The Life and Way for the Practice of the Church Life, by Witness Lee


Another thing which we, the workers, have to be careful about and which was mentioned already in the preceding chapter is that we should not keep any of the results of our work in our hands. This is the pattern set up by the apostle Paul. In the first journey of his ministry, wherever Paul went, he preached the gospel, and a number of believers were raised up. Then Paul helped them to be the local church in their respective place. All the results of his ministry went to the local churches. He kept nothing for himself.

However, if you look into history, there are many real stories indicating that a great many of the Lord’s workers did not follow Paul’s example. Let me give you a small illustration. In the years between 1925 and 1927, due to a great change in the political circle in China, there was an influence demanding all the Western missionaries to turn over everything of their work to the local Chinese Christians. The Presbyterian missionaries, however, insisted on keeping everything in their hands. Consequently, some of the local saints left the Presbyterian church.

We have to realize that we are not sent out to build up our ministry. We are sent out to build up, to perfect, the saints for the building up of the Body of Christ. However, it is easy for us to keep the results of our work in our hands with the good excuse, even the best excuse, that we are protecting the saints. We may say, "Look, these people are so young; they are even babies. They don’t know anything. I have to take care of them. I am the parent, so I have to protect them as my children."

One time I was invited to a certain place. I was placed in a specially prepared building and treated as the most honorable guest. During my stay, various people came to see me and told me their feelings. Nearly all of them were seeking ones. The inner registration I had concerning their situation can be illustrated by the following description. These friends were like a big family. They had a very capable father, and this father loved all his children very much. Some children were nearly forty years of age. They simply wanted to get married and have their own family. But the father still treated them as babes. The father explained to me, saying, "They are still young." The children, on the other hand, said to me, "Brother Lee, we have been here for many years. We have nothing to do." Brothers, here you see the problem.

Other workers might give some mean excuses for keeping the work in their hands. Some might say, "I have been working and laboring here for many years. If I don’t keep the result of the work in my hands, I have no security." This kind of excuse is mean. If you want security, I would advise you to go to the world to get something as security. Do not come to work for the Lord to get some security. There is no security in the Lord’s work. Anyone who comes to the Lord’s work must be ready to sacrifice everything, even his life. If you do not want to be this kind of person, I advise you not to touch the Lord’s work. It is better for you to get a job in the world.

If I try to keep anything of my work here in Los Angeles in my hands, this becomes a sect. Regardless of how I declare and proclaim it, it is a sect. But if all the results of my work go to the church here, then the local church here has its own jurisdiction and its own liberty. The church here has a free hand to go on with the Lord. Suppose the saints in the church here feel the need to invite a worker from Texas. They have the full liberty to invite him. If they feel the need to invite another one from Europe, another one from Africa, and another one from South America, they have the full liberty to do so. This is the proper way for us to practice.

In 1934 the Lord was moving among the Chinese young believers. They saw something about the church, and that had an influence on the work of the China Inland Mission. The CIM missionaries gathered in Shanghai to have a conference to discuss how to handle the situation. They knew that the situation was due mostly to the work among us, so some of them had some contact with Brother Watchman Nee. Brother Nee talked with them according to the truth. He told them, "You brothers have sacrificed your country, your family, and a lot of other things to come to China to work for the Lord. I believe your intention is to build up the Body of Christ." They replied, "Right, Brother Nee. We are here to build up the Lord’s Body." Then Brother Nee said, "Wonderful! We are doing the same thing. Then let us work together." But eventually, it became clear that the CIM missionaries were not willing to give up the so-called CIM Church.

Then Brother Nee told them, "If your coming and staying here is to build up your CIM Church, this is a big difficulty. If you would be willing to keep your hands off your work and let the believers be the local churches, everything would be all right." Then the missionaries replied, "We are not a denomination. We are just a mission—the China Inland Mission." Brother Nee said, "It is good that you are just a mission, but the mission has to keep its hands off the churches. As a mission, you should not form a mission church." Eventually, they were not able to get through in this matter. Many missions went to China, but unfortunately, instead of building up local churches in China, the missions built up their respective mission churches. This became a problem to the Chinese saints.

Our work is to build up local churches for the building up of the Body of Christ. We should not be afraid that if we keep our hands off the local churches, they will be carried away. Do not be afraid that a local church will be carried away. If it can be carried away, let it be carried away. Do not take the excuse that you are going to be the custodian to protect the little children. The Lord is the Custodian; you are not the custodian. You are just a servant of the Lord serving His children.

(The Life and Way for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)