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If you really Nee to know Who was Watchman Nee? Discussions regarding the life and times of Watchman Nee, the Little Flock and the beginnings of the Local Church Movement in Mainland China

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Old 10-08-2015, 08:03 PM   #1
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Default Article: Nee's ecclesiology

THE ECCLESIOLOGY OF WATCHMAN NEE By David Rogers

David Rogers is Senior Editor and Coordinator for Spanish Language Ministries of the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute. He formerly served as a career missionary in Spain for 18 years with the International Mission Board of the SBC.

Published in October 2011

Introduction

In the West, Chinese Christian leader Watchman Nee (1903-1972) is primarily known as the author of a number of popular books on personal sanctification and the Christian life. Although he only wrote and published one of these books personally, due to the extensive catalogue of his sermons, lectures, and conference addresses, many of which were originally published as magazine articles, a large collection of his teaching on a variety of different subjects is available to the public in several different languages and formats.[1] Spending the bulk of the last twenty years of his life in a communist prison cell in China, it is likely he himself was never aware of the worldwide impact of his writings.[2] His greatest impact, however, was likely within China itself. A Western missionary, quoted by Nees biographer, Angus I. Kinnear, bears this testimony: There is no doubt that Mr. Nee was a man raised up by the Lord to inject the truths of the gospel into the very blood-stream of the Chinese people. His words stuck like burrs. His books and tracts ran everywhere. If one was asked to draw up a short list of the most influential Chinese Christians there have ever been, it would be hard to leave him out.[3]

Though the biblical orthodoxy of several of his views on topics such as the nature of man and spiritual authority has been challenged by some,[4] it is likely that none of his teaching has been quite so controversial as his teaching (not so widely known in the West) on ecclesiology, or the nature of the church.[5] Originally influenced by the Plymouth Brethren, though differing with them in several key aspects, Nees ecclesiology does not fit neatly into any of the traditional categories of episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational. A major issue for Nee and those who have followed in his ecclesiological footsteps is the essential unity of the Body of Christ and the practical implications of how this unity should be expressed among groups of Christians at a local level. He believed that the major systems of Christian ecclesiology had all gone awry and that through careful Bible study the Lord had revealed to him various forgotten elements of his plan for the Church,[6] which Nee endeavored to put into practice with the hope of prompting a restoration of New Testament ecclesiology in contemporary church life.
The evaluation given by evangelical leaders of the results of Nees ecclesiological ideas and efforts is mixed. The Local Church movement, under the leadership of Nees close associate, Witness Lee (1905-1997), who carried the work started in China to various other countries and eventually moved to the United States in 1962, has been labeled by some as sectarian and by others as doctrinally aberrant. Recently, however, responsible parties of the influential cult-watch organization Christian Research Institute have publicly confessed to misunderstanding and mischaracterizing the Local Church and have declared it to be not only Christian but . . . in many ways an exemplary group of Christians.[7] In China, a group known by outsiders as the Shouters or Screamers, tracing its origins to the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, is regarded by most evangelicals as an extreme cult and as such has been persecuted by the Chinese government, provoking at times the persecution of more orthodox evangelicals along with them.[8] There are other groups of believers, however, associated with the Little Flock movement initiated by Nee who are more evangelically orthodox, and who, together with several other networks of churches, have been key catalysts in the development of the house church movement that has experienced phenomenal growth in China since the Communist Revolution. The ecclesiological innovations of Nee have alternatively been credited as important contributions toward the survival and successful adaptation of the Chinese church under communist control and branded by others as divisive and harmful.

In this paper, we will briefly outline some of the relevant biographical and historical data associated with the life of Nee and the various ecclesiastical movements which have been inspired by his teachings. We will then present a summary of his unique ecclesiology, especially with regard to his understanding of a biblical and practical expression of the essential unity of the Body of Christ. Finally, we will identify some strengths and weaknesses of the ecclesiology of Nee and propose some lessons to be learned by evangelicals concerned with expressing Christian unity in a more productive and Christ-honoring way.

The Life of Watchman Nee

Ni Tuosheng, as he is known in China, was born in 1903 on the heels of the Boxer Rebellion in the southern city of Foochow. His grandfather was a Congregational pastor, but Nee grew up attending his mothers Methodist church, while taking classes at a local Anglican school. At age 18 he made a personal profession of faith in Christ at an evangelistic meeting led by Methodist evangelist Dora Yu. Ironically, although he was subsequently influenced by strict Brethren teaching on the limited role of women in church, some of the leading spiritual influences in Nees own life were women. One of his main influences, in addition to Yu, was British missionary Margaret E. Barber, who upon becoming convinced of a baptistic view of baptism resigned from the Anglican Church Missionary Society in order to continue as an independent missionary in China. Later, he was also influenced by Elizabeth Fischbacher of the China Inland Mission, who introduced him to charismatic beliefs and practices which he himself only partially embraced.[9]

From the beginning, Nee was zealous in his Christian commitment, joining on with a band of street evangelists who wore special gospel shirts and engaged in aggressive evangelism, passing out Christian literature and preaching on the streets of Foochow. He also met for a couple of years in a private home with this group of young people to break bread in the name of the Lord. Eventually, however, his idealistic views opposing the need for ordination and salaried church leadership led to his separation from this group and to meeting with others who agreed with him on these matters.[10] According to Dennis McCallum, Nee was not only idealistic, he was hyper-idealistic. The word compromise was not in his vocabulary.[11]

Introduced by Barber to the writings of John Nelson Darby and other Brethren leaders, Nee read widely and began to digest the ideas to which he was exposed and synthesize them with his own understanding of Scripture, as informed by his diligent personal study. The spiritual and theological influences in his life are many, including John Bunyan, Hudson Taylor, George Mller, George Cutting, J. G. Bellett, William Kelly, Charles G. Trumbull, A. B. Simpson, Madame Guyon, Brother Lawrence, T. Austin-Sparks, Jessie Penn-Lewis, Mary C. McDonough, D. M. Panton, Andrew Murray, and F. B. Meyer. He also studied the lives of significant Christian leaders, such as Martin Luther, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitefield, David Brainerd, John Henry Newman, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Finney, and Charles H. Spurgeon. His ecclesiology, though, was especially influenced by the Brethren, most notably Darby and C. A. Coates.[12]

In 1927, Nee moved to Shanghai, and set up the first assembly based upon many of the principles he was developing as a result of his studies and reflection.[13] A trip to England in 1933 gave him the opportunity to personally meet and dialogue with various Brethren leaders. Upon independently taking the initiative to break bread at the Honor Oak Fellowship associated with the ministry of Austin-Sparks, however, and a subsequent visit to China of several Exclusive Brethren representatives in 1935, Nee was informed he was no longer welcome to fellowship with them.[14] This experience led Nee to denounce the exclusivist policies of the Brethren and to advocate the open communion stance that became a distinctive of the churches associated with the so-called Little Flock movement founded by Nee, which by 1936 had multiplied to thirty assemblies throughout China.[15] The name Little Flock comes from a hymnal Nee published in 1931 entitled Hymns for the Little Flock, taking its name, in turn, from an English Brethren hymnal. It was never Nees intention that the local churches he founded adopt this name or any name that might be construed as a denominational label, but the name stuck, and to this day the movement started by Nee is popularly known in China as the Little Flock.[16]
Subsequent Bible study and reflection led Nee and his companions, who by this time included Witness Lee, to refine their ideas concerning New Testament church ground.

Lee reminisces on this period:
The first church established in the Lords recovery was raised up in 1922 in Foochow, Brother Nees home town. After I was saved in 1925, I came in contact with Brother Nee through his writings. His writings helped a number of us to see the mistakes of the denominations. We came to realize that although we held to the Lords name, the gospel, and the Bible, we had to drop many other aspects of organized Christianity. Under the leadership of Brother Nee, we studied church history, biographies, and all the important spiritual and doctrinal writings. Through our study we gained a detailed knowledge of Christianity. Gradually we came to discern those practices we should adopt: immersion, eldership, practical holiness, the proper Pentecostal spirituality. Those who visited our meetings were often troubled by the fact that they could not categorize us. To some we appeared to be like Baptists, but to others we resembled the Presbyterians or the Plymouth Brethren.[17]
During this time, the movement associated with Nees ministry continued to grow.

