The Practical Expression of the Church, by Witness Lee


Another problem regarding divisions concerns those who only care for spirituality. If the meetings of the local church are not so spiritual, they will not go along. They will separate themselves to meet in a more spiritual way. They do not care for the unique ground of the church. It may be that they are not clear that the ground of the church does not depend upon the condition of the church. The condition may fluctuate, but the ground, the standing, never changes. Today we may be very spiritual, but after two months we may not be so spiritual; and after two years, we may be worse. But if today we are weak, can you say that after two years we will not be strong? This, however, is a matter of condition, which easily fluctuates; but the standing of the ground can never change.

Suppose we have a family called the Smiths. Their standing as the Smith family is something which can never be altered. But the condition of the Smith family may be good today and bad tomorrow. However, the members of the Smith family stay together as a family because they are one family. As one family, regardless of how good or bad it is, it is still the Smith family. This is their standing, their ground.

Suppose one of the members of the Smith family thinks that his family is quite poor; so he goes to another family, and that family is much better. But after two years that family becomes much poorer than the Smith family. Then what shall he do?

The problem today is that Christians have no standing, no ground. They only look at the spiritual condition. “This group is more spiritual. I would like to be with them.” But after two years I may be very unhappy with them, so I go to another place. If I am such a person, this means that I have no standing, no ground. I am always seeking a place according to the spiritual condition.

The condition fluctuates, but the ground remains the same. Who can change the site of a building? The building may be poor today, but after a few months it may be greatly improved. In three months the building may change in its condition, but the site, the ground, is forever the same.


It is only by the unique ground of locality that the church can be kept one. Without this ground she will be spontaneously divided. The church is one, so the expression of the church must also be one. Regardless of how big or how small a city may be, the church must be uniquely one in that city. We should never be divided. Wherever we are, we are one, and wherever we go, we are one. If I go to San Francisco, I must go to the church in San Francisco. If I go to London, I must go to the church in London. If I come to Los Angeles, I must come to the church in Los Angeles.

The church is the same in boundary as the city. How many churches should there be in San Francisco? There should be only one, because in every city the expression of the church must be uniquely one. If we go to San Francisco, we must find where the church is and go to it. It is very simple. It is just like going to Tokyo or London to find the American consulate. The American consulate is our consulate because we are citizens of America. We need not ask to which American consulate we must go. We need only ask as Americans citizens, “Where is my consulate?” It is the same when we as Christians go to San Francisco. As Christians we should ask, “Where is the church?” and go to it.

But in fact, sometimes it is not so. For instance, a brother finds the church in San Francisco and goes to the meeting. First he looks at the brothers and then at the sisters. Then he sees the way they have their meeting and attempts to discern how spiritual they are. After this, he returns home to consider the whole situation and eventually decides that he will not go there anymore. He stays home to pray: “Lord, You know that I love You, and You know my heart. O Lord, You know how much I seek after You, and You know the situation in that church. Lord, You know how I cannot go along with that kind of people.” The more he prays, the more he is clear that he must start a meeting in his home, intending that it will be a more spiritual meeting than the church meeting he attended. Thus, he begins to meet with others in his home with a very pure intention. They meet in the name of the Lord, and they can even give testimony of how the Lord has heard their prayers and is guiding them. They have even brought some people to the Lord.

But regardless of how pure, how spiritual, and how full of Christ his group is, it is divisive, and regardless of how poor and how weak and how short of Christ the church in San Francisco is, that is the unique church according to the ground. No one has the right to start another meeting. This is the only way for us to keep the oneness. We can never keep the oneness of the church by the spiritual condition.

Let me illustrate in another way. Suppose two Americans go to Tokyo and visit the American consulate. But from the American consulate they receive very poor service. These two are offended by such a poor consulate in Tokyo; therefore, one of them suggests that they start another American consulate in their home there. They will give the best service, they say.

Later, another American comes to Tokyo and goes to the American consulate, and he also is offended by the poor service. Then he meets the two Americans who started another consulate in their home, and they ask him to come and see how good their American consulate is. Thus, he goes to their house and finds that their American consulate just fits his taste.

You may think that this is ridiculous, but have you ever realized that this is exactly the situation of today’s Christianity? Everyone is so free to start another “church” at any time and any place. But is it the proper church? It may be more spiritual, but the ground is wrong.

We know that at least thirteen million Hebrew people exist on the earth today, but only about two million have gone back to the Holy Land. In New York City alone there are at least three million Hebrews now. Are not all these just as much Hebrews as those in the Holy Land? Surely they are. But who constitutes the nation of Israel? Only those who are on the ground of the nation of Israel. Even though the number of Hebrews in New York is larger, they are still not the nation of Israel. They are Hebrews, but they are not the nation of Israel, because they are not on the proper ground. Only those who have gone back and are standing there in the Holy Land are the nation of Israel, because they are on the proper ground of their nation.

Without the Holy Land, how could the people of Israel be a nation? They simply would not have the ground. The same is true with the church. Without the proper and unique ground, how can we practice the church life? It is impossible. Therefore, in order to practice the church life, we must have the proper ground.

The Hebrews who live in New York may be fine people, very religious, and high-class people. On the other hand, those who have returned to the Holy Land may be poor and of a lower class. But if you wanted to be in the nation of Israel, would you remain in New York or return to the Holy Land? Of course, you would go to the country of Israel.

Those Hebrews who have returned to the right ground may not be so fine and so well cultured as those in New York, but I have full assurance that only with those who have gone to the Holy Land is it possible for the Lord’s purpose to be fulfilled for the Hebrew nation. Regardless of how good those in New York are, they can never fulfill the Lord’s purpose, for they are not on the ground of their nation.

Oh, how we need to see the importance of the ground! It is only by the ground that the oneness of the church can be kept, and it is only by the ground that we can learn the lessons we need in order to experience the reality and practicality of the church life. Without the ground it is impossible to have the proper church life.

(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)