Since Nee's parents were both Methodists, he was baptized by a bishop of the Methodist Church as an infant. He then went on to the middle school at Trinity College in Fuzhou , where he demonstrated great intelligence and ambition.
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The two boys completed college despite severe flooding which brought cholera and plague and hardship to their region. In the final examinations, the 2 boys scored almost the same marks with Wilson Wang topping the class, followed closely by Watchman Nee in second place. In the spring of , when Nee was 17, Dora Yu was invited to hold ten days of revival meetings  in the Church of Heavenly Peace in Fuzhou. Her action impressed Nee so much that he determined to attend the next day's evangelistic meetings to see what was taking place there. After returning from the meeting, according to Nee's own account:.
On the evening of 28th April, , I was alone in my room, struggling to decide whether or not to believe in the Lord. At first I was reluctant but as I tried to pray I saw the magnitude of my sins and the reality and efficacy of Jesus as the Savior. As I visualized the Lord's hands stretched out on the cross, they seemed to be welcoming me, and the Lord was saying, "I am waiting here to receive you. Previously I had laughed at people who had accepted Jesus, but that evening the experience became real for me and I wept and confessed my sins, seeking the Lord's forgiveness. As I made my first prayer I knew joy and peace such as I had never known before.
Light seemed to flood the room and I said to the Lord, "Oh, Lord, you have indeed been gracious to me.
As a student at Trinity College, Nee began to speak to his classmates concerning his salvation experience. Later, he recounted:. Immediately I started putting right the matters that were hindering my effectiveness, and also made a list of seventy friends to pray for daily.
Some days I would pray for them every hour, even in class. When the opportunity came I would try to persuade them to believe in the Lord Jesus With the Lord's grace I continued to pray daily, and after several months all but one of the seventy persons were saved. After his conversion, Nee desired to be trained as a Christian worker. However, he was dismissed due to his bad and lazy habits, such as sleeping in late. Eventually, Nee's seeking to improve his character brought him into close contact with a British missionary Margaret E.
Barber who became his teacher and mentor. Barber treated Nee as a young learner and frequently administered strict discipline. When she died in , Barber left all of her belongings to Nee, who wrote:. She was one who was very deep in the Lord, and in my opinion, the kind of fellowship she had with the Lord and the kind of faithfulness she expressed to the Lord are rarely found on this earth. Through Barber, Watchman Nee was introduced to the writings of D. Panton , Robert Govett , G. Pember , Jessie Penn-Lewis , T.
Austin-Sparks , and others. In the early days of his ministry, he is said to have spent one-third of his income on personal needs, one-third to assist others, and the remaining third on spiritual books. He was known for his ability to select, comprehend, discern, and memorize relevant material, and grasp and retain the main points of a book while reading.
Nee derived many of his ideas, including plural eldership , disavowal of a clergy-laity distinction, and worship centered around the Lord's Supper , from the Plymouth Brethren. From to , his movement was associated internationally with the Raven-Taylor group of Exclusive Brethren which in was renamed the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church , which "recognized" the Local Church movement as a parallel work of God, albeit one that had developed independently.
Nee refused, however, to follow their practice of isolating themselves from other denominations, and rejected their ban on celebrating The Lord's Supper with other Christians. He also expressed concern about increasing authoritarianism in the Exclusive Brethren, and what he saw as the creeping concentration of power in the hands of James Taylor, Sr. Matters came to a head when it became known that Nee had worshipped with non-Brethren Christians like T. Austin Sparks during a visit to the United Kingdom , and with non-Brethren missionaries during a United States visit in Nee received a letter dated 31 August , signed by leading Brethren, excommunicating him and his movement.