McCallum gives the following assessment:
It is hard to tell how large the Little Flock movement was in China at the time of the revolution. One reason for this is the fact that Nee felt it was fleshly to consider numbers. Therefore there was no systematic effort made by Little Flock themselves to count their people. There was no formal membership in the group, since Nee believed membership in the body of Christ was determined by God, and there was no good reason for the church to try to draw up a list. According to Cliff, in 1949 the Little Flock had over 70,000 members in 500 assemblies. However, according to the Ecumenical Press Service the Little Flock had at this time 362 places of worship and 39,000 members in the one province of Chekiang. These figures were interpreted as indicating that members of the Little Flock made up 1520 per cent of the whole Protestant church in China, and that they may have been the largest single denomination. In other words, this estimate would show anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 members for the Little Flock. Cheung affirms that there were thousands of assemblies by 1956, and that the Little Flock was the largest Christian group in China.[18]

For several years, Nee fell out of favor with and was placed under discipline by the elders of the Shanghai assembly, who thought he had violated their guiding principles by setting up a business out of which he used the proceeds to support Christian workers. Eventually though, they were able to iron out their differences and Nee was reinstated to his position of leadership within the group.[19] During this same timeframe, Nee, together with Lee, recognized that certain aspects of the church leadership system they had developed were not working well and decided to refocus the work, concentrating more authority in the hands of the apostles or trans-congregational workers. During the next several years, there was a marked upswing in the growth of the movement, both numerically and spiritually, as many believers spontaneously began to give sacrificially to support the work, and large groups migrated to unreached cities, following a new church planting strategy suggested by Lee.[20]

During this same period, the Communist Revolution spearheaded by Mao Zedong was taking root and gaining ground throughout China. Nee suggested that Lee leave the country and assume responsibility for the continued expansion of the movement among the Chinese diaspora.[21] Against Lees urging, Nee stayed behind and in 1952 was arrested and imprisoned by the government, having been declared guilty of charges of corrupt business practices and moral improprieties.[22] According to Kinnear, He is said to have been offered the chance of reinstatement as a public Christian figure if he would lead his immense following into step with the Peoples Government within the Three Self Reform Church.[23] Though the details of his last days are a bit cloudy, he remained in prison for almost twenty years, and died either in prison or shortly after being released in 1972, likely due to poor health.

In the meantime, many of the believers and other leaders of the Little Flock assemblies throughout China were pressured to integrate into the government-sponsored Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Though some initially capitulated, many subsequently reversed their decision and took the movement underground, opting to meet in private homes when their assembly halls were confiscated. Others were arrested and imprisoned along with Nee.

When the foreign missionaries were forced to leave the country, a large contingent of national believers associated with conservative groups such as the China Inland Mission decided to subsume their work under the auspices of the Little Flock, providing a significant initial impetus toward the staggering growth of the underground house church movement in subsequent years.[24]

Kinnear provides the following testimony:
A missionary in Chekiang wrote, soon after leaving, of conditions in that Province: The influence of the Little Flock permeates the country. It has begun to lay a new and strong emphasis on evangelism. It has never had any affiliation with foreign missions, and this is a great asset in the New China. May it not be that this movement is Gods specially prepared instrument for the present time? It is close-knit, yet unobtrusive and adaptable in organization; it is wholly indigenous, deeply spiritual, and with a kindling missionary fervor. A letter received a year or so later spoke of the possible union of the different groups of Christians in the town, and she comments: This would mean a union under the leadership of the Little Flock, and it is perhaps the best provision under the present difficulties.[25]
We will revisit the question of the enduring influence of Nee and the Little Flock at the conclusion of this paper.

Nees Local Church Ecclesiology

Contextual Factors

Whatever else one might think of Nees conclusions and ecclesiogical methodology, it is hard to deny he was a diligent student of Scripture who strove to the best of his ability to consistently follow through with the implications to which his studies led him. In several aspects, though, Nee in his approach to Christian unity was a product of his time. On the heels of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, anti-imperialist sentiment in China was at its peak. Beaten down by persecution and accusations of selling out to Western political interests, many Christians desired to distance themselves from the denominational model, which they considered to be a Western import.[26] At the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910, Chinese delegate Cheng Jingyi had made an impassioned plea to the missionaries gathered there to allow the Chinese church to pursue its own form of unified organization free from the entanglements of Western denominationalism.[27] Many conservative Christians, however, were not sympathetic to the growing worldwide ecumenical movement due to its emphasis on the social gospel and lack of definition regarding key doctrines such as the authority of Scripture.

In addition, Nee himself was undoubtedly influenced to a large degree in his thinking regarding ecclesiology and Christian unity by his reading of the Plymouth Brethren. But he was not predisposed to swallow everything they wrote without following the New Testament example of the Bereans, who examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11, NIV).[28] In many ways, the conclusions reached by Nee regarding ecclesiology can be explained by a combination of his socio-historical context, the influence of the Brethren, and his method of biblical hermeneutics, along with the sincerity of his commitment to faithfully carry out the corresponding implications.

Nee's Hermeneutics

Nee had a high respect for the authority of Scripture and considered every detail to be important. In Rethinking the Work, he wrote: We must remember the divine economy of words in Scripture, and we must realize that neither the occurrence, nor the record of it, was accidental. There is no room for chance happenings or unimportant records in Gods Word. All that is written there is written for our learning, and even a seemingly casual remark may enfold a precious lesson.[29] Especially with regard to ecclesiology, he believed that Scripture teaches by way of example as much as by precept. Though circumstances may differ, the initial principles communicated largely by way of example in the book of Acts and other historical passages remain valid, and thus it is incumbent on modern-day disciples to search for clues, uncover these principles, and diligently apply them in their own context.[30] If anything, Nee may be accused of being over-meticulous in his desire to faithfully follow the example of Scripture. Kinnear opines: When it came to ecclesiology his chief weakness (but one in which down the ages he has had plenty of company) lay in treating as mandatory the principles he had derived merely from New Testament example.[31]

Nee was consistently recognized by those who knew him as a diligent student of Scripture. McCallum provides a couple of significant testimonies: Witness Lee said of Nee, I have never met a man so well-versed in the Scriptures as he. Noted Chinese evangelist John Sung said, For exposition of the Scriptures, I am not equal to Watchman Nee.[32]

Nees Ecclesiology Easily Misunderstood

Because Nees approach to ecclesiology is different than the traditional models known in the West it is susceptible to misunderstanding. On first consideration, much of it appears to be impractical or overly idealistic. In the Preface to the English Edition of Rethinking the Work, Nee remarks: After the publication of my book in Chinese, quite a number of missionaries asked for an English edition. I felt reluctant to comply, for personally I should prefer to have those books translated which better represent my ministry, rather than this one which is liable to be misunderstood and controverted.[33]

The Universal Church: The Corporate Christ

According to Luke Pei-Yuan Lu, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Nees ecclesiology, the starting place for understanding Nee is his identification of the universal Church as the corporate Christ. For Nee, just as Eve was taken out of Adams rib, the Church, as the Bride of the Second Adam, is an actual representation of Christ on Earth. Just as each member of the Body partakes separately of one common loaf in the Lords Supper (1 Cor 10:17), the Church is not merely all of the believers put together, but rather the putting together of all the little pieces of Christ in each individual Christian. At the present, earthly gatherings of Christians are an imperfect representation of this deeper-level spiritual reality. As the corporate Christ, the Church is like the ugly duckling, which is at heart a beautiful swan.[34]

Strictly speaking, according to Nee, there is only one Church. The various groups of believers in different localities are merely local expressions of the corporate Christ. In each different city or town, wherever there is a group of believers who gather together, that group of believers constitutes the Church scattered and sojourning in that locality, a miniature representation of the Bride of Christ.[35]

Another corollary of this understanding of the Church for Nee is the centrality of the building up of the Church in the economy of God. From Nees perspective, much missionary work is defective because it is focused merely on preaching the gospel and not on the building up of the Church. Nee was not opposed to missions or gospel preaching in and of themselves, but considered them as misguided if not carried out within the context of the building up of the Church, or the New Jerusalem, the ultimate objective which God has in mind.[36]

The Local Church

Although Nees understanding of the Church as one single entity is fundamental, he also recognized the practical reality of a plurality of local churches: We have clearly two different aspects of the Church before usthe Church and the churches, the universal Church and the local churches. The Church is invisible; the churches are visible. The Church has no organization; the churches are organized. The Church is spiritual; the churches are spiritual and yet physical. The Church is purely an organism; the churches are an organism, yet at the same time they are organized, which is seen by the fact that elders and deacons hold office there.[37]

He did not see each local church, however, as a separate entity, but as the Church in Ephesus, or the Church in Smyrna, the Church in Pergamos, etc.[38]
When describing his understanding of a biblical local church, Nee first of all makes clear what it is not:
What is a New Testament church? It is not a building, a gospel hall, a preaching center, a mission, a work, an organization, a system, a denomination, or a sect. People may apply the term church to any of the above; nevertheless they are not churches. A New Testament church is the meeting together for worship, prayer, fellowship, and mutual edification, of all the people of God in a given locality, on the ground that they are Christians in the same locality.[39]

A necessary corollary of this understanding for Nee is that there is only one local church in each city. By definition, all the believers living in a particular city or town are automatically members of the local church of that city of town. According to the example he found in Scripture, the boundary of a local church always coincides with the political boundary of the local municipality. There is no mention in the New Testament of national, provincial, or district-wide churches.[40] In addition, from Nees perspective, though there may well be some missiological rationale for working toward a truly indigenous church, the New Testament church was not divided on the basis of ethnic, linguistic, or cultural differences, but rather on the basis of geo-political locality.[41] Nee is quite dogmatic in his conclusion: In Scripture there is always one church in one place, never several churches in one place, nor one church in several places.[42]

