Question: Suppose a brother has a letter of recommendation from the church in Tsinan, and he comes to meet with the assembly in Shanghai. Later, if he is excommunicated by the assembly in Shanghai, should the brothers in Tsinan be consulted before he is excommunicated?
Answer: When the letter of recommendation is received, we should receive this person according to the letter of recommendation. Later, if we find out that this person is not yet saved, we can excommunicate him. Since the brothers in Tsinan are willing to recommend him, their decision must be right; we should believe in the words of the brothers in Tsinan absolutely and receive him initially. But if later we deal with this person and excommunicate him, we do not have to inform the brothers in Tsinan. This is like excommunicating a brother who has always been meeting in the assembly in Shanghai; there is no need to inform the brothers in Tsinan of such a decision. When that person comes to the assembly in Shanghai with a letter of recommendation, he is received by the brothers in Shanghai and is treated like all other brothers in Shanghai. When we accept a letter of recommendation from the brothers in Tsinan, we have accepted the brother, referred to in the letter, as a brother in Shanghai. Thereafter, the assembly in Shanghai has the authority to deal with him.
Question: Can we break bread in Kun-shan Garden? If we break bread there, are we acting contrary to the truth of the Bible?
Answer: At present, there are three tables in Shanghai. If we are not sure that the table in Hardoon Road is right, we should not come here tomorrow for the bread-breaking meeting. When we break bread at a table, we should acknowledge that it represents the whole Body of Christ. The table at Kun-shan Garden is of a certain group of the Exclusive Brethren. They have a closed attitude and communicate only with those who fellowship with them; they do not fellowship with everyone who has fellowship with God. Their fellowship includes only so many. Even if you are a very good brother, they will not receive you. You have to cut off your relationship with all other Christians before they will receive you. They are one of the seven or eight groups of Exclusive Brethren, and these seven or eight groups do not even receive one another.
If there are two bread-breaking meetings in one place, we have to distinguish which is the right one. If a meeting is raised up in one place, and another meeting is raised up in the same place, we cannot go to both places. We have to ask if the second meeting is also standing on the ground of the church. If both of them are standing on the ground of the church, they will surely fellowship with one another. This is like the relationship the meeting in Wen-teh Lane has with the meeting in Gordon Lane. Those who have been received by the meeting in Wen-teh Lane are also received by the meeting in Gordon Lane. The reverse is also true because we have only one fellowship. If we do not have the same fellowship, we cannot go to both places even when the form of the meetings in the two places is the same. We must investigate and determine which meeting represents the church and meets on the ground of the one Body. If a meeting is not meeting in this way, it is a sect.
When I was in America, it was right for me to break bread with Dr. and Mrs. Stearn. It would have been wrong if I had broken bread with those whom they would not recognize. The reason for this is that I had broken bread with them in Tsinan already. In a place where there is no assembly yet, we can act freely and set up the bread-breaking meeting. (Of course, we must also establish the oneness with the brothers whom we have fellowship with.) It would be wrong if I went to Hangchow and gathered a few people to set up a table, because there is a table in Hangchow already. Brother Luan would surely tell me that I should not set up another table. If that happened, I would need to confess my mistake. The Brethren say that they cannot receive anyone to their bread-breaking meeting who has not left the denominations. But this makes them another sect. As for us, we can fellowship with all those who are saved in the denominations. Suppose that there were no bread-breaking meeting in Ningpo. If two or three brothers went to Ningpo from Tsinan, they could start the bread- breaking meeting.
Question: In Peking, there is a bread-breaking meeting, but the brothers there are quite weak. Can I break bread there and also go to another place to listen to a famous speaker?
Answer: It is not absolutely wrong to go to another place to listen to some famous speakers. We do not forbid our people to go to other places to hear other speakers. But we have to make one thing clear: when you go to hear them, there is a limitation to your communication with them. If the goal of their works is not up to the standard of God’s goal, their works are not God’s work according to the biblical standard. I have said that God’s work is not an evangelistic crusade, a society for the promotion of some cause, a Sunday school, or a revival campaign. From the beginning, God’s work has been only one thing—the church. His work in every place is the building up of the local church in that place. Everything that comes short of this, that is, everything that endeavors for less than this goal, is not God’s work. I am not saying that evangelistic crusades and Bible studies are bad. But if one only does these works and does not come up to the standard of the local church, he has not come up to the standard of God’s goal. In reality, he is lowering the standard of God’s goal. God’s work in the book of Acts was nothing less than the local church; it never came short of this and never fell short of this goal.
Today, there are those in the church who preach the truth, lead others to salvation, or conduct Bible studies, preachings, or evangelistic meetings. Believers can do all of these things. But we have to lay hold of God’s goal; we must come up to the standard of the church. I am afraid that although many works are good, they do not come up to the standard of God’s work, which is the church. I believe there are many gifted ones who are not with us. I also believe that if we are more faithful, God will raise up gifted ones among us. If we live in God’s light, there will not be the need for us to go to outsiders for messages.