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Watchman Nee

Watchman Nee

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Watchman Nee was a Chinese Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 author and church leader during the early 20th century. He spent the last 20 years of his life in prison and was severely persecuted by the Communists
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. Together with Wangzai, Zhou-An Lee, Shang-Jie Song, and others, Nee founded The Church Assembly Hall, later also known as the "Local churches" (Chinese: 地方教會). or more commonly as (聚會所) meaning "assembly hall"

Born into a Methodist family, Watchman Nee experienced a religious revival, and joined the Church of Heavenly Peace, Fuzhou
Church of Heavenly Peace, Fuzhou
Church of Heavenly Peace , also known as Church of Heavenly Rest or Tien Ang Tong, is a Christian church in Fuzhou, China.-Location:...

 in 1920 at age 17 and began writing in the same year. In 1921, he met the British missionary M. E. Barber
Margaret E. Barber
Margaret E. Barber or M. E. Barber , was a British missionary in China. She was born in 1866 in Peasenhall, County Suffolk, England, the daughter of Louis and Martha Barber. She died at 63 years of age, in 1929...

, who was a great influence on him. Through Miss Barber, Nee was introduced to many of the Christian writings which were to have a profound influence on him and his teachings. Nee attended no theological schools or Bible institutes. His knowledge was acquired through studying the Bible and reading various Christian spiritual books. During his 30 years of ministry, beginning in 1922, Nee traveled throughout China planting churches among the rural communities and holding Christian conferences and trainings in Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

. In 1952 he was imprisoned for his faith; he remained in prison until his death in 1972.

Early life


Nee Shu-Tsu (Watchman Nee) was born in Foochow, China. Nee's grandfather, Nga U-cheng, born in 1840, was a Congregational preacher of the American Supplies Commission. He died in 1890. Nee's father was Ni Weng-Sioe (W. S. Ni), born in 1877, and the fourth of nine boys. He was an officer in the Imperial Customs Service. He died in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 in 1941. Nee's mother was Lin Gwo Ping (Peace Lin), who was born in 1880. She died at the age of 70, in 1950. Nee's parents were Methodists, and Nee was baptized as a child by the American Methodist Episcopal Mission
American Methodist Episcopal Mission
American Methodist Episcopal Mission was an American Methodist missionary society that was involved in sending workers to countries such as China during the late Qing Dynasty.-American Methodist Episcopal Mission in China:...

.

When Nee was 17 years old (1920), and still a student, he went to hear an evangelist by the name of Dora Yu
Dora Yu
Dora Yu was hailed by western missionaries as “the most prominent” Chinese evangelist in China in the first part of 20th century...

 in the Church of Heavenly Peace
Church of Heavenly Peace, Fuzhou
Church of Heavenly Peace , also known as Church of Heavenly Rest or Tien Ang Tong, is a Christian church in Fuzhou, China.-Location:...

, who charged the people to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, a call that Watchman Nee accepted. From that day on, he consecrated himself completely to Jesus Christ and to the preaching of the Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 in China. After his conversion, many of his class-mates were converted due to his testimony and consecrated living. During Nee's college years, Miss. Margaret Barber, an independent British missionary was his teacher and mentor. She treated him as a young learner and frequently administered strict discipline. Miss Barber died in 1930 and left all her belongings to Watchman Nee.

Watchman Nee became intimately familiar with the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 through diligent study of the Bible using various methods. His development was strengthened by the influence of Jessie Penn-Lewis
Jessie Penn-Lewis
Jessie Penn-Lewis was a Welsh evangelical speaker and author of a number of Christian evangelical works.-Early life:Penn-Lewis was born in Victoria Terrace, Neath in 1861. Her father was a Methodist minister...

, Robert Govett
Robert Govett
Robert Govett, was a famous British theologian, and a successful independent pastor of Surrey Chapel, Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK. His father, Robert Govett Sr., Vicar of Staines, died in 1854...

