Can You Be in the Local Church But Not in the Body?
How Titus Chu Turns Saints Away from the Reality of the Body of Christ
In Titus Chu's letter of July 22, 2006, he falsely accuses the co-workers in the Lord's recovery of being unclear on the truth concerning the Body of Christ:
Moreover, during the LSM Summer Training which has just ended, brother Ron Kangas conveyed the idea that believers can be in the local church, yet not be in the Body. Brothers, what kind of teaching is this? Are you brothers seeking to produce a two-tier system where some saints are "merely in the local church" and others (the elite) are in the Body? Where is this thought in the Bible? Where is this concept in the teaching of Brothers Nee and Lee?
Titus errs concerning both the Bible and the teaching of Brother Nee and Brother Lee. His accusations of a "two-tier system" and an "elite" are without basis and serve to undermine and turn saints away from a crucial reality that we must see and enter into in order to satisfy God's heart's desire.
Brother Ron Kangas' Faithful Respeaking
The specific speaking Titus criticizes is as follows:
The Body is the intrinsic significance of the church. Without the Body, the church has no meaning. It is possible to be in the church but not be in the Body. Some disappointed saints might say that the church life no longer has any meaning for them. They may think it does not matter whether or not they come to the meetings. In their estimation, the fire was in Elden Hall and in the migration of the 1970s. However, we need to see that the meaning, the significance of the church is the Body. We can physically come to a church meeting, sing, pray, and speak; we are in the church, but we may not be in the Body. To be in the Body, we have to be in Christ, in the organic union with Him. This is the Body in Romans, and this is the central point—we are one Body in Christ. (Ron Kangas, "The Body of Christ in Romans," The Ministry Magazine, vol. 10, no. 4, July 2006, p. 104)
This speaking is actually a faithful respeaking of Brother Lee's ministry, as the following excerpts show:
We need to see the way Paul presents the Body of Christ in Ephesians 1. Paul said that God raised up Christ, seated Him in the heavens, subjected all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church. Right away in the following phrase he said, "Which is His Body" (v. 23a). The church is the Body. This indicates that the Body is the church's intrinsic significance. The church without the Body means nothing. In Greek the church is the ekklesia, the called-out ones coming together. But the significance of this gathering is the Body. ( The Issue of the Dispensing of the Processed Trinity and the Transmitting of the Transcending Christ , p. 90)
In the organic union with Christ there is life. This life joins us not only to Christ but to all the members of Christ. The Body of Christ is altogether a matter of life that keeps us in an organic union with Christ. When we remain in this organic union, we are in the Body. But if we do not remain in this organic union, we are out of the Body. The actuality of the Body is in or remaining in the organic union with Christ. If we would live in the Body, we must stay in the organic union with Christ. In other words, we must remain in Christ. The more we stay in the organic union with Christ, the more in actuality we are living in the Body of Christ. ( The Conclusion of the New Testament, Messages 157-171 , pp. 1795-1796)
In many matters of the truth, there is a positional, objective side and there is an experiential, subjective side. In God's eyes, it is a fact, but in our experience, it still needs to be fully worked out for the accomplishment of God's heart's desire. Concerning the matter of the Body, on the one hand, there is the truth regarding the status of the church as the Body of Christ and that every believer in Christ is a member of that Body. On the other hand, there is the need for the saints in all the churches to enter into the reality of the Body of Christ actually and practically in their living. 1 If a Christian lives in the soul, the natural man, or the flesh, he is not living in the reality of the Body. To live in the reality of the Body of Christ, we must be people who live and walk according to the Spirit in our spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16, 25). To call this elitist is a direct assault on the heart's desire of God because it undermines the strategic point that brings forth the reality of the Body of Christ.
What God Desires to Recover Today Is the Reality of the Body of Christ
Through Brother Nee the Lord recovered the truth of the practice of the church life on the ground of locality. This truth was and still is precious to us. But Brother Nee went on to stress the truth concerning the Body of Christ and the need to enter into the reality of the Body of Christ in our living.
