An Introduction to Watchman Nee and Witness Lee
Watchman Nee’s Ministry and History
Watchman Nee’s Early Ministry in China
Watchman Nee’s ministry of spiritual nourishment and his unique ability to expound the Scripture along with his firm testimony in the face of persecution have been widely recognized by Christians as significant contributions to Christian faith and practice in the twentieth century. His writings are appreciated by Christians around the world and have been translated into at least fifty languages. His book The Normal Christian Life has been widely hailed as a Christian classic.
He has been quoted and praised by Christian leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Corrie ten Boom, and Warren Wiersbe. He has been included along with such influential Christians as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and Hudson Taylor in collections such as Barbour Publishing’s Heroes of the Faith series, David Lindstedt’s Faith’s Great Heroes, Geoffrey Hanks’ Seventy Great Christians, and Who’s Who in Christian History, edited by J.D. Douglas and W.C. Phillip. In 2009, Watchman Nee’s contribution to the church in China and his influence on Christians in the West was recognized in a statement submitted by Congressman Chris Smith for inclusion in the Congressional Record.
Spread of Impact and Martyrdom
The more than six hundred local churches raised up in China through the ministry of Watchman Nee before the Communist revolution have had an undisputed impact on the formation of the Christian church in China. That impact is also acknowledged in much of Southeast Asia. Watchman Nee’s work has been studied and emulated as a pattern of Christian work by Christians of many countries and of various doctrinal persuasions. His martyrdom in prison in 1972 for refusing to deny his faith was the Lord’s seal upon his life and work. When Watchman Nee’s niece went to collect what few possessions he had in prison, a guard gave her a scrap of paper on which was written: “Christ is the Son of God Who died for the redemption of sinners and was resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee.”See Living Stream Ministry’s “Watchman Nee” website for more information.
Following in Watchman Nee’s Footsteps
Witness Lee was Watchman Nee’s closest co-worker in China. In 1934 Watchman Nee made Witness Lee the overseer of his publishing office, the Shanghai Gospel Bookroom. In 1949, Witness Lee was sent to Taiwan by Watchman Nee and his other co-workers to carry their vision and practice to the world outside of China. Watchman Nee also instructed Witness Lee to continue the publishing work.
Witness Lee faithfully fulfilled this commission for almost fifty years. Through Witness Lee’s labor, the church in Taiwan grew from 350 to 20,000 in a mere five years and local churches were raised up throughout Southeast Asia. Sensing the Lord’s leading, Witness Lee immigrated to the United States in 1962. From there the work he entered into in China with Watchman Nee spread throughout the earth. To date their ministry has produced well over three thousand local churches on all six inhabited continents. This number does not include at least one thousand churches with an estimated one million members in China.
Witness Lee was a prolific speaker and writer. From 1974 through 1994 Witness Lee gave a series of messages which he called the Life-study of the Bible. In these messages he expounded every book in the Bible from the perspective of the believers’ experience of Christ as life.
The ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee stressed the Christian’s experience of Christ as life for the building up of the Body of Christ. They also sought to produce believers who were living and functioning members of the Body of Christ and churches that were established according to the New Testament principle of one city, one church (Acts 8:1; 13:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rev. 1:11).See Living Stream Ministry’s “Witness Lee” website for more information.
A Rich Legacy in Print
In 1965 Witness Lee established The Stream Publishers which was subsequently subsumed into Living Stream Ministry (LSM). Under his oversight, LSM published The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, the Life-study of the Bible, the New Testament Recovery Version, and several hundred books compiled from Witness Lee’s spoken messages. LSM also publishes the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee in several foreign languages. Chinese language publications are carried out by the Taiwan Gospel Book Room. Through their combined publication work the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee continues to serve the Lord’s people by opening the scriptural revelation of the subjective experience of Christ as life for the building up of the church as the Body of Christ.