HOW TO WRITE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION
(This is a record of a question and answer meeting.)
Brother Chang Kuang Jung asked: How should letters of recommendation for the traveling brothers be written?
Brother Watchman Nee answered: Please remember that letters of recommendation were found at the time of the apostles. In 2 Corinthians 3:1, Paul asks, "Do we need...letters of commendation to you or from you?" This is to say that others needed letters of commendation, but Paul himself was well-known, so he did not need them. Therefore, all typical believers needed letters of recommendation. Although there were exceptions (Paul was the exception), others still needed to use them. According to the record, however, Paul also needed someone to introduce him. When Paul first came to the believers, no one believed he was a brother. It was only after Barnabas introduced him that he was received (Acts 9:27). This shows that the early saints did not receive a person unless they were first informed of him and he was first recommended. There is a great need for letters of recommendation today.
Today if someone comes among us and wants us to receive him, we do not know whether or not he really belongs to the Lord. We have never seen him before, so we certainly do not know whether he is a brother. For example, when a brother from Chefoo comes here, how do we know if he is a brother? The only way to know is if some brothers sign their names on a letter of recommendation, saying, "Brother So-and-so is going to such-and-such a locality, please receive him." If they do not provide such an introduction and if we want to ask him concerning his salvation, he will say, "I break bread in Chefoo. I am a saved person; why do you need to ask me?" Please remember that the only reason for asking is that we do not know whether or not he is a brother. If we receive him loosely, Gentiles and false brothers may easily come in among us. Therefore, letters of recommendation are important.
There is another reason. Our brothers and sisters should always carry a letter of recommendation with them when they travel because there are many from the denominations (especially in Shanghai) who come to our meetings to hear the Word. In a place as busy as Shanghai, there are many denominations. Therefore, there are always many from the denominations who come to our meetings to listen to the Word. If they go to another place and come to one of our meetings, when they are asked where they meet, they may answer, "I meet on Hardoon Road in Wen-teh Lane, Shanghai." You will think that they must be very clear about the truth because they meet in Shanghai; therefore, they should be able to break bread with you, and you receive them. How are you to know that the person is not a brother in our fellowship? We cannot rely just on what the person says. If a person comes among you in the future, saying that he is from Shanghai, he is not necessarily in our fellowship if he does not have a letter of recommendation. We must be clear about this matter. We hope to settle this matter once and for all in the near future. Every brother or sister who goes to another locality must bring a letter of recommendation so that others can know clearly that he or she is the Lord’s.
The letter of recommendation cannot be signed by just one person. Two or three of the brothers responsible for the meeting have to sign to make it proper, because the testimony of two or three is true.
Writing a letter of recommendation is not easy because the brothers who go out from us are different. Therefore, at the suggestion of one brother and at the modification of another during our Saturday meeting, we in Shanghai have agreed that there should be three different kinds of letters of recommendation. The three letters of recommendation should be phrased in the following way:
(1) This is a brother who now meets with us and who is going to your locality. Please receive him because we know that he is a brother in the Lord.
(2) This is a brother who has left the denominations and is in one accord with us. He walks in the same way. Please receive him.
The second type of letter is different from the first. The first only says that he is a brother. The second says that he is not only a brother, but also that he has left the denominations. Why is the second letter different? There are reasons for it. The first letter is for those who are from us but who still meet in the denominations. We cannot refuse to introduce them because they are in the denominations. If they are brothers, we must introduce them. However, if they have a letter of recommendation that does not say they have left the denominations, we are afraid that those who meet in all the localities will think that they are clear about the truth and are clear about all the matters such as baptism, denominations, the church, etc. So please pay attention—from now on read the letters of recommendation from Shanghai carefully. If a letter introduces a person as a brother or a sister and does not say anything more, they are not clear about the truth of the church. If they are already clear about the truth of the church, have already left the denominations, and are already walking on this way together with us, we will say this specifically. In this way, you can be assured that you can avoid many difficulties.
(3) This is a brother going to your locality. Please receive him. He walks in this way together with us, and he is gifted. He has certain gifts which he can render the brothers.
We will specifically mention his type of gift so the brothers in other localities can ask him to preach the Word. If he has the gift of evangelism, you can ask him to preach the gospel. If he has the gift of shepherding, you can ask him to speak a word. If he has the gift of teaching, you can ask him to expound the truths in the Bible. If we do not say this, even though you will know that he is a good brother, you will not know whether or not he has the ability to speak the mystery of the truth clearly. It is better to have these things specified in the letter of recommendation than to find it out by asking and testing him. This will save the brothers trouble.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 25: Collection of Newsletters (1), Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)