Witness Lee on the local church
Witness Lee on the local church


Nature of a local church

Ground of a local church

Condition of a local church

Fellowship of the local churches


C. The Condition

Furthermore, every local church has what Witness Lee describes as its own particular condition:

The condition of a local church may fluctuate and may differ from that of all the other local churches, just as the conditions of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 differed from one another. The church in Ephesus was in one condition, and the church in Smyrna was in another condition. All the seven churches were different in their conditions. However, although the conditions of the churches may differ, the ground of the local churches remains the same. Because the condition of a church may fluctuate, our recognizing of a local church should be based upon its nature and ground and not upon its condition.

A local church is preserved from being divided by its ground, not by its condition. The unique ground—the unique oneness of the Body of Christ, plus the unique ground of locality—preserves a church from being divided. The condition of a certain church may be good, but that does not assure that the ground of that church is right. A local church may be low in its condition, yet it is still a genuine local church as long as it keeps the genuine ground of the oneness of the Body. On the other hand, a local church may be high in its condition, but it is a division, a local sect, as long as it does not care for the genuine ground of the oneness of the Body of Christ expressed in its locality. We may use marriage as an illustration of this principle. The ground of a marriage is the chastity of the wife. As long as a wife is chaste, she has a proper standing, even though her character may be rough. She may not be loving or kind—this is her condition—but this does not annul the ground of her marriage. However, if her husband’s name is Smith, and she begins to call herself Mrs. Jones, even if she is loving, kind, humble, and submissive toward her husband, her calling herself Mrs. Jones annuls the ground of her marriage. A wife’s base in her marriage is her chastity. In Revelation 3:8 the Lord praised the church in Philadelphia for not denying His name. It is a terrible thing for a wife to deny her husband’s name. That annuls the base of their marriage. Regardless of how good a wife may be in character or in daily life, if she denies her husband’s name, she has lost her base in the marriage life. The ground of a local church is the very base upon which we recognize that church. We recognize a church not because its condition is according to our preference. Our recognizing of a church depends upon its ground, and this ground is composed of two things: the oneness of the Body and the locality in which the church exists. Concerning the ground of locality, the principle in the New Testament is “one city, one church.” In a particular city there should not be more than one church. The condition of a local church can change, and sometimes it does change; but the ground of a local church should remain unchanged permanently (129-130).

Witness Lee makes it clear here that although the condition of each local church may fluctuate, the ground of the church remains constant. A local church is recognized as proper not based on its condition, but simply because it maintains the ground of oneness within its locality.