WHAT THE CHURCH IS
Of course, the church here is not the church as ordinarily understood by Christians today. In general, when Christians, especially in the West, speak of the church, they are referring to a chapel. When you see a chapel by the roadside, you may say that it is a church. When someone asks you, “Where is your church?” you may say, “Our church is on Chin Shan Street.” Many people designate the church as the building where they meet. When we first came to Taiwan, we started to build the hall on Ren Ai Road. At first we built a small meeting hall with bricks and tiles. After about a year or two, it was too small to meet the need. So, we tore it down and changed it to a bigger meeting hall built with wood. I drew the design of the meeting hall, but after I handed it to the engineer, he looked at it and shook his head. He said, “This does not look like a church but a warehouse or storehouse. If you want to build a church, the ridge of the roof must be high, and there should be a bell tower either at the front or at the side. Then right away people can tell that it is a chapel.” I have also seen religious pictures drawn by various Christians. When they represent the church, they usually draw a chapel with a steeple. Therefore, in the eyes of most Christians, a chapel is a church. This is truly a great error, even a great heresy.
The church is not a physical building but the Body of Christ. Please consider how a building can be the Body of Christ. Would you like to have a building as your body? Thus, you can see that what is generally taught, understood, and spoken in Christianity is far off the mark. For this reason, the Lord has a recovery. We cannot follow the traditions of Christianity. In the previous century, around the 1830s, the Lord raised up a group of brothers, who are referred to in history as the Brethren. When they were raised up, these brothers were full of light. Based upon the Bible, they told people that the church is by no means a physical building. What, then, is the church? They explained this according to the meaning of the Greek word. In Greek, the word for church is ekklesia, meaning a gathering together of the called-out ones. Therefore, when speaking about the church, the Brethren did not use the word church but the word assembly. Then after nearly seventy years, the Assembly of God was raised up out of a group of people in the Pentecostal movement in America. When they came to China to preach the gospel, they also did not use the word church but the word assembly. I believe that the term assembly is more accurate than the term church.
The Brethren said that the church is a group of people, chosen and redeemed by God, who have been called out by God to assemble together. This kind of exposition is much more advanced; it contains no error and is accurate. Nevertheless, this explanation has not hit home and is still too shallow. Today we are those who were chosen by God, and we have all been saved. Moreover, we have been called by God to assemble in our locality. This is the church in a true sense. However, if you have your flesh and opinions, I have my philosophy and views, and someone else has his preference and disposition, how can we get along in your flesh, in my philosophy, and in his preference when we come together? We will either argue or quarrel. Please consider this; when everyone is quarreling and arguing, is that the church? That is a flesh club, a quarrel club, and an argument club, but it is not the church. Yes, according to our standing, we are God’s called-out ones and we are assembling as the people of the church. Nevertheless, according to the reality of the condition of life, this is not the church.
I have observed the conflict between the whites and the blacks in America. To this day no black person can come into certain Southern Baptist churches in the southern United States. A recent American president was a member of a Southern Baptist church. When he ran for office, he promised to give black people their proper position, and many black people gave him their votes. However, even he could not turn the situation around. That is why up to this day blacks and whites still have much conflict. You cannot say that the whites who believe in the Lord Jesus are not called by God, nor can you say that the blacks who believe in the Lord Jesus are not called by God. They are all called by God. However, when they come together, they are not the church because they are Christians in position only. In reality, they cannot say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” If they all could say this, there would no longer be the distinction between whites and blacks. I simply say this much to show you the deformed situation of today’s Christianity. It is so completely off the mark. Merely to say that the church is God’s assembly, the gathering together of the called ones, is correct on the one hand and incorrect on the other hand. Do these called ones meet together by the Spirit and Christ, or do they meet in their mind, insight, perspective, preference, and disposition? If they come together according to their perspective, insight, disposition, and other traits, they are not the church.
(The All-Inclusiveness and Unlimitedness of Christ, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)