The Lord's Recovery
and The Ministry
The following fellowship was initially shared during the final message
of the Labor Day conference in Cleveland.
As those who love the Lord and desire to serve Him among the local churches,
we are pursuing with many others who have likewise been attracted to the
church life. As we pursue and fellowship together, certain terms have
become common among us. These terms, however, must be understood according
to truth, or else problems will certainly arise.
"THE LORD'S RECOVERY"
We are for the Lord's recovery!
Although we should never say we are in "a recovery church," we should
all gladly be able to say that we are for the Lord's recovery, because
the Lord's recovery is a spiritual matter. Brother Lee stated this in
the booklet "The Beliefs and Practices of the Local Churches."
The Lord has been recovering His riches for the sake of His testimony
throughout the centuries! This is a wonderful spiritual fact. Therefore
we should all be able to boldly declare, "We are for the Lord's recovery!"
Just like we often sang together: "We are for the Lord's recovery of the
local church! We are for the Lord's recovery of the city and earth! Standing
on the ground of oneness; oneness in the Lord! We are for the glorious
building of our glorious Lord!" How clear and how bold is such a statement
and how spiritual is the fact!
We are In the Lord's recovery … to a Degree
To say we are in the Lord's recovery is also reasonable, for if we are
for something, we should also be in it. Yet how much we are in the Lord's
recovery is a spiritual matter and something according to truth. By the
Lord's mercy I can say that I can declare, along with many other servants
of the Lord, that I am in the Lord's recovery, for I have a part in it
and I have participated in it. It is a spiritual reality. Some, however,
take this matter in an institutional way and consider the Lord's recovery
to be an organization. Such an understanding, however, is absolutely wrong!
The Lord's recovery is altogether a matter of spiritual reality. A young
sister may not be in the Lord's recovery as much as a brother who has
been leading the saints in a church for twenty-five years, yet she is
very likely someone who is in the Lord's recovery more than someone who
has just been saved!
"We are the Lord's recovery"
Throughout all the centuries the Lord's recovery has been able to go forward
through different brothers who have been committed by Christ with ministries
as the oracle of that age. Martin Luther, Ludwig von Zinzendorf, John
Nelson Darby, T. Austin-Sparks, Watchman Nee and Witness Lee were such
brothers. We can say they were the Lord's recovery, for through their
ministries the Lord's spiritual work of recovery was able to proceed.
Sometimes, however, I hear some say, "We are the Lord's recovery." Certain
saints such as those mentioned above might have been able to say, "I am
the Lord's recovery," but we cannot. Without them the Lord could not have
accomplished His recovery work, for His work of recovery was carried forward
through their ministries. Who among us can say they are carrying such
a ministry? All the saints can say they are for the Lord's recovery, and
a great many can say they are truly in it, but only someone with a great,
spiritual ministry might possibly say that the Lord is doing His work
of recovery through him.
"The Lord's recovery is Us"
If we are in the Lord's recovery, can we then say that the Lord's recovery
is exclusively with us? The Lord recovered so much through Watchman Nee
and Witness Lee, therefore we can say the Lord's recovery was with them.
One thing no one can say, however, is the Lord's recovery is us. The recovery
is a spiritual fact, something that is in the Lord's hands to carry out.
No one can say that they alone are the Lord's recovery or that the Lord's
recovery is exclusively with them. Our Lord is not so confined! The recovery
is a spiritual reality. No one can say they embody it in its totality.
Whoever dares to claim such a thing makes himself equal with God! Therefore,
no one should denominate themselves in such a way, calling themselves
The Lord's Recovery. The reality of the Lord's recovery exists as a grand
and spiritual fact for us to enjoy, and it is something that the Lord
Himself is carrying out according to His divine plan.