, D. M. Panton
David Morrieson Panton
David Morrieson Panton was the pastor of Surrey Chapel, Norwich, Norfolk, UK, where he succeeded Robert Govett. He was the editor of The Dawn Magazine, a writer of books and numerous tracts, and a British leader amongst those pursuing Prophetic studies.-Early days:Panton was born in Jamaica in...

, G. H. Pember
G. H. Pember
George Hawkins Pember , known as G. H. Pember, was an English theologian and author who was affiliated with a branch of Protestant Evangelical Christianity that is known as the Brethren Movement or is also sometimes identified as the Brethren Assemblies, Christian Brethren, or Plymouth...

, John Nelson Darby
John Nelson Darby
John Nelson Darby was an Anglo-Irish evangelist, and an influential figure among the original Plymouth Brethren. He is considered to be the father of modern Dispensationalism. He produced a translation of the Bible based on the Hebrew and Greek texts called The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation...

, Theodore Austin-Sparks
Theodore Austin-Sparks
Theodore Austin-Sparks , usually known as "Mr. Sparks" or just "TAS", was a British Christian evangelist and author.Born in London in 1888, Mr. Austin-Sparks was sent as a boy to live in Scotland with his father's relatives. It was there that he became a Christian at the age of 17 while listening...

, Andrew Murray
Andrew Murray (minister)
Andrew Murray was a South African writer, teacher, and Christian pastor. Murray considered missions to be "the chief end of the church."- Early life and education :...

, mystic
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 Madame Guyon, and many others, reading as many as 3,000 books from various authors since first century. In the early days of his ministry he spent one-third of his income on his personal needs, one-third on helping others, and the remaining third on spiritual books. He had an ability to select, comprehend, discern, and memorize relevant material, and grasp and retain the main points of a book while reading. In his gospel preaching and ministry, Nee always stressed more on the "inner-life" issue in a believer's life rather than the "outward-work". Nee claimed that to be a Christian is altogether a matter of the divine life. He believed that a belief is not a religion, and therefore he did not establish headquarters or create a hierarchy of leadership positions in the church. He once stood up and said against a certain collected assembly:
"You may well have light and truth, but knowledge alone will benefit you nothing."


Today many of his written books are published in English, although most have been translated from Chinese. He published regular articles in his own magazine, with The Present Testimony and The Christian being some of them.

The Normal Christian Life


Probably the best known book of Watchman Nee's is The Normal Christian Life
The Normal Christian Life
The Normal Christian Life, considered by many to be a spiritual classic of Christianity, is one of the best known books by Watchman Nee. As of 2009, it has sold over a million copies. It is based on talks given by Watchman Nee during and after his trip through Europe in 1938-1939...

. It was based on talks given by Watchman Nee at the time of and subsequent to his trip through Europe in 1938-1939. It expressed theological views on the first few chapters of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 book of Romans
Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that Salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

. In the later sections of the book he presented his views on what the normal Christian life should be.

Later years


Between the period of 1940-1960, the local church in China underwent many trials and tribulations. Many of these local churches had been founded by Watchman Nee based upon his conviction of "one church for one city or town" on the ground of oneness among the believers. He asserted that geographic boundaries were the only legitimate ground to have different churches to express the one body of Christ on the earth (the local church). He strongly promoted the view that various ways of separating churches, such as apostles and their ministries, spiritual gifts, racial or social status, or different doctrines and missions was condemned by the word of God as division and sin, and as the works of the flesh.

In the period between 1923–1949, more than 700 local churches were created with an attendance of more than 70,000. During the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

, these "assemblies" formed the core behind the house municipalities. Through the efforts of Nee and his colleagues, local assemblies were founded all over China and among other Chinese-speaking communities in the Far East. Some of Nee's co-workers in this work later would become known outside of China (e.g. - Witness Lee
Witness Lee
Witness Lee was a Chinese Christian preacher associated with the Local Churches movement, and the founder of the Living Stream Ministry. He was born in the city of Yantai, Shandong Province, China, in 1905, to a Southern Baptist family. He became a born again Christian in 1925 after hearing the...

