the weblog of Alan Knox

Introducing Watchman Nee…

Posted by on Mar 10, 2007 in books, gathering | 13 comments

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in a post called “David Rogers and ‘Love Each Stone’“, David Rogers recommended a book by Watchman Nee called Assembling Together.

This recommendation came in the comment stream of a post called “Messy Meetings“. In this comment stream, David said: “Messy situations are best handled in small-group meetings. However, there are certain things that happen specifically in large-group meetings that, in my opinion, it would be a big loss to do away with.” In support for this view, David recommended that I read Assembling Together, so I did. David and I have much in common and our conversations have always been encouraging and challenging (at least for me). We now share another thing in common – a respect for Watchman Nee and this book.

Before I discuss the book, I thought I would introduce you to Watchman Nee (at least for those who have never read Watchman Nee). Most of this information comes from the Wikipedia article on Watchman Nee (yes, I know that these articles are suspect, but this is the only source that I have at the moment).

One of the interesting concepts in Assembling Together is Nee’s understanding of the city-church, which he calls “local church” (See the Wikipedia article on “local churches”). When Nee uses that phrase “local church”, he is not using it in the common sense. Instead, he understands that the smallest division of church can only be at the city level. All believers in a city are part of this city-church (“local church”). I’ll discuss this view of “church” in detail in a later blog post.

While I don’t agree with Nee completely on his concept of “church”, it is interesting that the Wikipedia article points to Nee’s “local churches” as the foundation for the current house church movement in China.

There are many parts of Assembling Together that I can wholeheartedly endorse. There are other parts that appear to be more speculative. As I understand it, Nee’s protege Witness Lee took many of the speculative aspects of Nee’s theology and developed them even further.

Besides the “city church” concept mentioned above, Nee’s book includes a few other interesting beliefs. I’ll discuss some of these during this next week.

Finally, as we study this short book, we must remember that Assembling Together does not stand on its own. It is one edition in a six part series called “Basic Lessons”. Based on the titles and chapters, I am interested in reading other editions of “Basic Lessons”.

Have any of you read anything by Watchman Nee?


13 Comments

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  1. 3-10-2007

    Alan,

    Watchman Nee is one of my favorite authors. If you never read anything else by him, you should read The Normal Christian Life, an exposition on Romans. Sit, Walk, Stand is another excellent book of his, centering on Ephesians. His biography, Against the Tide, is also excellent.

    I have not read Assembling Together, but look forward to your discussion of it. As for Witness Lee, yes, beware of any Witness Lee glosses that have been interpolated into some of Watchman Nee’s later writings. The Local Church, as developed by Witness Lee is definitely off the wall.

    James

  2. 3-10-2007

    James,

    Thanks for the comment. Since this is my first introduction to Watchman Nee, I don’t know as much about his relationship with Witness Lee. Are you saying that Watchman Nee did not write about the “Local Church” idea but that Witness Lee added it to Assembling Together?

    -Alan

  3. 3-10-2007

    Alan, I know there is much good in Nee. And the two books James points out I think are particularly good, though my memory of them is from some time back. I definitely respect him as a leader God raised up.

    I have had trouble with him in the way he has been used. In some thoughts of his that have been highlighted that I just could not connect with Biblically.

    So I appreciate you looking at this. And will read these posts with interest.

  4. 3-10-2007

    Ted,

    For now, I will only be able to read and review Assembling Together. I found some things in this book that were biblical and challenging. I did some some areas of speculation, which I hope to point out. I wish I had time to read some of Nee’s other books, but I don’t right now.

    -Alan

  5. 3-10-2007

    Alan,

    Other books by Nee on issues of ecclesiology that I have in my library are: The Normal Christian Church Life; The Body of Christ: A Reality; the 3-volume set, The Church and the Work; and Concerning our Missions. Like you, I will have to find time to go back and read through these. I hope to do this, but cannot guarantee that it will be any time soon.