... God is recovering the life of the Body rather than the doctrine of the Body. The Body of Christ is a life. The Body of Christ is a matter of experience, and we have to enter into the reality of this Body.... ( The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 38 , p. 412)
...It is not enough for us to speak about the Body; we have to express the Body in our living. The Body of Christ is not a doctrine; it is a reality in life. God wants us to enter into the Body life, not to have the doctrine of the Body. We have received the life of the Body, not a doctrine about the Body.... Today we all must receive the revelation of the reality of the Body and enter into the life of the Body. Then we will see that we are members of the Body of Christ, that we need the protection and limitation of the Body, and that we need to function in the Body and supply other members so that the life of the Body will flow in an unhindered way. ( The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 44 , p. 808)
In the early years of his ministry in the United States, Brother Lee stressed the matter of the local churches very much. We praise the Lord that through his faithful speaking the Lord has recovered the practice of the church life on the ground of locality throughout the earth. However, from the beginning of his ministry in this country he stressed that the practice of the local church life was for the building up of the Body of Christ. This stress became stronger and stronger until in the last stage of his ministry the major stress of his labor was to bring all the local churches into a living in the Body of Christ for the reality of the Body of Christ.
On May 9, 1994, Brother Lee wrote the following note which spoke of the burden the Lord had given him to carry out in the last phase of his ministry:
- I asked of the Lord after my illness what my ministry should stress.
- It seems that the Lord would burden me with:
- The Body of Christ and the life of the Body.
- The reality of the life of the Body of Christ.
- May the Lord have mercy upon me that He would grace me to live the two stresses listed above and minister them to the Lord's recovery accordingly.
The Reality of the Body of Christ Is in the Organic Union
Rom. 12:5 - So we who are many are one Body 1in Christ, and individually members one of another.
fn. 12:5 1 - We are one Body in Christ, having an organic union with Him. This union makes us one in life with Him and with all the other members of His Body. The Body is not an organization or a society but is altogether an organism produced by the union in life that we have with Christ.
1 Cor. 12:12 — For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is 2the Christ.
fn. 12:12 2 — Referring to the corporate Christ, composed of Christ Himself as the Head and the church as His Body with all the believers as members. All the believers of Christ are organically united with Him and constituted with His life and element and have thus become His Body, an organism, to express Him. Hence, He is not only the Head but also the Body. As our physical body has many members yet is one, so is this Christ.
In order to live in the reality of the Body of Christ, we must have a basic realization—only that which comes out of Christ is the Body of Christ. 2 Since only that which comes out of Christ is the Body of Christ, we are in the reality of the Body of Christ only when we are actually and practically living in the organic union with Christ. We are one Body in Christ (Rom. 12:5).
We all have to realize the Body of Christ is altogether a matter of life that keeps us in an organic union with Christ. When we remain in this organic union, we are in the Body. When we don't remain in this organic union, we are out of the Body. You need to check yourselves for one day to see how much time you remain in this organic union. You will have to admit that you do not remain very much in this organic union. Occasionally we get there, but quite often we get out of there, so we are not in the Body. The actuality of the Body is the remaining in the organic union with Christ. If we are going to be actually living in the Body life, we must remain in the organic union with Christ. In other words, we must be remaining in Christ. So John 15 charges us to abide in Him. To abide in Him simply means to remain in this organic union. When we remain in this organic union, we are actually living in the Body. If we do not remain in this organic union with Christ, we have left the Body. As long as you say something by yourself, you have left the Body. This means your gossip, your free talk, your loose conversation is a strong sign that you have left the Body. ( Perfecting Training , p. 281)
It Is Possible to be in the Local Churches But Not in the Reality of the Body of Christ
Based on the understanding that the reality of the Body of Christ is in the organic union with Christ, it is clear that although we may be in the Body of Christ by definition as a believer and although we may be in a local church, we may not be in the Body of Christ as a reality in our actual living. This is not a new teaching; Brother Lee spoke it as long ago as 1956:
...Likewise, if the flesh has not been dealt with, self has not been abandoned, and the natural constitution has not been broken, he cannot know what the Body is. He may know a little regarding the doctrine of the Body, but he cannot touch either the actuality or the reality of the Body. The Body of Christ is not a doctrine; it is a reality. ( The Experience of Life , p. 329)
Similarly, it is possible for a worker to raise up groups of believers who meet as local churches in name, standing on the ground of locality and adhering to the common faith but lacking the reality of the Body of Christ. Titus Chu's attack on the co-workers' speaking on the reality of the Body of Christ is an attack on the burden of the Lord's word to His recovery from Brother Nee until today. It voids the warnings given by Brother Lee that we might fall short of the goal of the reality of the Body of Christ, thus frustrating the Lord from gaining his heart's desire. In the last stage of his ministry, Brother Lee strongly and repeatedly warned the saints in the churches in the Lord's recovery of the possibility of being in the church life but not in the reality of the Body life:
... Although we may have a good church life, among us there is almost no realization, no practicality, no actuality, and no reality of the Body life. This is the need in the recovery today.
