In June 2005 I received an email from a brother who had some questions about one publication in the Lord’s recovery. I won’t mention the sender’s name, but I would like to provide an edited version of my response here.
[Note: Brackets are used to indicate my edits.]
Dear Brother [So and so],
Thank you for your email. Since you address it directly to me in part, I thought I should reply directly and give you an answer to each of your questions. My answers follow your questions below […].
Why the insistence on â€˜one publication,â€™ when it is not a basic item of the common faith nor a fundamental item of our oneness?”
The matter of one publication is not a matter of the common faith at all but something related to the one ministry in the Lord’s recovery. There is no reason to confuse the two, nor to apply the standards of the one to the other. We feel that the ministry is the sounding of the trumpet among us in the Lord’s recovery and that there should be no uncertain sounding of this trumpet, as Brother Lee has mentioned on a number of occasions. The one publication is not the basis of our accepting or rejecting any persons in the communion of faith; thus, it should not be insisted on as an item of the faith. However, while the common faith is general and inclusive, there must be more discipline and speciality among the ministers of the Word to maintain the one voice in the ministry of the truth. According to the pattern of Brother Nee and Brother Lee, we should try to have one voice in the ministry, and this through the one publication. If some among us wish to have a different publication, so be it. These ones are still our brothers; they are still in the genuine local churches. But at the same time it should be clear to all the saints everywhere that what comes from these ones is a different publication and that it is not of the same voice as that in the one publication under the co-workers in the Lord’s recovery. The saints and the churches everywhere are free to accept or reject these other publications, just as they are equally free to accept or reject the notion itself of one publication. It is all a matter of how much each individual saint and each local church wishes to care for the discipline of being restricted in the one publication, as we have been admonished to do so by Brother Lee.
I think that we all should be careful not to confuse this statement on one publication with a definition of the faith. For some reason, some are already jumping to the conclusion that this statement is a statement of the faith or some addendum thereto. It is not. I am certain that among the co-workers who meet regularly to fellowship concerning the Lordâ€™s recovery on the earth there is no thought that their statement is anything more than a declaration that we desire to be restricted in one publication in the ministry. Their statement relates to the publication of the ministry, not to the items of the faith. It seems that the act of putting down in writing their desire to be restricted in one publication in the ministry (following the admonition of our Brother Lee) is easily mistaken by some as akin to the making of creeds and therefore spells the imminent loss of the Lordâ€™s testimony among us. While I do not take lightly any deviation from the truth among us, I also do not feel that we should lightly make such leaps in cause and effect. Certainly, if any saints or churches among us hold this statement on one publication as a basis of their faith or as a standard for receiving or rejecting the believers, we must be swift to fellowship with them and return them to a proper understanding of what the faith is. But the co-workers are not at all making this the basis of the faith among the believers in the local churches, and the release of this statement hardly means the beginning of our end. On the contrary, it is the strong feeling of the co-workers who have been regularly fellowshipping together that the differing publications among us are sowing confusion among the saints and damaging the one testimony among the churches. While this statement does not in any way anathematize these differing publications, it does make clear for all who desire to know that there are differing publications among us today and that we can and should be restricted in one publication. I certainly understand from your comments that you do not subscribe to this view, and I certainly respect your right to differ. But many of us wish to exercise the equal right, the higher right I would say, to be restricted in one publication in the ministry in the Lordâ€™s recovery.
Further, I do not think that it is accurate to equate the circulation of this statement with an insistence on it. I believe that what the co-workers are doing is akin to what Brother Lee did when he issued the call to the saints everywhere to pick up the God-ordained way. You will recall, I am sure, that he did not insist on this new way, but he certainly promoted it as the best way to bring all the saints into their organic functions as members of the Body of Christ. The new way was to be a matter of choice for the saints and the churches, not something insisted upon. Likewise, being restricted in one publication is a matter of choice for the churches. No one is insisting that the churches everywhere be restricted in one publication. But at the same time, the co-workers can and should help the saints to see the value of one publication in the Lordâ€™s recovery, and they should encourage the saints everywhere to exercise this restriction for the sake of the one testimony among us. I understand that some do not wish to see this matter promoted or even spoken, but as co-workers trained by Brother Lee we do well to follow his example and admonition ourselves and to bring the saints whom we care for into the same practice.
“If a genuine believer from a denomination wishes to fellowship with a local church, are we to ask him (or her) to subscribe to the teaching of â€˜one publicationâ€™ before receiving them into fellowship?”
