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Who was Watchman Nee?

Watchman Nee

Nee Shu-tsu (English name Henry Nee) was a writer and church leader in China and the founder of The Little Flock movement.

Watchman Nee was born in 1903 to Christian parents. Nee came to faith in Christ at the age of 17, and his conversion made an immediate impact upon his life. He broke off his engagement to an unbeliever (although some ten years later they were married after she became a believer in college). Soon after his conversion, Nee began preaching, teaching, writing, and holding conferences, and his ministry seemed to have great impact. In 1928 he changed his name to Watchman.

Following Watchman Nee’s leadership, local groups without any denominational affiliation or oversight began to meet and study the Bible. The groups were often called “The Little Flock,” and it was the largest Christian affiliation in China at the time of the revolution. His writings are still in print as individual titles as well as The Collected Works of Watchman Nee. Some of his works are the results of his followers’ compiling and editing his oral teachings, and many of them are available online at no charge. His best-known work is probably The Normal Christian Life.

In 1949, the Communist Party under Mao Zedong won the civil war in China and came to power. The communists were not fond of Nee’s ministry efforts. In 1950, Nee and his followers were labeled “reactionaries who posed a threat to the new regime” (, accessed 10/27/22). Persecution followed, and Nee was arrested in 1952 and sent to prison. He died in prison in on May 30, 1972. He is considered a martyr of the Chinese Church and one of the most important leaders of the Chinese indigenous church.

Much of Nee’s writing is helpful, but he has been criticized because of some of his views on sanctification and “the deeper life,” which seem to border on perfectionism. At times he seems to be trying to work out his own views as he was writing, so they are often unclear. He also speaks of what seem to be personal revelation, and he places much emphasis on personal spiritual experiences.

The following are some Watchman Nee quotes:

“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.”

“A drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.”

“I do not consecrate myself to be a missionary or a preacher. I consecrate myself to God to do His will where I am, be it in school, office, or kitchen, or wherever He may, in His wisdom, send me.”

“We must be brought to a place where, naturally gifted though we may be, we dare not speak except in conscious and continual dependence on Him.”

“Attempting to follow Him without denying the self is the root of all failures.”

“It is so easy to become more attached to the gifts of God than to the Giver—and even, I should add, to the work of God than to God Himself.”

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This page last updated: October 27, 2022