Sunday, April 09, 2006

Why I am not now and likely never will be a member of the Lord's Recovery

I've written on past posts of my fondness for Witness Lee. I have a bookshelf devoted to his writings, I have his Bible commentaries on my computer, and I have 2GB of audio files featuring portions of his messages. His ministry has pointed me toward Christ and has helped me to grasp ahold of mysteries like the Trinity.

In 1985 I met a brother who said he attended "the Church In Cleveland." Church simply named after the city in which it resides. No denominationalism. That sounded cool,and again, exuberance was the key. I went to some of their meetings. They were as fired up as any pentecostal, and they talked about the Bible more. I dug it, so in my developing quest to "be biblical", I started attending their meetings. What did I like? The emphasis on the Bible, the friendliness of the people, the fellowship. They had regular conferences just on certain books of the Bible. What didn't I like? Most of the people acted like zombies.
---blog entry, April 22, 1985

I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of theirs on Christmas Day after I had already attended Mass that weekend. We shared the Lord's Table, prayed, and then it was testimony time. This is a regular part of one of their meetings; in an attempt to shed the clergy/laity distinction they open up the meeting for all to share.

The first guy popped up and spoke on and on about how "Dead, deluded Christianity" was celebrating the birth of a baby, but "He isn't a baby anymore." Well no spit, Sherlock. We all know that. He then proclaimed how "we" (meaning the Lord's Recovery) weren't like that; we focused on the living Christ. I began to squirm. A few testimonies later a woman popped up and spouted off in the same tone. "They" are dead, but "we" are beyond all that. Oh good Lord, could I get out of this meeting any sooner? At the end of the meeting I grabbed my coat, got into my car, cranked up some tunes and decompressed. I went to one more meeting in January but haven't been back since.

Most of the people acted like zombies. That sounds mean but they devoted themselves to the teachings of a guy named Witness Lee. They would memorize whole portions of his books and spit them out to each other. If I had an issue in my life, they had a passage from a book to share. Instead of being willing to invest their lives in a person that was hurting, they used Witness Lee's writings as a shield. That bugged me. No questioning Witness Lee. That REALLY bugged me :)
---blog entry, April 22, 2005

The believers who fellowship with the "local churches" (every church simply identified with the city in which it resides) take great pains to distance themselves from Christianity at large, all the while seeking the acceptance of the same Christians by syndicating a radio show, seeking membership in the Christian Booksellers Association, and handing out free Recovery Version New Testaments to everyone they meet. They proclaim boldly that they aren't a denomination, yet they have a headquarters- no publications other than those published by Living Stream Ministry are allowed to be disseminated in their meetings; they have a Bible School, the "Full-Time Training", where members are strongly encouraged to go after high school and from which full-time workers for the ministry are drawn; and they have a "leadership council", the seven "blended brothers", who lead conferences and make decisions. They don't want to be known as a denomination yet in every way they are.

I mentioned that they take great pains to distance themselves from Christianity. Let me offer a few verses from their hymnal, simply titled "Hymns". See if you recognize any of them.

Do come, oh, do come,
Says Spirit and the Bride:
Do come, oh, do come,
Let him that heareth, cry.
Do come, oh, do come,
Let him who thirsts and will
Take freely the water of life!

There is pow'r, pow'r, all transcending pow'r,
To the church, to the church!
There is pow'r, pow'r, all transcending pow'r,
Given to His Body, the church!

Jerusalem, the utimate,
Of visions the totality;
The Triune God, tripartite man--
A loving pair eternally--
As man yet God they coinhere,
A mutual dwelling place to be;
God's glory in humanity
Shines forth in splendor radiantly!

Now the words might not seem familiar, but if you answered "Do Lord", "Power In The Blood", and "And Can It Be", you would be right. Same tunes as the classic hymns, but different verses. In some cases the original song is in the hymnal as well. I never understood why they couldn't just write new hymns with new tunes.

What do people know us for? I've spoken of my admiration for Witness Lee in the past, but one of my huge beefs with his posse is that they make big spiritual issues over things like celebrating Christmas or having different types of music in their meetings. When the final chapter is written about the Lord's Recovery, will they be thought of as dedicated Christians who loved the Lord, or will they be known in history as the church who didn't celebrate Christmas and sued everyone? Sadly, I fear the latter.
---blog entry, February 6, 2006

And that's what keeps me from ever making a commitment to be "one of them." I love the brothers I've met there. I wish I could spend more time with them. I will have Witness Lee's books on my shelf until the day I die. But if the identifying mark of my Christianity ever becomes what holidays I don't celebrate or what instruments I don't want to see involved in church music, then just shoot me. That's not how I want to be known. Sadly, that's the legacy quite a few Christians will leave behind. Whether it's the Lord's Recovery, the emergent church, the house church movement, fundamentalism or the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, if people know you better for what you don't do than what you do, then it's time to take a few steps back and reassess what you're all about.


Blogger anokaponders said...

Whoa! Just came across this blog and a few of Sean's posts. Very glad to hear someone with some discernment and who can't be cookie-cuttered.


8:57 PM  

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