One Local Church, Various Meetings

An obvious question that arises with relation to the presence of only one local church in each city or town has to do with the size of the group, and, in those situations where the number of believers multiplies, the existence of venues large enough to accommodate everyone. Additionally, the New Testament speaks on various occasions of churches that met in private homes. Some have suggested that this implies the existence of a plurality of house churches within a given locality. According to Lee, the explanation for this is that in those places where a house church is mentioned in the New Testament, it is because the group of believers in that locality was not yet large enough to require a larger venue for its meetings.[43] This did not mean, however, that there was never a plurality of church meetings within a given locality. Whenever a local group of believers grew, such as in the case of the church in Jerusalem, they not only all gathered together in one place but also from house to house in smaller meetings. This led Nee to conclude that even though all the believers together in one locality form one local church they may meet separately.[44] In practice, Nee preferred for church meetings to consist of no more than 50 or 100 believers in one place at one time. Though not dogmatic on this point, he believed that the model of Jesus breaking the crowd at the feeding of the 5,000 into groups of 50 and 100 served as a valid precedent and that the practical need for adequately personalized pastoral oversight demanded such a system.[45] Nee was careful to point out, however, that this does not imply a congregational system of church government. As one united local church, the different smaller groups of believers in a given locality shared a common administration and body of elders who were entrusted with the spiritual oversight of the entire church. [46]

Local Church Ground

At first glance, all this seems simple enough. But Nee was not so disingenuous as to ignore the co-existence in any given locality of a number of different groups of Christians who each considered themselves to be legitimate local churches. If there is only one true local church in each locality, it is necessary to have some criteria for determining which group that is. From Nees perspective, the true local church in any locality is that group of Christians which assembles together on local church ground. Correctly understanding what Nee, Lee, and others in the Local Church movement identify as local church ground is a key element for understanding their overall ecclesiology. Though it may seem a technicality, the following point by Nee helps to avoid some confusion on an otherwise apparent discrepancy between his definition of a local church as comprising all believers in a locality, whether they actually met together with them or not, and of local church ground: We admit that we are not the church; we are merely those who meet on the ground of the church. We are not the church in Shanghai, but we are meeting in a way that maintains and upholds the church in Shanghai. We are standing on the same ground that the church stands on, yet we are not the very church itself.[47]

Though some have sought to differentiate between the teachings of Nee and Lee on various topics, on the key point of what constitutes local church ground it appears they are in essential agreement. Lee identifies the following six characteristics of a genuine local church: no particular name, no particular fellowship, no particular teaching, no isolated fellowship, no separate administration, and no hidden connections with other organizations.[48] A one-by-one look at Lees six characteristics will help us to understand what Nee and Lee both mean by local church ground.

No Particular Name

According to Nee and Lee, the problem with church names, no matter how non-descript they may be, is that they are by default sectarian. Lee observes: Once a group assumes a special name, it has become a denomination, for taking such a designation separates that group from all other groups.[49] This evidently eliminates the large majority of Christian groups from local church ground. This is also the reason why Nee was so opposed to the churches associated with his movement calling themselves the Little Flock.

No Particular Fellowship

Non-denominationalism, in and of itself, however, is not sufficient to place a group of believers on local church ground. They must also practice open communion. This particular aspect of local church ground set the local churches in China apart from the Exclusive Brethren. Nee explains: The Brethren say that they cannot receive anyone to their bread-breaking meeting who has not left the denominations. But this makes them another sect. As for us, we can fellowship with all those who are saved in the denominations.[50] This point is one on which Nee, Lee, and the local churches are particularly liable to being misunderstood. The following quote from Nee helps to clarify their position: If we make non-sectarianism the basis of our fellowship, then we are dividing the church on a ground other than the one ordained of God, and thereby we form another sect. The scriptural ground for a church is a locality and not non-sectarianism. Any fellowship that is not as wide as the locality is sectarian. All Christians who live in the same place as I do, are in the same church as I am, and I dare exclude none. I acknowledge as my brother, and as a fellow member of my church, every child of God who lives in my locality.[51]

I t should be noted, however, that although those associated with the local churches in China practice open communion they do not allow denominational Christians to preach or occupy positions of ministry responsibility, nor encourage the members of the local churches to go to the denominational meetings to break bread with them there.[52]

No Particular Teaching

The following quote from Nee explains this aspect of local church ground:
God forbids any division on doctrinal grounds. Some believe that [the] rapture is pre-tribulation; others, that it is post-tribulation. Some believe that all the saints will enter the kingdom; others believe that only a section will enter. Some believe that baptism is by immersion; others, that [it] is by sprinkling. Some believe that supernatural manifestations are a necessary accompaniment to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, while others do not. None of these doctrinal views constitute a scriptural basis for separating the children of God. Though some may be right and others wrong, God does not sanction any division on account of difference as to such beliefs.[53]

It appears, however, that although Nee did not articulate a clear theory of theological triage,[54] he did distinguish between gospel essentials and non-essentials when dividing on doctrinal matters, positing 2 John 9Anyone who . . . does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have Godas an exception to the rule.[55] Also, local church ground does not imply that local churches fail to maintain any distinctive practices or customs. Lee explains: It is right for us to have all our practices according to the Bible. Thus, in our practice we baptize people by immersion and we have the eldership, but we do not make these things particular items that divide us from other believers.[56]

No Isolated Fellowship

This aspect of local church ground refers not so much to fellowship with denominational Christians in the same locality as to fellowship with other local churches around the world. Lee comments: The local churches should fellowship with all the genuine local churches on the whole earth to keep the universal fellowship of the Body of Christ. Any local church that does not keep this universal fellowship of the Body of Christ is divisive and becomes a local sect.[57] Though autonomous in their administration, Nee felt that the local churches should not be spiritually independent, but should rather seek out fellowship with other churches, respect decisions made by other churches with regard to church discipline, and take into consideration how their decisions will affect the local churches in other places.[58]

No Separate Administration

As the list of qualifications for local church ground grows, the list of those who qualify as local churches necessarily shrinks. In keeping with Nee and Lees ecclesiology, there can be no more than one true local church in each locality:

In a particular locality there may be a group of Christians who have no special name, special practice, special teaching, or special fellowship. However, they may still have an administration separate from the church in that city. If so, that group is a sect. In addition to the local church in a city, an independent group may come into being that in nearly every respect is the same as the church. But that group may still insist upon having a separate administration. This is like having two city halls in the same city. But there should be just one city hall in a city. If there is more than one, it is a sign of division. If a group of Christians has truly seen the ground of unity, they will say, We cannot have a separate administration. We must have one administration with the church that is already in this city. As long as there is a city hall, it is impossible to have another one. If you insist upon a separate city hall, you are a division.[59]

This qualification appears to deal with the eventuality of two competing groups in the same locality each claiming to be the church of that locality.

No Hidden Connection with Another Organization

This final qualification narrows the field even more. Lee explains what he means by a group with a hidden connection with another organization: [They] are like a kite in the air: someone on the ground is holding the string. How high the kite flies does not depend upon the kite; it depends upon the one holding the string . . . One group said, We are exactly the same as you . . . However, we eventually learned that this group was connected to an organization in England. The kite was flying in China, but the one who held the string was in England.[60]

Understood from the perspective of these six characteristics, it is easy to understand why the ecclesiology of Nee and Lee has been called impractical by some and sectarian by others. It is hard to imagine a group of Christians anywhere in the world that meets all six of these qualifications outside the specific circle of influence of Nee and Lee.

The Church and the Work

Another key aspect of Nees ecclesiology with significant missiological implications is his understanding of the division between the church and the work. Closely related to this is his understanding of the role of elders and apostles. His biblical rationale for this understanding is what he calls the Antioch principle, based on the premise that the church in Antioch, where the barrier between Jews and Gentiles was first broken down, and from which the apostolic team of Barnabas and Saul were sent out, was the first church established on pure church ground, and is thus the pattern on which subsequent churches and apostolic work should be based.[61] According to Nee, Since churches are the result of the work, they cannot possibly include it. If we are to understand the mind of God concerning His work, then we must differentiate clearly between the work and the churches.[62]

Apostles and Elders

A key to understanding the difference between the church and the work from Nees perspective is correctly distinguishing between the role of apostles and elders: The work belongs to the apostles, while the churches belong to the local believers. The apostles are responsible for the work in any place, and the church is responsible for all the children of God there. . . . It is wrong for the apostles to interfere with the affairs of the church, but it is equally wrong for the church to interfere with the affairs of the work.[63] Nee clarifies further: The authorities which God sets in the Church are the elders and the apostles. God appoints the first in a local assembly. He appoints the second in the midst of many assemblies. The authority of an apostle is over various assemblies, whereas the authority of an elder is in the local assembly.[64]

When Nee talks about modern-day apostles, it is important to recognize that he does so not in the unique sense of the twelve, who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, but in the sense of all those who are called and set apart by God, and sent out on an extra-local basis to do the work of the ministry.[65] They are not sent out, however, as representatives of any particular local church or organization, but of the Church at large. Though it is impossible for the Church at large to actually send them out, those who do send them out send them out acting on church ground, and thus in solidarity with the Church at large.[66]

