The Practical Expression of the Church, by Witness Lee


With the individual way of enjoying Christ, there is no problem, but with the corporate way, there is a real problem. Why, in the Lord’s wisdom, did He make such a regulation for the worship of the people of Israel? Why was there only one place for all the people to come together to have the corporate enjoyment of the rich produce of the good land? There were twelve tribes in the good land, but the Lord only chose Jerusalem. Regardless of how far the tribe of Dan was to the north, they still had to come to Jerusalem. In Deuteronomy 12, 14, 15, and 16 the Lord said many times that the people of Israel had to worship at the place He chose. They had no choice. Moses said that in the past they all did whatever was right in their own eyes, but when they would come into the good land, they should not do what was right in their eyes, but what was right in the Lord’s eyes. In other words, they could not act according to their choice, but according to the Lord’s choice. Why did the Lord choose only one place for the corporate worship of the people? It was because this unique spot kept the oneness of all the people of God. This unique place was the ground of oneness.

Suppose two Israelites were neighbors living at a distance from Jerusalem in the territory of Dan. One day, they became angry with one another and eventually hated each other. However, the time of the Feast of Tabernacles was at hand, and both must go up to Jerusalem. If they did not go, they would be cut off as males from the people of Israel. Thus, they would be forced to go and must travel the same road. What could they do? Nothing remained but for them to be reconciled to each other. How else could they sing Psalm 133 as they ascended Mount Zion?

Hallelujah! The ground of oneness forces us to be reconciled to one another. The one unique ground keeps the oneness. This is why we stress again and again the local church ground. It is the one unique ground of oneness that is typified in the book of Deuteronomy.

The ground of oneness keeps all the dissenting elements away and closes all the doors to division. If we do not have the ground of oneness, I am afraid that in a few years’ time there will be fifty free groups in Los Angeles. All the brothers will feel free to establish a meeting in any place they choose.


It seems that it is easier for people to establish a “church” today than to open a store. If you would open a store, you must register with the government. But to establish a “church” only requires someone to start a meeting in their home. People continually refer to Matthew 18:20 as their ground for meeting. But this is wrong. To judge a church according to the presence of the Lord is never conclusive. Even the Catholic Church can testify that they have the presence of the Lord today. If you inquire of them, they will steadfastly maintain that they have the Lord’s presence. But does that vindicate and justify them?

Then there are some who say that the greater the measure of Christ you have, the more you are the church. We cannot agree with this. Madame Guyon was very spiritual. Few have the measure of Christ she had. But she was not right as far as the church was concerned because she remained in the Roman Catholic Church.

Regardless of how spiritual you are, you must come to Jerusalem. Simply to love the Lord by yourself is only one aspect. There is still the corporate side. We must come to the unique ground of oneness, which is the choice of the Lord. If the standing of the church is not according to the ground but according to the so-called spiritual condition, nothing will be stable. Condition is a very relative matter. Today you may be uplifted in the spirit, but after six months you may be very low. Today I may be weak in the spirit, but by the Lord’s mercy after one year, I may be strong. There is no standard of spirituality.

How spiritual is spiritual? It is similar to the length or the height. How long is the length, and how high is the height? There is no standard. But the unique ground is exceedingly definite. It is absolutely unequivocal. The standard of spirituality is extremely vague and obscure. But the matter of the ground is definite. We are one Body; so wherever we go, wherever we are, we must be in the expression of that one church. This is definite and keeps us in oneness.

Christians consider that as long as they preach the gospel and edify the saints, they are right. But the apostles only worked with the intention of building up the local churches. There was no exception. Can anyone show from the Acts or the Epistles that one of the apostles did any work apart from that of building up the local churches? No, there is not such a hint. All the apostles went forth with the full intention of establishing, edifying, and building up the local churches.

The temple had to be built on Mount Moriah as David appointed. Mount Moriah was and still is the center of Jerusalem. It is the place where God appeared to Abraham and also to David. Abraham offered Isaac on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:2), and David offered sacrifices to the Lord on the same spot (1 Chron. 21:18-19, 26; 22:1). Thus, David ordained that this very ground be used for the building of the temple. The people of Israel do not have the right to build the temple in any other place. They must build it on the very spot which David appointed. The church is the fulfillment of the type shown by the temple. We have no right to build a church in any place we choose. If we do, we are simply doing whatever is right in our own eyes. We will please ourselves, but we certainly will not please the Lord. Christians today continually do things which are right in their own eyes. They have no right to do so. They must build up the local church on the very ground which God has appointed, that is, the local ground.

“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” (Rev. 1:11). “To the seven churches” means to the seven cities. One church represents one city, and each local church is equal to that city in which it stands. To establish elders in every church is equivalent to establishing elders in every city (Acts 14:23; cf. Titus 1:5). There should be only one church in one city. In The Normal Christian Church Life, Brother Watchman Nee said that anything smaller than the city is not the church, and anything larger than the city is also not the church.

So many Christian workers today have altogether too much freedom. They build the “church” everywhere and on any kind of ground. There are all kinds of so-called churches: home churches, street churches, campus churches, and so forth. All manner of churches are built upon all kinds of grounds. It is just as if every Israelite has the right to build a “temple.” Benjamin builds a “temple” here, and Jonathan builds another one there. Everywhere there is a so-called temple. This is the situation of today’s Christianity. There are not only many churches but many different kinds of churches. How pitiful it is!

(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)