The Church and the Work

Principles of the Work

2. The Local Churches Not Being Entirely Autonomous

Although the local churches are separated by locality, Witness Lee points out strongly that the local churches are not entirely autonomous or independent of the apostles. He writes below that the local churches should not be divided by any matter; the local churches should also be willing to receive ongoing care from the apostles.

The local churches in the various localities are scattered in different places by geography, yet they are not divided by any doctrine or matter (1 Cor. 1:10-13). Some people suggest that the local churches should be autonomous and that the churches should be independent. However, I must say that to be autonomous is the biggest division. The United States of America has only one federal government, one national defense, one diplomacy, one postal service, one monetary system, and one highway system that connects the whole country. If each state issued its own currency, the entire United States would have to issue fifty kinds of notes, and the market would be in turmoil. It is the same regarding the highways. The entire country has only one highway system. If the highways in each state could not be connected, then the transportation in the entire country would be choked. It is because of all these onenesses that the United States of America has become so strong and so great.
Furthermore, some said that although the Bible speaks of the apostles setting up churches and appointing elders, after a church is established and the elders are appointed, the apostles should take their hands off. However, the Bible clearly shows us that after Paul established the church in Ephesus, he continued to visit them and wrote letters to that church to care for them. One time he even stayed there for three years, admonishing them night and day, both publicly and in the homes (Acts 20:20, 31). On the way of Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, he even sent people from Miletus to go tens of miles away to ask the elders of the church in Ephesus to come, and he exhorted them to take heed to all the flock, to shepherd the church of God, which was purchased by God’s own blood. He said this because he knew that after he departed wolves would come into their midst. Hence, after the apostles established the churches and appointed the elders, they did not leave them and cease caring for them; rather, they continued to care for the churches that they had established.

(Witness Lee, Issue of the Union, 85-86)

3. The Boundary between the Local Churches

In order to preserve a church’s local character and to limit its involvement in the affairs of other local churches, Witness Lee presents the following principle related to the matter of boundaries among the churches:

There is also a boundary between the churches. True, all the local churches are in the Lord, and they should all fellowship with one another and do their best to help each other. But once a problem occurs, there is still the need to clearly draw the boundary. You must distinguish clearly whether a matter belongs to one local church or to another local church. Some elders are too good in their hearts. They feel that since they are not far from a church in their suburbs, they should help the other church, and they go ahead and make decisions for that church! This may be done out of a good heart, but often it damages matters. Do not consider this as unimportant. We must always learn to draw the boundary clearly. If this matter belongs to another church, even if it seems troublesome, we must still turn it over to them, informing their responsible ones of it and allowing them to take care of the matter. Although there should be fellowship between the churches and although they should help one another in the Lord, yet the boundary between the churches must be clear.

(Witness Lee, Elders’ Management, 143-144)

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