According to Nee, the work of the apostles is clear-cut: As the work of the apostles is to preach the gospel and found churches, not to take responsibility in the churches already established, their office is not a church office.[67] Though the work of the apostles is separate from the church, according to Nee, it is always done in support of the church: God is always aimed at and centered in the Church.[68] Thus, the apostles, who are the workers in charge of the work, whenever they come to a place where there is no local church, will seek by the preaching of the gospel to establish a local church. If there is no group of believers already meeting on local church ground (although there may be groups of believers meeting on denominational or sectarian grounds), they should seek to establish one.[69] Wherever there already is a local church, their work must be with a view to building up that church, not to establish a new one.
Additionally, the responsibility of the apostles, once there is a group of believers meeting together in a given place, is to discern whom God has chosen as elders and to publicly appoint them as elders. As long as the affairs of the group are still in the hands of the apostles, it is not yet a church, but the work. But as soon as responsibility is passed on to the local believers, it is a church.[70] In this sense, the ministry (or work) of the apostles is temporary, while the ministry of the church is ongoing and permanent. It is not the job of the apostles to stay and shepherd the believers, but rather to transfer that responsibility over to local elders.[71] This does not mean the responsibility of the apostles is always strictly evangelistic. They should also seek to establish the new believers, but this should be done through occasional visits, not by long-term residential ministry.[72] Nee refers back to the example of Paul: Every apostle must learn to live in his own hired dwelling and work with that as his centre, leaving the responsibility of the local church to the local brethren. . . . When God indicates that an apostle should move, his Work moves with him, but the church remains. . . . On leaving a place an apostle should hand over all the fruit of his Work to the local church.[73]

Elders, according to Nee, must always be appointed from among the mature men in the local church itself, never imported from outside. They are given responsibility to represent the church.[74] In each locality there should be a plurality of elders, mutually accountable to each other, not responsible to do the ministry themselves, but rather to oversee the ministry carried out conjointly by all of the members of the body.[75] Church decisions are not to be made in a democratic fashion, by casting of ballots. They should not, however, be made in an autocratic fashion either. The opinions of all should be heard and taken into account, with the ultimate responsibility for making decisions left in the hands of the more spiritually mature brothers.[76]

Spiritual Authority

One of the issues that has clouded Nees, and to an even greater degree, Lees reputation has been their approach to spiritual authority. The fine line between an appropriate exercise of spiritual authority and overbearing authoritarianism can sometimes be difficult to discern. From the early days, a great deal of emphasis was placed upon the dangers of an independent spirit, and the need of believers to respect the leadership of their appointed elders and not join with groups of believers other than the local church in the place in which they lived.

On a closely related issue, throughout his ministry Nee appeared to walk an ecclesiological tightrope on the question of local church autonomy and interconnectedness. In the early years, he leaned more to the side of local church autonomy, as manifested in the Antioch Principle, which he espouses in Assembly Life: Each local assembly is locally governed, it being directly accountable to Christ and not answerable to any other organization or assembly. . . . Let us therefore never consider the assembly in Shanghai as the mother church. The assemblies in various localities are subject to Christ directly and not to any other assembly.[77] During this same time, he also leaned toward investing local elders with a large degree of authority. In Rethinking the Work, he plainly states:
Once a church was established, all responsibility was handed over to the local elders, and from that day the apostles exercised no control whatever in its affairs. All management was in the hands of the elders, and if they thought it right, they could even refuse an apostle entry into their church. Should such a thing occur, the apostle would have no authority to insist on being received, since all local authority had already passed from his hands into the hands of the elders.[78]

In later years, however, he appears to back away from this and reserve more authority for apostles, who continue to exercise significant input and oversight into the lives of the local elders after having appointed them. In Church Affairs, Nee comments:
The apostles give the authority to the elders, and the elders administrate the local church directly. Therefore, everyone who is an elder, an overseer, must learn to listen to the apostles. Because their being elders is due to the apostles, they cannot overthrow the authority of the apostles. . . . After the meeting in Hangkow, some brothers misunderstood. They thought that though the elders are appointed by the apostles, they did not have to listen to the apostles.[79]

With significant input from Lee, and disillusioned by the treatment he received from the elders of the local church in Shanghai when they disciplined him for owning a business, he tweaked the Antioch Principle vision by adding the Jerusalem Principle, which limited the power of the elders in the local assemblies, placed the whole movement under central control, and launched a program of evangelism by dispatching a host of workers to unreached areas.[80] Though it is likely Nee himself was never totally comfortable with the implications of the Jerusalem Principle, Lees inclination in this direction led him and the groups with which he was associated in later years in a more authoritarian direction, leaning more on the side of inter-connectedness between the local churches and submission to a common apostolic authority.[81]

Nee and Lee: Two Peas from the Same Pod?

Before moving on to an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of Nees ecclesiology, it is necessary, due to the close association between the two, to assess to what degree the thoughts and work of Nee and Lee must be evaluated together as a single package. There is no doubt that Lee liked to present himself publicly as the spiritual heir and faithful disciple of Watchman Nee. Due to the positive influence of Nees popular writings and wider name recognition, there are many reasons it may have been in his interest to do so. At the same time, it would be disingenuous to seek to disassociate the legacy of Lee with that of Nee. There is no questioning the fact that they were close friends and associates throughout the early development of the Little Flock or Local Church movement in China. In Lees writings, he references the teaching of Nee as a primary substantiating source of his own ideas. Nee encouraged and endorsed Lees ministry of taking the local church vision beyond the confines of China.
In spite of all this, several have suggested that Lee was not always faithful in his representation of the ideas and vision first enunciated by Nee. Lambert, for instance, states:
While Nee endured long imprisonment in labour-camps eventually suffering martyrdom in 1972, Lee sought to take over the movement from the safety first of Taiwan and then southern California. His views on the Trinity were reportedly unorthodox, and his control of the Local Church, as it has become known, was increasingly authoritarian. In China the wide dissemination of his books in the early 1980s led many Little Flock believersand, sadly, often the younger, keen membersto wander into paths of extremism. In some cases, ill-taught followers ended up praying in the name of Lee and regarding him as little less than a new Messiah.[82]

Kinnear insinuates quite clearly that it was in good part the influence of Lee that led the Little Flock movement in a more authoritarian direction in the last years leading up to Nees imprisonment.[83] There is a lengthy online discussion between various disaffected former members of Lees movement contrasting the leadership style and general philosophy of Lee and Nee.[84] To some degree, the following comment by Nee seems to be prophetic with regard to the direction the Local Church movement would take under the spiritual leadership of Lee: In the history of the Church it has frequently happened that when God has given special light or experience to any individual, that individual has stressed the particular truth revealed or experienced, and gathered round him people who appreciated his teaching, with the result that the leader, or the truth he emphasized, has become the ground of fellowship. Thus sects have multiplied.[85]

In spite of all this, the Christian Research Institute, in their thorough reevaluation of both Lee and the present Local Church movement, has determined that, though harsh and regrettable in their treatment of certain issues, they are within the realm of Christian orthodoxy and should not be regarded as a cult or a sect.[86] A Local Church statement of beliefs currently online, though notably succinct, is clearly evangelical in its affirmations.[87] Due to all this confusing information, it seems the best option is not to judge either Nee or Lee on the basis of the ideas and ministry of the other, except in the cases in which it can clearly be demonstrated that these coincide.

Evaluation: Strengths and Weaknesses

Upon evaluating the ideas and ministry of Watchman Nee, one thing that should not be overlooked is the impressive track record of lasting results for the extension of the kingdom of God. Dennis McCallum poignantly observes:

Although some of Nees time was spent preaching to a large (5000-7000 attendance) church in Shanghai, the main result of his work was the founding of hundreds of house churches throughout China. . . . It is interesting to compare Nee to John Wesley. Wesley's work won, and incorporated into his fellowships about 120,000 people over the course of his 52 year ministry. Because of his work, and its aftermath, he is known to most people in the western world. The books on Wesley in an average library usually take up whole shelves, analyzing every aspect of his life and teaching. Watchman Nee probably exceeded Wesley in terms of the actual size of his ministry, even though the duration of his ministry was only a little over one-half as long, and was carried out under circumstances including an 11-year-long world war. . . . Yet he is virtually unknown to westerners, and most libraries have nothing on his biography at all![88]

In addition to the results achieved during his active ministry, perhaps more impressive is the impact he and the ministry he inspired have had on the survival and continued growth of the church in China after the Communist Revolution. McCallum remarks: Nobody has even hazarded a guess as to how many of the millions of Christians meeting in house churches today may be the outgrowth of Little Flock groups. Two things are clear: There are many house churches that are directly derived from Little Flock churches, and there are many other groups that owe a substantial debt to Little Flock doctrine and practice for their survival.[89]

As McCallum intimates, not only the numerical fruit obtained as a result Nees ministry, but also the model of church he espoused has much to commend itself, especially in a context of persecution such as that faced by the Chinese church after the Communist Revolution. According to Luke Pei-Yuan Lu,
Watchman Nee prepared the Chinese church for the days of the severe persecution ahead. When the dark age came with the arrival of the Communist totalitarianism and the retreat of all the Western missions, the Chinese church was able not only to survive, but also to proliferate hundredfold. Watchman Nee and his doctrine of the church has been and is suddenly being used by the sovereign God to equip the Chinese church for the second half of the 20th century.[90]

