Why do some people call you “the church of Witness Lee”?

Christ formed the church and is the unique Owner of the church and its undisputed leader.”

Because the practice of meeting as local churches according to the New Testament pattern was brought to us through the ministry of Witness Lee, some have mistakenly assumed that the local churches were owned or controlled by Witness Lee. This is not the case. Witness Lee himself taught and practiced, according to the clear revelation of the Scriptures, that Christ formed the church (Eph. 2:15) and is the unique Owner of the church (Rom. 16:16, Matt. 16:18, Acts 20:28 and its undisputed Leader (Acts 5:31).

We uphold the biblical truth and practice that no individual could or should ever occupy Christ’s unique place in the church.

Witness Lee had a proper relationship with the local churches according to the principles set forth in the New Testament. He labored diligently and selflessly for more than seventy years to serve the churches and to minister the New Testament truths to the believers for the building up of the Body of Christ. As in any proper New Testament ministry, such as the ministry of the apostle Paul, Witness Lee’s ministry raised up local churches. Just as with the apostle Paul, although local churches were established by him, these churches were never to be considered his possession or under his control. Paul spoke strongly to the Corinthian believers, rebuking them for saying that they, as the church, were “of Paul” (1 Cor. 1:12). Just as the apostle’s relationship with the church was misunderstood, even by the believers (2 Cor. 12:14-19; 13:10), it should not be surprising that today there are also those who may convey a distorted view of the relationship of a minister of Christ with the churches being served.

“Just as with the apostle Paul, although local churches were established by him, these churches were never to be considered his possession or under his control.”

An examination of Witness Lee’s writings and teachings should dispel any confusion regarding his relationship with the local churches. Witness Lee often described himself simply as “a bondslave of Jesus Christ.” His writings and teachings testify that during his lifetime there was no system of control set in place either by himself or through any form of hierarchy.

Since his passing in 1997, the local churches have continued in the same spirit of honoring the unique headship of Christ in the church (Eph. 1:22). In accordance with Scripture, neither his writings nor his teachings allow any provision for the raising up of an authoritarian structure among the churches. What Witness Lee did teach, however, regarding his relationship with the local churches and the proper biblical leadership remains with us in the local churches as a pattern:

If anyone asks who is the leader in the church, you need to say that the leader is Christ. To answer in this way indicates that you know the truth and practice the truth. If someone claims that Witness Lee is the leader, you need to tell him, “Witness Lee is our slave.”

— Witness Lee

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Do you believe that you are the only true church?

“…we are part of that one true church, along with all of our fellow believers.”

No, we do not believe this. As there is only one God, there is also only one genuine church, the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:13), which includes all believers, regardless of their conviction or practice regarding the church. We have never claimed that we, the believers meeting together as the local churches, are the only true church. What we do claim is that we are part of that one true church, along with all of our fellow believers. It is this church that the Lord spoke of in Matthew 16:18, when He said, “I will build My church.” This is the unique universal church, which is composed of all those in every place and throughout all of time who have believed into the Lord Jesus Christ.

Based on such an understanding of the oneness of the church universally, what is the Bible’s pattern for the practical daily church life?

We believe that, in accordance the pattern of the churches in the New Testament, the practical visible expression of the church should match the oneness of the universal church.

Just as the church is indivisible universally, we believe that its visible expression in time and space should likewise be absolutely, uncompromisingly one. In order to establish and maintain such practical oneness among the many members of the Body of Christ throughout the earth, God established a pattern in the New Testament of having only one church including all believers in each city. All the believers in their respective cities comprise the church in that city. Collectively, these churches are the many local expressions of the one universal church. According to the New Testament, these local churches are established solely on the inclusive ground of geography—specifically, the entire city—not on the exclusive ground of any doctrine, person, spiritual experience, concept, or form of church government (Rev. 1:11; 1 Cor. 1:10). For that reason, we follow the New Testament practice of designating the local churches as the church in a city as, for example, the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1), the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), and the seven churches in seven cities in Asia (Rev. 1:11).

“By meeting as the church in a city, we are endeavoring to maintain the oneness with all the believers in that city, neither excluding nor dividing ourselves from those who choose not to meet with us.”

By meeting as the church in a city, we are endeavoring to maintain a testimony of our oneness with all the believers in that city, neither excluding nor dividing ourselves from those who choose not to meet with us. In practice, meeting as the church in a city is the most inclusive, least exclusive possible basis on which to meet, for by definition the boundary of the church includes all Christians within a given city. Therefore, as a proper and genuine local church, we receive all believers in Christ just as God has received them (Romans 14:3; 15:7); our meetings are open to all believers and are for all believers, and we gladly fellowship with others whether or not they choose to meet with us in this way.

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Do you believe that only those meeting with the local church are Christians?

Of course not. We neither believe nor teach that one must meet with us in order to be a genuine Christian. We receive in fellowship (Rom. 14:1–15:13) all proper believers in Christ regardless of where they choose to meet.

We recognize that in the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant denominations, and the independent groups there are many genuine blood-washed, Spirit-regenerated believers in Christ and we receive them as our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In fact, many of those meeting with the local church came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ prior to meeting with us. We rejoice in this! Being born again (regenerated) is not dependent upon what one believes concerning the church, that is, upon how, where, or even whether one chooses to meet with other Christians.

