Stages In the Recovery
Our Wonderful Beginning
In 1962 the church life began in the United States with brother Witness Lee fully charged and burdened by the Lord to minister the word of God in this country. He testified that he came with a "particular commission to bring the Lord's recovery to the top Christian country". Before coming to the U.S.A., Brother Lee served the Lord mainly in China, Taipei, and the Philippines and helped greatly in the establishing and building up of the local churches there. The response to his ministry in the United States was immediate and many seeking ones were contacted and added to the church, a substantial number coming from around the country to Los Angeles to begin the church life. (Before 1962, there were a few saints representing the recovery in the United States, but the testimony accelerated and grew significantly with brother Witness Lee’s coming.)
The main burden our brother had at that time was to reveal Christ as the life-giving Spirit with all His unsearchable riches to the seeking believers. This burden began to be meaningfully discharged in the first conference meetings held in the United States in 1962, and the book The All-Inclusive Christ was published comprising those messages. His burden for several years was very much along this line as he ministered to the saints and to the churches that were raised up under his ministry. His focus was on the experience of Christ as life for the building up of the church. Many people were attracted by the enjoyment of Christ in the meetings and in the daily life of the saints in the local churches. The testimony “we’re home” was heard often in the fellowship of rejoicing brothers and sisters in the church life.
The Burden For the Truth in Biannual Trainings - 1974
A significant turn was made in 1974 with the introduction of trainings to be held biannually in Anaheim. Brother Lee had the burden to establish the saints and the churches more in the truth of God's word by going chapter by chapter through the books of the Bible. This he did until the last book was completed. The full exposition of the Bible was finally accomplished in 1995, a total of twenty years work. A line from a hymn appropriately describes our experience with brother Lee during that time: “The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His word”. Virtually everyone who attended those trainings or read the printed messages was greatly helped and blessed as the Lord opened book after book of the mystery of God that was “hidden throughout the ages” but revealed to New Testament believers.
The One Accord for the Lord’s New Move - 1984
While these trainings were in their tenth year, an extraordinary change took place in the recovery. Brother Lee was becoming increasingly aware of the stagnancy among the churches, especially in the Far East. It was a very serious problem to him that in many localities the saints had become complacent. He was, therefore, burdened to take a turn and have a new way, which involved several matters and changes based much on Paul’s word to Timothy that God “desires all men to be saved and come to the full knowledge of the truth”. He felt it was not enough for the saints to hear the messages, read them, and then place them on their shelves; he wanted the saints to become constituted with the truths and to ably speak them back to others, in church meetings and as the gospel.
The key, he said, to the Lord’s new move is the one accord in all the churches. If there could not be a good morale and one accord, there could be no move of the Lord. Thus, he sounded a call to have an army of saints that he could lead to fight for the Lord's interests on the earth. Elders and co-workers responded by constructing and signing a paper stating their willingness to be one with him for this move. Our brother's desire was to preserve and protect the churches from drifting into denominationalism by not taking his ministry seriously, a ministry fully unveiling God’s eternal purpose in His economy for man.
The High Peaks - 1991
In 1991 Brother Lee took another remarkable step in introducing the high peaks of the divine revelation concerning 1) God becoming a man that man could become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead, and 2) the New Jerusalem. The first item was controversial even among many that had been in the church life for 25 or 30 years, in that initially they had problems adjusting to and then accepting such a concept. Brother Lee continued on boldly and with strong assurance that he was speaking what God was speaking and what the churches needed to hear. He said that Satan would attack him for speaking this word and that he needed the prayers and covering of the churches.
His burden for the New Jerusalem was unabated and never-ending. He had an abundance in his heart to share and felt it was necessary to release many matters concerning the New Jerusalem, because it is the consummation, the final goal of God's organic salvation in the Bible and our destination. It is also the reason for God becoming man and for man becoming God (in life and nature). Brother Lee was so consumed with the matter of the New Jerusalem that he stated, "…If you ask me what my burden is, it is the New Jerusalem". He had summed up his burden in this way. It actually was the same as his ministry had always been, but now he felt he had reached the top, the summit, in utterance and expression of the full significance and definition of the ultimate goal of God's organic salvation.
In all of Brother Lee's years of ministering the word in this country, he never spoke sugarcoated messages. He was bold to move past traditional or common Christian thought and teaching and to be faithful to the Lord and to the truth of God's word. In 1985 he spoke this in an elders training meeting: "Christians today are shallow because they would not pay the price to labor adequately. These riches are all here in the Bible, just like gold in a mine, but nearly no one would labor to dig them out. We are here to do the mining work. This is the Lord's recovery. I hope, brothers, that in your localities you would not repeat the old things. We should learn to go on, to learn the things in the heavenlies, and to learn to speak these higher and deeper things."
In many, the reaction to his speaking has been to this day extremely positive as they can testify with deep gratitude of having received from his ministry the truth of God's word in its rich depths and weighty content. These healthy teachings and the wealth they have brought to the saints and the churches on the positive side must be acknowledged. I myself am a grateful recipient of the ministry in each of its stages.
But storms came and the churches were tested
and something was lost amid the changes, and
something new had emerged.
From January 1974 ominous changes in the churches were developing which had their inception during glory years in the recovery, as Don Rutledge points out in his memoir of early local church life in the U. S.