According to Tony Lambert, the Chinese house church movement had its roots in the Little Flock and several other indigenous Chinese churches which were already emphasizing the importance of close fellowship in small group meetings long before the revolution began.[91] In addition, the Little Flock emphasis on the direct headship of Christ over each local assembly has become a rallying point for those who have refused to submit to the government control of the TSPM.[92] Ironically, the churches refusing to register with the TSPM appear to be the most consistent and truly indigenous followers of the Three-Self formula of self-government, self-support, and self-propagation. Nees local church ecclesiology, with its emphasis on unpaid ministry, flexibility in meeting places and schedules, and lack of a hierarchical structure, in many ways blazed the trail in this regard.[93]

Another strength, which at the same time may be seen as a weakness, is Nees sincerity and idealism with regard to following Scripture. All too often, denominational and institutional traditions have blinded us as evangelical Christians to the simplicity of New Testament ecclesiology. Nee, though not entirely free of his own biases inherited from his reading of the Brethren and others, had a refreshing approach to Scripture that allowed him to glean insights often overlooked by others.[94] McCallum, however, offers an interesting and very likely valid critique: Unfortunately, like so many purists, Nees meticulous insistence on even the smallest detail sometimes resulted in a violation of a major ethical imperative. Nees idealism was one of his greatest strengths, but without prioritization, it also became a weakness.[95]
There are also some weaknesses in Nees hermeneutical method. His tendency to find allegorical symbolism and binding examples in biblical narratives is at times unjustified. Though there is no doubt some validity to Nees observation about the New Testament church being organized on a city-wide basis, in all likelihood he allowed his fixation on that particular aspect of ecclesiology to become a control belief that served as a grid through which he viewed a large part of the rest of his ecclesiological ideas.[96] Before criticizing Nee too harshly on this point, however, we would do well to remember that most (if not all) denominational systems are constructed upon similar presuppositions. We would also do well to maintain a good dose of doctrinal humility when approaching issues on which Christians throughout the centuries have disagreed so often.

Of special concern is Nees approach to spiritual authority. Though there is no significant evidence that he himself abused his position of leadership and influence among those who looked to him as their spiritual teacher, it does appear that some of those who have found inspiration in Nees ideas have been overly authoritarian. Though there is no doubt some validity to the observation that modern-day Western society and, to a large extent, the Western church itself is excessively individualistic and aversive to legitimate authority, it is also true that authentic heart religion tends to prosper more in an atmosphere of grace and liberty than one of coercion.

Conclusion

Viewed from an objective analysis of Scripture, the unity of the Body of Christ is a very important issue. In many ways, however, evangelicals have allowed the pitfalls and impracticability of different experiments in Christian unity to relegate it to the backburner or to sweep it under the carpet. Sadly, however, several of those who have taken notice of this situation and tried to propose biblical solutions, such as those involved in the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, the Exclusive Brethren, and Nee, Lee, and the Local Church, have ended up founding groups that eventually became more sectarian than the churches and denominations they were seeking to reform. Almost certainly, were he to have read it, the following indictment would have stung Nee deeply: In Nees effort to search for the only possible biblical pattern to establish the church, the Little Flock was founded. However, Nees sincere search for the ideal way of establishing churches has not only been divisive, he knowingly or unknowingly created another denomination more restrictive than most.[97] Yet, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that for the most part this evaluation is true. On the other hand, it can also be said that many of those who have taken a more open stance to unity, such as those involved in the Conciliar Ecumenical movement, and certain sectors of the Charismatic Renewal, have ended up compromising on essential gospel doctrine, consequently undermining the very church they propose to build up.

In certain aspects, there is a large degree of truth behind the imperative to order our relationships with other Christians on the ground of one united Body of Christ. It appears, however, that Nees and Lees logical deductions of what this implies are overly restrictive and ultimately counterproductive to true unity. On perhaps the most practical level, living on church ground involves deeper relationships and spiritual fellowship with all true gospel-centered Christians living within the same locality. No doubt, however, many, if not most, of these believers will be affiliated with some denominational network or another. Though certain differences of doctrine and practice make direct cooperation between certain groups of Christians in certain ministry projects impractical, there is no doubt much more that can be done in most settings when it comes to making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). Also, when working to preach the gospel and plant churches in places where other ministry and churches already exist, we must diligently take care how we build upon the foundation of others (1 Cor 3:10).[98] May the lessons learned from Nees experiment in Christian unity not discourage us, but rather spur us on, as we seek to be as faithful as we possibly can in serving our Lord and Master who desires that we may be one, just as he and the Father are one, so that the world may believe (John 17:11, 21).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cliff, Norman H. Watchman NeeChurch Planter and Preacher of Holiness. Evangelical Review of Theology 8, no. 2 (October 1984): 28997.

Kinnear, Angus I. Against the Tide. Eastbourne, Sussex, UK: Victory Press, 1973.

Lam Wing-Hung. Watchman Nee. Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity. No pages. Cited 2 September 2011. Online: http://www.bdcconline.net/en/stories/n/ni-tuosheng.php

Lambert, Tony. Chinas Christian Millions. London: OMF, 1999.
Lee, Witness. Spirit and the Body. Anaheim: Living Stream Ministries, 1976.
The Conclusion of the New Testament: Messages 189204. Anaheim: Living Streams Ministry, 1988.
The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way, Vol. 2. Anaheim: Living Streams Ministry, 1992.
The Genuine Ground of Oneness. Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1979.
Young Peoples Training. Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1976.
McCallum, Dennis. Watchman Nee and the House Church Movement in China. No pages. Cited 2 September 2011. Online: http://www.xenos.org/essays/neeframe.htm
Melton, J. Gordon. The (Local) Church Movement. The Enclycopedia of American Religions, Fifth Edition. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1996. No pages. Cited 2 September 2011. Online: http://www.localchurches.org/recogni...s/melton1.html
Miller, Elliot. Cultic, Aberrant, or (Unconventionally) Orthodox?: A Reassessment of the Local Church Movement. Christian Research Journal 32, no. 6 (2009): 747.
Mohler, Albert R. Theological Triage. 9Marks eJournal (March-April 2008). No pages. Cited 3 January 2011. Online: http://www.9marks.org/ejournal/theological-triage
Mountfort, Huelen. Watchman Nee (19031972): A Biographical Study. IIIM Magazine Online 4, no. 19 (May 1320, 2002). No pages. Cited 2 September 2011. Online: http://thirdmill.org/watchman-nee-19...raphical-study
Nee, Watchman. The Church and the Work, Vol. I: Assembly Life. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1982.
The Church and the Work, Vol. II: Rethinking the Work. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1982.
The Church and the Work, Vol. III: Church Affairs. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1982.
Pei-Yuan Lu, Luke. Watchman Nees Doctrine of the Church. Audio recording, 1994. Evangelical Theological Society 46th Annual Meeting. Chicago, Ill. Hermeneutics: Issues and Concerns. Nov. 1719, 1994.
Roberts, Dana. Secrets of Watchman Nee. Orlando: Bridge-Logos, 2005.
Stanley, Brian. The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Watchman Nees Life and Ministry. No pages. Cited 2 September 2011. Online: http://www.watchmannee.org/life-ministry.html

Watchman Nee v. Witness Lee & BB. No pages. Cited 2 September 2011. Online: http://www.thebereans.net/forum2/showthread.php?t=48573

What We Believe. No pages. Cited 2 September 2011. Online: http://ftta.org/about/what-we-believe/
________________________________________
[1] Leslie T. Lyall, foreword to Against the Tide, by Angus I. Kinnear (Eastbourne, Sussex, UK: Victory Press, 1973), viii. The entire collection of Nees writings may be accessed at www.watchmannee.org.
[2] Kinnear, 170.
[3] Ibid., 176.
[4] Though somewhat outside the scope of this paper, the Christian Research Journal dedicated an entire issue to the teaching of Nees close associate Witness Lee and the Local Church movement and determined, as a result of their research, that their teaching on these matters, though, in some senses quirky, is within the realm of evangelical orthodoxy. See Christian Research Journal 32, no. 6 (2009).
[5] Dana Roberts, Secrets of Watchman Nee (Orlando: Bridge-Logos, 2005), 147; Elliot Miller, Cultic, Aberrant, or (Unconventionally) Orthodox?: A Reassessment of the Local Church Movement, Christian Research Journal 32, no. 6 (2009): 10.

