The third chapter of Watchman Nee’s book Assembling Together (chapter 16 of the Basic Lessons series) is called “Assembling Together”. I looked forward to reading this chapter, since I am very interested in the gathering of the church (thus, the name of this blog). In fact, Nee begins this chapter by quoting some of the passages of Scripture that I have been studying closely: Hebrews 10:25; Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:23&26. For the most part, I agreed with Nee in this chapter.
I especially appreciated Nee’s encouragement that the body edifies itself when many in the gathering take part – speaking or not speaking as the Spirit leads them. For example, he says:
How wonderful the assembling of God’s children is! We do not know how the body operates, but we do know that it does function. As one brother rises, you see light. When another brother stands up, you sense the presence of the Lord. Still another brother opens his mouth to pray, and you touch God. Yet another says a few words, and you receive the supply of life. Let me tell you, this is something beyond explanation – how the body of Christ works together. [38-39]
Because of Nee’s understanding of the presence of God only (or more?) when the church gathers, he emphasizes meeting for that purpose. I will deal with this later. However, he also recognizes that the purpose for the gathering is edification:
Another principle which governs a gathering [besides the special presence of God] is the edifying or building up of God’s people. According to 1 Corinthians 14, this is a purpose found in all gatherings – that others, not ourselves, may be edified. 
That which only edifies self and not others should not be expressed in the meeting. 
Therefore, when we come to the meeting, we need to consider whether or not others will be edified. 
Do remember that both our speaking and our silence may hurt others. If we are not considerate of others, we will cause the meeting to suffer loss. Whether we speak or remain silent, it is to profit the meeting by edifying the people. Do not refrain from speaking when your speaking is needed. All things should be done for edification. 
Never come to the meeting with the though of what you can get; rather let all your actions be for the benefit of others. If speaking is good for others, then speak; if silence is better, then keep quiet. The basic priciple of a meeting is edification of the people. 
When we are concerned with others’ needs and others’ edification, then the Holy Spirit is honored and He will do the work of edification both in us and in others. 
This last sentence is especially important, and perhaps it states a point that I do not state enough. When we speak to edify others, it is actually the Holy Spirit who does the work of edification through us. Similarly, when others are edified, then God is glorified (that is, we worship). (1 Peter 4:10-11)
Again, the concern that I have with this chapter is the emphasis that Nee places on the presence of God with the community of believers. Now, do not misunderstand me. I do believe that God is present when the community gathers. However, Nee indicates a special presence during the gathering that is not available to believers when they are alone. Consider these statements from this chapter:
But God gives corporate grace as well as personal grace, and this corporate grace can only be obtained in the assembly. 
Indeed, in reading the Bible we are granted grace to understand. Nevertheless, certain Scriptures will not be opened up to us except in the gathering of the saints. They cannot be understood individually; but in the meeting special grace is given to understand them. 
Due to the interaction of one member with another, our prayers in the meetings are more easily heard by God and we also receive more light.  [Note: This is especially peculiar to me. He makes another statement in a later chapter that is even more peculiar: “The power of the specific prayer in Acts 1 and 2 produced Pentecost. As the cross was the work accomplished by the Son of God, so Pentecost was the work accomplished through the prayer of God’s children.” -59]
Only when the saints are assembled together does the church become God’s dwelling place, and then God’s light shines in full splendor. 
Many know of His presence in a personal way, but such knowledge is insufficient. His most powerful and overwhelming presence is known only in the meeting. Although there is His presence with you personally, it is bound to be of a lesser degree. 
So, at this point we see that Nee does recognize that God’s presence is with the individual. But, he also indicates that God is limited to how He is able to work in the individual’s life. Apparently, Nee believes there are certain things that God is only able to reveal some things to the believer in the assembly and is only able to operation in some ways in the assembly. I’m not comfortable with limiting God is this manner.
Remember, I agree that God operates in the assembly of believers. I also agree that God uses different believers in the assembly to edify others. It is very important for believers to gather together. However, I do not think we need to limit God’s abilities to make this point, nor do I believe that Scripture shows that God’s abilities are limited except during the assembly.
Once again, though, I greatly resonated with the final paragraph of this chapter:
Be a humble soul from the very start. If anyone is uncertain whether his speaking edifies or not, it is best for him to consult with responsible brothers, to ask them, “Brothers, do you think I should speak more or less in the meetings?” Be humble and do not think too highly of yourself, as if you were the marvel of these twenty centuries – the best singer and the best preacher! Let us learn humility that our gatherings may be strong. Whenever people walk into our midst, they should instantly sense the presence of God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It will cause them to fall down on their faces and worship God, declaring that God is indeed among us. 
The next chapter is called “Various Meetings”.
Review of Watchman Nee’s Assembling Together Series:
1: Chapter 1 – Joining the Church
2: Chapter 2 – Laying on of Hands
3: Chapter 3 – Assembling Together
4: Chapter 4 – Various Meetings
5: Chapters 5 & 6 – The Lord’s Day and Hymn Singing
6: Chapters 7 & 8 – Praise and The Breaking of Bread