China Yesterday

A contemporary of John Sung was Watchman Nee who on June 1, 1972 went on to receive his victor’s crown. Watchman Nee is probably the best known Chinese Christian leader owing to his transcribed messages which are still widely circulated in the West. It was in 1926 that Watchman Nee organized an indigenous Chinese Church popularly known as "The Little Flock." Largely Brethren in concept, this vigorous evangelical church grew to something over 700 churches with more than 70,000 members in just over 20 years.

Shortly after the Communist takeover, Watchman Nee was arrested and imprisoned. He spent the remainder of his life in prisons, work camps and under house arrest. In July of 1972, Communist officials were still telling inquirers that Watchman Nee was being "educated." One can only imagine, at this point, what this godly man endured during over 17 years of political thought reform.

Watchman Nee was often controversial. Early in 1938 his most famous book in the Chinese language was published. "Rethinking Missions" was first given as a series of messages to his co-workers, then edited by Watchman Nee himself. This book hit the Chinese churches and the missionary-oriented denominations like a bombshell. A storm of criticism broke over Watchman’s head as churches closed their doors, Christians left their denominations and united with the Little Flock.

"Rethinking Missions" had as its foundation three basic postulates. First: Denominations are not scriptural and have become corrupt. Second: The local church is sovereign and cannot be governed by any outside body. Third: The churches in China are not following the Bible example and must return to the Apostolic pattern.

This bold interpretation stunned the churches of China. Watchman Nee insisted that every local church must be self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. His emphasis of dependence on God drove the Christians to their knees. Soon a general spiritual awakening became evident. Eventually, "Rethinking Missions" became the most influential book of the Chinese church.

Yes, Watchman Nee was one of God’s bold ones, daring to teach what he believed, even though it ran counter to the grain of the established church. Now we know that Watchman Nee was used by God to prepare China’s church for the very dark days that lay immediately ahead.

Kauffman, Paul E. China Yesterday. Hong Kong: Asian Outreach, 1975: 100-101.