As a teenager, Nee fell in love with Charity Chang. Their two families had been friends for three generations. This bothered him. Eventually, after much struggling, Nee felt he needed to give up on their relationship. Ten years later, after finishing her university education, Charity became a Christian. She began attending church meetings in Shanghai in Charity cared for Nee in his frequent illness and was the only visitor Nee was permitted during his imprisonment. They had no children. From the time I was bedridden by illness until the time I was healed by God, I was being shown more clearly the kind of work God wanted me.
In the future my personal burden and work will generally comprise these four aspects. May all the glory be to the Lord. Nee began to write and publish at a very early age. In , he began to publish the magazine The Present Testimony , and in , he started another magazine entitled The Christian.
At age 21, Nee established the first "local church" in Sitiawan, Malaysia while visiting his mother, who had moved there from China.
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In , Nee established up another local church in Shanghai, which became the center of his work in China. By , Nee's practice of meeting as local churches spread throughout China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. He maintained this pattern until his imprisonment. In , Nee published a three-volume book entitled The Spiritual Man. According to Nee, this was a turning point for him in his ministry.
He said, "My Christian life took a big turn from doctrines and knowledge to a living person, Christ, who is God's centrality and universality. In February , Nee gave a series of talks in which he defined and expounded the practice of the local churches, stating that in the Bible, the church is never divided into regions and never denominated based on a teaching or doctrine. These talks were eventually published in the book The Assembly Life.
According to Nee, this was the second turn in his ministry.
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Nee recounted, "My first turn was to know Christ, and my second turn was to know His Body. To know Christ is only half of what the believers need. The believers also must know the Body of Christ. Christ is the head, and He is also the Body. In , Nee became involved with his second brother's failing pharmaceutical company.
Although acquiescing to family pressure, Nee also saw this as an opportunity to support his many co-workers who were suffering great poverty and hardship during the Second World War. Nee took over full management of the factory, reorganized it, and began to employ many local church members from Shanghai. At this time, some of the elders from the church in Shanghai questioned Nee's involvement in business, causing Nee to suspend his ministry in Shortly afterward, the church in Shanghai stopped meeting altogether.
In March 6, , Nee moved to Chongqing to oversee the factory there. There, he delivered a series of messages on Revelation 2 and 3 published as The Orthodoxy of the Church as well as messages on the Song of Songs. Nee purchased twelve bungalows at Kuliang to hold trainings for his co-workers in the Christian work. By April , a revival was brought to the church in Shanghai, and Nee resumed his ministry there. When he returned, Nee handed his pharmaceutical factory over to the Christian work as an offering to God, influencing many others to hand over their possessions to the work.
Within a short time, the church in Shanghai grew to over members. After the rise of the Chinese Communist Party in , Christians came under great persecution. Through intensive propaganda campaigns and threats of imprisonment, believers were influenced to accuse one another. On April 10, , Watchman Nee was arrested in Shanghai by Public Security officers from Manzhouli , Manchuria and charged with bribery, theft of state property, tax evasion, cheating on government contracts, and stealing of government economic information.
Nee was also "re-educated".
On January 11, , there was a nationwide sweep targeting the co-workers and elders in the local churches. Some died in labor camps , while others faced long prison sentences. On January 18, , the Religious Affairs Bureau began twelve days of accusation meetings at the church assembly hall on Nanyang Road in Shanghai, in which many accusations were brought against Nee in large accusation meetings.
He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment with reform by labor.
I. Summary of the Article by Nigel Tomes:
Initially, he was detained at Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai but was later moved to other locations. We are forever united and joined to Christ, and His history is our history! In a parable about the kingdom of God, Jesus likened Himself to a man who found a treasure in a field Matthew And because of His immense joy, He sold all that He had so that He could purchase that field. The treasure in the field stands for those in the world who believe in His name.
For them, He was willing to give up all that He had His life , and for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross Hebrews There is no true Christian alive who has not been given the Holy Spirit. Think of it — when we were sinners and enemies of God, He fully justified us from every charge because of our faith in His precious Son, Jesus.
Related The Gospel of God (2) (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee Book 29)
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