The History of the Church and the Local Churches, by Witness Lee


One hundred years after the beginning of the Brethren movement, the Lord started something new in mainland China. In the eighteenth century, the Moravian brethren were on the continent of Europe. In the nineteenth century, the Brethren were used by the Lord in England. A century later, the Lord moved in the Far East. I entered into the work with Brother Watchman Nee in Shanghai in 1933. I went to Brother Nee at least three or four times a week. He shared much with me concerning the history of the church. He told me that the Lord went to China to start something new. He said that the Lord was forced to come to China at the beginning of the twentieth century because in both Europe and America the field, soil, had been fully spoiled as far as the proper church life was concerned. Brother Nee spoke with me mostly in Chinese, but sometimes we used English terms. When he was speaking with me about the Lord’s move in China, he used the English term virgin soil. I can never forget this term. He said that for the church life China was virgin soil at that time. Of course, this was the Lord’s doing. One could never imagine that in such a heathen country full of the teachings of Confucius and the religion of Buddhism, the Lord would raise up something.

The first meeting in the Lord’s recovery in China was in 1922 with Brother Nee in his hometown of Foochow. I am full of thanks to the Lord that in the first part of this century He gave Brother Nee as a gift to the Body. I was born in Christianity and raised up there. I even received my education in Christianity. In my seeking of the Lord, I passed through organized Christianity, fundamental Christianity, Brethren Christianity, and even Pentecostal Christianity. I also entered into the teachings of the inner-life Christians. In my entire life, I have never met a Christian who can compare with Brother Nee. I received the greatest and the highest help from him. He picked up good and helpful things from nearly every denomination, from every kind of Christian practice, and from all the seeking saints throughout the history of the church, and he passed them on to us. The first time I stayed with him I realized that he was standing on the shoulders of many who had gone before him.

Even before 1930 he had collected more than three thousand classical Christian books which contained Christian writings from the first century on. When he was between twenty and twenty-five years of age, his bedroom was full of books. There was only a narrow space for him to lie down between the rows of books. Sometimes we would say that Brother Nee was buried with books. I mainly came to know the history of the church, not from reading about it, but from Brother Nee’s speaking with me. He related to me all the important things of church history. When he read something, there was no need for him to go back and review it. He could just relate to you what he read in a thorough and accurate way. He was a person who knew the Bible, who knew life, who knew the Lord, who knew the church, and who knew the history of the church. We received the greatest help from him, not in a narrow, sectarian way, but in an all-inclusive way.

When people came into our midst in the early days of the church life in China, they would wonder whether we were a Baptist church, a Presbyterian church, a Pentecostal church, or a Brethren church. This was because all the good aspects of the truth in these groups were among us. We baptized people as the Baptists did. We had the church government as the Presbyterians did. We experienced the outpouring of the Spirit, which the Pentecostals stressed. We also had the truths that the Brethren had released. We collected many good things that the Lord had recovered through all the saints, and we put them together in our church life.

(The History of the Church and the Local Churches, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)