, Stephen Kaung, Faithful Luke, Simon Meek, and others).

In 1949, Watchman Nee's co-labourer Witness Lee emigrated to Taiwan. In 1952, Watchman Nee was imprisoned by the Chinese government for his faith. He remained in prison until his death twenty years later. Watchman Nee's writings on matters of the individual Christian life have been a source of inspiration to Christians throughout the world, though his writings on the local churches - which he considered to be central to his ministry have been largely ignored by mainstream Christianity so far.

Persecution and death


Watchman Nee felt led by his belief in God to remain in Mainland China in spite of the threat of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, and to sacrifice everything to this end. Watchman Nee was arrested by the Chinese Communists in March 1952 for his professed faith in Christ as well as his leadership among the local churches. He was judged, condemned, and sentenced in 1956 to fifteen years' imprisonment. During this entire time, only his wife was allowed to visit him. In his final letter, written on the day of his death, he alluded to his joy "in the Lord":
"In my sickness, I still remain joyful at heart."
He died in confinement in his cell on May 30, 1972. After Watchman Nee's death, when his niece came to collect his few possessions, she was given a scrap of paper that a guard had found by his bed. What was written on that scrap may serve as Watchman Nee's testament:
"Christ is the Son of God Who died for the redemption of sinners and was resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee."

Influences


The theological influence of Watchman Nee (English for Nee To-Sheng ), went much further than his own circle reached; not only in his native country, China, but also in other countries. He changed his name to Watchman Nee because he saw himself as someone that stayed up in the middle of the night to awaken men of the coming of Christ
Second Coming
In Christian doctrine, the Second Coming of Christ, the Second Advent, or the Parousia, is the anticipated return of Jesus Christ from Heaven, where he sits at the Right Hand of God, to Earth. This prophecy is found in the canonical gospels and in most Christian and Islamic eschatologies...

. In 1928, Watchman Nee settled in Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 where he based his own speaking and publication work, the Shanghai Gospel Bookroom, which published books by Nee and others, as well as some Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 translations of English-speaking authors - most notably the Christian teacher and writer T. Austin-Sparks
Theodore Austin-Sparks
Theodore Austin-Sparks , usually known as "Mr. Sparks" or just "TAS", was a British Christian evangelist and author.Born in London in 1888, Mr. Austin-Sparks was sent as a boy to live in Scotland with his father's relatives. It was there that he became a Christian at the age of 17 while listening...

, with whom Nee had a very close relationship fostered during his significant time at the Honor Oak Christian Fellowship Centre
Honor Oak Christian Fellowship Centre
The Honor Oak Christian Fellowship & Conference Centre, generally known as the Christian Fellowship Centre or Honor Oak, was a Christian conference and training facility located on Honor Oak Road in south-east London. The centre was the ministry base for its founder, the British evangelist and...

on Honor Oak Road in London, England. Nee's eschatological views were influenced by people such as Robert Govett
Robert Govett
Robert Govett, was a famous British theologian, and a successful independent pastor of Surrey Chapel, Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK. His father, Robert Govett Sr., Vicar of Staines, died in 1854...

 and D.M. Panton
David Morrieson Panton
David Morrieson Panton was the pastor of Surrey Chapel, Norwich, Norfolk, UK, where he succeeded Robert Govett. He was the editor of The Dawn Magazine, a writer of books and numerous tracts, and a British leader amongst those pursuing Prophetic studies.-Early days:Panton was born in Jamaica in...

. Nee's book Come, Lord Jesus, about the book of Revelation, quotes Govett's work several times.

Ministry, sufferings, and commission


Watchman Nee's ministry used eight different means to carry out what he believed had been wrought into him by God: preaching the gospel, teaching the Bible, traveling and revivals, contacting people, corresponding with people, holding conferences, conducting trainings, and producing publications.

