The Normal Christian Church Life, by Watchman Nee


The question naturally arises, how should workers and working associations cooperate? To one company God gives one kind of ministry, and to another an altogether different form of ministry. How should the various groups work together? Peter and his associates, and Paul and those with him, were appointed to different spheres, but in the event of their work overlapping, how should they act? Since there is no centralization of work, yet at the same time there are various groups of workers, how should these different groups cooperate? We must note two fundamental points in regard to the work:

(1)The first responsibility of every worker—no matter what his ministry or what his special line of work—whenever he comes to a place where there is no local church, is to establish one in the locality. (What applies to the individual worker applies also to any group of workers.)

(2)Should he come to a place where a local church already exists, then all his teaching and all his experience must be contributed to that church, that it may be strengthened and edified, and no attempt should be made to attach that church to himself or to the society he represents.

If a worker goes to a place where there is no church and founds one there for the propagation of his particular doctrine, then we cannot cooperate with him because he is building up a sect, and not a church. On the other hand, should a worker go to a place where there is already a local church, and instead of contributing his teaching and experience to its upbuilding, seek to make it a branch-church of the society to which he belongs, then again it is impossible for us to cooperate, because he is building up a denomination. The basis of fellowship in the church is the common possession of life in Christ and living in the same locality. The basis of cooperation in the work is the common aim of the founding and building up of local churches. Denominational affiliations do not hinder us from reckoning anyone as belonging to the Body, but the aim of denominational extension will certainly keep us from any cooperation in the service of God. The greatest harm a worker can do is, instead of establishing and edifying the local churches, to attach to his society the believers he finds in a place, or to form those brought to the Lord through his labors into a branch of his particular denomination. Both these procedures are condemned by the Word of God.

Paul came from Antioch to Corinth and there he preached the gospel. People believed and were saved, and soon there was a group of saints in Corinth. Into what kind of church did Paul form them? Into the church in Corinth. Paul did not establish an Anitochian church in Corinth. He did not form a branch-church of Antioch in Corinth, but simply established a church in Corinth. Thereafter Peter came to Corinth and preached the gospel, with the result that another group of people believed. Did Peter say, “Paul came from Antioch, but I am come from Jerusalem, so I must set up another church: I will establish a Jerusalemic church in Corinth, or, I will form a branch-church of Jerusalem here in Corinth”? No, he contributed all those he led to the Lord to the already existing local church in Corinth. After a while Apollos came along. Again people were saved, and again all the saved ones were added to the local church. So in Corinth there was only one church of God; there were no schismatic denominations. Had Paul established the precedent of founding a church in Corinth to enlarge the sphere of the church from which he went out, calling it the Antiochian church in Corinth, then when Peter came to Corinth he might well have argued, “It is all right for Paul to found an Antiochian church in Corinth since he came from Antioch, but I have nothing to do with Antioch; my church is in Jerusalem, so I must establish a Jerusalemic church here.” Apollos coming to Corinth would in turn follow their example and establish another church as a branch of the one from which he came out. If every worker tried to form a branch of the church he represented, then sects and denominations would be utterly inevitable. If the aim of a worker in any place is not to establish a local church there, but to enlarge the church from which he has gone out, then he is not establishing a church of God in that locality, but only building up his own society. Under such circumstances there is no possibility of cooperation.

(The Normal Christian Church Life, Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)