Witness Lee on the local church: The Testimony of Church History concerning the Ground of the Church
Witness Lee on the local church: Oneness





Watchman Nee 

Witness Lee 



Testimony of Church History—Witness Lee

Witness Lee

Witness Lee, a faithful co-worker of Watchman Nee, also clearly saw the ground of the church in the Scriptures. During his entire life he was faithful to this vision and never deviated from it. His writings are replete with this truth. The following are excerpts from Witness Lee’s publications which testify of his standing in oneness with Watchman Nee to sound out this great truth for the benefit of all the Lord’s dear seekers.

The Practical Expression of the Church (1974)

Beginning in 1922, many local gatherings were raised up by the Lord in China. By 1933, Brother Watchman Nee, realizing the confusion among the Brethren assemblies and being greatly concerned regarding the boundary or limit of a local church, read through the New Testament again in order to be clear concerning this matter. By so doing he came to see that the boundary of a local church is the boundary of the city in which the church is located. That was a real deliverance to us. We became very clear that the church in Shanghai covered everything within the city limits of Shanghai.

From 1934 Brother Nee became more and more clear, not only concerning the boundary of the local church, but also concerning the ground of the local church. Then in 1937 he delivered a number of messages to us regarding this matter, which are now contained in the book entitled The Normal Christian Church Life. The most emphasized point in these messages is the local ground of the church. From the boundary of the local church, Brother Nee went on to see the ground of the local church. It was by 1937 that this became clear to us all, and it was at this time that the term “the ground of the church” was first used. Not only is the city limit the boundary of the local church, but the city itself is the ground of the church. The ground of the church is the city in which the church stands. If a vase stands on a table, the table is the ground upon which the vase stands. A local church stands in a city; so the city in which it stands becomes its very ground.

Since then, the Bible, and especially the New Testament, has been opened to us in this matter. From that time till now, there has been no further improvement in this simply because it cannot be improved upon. It is exceedingly clear that the church ground is the city, the very locality in which the church stands. (70-71)

The Vision of the Church (1986)

In the Bible, we find the principle of one church for each city—no more, no less. In the entire New Testament this principle is never violated. Whenever a church in a certain city is mentioned, it is always in the singular number. Whenever reference is made to the churches, in the plural number, it is always in relation to an area or district which is larger than a city, such as a province. There is nothing in the Bible about street churches, school churches, churches in a home, or, on the other hand, national churches or world churches. There are only churches in cities. You may say that there are some instances of a church in a home recorded in the Bible. But if you read carefully, you will see that in every case these simply refer to the home in which the entire church in that city met. The boundary of the church is not limited to a home; neither is it expanded to a district or nation. In the Bible, it is always according to the size of the city. A church that encompasses the whole city meets the qualification of the unique unity. (9-10)

The Genuine Ground of Oneness (1989)

The jurisdiction of a local church should cover the whole city in which the church is; it should not be greater or lesser than the boundary of the city. All the believers within that boundary should constitute the unique local church within that city. Hence, one church equals one city, and one city equals one church. This is what we call the local churches. (128)

A Brief Presentation of the Lord’s Recovery (1993)

The second element of the church ground is the unique ground of the locality in which a local church is established and exists. The New Testament presents us a clear picture that all the local churches, as the expression of the universal church—the universal Body of Christ—are located in their respective cities. Hence, we see the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1), the church in Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1), the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), and the seven churches in Asia in seven respective cities (Rev. 1:4, 11). Every city as the boundary in which a church exists is the local ground of that church….

The above-defined ground of the church keeps, in practicality, the genuine oneness of the church both locally and universally (Eph. 4:3), without any division. This is the only way to avoid today’s situation of division and confusion among the members of Christ….

The local churches are the many expressions in many localities of the one Body of Christ. The local churches, being the existence of the Body of Christ for its function, are the many expressions of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ may exist in the heavens, but to express itself, it must become the local churches.
A local church is one that exists in a locality as a city, the jurisdiction of the church being within the boundary of the city. We have seen that all the local churches are located, respectively, in different cities. To locate a church in a city is practical and convenient for its administration and its function. (28-31)

The writings of Witness Lee make it clear that the local church renders the Body of Christ very practical. Although the Body of Christ may have its spiritual existence in the heavens, it also needs a means of expression on the earth. This means is the local church. Without the local churches, whose boundary of jurisdiction is the city within which each is located, the Body of Christ has no practical expression. Thus, the Bible consistently presents to us the following inviolable principles: one city, one local church. All the believers within the boundary of a city should constitute the unique local church in that city. This vision and practice preserves the Body of Christ in oneness.