The local church shares with the universal church several crucial aspects. In these key aspects of oneness, nature, life and essence, the universal and the local church are absolutely identical. The purpose of this Website is to explore this intrinsic identification of the universal with the local church as addressed in the writings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.
Watchman Nee clearly saw and testified concerning this truth:
Now what is true of the universal Church is also true of a local church. The universal Church comprises all those who have the oneness of the Spirit. The local church comprises all those who, in a given locality, have the oneness of the Spirit. The Church of God and the churches of God do not differ in nature, but only in extent. The former consists of all throughout the universe who are indwelt by the Spirit of God; the latter consists of all in one locality who are indwelt by the Spirit.
Anyone wishing to belong to a church in a given locality must answer two requirementshe must be a child of God, and he must live in that particular locality. Membership in the Church of God is conditioned only by being a child of God, but membership in a church of God is conditioned, firstly, by being a child of God and, secondly, by living in a given locality.
In nature the Church is indivisible as God Himself is indivisible. Therefore, the division of the Church into churches is not a division in nature, life, or essence, but only in government, organization, and management. Because the earthly church is composed of a vast number of individuals, a measure of organization is indispensable. It is a physical impossibility for all the people of God, scattered throughout the world, to live and meet in one place; and it is for that reason alone that the Church of God has been divided into churches.
We must realize clearly that the nature of all the local churches is the same throughout the whole earth. It is not that the constituents of one local church are of one kind, and the constituents of another local church are of another kind. In nature there is no difference whatever. The only difference is in the localities that determine their respective boundaries. The Church is indivisible; therefore, in nature the churches are indivisible too. It is only in outward sphere that there is any possibility of dividing them. Physical limitations make geographical divisions inevitable, but the spiritual oneness of believers overcomes all barriers of space.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 2, Vol. 30, 81-82)
Witness Lee also understood the truth concerning this relationship between the universal and local church:
The organic Body is undivided and it is also indivisible (1 Cor. 1:13a). It is not autonomous. This unique Body of Christ is expressed in many local churches (Rev. 1:11) in the divine oneness as it is with the Triune God (John 17:11, 21, 23) and in the divine nature, element, essence, expression, function, and testimony. There are many churches, yet they have one divine nature, one divine element, one divine essence, one divine expression, one divine function, and one divine testimony because they are one Body.
(Witness Lee, Organic Union, 93-94)
Since the nature of the Church, as the nature of God, is indivisible, the churchs outward manifestation, expressed in local churches can differ only in respect to necessary geographical boundaries. Both Watchman Nee and Witness Lee stress this intrinsic relationship of universal Church to local church in the four key aspects of oneness, nature, life, and essence.
I. The Oneness, Nature, Life, and Essence of the Church
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