Absolutely not. But it would be counter to our confidence in the truth as we see it in the Lord’s recovery not to shepherd every believer among us into the healthy teaching that is embodied in the one publication in the Lord’s recovery. Otherwise, Brother, why are we standing in the truth of the Lord’s recovery in the first place?
â€œIf a saint within a local church feels strongly before the Lord that he (or she) is being led to serve that local church in a full-time capacity, yet he (or she) does not accept as Scriptural the matter of â€˜one publication,â€™ should the local church reject their offer of full-time service on this basis?â€
I think this question ignores a more basic consideration. For example, the very same issue exists if the question were posed in this way: “If a saint within a local church feels strongly before the Lord that he or she is being led to serve that local church in a full-time capacity, yet he or she feels strongly that the matter of one publication is scriptural while the church there does not, should the local church reject his or her offer of full-time service on this basis?â€ In either hypotheticality the real issue to me is whether or not this saint and this church can serve in one accord there, given a difference in opinion on this matter; thus, the matter of the one publication per se is not at issue here. What is at issue is the viability of practical oneness in the church service when a serving saint and the church he or she serves are of different minds on a matter. Often a matter such as this can be set aside, and there can be the practical oneness for proper service. But many times two minds in the service are not beneficial to the church. The church in that locality must decide this viability, and I feel that all the churches should respect how a church decides on such a local matter.
â€œSuppose there is a local church raised up among us in the Lordâ€™s recovery, standing on the ground of oneness. Yet, both the elders and the saints in that local church do not feel before the Lord that they should be ‘restricted in one publication.’ Under these circumstances, how do you, the blended coworkers,’ view that church? Are they still a genuine local church?”
I expect that [the blended co-workers] would view this church as a genuine local church in the Lord’s recovery that is not restricted in one publication. Restriction in one publication is the voluntary exercise of caring for the proper order in the ministry in the Lord’s recovery. If a church does not wish to exercise this care, that does not make it any less a church. It does mean, however, that this church is open to a multitude of matters that other churches may not find healthy, and the churches everywhere are certainly free not to import what may not be healthy from such a church. I think it is important for everyone to be honest and open about this matter. If a church does not want to be restricted in one publication, it should not hold that against those churches that do. Likewise, the churches that wish to be restricted in one publication and especially the co-workers, who serve the churches everywhere, should not reject or treat less faithfully the churches that do not wish to be restricted in one publication. But neither should the churches that feel to be restricted in one publication be expected to accept the differing publications of the churches that do not wish to be restricted.
“Do you still view them and treat them the same as those local churches which adhere to the â€˜one publication policyâ€™?”
“Is that local church still in the Lordâ€™s recovery?”
“On what grounds should we contradict (or at least appear to contradict) the express wish of brother Lee, by discouraging such “newsletters of fellowship” among the churches of the type described above and exemplified by the Church in Chicagoâ€™s newsletter publication of that era?”
I find this point puzzling. In your previous comments you entertained the possibility of saints and churches contradicting the express wish of Brother Lee that we be “restricted in one publication.” Contradicting him did not seem to be a factor in your consideration of those hypotheticalities, but here you make it the sole factor in defending the minor matter of “newsletters of fellowship” among the churches. Doesn’t contradicting the express wish of Brother Lee seem more like a convenience for the sake of your point than an actual reason to take issue? With some stretching, I will assume that it is not and try to answer the substance of your question by saying that being restricted in one publication does not at all preclude and should not discourage these “newsletters of fellowship” among the churches.
[“Further, what] is your position on â€˜newsletters of fellowshipâ€™ among the churches?”
I expect that all the co-workers would hope that such newsletters will continue to abound. I agree with Brother Lee that the testimonies of the Lord’s move in the respective places are important to our fellowship in the local churches.
[“Moreover, if] a worker feels strongly before the Lord to produce, publish and disseminate such a publication among the saints and the local churches, do you still recognize him (or her) as your coworker?”
It all depends on whether or not the worker publishes and disseminates such a publication in fellowship with the co-workers in the Lord’s recovery (not just in his locality or even area). If he does not fellowship with the other co-workers, he is not co-working. He is simply, as you say, a “worker,” not a co-worker. One cannot have it both ways, Brother. If one does not wish to fellowship actively with the co-workers, he may be a worker, but he can hardly be a co-worker. It is not simply a matter of how the co-workers view him; it is more fundamentally a matter of how he views himself and, more importantly, whether or not he serves in a true co-working way.
I hope my answers will offer some acceptable response to your queries. Of course, I realize that I am just one brother answering, but I did not want your questions to go unnoticed and, even worse, unanswered. I hope that the other brothers will also offer their responses to you.
Much grace to you,