Leadership in the New Testament, by Witness Lee


Such a leadership as exercised by Paul and by John was not the leadership in organization. The first twelve apostles were appointed by the Lord Jesus, but they were not organized. The Lord Jesus’ appointment was equal among the twelve. In the New Testament we cannot see an organization with board members, a chairman, a secretary, or other officers. All the major denominations have board members and a chairman. The Catholic Church has the pope as the head of their hierarchical organization. But the leadership in the New Testament ministry is not the leadership in the worldly sense to control others. In the Lord’s recovery we do not have board members with a chairman or president.

Furthermore, this leadership is not the leadership in the ministers’ acts, but in their teaching, to restrict them from being divisive. Sometimes in the New Testament Paul told some of his co-workers to go to certain places (1 Cor. 4:17) or to remain in other places (Titus 1:5). But basically speaking, the leadership is not exercised over the ministers’ acts. No one should exercise any control over the work for the Lord. If one has the burden to go to Alaska, he must be clear that this is of the Lord. No one controls his going or not going, but he needs to be clear that his decision is of the Lord through fellowship with the Lord and the Body. There is no restriction exercised in the movements of the workers, but if someone rises up to teach something beyond the teaching of the apostles, the leadership may rise up to tell this one not to teach differently. The leadership which is shown in the New Testament is mainly in the teachings of the ministers, not in the acts of co-workers.

As the Lord’s recovery is spreading throughout the entire world, who can direct the acts of so many co-workers and serving ones? We do not have a board or a mission to direct the acts of the co-workers. No one is in a position to direct the ministers’ acts. They must pray and seek the Lord’s leading and fellowship with the dear saints who are so concerned for the Lord’s move on this earth today. Through prayer and fellowship with the saints, they will be clear whether they should stay where they are or go to another place. They will be clear whether they should go by themselves or go with some others. What is taught or preached by the workers, however, should be restricted. The leadership is very much needed in this area.

In the recovery in God’s ministry, there is no freedom to preach whatever we like to preach or to teach whatever we like to teach. Our preaching and our teaching have to be restricted under the leadership by the revelation of God’s New Testament economy. If someone in the Lord’s recovery began to teach, stress, or promote something contrary to or different from God’s New Testament economy, there would be the need of some leadership to restrict this. Then there would be no confusion. There would never be confusion in the Lord’s recovery if all of us had a clear revelation of the ministry in God’s New Testament economy.

In the past the Lord’s recovery was disturbed by some who stressed the matter of tongue-speaking. The majority of Christians have still not accepted the matter of speaking in tongues, and in actuality this matter has done much damage to the Lord’s move on this earth. With the matter of speaking in tongues, the debit is much bigger than the credit. In the early years of the Lord’s recovery in mainland China, we suffered a great loss when we tried to practice speaking in tongues. Eventually the co-workers there spontaneously concluded that tongue-speaking was not a profit to the Lord’s move on this earth.

A certain charismatic magazine printed an article in which the writer said that he had contacted two hundred people who claimed to speak in tongues. Without exception, all of these two hundred doubted that the tongue spoken was genuine. However, the writer encouraged them all to go on speaking in tongues regardless of their doubts about the genuineness of what they were uttering. We read this article publicly in the training in 1963. Then I asked the trainees if Peter and the others on the day of Pentecost had any doubt whether the tongues spoken by them were genuine. Certainly Peter and the others had no such doubts. However, these two hundred tongue-speakers had doubts because the tongues they spoke were not genuine.

(Leadership in the New Testament, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)