The amazing Watchman Nee, via SermonIndex.net
I’ve come across a trove of Nee material at sermonindex.net, a site which I’d like to commend to you. There are articles there of varying lengths that I’ve never seen before, and I’ve begun downloading them, transferring the to Word, and then annotating them with my own reflections. It’s challenging and very rewarding to match wits with the great brother Watchman!
Here are some interesting tidbits of Nee’s life that I gleaned from a search of the SermonIndex. I’m really interested in what made this guy tick – I know it’s the same Lord Jesus Christ, but it’s instructive to see how the Lord builds up His Body, especially one so fruitful.
If you’re not familiar with Nee’s works, I heartily recommend them, especially The Spiritual Man and Release of the Spirit. There is only one work that I don’t recommend, in which I think he was far off the mark: Spiritual Authority. I can’t explain how he could have missed it so badly there, when he usually is so astoundingly insightful. Or maybe one day I’ll see what he was getting at…
Here are some photo blurbs. Two things struck out at me. First, the value of godly parents. Although Nee didn’t give himself to Christ until his latter teen years, all those years of praying and “training up” must have had an enormous influence. Second, astonishingly, Nee is not a product of any theological school. He learned by people and books, study and devotion, and by obedience to the Light he was given.
Maybe it’s a cliché, but if so it’s still worth repeating. Theological schools can be the worst places to develop one’s faith. The emphasis on the intellectual, on artificial deadlines and on careerism, have stymied many a soul’s spiritual advancement. I had my own brush with divinity school, and while I don’t fault anyone there at all – they were teaching truth and it was all good stuff – I’m sorry I did, because it was not what I really needed to get closer to the Lord. it ended up being a waste of time and money for me.
I really think the church needs to take a big turn toward the organic. It needs to raise up its leaders from within, and place less stress on position and careers. We all need to have a stronger sense that the Lord wants to use us just as we are, in whatever life situation we are in, and he doesn’t need us to be Hebrew scholars in order to do it. Watchman Nee was a stellar living example of that truth.
Now, to the blurbs:
Nee Shu-tsu, whose English name was Henry Nee, was born of second-generation Christian parents in Foochow, China in 1903. His paternal grandfather, in fact, had studied at the American Congregational College in Foochow and became the first Chinese pastor among the Congregationalists in northern Fukien province. Nee Shu-tsu had been consecrated to the Lord before his birth. Desiring a son, his mother had prayed to the Lord, “If I have a boy, I will present him to You.” The Lord answered her prayer, and soon afterward Nee Shu-tsu was born. His father later impressed on him, “Before you were born, your mother promised to present you to the Lord”.
Watchman Nee was also frequently afflicted with serious ill health. For the first eleven years of his ministry, beginning in 1922, he suffered alone, with no wife to help him. During this time he contracted tuberculosis and suffered acutely for several years. In 1934 at the age of thirty, however, Watchman Nee married a true “help meet,” Charity Chang, although the Lord was to give them no children. In later years, he was also stricken with a chronic stomach disorder as well as angina pectoris, a serious heart ailment. He was never cured of the heart disease and could have died from it at any moment. In fact, many times he ministered not by physical strength but by resurrection life.
Watchman Nee attended no theological schools or Bible institutes. His wealth of knowledge concerning God’s purpose, Christ, the things of the Spirit, and the church was acquired through studying the Bible and reading spiritual books. Watchman Nee became intimately familiar with and greatly enlightened by the Word through diligent study using twenty different methods. In addition, 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 acquired a collection of more than 3,000 of the best Christian books, including nearly all the classical Christian writers from the first century on. He had a phenomenal ability to select, comprehend, discern, and memorize relevant material, and he could grasp and retain the main points of a book at a glance. Watchman Nee was thus able to glean all the profitable scriptural points and spiritual principles from throughout church history and synthesize them into his vision and practice of the Christian life and of the church life. Watchman Nee received much enlightenment and help from a number of Christian writers
Watchman Nee became familiar with many of these books through Margaret Barber, a former Anglican missionary. Early in his Christian life he received much spiritual edification and perfection from her. Primarily through his fellowship with Miss Barber, Watchman Nee realized that to be a Christian is altogether a matter of the divine life. Through her shepherding, he learned to pay more attention to life than to work and to live by Christ as his life.
Through his fellowship with Miss Barber and others, along with his study of the Bible and numerous spiritual books, Watchman Nee received a wealth of revelation. He was truly a seer of the divine revelation. The core of his revelation was threefold: it concerned (1) the living of a crucified life, (2) the living of a resurrected life, and (3) the issue of such a living, the church. Related to the crucified life, he saw and experienced the subjective aspects of Christ’s death. He realized that he had been crucified with Christ, that it was no longer he that lived, but Christ Who lived in him. He also realized that in order to experience the death of Christ in a subjective way, he needed to bear the cross. Although he had been crucified with Christ in fact, he also had to remain in Christ’s crucifixion in his experience. He learned that to remain in Christ’s crucifixion was to bear the cross by refusing to allow the old man or the flesh to leave the cross. He realized that in order for him to have such an experience, God must sovereignly arrange his environment, making it a practical cross for him to bear. This is exactly what God did throughout Watchman Nee’s life.
Watchman Nee went on to see that the church as the Body of Christ was simply the enlargement, expansion, and expression of the resurrected Christ. His vision that Christ in resurrection was the life and content of the church was far advanced. According to this vision, he not only ministered by the resurrected Christ, but he also ministered the resurrected Christ Himself to the believers for the building up of His Body. He frequently emphasized the fact that anything which is not Christ in resurrection is not the church, and anything not done by the resurrected Christ is a foreign element in the Body. He desired to serve the church with nothing but the resurrected Christ. The more his ministry progressed, the more he ministered the resurrected Christ to the believers and to the local churches. The resurrected Christ became not only his life and living, but also his message and ministry.