee in a good way and turn them into fertilizer for the new ministry to rise up, wouldn’t that be marvelous? Then one day, more brothers will go to the Lord, more brothers become the fertilizing element for a new ministry to raise up. Rather than quickly fighting the churches on who can take control or who can have leadership. If you do that, you will become an institution and put the Lord to shame.
Numerous great ministers have had such an experience. Just from the Reformation, the ministry of Luther was so strong according to God. Luther opened up the Bible to all saints, and he was strong in declaring that people are saved by faith. However, the Lutherans were formed. I think at that time, the apostle didn’t have many thoughts because Catholisim was the institution. So at that time, maybe it was very normal to be formed like that. We cannot mention all the ministries one by one. We have Zwingli, Calvin, Zinzendorf, Wesley. Then, in the 19th century, we have Darby, Newton, Kelly, Raven. In the 20th century, Simpson, Penn-Lewis, Panton, Barber, and Sparks. But do you realize something? In the 20th century, none of these men, besides Simpson, (but he was before the 20th century) formed a ministry. No institution come out. It might have had something to do with the age.
But anyway, let’s just continue. They all boast of weighty, spiritual influence towards Jesus lovers in the body of Christ. But for many of them, they follow forms of institutions or denominations which divide the testimony of the body of Christ. There’s nothing wrong with the Lutheran institution. The only thing the Lutheran institution hurts is the one unique testimony of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ’s testimony becomes divided. The majority of institutions comes from the following of a rich ministry. The ministry eventually departs, but their followers use their ministries to form institutions. This is why there are so many large or small denominations formed. We see Lutheran, Luther. We see Methodist, Wesley. We see Presbyterian, Calvin. We see Christian Missionary Alliance, Simpson. We see Open Brethren, Newton. We see Closed Brethren, Darby. Some of the ministers clearly knew that the body of Christ cannot be divided. Therefore, they refuse to form institutions. Zinzendorf is so spiritual, so grand. He’s a big spiritual man. He made a simple decision: “When I pass away, I will be buried just like all the other brothers.”
Once, Living Stream bought a big graveyard plot and they moved bodies from Taiwan to be buried there so at the time of rapture it would be easier. One day, a brother tried to sell the property to me and I said “What is all this nonsense about?” He said, “Our land is different. It can be a double decker graveyard. You can bury your husband and your wife on top of it.” What is so special? Does the wife go up first? Then the husband? They made a big beautiful sight for the founder of the institution. It’s really not fair to Brother Lee. They were making an effort to get Brother Nee over. I was so bothered. I thought, “Oh Lord Jesus, please let Brother Nee rest.” Brother Nee was buried in the Suzhou area. It’s very beautiful. There is a highway. On one side of the highway is a lake. The other side is a mountain. Brother Nee was buried right in the midst of all the people. Thousands of people are buried there. I looked at the lake and the beautiful scenery. I told the Lord “Lord, you are very fair.” In Nee’s life, he just wanted to be common, to be with people. Now he’s buried among all the people. In his life, he was very poetic. That’s why his grave is in the middle part of the mountain, to see the beautiful view. I really prayed and told the Lord that, and a brother took a picture. Later, they went and studied the picture to see whether I was crying or not. I don’t remember, but I remember how sobering that moment was, and I worshiped God. In his whole life, Brother Nee suffered for our sake. Eventually he departed and was buried in such a good site, in all of the midst of common people. He was not honored as the founder of a denomination. He was buried commonly. So when I heard that Living Stream was making an effort to bring his body out, and his family for some reason agreed, I felt so sad. I told the Lord, “Lord, please be a little fair to Watchman Nee. In his life, he suffered enough. After he died, you made him the founder of a denomination. What an insult to that man and his ministry.” For some reason, hallelujah, it didn’t go through, so Brother Nee still rests there.
You know, Zinzendorf said, “When I die, don’t make anything special. I occupy just as much space as others. The elevation of my graveyard will be exactly the same as all the brothers.” You know what his followers did? They tripled it. I saw the picture. The first one was him, where he was buried. The gravestone is quite high. Then all the rest are common.
