The fourth chapter of Watchman Nee’s book Assembling Together (chapter 17 of the Basic Lessons series) is called “Various Meetings”. I believe that this is the chapter that David Rogers wanted me to read in response to his comment in my post called “Messy Meetings“. In this chapter, Nee describes the different types of church meetings that he finds in Scripture.
Before I begin reviewing this chapter, I want to quote Nee from the previous chapter. I think this statement helps explain my view of these various meeting types:
Another principle which governs a gathering 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. 
I agree with Nee wholeheartedly at this point. Regardless of the “reason” for our meeting together, the purpose remains the same: “Whenever you come together… let all things be done for edification.” (1 Cor. 14:26) I also believe that the principles of edification which Paul spells out in the following verses of 1 Corinthians 14 apply to any type of meeting of the church. Perhaps, if we find ourselves in a situation where we feel we cannot carry out these principles, we should change our situation or our understanding of the situation instead of ignoring the principles.
Now, on to Nee’s chapter called “Various Meetings”. Nee finds at least 5 different types of meetings in the New Testament:
1. Gospel Meetings
2. Breaking of Bread Meetings
3. Prayer Meetings
4. Exercise of Gifts (or Fellowship) Meetings
5. Ministry (or Preaching) Meetings
He believes that the “gospel meeting” is the most important type of meeting , that the “breaking of bread meeting” is the second most important type of meeting , and that the “ministry meeting” is the least important type of meeting . Interestingly enough, I believe he would classify the way most churches meet today as a “ministry meeting”, where believers come together specifically to listen to an “apostle, teacher, or prophet”. Similarly, Nee says, “The popularity of listening to sermons is a reflection on the weakened condition of the church.”  Before you stone Nee (or me for quoting him here), think about the number of times in Scripture that we are exhorted to sit and listen. Then, think about the number of times in Scripture that we are exhorted to speak and serve. Perhaps Nee is onto something here.
Nee spends most of the chapter describing how these meetings should look. While I apprecaite the time and effort that Nee spends in putting this together, I also recognize that some of these exhortations are not found in Scripture: i.e. “if you bring in one person, sit next to him; if two people sit in the middle” , “help the unbelievers to find the hymns” , and “pray for one specific matter” .
I have three concerns with this chapter. The first concerns the “gospel meeting”. Again, before you pick up stones, I believe the gospel is of utmost importance, and that every believer is responsible for speaking (preaching) the gospel to those around him or her. However, I do not see any meetings of the church in Scripture in which the central focus is to present the gospel to unbelievers. In fact, the only time in Scripture that unbelievers are mentioned in the context of the gathering of the church, the unbeliever is not convicted by the preaching of the gospel, but by the presence of the Lord which is demonstrated by the prophecy of all the people. (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)
I do agree that the early church took seriously their responsibility to preach (proclaim) the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. However, I do not see where that happened during a meeting of the church. Instead, I see believers going to unbelievers to proclaim the gospel.
I also agree with this statement that Nee makes about preaching the gospel, even though I disagree with the context in which he says this preaching should take place:
As soon as people come to believe in the Lord, they should immediately start to help in the preaching of the gospel. Do not allow them to develop the habit of listening to sermons; instead, help them to cultivate the habit of serving by preaching the gospel. 
My second concern revolves around how Nee sees distinct meeting types in Scripture. Unfortunately, this is the entire premise of this chapter. Thus, Nee says that the church met for at least five different types of meetings. This quote shows that Nee sees these at different meetings, not different activities within the same meeting:
From what I personally can see, there are five different types of meetings in the Bible. They are gospel meetings, breaking of bread meetings, prayer meetings, exercise of gifts or fellowship meetings, and ministry or preaching meetings. We can find examples of all these in the Bible. Thus we know that at the time of the apostles in the New Testament days, there were at least these five different types of meetings. The church today also needs to have all these various meetings if it is to be strong before God. 
The problem is that in Scripture we also see where the distinctions between these “various meetings” are blurred. So, as Nee says, the church met to pray for Peter in Acts 12:5,12. However, the church is praying and serving (Nee’s “exercise of gifts meeting”) in Acts 13. Similarly, Nee separates the “breaking of bread meeting” from other types of meetings based on 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. But, that ignores 1 Corinthians 14, which is in the same context, and refers to Nee’s “exercise of gifts meeting”. Acts 20 shows us that the church in Troas met to both break bread and to listen to Paul (Nee’s “ministry meeting”).
From these passages, and others, it appears that the church met for various activities, sometimes carried out at the same meeting. It seems odd to suggest that these meetings need to occur at different times with different rules of engagement.
I have already mentioned my third concern, but I’ll add it here anyway. When discussing the “prayer meeting”, Nee suggests that prayer produced Pentecost:
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. 
I think this is giving too much credit to those praying, and not enough to the plan, purpose, and power of God. In fact, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 seems to indicate that the Spirit came because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Once again, I found the last paragraph encouraging, especially since Nee has already stated the goal of any meeting is edification:
The above are the five different types of meetings which we find in the Bible. I believe Christianity has in its very nature the need to assemble. If we know how to meet, then the next generation will become stronger. May we gird ourselves that we may arrive at the goal which God has set for us. May God be gracious to us.
I’ll review the next two chapters together. They are called “The Lord’s Day” and “Hymn Singing”.
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