The Normal Christian Church Life, by Watchman Nee


When a servant of God reaches a new place, his first business must be to found a local church, unless there is one already in existence, in which case his one concern must be to help the church. The one aim of the work in any place is the building up of the church in that place. All the fruit of a worker’s labors must go to the increase of the church. The work in any place exists for the church alone, not for itself. The apostle’s goal is to build up the church, not to build up his work or any group of people that may have sent him out.

Wherein lies the failure of missions today? They keep the results of their work in their own hands. In other words, they have reckoned their converts as members of their mission, or of their mission church, instead of building them into, or handing them over, to the local churches. The result is that the mission extends all the while and becomes quite an imposing organization, but local churches are scarcely to be found. And because there are no local churches, the mission has to send workers to different places as “pastors” of the various companies of Christians. So church is not church, and work is not work, but both are a medley of the two. There seems to be no scriptural warrant for forming companies of workers into missions; nevertheless, to regard a mission as an apostolic company is not definitely unscriptural, but for missions to enlarge their own organization instead of establishing local churches is distinctly so.


An apostle should go and work in a certain place if the local church invites him, or if he himself has received a revelation from the Lord to work there. In the latter case, if there is a church in the place, he can write notifying them of his coming, just as Paul notified the churches in Corinth and in Rome. These are the two lines which regulate the work of an apostle—he must either have a direct revelation of God’s will, or an indirect revelation through the invitation of a church.

Wherever an apostle goes, he must learn to bear his own responsibility, having his own rented dwelling. It may be all right to work in a place, living as the guest of the local church, but it would not be right to impose upon them by taking advantage of their hospitality over an extended period. If a worker expects to stay for any length of time in one place, then he must have his own center of work, and he must not only bear his own personal responsibilities, but also all responsibilities in connection with the work. A local church must bear entire responsibility for its own work, and so must the worker for his. The church as such must not be involved in any financial outlay in connection with the work; the worker alone is liable for all expenses incurred, and he must learn from the very outset of his ministry to look to the Lord for the supply of his needs. Of course, if the church is spiritual, its members will recognize their spiritual responsibility, and will be willing to assist in material ways so that the work of God may go forward, but the worker should take nothing for granted and should bear the entire financial burden, so that it may be manifest that the church and the work are absolutely distinct.

When an apostle comes to a place where a local church already exists, he must never forget that no church authority rests with him. Should he desire to work in a place where the local church does not wish to have him, then all he can do is to pass on to some other part. The church has full authority either to receive or reject a worker. Even should the worker in question have been used of God to found the very church that rejects him, he can claim no authority in the church on that account.

Should he know unmistakably that God has led him to work in that place, yet the local church refuse to welcome him, if they persist in their attitude, then he must obey the command of God and go and work there despite them. But he must not gather believers around him, nor must he on any account form a separate church. There can only be one church in one place. If he forms a separate company of believers where a local church already exists, he will be forming a sect and not a church. Churches are founded on the ground of locality, not on the ground of receiving a certain apostle. Even if the local church refused to receive him, and his work had to be done without its sympathy and cooperation, or even despite its opposition, still all the results of his labors must be for their benefit. Despite its attitude toward the apostle personally, all the fruit of his labors must be contributed to that church. The sole aim of all work for God is the increase and up-building of the local churches. If they welcome the worker, the result of his labors goes to them; if they reject him, it goes to them just the same.

We require deeper spiritual experience and clearer spiritual light if we are to be workers acceptable to God and to His Church. If we wish to overcome difficulties, we must learn to overcome by spirituality, not by official authority. If we are spiritual, we shall submit to the authority of the local churches. It is lack of submission on the part of God’s servants that is responsible for the forming of numerous sects. Many so-called churches have been established because workers have been rejected by the churches and have gathered groups of people around them, who have supported them and the doctrines they taught. Such a procedure is sectarian.

If we are truly led of God, surely we can trust God to open doors for us. If a church receives us, let us praise Him; if not, let us look confidently to Him to unlock closed doors. Many servants of God trust Him to open up spiritual truths to them, but they cannot trust Him to open doors for the reception of those truths. They have faith to believe God will give them light, but they have no faith to believe that He will also supply the keys to open human hearts to the light He has given. So they resort to carnal methods, and the consequence is much division among the children of God. If God Himself does not remove the obstacles in our circumstances, then we must quietly remain where we are, and not have recourse to natural means, which will assuredly work havoc in the Church of God.

(The Normal Christian Church Life, Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)