You may argue that the church is the Body of Christ. Yes, it is; but to be in the reality of the Body of Christ is not just a matter of setting up local churches with the establishing of elders and the practice of the church life in a particular way. This is merely an arrangement, a work, a service. It is not the reality of the Body of Christ. Even though our preaching of the gospel may be very good, there may not be much reality of the Body of Christ. ( The Practical Points Concerning Blending , pp.17-18)
According to Ephesians 1:22-23, the goal of God's economy is the church, which is Christ's Body. Some may say that since the church is the Body of Christ and since we are in the church, we should also be in the Body. They are right doctrinally, but not practically. We may speak much about the Body of Christ, but if we are asked what the Body of Christ is, we may be able to answer only that the Body of Christ is the church. We are in the church; that is a fact. But where is the reality of the Body of Christ? We have the term the Body of Christ and we have the doctrine of the Body of Christ, but where is the practicality and reality of the Body of Christ? Have you ever touched the practicality of the Body of Christ? Have you ever been in the reality of the Body of Christ?
We all need to consider this matter. We have the term and we have the doctrine, but practically, we do not have the reality. The purpose of the blending is to usher us all into the reality of the Body of Christ. I treasure the local churches, as you do. But I treasure the local churches because of a purpose. The local churches are the procedure to bring me into the Body of Christ. The churches are the Body, but the churches may not have the reality of the Body of Christ. Thus, we need to be in the local churches so that we can be ushered, or brought, into the reality of the Body of Christ. ( The Practical Points Concerning Blending , p. 10)
In some places the so-called church is the church without being the Body. In some places it is the church, but only fifteen percent is the Body while eighty-five percent is not. In some places it is the church, but only forty-five percent is the Body while fifty-five percent is not. Truly and strictly speaking, there is hardly any church that is one hundred percent the Body. ( One Body, One Spirit, and One New Man , p. 35)
It is true that we are the assembly of the called-out ones, and based on this we acknowledge that we are the church. In reality, however, we are not the Body of Christ. This word is hard. How can we say that we are the church but not the Body of Christ? I tell you that according to reality this is the case. Apparently, we are all Christians, and we are the church when we come together; however, from the viewpoint of the Body, we are not the Body of Christ, nor are we the fullness of Christ.... ( One Body, One Spirit, and One New Man , pp. 28-29)
We may live and walk in a proper manner, but if we do not live out the reality of Christ, we are not in the Spirit or in the reality of resurrection; hence, we are without the reality of the Body of Christ. This touches something very high. If we have not seen this, we have not seen the Body of Christ. ( A General Outline of God's Economy and the Proper Living of a God-man, p. 42)
The organic building up of the Body of Christ through our organic union with Christ in the mingled spirit has been the subject of much of the speaking in the international gatherings and in the ministry meeting in the Full-Time Training in Anaheim over the last year, including:
- The ministry meeting in the fall 2006 session of the Full-Time Training in Anaheim on the subject of "The Reality of the Body of Christ";
- The Thanksgiving Conference in Washington, DC, on the subject of "Living in the Mingled Spirit for the Reality of the Body of Christ"; and
- The 2007 International Chinese-speaking Conference on the subject of "Walking Worthily of God's Calling for the Reality of the Body of Christ."