[6] Throughout this paper, in order to help avoid confusion, the universal Church is referred to with a capital C, and the local church with a small-case c. The Local Church refers specifically to the movement associated with Witness Lee, while local church refers to the concept undergirding that movement, as well as related movements associated with Watchman Nee.
[7] Miller, 29
[8] Tony Lambert, Chinas Christian Millions (London: OMF, 1999), 82, 122; Dennis McCallum, Watchman Nee and the House Church Movement in China, Section V, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://www.xenos.org/essays/neeframe.htm
[9] Lam Wing-Hung, Watchman Nee, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://www.bdcconline.net/en/stories/n/ni-tuosheng.php

[10] Norman H. Cliff. Watchman NeeChurch Planter and Preacher of Holiness, Evangelical Review of Theology 8, no. 2 (October 1984): 290.
[11] McCallum, Section IV.
[12] Sources giving different lists of influences in Nees life and theology include: Lambert, 52; McCallum Section V; Huelen Mountfort, Watchman Nee (19031972): A Biographical Study, IIIM Magazine Online 4, no. 19 (May 1320, 2002), n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://thirdmill.org/watchman-nee-19...aphical-study; J. Gordon Melton, The (Local) Church Movement, The Enclycopedia of American Religions, Fifth Edition (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1996), n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://www.localchurches.org/recogni.../melton1.html; Lam Wing-Hung, n.p.; Watchman Nees Life and Ministry, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://www.watchmannee.org/life-ministry.html
[13] Kinnear, 7677; Lam Wing-Hung, n.p.; Mountfort, n.p.
[14] Melton, n.p.; Lam Wing-Hung, n.p.
[15] McCallum, Section V.; Lam Wing-Hung, n.p.
[16] Kinnear, 87; Mountfort, n.p.; Melton, n.p.
[17] Witness Lee, The Genuine Ground of Oneness (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1979), 141.
[18] McCallum, Section V.
[19] Lambert, 5253. Lam Wing-Hung, n.p.
[20] Lambert, 5253. [21] Kinnear, 142.
[22] While conclusive evidence on the validity of the charges against Nee is extremely hard to substantiate, in the interest of Nees legacy and reputation I think it is appropriate to note here that, in light of the combination of Nees testimony, both in his written and transcribed works, the other documented events of his life, and the testimony of those who knew him personally, together with the known modus operandi and evident motives of the Mao regime, in my opinion, it is highly likely that the charges against Nee were trumped-up and his conviction and sentence were an extreme injustice.
[23] Kinnear, 155. [24] Cliff, 291. [25] Kinnear, 147.
[26] See, for example, Roberts, The Secrets of Watchman Nee, 14950; Lam Wing-Hung, n.p.
[27] Brian Stanley, The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 10809.
[28] Watchman Nee, The Church and the Work, Vol. II: Rethinking the Work (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1982), ix.
[29] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 144. [30] Ibid., 59.
[31] Kinnear, 17576. [32] McCallum, Section IV.
[33] Nee, Rethinking the Work, ix.
[34] Luke Pei-Yuan Lu. Watchman Nees Doctrine of the Church. Audio recording. 1994. Evangelical Theological Society 46th Annual Meeting. Chicago, Ill. Hermeneutics: Issues and Concerns. Nov. 1719, 1994.
[35] Watchman Nee, The Church and the Work, Vol I: Assembly Life (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1982), 50.
[36] Nee, Assembly Life, 17.
[37] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 86.
[38] Ibid., 89. [39] Ibid.
[40] Nee, Assembly Life, 97103; Rethinking the Work, 8992.
[41] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 12933.
[42] Ibid., 95.
[43] Witness Lee, Young Peoples Training (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1976), 19495.
[44] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 21318.
[45] Nee, Assembly Life, 10507.
[46] Watchman Nee, The Church and the Work, Vol. III: Church Affairs (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1982), 103.
[47] Nee, Assembly Life, 36.
[48] Witness Lee, Outline adapted from Young Peoples Training, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://www.local-church-characteristics.org/
[49] Witness Lee, Spirit and the Body (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministries, 1976), 210.
[50] Nee, Assembly Life, online edition, Chapter 5, Section 5, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://www.ministrybooks.org
[51] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 93.
[52] Nee, Assembly Life, 4956.
[53] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 126.
[54] For an explanation of the concept of theological triage, see Albert R. Mohler, Theological Triage, 9Marks eJournal (March-April 2008), n.p. [cited 3 January 2011]. Online: http://www.9marks.org/ejournal/theological-triage
[55] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 134.
[56] Lee, Young Peoples Training, 192; for a more extended treatment of Nees view of baptism and open communion, see Rethinking the Work, 11617; Assembly Life, 112.
[57] Witness Lee, The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way, Vol. 2 (Anaheim: Living Streams Ministry, 1992), 122.
[58] Nee, Assembly Life, 5259; Rethinking the Work, 9699.
[59] Witness Lee, The Conclusion of the New Testament: Messages 189204 (Anaheim: Living Streams Ministry, 1988), 2149.
[60] Lee, Spirit and the Body, 21314.
[61] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 50.
[62] Ibid., 138. [63] Ibid., 13839.
[64] Nee, Assembly Life, 14. See also, Church Affairs, 10912.
[65] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 3542.
[66] Ibid., 60-61. [67] Ibid., 138.
[68] Nee, Assembly Life, 65.
[69] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 124.
[70] Ibid., 211. [71] Ibid., 6667.
[72] Ibid., 67. [73] Ibid., 14546.
[74] Ibid., 74. [75] Ibid., 8283; Assembly Life, 15.
[76] Nee, Church Affairs, 126. [77] Nee, Assembly Life, 99.
[78] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 77.
[79] Nee, Church Affairs online edition, Chapter 10, Section 2, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: www.ministrybooks.org
[80] Lam Wing-Hung, n.p. [81] Kinnear, 13133, 139.
[82] Lambert, 122. [83] Kinnear, 13133.
[84] Watchman Nee v. Witness Lee & BB, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://www.thebereans.net/forum2/sho...d.php?t=48573; another website, www.concernedbrothers.com, contains a plethora of information and commentary questioning the fidelity of the current leadership of much the Local Church movement to the vision of both Nee and Lee.
[85] Nee, Rethinking the Work, 103.
[86] Christian Research Journal; see especially, Miller, 37.
[87] What We Believe, n.p. [cited 2 Sept. 2011]. Online: http://ftta.org/about/what-we-believe/
[88] McCallum, Section III.
[89] McCallum, Section V; Lambert (5255) provides some regional statistics that, though outdated, give somewhat of an idea of the extension of Little Flock-related ministry in the 1980s and 90s.
[90] Luke Pei-Yuan Lu, n.p.
[91] Lambert, 44. [92] Ibid., 55
[93] Cliff, 29697; McCallum, Section V; Roberts, Secrets of Watchman Nee, 37; Luke Pei-Yuan Lu, n.p.; Mountfort, n.p.
[94] The sincerity of Nees approach and desire to submit to Scripture comes across clearly, for example, in his Introduction to Rethinking the Work, 23; McCallum (Section V) observes, however, that Nees run-in with the exclusive brethren in England . . . may have [led him to form] a rather one-sided picture of denominationalism in the west.
[95] McCallum, Section IV.
[96] Luke Pei-Yuan Lu, n.p.; Kinnear (17576), and McCallum (Section V), all generally sympathetic to Nee, have expressed similar concerns.
[97] Mountfort, n.p.
[98] I have written a blog post that suggests 10 Principles for Building on Someone Elses Foundation. Online: http://sbcimpact.org/2011/08/08/buil...es-foundation/
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Old 10-08-2015, 08:13 PM   #2
aron
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

Nee's ecclesiology is not followed by Lee's Local Church movement. Nee said there should be no "hidden strings" extra-locally. Tell that to the Christians on Campus groups, who say, "Oh, we are just Christians from various backgrounds, meeting as the church." Yeah, right - no hidden strings?

Secondly, note all of Nee's influences: Post-Reformation. He didn't get much exposure to the first 3/4 of the Christian church's history. Evidently everything before Martin Luther was corrupt and useless. Probably he had very little access. So therefore it had no value. Eastern Orthodox: what's that? Everything has a Protestant reference and a Protestant worldview.

And third, if Nee's group was so focused on doing things exactly as the Bible, what happened to the "much discussion" among peers in Jerusalem in Acts 15, verse 7? Where was that found in Nee's proposed 'normal church'? Nowhere. Oriental culture trumped the word of scripture, elsewhere supposedly scrupulously followed. "If it occurs in the NT, then it's the rule".... except where it conflicts with cultural norms.
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Old 10-08-2015, 10:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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Nee's Hermeneutics

Nee had a high respect for the authority of Scripture and considered every detail to be important. In Rethinking the Work, he wrote: We must remember the divine economy of words in Scripture, and we must realize that neither the occurrence, nor the record of it, was accidental. There is no room for chance happenings or unimportant records in Gods Word. All that is written there is written for our learning, and even a seemingly casual remark may enfold a precious lesson.[29] Especially with regard to ecclesiology, he believed that Scripture teaches by way of example as much as by precept. Though circumstances may differ, the initial principles communicated largely by way of example in the book of Acts and other historical passages remain valid, and thus it is incumbent on modern-day disciples to search for clues, uncover these principles, and diligently apply them in their own context.[30] If anything, Nee may be accused of being over-meticulous in his desire to faithfully follow the example of Scripture. Kinnear opines: When it came to ecclesiology his chief weakness (but one in which down the ages he has had plenty of company) lay in treating as mandatory the principles he had derived merely from New Testament example.[31]
I believe that Nee's approach to scripture was actually weakness of his, even a big trap. It is dangerous to assume that everything has a hidden meaning, or to think that "casual remarks" should always be viewed as being more than casual. What this type of thinking led to for both Nee and Lee is that they began to view themselves as holding the key to "unlock" the Bible. Subjective interpretation became the norm.

