Thoughts By Watchman Nee
I’ve been reading some of Watchman Nee’s writings, seeing how the Holy Spirit was preparing the Church of China for the upcoming persecution with the coming of the Chinese Communist Party coming into power in the 1950’s. They would outlaw westernized religion while imprisoning their leaders and later any believer professing faith in Jesus Christ. Watchman Nee, as well as countless others professing Christians would die in prisons because of their faith.
Active vs. passive: Some unique insights that I have seen through his writings is his emphasis on never allowing Christian believers to be “passive” in their faith. He was not a fan of the sermon from the pulpit to the congregations passively sitting in their seats that he called “worker’s meetings”. He encouraged active participation by all Christian believers that he called “church meetings” because the entire church, the body of Christ, the priesthood of believers, the average Christian would participate. This set the groundwork for every believer to be responsible to be active for Christ once persecution hit the Church. When Christian organizations were destroyed, the faith of individuals could not be diminished.
Meeting Places: He did not believe in building buildings called churches. He thought the Church was God’s people, and where ever they met they had church. This philosophy became vitally important when persecution hit, because it is easy to burn down and destroy a building, but it is harder to tear down and destroy one’s faith, particularly if it is an active faith. The church met in homes, rented rooms, public buildings, etc. It became fluid. I understand that today the underground Chinese Church still meets in homes, rented rooms, warehouses, etc. whereever they can.
Organizations: Unlike his Westernized counterparts, Nee did not feel obligated to form Missionary Societies or highly structured organizations, but gave “workers” leave way to birth and develop new churches as the Holy Spirit led. When the Communist Party came to power, there was no central organization or leadership for the party to direct its persecutions toward. This set the groundwork for the “fluidity” that the Chinese Church exhibits today.
Finances: Nee felt faith for one’s finances was mandatory for every full time worker of the gospel. A set salary with “benefits”, he felt, hurt one’s faith for believing God to provide all one’s needs. Also costs of ministry wer also upon the “worker”. This prevented debt, budgets, perks, and the power of enablement through entitlements. Again, this turned out to be a powerful principle for the underground church to utilize during a time of persecution.
Unity & Division: Nee frowned on the theology that constantly divided the unity of the Church as a whole. He felt that the only division would be geographical. All the Christians who fluidly met in, lets say, Washington, D.C. would be known as the Church of Washington, while those in Baltimore, MD, would be the Church of Baltimore. There was to be no divisions between sects meeting in a given locality. If you were a Christian, one who was saved, redeemed, and sanctified through Jesus Christ was a member of His Church, your were part of that local body of Christ. This kept sectarianism from dividing the body, and is monumental in the way Christians in China think of themselves individually, locally, and corporately today.
Holy Spirit: The listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and being obedient to that voice was crucial in Nee’s ministry, and is crucial in the ministry of local churches today in China.
Because of the silence of the underground Church in China, which is understandable even today because of persecution, I personally do not know how and if these principles are being used, but I do know that they probably were and are effective for ministry in this setting today.
The Church of China has been tried and tested through persecution. The way they “do” church and “are” the Church may look and feel quite different their Western Christian counterparts, but, I feel, we in the West can learn much from them about being active or passive, where to meet, setting up our organizations and finances, dealing with Unity and Division in the body, and trusting and being obedient to the Holy Spirit for all things and guidance.
When the communist walls of the U.S.S.R. fell, many westernized churches sent missionaries back there to establish westernized formed churches; when the walls of communism eventually fall in China, I think that it will be the Chinese underground Church who will send missionaries to the United States rather than the West returning to their land.
I pray for the day when I can see and verify how the five fold is operating in the free, underground Church of China. I know it is there!