THE GROUND OF THE CHURCH
Now let me ask, What is the ground of the church? In principle we have seen the meaning of the ground and its importance, but we must apply it. What is the ground of the church? The ground of a certain thing is the very place where you put that thing. That is the ground. In other words, the ground of the church is the very place where the church is.
If a vase rests on a table, the ground of the vase is the table. Then what is the ground upon which the church stands? It is the city where the church is. The first church in the New Testament was in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). It is very clear that the city of Jerusalem became the ground of that church.
Then the church spread from Jerusalem to Antioch. Since there was now a church at Antioch (13:1), spontaneously the city of Antioch became the ground of the church there. Then the church spread from Antioch to Ephesus, Corinth, and many other cities. All the cities where the church spread became the ground upon which the church stood. This is the unique ground of the genuine oneness. This is the local ground, or the ground of locality.
Suppose that in Corinth some of the believers who liked Apollos were to build an Apollonian church, and those of Peter were to build a Petrine church. Then there would be a church of Apollos and a church of Peter. Then suppose those of Paul were to build up a Pauline church, and even some would say that they were of Christ, so they would build up a “church of Christ.” Then, there would be four churches in the one city of Corinth, and all of these four churches would claim, declare, and proclaim that Christ is their foundation. The Apollonian church is built on Christ, the Petrine church is built on Christ, the Pauline church is built on Christ, and, of course, the “church of Christ” is also built on Christ. All four different kinds of churches claim to have Christ as their foundation. Their foundation may be the same, but their grounds are absolutely different. They are all built on different grounds. One has the Apollonian ground, one has the Petrine ground, one has the Pauline ground, and one even says that Christ is its ground. What are these grounds? We must be clear that they are all divisive. Only Corinth is the right ground. The ground of locality is the one unique and uniting ground upon which the church can be built. The unique, proper ground of the church is the locality where the church is.
Today we have the same thing in a city such as Los Angeles. There is a church built upon the Presbyterian ground, a church built upon the Baptist ground, a church built upon the Methodist ground, and so many kinds of “churches” built upon so many kinds of grounds. In one city there are many kinds of “churches” because they are on so many different kinds of grounds. All of these grounds are divisive.
We must be clear that the ground of the church is the very locality where the church is. When we go to Jerusalem, we must go to the church in Jerusalem. When we go to Antioch, we must go to the church in Antioch. Then the divisions are gone. When we go to a certain city, we must go to the church in that city.
But the big problem is this: Suppose I like sprinkling, and the church in the city where I go practices immersion. What should I do? The usual thing that happens is that I will talk with the saints there, argue with them, and eventually start a new “church” that practices sprinkling. Then upon what is my “church” built? It is unquestionably built upon the ground of sprinkling. I have built it upon something which I believe is right, but it is built upon the wrong ground. It is not built upon the ground of locality, but on the ground of sprinkling.
Then someone else who practices speaking in tongues goes to the same city. But the church in that city does not practice tongues either. So eventually he does the same thing and builds a “tongue-speaking church.” The ground of his “church” is speaking in tongues. But tongues should not be the ground upon which a church is built. It must be built upon the ground of locality. This is today’s pitiful situation. Perhaps someone else also goes to the same place to build up a “church” of head covering. So there is another division. The tongue should not be the ground of the church; neither should head covering.
(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)