My goal with this post is to simply compile the most complete and comprehensive index of information on a concept called “city church” or sometimes “the local church.” This list will consist of information on movements, personalities who have tried to restore the city church in different parts of the world, it will also include many quotes, links to articles, some videos and essentially anything at all that I can find about the idea of a city church. I will not here provide a detailed explanation of what the City church is, but I will link to as many resources as I know of on the subject. I may in some cases provide brief notes on the topic but this will not be necessarily true of anything.
There is One Church in a City
This article is a supurb introduction to to the idea of the city church. In it Brother Terry gives plenty of scriptural references and explains everything in a great, easy to understand way. If you look at nothing else on this index please at least that a look at this article.
ONE CITY, ONE CHURCH
Written by Witness Lee, the second leader of the Local Church Movement this article expands on the idea of the City Church and also examines the idea that “if two or more are gathered that is a church.”
This article is written by Watchman Nee the original founder of the Local Church Movement. Here Brother Nee, in similar fashion to the precious article explicates on the idea that the smallest and biggest division one can make in the church is based on region.
Apologetics Index – City Church
The counter-cult ministry Apologetics Index has posted an article on the concept of city church. In the short article they say:
It is very frustrating to read the Apologetic Index article because on one hand they admit that the City Church is a biblical concept but then in the same breathe they say that because they personally don’t like the theology of some of the City Church proponents that therefore City Church doctrine is incorrect and should never be thought of, taught, practiced, sought after or anything like that.
Local Church Movement
By far the best-known group in our day that is promotes the City Church doctrine is the LCM. Established in China in the early 1900s by Watchman Nee the LCM made it’s way to the US in the mid/late 20th century when Nee’s disciple Witness Lee cam to the US. Today there are dozens of local church congregations all over the US that meet under the name of the city they are in and no other name. The LCM take much of their influence from the Plymouth Brethren including centering their worship around the Lord’s table. Many have called the LCM a cult, but their accusations are unfounded and these claims can be safely dismissed, in fact some of the pople who started these accusations have since repented and apologized.
The frustration with the Local Church Movement is that though their view of the church is somewhat closer to the Biblical model the LCM don’t really live up to that doctrine. They have for the most part just become yet another denomination of Christianity with their own liturgy that while unique is still sectarian. Some (but certintly not all) of the LCM congregations seem to believe they are the one and only city church in their town and all the other believers must join with them to be counted with the city church.
Here is a video from an interview that was featured by the Christian Research Institute. This explains a little bit more of the teaching of localims of the LCM.
Church of Liberty, MO
Full disclosure, I am associated with the Church of Liberty and it was from these guys that I first learned about the concept of the City Church. For the most part the Church of Liberty is my home-church and the congregation that launched me into my own mission. They are a group of radical charismatic believers who live together in a group of townhomes in Liberty, MO. They have been encouraging believers in Liberty and KC to come together as one body for more than a decade now. One of the pastors of the Church of Liberty always says “we are not all of the Church of Liberty, we are only PART of the church that is already in Liberty. There are other Christian members all over town, some of whom we haven’t even met yet.”
Kansas City Fellowship (now known as Metro Christian Fellowship) and KC Prophets
The Kansas City prophets is a group of men in KC Missiouri that include Bill Hamon, Rick Joyner, Larry Randolph, Paul Cain, Mike Bickle, James Goll, John Paul Jackson, and Lou Engle. Rising to prominance some time in the 80s some of these men were even connected to the ministry of William Branham. Kansas City Fellowship is one of the congegrations of the movement and famous for things like the International House of Prayer. One of the main leaders of the movement is characterized by 1. Apostolic teams; 2. City churches; 3. The House of Prayer; 4. The Joseph Company; 5. The Israel Mandate; 6. A Ministry training center; 7. Shiloh Ministries.
One article from DeceptionintheChruch.com says this; “City churches, Bickle believes that every city really only has one church, which may consist of several congregations, but must come under one, citywide, eldership. As Ministries Today reported, Bickle and his leadership team have promoted a concept advocating unity among all pastors in a geographic area. Bickle now says that the idea should have emphasized “unity through friendship” rather than “unity through a church government structure.” Many pastors in Kansas City felt threatened by what they perceived to be an attempt to “swallow” other churches under KCF’s banner. “The way we used terminology created fear, division, and suspicion,” Bickle admits.” The frustration here is that Bickel and his ministry gave up on restoring the city church over 20 years ago and it has been folks like Doug Perry at the Church of Liberty who picked up where KCF left off.
Church at Spokane
John G. Lake was a missionary to South Africa, minister and divine healer who lived during the early 1900s. He is well known for his many documented cases of divine healing but little known as a proponent of the City Church. After he completed his work as a missionary he moved to Spokane, WA in 1914. It was here that he started a meeting called the “Church at Spokane” where he preached and his divine healings took place.