The Ministry of Jesus Christ - the New Testament Ministry
Another term often heard is the phrase "the ministry." According to truth,
what is it? When we speak of "the ministry" it should be the New Testament
ministry we are referring to, which is simply the ministry of the Lord
Jesus Christ. Therefore, this term refers to something tremendous and
marvelous and inclusive. Everyone who is born again should exercise a
part in this ministry, and everyone who preaches the gospel or infuses
life into others for their spiritual growth is doing the primary work
of the ministry.
The Particular Ministry of Witness Lee
At times, however, we have also referred to the ministry of Witness Lee
as "the ministry." This is understandable, and I would say even it is
reasonable, for he specifically raised up the local churches we are in.
Some may argue that to say this is to say we belong to a man, but apart
from Witness Lee, we would not be here today. We in particular owe him
so much. Therefore among ourselves we may speak in such a way, for through
our dear brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee we have been raised up
and helped to know and love and follow the Lord. Yet when we apply this
term to Brother Lee's ministry, we should not have the understanding that
Brother's Lee's ministry is "the ministry" exclusively. It should not
mean in our understanding that his was the only ministry, but rather his
particular ministry brought the New Testament ministry to us.
The Ministries of Many Particular Individuals
Who operates to carry out the Lord's New Testament ministry? When you
carry some portion in the New Testament ministry, it can be said that
particular portion is your ministry. In Ephesians 4:11 we see there are
apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers - many saints
with ministries. All these brothers possess their ministries in this unique
New Testament ministry, and all work by means of their particular ministries
for the work of the New Testament ministry. This is a great and precious
matter. The Lord has raised up many servants throughout the centuries
throughout the globe, and used them with their ministries for the building
up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). This is a spiritual matter, no one
individual can point his finger at the Lord's organic, mystical, universal
Body and say, "I built it." All the ministers with their ministries working
together build up the Body of Christ. Neither can any particular group
of ministers point their finger and say, "Only we are building up the
Body of Christ. Only we possess the New Testament ministry and are the
Lord's oracle." The Lord has raised up many ministers throughout the ages
in this one unique New Testament ministry for His Body's sake. Paul charged
both Timothy and Archippus to fulfill their ministries (2 Tim. 4:5; Col.
4:17). It can be seen that within a local church and among the local churches
older servants, such as Paul and Peter, and younger servants, such as
Timothy, and even local saints like Archippus, all have their ministries,
and none are exclusive; they all labored together with their ministries
in this one unique New Testament ministry of Jesus Christ for the building
up of His Body.
In 1995 I fellowshipped with Brother Lee of the situation among the Chinese-speaking
saints here in the Midwest and my desire to conduct a training for them.
He responded, "Titus, you should do it! This is your portion! This is
your ministry! Your ministry is the best to raise up people." He used
the term "your ministry." He did not say, "Titus, You were only saved
in 1953. Do you not realize that as long as I am here, I am the ministry?
You shouldn't do a thing!" I worked closely with Brother Lee for over
thirty years, since I came to this country in 1963 until his passing in
1997. He was a strong leader, and yet he always recognized and honored
others' portions in the ministry. A brother once requested that I come
to Africa to meet a particular need there. I phoned Brother Lee to ask
him how he felt about this. His first response was that he had been considering
sending a certain brother, but once he realized I had been requested,
he quickly said I should go. He never had any thought of control. At another
time, when a brother suggested to him that I should be moved to another
region, he responded, "My conscience would never allow me to do such a
thing, for the work in that area was raised up by Titus himself," or words
to that effect. He realized that the Lord's work is something inclusive
rather than exclusive, and He honored however the Lord was carrying it
Today there are still many ministers who are laboring according to their
ministries, all partaking in the one New Testament ministry. Our consideration
towards them should be along three lines. Firstly, are they carrying the
New Testament ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ? Secondly, do they build
up the churches having only God's economy in view? And thirdly, no matter
how rich their ministry may be, do they bring us to Christ Himself, rather
than simply to the riches themselves? No matter how rich a brother's ministry
may be, a healthy ministry is one that brings you to Christ and brings
Christ into you.
The Ministry Being A Specific Group of Brothers
Some saints may identify the ministry with a certain group of brothers.