Nee suffered much for his belief that, according to the Bible, denominations
Religious denomination
A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity.The term describes various Christian denominations...

 are wrong in that they divide the One Body of Christ. Because of his firm stand for the oneness of the Body of Christ against the denominations, he experienced much suffering. Some denominations despised and criticized him, and some opposed and did their best to destroy his ministry. They also spread false rumours about him and misrepresented him to the extent that Watchman Nee once responded,
"The Watchman Nee portrayed by them I would also condemn."


By the time Nee was arrested in 1952, approximately four hundred local churches had been raised up in China through his life and ministry. In addition, local churches had been raised up in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, Malaysia, Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, and Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

. Today the local churches have grown to over 2,300 worldwide through the ministries of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee
Witness Lee
Witness Lee was a Chinese Christian preacher associated with the Local Churches movement, and the founder of the Living Stream Ministry. He was born in the city of Yantai, Shandong Province, China, in 1905, to a Southern Baptist family. He became a born again Christian in 1925 after hearing the...

.

Works


Watchman Nee not only spoke frequently, both privately and publicly, but he was also a prolific writer. In addition to publishing various periodicals, papers, gospel tracts, articles, newsletters, hymnals, and a chart of biblical prophecies
Bible prophecy
Bible prophecy or biblical prophecy is the prediction of future events based on the action, function, or faculty of a prophet. Such passages are widely distributed throughout the Bible, but those most often cited are from Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew 24, Matthew 25, and Revelation.Believers in biblical...

, Watchman Nee also published many books for the carrying out of his ministry. Some of these books were messages published in his periodicals and reprinted in book form.

In addition to writing and publishing books and hymnals, some spiritual books in English were translated by him and under his publication ministry through the years.

Published works


In English there are approximately fifty-five books by him available, published through Christian Fellowship Publishers. Another source in English is The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, a 62 volume set covering his entire ministry - published by Living Stream Ministry
Living Stream Ministry
Living Stream Ministry , founded in 1968 by Witness Lee, is a non-profit corporation based in Anaheim, California, within the Local churches...

 located in Anaheim, California
Anaheim, California
Anaheim is a city in Orange County, California. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was about 365,463, making it the most populated city in Orange County, the 10th most-populated city in California, and ranked 54th in the United States...

, United States. These are made available primarily from notes taken by students during his many talks and translated by various publishing group.

Some of his best known books are:
  • The Spiritual Man
  • Spiritual Authority
  • Mystery of Creation
  • Gospel Dialogue
  • The King and The Kingdom of Heaven
  • Interpreting Matthew
  • Come, Lord Jesus
  • The Better Covenant
  • Aids to Revelation
  • The Overcoming Life
  • The Normal Christian Life
    The Normal Christian Life
    The Normal Christian Life, considered by many to be a spiritual classic of Christianity, is one of the best known books by Watchman Nee. As of 2009, it has sold over a million copies. It is based on talks given by Watchman Nee during and after his trip through Europe in 1938-1939...

  • The Breaking of The Outer Man and The Release of The Spirit
  • The Song of Songs
  • Authority and Submission
  • Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things


Watchman Nee's best known books on "Church", "Church Life", and "the Church issues":
  • The Normal Christian Church Life
  • Church Affairs
  • The Church and the Work: Rethinking the Work
  • The Glorious Church
  • Further Talks on the Church Life
  • The Orthodoxy of the Church

Articles


There are also many books, booklets, magazines and articles published by Living Stream Ministry located in Anaheim, California, United States. Most of Watchman Nee's writings are from his own notes and magazines he himself published. Nee gave great importance to the end-time view of separate rapture
Rapture
The rapture is a reference to the "being caught up" referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, when the "dead in Christ" and "we who are alive and remain" will be caught up in the clouds to meet "the Lord"....

 and to apostles not exceeding their regional boundary in appointing elders
Elder (Christianity)
An elder in Christianity is a person valued for his wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a Christian group. In some Christian traditions an elder is a clergy person who usually serves a local church or churches and who has been ordained to a ministry of Word,...

 of a locality; e.g., apostles of the churches in Judea, apostles of the churches in Asia Minor, apostles of the churches in Texas; elders of the church in Jerusalem, elders of the church in Ephesus, elders of the church in Dallas. In his later writings, he mainly focused on the Church and the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:23).