It seems that with Nee's ecclesiology, the goal was to literally practice what he saw in the New Testament, without taking into account context or possible exceptions. For example, why did Nee de-emphasize the house churches so much? When Paul addressed an epistle "To Philemon... and to the church in your house", why was something like that never taken into account by Nee as being an exception to his rule of identifying churches by the city in which they are located? Needless to say, I'm not so sure that Nee cared about identifying the alternatives, he might have just wanted a convenient way to impose church structure, or to develop a movement. He hated the denominations and the church structures of the West. So he occupied himself with trying to find something better. The ground of locality is what he came up with. It's too bad he didn't foresee all the trouble it would cause.
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Old 10-08-2015, 10:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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Nee's ecclesiology is not followed by Lee's Local Church movement. Nee said there should be no "hidden strings" extra-locally. Tell that to the Christians on Campus groups, who say, "Oh, we are just Christians from various backgrounds, meeting as the church." Yeah, right - no hidden strings?
Actually, I think this is something Lee said (which makes it all the more ironic). This is what I found:
Quote:
There may be a Christian group that has no particular name, no particular fellowship, and no particular teaching. Their fellowship is universal, not isolated, and they do not have a separate administration. Although they pass all these tests, do not be quick to say that they are a true local church. It is still possible that this group has a hidden connection with another organization. They are like a kite in the air: someone on the ground is holding the string. How high the kite flies does not depend upon the kite; it depends upon the one holding the string... One group said, “We are exactly the same as you. We have no particular name, particular teaching, or particular fellowship. Our fellowship is universal, and we do not insist upon having a separate administration.” When we heard this, we thought it was wonderful. However, we eventually learned that this group was connected to an organization in England. The kite was flying in China, but the one who held the string was in England.

Witness Lee, Young People's Training, 194-195
Notice the last sentence in the excerpt. Allow me to modify it. The kite was flying in (insert locality), but the one who held the string was in Anaheim. Lee's hypocrisy would be funny if it weren't so sad. The LC is probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to hidden connections. There's LSM, DCP, BFA, Christians on Campus, etc, etc. I guess if Lee spoke against hidden connections, that would mean LCers believe there are none in the LC, even if it is blatantly obvious. Oh well, some people are truly delusional.
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Old 10-09-2015, 06:40 AM   #5
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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Lee's hypocrisy would be funny if it weren't so sad. The LC is probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to hidden connections. There's LSM, DCP, BFA, Christians on Campus, etc, etc. I guess if Lee spoke against hidden connections, that would mean LCers believe there are none in the LC, even if it is blatantly obvious. Oh well, some people are truly delusional.
It get's worse.

Lee convinced us all over time, that with each and every passing "storm," we were never truly "safe" without him. Never did we imagine that all the storms had there epicenter with Lee and his family.

Kind of like that old classic 1970's rock song "Hurricane" by Neil Young, "You are like a hurricane, there's calm in your eyes." Witness Lee constantly persuaded us, that even though the Recovery was a constant storm (of his own making, I should add), if we stay close to him, all will be well!


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Old 10-09-2015, 09:28 AM   #6
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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The LC is probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to hidden connections. There's LSM, DCP, BFA, Christians on Campus... I guess if Lee spoke against hidden connections, that would mean LCers believe there are none in the LC, even if it is blatantly obvious..
To modify the 'hierarchy' response from the FTTT trainer during the "New Way": "If others do it, then it's a hidden connection. But if we do it, then it's not a hidden connection."
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Old 10-09-2015, 09:43 AM   #7
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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Originally Posted by David Rogers

Contextual Factors

Whatever else one might think of Nees conclusions and ecclesiogical methodology, it is hard to deny he was a diligent student of Scripture who strove to the best of his ability to consistently follow through with the implications to which his studies led him. In several aspects, though, Nee in his approach to Christian unity was a product of his time. On the heels of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, anti-imperialist sentiment in China was at its peak. Beaten down by persecution and accusations of selling out to Western political interests, many Christians desired to distance themselves from the denominational model, which they considered to be a Western import. At the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910, Chinese delegate Cheng Jingyi had made an impassioned plea to the missionaries gathered there to allow the Chinese church to pursue its own form of unified organization free from the entanglements of Western denominationalism. Many conservative Christians, however, were not sympathetic to the growing worldwide ecumenical movement due to its emphasis on the social gospel and lack of definition regarding key doctrines such as the authority of Scripture.
I find contextual factors to be key to understanding what happened. "Many [Chinese] Christians desired to distance themselves from the denominational model, which they considered to be a Western import." Also we see Cheng Jingyi's "impassioned plea" to the 1910 Edinburgh Conference for the Chinese church to be free from foreign entanglement.

This reveals the backdrop for the great increase of Watchman Nee's Little Flock movement. It doesn't matter that Nee confused the idea of "meetings", in the NT called 'ekklesia' (e.g. Acts 19:41) and which existed simultaneously in close physical proximity, with the standing singular (supra)local body of believers, usually termed the "church".

And never mind that the idea of "one" may not mean numerical, but sympathetic cooperation. Jesus prayed that we would be one even as He and the Father are one. Yet we are many, even as we are one. So you can have one church, and many meetings. You can have one Holy Spirit and many spirits, who though many are one. Nee's church model requires a bit of word dancing (and word ignoring) to stand up, but it was enough for the Chinese Christians to see the clear, red "exit" sign from foreign control, and they poured into his church movement. Contrary to the LSM assertion, China wasn't "virgin soil" at all, but was boiling with resentment, frustration, and indignation, and this social substrate was sufficiently widespread and well-formed to transfer them by the tens of thousands into Nee's hands.
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Old 10-09-2015, 11:12 AM   #8
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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I find contextual factors to be key to understanding what happened. "Many [Chinese] Christians desired to distance themselves from the denominational model, which they considered to be a Western import." Also we see Cheng Jingyi's "impassioned plea" to the 1910 Edinburgh Conference for the Chinese church to be free from foreign entanglement.
I agree 100% that understanding the contextual factors helps to make sense of it all. Nee created a model that remained successful in China as communism took over. It worked in China, but anyone who is honest with themselves will admit that it didn't work so well elsewhere. LSM has claimed that some large number of believers in China have been influenced by Nee. I won't argue that. But when you look elsewhere around the world, the same cannot be said of Nee. Why is that? It seems to me that context has everything to do with it. The conclusion that we can arrive at is that the local church model cannot work in a cookie-cutter fashion, deprived of the context under which it was envisioned. This is what I think a lot of members are ignorant of. They feel Nee/Lee presented them with a viable model for the "normal Christian church life", yet there is no honest assessment of the current state of the movement, especially the failures along the way. Had the door been open for assessment and revision, I don't think the LCM would exist today as we know it.

Besides an ignorance of the contextual factors, I think what has really plagued the LCM is idealism. The article makes mention of this as a point of criticism of Nee (which I believe applies to Lee as well). Consider the following statement: "According to Dennis McCallum, Nee was not only idealistic, he was hyper-idealistic. The word compromise was not in his vocabulary." Idealism can be blinding, and I speak that from my own experience. I was once immersed in LC ideals, so much so, that I was completely oblivious to what the LC really was or how outsiders viewed us. Take someone like Nee who had a good grasp on scriptures, who was an avid reader, who probably knew a bit too much for his own good, and then let him begin teaching others at a young age. That was just begging for idealism to creep in. Nee's whole ministry was centered on ideals. He "saw" the inner-life teachings from the writings of others, and presumed that everyone else was solely focused on outward things. He "saw" the problems associated with denominations, and he presumed that he could create a better model. I don't necessarily fault him for wanting something better than what he saw, rather, I think people were too quick to follow him, to provide unquestioned support of his ideals.

Ideals are born when there is something supposedly inferior to which there can be a contrast. If something is perceived to be a big enough problem, then it's hard to have compromise. I think that's what happened with Nee. He began viewing things as bigger problems than they really were, so everything became a black and white issue. Everything not of Nee (and later Lee) became viewed as inferior when contrasted to the LC ideals, and that type of thinking has blinded the movement. It is good to have ideals, however, when everything becomes a black and white issue, trouble is ahead.
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Old 10-09-2015, 03:31 PM   #9
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

Roger's "little" dissertation made my longer posts seem like limericks. As such, it was difficult to even consider doing more than a quick scan during the final week before a serious tax deadline.

But I got the idea that Rogers did not really understand Nee's position on the "practical" aspect of the church. He made it seem that Nee considered the church in terms of assemblies to be different from what Paul wrote when he said the church in (wherever). But that is not the case. Nee and Lee both consider that to be the declaration of the singularity of an assembly, and that any subdivision is strictly as a partial subdivision of the "practical" church that is equal to the city. (I may have missed where he morphed the statement I first read into something more like we understand.)

As to how Nee's model did or did not work in China, I wonder if the thing that made it work had nothing to do with ecclesiology outside of the fact that they were not answering to a non-Chinese HQ. Ultimately they all answered to Nee since he was, by default, the only one who had no one who was more spiritual than him. The claim of many cities in China with their separate assemblies was made a lie by the ability of one man to rule them all.
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Old 10-09-2015, 03:45 PM   #10
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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Roger's "little" dissertation made my longer posts seem like limericks...
I cheated: I'm never going to be another Nigel Tomes, so I did a cut-and-paste job of someone else's research.

