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I recently moved and have been Church hunting (but this it not a question about Church advice) and attended a "Local Church."

In this particular Church, service goes as follows:

  • first part:

    • everyone opens hymn book
    • people shout out numbers (corresponding to hymn #)
    • everyone sings the hymn together
  • second part:

    • church splits up into small groups
    • everyone opens up a booklet of Nee/Lee
    • people stand up and talk about how this week's readings effected them / their insights on the week's reading

Now, this is different to me (since I used to attend churches where a single person would preach) -- but I don't see anything unbiblical about their approach.

So what I'm curious now are:

  • are there any theological differences between Nee/Lee/Local church and reformed theology?

Thanks!

  • This is a good question, however is a bit too broad for this site. To find out more about this denomination go to lsm.org. – LCIII Aug 31 '14 at 22:44
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    @LCIII Unless you know that the teachings of these people is so much different than everyone else and would take a large amount of text to discuss, I don't see this as too broad. It's an overview question. – 3961 Sep 1 '14 at 4:17
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    The statement of faith on the website LCIII linked to appears to be in harmony with the historic creeds of orthodox Christianity. – bruised reed Sep 4 '14 at 15:23
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Thanks for the great question. This is an answer from what I know. Reformed theology would hold to the definition of a church showing 3 marks:

  • the Word rightly upheld, preached and read
  • the sacraments (Lord's supper, baptism) rightly administered
  • Discipline and care rightly handled

There are a few issues with the place you are attending as it would, by reformed theology, be not even considered a church as it does not hold the Word preached nor is it read but rather another book is replacing the authority of the Word itself. I would also be concerned with the authority of the pastor as it seems they do not hold much function, which is also unbiblical.

It is a biblical model, even from apostolic times (the book of Acts) that the Word preached by an "appointed" minister (meaning they have been ordained or basically given the thumbs up that they have the gift of preaching given them by God) would preach and teach the Word, the Word would be opened and read aloud (even Jesus did this at the beginning of his ministry), and also the people knowing that the minister is appointed by God, the Great Shepherd, would be under his preaching/teaching as he is an under shepherd of the people.

I believe this type of gathering would cause greater harm to not only yourself and the people there, and I would strongly recommend finding a church with an appointed minister, where there is prayer and the Word in the service, administers the sacraments, and has elders that hold the minister accountable in order to care for the people of God.

I pray that you will find a good "Bible-believing" church and grow in Christ with his people.

Most of my statements are from Michael Horton's books who is a great teacher, asset to the faith and also a great guy to boot!

Please feel free to ask more questions Dan

  • Hi and welcome to the site! This is a great first contribution and we hope you keep posting. Please take time to browse our help centre as the operating guidelines of the site are not that easy to get. – bruised reed Sep 13 '14 at 17:36
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The Christian Research Institute (CRI) conducted an investigation. Their initial findings were not flattering on the question of whether this group is a church or a cult. They later retracted their conclusion after further research. Here is their retraction:

http://www.equip.org/article/we-were-wrong/

Main article about the Local Church and their beliefs:

http://www.equip.org/PDF/EnglishOpt.pdf

This article may be a good starting place for understanding them and their teachings. I personally benefitted greatly by reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. His incredible grasp of Scripture was based on years of imprisonment, during which he read the entire New Testament once every month.

An additional article about them is here: http://www.equip.org/article/the-local-church-as-movement-and-source-of-controversy/

  • I'm not sure how this answer, or the content at the link, address the question of how Nee's teachings line up with Reformed theology. The link doesn't explain Nee's theology, and the CRI is not particularly Calvinist anyway. – Nathaniel is protesting May 20 '16 at 19:52
  • I linked to the introduction of the article, not the main article. I have added a link to the main article now. – Paul Chernoch May 20 '16 at 20:38
  • The article does mention a close agreement between Nee and a reformed theologian on some points. – Paul Chernoch May 20 '16 at 20:45
  • Thanks, this is more helpful. Ideally more of the comparison between Nee and Reformed theologians would be in the answer itself, but this is definitely better. Thanks. – Nathaniel is protesting May 20 '16 at 20:49
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The Living Stream Ministry (publisher of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee) web site is copyright protected and does not contain sufficient information to establish whether they agree or disagree with reformed theology. They appear to uphold an orthodox view of the Trinity and the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ. Source: https://www.lsm.org/lsm-statement-faith.html

Here is a list of the beliefs of the Local Churches (affiliation) as found in the following Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_churches_(affiliation)#Beliefs

The Bible is the complete divine revelation inspired word by word by God through the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:16).

God is uniquely one, yet Triune — the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (1 Tim. 2:5a, Matt. 28:19).