Why? Without their doing this, where would these men’s authority come? They do these kinds of things to make people think they are close with Zinzendorf, they are one with Zinzendorf, they understand Zinzendorf, and they are able to carry the work of Zinzendorf. It’s the same with Brother Lee. You do everything so that you can take over what Brother Nee and Brother Lee have. If you told me “Brother do you want an institution?” I’d never believe it. If you say “Brother, do you want the churches to fellowship together?” I’d agree. He wants it. Even today he still wants it. He wanted us to have fellowship together, but not institutional, just fellowship in life. Zinzendorf asked that his tomb be the same height as all the tombs of the saints. But his followers elevated him, and the Moravian church was kept. So now, his followers became the Moravian church, or Moravian brothers. Even today, they are still there.
A.B. Simpson, the spiritual man, strongly considered that his ministry would not form another denomination. He realized division is wrong. So he said, “My ministry can never be used for division.” But eventually, what happened? A lot has come out. They didn’t do that badly. They don’t have a Simpsons headquarters. They call it the Missionary Alliance, which means “we are together.” Still, it became an institution. However, the Christian Mission Alliance denomination was produced. Darby may have had no thoughts of raising any group. However, his followers strictly hold his teachings and have become very exclusive in reaching out. When I was in Plymouth, where the brethren began, I drove over there purposefully just to see the brethren. I met an open brother. Then I asked him, “Brother, could you introduce me to any of the closed brothers?” You know what the brother answered? “Brother, I can’t. They will not talk to you. I was told that this can be wrong. I was told even with preaching the gospel, they consider whom to preach to.” They are so closed, so selective. It’s scary. Their saints in the 20th century still declare that father James Taylor Jr. is more spiritual than his father, which is unusual. Usually, the father is spiritual and the son is somewhat spiritual. But the son said “Father James Taylor Jr. has opened up the whole Bible, and all that we need to do is get into it.” They don’t develop anything. The whole Bible is already expounded to them. Have you heard that word? From followers of Witness Lee: “Brother Lee has expounded the whole Bible.” We are so much like closed brethren. Today, they really are like closed brethren. They are a little bit more open than that, but wait two generations. Two generations later, the Living Stream Ministry will be so exclusive, it will be a cornered, small denomination. They will be close to being like a cult, even though their teachings are okay. But, their practice is scary.
“Father James Taylor Jr. has opened up the whole Bible, so all that we need to do is get into it.” I feel that Witness Lee is just as much of a sacrifice as we are. Witness Lee was so clear about the Body of Christ and the Testimony of Jesus Christ in localities. Yet, his followers have formed a Living Stream institution. Isn’t that scary? God has raised up all the ministries for the Body. Without the ministries, the Body would not have the riches. The Body life can become so rich because of the ministries, but for some reason, many of the ministries form institutions. If you ask me, I say Sparks didn’t. Sparks and Jessie Penn-Lewis have a work. Those works may or may not still exist. I don’t think Penton has anything. I don’t think Miss Barber has anything. From those few spiritual men in the 20th century, nothing really developed.
3. Doctrines and Practices
Point 3: Doctrines and practices are also problems. Some institutions are formed by particular doctrines. Though for some, such teachings eventually can lose their purity. For some reason the pure teachings become unhealthy. For instance, some Bible study made you realize you have to believe and then be baptized. Catholics insist on being baptized when you’re born. So they perform the sprinkling of water on babies instead of baptizing them into the water to sanctify them. So the people stood up and said, “No! You’ve got to be baptized in the water after you believe.” As a result, the Catholics burned and killed those who speak of this.
Some are really pure and biblical like the Church of Christ, the Baptists, the Disciples of Christ and the Friends Church. They are pretty good. When you see the Church of Christ you’ll be surprised. Right across the street is the Church of Christ and we are the Church of Christ. Two Churches of Christ across the street, yet we never visit them and they never bother to see us. So when we say we love and honor them, it looks like we’re hypocrites. The elders should make an effort to see them, to be with them, to properly have fellowship with them.
When I met a member of the Disciples of Christ, they told me this, (which is true): “In the early days, unless you were baptized in the Church of Christ, you were not saved. You have to be baptized in the Church of Christ.” But I think they changed it now. Now you can be baptized at some other place, but you can still be saved. The Disciples of Christ were more free. For all Christians who were baptized, we honor their salvation. But all kinds of things are there. They may or may not have had a strong ministry when they were founded, but their teaching became a slogan of their practices. Some practices became extreme. These are teachings like “you have to be baptized,” for example. Then you have some practices which are experienced. For example, in the Evangelical movement, many congregations were produced and they focused on speaking in tongues, divine healing, etc. It’s very interesting.
