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The Local Church

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The Local Church is a term referring to the religious organization based on the teachings of its Chinese founder, Witness Lee (1905-1997). They adopt no public name and among themselves use only the terms "Lord's recovery" or "local churches" as descriptions of what they are, not official designations. Local groups legally incorporate under the term "The Church in" followed by the official name of the municipality and can be found in phone books thus. While The Local Church believes the Bible to be inspired, adherents accept only the greatly flawed Recovery Version as authoritative, along with other publications from the Living Stream Ministry, which calls the organization the "only true church" and "God's move on the earth today." The Recovery Version, a study Bible, includes footnotes on every page written by Witness Lee that in many cases takes up the bulk of the printing.

Christian writers and watchdog organizations view the teachings of this group as departing from Christian orthodoxy, although its adherents contend they are merely misunderstood and quoted out of context. The essential teaching of the group is Witness Lee's doctrine of mingling, which is usually defined with a saying from the writings of Athanasius, "God became man that man could become God." However, whereas Athanasius intended that statement metaphorically, Witness Lee interpreted it literally, using Psalm 82:6 – "Ye are Gods" – to indicate that adherents become both divine and human like Jesus.

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Brief History

Adherents of The Local Church claim its beginning in the teachings of Christian teacher and author, Watchman Nee (1903-1972) who ministered in China, and whose followers were called by some western missionaries "The Little Flock" (the name of their hymnal). In 1952 he was imprisoned for his faith and he remained in prison until his death in 1972. While Watchman Nee was in prison on mainland China, he never corroborated Lee's claims that he had been Nee's coworker or was his successor to the leadership of the Little Flock.

In 1962, Witness Lee came to the United States claiming to bring the teachings of Watchman Nee. It was in the U.S. that Lee's followers subsequently became known as "The Local Church" or "The Lord's Recovery." Much controversy derived from Lee's leadership and peculiar teachings.

In keeping with their unofficial designation, they believe and teach that local churches include all of the believers in their respective cities; therefore all the adherents in a given city comprise the "the local church" in that city.


"Growth and controversy developed during the administration of their second leader, the late Witness Lee, who moved to America in 1962 founding Living Stream Ministry. Among issues drawing criticism from evangelical Christians is the Local Church's use of the term "mingling" to describe the relationship between God and believers (i.e., Christians become both divine and human like Jesus). Some evangelicals have also charged that the church compromises the Trinity doctrine by confusing the Persons of the Holy Spirit and the Son in a way similar to modalism. The organization's exclusivity has also come under fire. According to Lee, each city can and should have only one church. Denominationalism is seen as of the Devil. According to critics, the effect is that Lee-led local churches, usually called by the name of their cities (e.g., the Church in Anaheim or the Church in Chicago), become the only true expressions of the Body of Christ. Thus, according to former members, all other churches or denominations are seen as being outside the will of God or not true churches at all. The Local Church has also gained a reputation for threatening legal action to prevent unfavorable public evaluation of its movement. Even Christian critics have been targeted, adding to the evidence that they do not consider believers outside their movement to be true or obedient Christians (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)." [1]


  1. The Local Church at Watchman Fellowship, Index of Cults and Religions. Retrieved 12/28/2009.

External links

Christian websites

Official Local Church websites

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