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"

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 out.

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 here
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  Copyright 2005 T. Chu, The Church in Cleveland