I had the experience of speaking in tongues and the power of healing when I was young. I may still have the power of healing. I haven’t stretched out my hand for very long. But anyways, I am very happy I never got caught with it when I healed a few unconscious people. I met one brother who thought he had the power of healing, so he kept asking, “Are you okay?” When he sees you, he says “are you okay?” You say, “Well I’m a little bit hurt on my shoulder here,” and he heals you. It’s very interesting. But anyways, you have to say that the work can come from the Lord, but be very careful to not make this practice exclusive: you must speak in tongues, you must have the ability of healing. I spoke with a sister, who was with us in the Church in Akron. Later she gets caught speaking in tongues; she comes to see me. She tells me, “Titus, we all need to speak in tongues.” I say “Yeah, yeah, let me show you a verse, do all speak in tongues?” You know what she answered? “Yeah, see all speak in tongues!” “No no,” I say, “do all speak in tongues?” She said “Yeah, all speak in tongues.” Eventually, there’s no need to argue; I just told her, “Sister, if you like to speak in tongues, feel free, but in the church meetings, you need interpreters.” This is Paul’s teaching. In the meeting, you speak other languages, for instance, all of a sudden you speak Japanese: “Arigatōgozaimashi.” Then somebody gets to translate, “Thank you very much.”
Do you get my point? You need translation in order to understand the saints, and this institution includes our dear brothers and sisters. I repeat this to you. Now you should never have the spirit of: “You belong to that denomination.” You should never, ever have that kind of spirit. You see a brother, and if the Lord is able to live in him, who are you to despise him? Even the Lord would honour him because he believed in Jesus. So we should also; we should understand the institution is composed of our dear brothers and sisters, and they deserve our love and respect. However, the testimony is of one unique body of Christ. The testimony, do you remember? There is only one testimony. The one testimony of the unique body of Christ is very much damaged by exalting something other than Christ himself. A denomination hurts the testimony of oneness, yet you never say that the denomination is right, and you never say saints in denomination are poor. If you’re in a denomination but you’re saved: I love you, I’m with you, I’m for you. Do you get my point? But, you say, “Oh, you love me? I’m a Baptist, come to me.” No no, I cannot partake of division, but I love the saints who are there.
Then finally, another thing that causes problems is the culture. Finally, culture can also form different Christian institutions that end up dividing the body. For example, in the case of the Anabaptists; a movement associated with the Reformation. I said this already, but you need to be baptised. The Anabaptists’ beginning was marked by martyrdom of their leaders, such as Felix Manz. Actually the Anabaptists were a hundred years before the Lutherans in their Church history. First they had something already reforming there, and then came Luther. But anyways, this brother who was murdered stressed that believers needed to be baptised after they had believed. So when you are a baby it is not adequate.
Then let me ask you, when a brother comes, I ask, “Are you baptized?” He answers, “when I was born.” Then what would you say? You have two ways, right? One is: “Well, brother, remember Jesus was baptized at the age of thirty, got into the water and came out of the water. Therefore, you have to believe first and then get baptized.” But if he replies, “But I realized that is my baptism already.” What would you say? Well you have to say, “Praise the Lord, we honor your conscience.” Do you get my point? If the bible teaching is to get into the water, but you get a sprinkling, so what? Well, if you feel that’s good enough, Hallelujah, that’s good enough. But one day, if you feel that is not good enough, come, fellowship more. Today, we can meet together and love the Lord together. Don’t make any issues with any Christian. This is not even worthwhile; just be one with the brothers in life.
So then, what becomes of a man such as Felix Manz, who stressed that believers needed to be baptized after they had believed? Over time, the movement also carried a certain simplicity of living. Because during the founder’s time, there was no electricity and no cars. Their founder lived in the 15th century. You know Luther is 15 or 16th century right? Some of these founders were a hundred years earlier than Luther, so they could be from the 15th century. So even today, they still live in that kind of life. For example, when you go to see the Amish, you can see them near Ashland Woods. Make sure to buy chicken, egg and vegetables, because they don’t use anything that damages the body. Their chicken is chicken that didn’t grow up with chemicals. Their eggs are real good eggs, because they eat whatever that’s available; they don’t feed them with chemicals. Their vegetables are very clean. You buy their vegetables, wash it and you can just eat it. You know brother, take advantage of it. You ask them, do you believe in Jesus? Yes! Do you love Jesus? Yes! But Saturday night when you go to their town, all the bars are full. I was very surprised. How can man live such a godly life without automobiles and without electricity? You know why their home was their home? No light can come in without electricity and without cars. But they tell you, the Bible doesn’t say you can’t drink. You can drink at least Timothy’s wine, right? So we drink. Do you get it? They drink. Anyways, they are to be admired. Right? When you see them when you go to Ashland, when you see their buggy come over, we feed them, and tell them I love you. You really have to appreciate them. In today’s age they live in such simplicity. But there’s only one thing: they don’t come to us to preach the gospel anymore. They’re disassociated with modern society, so that becomes their limitation in the US. That’s the Mennonites and the Amish.
