An Open Letter From the Local Churches and Living Stream Ministry Concerning the Teachings of Witness Lee

An Open Letter From the Local Churches and Living Stream Ministry Concerning the Teachings of Witness Lee


Over the past nine decades the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee has edified believers in Christ and produced local churches on all six inhabited continents. The ministry of these two servants of God, which is published by Living Stream Ministry (LSM), stands upon the shoulders of the many great Christian teachers of the past to present both the broad span and the spiritual depths of the New Testament truths, particularly from the perspective of the believers knowing and experiencing Christ as their life for the building up of the church as the Body of Christ. The resilience of the churches produced through their ministry is exemplified by the believers in China, who have proven steadfast and have flourished in the face of decades of extreme persecution, as well as by hundreds of local churches in North America that have faithfully persevered and spread despite nearly forty years of intense opposition.

Our Faith

The faith affirmed by the local churches is the faith common to all believers, namely that:

  • The Bible is the Word of God, written under His inspiration word by word (2 Tim. 3:16), and is the complete and only written revelation of God to man (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:5-6; Rev. 22:18-19);
  • There is one God (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4b; Isa. 45:5a), who is triune—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (Matt. 28:19), co-existing (Matt. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 13:14) and coinhering (John 14:10-11) in three persons, or hypostases, distinct but never separate, from eternity to eternity;
  • Christ, the only begotten Son of God (John 1:18; 3:16), even God Himself (John 1:1), became a genuine man through incarnation (John 1:14), having both the divine and human natures (Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 2:5), the two natures being combined in one person and being preserved distinctly without confusion or change and without forming a third nature;
  • Christ died for our sins and was raised bodily from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Acts 4:10; Rom. 8:34), has been exalted to the right hand of God as Lord of all (Acts 5:31; 10:36), and will return as the Bridegroom for His bride, the church (John 3:29; Rev. 19:7), and as the King of kings to rule over the nations (Rev. 11:15; 19:16);
  • Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Eph. 2:5, 8) and in His completed work, resulting in our justification before God (Rom. 3:24, 28; Gal. 2:16) and in our being born of God to be His children (John 1:12-13);
  • The church as the unique Body of Christ, the issue of the work of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), is composed of all genuine believers in Christ (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12) and, according to the New Testament revelation, is manifested in time and space in local churches, each of which includes all the believers in a given city, regardless of where they meet or how they may otherwise identify themselves (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Thes. 1:1; Rev. 1:11); and
  • 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. 21:1—22:5).

These seven items broadly represent what we hold as “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Although our teachings on other, secondary items are also grounded in Scripture, we acknowledge that genuine believers have historically held to many differing interpretations on these matters and continue to do so today. Therefore we diligently practice to receive all those whom the Lord has received (Rom. 14:3; 15:7).

The Lord’s Recovery—The Life, Function, and Practical Oneness of the Believers

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OL5 – Shortcomings Of An Open Letter (5)

Elliot explains the teaching of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee concerning the proper standing of a local church.

Hank and Elliot discussed the open letter and how seventy Christian scholars and ministry leaders could be wrong. Elliot describes the early research done by CRI and commented, “That they [the open letter signers] would be wrong only follows since they’re building their conclusions on our original work, and we were wrong.”

OL1 – Shortcomings Of An Open Letter (1)

Elliot speaks about the local churches’ teaching on the Trinity. He said that Western Christianity tends to oversimplify the Trinity while the teaching of Witness Lee and the local churches “actually are bringing a correction to a problem within Western evangelicalism.”

OL2 – Shortcomings Of An Open Letter (2)

Elliot comments on the local churches’ teaching on deification. He said, “Witness Lee says, on the one hand, the New Testament reveals that the Godhead is unique and that only God alone who has the Godhead should be worshipped. On the other hand, the New Testament reveals that we believers in Christ have God’s life and nature, that we are becoming God in life and nature but will never have His Godhead.” Elliot then discusses some of the implications of this statement and concludes, “They’re talking about things that we ourselves believe in.”

OL3 – Shortcomings Of An Open Letter (3)

Hank speaks about the local churches’ affirmation of a famous axiom of Athanasius, an early church father sometimes called “the father of orthodoxy,” that “God became man to make man God,” saying that it is a double standard to accuse Witness Lee of heresy when Athanasius affirms the same thing. Furthermore, Hank says, “The Apostle Peter would be suspect for stating that we are partakers of the divine nature.”

OL4 – Shortcomings Of An Open Letter (4)