“…we joyfully receive all those whom Christ has received. We have no right to reject those whom Christ has received.”

We believe and teach that eternal salvation is obtained uniquely through repentance unto God and faith in Christ (Acts 20:21), that it is absolutely of grace and not of man’s works (Eph. 2:8). The foundation of the faith we hold in common with all believers (Jude 3) is the very Person and redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7).

Furthermore, we joyfully receive all those whom Christ has received (Rom. 15:7). We have no right to reject those whom Christ has received. We welcome fellowship with all the Lord’s children.

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Do you agree with a modalistic view of the Trinity?

“Modalism is heretical, a misguided and unscriptural attempt by the finite human mind to understand and systematize the mysterious divine Trinity.”

Certainly not! Modalism is heretical, a misguided and unscriptural attempt by the finite human mind to understand and systematize the mysterious divine Trinity. Modalism teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are merely three temporary modes or forms of activity through which God manifests Himself in time. The most common form of modalism claims that the Father’s existence ended with the Son’s coming and that the Son ceased to exist when the Spirit came. Thus, according to modalistic thought, the Father, Son, and Spirit do not exist simultaneously and eternally. This view, of course, is contrary to the pure biblical revelation of the Triune God.

Like many others throughout church history who have sought to know and teach the truth concerning the Trinity, we have been the target of unfair and unwarranted criticism. We have always endeavored to faithfully represent both aspects of God’s triune (three-one) existence as presented in Scripture: He is revealed to be both eternally three and eternally one. However, statements emphasizing either aspect, taken in isolation, can easily be misrepresented, as some have done regarding our teaching.

…the local churches, unlike modalists, believe in the eternal coexistence and coinherence of the Three of the Godhead.
“Even in God’s move to carry out man’s salvation and fulfill His eternal purpose, the Three of the Godhead are distinct in function yet never separate in Their being.”

We reiterate, clearly and emphatically, that the local churches, unlike modalists, believe in the eternal coexistence and coinherence of the three of the Godhead; that is, we believe that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit all coexist from eternity past to eternity future, and all mutually coinhere, or indwell one another. Even in God’s move to carry out man’s salvation and fulfill His eternal purpose, the Three of the Godhead are distinct in function yet never separate in Their being. This means that in every step of God’s work of creation, salvation, and consummation of His purpose, the Three of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are fully involved.

In summary, our orthodoxy concerning the Triune God must be determined by measuring our teaching against the pure Word of God. When our writings are considered fairly and objectively in the light of Scripture, it is evident that we do not hold a modalistic view of the Trinity, but a view that is altogether according to the balanced, twofold revelation of the pure Word of God.

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Is your view of the Trinity scriptural?

The teachings of the local churches regarding the Trinity are based solely upon the pure revelation of the Word of God. We believe that:

  • God is one (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4). The one God has the aspect of three—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (Isa. 6:8; Matt. 28:19).
  • The Father, the Son, and the Spirit coexist simultaneously (Matt. 3:16-17) from eternity to eternity.
  • The Father is God (Eph. 1:17; 4:6). The Son is God (Heb. 1:8; Rom. 9:5). The Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4).
  • The Father is eternal (Isa. 9:6). The Son is eternal (Heb. 1:11-12; 7:3). The Spirit is eternal (Heb. 9:14).
  • The Father, Son, and Spirit coinhere and are inseparable (John 14:10-11; 8:29; 14:26; 15:26; Matt. 10:20).
  • The Three—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—are one (Isa. 9:6; John 10:30; 2 Cor. 3:17).
In summary, we believe in the Triune God. More specifically, we believe that He is both one and three; that each of the Three is fully God and is eternal; that the Three of the Godhead coexist simultaneously and eternally and coinhere inseparably; and that the Three, each distinct though never separate, exist as one unique God.

In affirming these basic characterizations regarding the Trinity, we realize that we can be at best only minimally descriptive. The trinity of God is profoundly mysterious, and as Martin Luther once remarked, “If reason disturbs you here and questions arise…: Are there, then, two gods? Answer: There is only one God, and still there is the Father and the Son. How is this possible? Respond with humility: I do not know….”

“Our understanding of the Trinity must be determined not by the inclinations of our natural curiosities, but by simply and absolutely embracing the manner in which the Trinity is revealed in the New Testament.”

Our understanding of the Trinity must be determined not by the inclinations of our natural curiosities, but by simply and absolutely embracing the manner in which the Trinity is revealed in the New Testament. The Bible declines to explain to us exactly how it is that God can be three and yet one. In fact, while references to the Trinity permeate the writings of the New Testament authors, they were never so systematic in their presentation. To the apostles, the Trinity was not a subject of unimpassioned study. The Triune God to them was real and living, richly and vibrantly pervading their thought, their consciousness, their writings, and no doubt, their Christian life and church life.

It is in this same spirit that we wish to consider and present the subject of the Trinity. The Triune God is not merely to be studied, but even the more, to be experienced, enjoyed, and extolled. The Triune God is the source, the means, and indeed the very content of the believers’ experience of salvation. In the New Testament age, God operates in His Trinity—not to become an object of analysis or contemplation, but to graciously reach sinful man in Christ, regenerating and transforming him as the Spirit that man may experience God in His Trinity as his full salvation. Paul’s final blessing to the Corinthian believers unveils God’s marvelous and mysterious threefold visitation to man in His Trinity: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14).

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