The Church and the Work
Principles of the Work
4. The Local Churches and the Oneness of the Body
Although a local church should observe its local boundaries, it must still maintain a universal view of itself in relation to all the other churches, which corporately represent the Body of Christ in practicality. Here Witness Lee illustrates the importance of the Body with respect to the local churches:
We have seen that the Body is one. Does this mean that the church in Cleveland is one Body, that the church in New York is another, and that the church in Anaheim is still another? If this were so, then there would be many local bodies. All the local churches are one Body. The church is not only locally one, but also universally one. All the local churches are one Body. We have seen that as long as we are in a division or outside the oneness, we are not in the Body. Now we must see that the Body is one both locally and universally. In the city of Cleveland there is just one Body, and in the entire universe there is still just one Body. If we truly intend to practice the Body life, we need to see that locally we are the Body and that universally we also are the Body.
(Witness Lee, Spirit and the Body, 184-185)
The local churches are not entirely autonomous, yet there is a clear boundary between them. In addition, all the local churches are the one Body of Christ universally.
5. Principles for Financial Distribution
In the following passage, Watchman Nee offers some practical principles for the financial distribution of the offerings in the church as well as in relation to the work:
In the future, we have to learn from God’s Word how we should handle our finances and how our private money should be separated from the work’s money. We have a few guidelines concerning this for our co-workers when they set out for their work.
First, we should give to the brothers who are in want or to poor people in general.
Second, we should care for the needs of individual brothers and sisters. Those who are making the offering can write down the name of a certain brother on an envelope and drop it in the offering box in care of the responsible brothers.
Third, we should care for the need of our own church.
Fourth, we should care for the need of other churches.
Fifth, we should support the need of the work within our own region. Churches are local, while the work is regional. A few places combined together form a region. In the New Testament we find two regions of work—Jerusalem and Antioch. The twelve apostles had Jerusalem as their center. Paul and the other apostles had Antioch as their center. Paul said that they boasted according to the measure of the rule which the God of measure had apportioned to them (2 Cor. 10:13). For years we were clear about the locality being the sphere of a local church, but we were not clear about the work. Now finally we are clear. There are regions of work. The work in Samaria was under Jerusalem. The work in Pamphylia was under Antioch. This shows us clearly that there are regions of work. If there is not a clear distinction between the local church and the work, we will be confused as soon as there are some kind of shake-ups. We have to remember that the church is confined to a locality, while the work extends to a region. Elders are appointed for the care of the local churches, while apostles are raised up for the work of a region. The Bible is very clear about this… There are also six ways to take care of money received from the local churches. First, we can remember the poor. Second, we can remember individual brothers and sisters or individual workers. Third, we can spend it on the local needs of the local church. Fourth, we can take care of the needs of other local churches. Fifth, we can take care of the needs of the work in our own region. Sixth, we can take care of the needs of the work of other regions.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 59, 72-74)