THE LOCAL CHURCHES
We have seen that the church is the Body of Christ and the expression of Christ. Now we need to realize that this church as the Body of Christ needs the local churches. The church is the expression of Christ, and the local churches are the expression of the church. Without the local churches you cannot contact the church. The church is embodied in the local churches. The church is also realized and experienced in the local churches. So for the practical church life, we all need the local churches. In the Lord’s recovery the local churches are also a main point.
No doubt, in the New Testament the church as the Body of Christ has been fully revealed. Yet if you read through Acts and the Epistles to the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, you will see that the church is fully expressed in the local churches. In the last book of the Bible, what you see is not the church but the local churches. In Revelation 1:11 the apostle John heard a voice saying to him, "What you see write in a scroll and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamos and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea." Here are seven churches in seven cities—one church for one city and one city with only one church. These are the local churches. Today the Lord is recovering the local churches. Wherever we go, we are the one local church there. If we go to Houston, we are the one local church in Houston. If we go to Anaheim, we are the one local church in Anaheim. The same is true if we go to San Francisco, Seattle, or anywhere else.
BEING BUILT UP IN THE LOCAL CHURCHES
By being kept, preserved, in the local churches, we are being built up. In the local churches we can be built up. If you have your own choice, you do not keep your destiny. When you like this group of Christians, you stay with them. When you feel unhappy with them, you say goodbye to them and go somewhere else. If that is the case, how can you be built up? We all know what it is to be built up. Look at any building. Many pieces of material are all fitly framed together. That is a building. Ephesians 2:21-22 says, "In whom [Christ Jesus] all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit." In whom you also means we local saints are also being built together. Wherever we go, wherever we are, we have to be the one local church in that locality. Then by being so preserved, we surely will learn the lesson and will spontaneously be built up together.
Since I am now living in Los Angeles, I have to be a brother in the church in Los Angeles. Whether I like you or not, I cannot escape. I have to stay with you. This is my destiny. Therefore, I have to learn the lesson. I have to be dealt with. Even I have to be broken. I have to be transformed that I may be built up with you. If we all are like this, we all will be built up in the local churches.
Forget about being religious or being "spiritual." Just take care of one thing—be in a local church and be built up with others. Whether you are religious or not, whether you are spiritual or not, does not mean much to the Lord. What matters to Him is whether or not you are in a local church being built up with others. This is the unique thing that the Lord is after today.
In summary, what are the four points that we want to stress in this chapter? First, the church is Christ. Second, there are no ordinances in the church. Third, the local churches are the expression of the church—one church, one city. This is the only way and the only ground for us to keep the unity and have the proper church life. Fourth, we need to be built up in the local church. As long as we are built up in the local church, we are in the Lord’s will, we are in the Lord’s recovery, and we are under the preparation for His coming back.
(The Life for the Preaching of the High Gospel, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)