The blended co-workers have continued this line of speaking concerning the Body of Christ and entering into the reality of the Body of Christ because they realize that this is the Lord's burden for His recovery today. Far from trying to produce an "elite," as Titus Chu has charged, this line of fellowship seeks to lead the saints into the reality of the Body of Christ for the accomplishment of God's eternal economy. To attack this line of ministry introduced by Brother Nee, developed by Brother Lee, and continued by the blended co-workers is to attack the heart's desire of the Lord Himself. By being cut off from this line of ministry, saints are being cheated and hindered from participating in the Lord's move to bring forth the reality of the Body of Christ in His recovery today (cf. Col. 2:8a, 18a). Titus' attack also undermines the truth concerning the overcomers being those who enter into the reality of the Body of Christ to prepare the way for the Lord's return. This was the Lord's charge to His recovery through Brother Lee's ministry:
We must rise up to seek after the Lord so that we can be the overcomers to bring forth the building up of the Body of Christ. Then the Lord will have a way to consummate this age and to bring in His kingdom to celebrate His wedding day for His pleasure and satisfaction. Eventually, this will consummate His eternal goal, the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and new earth. ( Crystallization-study of the Gospel of John , p. 138)
If we live in resurrection, this will become an unprecedented revival among all the Christ-pursuing God-men today. It will be a genuine revival brought forth from within us. It will also be an unprecedented revival, a revival that has never occurred in the two-thousand-year history of the church. I believe that before the Lord comes back, there will be such a final revival. What is this revival? It is the corporate living of the overcomers; it is also the reality of the Body of Christ. ( A General Outline of God's Economy and the Proper Living of a God-man, p. 43)
May the Lord gain this through His recovery!
1The principle of the relationship between the objective and subjective aspects can be clearly seen in Paul's epistles concerning the new man. On the one hand, the Bible says clearly that the new man has been created in Christ (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10b). This is an objective fact. On the other hand, the new man is being renewed unto full knowledge (Col. 3:10a) through our being renewed in the spirit of our mind (Eph. 4:23). This requires the saints' subjective renewing.
Similarly, in the three epistles in which Paul speaks the most concerning the Body of Christ—Romans, First Corinthians, and Ephesians—the Body is not just an objective fact, but a spiritual reality that is expressed in the living of a group of people who walk according to spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16, 25).
Paul's Epistle to the Romans shows us that God is making sinners (3:23) into sons (8:14) to constitute them the Body of Christ (12:5) expressed as many local churches (16:4-5). The Body of Christ is the focal point of the book of Romans. The goal of God's complete salvation in Romans 3—8 is the Body of Christ in Romans 12. The mingled spirit is a crucial matter in Romans, especially in chapter 8. There the law of the Spirit of life operates to set us free from the law of sin and of death (8:2). We are charged to walk according to spirit (8:4), to be according to spirit, and to mind the things of the Spirit (8:5-6). We are told that as believers we have the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (8:9) and that our regenerated spirit is life (8:10). The Spirit who dwells in us can give life to our mortal bodies (8:11) and with our cooperation put to death the practices of our bodies (8:13). We are further told that we can be led by the Spirit (8:14), that we have received a spirit of sonship (8:15), and that the two spirits—the divine Spirit and our human spirit—witness together that we are children of God (8:16). The consummation of God's organic salvation carried out by the Spirit in our spirit is to bring us into full sonship (8:23) that we might be fully conformed to the image of the firstborn Son of God (8:29). Based on this and Paul's account of God's selection of us to participate in His salvation by being grafted into Christ (11:17), Paul charges us in Romans 12 to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (12:1) for the practice of the Body life (12:4-5). Thus, the Body is the destination of God's complete salvation. The local churches in Romans 16 are for the practical expression of the one Body. They are not different from the one Body, nor are they an advance beyond the one Body, but they are the practical working out of the one Body in time and space.