The Son of God, even God Himself, was incarnated to be a man by the name of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, John 1:14).

Christ died on the cross for our sins, shedding His blood for our redemption (1 Pet. 2:24, Eph. 1:7a).

Christ resurrected from among the dead on the third day (1 Cor. 15:4).

Christ ascended to the right hand of God to be Lord of all (Acts 1:9, Acts 2:33, Acts 2:36).

After His ascension Christ poured down the Spirit of God to baptize His chosen members into one Body and that the Spirit of God, who is also the Spirit of Christ, is moving on this earth today to convict sinners, to regenerate God's chosen people, to dwell in the members of Christ for their growth in life, and to build up the Body of Christ for His full expression.

Whenever any person repents to God and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is regenerated (born again) and becomes a living member of the one Body of Christ (Acts 20:21, John 3:3, Eph. 1:22-23, Rom. 12:5).

Christ is coming again to receive His believers to Himself (1 Thes. 2:19).

The overcoming saints will reign with Christ in the millennium and that all the believers in Christ will participate in the divine blessings in the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and new earth for eternity (Rev. 20:6, 21:2).

Given that Nee and Lee believe that the recovery of “the Lord’s Truth” began with Martin Luther in the Reformation, one would expect that their beliefs are based on Reformed Theology. Here is an extract from a Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord%27s_Recovery

The Lord's recovery is a term coined by the Christian preacher Watchman Nee and promoted by Witness Lee that refers to a cumulative recovery of truths lost during what they refer to as the degradation of the church beginning from the second century. Although Nee and Lee recognized that there were recoveries before the time of the Reformation, their opinion was that the Lord's recovery began with Martin Luther in the Reformation because it was from then that significant recoveries were made.

The article lists many individuals considered to have contributed to the recovery. Here are a few:

John Calvin; John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield recovered the matters of salvation, eradication of sin, sanctification, and open-air preaching; Bible expositors among the Brethren such as John Nelson Darby... Other people considered to be part of the Lord's recovery include Johann Arndt, Theodore Austin-Sparks, Margaret E. Barber, Bernard of Clairvaux, Jacob Boehme, Peter Böhler, John Bunyan, Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman), Jan Hus, George Henry Lang, William Law, Dwight Lyman Moody, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, and Aiden Wilson Tozer.

They even have their own translation of the Bible: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recovery_Version#Translation

The Recovery Version is a recent translation of the Bible from the revised 1990 edition of the Hebrew Scriptures, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, and the Nestle-Aland Greek text as found in Novum Testamentum Graece (26th edition)... The Recovery Version claims to avoid biases and inaccurate judgments and to express the message of the Bible in English as accurately as possible. As such, it departs from traditional renderings in certain passages. Its translation is essentially literal/word-for-word/formal equivalent, seeking to preserve the wording of the original Hebrew or Greek text and the personal style of each biblical writer. Its translation is intended as transparent; interpretive ambiguities present in the original text are left unresolved in this translation for the readers to consider. The Recovery Version renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah throughout the Old Testament.

One of the major difficulties in trying to answer a question like this stems from the lawsuits brought against churches, publishers and individuals who criticise this organisation. Here is a short extract from a lengthy article that examines the subject in detail: https://www.gotquestions.org/Witness-Lee-local-church.html

The history of the conflict between Witness Lee and his Local Church movement—also known as the “Lord’s Recovery Movement,” along with their publishing arm, Living Stream Ministry (LSM)—and the counter-cult establishment is far too long for a detailed recounting here, but those who are interested in the full story can access it through the CRI website http://journal.equip.org/issues/we-were-wrong

The articles goes on to look at four areas of concern, namely: the nature of God, the nature of man, the legitimacy of evangelical churches and denominations, and the lawsuits brought against Evangelical churches, publishers and individuals by the Local Church. The article concludes:

What is the conclusion of the matter, and what are Christians to believe about Witness Lee and the Local Church movement? Elliot Miller, editor-in-chief of the Christian Research Journal, declares at the end of the 50-page treatment “We were wrong” and concludes that the Local Church is not an “aberrant Christian group” but a “solid orthodox group of believers.”

Another useful source of information comes from the Christian Research Institute - The “Local Church” as Movement and Source of Controversy (2011): https://www.equip.org/article/the-local-church-as-movement-and-source-of-controversy/

With regard to the question about the theology of this group, I don’t think I want to raise my head above the parapet (spiritually speaking) in case I get shot at. Suffice to say that people are at liberty to draw their own conclusions, although trying to establish the facts in relation to their theology is neither easy nor straightforward.

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