Monday, 9 March 2015

My Gleanings from Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Church Life (Intro)



I first set my eyes on this book, I think, in 2005, when my friend and brother, Olasunkanmi Okeniyi (we used to call him Sukisuka, those school days) brought it to my Adamasingba office. I asked him to lend me but that somehow didn’t happen until I stumbled upon it in Goodnews (CAET) bookshop in December 2007. I immediately bought it and on reading just the introduction, I realised I had caught a real treasure.

Though I have always had a profound respect for Watchman Nee, I never knew that he was actually a leading light in the “house church movement” (for want of better expression really. I think “a return to the divine pattern of the nature of God’s work” will describe it better), an early pioneer of what the Lord taught us in the 1999-2003 period and what some of us still stand for in spite of  its unpopularity.

So it was with much relish that I ravished the book because he was speaking 100% my language. Until then, I have never read anybody who spoke so pristinely about the convictions of my heart – except “Baba” Gene Edwards. In fact, as I read Nee, I saw so much similarity between his thought and that of Gene that I began to wonder if one copied the other. It was much later, reading Gene’s profile somewhere, that I realised that he had been influenced much by Watchman Nee and that at one time, he even travelled to China for a period to learn under Nee. Only recently, I got to know that Nee himself was a student of T. Austin Sparks and much of his understandings about the deeper Christian life and the divine pattern of the church were chiefly influenced by Austin Sparks, and some other notable names like Jeanne Guyone (Nee’s biography is now in public domain).

I confess that, for the peculiar nature of my work, I have not been as studious as I ought to, so even though I have started reading the book since 2007, and have recommended it to lots of people (one of such people bought 5 copies and gave them out to some of our elders in the Ibadan House Fellowship) and have bought it for a friend, and have lent out my copy to several others, I myself have not gone more than half way through the book. But I am determined to finish it with this summarisation that I am undertaking of it.

One thing with me, if I am going to read a book, is to read from cover to cover. So I noted that the book was written in 1939, undertaken by Nee himself, not like most of his other books that were written on his behalf, through a compilation of his teaching notes. So as I started reading back then, 8 years ago, I was seriously moved to tears. Have these truths been around for so long yet the church has remained in darkness regarding the truth of the pattern? I do well know that many of our present-day fathers in the land have read and do have a profound respect for Watchman Nee. I assume a good number of them should have read this book. Why then have they chosen to disregard its very fundamental message and to continue in the very things the book fingers as contradictory to the divine pattern and intent? Is that not why many of them today have, in the name of doing God’s work, ended up building empires in their own names? Well, Lord have mercy!

So, I am presenting my gleanings to those who can see right through the makeup of popular Christianity today, and are sincere enough to admit, at least to themselves, that what is on ground in the name of church and ministry today are far from the ideal and their hearts are crying for the truest expression of the life of Christ in His people to become a tangible reality in the midst of us. They are not only desirous, they are willing to pay prices required to bring it about. It is for such that I have made this considerable effort.

I sincerely hope, after going through these excerpts, you do not dismiss this with a wave of the hand as merely Nee’s subjective views. Like I did point out, these are not just Nee’s views; he had forebears like Sparks and down through the ages, there have been movements which have kept the torch of the testimony of the truth concerning the divine pattern. I believe there will be men in our generation who will dare to follow the truths of God’s word rather than the traditions of men. I pray you are one of such.

In this excerpt compilation, I make very little personal explanations; most of what you will read here are direct quotations from the book. My own notes, I kept in colours and for emphasis, I underline or capitalise. Read through with a prayerful heart and afterwards, do try to get a copy of your own (though it’s very scarce today) as well as its sequels: Further Talks on Church Life, The Glorious Church and the Assembly Life. God bless you real good.

31 Jan 2015

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- TO BE CONTINUED...

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