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As to how Nee's model did or did not work in China, I wonder if the thing that made it work had nothing to do with ecclesiology outside of the fact that they were not answering to a non-Chinese HQ. Ultimately they all answered to Nee since he was, by default, the only one who had no one who was more spiritual than him. The claim of many cities in China with their separate assemblies was made a lie by the ability of one man to rule them all.
Rogers lists the six qualifications for a church to be a local church then says this:
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Originally Posted by David Rogers
Understood from the perspective of these six characteristics, it is easy to understand why the ecclesiology of Nee and Lee has been called impractical by some and sectarian by others. It is hard to imagine a group of Christians anywhere in the world that meets all six of these qualifications outside the specific circle of influence of Nee and Lee...
I think his second sentence, here, says it all. And "influence" means control.
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Old 10-09-2015, 04:50 PM   #11
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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As to how Nee's model did or did not work in China, I wonder if the thing that made it work had nothing to do with ecclesiology outside of the fact that they were not answering to a non-Chinese HQ. Ultimately they all answered to Nee since he was, by default, the only one who had no one who was more spiritual than him. The claim of many cities in China with their separate assemblies was made a lie by the ability of one man to rule them all.
I think there is a good amount of truth to this. Rogers makes mention of Chinese Christians wanting to distance themselves from Western influences. With all the Western missionaries, I'm sure there was the inevitable element of culture clash. I even wonder if there was a general suspicion of missionaries. Rogers pointed out that M.E. Barber was an independent missionary. I had never considered this before. This could very well have been why Nee placed so much trust in her. If anyone was suspicious of outside influences, it was Nee. Here was a woman who had the appearance of being deeply spiritual, with no "outside connections". Nee was already sold on what she had to offer.

From a young age, Nee gained respect as a teacher. He had a considerable following. What kind of environment would have allowed there be a podium waiting for him to step up to? It might not have been so much a void of other teachers, but rather people wanted a strong leader. Nee was that leader. For all that he was concerned about renouncing names, denominational ties, etc, he was still very much concerned with a centralized work and apostolic authority among the churches. He renounced denominational structure, but he had no problem appointing and assigning workers to different territories. It might be a reasonable conclusion that Nee wasn't concerned with churches having no "ties" at all, he just wanted everything to be homegrown. Granted, he was able to sell his package in a way that led to a general impression of autonomous assemblies, but Lee still was able to take his teachings on authority and run in the direction of having a ministry center and authoritative leaders.
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Old 10-09-2015, 07:46 PM   #12
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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Originally Posted by David Rogers
Introduced by Barber to the writings of John Nelson Darby and other Brethren leaders, Nee read widely and began to digest the ideas to which he was exposed and synthesize them with his own understanding of Scripture, as informed by his diligent personal study. The spiritual and theological influences in his life are many, including John Bunyan, Hudson Taylor, George Mller, George Cutting, J. G. Bellett, William Kelly, Charles G. Trumbull, A. B. Simpson, Madame Guyon, Brother Lawrence, T. Austin-Sparks, Jessie Penn-Lewis, Mary C. McDonough, D. M. Panton, Andrew Murray, and F. B. Meyer. He also studied the lives of significant Christian leaders, such as Martin Luther, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitefield, David Brainerd, John Henry Newman, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Finney, and Charles H. Spurgeon. His ecclesiology, though, was especially influenced by the Brethren, most notably Darby and C. A. Coates.
If you look at Nee's influences, they are all post-Reformation Protestant teachers (or Protestant spin-offs like the Brethren). The only exception I see is Guyon the French (Catholic) mystic. So what of the first 1,500 years of church history? Nothing noteworthy? Was the new move of God on earth founded upon so little?

You know, God can speak through anyone. God used unlettered Galilean fishermen. So I don't begrudge Nee, at all. He did well. But the LSM prattle of "Nee read all the Christian classics" rings pretty hollow, for me. The idea that he read everything worth reading, took the good from each and discarded the dross is simple myth-making. If you want to believe a story like that, you deserve what you get. Sorry to be so blunt. (and yes, I was there too. Mea culpa).
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Old 10-11-2015, 01:35 PM   #13
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If you look at Nee's influences, they are all post-Reformation Protestant teachers (or Protestant spin-offs like the Brethren). The only exception I see is Guyon the French (Catholic) mystic. So what of the first 1,500 years of church history? Nothing noteworthy? Was the new move of God on earth founded upon so little?

You know, God can speak through anyone. God used unlettered Galilean fishermen. So I don't begrudge Nee, at all. He did well. But the LSM prattle of "Nee read all the Christian classics" rings pretty hollow, for me. The idea that he read everything worth reading, took the good from each and discarded the dross is simple myth-making. If you want to believe a story like that, you deserve what you get. Sorry to be so blunt. (and yes, I was there too. Mea culpa).
If the accounts are true, Nee's ability to read and retain information was no less than impressive. That being said, I think people were too quick to place their trust in Nee's supposed ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. Like anyone else, Nee was influenced by certain writings more than others. In no way would he have been able sift through all the writings that hold value. There is just too much for any one person to have the ability to do that. What was seen instead within the LC was a hyper-focus on a small set of writings, deemed to be the most "valuable".

Who knows what the LC is missing out on. They are stuck with whoever Nee and Lee were influenced by. Nothing new can be appreciated. Lee himself said that there have been no "weighty" spiritual books published since the 40's (presumably he was excluding his own books from that statement).
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Old 10-14-2015, 02:15 PM   #14
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Default Re: Article: Nee's ecclesiology

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Who knows what the LC is missing out on. They are stuck with whoever Nee and Lee were influenced by. Nothing new can be appreciated. Lee himself said that there have been no "weighty" spiritual books published since the 40's (presumably he was excluding his own books from that statement).
Of all the things Lee said, that is "top ten" list-worthy of most delusional. I've read books & articles by scholars who study texts in the original languages, and who have studied writings by other scholars who'd likewise studied these texts in original form, along with the early commentaries from the first centuries to the present, and who then present all this study to the reading public. Maybe one has to slog through obscure footnotes and references, and ignore quotations in original Hebrew or Greek, and have the stomach to tough it out. But if so, there's a gold mine waiting. Of course some is obscure, some is flat-out wrong, some is rabbit-trails. Of course. It always is. But a curious mind will be quite compensated, I assure you. Only one who doesn't look will come away empty. Everyone else, who seeks will indeed find.

Scholarship since the 1940s to today is like comparing biplanes to 747s. They both fly, they both will get you from New York to Paris, but there's a big difference. They're both valid, even arguably adequate in some circumstances, but to pretend that flight hasn't advanced since 1949 is a fantasy world statement. Likewise with scholarship - somebody showed Lee his own press clippings - "minister of the age" - and he believed it.

In the LC you essentially get nothing outside of Protestant and Post-Protestant (i.e. Brethren) thought, circa 1525 - 1925. See, for example, Andrew Murray (1828-1917). Maybe a couple Catholic mystics. That's it - other than that, they suppose everything is either darkness or irrelevant. It's like, once Watchman Nee started getting "light", everyone else lost the capacity to think.
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Old 10-14-2015, 04:06 PM   #15
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Of all the things Lee said, that is "top ten" list-worthy of most delusional. I've read books & articles by scholars who study texts in the original languages, and who have studied writings by other scholars who'd likewise studied these texts in original form, along with the early commentaries from the first centuries to the present, and who then present all this study to the reading public. Maybe one has to slog through obscure footnotes and references, and ignore quotations in original Hebrew or Greek, and have the stomach to tough it out. But if so, there's a gold mine waiting. Of course some is obscure, some is flat-out wrong, some is rabbit-trails. Of course. It always is. But a curious mind will be quite compensated, I assure you. Only one who doesn't look will come away empty. Everyone else, who seeks will indeed find.
Delusional is right, and as a matter of fact, it was one of Lee's gross generalizations that became an absolute truth to LCers. It's sad, because it closes the door to the so much, and if a member questions as to why only Lee is read, there's no valid reason given, only that WL said his own ministry is where the "riches" are found.

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Scholarship since the 1940s to today is like comparing biplanes to 747s. They both fly, they both will get you from New York to Paris, but there's a big difference. They're both valid, even arguably adequate in some circumstances, but to pretend that flight hasn't advanced since 1949 is a fantasy world statement. Likewise with scholarship - somebody showed Lee his own press clippings - "minister of the age" - and he believed it.

In the LC you essentially get nothing outside of Protestant and Post-Protestant (i.e. Brethren) thought, circa 1525 - 1925. See, for example, Andrew Murray (1828-1917). Maybe a couple Catholic mystics. That's it - other than that, they suppose everything is either darkness or irrelevant. It's like, once Watchman Nee started getting "light", everyone else lost the capacity to think.
The scholarship that they got stuck in now resembles a time capsule of centuries bygone. That's not to say there is no benefit to be found in such scholarship, but it is less relevant today than ever before. People have long since moved on, and now it's time for the LC to move on. I will never be able to understand how an "all-inclusive" ministry can remain so static.
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