Whereas Romans ends with the local churches as the practical expression of the Body of Christ, Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians begins with a genuine local church—"To the church of God which is in Corinth" (1:2). This genuine local church was filled with problems—divisions (1:10), immorality (5:1), strifes (3:3), and many other evils. The root cause of these problems was that although the believers in the church in Corinth had been redeemed and regenerated and were in the local church life, they were not living the divine life but were living in the natural life (2:14; 3:1, 3). Even their practice of the Lord's table (11:20-22) and the exercise of spiritual gifts (14:4a) was self-centered. Although the church in Corinth had the standing of the church as the Body of Christ (12:27), it was lacking in the genuine growth in life (3:1). As a result, it was lacking in the reality of the Body of Christ.
Paul's epistle points them to the crucified Christ (2:2) as the solution to all the problems in the church. This terminating and germinating Christ would bring the saints out of living in the natural life and constitute them with the element of the Triune God (3:12). They would then live as ones who were one spirit with the Lord (6:17) enjoying the riches of the resurrection life of Christ as the life-giving Spirit (15:45b) in their spirit. Such a living is the reality of the Body of Christ. Furthermore, they would become ones whose Christ-filled speaking would build up the other members in love (13:2), resulting in the building up of the church (14:3-5, 12, 26). Thus, while Romans shows the Body of Christ manifested as local churches as the issue of God's full salvation, 1 Corinthians shows how a typical local church can enter into the reality of the Body of Christ.
The objective and subjective aspects of the church as the Body, the fullness of Christ, can also be seen in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. Objectively speaking, from the perspective of God's eternal economy, the church is the Body of Christ (1:23). However, even in Paul's speaking in Ephesians 1 there is an indication that the church is the issue of an organic process. The Ephesian believers already had faith in the Lord Jesus and love toward all the saints (1:15). Paul's prayer took that as a basis that they would go further to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know Christ according to God's economy (1:17), the end of which is to see that the intrinsic meaning of the church is the Body of Christ as the fullness of the all-filling Christ (1:23), as the issue of the dispensing of the Divine Trinity (1:3-14) and the transmitting of the transcending Christ (1:18-22). The word fullness also points to the Body as the result of a process, that is, as the issue of the enjoyment of the unsearchable riches of Christ (3:8). The Body of Christ becomes the fullness of Christ as the one who fills all in all (1:23) by being constituted with the riches of Christ. It is as we enjoy and are constituted with the unsearchable riches of Christ that we become in actuality the Body as the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians shows us that based on the revelation of the church being the Body of Christ, the fullness of the all-filling Christ, we must go on to experience Christ by being strengthened with power through the Spirit into our inner man (3:16), which is our spirit mingled with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17). Then Christ can make His home in our hearts so that we can apprehend with all the saints the vast dimensions of Christ and know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ (3:17-19a). Through this we can be filled unto all the fullness of God. Being filled unto all the fullness of God makes the church the Body in actuality as the full expression of the Triune God. For this reason Paul says in 3:21: "To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus."
In chapter 4 Paul begins to speak of the human cooperation needed to accomplish the building up of the Body of Christ. This cooperation includes being diligent to keep the oneness of the Spirit (4:3) and the functioning of the gifted members "for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ" (4:12) with the goal that we would "all arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (4:13). To arrive at "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" indicates that the actual realization of the church as the Body of Christ, the fullness of the One who fills all in all, is the result of a process based on growth. This is confirmed by verses 15 and 16, which tell us that we must grow up into Christ in all things so that the Body can issue forth from the Head, Christ, through the functioning of the joints of the rich supply and the operation in the measure of each one part. If we merely define the church as the Body, we risk neglecting the organic process by which the church becomes the Body of Christ in reality and practicality. Paul's burden in writing to the Ephesians was not merely to define the church to them, but to show them the need for the organic building up of the Body through the dispensing of the Triune God, our being constituted with the riches of Christ, our being filled unto all the fullness of God, and our growing to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Paul's concern in Ephesians is with the building up of the Body of Christ as a reality in the church. In this book, the mingled spirit plays a prominent role. In fact, every chapter of Ephesians unveils a particular aspect of the mingled spirit. In chapter one we need to receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation (1:17) to know the economy of God carried out through His dispensing. In chapter two we are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit (2:22). In chapter three we see our need to be strengthened into the inner man (3:16), which is our regenerated spirit indwelt by and mingled with the Spirit. In chapter four we see our need to be renewed in the spirit of our mind (4:23) for the putting on of the new man. In chapter five we are charged to be filled in spirit (5:18), and in chapter six we are to take the Word by praying at every time in spirit (6:18).
