The Practical Expression of the Church, by Witness Lee


How did the Lord Jesus begin the church life? Some people have the concept that Christ began the church life with teaching. No, He did not do that. The Lord Jesus began the church life by sowing Himself into man as the seed of life. The church life simply comes out of this very seed of life. The Lord Jesus came to sow Himself into us, and this seed of life brings forth the church life. Matthew 13:3 says, “Behold, the sower went out to sow.” The Lord Jesus came not as a teacher to begin the church life by teaching but as a sower, sowing Himself as the seed of life into the fallen race. It is from this seed that something springs forth as the church life.

The apostle Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered” (1 Cor. 3:6). Do not imagine that Paul went simply to preach and Apollos came to teach. No, Paul planted, and Apollos watered. Both planting and watering are for the growth of life, which issues from the seed which is Christ Himself. I like these three words: sowing, planting, and watering. What the local church mostly needs is not teaching but planting and watering. We do need to be watered that we may grow. Teaching does not help us to grow, but watering does. This is why it is rather difficult for anyone to see a real church life on the earth today. It is simply because of the lack of planting and watering among the Christians. Teaching alone kills and divides, but watering helps the growth.

First Corinthians 3 speaks of the church being planted and watered and also mentions something more. It says that we are not only the farm of God but also God’s building. The farm requires the growth, and the building requires the building up. We can be built up by growth. If we want a solid church life with a group of believers built up in a solid way, we must minister Christ as life so that everyone will grow. First Corinthians 3 speaks of the growth and the building up. It is by growth that we can be built up together.

First Peter 1:23 tells us that we were all born of the incorruptible seed, which is Christ, the living Word. Christ has sown Himself into us as this seed, and out of this seed we are born. After we are born, as newborn babes, we need the milk of the word in order that we may grow unto salvation (ch. 2). We need to be saved from so many things, and this kind of salvation can only be realized by growth in life. This corresponds with Romans 5:10, which tells us that we must be saved in His life. It is by growth in life that we are saved.

We need milk, not knowledge. The newborn babes need to drink of the milk that they may grow. Then 1 Peter 2 continues by saying that as we grow, we become the living stones to be built up together. The more we grow, the more we grow together. The more we grow, the more we grow into one. The more we grow, the more we grow into a building. We are built up together by growth, not by being organized or taught. It is all by growth in life.

Wherever we go, we must not try to adjust others. Let them be wrong. Do not try to correct and change them. What they need is to grow. Even if you can adjust and correct them, it means nothing, for there is still no growth in life.


What is required in the church is the growth in life. I do not expect to see any change in the brothers, but I do expect to see growth. Sometimes you can see growth with certain brothers or sisters, but it seems that there is no apparent change. Do not be concerned; the change will appear later. Change by the growth of life does not come quickly. Outward correction brings swift results, even overnight, but this is not of life.

Anything of life grows very steadily, yet very slowly. Anything human is manufactured and is done very quickly. You can make a man of wax in less than two days, but you cannot make me within two days. Do you know how long it took to make me as I now am? It took over sixty years, and I am still in the process of growth. This is the law of life. We should not expect a brother to change overnight. If he does, the change is not the change in life.

Sometimes I hear Christians testifying of a brother who becomes another kind of person overnight. But in another night, he may become a third kind of person. This is too fast. Life grows steadily but in a slow way. We need patience to go on with those in the church and let them be what they are. Sometimes we may have to wait for more than twenty-four or even thirty months before we see a real change. All the mothers expect their children to grow, but it takes time. If you look at them today, they seem to be the same as yesterday. If you look at them tomorrow, they are about the same as today. But after ten years, there is a great change. This is the growth of life.

In the church we need the real growth of life. We expect a quick change, but we must be patient and help people to grow, not in the way of teaching, but in the way of life. Sometimes there are those who really trouble the church, but let them be so troublesome. Do not be bothered by that. Be patient, and let them grow. Simply minister life little by little. Praise the Lord! After five years you will see the growth.

All the brothers here can testify that in all these past years, we have not exercised much correction. But praise the Lord, look at the growth in life! The growth in life is all we need. It will take care of everything. It transforms us instead of simply changing us. Ephesians 4:15-16 shows us that the real building of the Body is by growth. “Holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things.” This “causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.” It is by this growth that the Body is built up.

In every local church there is a certain amount of problems and troubles. This is because children always cause problems, and every local church has so many children. But we must not be bothered. To have problems in a family with so many children is normal. If you have four children without any problems, I doubt whether your family is normal. That means that all the children are dead. The more alive they are, the more troubles you will have. Do not be so troubled with the problems in your locality. Praise the Lord, it is normal!

We must learn how to feed on the Lord and how to feed others. We do not need much teaching, so we should not give much teaching to others. By His mercy and grace, we must help others to realize that they need Christ as life all the time in a practical and living way. Then in time, we will see the growth.


The content of the church is not any kind of capability or qualification. In the church we do not need those who are capable. In the church we need Christ as life experienced by a group of people. We need those who know only one thing—Christ as their life. They may seem so simple, so foolish, and even so troublesome; yet there is the sense of life. It is rather difficult for you to define it, but there is this sense.

We cannot define life, we can only taste it. If you can tell people about the church in Los Angeles in a clear, defined way, I am afraid that we are just an organization with many activities, but without life. But if you say, “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! When I was in Los Angeles, I tasted something wonderful which I cannot define,” this is right. If others ask you what you have tasted, you can only tell them to go and taste for themselves.

The church in every locality must have such a taste of life. Others must sense that nothing is here but Christ as life. It is so living, so enjoyable, and so tasteful. There is the sense, but it cannot be described. Everyone must taste for himself.

Therefore, we must not bring anything into the church. Neither should we create something in the church as a kind of content. The content of the church is nothing but the living Christ as life to all the members.

(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 19, by Witness Lee)