Standing for the Testimony of the Unique Body of Christ
Are you okay? Okay, Let me read, just the last part, let’s see, that’s good, only two pages. Hallelujah. Standing for the testimony of the Unique body of Christ.
The local church is not for the local church. The Church in Cleveland is all the brothers in Cleveland. When you say we’re the church in Cleveland, it includes the saints in the Church of Christ across the street, the Baptists, and all the Christians who live in Cleveland. If they live in Cleveland, they are part of the Church in Cleveland. But we say we are a little bit different, because we exalt nothing but the oneness of Christ and the oneness of the Body of Christ. So the Church in Cleveland is the testimony of the one body in Cleveland.
Church in Cleveland is another name, one we registered. When I was here, the first time we wanted to register the brother told me you cannot register as a church in Cleveland, you should register as a Christian fellowship center. I was a minister. When I went to get the marriage license, they asked me, “What’s the Christian group you belong to?” I said, “the Christian Fellowship Center.” Why? At that time we didn’t know they allowed you to register as a Church in Cleveland. Later I found out, you could. Then we dropped “fellowship center.” We became the unique testimony of oneness in this locality. There can be many Christian fellowship centers. I checked “chapel,” and found a list of hundreds of chapels in this place and in that place. One city, one testimony.
What is the best name? How do you call that one testimony? That is the Church in that locality. Who made that decision? The Lord made that decision. How do you know? Well, in Revelation 1, the Lord says very clearly that John turned around and saw someone speak to him in the seven lampstands. Then he heard the voice. What you see, write to the seven churches; to the church in Ephesus, to the church in… yes or no? That’s right, to the seven churches, he’s not bothered with mentioning the church, because in every church there’s only one testimony. So, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea. Seven localities, in other words. To Cleveland, to Akron, to Columbus, to Mason, to Dayton. Seven churches in Ohio, but the Lord wouldn’t say to the church in Cleveland. He feels it would bother him, waste too much time. A city can only have one testimony, so write to Ephesus, which is the church in Ephesus. Write to Columbus, which is the church in Columbus. Write to Cleveland, which is the church in Cleveland. Because in the sight of the Lord, there can only be one church in that locality. Let me ask you, at that time, was there any disagreement there? It’s hard to say right? As long as there’s human beings, there’s disagreement, so we don’t know how Ephesus was. But we know there’s a group of people bearing the testimony there. Lord would say, write to Ephesus. Then, to the church in Ephesus, is to those who stand on the ground of oneness, bearing the one testimony of the Lord in that locality. Do I make sense? Are you okay? You want me to finish or not? Do we have the realization or not?
We’ve got to remember this, right? We admire and honor all Christians who love the Lord, and should have no bias toward a brother, no matter where he meets. However, we must also realize our commitment. The testimony of the one unique body of Christ, expressed in localities. This is our commitment. Why is there a church in Columbus? Our commitment. Why is there a church in Cleveland? Our commitment. Why is there a church in Willoughby? Our commitment. Why is there a church in Akron? Our commitment. Our commitment is very simple. If we bear the testimony of the oneness in the locality we are in, then we should have the realization that even calling ourselves the local church can cause us to be denominational. Where are you from? We should say, the Church in Cleveland. What’s the difference? You say, “Oh, you’re a local church denomination. We’re a Baptist denomination.” They asked Watchman Nee, “where do you meet?” He answered, “remember the answer I told you many times? The church I meet at includes you. The church you meet at does not include me.”
So if I meet somebody and ask “Where are you meeting?” With Baptists, and you? Answer, “Where I meet includes you. The Baptist church does not include me.” Oh that answer is not easy. It’s too easy for us to say, we’re in a local church. Where’s the headquarters? In Cleveland. Brother, that kind of thing is stupid to the utmost. But anyway, let’s just continue. Revelation chapter one is a marvelous picture for us to see. We should have the realization that even calling ourselves “the local church” can cause us to be denominational. We should have a profound apprehension that when we say “local church,” we should see as the Lord saw the seven churches in Asia Minor. Firstly, he mentioned seven localities, because in each locality, there’s a need for testimony. In Cleveland, there’s a need of testimony of the church in Cleveland. In Columbus, there’s a need of testimony as a church in Columbus. What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia. Then, the Lord went on to mention a church in each place. This is a strong indication that, according to Christ, in one locality there should be one local church. That means, in reality, there should be one testimony of the Lord’s body, which is called ‘the Church in that locality’; there is one testimony in that locality as a body of Christ. Do you get it?
