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The local churches and the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee have been the subject of controversy in two major areas over the past fifty years.
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Local Church controversies - Wikipedia

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Why the Local Church was included in the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions

No particular local church should be regarded as the head church or leading church. On the contrary, all the local churches share the same standing before the Lord.


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We pray, praise, sing, give testimonies, and minister the Word. The church meetings are open, and all believers are free to participate. The word "pray-reading" is a compound word that describes our practice of praying with the words of the Bible.

Who is your leader?

We pray-read the Word in order to enjoy the life element contained in the Word; we thereby enjoy the Word as our spiritual food. However, the fact that we pray-read the Bible, repeating the words of Scripture in prayer to God, does not mean that we neglect the ordinary reading of the Scriptures or the careful study of the Word of God.

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What is the name of your church? Who is your leader? Participants are encouraged to request hymns, offer brief comments, or pray at will. Witness Lee had made it a point to differentiate his ministry from the local churches.

Witness Lee To the Local Church - Dr. Walter Martin

Contrary to the popular beliefs he never imposed that the members in the local church follow his ministry. The ministry is not a Congress for anyone to come here to express his opinion. The ministry has no capacity for that. The ministry is altogether filled up with a fighting spirit. I do not control any church.

All the saints who have left the denominations, the divisive sects, and stand on the proper ground are a local church in their locality. They can express their opinions, but they may have nothing to do with this ministry This does not mean that I ask you to stay away from your local church or that your local church is no longer a local church I am not talking about the churches, I am talking about the ministry.

The ministry is one thing, and the churches are another thing. These two things can be differentiated in the Epistles written by Paul.

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Paul never tried to force all the churches to follow him in his ministry, but Paul surely had a ministry for the churches. Fuller Theological Seminary had studied the practices of the local churches and released the following statement on their findings. One of the initial tasks facing Fuller was to determine if the portrayal of the ministry typically presented by its critics accurately reflects the teachings of the ministry. On this point we have found a great disparity between the perceptions that have been generated in some circles concerning the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee and the actual teachings found in their writings.

Particularly, the teachings of Witness Lee have been grossly misrepresented and therefore most frequently misunderstood in the general Christian community, especially among those who classify themselves as evangelicals.

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We consistently discovered that when examined fairly in the light of scripture and church history, the actual teachings in question have significant biblical and historical credence. Therefore, we believe that they deserve the attention and consideration of the entire Body of Christ. The Christian Research Institute had originally labelled the movement as heretical, but later, after six years of reevaluation, they published several articles on the local churches in a special issue of their journal, including one entitled: It [the 'local churches' movement] was greeted with suspicion by the evangelical community, and it was not long before CRI and other discernment ministries began labeling it heretical.

But, after a six-year reevaluation, CRI has concluded that the LC has been misunderstood and is neither cultic nor aberrant, but merely different.