ONE CHURCH, ONE CITY
But the Bible gives a clear and simple word concerning the matter of the church. It has no confusion. If you read the Acts of the Apostles or the beginning of all the Epistles or the first chapter of Revelation, you can see what the Bible calls the churches. They are called "the church in Rome," "the church in Jerusalem," "the church in Corinth," "the church in Colossae," etc. In Revelation 1 there are seven churches in seven localities. We can see that the Bible designates the churches according to only one way. There is no other way. Rome is the name of a city. So is Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae, or Philippi. They are all names of cities. The churches are identified according to the names of cities. Other than the difference in localities, there is no other way for the churches to be differentiated. The church has its locality as its unit. Other than a division according to this unit, the Bible gives no further ramifications.
NEITHER BIGGER NOR SMALLER
Hence, whether a church is big or small, its unit is the locality. Anything smaller than the locality cannot be the unit of the church, nor can anything bigger. What does it mean to have something smaller than the locality?
The first chapter of 1 Corinthians shows us clearly that there was only one church in Corinth. If some among them should say, "I am of Paul," while some other said, "I am of Apollos," with a third party saying, "I am of Cephas," and a fourth proclaiming, "I am of Christ," the church would be divided into four parts. Every one of these parts would be smaller than the boundary of the locality. The Bible calls this division and walking according to the flesh. This kind of division produces sects which God hates.
But the church cannot be bigger than a locality either. The Bible shows us that Galatia, which was a province containing many cities, had many churches. It calls them "the churches of Galatia" (Gal. 1:2).
Again, Asia is a region. It consists of different areas. The Bible says that there were seven churches in Asia. Note that it does not mention a unified organization. Rather, it mentions seven individual local churches.
In Foochow, God ordained that there should only be one church, which is the church in Foochow. We cannot have a number of churches in one city. Fukien, however, is a province with many cities. In this province God has not sanctioned a church of Fukien. Anything that is bigger or smaller than the locality cannot form the basis for the church.
(The Normal Christian Faith, Chapter 16, by Watchman Nee)