THE WAY OF THE CHURCH AND THE WAY OF THE WORK
Brother Witness Lee asked: What is the difference between the way of the church and the way of the co-workers?
Taking the Jerusalem Line—
the Church and the Work Being One
Brother Nee answered: We have covered the way among us in 1937. At that time, we spoke of the difference between the local churches and the work. Our line then began from Acts 13. But during the past few years, we have found out our problems. We found out that we have to begin from chapter one. The Acts of the Apostles begins from chapter one. It is wrong for us to pay attention to the difference between the church and the work before the church is ever built up. We should start from the basis of the church and the work being one. Our mistake lies in the order and the sequence; it is not a mistake in the truth itself. We were not wrong in the truth, but we were wrong in the timing. Our work must first return to the principle of Jerusalem. The starting point of the church is the work.
Before the Lord, there is first the church, and then the giving of the gifts of the apostles and the prophets, and so forth. In Ephesians 4, the Holy Spirit and Paul did not acknowledge even the existence of the twelve apostles. The order there is first the ascending on high of the Lord, then the giving of the gifts. These gifts are given after the church has been produced. The prophets there do not include such prophets as Elijah, nor do they include such people as Peter before the Lord’s death. With Peter, he was an apostle in two different ministries. One was before the formation of the church, and the other was after the formation of the church. The Peter in the Gospels is the Peter before the formation of the church, and the Peter in Acts 2 is the Peter after the formation of the church. This is why we say that in Ephesians 4 there is first the church and then the work.
Before God, first there is the church and then the work. But on earth, there was first the work and then the church. There were the apostles in Jerusalem first, then the church in Jerusalem. Afterwards, there were the deacons and the elders. In the church in Jerusalem, there were first the deacons and then the elders. Many people become a deacon first and then become an elder afterwards. Some need to serve first in the matter of food, before they can take care of the administration. The situation in Jerusalem is different from that of an ordinary church. There we have the elders, the deacons, and the apostles as well.
Consolidating the Work and Spreading the Fruit
Please remember that Peter carried out his work in Jerusalem. Only Philip was sent to Samaria. Under normal circumstances, we should send all the Philips out. Today the co-workers should come together and work in one place, whereas the brothers and sisters should be sent out. The believers in Jerusalem should go out everywhere for the gospel. If we do not migrate today, persecutions may come and force us out.
During the past years, small meetings have been raised up in many localities. These are not the works of the workers, but the works of the brothers and sisters. These brothers and sisters moved to these localities for the sake of their jobs. At present, small meetings have already started everywhere, and we have to go back and deal with every one of them. Our problem lies in the fact that we did not pay attention to the sending out of the workers right from the beginning. This is why many local churches develop problems. It is true that the apostles should remain and work in Jerusalem, but their view should be enlarged to include other places.
The church in Antioch is of a different principle. Antioch is the case of the church producing the work, whereas Jerusalem is the case of the work producing the church. Today, we should first come back to take the way of Jerusalem. Later, we hope that some local churches can practice the principle of Antioch. First Corinthians 12 speaks of the Body on earth. It deals with the question of the church on earth. That is why it says that the apostles and the prophets produce the church.
Today, we need both principles. On the one hand, the church produces the apostles. On the other hand, the apostles produce the church. If our work can progress along these two lines simultaneously, we will see great blessings ahead of us. On the one hand, we should consolidate the work. On the other hand, as soon as people are saved, we should tell them that they live for the gospel. We should not wait until the persecutions arise. We should send them out right away. This is the Lord’s way.
(Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee's Ministry (2 volume set), Chapter 53, by Watchman Nee/Witness Lee)