5. THE RECOVERY IS ELITIST (1)
While claiming to be for the oneness of the church, within its own meetings, it frequently and openly belittles all other Christians as inferior, less than Recovery Christians.
Published 12/10/2019, Written by Jacob Howard
View the Editor’s Notes, Updated 12/10/2019
Brothers and sisters, in conclusion I would like to say that if you would like to be a top Christian, you must be a Christian in the churches of the Lord’s recovery.Witness Lee, One Body, One Spirit, and One New Man, Chapter 10, Section 3 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own)
This “top Christian” was taught by Witness Lee as being someone who met with the Lord’s Recovery. That’s elitism. The Recovery’s unrepentant teaching and practice of elitism isn’t just generally wrong; it is isolating, controlling, and manipulative. It’s divisive.
What the Lord’s Recovery Has Done with the Teachings of the Church and Oneness
Elitism is at the top of the Thread. There are many arguments I could’ve started with. So why start with something as seemingly subjective as “elitism?” It’s my contention that many of the Recovery’s seriously erroneous teachings are the product of something that possibly started well-intentioned and shifted into elitism. The Recovery has a high view of itself that has led it into isolation and division, which bleeds through into its many other problems. Elitism and pride are poisonous.
I bring up elitism firstly because it exposes the current reality of the core problems of the Lord’s Recovery system, which can be proved by the Recovery’s fruit. In the Bible, oneness and the church do matter. Today the Lord’s Recovery, regardless of how its teachings and fruit may have started, uses the teachings of oneness and the church as a means of putting other Christians down and lifting themselves up, dividing themselves from other Christians.
According to Witness Lee, No One Cares About the Lord’s Word More Than the Lord’s Recovery
The Recovery teaches about an elite church, the best church, represented by Philadelphia in the book of Revelation. Witness Lee directly linked the Lord’s Recovery movement with his elitist interpretation of Philadelphia:
One outstanding feature of Philadelphia is that she kept the Lord’s word. According to history, no other Christians have kept the Lord’s word as strictly as these in the church in Philadelphia. Likewise, by His grace, we are keeping His word today. Although many condemn us, saying that we are heretical, among today’s Christians no one regards the Lord’s word more than we do. We keep the Word of God, not in the traditional way, but in the way of the pure Word. This offends those who want to hold the traditions of their forefathers. The church in Philadelphia does not care for tradition; she cares for the Word of God.Witness Lee, Life-Study of Revelation, Chapter 15, Section 3 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own)
This teaching is not harmless.
In the above quote, Witness Lee’s counter argument to the Lord’s Recovery being heretical is, “no one regards the Lord’s word more than we do.”
It’s questionable that Philadelphia biblically represents the best, most Word-centric church around today. While that’s possible, the Bible doesn’t give us a lot of clarity that Philadelphia in the book of Revelation represented another church later on. Regardless, Witness Lee taught his interpretation of Philadelphia as a standard to be met. He used that standard to exalt the Recovery and debase everyone else.
Witness Lee on Today’s Christianity: Deformed and Degraded
We need to compare what is seen in the Bible with what is seen today in Christianity. I have to use two words to describe today’s Christianity: deformed and degraded. If we are not careful, we might become something that is deformed and degraded. All of Christianity is deformed from the form of the revelation in the holy Word and is also degraded.Witness Lee, The God-ordained Way to Practice the New Testament Economy, Chapter 3, Section 1 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own)
Witness Lee taught that all non-Recovery Christianity is deformed and degraded (i.e., top Recovery Christianity vs. deformed/degraded Christianity).
According to Witness Lee, if you want to be a top Christian, you need to be in the Lord’s Recovery.
According to Witness Lee, the Lord’s Recovery is better at regarding the Word than anyone else.
And according to Witness Lee, all of Christianity outside of the Lord’s Recovery is deformed and degraded.
Why Witness Lee’s Teachings Bear Weight in the Lord’s Recovery
While Christians saying something erroneous isn’t justifiable, it’s at least recant-able or reconcilable; Christians can apologize and learn.
Witness Lee’s Christian-bashing was wrong, but all he had to do was apologize and correct himself. Instead, Witness Lee boxed himself into a corner, teaching that his writings were flawless, pure:
By the Lord’s mercy, we have not preached anything other than Christ and the church in our speaking and in our publications.Witness Lee, Speaking for God, Chapter 6, Section 4 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own)
I’m very fine with the fact that I cannot say this clearly pretentious statement. Saying that my Christian writings have been only about Christ and the church would be pompous and impossible for me to know. I’m only human!
