The Practical Expression of the Church, by Witness Lee


I do not believe that the Lord will use the gifts very much in His recovery. He will reveal Himself to the seeking ones as life, and this life will be expressed in love. It is not a human kind of love. This love is simply God Himself, living in us and expressed through us.

We must abandon the concept that gifts are the only requirement for the building up of the church. Gifts alone and, even more, the teachings cannot build up the church. Teaching divides and causes division. Every denomination has been established by a teacher. Church history shows that whenever and wherever there was a great teacher, there was a division. Teaching divides, but love unites and builds up. The only thing that builds up is love. But the love of which we are speaking and the love the Bible teaches is not human love. This love is God Himself; so to realize this love, we must relinquish all other things. We should not trust in anything but love for the building up of the church. We should not put our trust in gifts or teachings.

Some have been teaching for years, but where is one genuine church built up by teaching? Christianity is not new; it has been here for centuries. But where is the church built up by teachings? History shows that teachings and gifts have not been effective in the building up of the church. We should never put our trust in these things, but rather in love. The Lord be merciful to us that we may drop all distracting things and come back to love—just love. We all must realize that nothing can build up the church but love. Ephesians 4:16 tells us it is in love that the Body builds itself up. But the problem is that we are so religious and natural. We still have the concept that we need teachings.

Others condemn us and say that we are exclusive and do not accept all ministries. But if we were to invite the best speakers on earth to come and speak to us, the church would simply be a mess. Suppose we have twelve good, spiritual, sound, and fundamental teachers speak to us every month for a year. I am afraid that by the next year, the church would be gone. Only love edifies and builds up the church. It is not merely the gifts, the teachings, or the ministries that build up the church; it is love.

First Corinthians 13 says that even if I know mysteries and have all knowledge and prophecy, yet without love, I am nothing. As far as the building up of the Body is concerned, without love I am nothing. These things alone cannot build up the Body. We must all change our concept so that we do not put so much trust in teachings. The Body can only be built up in love. If we would love, we must give up many things of the teachings and gifts. We should not trust in anything more than love.

Look at the situation today. Where is the church that is built up by teaching? In the past nineteen years of experience in Taiwan, those who thought they had a gift of teaching became troublemakers. There was not one exception. They proclaimed that they had the gift, but they did not help the work much. The work was mostly carried on by those who did not claim to have a gift. They just learned to serve the Lord by being what they were. They did not consider themselves as gifted persons, but just served the Lord in love. Thus, we see that it is not the gift, but love. All the churches on the island of Taiwan do not have much trust in gifts, because by past experience they saw that all the trouble came from the so-called gifted persons.

If we are going to practice the church life, our concept must be one hundred percent turned. Do not trust much in any teaching or gift. They do not work so well. The real building comes from love, simply love. We must drop the concept that teachings, gifts, and other things can help much in the building up of the church.


In the last chapter we stressed that the content of the church is life. But how can we prove life except by love? When we have a conference and training, I do not trust much in my ministry. This is simply the best time for the brothers from so many different places to come and taste the love. I would prefer to hear the visitors to Los Angeles say that they did not get much help from the ministry, but, oh, what hospitality and love they experienced among the brothers and sisters! We need a church life full of love. When others come, they should sense the reality of love. It is not just a matter of ministry, but the reality of life expressed in love. It is marvelous to have such a testimony. We thank the Lord that He has been gracious to us in this matter, but we need more. A strong testimony is a testimony of love. We do not have much trust in anything but love.

All the dear ones who are in the Lord’s recovery should never have much respect for any gift or ministry. We should not have much trust in anything but love. Then we will see churches full of life and strength, without too much knowledge. This is what we need in the Lord’s recovery.

The reality of the oneness mentioned in Psalm 133 can only come out of love, not out of any ministry. The more ministries we have, the more divisive elements and dissenting opinions we will have. We have learned this by suffering. You do not know how much we have suffered by inviting good speakers. It did not help the building up of the church. On the contrary, I cannot tell you how much damage it has caused.

The Lord has proved that the real need for building up the local church is love. But if we want to love, we must have our concept absolutely uprooted. I fear that we still have the concept that we need more ministries, teachings, and gifts. This concept must be uprooted. All we need is love. Love will bring in the building up of a marvelous church life.


Knowledge and prophesies will be rendered useless, and tongues will cease. Only love remains forever. All the ministries and gifts will pass away, but love will remain for eternity. I do believe that in eternity many of us will remember the days spent in Los Angeles. Though eternity will be much better, still we will recall these days of love in Los Angeles. This is the real building.

Love never falls away, and love builds up. There is not much need of good speakers. We must be patient in going on by the Lord Himself as love in life. Then we will see the church gradually build itself up in love. The real expression of the local church life is life, and a church full of love is a church with a long life. All the so-called churches built up by ministries and gifts are short-lived; it is not long before they are divided. But the church that is built up by love never ends. Nothing can divide it, damage it, or touch it because of love. Love is the strongest bond.

My burden in this chapter is just to tell you that nothing but love can edify or build up the church. Where, I ask, is a church built up by teachings or gifts? We should not care for theory, but for the practicality. Teachings, gifts, or knowledge have never worked, but Christians are still trying them. They have wasted years and years, but they are still trying. The Lord be merciful to us that we may be willing to be delivered out of this concept. All we need is God in Christ expressed as love. Only this can build up the church.

(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)