THE SPECIAL CONFERENCE IN NOVEMBER
How did this conference originate? In 1926 I wrote to a bookstore in England for a few books, and I told them that I desired to have their books. One older gentleman wrote back and asked me why I wanted to buy the books. I had to tell him that I bought the books because I had left the denominations. He told an old friend of his about this. Two years ago, a brother among them came to Hong Kong, and these brothers asked him to come and see me in Shanghai. When he returned, he told the others a little about us. They too had left the denominations and were meeting under the Lord’s name. When they heard that some in China had also left the denominations and were meeting under the Lord’s name, they were greatly surprised. Furthermore, in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, and it is the teaching of the Scriptures that we should visit the brothers. Because of these reasons, they made the decision to send four brothers from England, America, and Australia into our midst to fellowship with us.
After they made the decision to come, we wrote to the brothers who had been fellowshipping with us in the past. One portion of the letter said, "Since they are led of the Lord to come, we should receive them in the Lord. But we ask the brothers to remember that there can never be any name that denominates us from other believers. We belong only to the Body of Christ and do not want to join any organization. Therefore, we welcome these brothers as they come, and we receive them. But this does not mean that we have joined their organization, nor does it mean that they have joined our organization. If a man is in Christ, he is `in’ already, and there is no more need to be added in. If a man is not in Christ, even if he joins anything, he will not be `in.’"
When they arrived in Shanghai (eight persons in all), before and after receiving them at the Lord’s Day bread-breaking meeting, we told them, as well as everyone else, the following words and announcement:
(1) We do not have a Chinese national fellowship based on a national boundary, like the Church of Christ in China. (2) We receive these brothers as brothers; we are not receiving what they represent. This means that we receive only these believers themselves, but not the organization behind them (the so-called Brethren). (3) This mutual fellowship is not a so-called combination of the Chinese fellowship with the Western "Brethren" fellowship. We do not belong to any sect and hope to remain so all the time. We fellowship one with another as brothers with brothers, and not as certain groups of Brethren with us. (4) We will forever maintain: (a) no other special name apart from the common name of being Christians and never take the common name of Christian for our own use; (b) no other fellowship other than the common fellowship among all believers and never have another fellowship within the common fellowship of all believers. (in other words, "no party within the party and no affiliation beyond the party"); and (c) no special creed apart from the Bible; we maintain an open Bible.
The above is an explanation of the origin and history of the conference at that time. In this way we can see that we do not belong to anyone, nor does anyone belong to us.
A FINAL WORD
Finally, I hope that the Western missionaries in China would pay attention to preaching the gospel and leading men to the Lord. They should not set up their denominations, nor should they divide God’s children into sects. Moreover, I hope that the Chinese believers would return to the Bible and not teach others the traditions of the elders.
(An announcement made at the Lord’s Day meeting on December 4, 1932)
Additional Note by Watchman Nee
prior to the Printing of This Article
The truth concerning church organization is not the most important truth of the Bible. The most important truth is Christ and His victory. Our emphasis is not the truth of the church, but Christ. However, among those who have the understanding, we also speak about the church because though this is not the main truth, it is nevertheless a truth of the Bible. Personally, I hope that our co-workers in all the places would pay more attention to lead others to know Christ and His victory. Except to those who are willing to obey, there is no need to mention that much about church organization. May the Lord lead us to understand "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 18: Notes on Scriptural Messages (2), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)