Original document can be found here.

 

My dear friends, saints, and brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

It’s important to go on with God. It’s important to walk your faith. It’s important to trust in the Lord. These are all good things. Share your testimony and your love for your Savior. This is honourable and good. Read your Bible. Sing and praise the Great Creator. Do these things!

But to shut out negative thoughts and discussion? To avoid the critical word against abuse? To turn a blind eye? These things create a space to allow abuse to flourish. It’s is good soil only for depression, PTSD, anxiety, and predatory behavior.

 

I was in the Lord’s Recovery from 1999-2008. During that time, I learned about the Triune God, the crystalised truths found in the old testament and new, how the Old Testament was really a picture of Christ and what he accomplished while on Earth and beyond. I met wonderful, loving people. I made friends and laughed and enjoyed my time with all of them. I learned how to exercise my spirit, mingled with God’s Holy Spirit. I learned how to tap into my intuition during this time and had solid moments with God. I fell in love with Jesus. I don’t doubt this for a second and I’m eternally grateful for this. I still love Him.

 

I was taught that my body can be a distraction to the brothers, so I must cover up. I learned that God had someone special set apart for me to marry…and how precious would it be to wait to even kiss him on your wedding day! How beautiful is that? To save every part of your body for your spouse? To wait for all physical affection until that day was the ideal situation, put up on a pedestal! These concepts are ones that I’ve had to heal from - but that will be another discussion for another day. And I promise, I will talk about it.

 

I learned that the Lord’s Recovery was the next step in the Christian belief. I learned that Watchman Nee and Witness Lee had extracted truths from the Bible with their interpretations and “recovered” the proper way to do church, as it is displayed in the Bible. One locality - one church! Unleavened bread for the Lord’s Table (i.e.-Communion)! We must do it every Sunday! We are all Saints, as we are one body! I learned that all other denominations were lacking in their teaching. That their songs, with their rock music, was less-than because it had been tainted by the world. Our piano, acoustic guitar, and occasional “other-instrument” (trumpet, flute, accordion) were ok, though. I learned that speaking in tongues was silly and fake. I learned that Witness Lee and Watchman Nee were oracles of God. Why would you want to read something from anyone else? They could read it for you and tell you where the author got it right and wrong. All I had to do was to read, pray-read, and gain Christ! Hallelujah!(?)

 

I learned that the Body of Christ included all genuine believers, regardless of denomination - but if you left the Lord’s Recovery, you were “lost.” I learned that we should put the Lord’s Recovery, our spiritual family, above our natural family. They were “of the world” after all. All natural things are.

 

What I didn’t learn was how to cope with loneliness. How to deal with the stresses of school. Where to go if I needed help for… anything. Wait, no…I did hear something. “You just need to eat Jesus! You need more Christ! Get into the Word more! Read the ministry!” I never heard anything discussed except what was in “the ministry.” Any talk outside of that was wasteful. We must always fellowship with Jesus and about Jesus!

 

I learned that self-expression and worldly enjoyments (movies, TV, music) were sinful… which was very confusing because in my heart-of-hearts, I am an artist. I had conversations with saints where they shared they stopped drawing or painting and put them away because they didn’t want to build themselves up. Stories about a brother who worked in the game industry who was full of inner-turmoil for his participation in the world. These were looked at with hearts of understanding and sympathy. However, in my experience and understanding, art can heal. It tells stories. And our God is an artist and we are made in Their image. Are you not moved when a small child draws you a picture?

 

I left the Lord’s Recovery through some gentle guidance and lots of patience by my (now) husband. Even when we initially left, I didn’t clearly see the issues within the Lord’s Recovery. I had the full understanding that I will go where God leads me. He is my God, afterall. Not Witness Lee or Watchman Nee. I followed Jesus, not man. And He led us to a wonderful church in Berkeley, outside of the Lord’s Recovery. I went to my old locality, the one I grew up in, and shared my enjoyment from my experience. In that moment I fully learned that it didn’t matter if I still loved Jesus (which I did and do). It didn’t matter that I had met genuine believers in a space that worked beautifully for me and my new husband. It didn’t matter that God had guided us Himself and within my spirit I heard his voice saying “Here is where I want you to be.” What matter was that I was no longer meeting with the saints in the Local Church. I was “lost” to them, despite my continued deep love of Jesus. I learned that the One Body, although preached to include all genuine believers, did NOT actually include all genuine believers. It was restricted to the Lord’s Recovery.

 

The problem with the Lord’s Recovery isn’t their love of Jesus. It isn’t their zeal of Christ and the Bible. It’s clear that their heart and motivation is seeking Him.

 

The problem is that while they preach a hierarchical-free system (where there is no preacher or leader - all saints are encouraged to speak and share), they have the “leading brothers” who are not to be questioned.

 

The problem is they read exclusively from the Living Stream Magazine publishing company, which publishes exclusively Watchman Nee and Witness Lee material (I.e.-”The Ministry”). This limits information and interpretation to one person. Those in the Lord’s Recovery may not see this as a problem, as their taught you don’t need anything else. I’m so thankful the Lord has opened my eyes to how dangerous this teaching is.

 

The problem is the exclusive attitude that permeates the entire culture of the Lord’s Recovery.

 

The problem is that everyone is encouraged to talk exclusively about spiritual matters, and neglect the physical.

 

The problem is that when you have a system in place where the answer to all your problems is “look away unto Jesus,” you don’t talk about abuse that’s happening, you don’t talk about mental illness, and you don’t actually support the person. You conform to this idea of who you are suppose to be and look like, and feel like a failure when you fail to match up. You sit and repent for the way God created you, and this fear and self-loathing leads to the mental illnesses that AREN’T BEING TALKED ABOUT.

 

A letter was released from a wonderful woman (Jo Casteel) about all the atrocities committed and the cover-ups that took place in the Lord’s Recovery. Since releasing this open letter, she has been called an enemy of God, that this is an attack from Satan, and all members of the Lord’s Recovery were encouraged NOT to read her letter. How is this healthy? How is it healthy to not address these terrible things? I learned there is no transparency in the Lord’s Recovery. The Blended Brothers are terrified of that curtain being pulled back to expose the underbelly of the Lord’s Recovery history - past and current.

The problem with the Lord’s Recovery is that they don’t actually say anything. Maybe it did at some point, but since then it has become a system of control. People are trapped in their minds, terrified to step out of this space of judgement for fear of their everlasting soul. There is a fear of losing those they love and have grown so close to. Fear of losing their support network. Fear of hurting them. Fear of losing God. These fears are from the enemy. God will never leave you nor forsake you.

 

I’m going to end with a conversation I had with a friend who was meeting with the Lord’s Recovery at the time. I would like you to consider my question, her answer, and the implications of your own reaction.

 

Me, “If God wanted you to leave the Lord’s Recovery and meet somewhere else, would you?”

Her, “I don’t know.”

Sarah Lister's Open Letter