I have been praying and musing about this post for a couple of weeks now. I am here to testify about my positive experience in the local churches.
In 1994, my parents, along with many other families, were captivated by the speaking in the ministry to the point that they “abandoned their nets” to follow the ministry. I was 3 years old. My parents were forcibly removed from a Pentecostal denomination because my dad could not contain himself anymore: he had found out about his human spirit.
He had read a book by a Christian brother, Watchman Nee, called The Normal Christian Life, and he was captured by the Lord. Four months later all the ones who had walked out of organized religion found the brothers and sisters of a local church in their city.
That’s where I grew up. I grew up being completely loved, cherished, nourished, and protected by all the brothers and sisters from my locality.
I never grew up hearing anyone talk about “one man only” or “one organization.”
I grew up hearing Bible stories, singing Christian songs, and having a joyous childhood.
That’s my experience.
My parents instilled in me a love for the Bible, a reverence for God, and respect for the older ones. They never exalted one man and never said we were part of any organization. On the contrary, my father would tell me during our car rides that we follow God, His economy, and nothing else.
Man will fail. Man will disappoint us. God will never change. His purpose and will on this earth will never change. So Witness Lee and Living Stream Ministry were never an “exclusive” thing that I was taught. Again, that’s my experience.
At the age of 9, I had asked my mom: how can I be saved from burning in hell for all eternity? She led me to the Lord Jesus Christ and I received Him as my Lord and Savior. From that day on, I knew that I had Jesus in my heart and that He was never going to leave.
Throughout the years, I became the young person who caused everyone to have some sort of headache. I always needed to know the answers to everything. I needed to know the why’s and why not’s? I needed the answers to how could that happen? and I challenged people to give me the facts and then you’re right.
I never took anything “just because.” How I thank the Lord for that.
During my first semester in college, I took a religion class that specifically emphasized cults and other religions. I came to a conclusion during one of my classes that I was going to find every fault I could in the Bible and get answers. I needed answers. I went to my father and told him that I needed to know why there was such negative speaking out there about the local churches and why the word cult had been thrown around. He never discouraged me.
On the contrary, my father encouraged me to challenge and struggle with the Lord to find the truth. That began the journey between the Lord and me. I took philosophy classes and religious literature classes and watched numerous documentaries. I read books upon books, and nothing seemed to give me the answer.
Then, during one of my philosophy courses, my professor said that Friedrich Nietzche’s conclusion is the best one we will ever get: human beings have a black hole in their being that will never be satisfied. I was left in utter confusion.
I share this experience with you because as this was all going on, the ones that I had known growing up, the ones who had cared for me in my locality, the ones that I got to know through the Christian Students club on my campus, never “blacklisted” or “marked me out” as a bad person. They loved me. The serving ones were there for me whenever I had questions or just felt like complaining.
Never was I discouraged to not read other materials.
I knew they were praying for me. In the sweet words of a brother, “you are where you are until you are somewhere else.” This has been my experience.
After I moved away and attended another university, I met a few saints in that locality. Once again I was met by the full-timers there who would open the doors of their homes, their fridges, and their hearts to me. I did not make it to all the meetings, and sometimes I would be rolling in late wearing whatever I wanted to, and I was never met with a look of condemnation or of disappointment. On the contrary, my elders, the full-timers, and the students shepherded me.
They had no ulterior motive. I could sense the genuineness in their care for me. That opened the way for the Lord to become so real to me.
Up to that point in my life, no one (including my parents) had ever told me that I was supposed to go to the Full-time Training in Anaheim (FTTA), CA.
No one had given me a “recipe” of needing to go to college, get through Bible school, get a husband, go serve, and have children. Never.
The Lord on the throne sovereignly arranged every situation in my life to get me to turn back to Him and restore my fellowship with the fellow members. I followed the Lord to the FTTA, and my life has not been the same ever since.
In the FTTA the Lord gave me all the answers that I had been looking for.
It was not Witness Lee. It was not this teacher or that teacher.
Yes, the Lord spoke through them and flowed out of them words of life, but I saw the Lord Himself. Day after day, as I read the pages of my Bible, I saw more and more of this Person, Jesus Christ. Each time a question or a doubt came up, I would grab a post-it note, mark it in my Bible or in one of my ministry books, and ask one of the trainers. I never left without an answer.
Their transparency changed my life.
The brothers serving in FTTA and LSM are not hiding anything. Our trainers, the ones who have poured out their lives for us, are not hiding anything. The co-workers are not hiding anything. I witnessed that. I experienced it. I asked the uncomfortable questions. I wanted the why’s and the how’s.
I was not going to take the word mingling just because it was in a ministry book. I had to research it. I had to find it in theological books.
The more I knew about church history, the more I became reassured in the faith. When I interned for Defense and Confirmation Project (DCP) for 7 weeks, I asked the questions and respectfully let them know my doubts. The brothers serving there cared for me, loved me, and took me under their umbrella. They answered my questions, and all I received from them was life. DCP is not hiding anything.
Now, I am a serving one. Never did I ever think my life would turn out the way that it has, but the Lord has me exactly where He wants me. No one – not LSM, not the FTTA, not the brothers from DCP, not one brother or sister – has ever told me that my sole purpose in life is to drop all of my hopes and dreams, take care of children, and just serve the brothers.
That accusation against the local churches has caused me much trouble in my being. According to my experience and observation, this accusation is simply not true.
I serve because I have a burden to give all of my time to the Lord and to the brothers and sisters in the local churches. I serve because the One whom I have seen, the glorious vision, will not have me anywhere else. When He calls me to this or that, I will pick up and go. That’s it. We follow the Lamb. Here is a quote from brother Witness Lee in the book The Glorious Vision and the Way of the Cross:
“Everyone who serves the Lord must have a glorious vision. It is not the seeing that is glorious; rather, it is the object which we see that is glorious. This in turn makes the seeing itself glorious. This is what we mean by a glorious vision.”
My dear brothers and sisters, we can be either joining a movement or following the glorious vision, which is Christ Himself.
If anyone is outwardly following a set of regulations or feel that they have to “check off a box” by serving, then their vision is not clear.
In a class named “Life and Service” a brother shared something that will never leave me:
“God saved us not only so that we will be saved from eternal perdition. We have been saved to serve the living and eternal God.”
That has never left me.
It was not because I was being controlled by an organization or because I was brainwashed by one man that I decided to serve the Lord.
It is not that I am any better than the person next to me. The ones who serve are not an elite group, and we are not better or higher than anyone else. The dealings are there. The shining is there, but so is the love. I have received support emotionally, mentally, and spiritually from so many of the co-workers and elders and their wives. I have been welcomed with listening ears.
I do not live in a utopia, nor am I an idealist to think that there is never anything wrong in the local churches.
The purpose of this post is not to speak of anything other than my positive experience being in the local churches and to stand with my fathers who are being attacked.
There are many more of us who have received the boundless support, life, care, and supply from the co-workers, from the brothers serving in FTTA, from the serving ones, and from the ministry produced by our brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.
We hold the Bible as the sole authority and the breath of God.
But we can also not deny the riches of the ministry of our brothers. In the words of one of the co-workers in the July 2019 semiannual training, “Do not steal my food away from me.”
Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, the ministering brothers, and the leading ones and serving ones in the local churches are my fathers who have fed me the spiritual food.
Some may not agree, but this is where I have found the riches.
I finish this testimonial by thanking all of my fathers. Thank you for your labor in the Lord.
I stand with you, my fathers.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
– 1 Cor. 15:55-58