This understanding is absolutely wrong! There can be no such thing, for
as we have already noted, the New Testament ministry is something that
is inclusive rather than exclusive. Many, many servants of the Lord partake
in the one ministry as its ministers. I do not say that if some brothers
declare they are the ministry, that they then have no portion in it, but
we all must realize that regardless how rich a group of brothers may be,
the work of ministry is something that is inclusive; it can never be something
exclusive. If any insist, "The Lord's speaking is only with us," it will
only bring about strife and division. We must recognize that God cannot
be limited in this way; He has the right to speak through whomever He
desires to speak through. It is not up to us to declare who that is. No
one has the right to say, "God is only speaking through us. Only we are
the oracle of God." Please remember Paul had a group of coworkers, and
Peter, John and the other apostles quite possibly did also, and they all
labored together in the New Testament ministry.
The Living Stream Ministry
The Living Stream Ministry is a publishing house. Brother Lee stated it
exists to serve as a Levitical service for his ministry (Elders' Training,
Book 9, p. 61). Sadly, many seem to identify the publishing house
of Living Stream Ministry with "the ministry." We greatly appreciate the
faithful service Living Stream Ministry has provided to the saints as
a publishing house, providing us with such an abundance of riches through
its publication work. However, the Living Stream is not itself a ministry
in the biblical sense. It provides a Levitical service, which we do not
belittle, but rather greatly appreciate and value. I am always so happy
to find a stack of newly published books by Brother Lee on my desk when
I return from some time away from Cleveland. We should all be thankful
for the service Living Stream Ministry provides to the churches.
It is a grievous thing, however, that many today seem to consider the
Living Stream Ministry as the headquarters of the local churches! Even
on an unconscious level, we should not have such a mentality, thinking
that Anaheim is our headquarters! When I was visiting a country recently,
an older brother was asked about Living Stream Ministry, seeing how Brother
Lee said that LSM was but a publishing house providing a Levitical service.
This brother replied by saying, "On the one hand Living Stream makes available
to us Brother Nee and Brother Lee's books. But on the other hand, Living
Stream Ministry directs all the local churches on the globe." Such a thought
caused me grave concern. This thought is nonspiritual, nonbiblical, Christless,
and even babylike. No genuine local church should be expected to look
to a publishing house for its direction! It is nonbiblical, nonspiritual,
and Christless! Should any leading ones take such direction, it only means
they have fallen from grace and have become institutionalized. The Lord
has graciously called us out of the degraded situation in Christianity
with its divisions and institutions through the rich ministry of Brother
Nee and Brother Lee. How can we make ourselves into just another institution
and become joined to Christianity? To cause the local churches to be brought
into uniformity under the banner of Living Stream Ministry is to frustrate
the work of the Spirit; remove ourselves from the living, present Christ;
make void the truth of the Bible; and deviate from the teaching of Brothers
Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. A healthy, scriptural local church must
belong and answer only to Christ and its testimony should only be of Christ.
The New Testament ministry of Jesus Christ is Grand and Inclusive
The ministers of the New Testament ministry operate together with their
ministries to build up the Body of Christ. Those involved in this labor
experience no sense of competition or jealousy towards one another. It
is only when someone becomes involved in institution that such things
arise. Only those with an improper view of the ministry consider who will
inherit what, or how they might struggle to gain control of something.
The ministry of the New Testament is inclusive. Our need is to be firmly
with the Lord Jesus in His New Testament ministry. We should dive into
the riches of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. We should be open to the many
ministries ministering for the building up of the churches. As we consider
the ministers, we should consider: Are they ministers of Christ and Christ
alone? And, is their aim to carry out God's economy of building up the
church? We should be very careful that we are not under the control of
anyone who says that they alone have the divine speaking, and we should
have no thought that a publishing house should direct us, even though
we appreciate them for their faithful labor.
These portions of the final message can be downloaded as mp3 audio
files (The Lord's Recovery,The New Testament Ministry) by clicking