London City Church
Again according to Apologetics Index London City Church is a network of 120 churches in London that are under the direction of one central leadership called Kensington Temple. This may have been true at one point, but looking over the KT website it appears that they don’t even use the name London City Church, instead the website calls the fellowship, Elim Pentecostal Church. Looking over the congregation’s statement of faith and other docmentation, all the only mention of the term “city church” is in the copy write notice at the bottom of the page.
International Churches of Christ
ICoC is a Christian Denomination that began in the 1960s in Boston as part of the Churches of Christ. In 1993 they broke away from the Churches of Christ and became the International Churches of Christ, they moved their hq to Los Angles. They have been criticized by many for their strict legalism and it is reported that they believe baptism is a requirement for salvation and thereby deny salvation by grace. ICoC also points to
ICoC also believe in a version of the city church, they teach that because the Bible speaks of one church per city that therefore, there should only be one ICoC church in every city and all other Christians should join the ICoC. I hope it is clear that
Church in Branson, Mo
One of the leaders of the Church of Liberty, MO told a story once about a congregation in Branson, MO. I haven’t been able to find any information about them apart from what I’ve heard. The story goes that some time around 2005 a baptist congregation was singing “Holy Spirit come” and that particular day the Holy Spirit answered their prayer. The congregants started speaking in tongues and the gifts of the Spirit started to manifest. Next thing they know God is telling the congregants to change the name of their assembly to the “Church of Branson” and they sold their building and began meeting in a park. Later on God lead them to start meeting at a hotel conference room.
The Great Bend Gathering/Church of Great Bend
Coordinated by a brother named Mike who took inspiration from Doug Perry’s teaching. Mike began the work of reestablishing the city Church in his town of Great Bend, Kansas. He started a website called the Great Bend Gathering . He went to different congregations in his city talking to them about unity. Great Bend Gathering operated from around 2009 to 2011 when the website went down and brother Mike seems to have moved on to different path in life. Mike’s youtube videos about the city church are still available at https://www.youtube.com/user/citychurchfellowship
City Church Fellowship
This was a very short lived social network site that had the goal of connecting different city churches together and introducing Christians to the idea of the city church and giving them resources for making it an actionable reality in their hometown. The site was also started by Mike from the Great Bend Gathering and it seems to have gone down at the same time the other site went down. See the youtube link posted above to find Brother Mike’s videos about City Church Fellowship still available. There is every possibility that the City Church Fellowship name will be resurrected by us at WalkingChristian.com. Updates will be posted as they occur.
There is an online documentary that tells the story of the Moravians called “The Moravian Mission Machine” that tells the story of how Moria became a refuge for many different persecuted Christian groups. As the population of refugees grew there the Moravians did something that doesn’t happen often enough in the Christian world, they all met together and repented for not being one body. After that a tremendous revival broke out and swept all the way from Europe to South America. All this great flame was planted by the people there simply realizing they were all one family in Christ, then they started acting like a family. May I also emphasize that we remember the Moravians today by the city the were from, though their official name is the “Unity of the Brethren”
Churches together in Plymouth
This is a network of congegrations in Plymouth, England. Their slogan is “one church many congegrations.” They have unity services annuly and where they fellowship and worship together. They have a stated committment to their city and to being one body together.
The Prophecy Club is a charismatic group of Christians. They are criticized by haracy hunters for their belief that prophets and apostles are real and for today. One online post, (found here) writes this about the Prophecy Club’s city church doctrine: “Stan Johnson claims “the Lord” told Peter Martinez and himself to start churches in the 42 cities where The Prophecy Club has meetings. Each city will get only one church, called ‘The Church of Ephesus’, or ‘The Church of Philadelphia’, ‘The Church of Dallas’, ‘The Church of Modesto’ and so on.” This city-church’ concept is similar to that being promoted by a number of other aberrant and cultic movements.”
One City One Church is a website aimed at calling together the church in Grand Rapids. In a blog style format they have a number of posts on Unity dating to the year 2014. They seem to have also been hosting prayer meetings open to the whole church in their city but the site has not been updated for a number of years at the time of this writing.
Building a City Church
This book was written by Colin Dye, pastor of London City Church mentioned above. This book seems to have made little impact at all in the City Church movement, it was written in 1993 has no reviews on Amazon. Seems to have had a very limited distribution outside of England. I boutght the book and will wirte a review of it later on after I finish it.
DIY City Church Restoration
This book was written by Doug Perry of the Church of Liberty, again full disclosure I am associated with the Church of Liberty so make what you will of that. This is to date the most detailed book that I have found that really digs into scripture about the city church and talks about what it will take to restore our system to the defaults.
Written by Watchman Nee of the Local Chruch Movement, the description for this book on Amazon reads as this: “is a record of messages given during conferences held in Shanghai and Hankow. Watchman Nee spoke to his fellow workers on the principles in the New Testament concerning the practical arrangement of the churches, the ministry, and the work.”