D. The Administration of a Local Church
Throughout church history there have been many ways in which men have attempted to administrate the church through worldly, human methods of organization, yet in their teachings Watchman Nee and Witness Lee bring us back again and again to the pure word of God. Witness Lee continues his discussion of the Lords recovered truths with this exposition of the biblical administration of a local church.
1. By the Elders
Nowhere does the Bible teach that a local church is under the control of a hierarchical organization. Desiring to make clear to believers the proper practice of the church life, Witness Lee here presents gives the biblical standard: A local church under the administration of a group of elders who oversee the believers not through human organization and control, but through the divine life:
A local church is administrated by the eldership, composed of a group of elders (1 Tim. 3:1-5; 5:17) appointed by the gifted persons who have established the church (Acts 14:14, 23; Titus 1:5). A local church, being an organic expression of the Body of Christ as the organism of the Triune God, should not be administrated in any organizational way that makes it a worldly organization. It should be administrated by the eldership as an organic body, the components of which are all organic persons who have been regenerated by the living God with His divine life and who are living in and with that life (1 Tim. 3:1-4; Titus 1:5-9). Furthermore, its administration under its eldership should, in everything, be carried out in the organic way, not by any organizational method. (31)
2. Not under the Control of a High Church
Witness Lee was very careful to point out that the New Testament gives no indication whatsoever that there was any particular church in control of the other local churches. There was no high church. Rather, all the local churches were equal, administrated only at the local level:
The administration of a local church should not be under the control of any high church. Among the local churches, there is no center; there is no high church or low church; there is no archbishop above the bishops and no bishop over the elders. All the local churches are on the same level, and all the elders, as the overseers, also are on the same level; and each eldership administrates only its own local church. (31)
3. With the Ministry of the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Shepherds and Teachers
In addition to the elders within each local church, there is also the precedent in the New Testament for the gifted believers who establish a local church to spend time to minister to that church so that it might become a proper testimony of Christ. Witness Lee points out the case of the church in Ephesus:
After being established by the gifted persons and having its elders appointed by the gifted persons, a local church still needs the ministry of the gifted persons who established it and appointed its elders, for its building up as a living testimony of Christ. This aspect is fully proven by the case of the church in Ephesus which received the ministry of the apostle Paul (Acts 20:17-35) without any termination, until the apostle was martyred (Eph. 6:19-22; 2 Tim. 4:6). (31-32)
4. Without Any Absolute Autonomy or Federation
The book of Revelation provides an excellent example of the fact that among the local churches there is neither absolute autonomy nor federation. Witness Lee explains that the seven golden lampstands in chapters two and three, which are signs depicting seven local churches, are addressed by the Lord as identical in testimony yet distinct in location and condition:
Among the local churches, there is no absolute autonomy in the administration of any local church, nor is there any federation among the churches. The business affairs of a local church are absolutely local, but all the other matters, especially its testimony for Christ and its fellowship, should be both local and universal, and should be the same and common among all the local churches. This is strongly proven by the seven local churches in Asia (Rev. 23). Although they differed from each other in their localities, in their situations, and in negative things, they, as the seven golden lampstands, were absolutely identical for the testimony of Christ. The seven lampstands are absolutely identical in nature, in shape, in appearance, and in function (Rev. 1:12-13). Thus on the one hand, the Lord treated them separately by writing an epistle to each one, respectively; on the other hand, He treated them corporately by addressing the seven epistles as one epistle to them all, and charging each one of them to hear what the Spirit said in all the seven epistles. (32)
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