HAVING NO SPECIAL NAME
The reason why we as well as many other brothers and sisters left the denominations is that denominationalism is a sin. We have no other name except the name of Christ. Some have called us the "Little Flock." But this is a name given to us by those who do not know us. The words "Little Flock" were printed on a temporary hymn book which we use. In 1927 because we felt the need for a hymnal, we prepared twenty hymns of praise. Later we selected or wrote one hundred sixty-four more hymns. We hope to publish a proper hymn book when we have three hundred hymns. This is why in the preface of our temporary edition, we have the words: "As to the reason for the preparation of this hymnal, its name and meaning...as well as its features, we will explain in detail when the final edition is printed." Actually, the words "little flock" are used only once in the New Testament, in Luke 12:32. The Lord used these words in reference to the whole church. To the Lord, the whole church is a little flock on earth. This little flock includes all true believers past and present; it includes all genuinely saved Christians. The Lord said clearly in John 10:16 that He has only one flock, under one Shepherd. Therefore, the "Little Flock" hymnal means the hymnal used in the church meetings, and it has no other connotation. The outsiders are not aware of this; therefore, they call us the "Little Flock." It is probably a misunderstanding that came from the name of this hymn book. Actually, all believers are part of this little flock. Therefore, this "Little Flock" hymnal is prepared for all of God’s children. I hope that after this explanation, no one would call us by that name anymore. (Formerly, because I started The Christian magazine, some called us "The Christian Assembly.")
Brothers and sisters, the reason we do not want any name is that it is enough to have the name of Christ. The whole question rests on whether or not Christ’s name is enough to satisfy our heart! What is the meaning of the name "Christian"? It means that we are those who belong to Christ. When a girl is married, she becomes the wife of a certain person. Can she take another man’s name besides her husband’s name? If she does that, what kind of a woman would we consider her to be? Therefore, if we take another name besides the name of Christ, we are like a woman having two husbands. The Lord hates this. Other than being a Christian, we cannot be a Presbyterian, a Wesleyan, a Lutheran, or a person of any denomination. We cannot divide God’s children according to state churches, nor can we divide God’s children according to any private churches. We do not want to have a part in anything that divides God’s children, whether it be a famous man (such as Luther or Wesley) or a ritual (such as baptism) or a system (such as congregationalism) or an organization (such as the Salvation Army). As long as it is a denomination, whether it be an old one or a new one, we have to depart from it. I have said this before, and I will say it again: we are leaving the denominations; we are not leaving the church. We must be clear about this.
Moreover, we are not arguing about the way to be baptized, the way to break the bread, etc. We are fighting for what the Bible says. If it is God’s Word, we should follow it. If the tradition of the elders has authority, the word of the Lord should have more authority. Which one is more reliable, the decision of the elders or the decision of the Lord? In Mark the Lord clearly said, "But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as teachings the commandments of men...Thus you deprive the word of God of its authority by your tradition which you have handed down" (7:7, 13). Everyone who walks according to tradition will surely put aside God’s Word.
THE PASTORAL SYSTEM BEING UNSCRIPTURAL
I am not opposed to the pastoral gift, but to the pastoral system. Why do I say that the pastoral system is wrong? The whole New Testament only mentions the pastors once, in Ephesians 4:11 [KJV]. But the pastors as they stand now are no longer true pastors. The Catholic Church places the priests in a most prominent position, while the Protestant churches place the pastors in a most prominent position. The pastoral system is not only another form of the priesthood in the Catholic Church, but also another form of the priesthood of the nation of Israel. Originally, God intended that the whole nation of Israel would be priests. But the people of Israel became fallen, and God had to appoint one tribe to replace the whole nation as priests. From that time on, the priests became a mediatory office between God and man. Man could not come to God directly, and God would not instruct man directly. A special class of people was formed to draw near to God and instruct the people. There was no more direct fellowship between God and man. This is Judaism.
What is the difference between Christianity and Judaism? "Having therefore, brothers, boldness for entering the Holy of Holies in the blood of Jesus, which entrance He initiated for us as a new and living way through the veil, that is, His flesh" (Heb. 10:19-20). In other words, when the Lord came, He annulled the mediatory priestly class. Christ has died, and the veil has been rent. Every Christian can come directly to God, and the mediatory priesthood is forever annulled. Every believer is now a priest before God because the accomplishment of Christ has unconditionally made everyone a priest (Rev. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:5).
Does the pastoral system not bear the nature of the mediatory priesthood? Does it not change the church into a hierarchical organization? Under this system, only the pastors take care of the spiritual matters, and the laity go about their own affairs. Baptism and the breaking of bread can only be administered by the pastors; it seems as if the pastors alone have the spiritual authority. Even the elders can only manage business affairs. I am not giving the pastors a hard time. What I am opposed to is that the pastoral system has annulled the work of Christ! If the pastoral system is not removed, many believers will not be able to grow. In that case, the ordinary believers will not bear any responsibility, and the pastors will take over the meetings. But we have to realize that there is a great difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there was the mediatory class, but in the New Testament, there is no mediatory class. The Catholic Church annuls the accomplishment of the blood of Christ and places the priests between God and man, robbing the believers of their new position. Protestantism also returns to the Old Testament mediatory system of priesthood through the pastoral system, and the believers are robbed again of their new position. I say again: I am not against the pastors, but the pastoral system. If anyone has the pastoral gift, I do not oppose him. On the contrary, I respect him. But because it is unscriptural to make pastoring a system and to control the church through the pastors, I must oppose it.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 18: Notes on Scriptural Messages (2), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)