    The main point in Assembling Together that I wanted to point out is the various types of meetings with different functions. Upon re-reading Assembling Together, I realized Nee never did say anything specific there about large-group and small-group meetings. However, I think that, if his point about different types of meetings for different functions is valid (and I tend to think that it is), then it stands to reason that certain sizes of meetings lend themselves to group dynamics that better facilitate the fulfilling of certain functions. For example, many who have studied group dynamics have observed that when a group grows beyond 18-20 people, many who would have participated openly in a smaller group clam up, and leave vocal participation to the more extroverted people in the group.

  6. 3-10-2007

    David,

    Thank you for suggesting Assembling Together. It was a very interesting book. I read the section on the various types of meetings carefully, and I’ll talk about it more later. However, briefly, I did not see where Nee demonstrated that there are different requirements on believers for different meetings (even assuming that there are different types of meetings). Thus, for me, the quesiton remains, if Scripture teaches that believers should act a certain way when they come together, those requirements are valid for any type of meeting. I’ll talk more about this later – next week, I think.

    -Alan

  7. 5-8-2007

    I appreciate your comments on Watchman Nee. I’d say he’s one of the ministers who’s had the greatest impact on my life. I feel his views on the church-the local aspeact of the church & its administration are the closest to the biblical model that I’ve seen. As you say, his “disciple” Witness Lee took his views further. When W. Lee passed away in 1997 his followers, the “blended brothers” associated with his publishing operation (Living Stream Ministry) took his views & extrapolated them even further (beyond the Bible).These recent developments are documented on the “concernedbrothers.com” website
    http://www.concernedbrothers.com/English.html

  8. 5-8-2007

    Anonymous,

    Thank you for the information and the link. I haven’t had time to look at the site yet, but I’ll try to later.

    -Alan

  9. 6-13-2011

    Alan,
    Watchman was a dear brother with incredible revelation. His relationship with Witness Lee is interesting for though Lee was in many ways a protege of Nee, Lee has greatly expounded upon Nee’s original works. Mainly through the Life-Studies, which are excellent. I have read many of their works and found an abundance of insight and revelation. As well, there is some questionable doctrine. However, the meat is far worth chewing through despite the small amount of bone.

    It should be noted that Nee actually penned only one book, The Spiritual Man. All other books attributed to him are from recorded teachings that were transcribed.

    It should also be noted that both Nee & Lee gleaned much from the Brethren Movement and several Christian “Mystics” including Madam Guyon and Jess Penn Lewis.

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts concerning both Nee & Lee.

  10. 6-13-2011

    Alan, he is one of my favorite authors. Haven’t yet read this book. I like him because he had a huge revelation of the mystery that Paul preached “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He taught from a deep understanding of the inheritance we now possess as children of God.

  11. 6-13-2011

    Good post, Alan. Watchman Nee has certainly had a great influence on my life as well. To go along with what some others have already mentioned, I recommend first of all The Normal Christian Life. Sit, Walk, Stand is also a gem, and for ecclesiology The Normal Christian Church Life is hard to beat.

    Indeed it seems that Witness Lee went a little too far with the way he developed some of Watchman’s teachings. But he was still a true and dear servant of the Lord in his own right; I’ve personally witnessed a great deal of the fruit that remains from his ministry here in the U.S. I’ve only read a couple of his works, but The Practical Expression of the Church is rich with Christ and I would highly recommend checking it out if you ever get the chance.

    Thanks, Alan. I always appreciate your balanced approach to any subject.

  12. 6-14-2011

    Thanks everyone for sharing about Watchman Nee. I actually blogged through his book Assembling Together and I’ll try to link to that series soon.

    -Alan

  13. 6-14-2011

    I haven’t read Assembling Together, but I have read several other Nee books listed here in the comments, and parts of The Spiritual Man. I would highly recommend The Character of God’s Workman which was written specifically for other church planters in China that he was working with. My understanding is that it was never really meant for the general public, but I think the character traits in the book apply to any Christian.

    Certainly there are areas where we might disagree with some of his writing, but that is the case with any human author, as we are all a work in process.