Nee's Name



His original name was 述祖(pinyin: shu zhu). According to Chinese naming tradition, 祖 is the one of two phrases used to represent his generation among the whole family. His brothers' names were 懷祖,洪祖,兴祖, etc. After his conversion, he changed his own name to 儆夫(pinyin: jing fu) which means 'watchman'(his English name was firstly Henry). The more famous name 柝聲(pinyin: tùo shēng) was a similar variation, which means the Chinese watchman's knocker (or plaque) and its sound.儆夫 is more used in his daily life, and 柝聲 in church life and sermons. According to a late interview of his fellow 張錫康([pinyin:zhang xi kang] A believer who used to serve in the church at Shanghai during 50s.He worked for Nee as an accountant in Life-chemics pharmaceutical factory[生化藥廠], and was prisoned for 3 years at the same time with Nee.), during 1942 to 1946, the years his ministry interfered by his co-workers at Shanghai, he changed his name to 折葦(pinyin: che wei) for limited uses, which means the bruise reed in Bible, Mat.12:20, to represent his self status then.

Books about Watchman Nee

  • Chan, Stephen C.T. Wo Ti Kau Fu Ni To Sheng [My Uncle Watchman Nee]. Hong Kong: Alliance Press, 1970.
  • Chen, James. Meet Brother Nee. Hong Kong: The Christian Publishers, 1976.
  • Kinnear, Angus I. The Story of Watchman Nee: Against the Tide. Fort Washington, Pa.: Christian Literature Crusade, 1973.
  • Lee, Witness. Watchman Nee: A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age Anaheim, CA.: Living Stream Ministry, 2007.
  • Leung Ka-lun. Watchman Nee: His Early Life and Thought [Chinese]. Hong Kong: Graceful House Limited, 2005.
  • Watchman Nee: His Glory and Dishonor . Revised and enlarged edition. Hong Kong: Graceful House Limited, 2004.
  • Lyall, Leslie. Three of China's Mighty Men. London: Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1973.
  • Roberts, Dana. The Secrets of Watchman Nee. Gainesville, Florida: Bridge-Logos, 2005

External links


See also

  • Protestant missions in China 1807-1953
    Protestant missions in China 1807-1953
    In the early 19th century, Western colonial expansion occurred at the same time as an evangelical revival throughout the English-speaking world, leading to more overseas missionary activity...

  • Local churches (affiliation)
  • Paul Wei
    Paul Wei
    Paul Wei , previously known as Wèi Ēnbō , was born in Hebei province, China. He was a farmer from a poor family background and had very little education. In 1902 he migrated to Beijing where he later became a prosperous silk and merchandise dealer.By his own accounts, he was previously a...

     (also known as Wèi Bǎoluó)
  • John Sung
    John Sung
    John Sung Shang Chieh a.k.a. John Sung was a renowned Chinese Christian evangelist who played an instrumental role in the revival movement among the Chinese in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia during the 1920s and 1930s.-Career:Sung was born in Hinghwa , Fujian, China.He grew up with a...

     (also known as Shang-Jie Song or Sung Shang Chieh)
  • Wang Ming-Dao
    Wang Ming-Dao
    File:WangMingdao.jpgWang Mingdao was an independent Chinese Protestant pastor and evangelist imprisoned for his faith by the Chinese government from 1955 until 1980.-Childhood and conversion:...

  • Chinese Independent Churches
    Chinese Independent Churches
    The Chinese Independent Churches are a major category of churches of Chinese people.During Missionary Council Meetings in the mid to late 19th century several Western missionaries started advocating for the Chinese Christians to become independent instead of relying on outside support and funds....