A Timely Word, by Witness Lee


I have a burden to stay in one place for at least nine months out of the year in order to directly help build up the local church there with some elders. In 1922 Brother Nee raised up a local church in his city. Sixty-six years have passed and we have not seen a model of a local church built up entirely according to what we have seen from the Lord. Brother Nee did not have the time to do this. Until now I have not had the time to do this either. After leaving mainland China, I was in Taiwan for about ten years. But I spent most of my time to train the saints, and I spent more than one-third of my time in other countries. We trained many new believers who were saved through our preaching of the gospel when we came to Taiwan. Many brothers who were saved through our preaching became elders. We trained them and built them up. Then many of them became useful ones to bear responsibility in the church or in the work. Some brothers who are now elders in Taiwan are the sons of these useful ones that were raised up. Because I was so busy training the saints, I did not have the opportunity to build up a local church according to what I teach and according to what I have seen of the Lord.

Many brothers came to me asking for certain ways to do things, but I did not give them a way. I told them to bring this matter to the Lord in prayer and seek the Lord’s leading. I did this because I learned a lot in my earlier ministry. In my earlier ministry, I could give people many instructions. Eventually, I discovered that very few of these instructions worked well. We can illustrate this by the teaching of driving a car. A driving teacher can impart the principles of driving to his students and even some details, but his teaching is not the application. When the driving teacher actually drives the car, his driving may be absolutely different from what he taught. He only taught some principles with some details. But quite often these principles do not fit in with the real situation of the road. When he taught driving, he did not realize there would be a big dip on a certain road. He did not anticipate that the roads would be flooded due to heavy rains. He never dreamed that two cars would crash right in front of his car. Some of the brothers may say, “I drive according to Brother Lee’s teaching. Brother Lee told me this.” But Brother Lee never spoke about “two cars crashing in front of you.” My point is this—if the steering wheel of the church were in my hand, I might drive it absolutely different from what I taught you. This driving would be according to the present situation and condition of the church in order to bring the church safely to its destination.

Thus far, according to my observation, many of the leading ones are still building up the local churches in a “probing way.” They heard something and they received some teaching, but in their practice they are not so clear what to do or how to do it. This is why I have the burden to be involved in the direct building of a local church in a certain place if the Lord would give me time. I must be before the Lord as to whether or not I should do this and where I should do this. Please pray for me concerning this matter.


About four years ago, in October of 1984, I went to Taipei to have some new things tested out as an experiment for our practice of the church life. Before I went, I told some of the brothers that I was going to Taipei to try to do something new. I also said that in those three to five years, I would not be able to do much to help the churches in the United States. What I would do was to come back two times a year for the trainings on the Life-study of the Bible. Then what I would do in Taipei would be tested out, and I would have a finished model to bring back to the United States. The churches in the United States would be able to follow this model and do something according to it. When I went to Taipei, I told the brothers there that I came back to have a new start and that I would call this a new way. But I did not have the assurance how much this way would succeed or work out. I told them that what I was going to do would be a trial, a test, an experiment. At that time close to eighty new elders were established. I told these elders that their being appointed as elders was not something permanent. Their appointment was also subject to experiment. Maybe after a short time, some would find out that they were not suitable persons for the eldership and they would feel to resign. Or maybe I would find out that some were not so fitting in this responsibility. I repeated this word again and again—we are conducting an experiment. I said that the training center in Taipei was a lab, that is, a laboratory.

Regretfully, I was not strict in keeping my word to raise up a model in Taipei and then return to the United States with the finished product. When the saints in the United States heard about this, many of them wanted to go there to attend the training. I hesitated but I gave in to their request. Now I regret this. At that time, I should have kept my principle strictly to say “no” to the saints. I should have asked all the saints to please stay in the United States while I tested and experimented various things. Then I could have properly found out whether or not those things worked. I should have kept this principle, but I did not. That was my negligence, and I feel regretful for this.

Many saints from the United States went to the training in Taipei. In principle the training should have fit the situation of the saints who came from the United States. But I did not have the time to oversee the training that much. I was occupied to the uttermost with the work on the Chinese Recovery Version. I could not even be involved that much with the training. If I had had the time, I would have considered the particular need of the saints from the United States. The training was planned and formed just to fit in with the need of the island of Taiwan. It was not designed to meet the need of saints coming from other countries. My negligence was in accepting these saints to be trained and not doing anything to prepare the training to fit in with their situation.

Within such a short time of training, we baptized over thirty thousand new believers. If I were able to repeat that time of training again, I would not let the trainees baptize so many. We discovered that we could baptize many people, but then we realized that we did not have the manpower to take care of the new ones.

(A Timely Word, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)