The Genuine Ground of Oneness, by Witness Lee

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In the 1920s the Lord raised up a group of young people in China under the leadership of Watchman Nee. Brother Nee once told me that the Lord was forced to come to China because, as far as the practice of the church life was concerned, China was still virgin soil, whereas the United States and Europe had been spoiled. There was no way for the Lord to have a proper start for the church life in either Europe or the United States. Therefore, He sowed the seed of the recovery of the church life in the virgin soil of China.

The first church established in the Lord’s recovery was raised up in 1922 in Foochow, Brother Nee’s home town. After I was saved in 1925, I came in contact with Brother Nee through his writings. His writings helped a number of us to see the mistakes of the denominations. We came to realize that although we held to the Lord’s name, the gospel, and the Bible, we had to drop many other aspects of organized Christianity. Under the leadership of Brother Nee, we studied church history, biographies, and all the important spiritual and doctrinal writings. Through our study we gained a detailed knowledge of Christianity. Gradually we came to discern those practices we should adopt: immersion, eldership, practical holiness, the proper Pentecostal spirituality. Those who visited our meetings were often troubled by the fact that they could not categorize us. To some we appeared to be like Baptists, but to others we resembled the Presbyterians or the Plymouth Brethren.

In 1932 the church was raised up in my home town, Chefoo. We did not know how to practice the church life. We only knew that we loved the Lord Jesus and that we could not agree with traditional Christianity. We came together simply with a heart for the Lord and with the Bible. We did not know how to meet, in particular how to have the Lord’s table. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the sweetness of the Lord’s presence.


In 1930 Brother Nee visited Europe, Canada, and the United States. During the course of his visit, he saw the confusion and the divisiveness among the Brethren assemblies. Troubled by the situation, he resolved to re-study the New Testament concerning the boundary of a local assembly. Through this study he saw that the boundary of a local assembly must be the boundary of that locality in which that assembly is. This truth of the boundary of locality was put forth in The Assembly Life. In this book Brother Nee placed strong emphasis on what he called the local border.


In 1937 he saw further light regarding the local oneness of the church. From the local border he went on to see the local ground. Calling an urgent meeting of the co-workers, he delivered the messages published later in The Normal Christian Church Life. This book emphasizes the local ground. By 1937 the matter of the local oneness was fully recovered among us. We became utterly clear that the practice of the church life requires us to be on the local ground, that is, on the ground of oneness.

Since this matter of the ground of locality was recovered, a number of Christians have argued with us concerning it. Some have said, "In saying that you are the local church, you are proud. How can you say that you are the church and that we are not? You claim to be the church in Shanghai. Are we not the church in Shanghai also?" At first we were troubled by such criticism. We did not have the experience to deal with it. Later, by contending for the truth of oneness, we learned how to deal with the various criticisms, objections, and arguments.

(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)