Thus, in each of the three epistles in which Paul writes most extensively about the Body of Christ—Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians—his intention is not just to present an objective definition of the church as the Body of Christ. Rather, his goal is to bring all the saints into the reality of the Body of Christ through their subjective experience of Christ in God's organic salvation. Such a reality is the living out of the life that has been implanted in our mingled spirit through regeneration. Thus, to walk according to spirit is the crucial key to living in the reality of the Body of Christ, and the goal of our walking according to spirit is to build up the reality of the Body of Christ.
2This is clearly revealed in Genesis 2. There the story of Eve being built from a rib taken from Adam's side and presented to Adam to be one flesh with him typifies the church being built from that which comes out of Christ so that it can be presented to Christ as a corporate Bride that is one spirit with Him. Only that which came out of Adam could be his counterpart. In the same way only that which comes out of Christ can be His counterpart.
Gen. 2:22 - And Jehovah God 1built the rib, which He had taken from the man, into a woman and brought her to the man.
fn. 2:22 1 - It does not say that Eve was created but that she was built. The building of Eve with the rib taken from Adam's side typifies the building of the church with the resurrection life released from Christ through His death on the cross and imparted into His believers in His resurrection (John 12:24; 1 Pet. 1:3). The church as the real Eve is the totality of Christ in all His believers. Only that which comes out of Christ with His resurrection life can be His complement and counterpart, the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 5:28-30).
Eph. 5:29-32 -  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ also the church,  because we are members of His Body.  For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.  This mystery is great, but I speak with regard to Christ and the church.
... That which is entirely from Christ and will be solely for Christ is Eve, the church. Eve typifies a corporate man made by God—the church that is wholly of Christ. The church is not a composition of human beings from every nation, race, and people. No! Only that which comes out of Christ can be called the church. It is not that many people believe in Jesus and become the church. The church is the portion which is out of Christ alone.... ( The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 34 , pp. 40-41)
Only that which comes out of Christ can be recognized by Christ. Only that which comes out of Christ can return to Christ and match Him. Only that which comes out of the resurrection life of Christ can be His complement and counterpart, the Body of Christ. Only that which comes out of Christ and which is Christ Himself can be one with Christ. ( Life-study of Genesis , p. 222)
Based on this definition, whatever is of the natural man, the natural life, and the natural constitution have no part in God's building (1 Cor. 3:12-13).
1 Cor. 3:12-13 -  But if anyone builds upon the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, 3wood, grass, stubble,  the work of each will become manifest; for the day will declare it, because it is revealed by fire, and the fire itself will prove each one's work, of what sort it is.
fn. 3:12 3 - Wood, grass, and stubble signify the knowledge, realization, and attainments that come from the believers' natural background (such as Judaism or other religions, philosophy, or culture) and the natural way of living (which is mainly in the soul and is the natural life). Wood, in contrast to gold, signifies the nature of the natural man; grass, in contrast to silver, signifies the fallen man, the man of the flesh (1 Pet. 1:24), who has not been redeemed or regenerated by Christ; and stubble, in contrast to precious stones, signifies the work and living that issue from an earthen source and have not been transformed by the Holy Spirit. All these worthless materials are the product of the believers' natural man together with what they have collected from their background. In God's economy these materials are fit only to be burned (v. 13).
Thus, if a believer is living in the natural man, in the flesh, and not in the mingled spirit, he is not actually and practically living in the Body of Christ.