WATCHMAN NEE’S MINISTRY—
CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
Out of Watchman Nee’s revelations inwrought by his sufferings, a ministry came forth. His ministry was clearly of two aspects: first, of Christ and, second, of the church. His ministry was full, proper, and adequately balanced. I have never known anyone so thoroughly and adequately balanced in the aspects of Christ and the church as Watchman Nee. He saw a clear vision of Christ, and he also received a full revelation of the church. In his spoken ministry and in his publications as well, he was always properly balanced in these two aspects. Many in the United States are aware that he put out book after book concerning Christ as life and Christ as everything. But many may not realize that he also published book after book on the matter of the church.
Concerning the church he covered two main points in his ministry: the content of the church and the practice of the church, or in other words, the reality of the church and the practicality of the church. The content and the reality of the church are Christ Himself. Watchman saw the vision that Christ is not merely for the believers individually but even more for the church corporately. His vision was unlike those who are today considered to be spiritual people; they hold that Christ is mostly for Christians as individuals while caring little for the church. They even fear to speak about the church, for they realize that whenever the matter of the church is raised, a problem is created, and they would rather steer clear of all problems. Watchman Nee’s vision of Christ was that Christ is for individual believers to enjoy in order to be built up in the church. Eventually, the Christ whom we experience becomes the reality and the content of the church. Watchman also saw that this reality of the church is also practical and that we need the practicality of the church. Hence, he ministered both the reality and the practicality of the church. The reality of the church is the content, and the practicality of the church is its expression.
Christ is not just for individual Christians but for the corporate Body. And the Christ we enjoy as Christians individually is entirely for the building up of the corporate Body. For this reason Christ is both the content of the church and the reality of the church. The church’s reality is simply Christ realized by many individual Christians in a corporate way. To match this reality, we need the church practice. If we stay at home and hold Christ as the reality, there will be no church. Even though we might hold the reality individually, we would be short of the practicality. Christians need to come together and to be built together; each one needs to come out of his little cell and into one big cell, under one roof, to practice the church life. Then we not only have the reality, but also the practicality of the church. These were the two main points of Watchman Nee’s ministry.
Watchman’s ministry regarding Christ as our life was fully accepted; but his ministry regarding the church was frequently rejected. Today it is the same. Many have received help from his ministry regarding Christ as life, but those same people would not take his ministry regarding the church. Many bookstores carry his books on Christ as life, but purposely will not carry his books on the church. Some publishers publish his books on Christ as life with great appreciation for his ministry in this aspect, yet they condemn his ministry on the church. Publishers and booksellers have even done their best to hide his ministry on the church. We fully agree that his books concerning Christ should be published, for they are marvelous. But it is altogether unfair and dishonest to hide his books on the church.
A rumor was even spread after World War II that Watchman Nee changed his concept concerning the practicality of the church life and the ground of the church. This is absolutely not true. His book Further Talks on the Church Life documents and shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that after 1948, rather than changing his concept concerning the church, he ministered even more strongly than before concerning his original vision. In one of these messages, given shortly before his imprisonment, he said that what he saw in 1937 concerning the church was absolutely right. He rather confirmed what he had seen before; he did not change at all. He was faithful to the Lord’s vision and commission concerning Christ and the church. During his whole life, his ministry was for Christ and the church—not for Christ only, but for Christ and the church.
(Watchman Nee—A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, Chapter 22, by Witness Lee)