Hey Mark, which church do you go to? The church of the Lord in Kampala, the church of Christ in Kampala, how big is Kampala? The church there? How big is the church in Kampala? Yes, that’s the right answer. If he answers, “About two hundred.” I don’t know how many, maybe a hundred eighty, you have had good increase. How big is that? One hundred eighty. Then how do you put those who are not of this one hundred eighty? You kill them? You go shoot them one by one? They are also brothers in Kampala right? So with the Church in Kampala, how big it is? It is hard to say. Every believer is part of the church in Kampala. How many of the brothers there are bearing the testimony of oneness in Kampala? Now you can say one hundred eighty. Because others do not bear such a testimony.
Furthermore, the Lord stressed that not only should the church in that place hear His voice, but all the churches together should hear Him. To every locality, he addressed both the Church in that locality, and all the churches saying, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church in Cleveland.” When the Lord speaks to one church, He speaks to all the churches, what does that mean? That means that there’s one testimony locally, and there’s one testimony universally. All the local churches, all the saints, are bearing the same unique testimony; the Lord hates division. And the Lord hates isolation. He doesn’t like to see any congregation isolate themselves as a free group. So, here we can see a picture—Christ is the center, the speaker, the One who walks in the midst of the churches. He desires every church to become healthy to bear his testimony. This teaches us a local church is not the name of the saints in the locality, which can become, without care, even denominational. If you’re not careful, you will become a local denomination. A local church must be the body of Christ expressed in that locality. You’re bearing the testimony of oneness. She’s the testimony of the Lord in oneness, in that locality. If a local church only stands on the ground of locality and misses Christ as the unique foundation (enhanced by the life-supplying of the apostles and prophets) and fellowship with other churches in the body, it is more than unhealthy. In such a situation, “local church” will become only a term used by people.
I saw a servant of the Lord. He saw me. I invited him to come to my residence. He gave me some of his things he wrote, and I told him: “Brother, I knew you for a couple of years, when I was a high schooler. You were serving God; I really honored you very much.” Then he said: “You know, Watchman Nee sent me out from China to Taiwan, I’m the only one sent out by Watchman Nee.” It’s interesting, I don’t think he lies, I don’t know why he sent him out. Anyway, I think in the beginning, maybe he felt this young man was quite hopeful. Then we began to talk, and he began to say some words against the local church. Then I said, “Brother, please, don’t. Let me ask you about the seven churches, in seven localities, in Revelation 1. Isn’t that strong enough to prove one city, one church, one city, one testimony?” He felt that, all of sudden, I was not so pleasant, because I was very strong on him to keep the testimony of oneness. So this brother: “Okay, okay we’re all from brother Nee, then no problem.”
So we finished our fellowship. I took him to a restaurant. He got into the restaurant first. I parked my car, went to the restaurant, went in, and saw him sitting at the table, speaking to himself. “This one is a local church, that one is a local church. Not one of them can come together.” Is that true? Very true, if we’re not careful, our congregation can use the name of the local church, but eventually it’s what? It’s a free group. We’re not in fellowship with the body, so “local church” will only become a term used by people, but she has actually lost her reality. They must see they are the unique testimony of the body of Christ in that locality. There’s the locality of the body of Christ, and universal body of Christ, in Chicago. There’s the unique testimony of the body of Christ in Cleveland, that is the Church in Cleveland. What is the Church in Cleveland? All saints together, that is the Church in Cleveland. How many people are bearing the testimony of the oneness in Church in Cleveland? Today, we see here maybe four hundred, five hundred saints. We have to say, praise the Lord, for the way He works. They must say that they have the unique testimony of the body of Christ in that locality. When we say the local church, we really mean a local testimony of the Lord. Can you say amen, or are you so tired you can’t say amen anymore? Are you able to say amen? Amen! Let me read this to you, when we say a local church, we really mean a local testimony of the Lord. Not just a congregation, it’s a testimony. May Lord have mercy. Can we have one or two brothers pray and close the meeting?