The movement colloquially referred to as the Local Church has been addressed in various Apologetics Index entries.
This page will serve as a central entry from which we point to research resources on the Local Church — both within and outside Apologetics Index. Currently this is a partial entry, but links to various resources can be found in the entries listed below.
Note regarding this movement’s name:
While many apologetics and countercult publications refer to this movement by the name Local Church, the movement itself prefers the term local churches or Living Stream Ministry, its publishing arm.
What is the name of your church?
The local churches do not have a name. The only name we hold and honor is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. To take any other name is to insult Him. The term “local church” is not a name; it is a description of the local nature and expression of the church, that is, the church in a locality. To print the words “local church” with capital letters is a serious mistake, for this gives the impression that our name is “local church.” Just as the moon is simply the moon regardless of the locality over which it is seen, so the church is simply the church regardless of the locality in which it is established. When the church was established in Jerusalem, it was known simply as the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), and in Antioch, the church was the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1). Likewise, the practical expression of the church in Anaheim today is simply the church in Anaheim. As local churches, we meet in the Lord’s name on the ground of genuine oneness.– Source: The Local Church — Beliefs and Practices (Official Local Church website)
According to text contained in the source code (but not displayed in the browser) on one of its sites, the movement believes that
The Bible reveals two aspects of the church: the universal church and the local church. The universal church includes all regenerated believers throughout time and space. The local church includes all the believers living in a particular locality in space and in time.
– Source: Source code at homepage, The Local Church . org (official Local Church website)
Internally, members of this movement refer to it as “the Lord’s Recovery.”
The movement believes that “the church has become degraded through the many centuries of its history,” and states that the church “needs to be restored according to God’s original intention.” The movement says it is difficult to fix an exact date on which “God’s recovery” began, but claims that “Now it has reached its present stage with the establishment of genuine local churches as the expression of the Body of Christ.”
The movement makes clear it believes the Lord “is recovering the experience of the riches of Christ–that is, the enjoyment of Christ as our life and our everything–and He is recovering the practice of the church life.”
It insist that each city ought to have just one local church in which Christians of that city meet and fellowship. Other churches are not considered to be genuine expressions of the body of Christ. If the ‘local’ church you attend is not part of the Local Church movement you are, in their view, part of a denomination or ‘sect of Satan.’
According to various Local Church websites there are some 2,000 ‘local churches’ around the world.
While some evangelical Christians consider the Local Church movement to be Christian is nature, most Christians reject the movement as, theologically, a cult of Christianity.
The movement is known for its attacks on Christians — ranging from lawsuits to ad hominem attacks.
Ministry Watch says:
No Christian should deny the fact that there is unity in the Trinity, between God and man in salvation, and in the universal Church of true believers. The Local Church’s teachings on unity, however, remind one of G. K. Chesterton’s description of a man locking himself mentally into the “clean and well-lit prison of one idea.” Watchman Nee and Witness Lee do employee reason. Unfortunately, their theological starting point is not rational. The mystical notion of unity has been allowed to take the place of logic and sound hermeneutics. The whole counsel of God is therefore interpreted in the light of a subjective “feeling.” The result seems to be that LSM and the Local Church have taken the turn away from the path of knowledge only to find themselves on the broad highway of doctrinal error.
– Source: Ministry Watch, Living Stream Ministry listing
Witness Lee (1905 – 1997)
Founder of the Local Church (Lord’s Recovery) Movement. Discipled by, and a co-worker of, Watchman Nee.
Lee claimed God was present only in the Local Church Movement, and taught that Christian victory was gained by speaking, singing or shouting “O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah” rather than by studying doctrine, praying, or any other way.
Apologetics Index Entries
- Series of articles regarding the Local Church lawsuit
The Local Churches’ failed lawsuit against Harvest House and authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon. Includes information about support offered to the Local Church by Hank Hanegraaff and Gretchen Passantino. Also includes, Why the Local Church was included in the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions — a good overview of the Local Churches’ problematic teachings.