I’m a sinner. Christ is my solid Rock. I’m only saved from my sin because of His blood. I’m fallible, and as I’ve said before, I’ll get things wrong, apologize, and recant. All Christians need Jesus. Needing Jesus is essential in any Christian’s testimony.
Devoted Recovery members who give the dishonest argument that Witness Lee has never been thought of as infallible can’t shy away from the fact that Witness Lee didn’t think so. He, at the very least, preached that his publications were only about Christ and the church.
The Lord’s Recovery Openly Belittling Non-Recovery Christians
Witness Lee uplifted his congregation as better than all other Christians. I believe it’s this kind of teaching that has led to the Recovery frequently putting down outsider Christians.
I remember hearing the off-putting comments. I remember contributing to them. We didn’t explicitly host Christian-bashing meetings; actually, some leaders would make a point to say we shouldn’t bash other Christians, but in the same meeting, we would still find a way to critique others and exalt ourselves. When I was a member, I genuinely believed Witness Lee’s “holier than thou” view of the Recovery, so I thought very lowly of other Christians who were not in the Recovery and very highly of ourselves.
Before I left the Lord’s Recovery, I believed outsider Christians needed to be saved from their degraded Christianity into the Recovery’s Christianity. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.
Witness Lee’s Divisive Handling of Opposition
Witness Lee himself bashed other Christians within his teachings simply for disagreeing with him.
Yet there are some opposers who criticize, saying, “Why do you listen only to that one man? You receive anything Brother Lee says, and you feel that anything not spoken by Brother Lee has a problem. How can all of you be so foolish as to follow that little Chinaman?” You can see how pitiful today’s Christianity truly is.Witness Lee, One Body, One Spirit, and One New Man, Chapter 7, Section 3 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own)
In this section of One Body, One Spirit, and One New Man, when Witness Lee was talking about opposers who criticized him, he bashed them as “pitiful.” His opposers, according to Witness Lee’s own words, were criticizing Recovery members’ devotion to Witness Lee, and Lee’s counter to that claim was that today’s Christianity outside of the Recovery is truly pitiful.
The context of the above quote is important. In this part of the Lee’s teaching he was attempting to prove that all Christians being a part of “one new man” is possible. Witness Lee was trying to discuss the possibility of oneness, but in doing so, he mocked the rest of Christianity as pitiful for disagreeing with him.
Witness Lee’s teaching continues:
After more than ten years, the possibility [of the one new man] is being manifested, but they are still unwilling to give in. Furthermore, they begin to criticize and condemn us by saying that the people in the Lord’s recovery are foolish to follow a man. Sometimes when I hear what the opposers say, it makes me want to laugh.Witness Lee, One Body, One Spirit, and One New Man, Chapter 7, Section 3 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own; Bracket-bound Insertions Inserted for Context)
Interestingly enough, when Witness Lee was trying to make his case for oneness in the church and what it should look like, the opposers argued that it is “foolish to follow a man.” But that kind of opposition only provoked Witness Lee to say, “Sometimes when I hear what the opposers say, it makes me want to laugh.” What kind of oneness can come out of that kind of condescension?
This is not some subjective form of elitism. It’s not nuanced. Witness Lee taught there was a top Christian and an elite class of Christianity called the Lord’s Recovery. Then he labeled non-Recovery Christianity as pitiful. Self-identifying as the “top Christian” church is elitist. Teaching that all other Christianity is degraded and deformed is elitist.
Scripture Opposing Elitism
The Lord’s Recovery’s teaching of elitist Christianity opposes the Bible’s explicit teaching to treat/consider/count others as more significant or important than yourself:
3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.Philippians 2:3 (NET)
Witness Lee had the chance to say, “We are the least of all the Christians in all of Christianity!” But instead, he said quite the opposite. This kind of elitist teaching goes directly against the humble example Paul gave in the New Testament of the Bible:
8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of ChristEphesians 3:8 (NET)
Witness Lee exalted his movement and debased and derided the rest of Christianity. He exalted his writings as only about Christ and the church. Jesus addressed exalting vs. humbling very explicitly:
12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.Matthew 23:12 (NET)
Elitism is sin. It’s not the fruit of oneness in the church. It’s something of which churches should repent, not promote. Unrepentantly teaching and practicing elitism in the church is a poison that has divided the Lord’s Recovery from all of Christianity, making the Lord’s Recovery one with itself yet divided from the church.