- The Local Church — cult of Christianity supported by two ‘cult watchers’ More about Hank Hanegraaff and Gretchen Passantino’s support for the Local Church
- In contrast to Hanegraaff and Passantino, more than 70 evangelical scholars and ministry leaders have — in an open letter — called on the movement to renounce unorthodox doctrines and to discontinue its legal attacks.
- Analysis of Local Church statements regarding the Godhead by Alan Gomes
- Five Christian apologists evaluate the teachings of Witness Lee and The Local Church
- The Local Church Information and research resources in the older regions of Apologetics Index.
- Christian Research Institute (CRI) descends deeper into error and controversy. In a recent issue of the Christian Research Journal, CRI continues its flabbergasting defense of the Local Church with a front-page article titled, “We Were Wrong — A Reassessment of the “Local Church” Movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.”
- A Response to the Christian Research Journal’s Recent Defense of the “Local Church” Movement, by Dr. Norm Geisler and Dr. Ron Rhodes
- Church Of Recovery (Aka “Local Church,” “Lord’s Recovery”) Extensive overview by The Bereans Apologetics Research Ministry
- Can the Local Church Leadership Say, “We Were Wrong’? Open letter to LC leaders, written by former member Jane Carole Anderson, author of The Thread of Gold (” the true story of Jane Carole Anderson’s twenty-year journey through the Local Church of Witness Lee.” )
- Local Church Discussion Forum “An Online Community of Current and Former Members of the local churches Associated with the Ministries of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee”
- Nee, Lee & the Church of Recovery “Discussions about the works of Watchman Nee, Witness Lee and the Local Churches or the movement(s) spawned by the teachings of these men.”. Forum operated by The Bereans.
- Local Church news & news archive at Religion News Blog
- Open Letter
- Essential doctrines of the Christian faith (and why doctrines matter)
- Research resources on the doctrine of the Trinity
- What is a cult of Christianity?
- Living Stream Ministry Profile, including financial information, at Ministry Watch
More than 70 evangelical Christian scholars and ministry leaders from seven nations have signed an unprecedented open letter to the leadership of the “local churches” and Living Stream Ministry. [Read the press release]
Local Church Links
These are links to websites operated by Living Stream Ministry / Local Church / Lord’s Recovery. They are includes for research purposes only. We do not recommend these sites.
- Contending For The Faith (Official site) This website is “a project to defend and confirm the New Testament ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee and the practice of the local churches.” The site is part of the “Defense and Confirmation Project” (DCP)
- The Local Church [Official site] The page is titled, “The Local Church loves Christ; is helped by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee”
The Local Church / Living Stream Ministry operates many websites, including: The Scriptures thescriptures.org; Triune God triunegod.org; God’s Economy godseconomy.org; All-Inclusive Christ allinclusivechrist.org; Christ’s Incarnation christsincarnation.org; Christ’s Death christsdeath.org; Christ’s Resurrection christsresurrection.org; Tripartite Man tripartiteman.org; Regeneration regenerated.net; God’s Salvation godssalvation.org; Calling on the Lord callingonthelord.org; Pray Reading prayreading.org; Bibles for America biblesforamerica.org; Chicago Bibles and Books biblesandbooks.com; Christian Websites christianwebsites.org; Church Histories churchhistories.ccws.org; Emanna emanna.com; FTTA ftta.org; Hymns hymns.net; Living Stream livingstream.com; Local Churches localchurches.org; Recovery Version recoveryversion.org.
Websites for each local church location usually include the name of the city: e.g, Church in Houston churchinhouston.org; Church in San Francisco churchinsanfrancisco.org; and Church in New York City churchinnewyorkcity.org.
Find More Information
You can find more information about this movement by using ApologeticsSearch.com, where you can search for apologetics articles, books, videos, and other research resources across 135 Christian apologetics websites and blogs.
As the terms “local church” and “local churches” may return results for information that does not address this movement, we suggest also using the terms “Lord’s Recovery,” “Living Stream Ministry,” or “Witness Lee.”