Watchman Nee was born Ni Shu-tsu November
4, 1903. He was later renamed Ni Ching-Fu, and finally, after his commitment
to Christian work, Ni To-sheng-that is, Watchman Nee.
Watchman Nee became a Christian in China
in 1920 at the age of seventeen. He went to hear an evangelist by the
name of Dora Yu, who asked the people to believe in Jesus Christ as
Lord and Saviour and Watchman Nee accepted. From that day on, he consecrated
himself completely to Jesus Christ and to the preaching of the Gospel
Watchman Nee attended no theological
schools or Bible institutes. His wealth of knowledge concerning God's
purpose, Christ, the things of the Spirit, and the church was acquired
through studying the Bible and reading spiritual books.
Nee was zealous from the first day of
his Christian life until the last. He drove himself to the point of
physical collapse on several occasions and lived in self-imposed poverty.
When Communists came to power in the
late 1940's - Nee became a target because of his growing Christian ministry
and belief, which contradicted that of the Communist Party. Nee had
been warned not to remain in mainland China, but he stayed there to
spread the message of Christianity.
Watchman Nee was arrested by the Communists
in 1952 for his professed faith in Christ as well as his leadership
among the local churches. By the time Watchman Nee was arrested, approximately
four hundred local churches had been raised up in China through his
life and ministry. For almost four years Nee’s whereabouts remained
unknown. The Communists tried to break Nee through brainwashing and
promises that if he would lead the faithful to the Communist-controlled
church he would be freed. Nee refused. In 1956- Watchman Nee was given
a hearing in Shanghai and accused of severe crimes. To each charge he
was allowed to answer only Yes or No. Nee stood silent for all but two:
sabotage and spying. Those he denied.
More than four years after his arrest
and after a long trial, in 1956 - Watchman Nee was sentenced to fifteen
years in prison with reform by labor. He was, however, never released.
During his confinement, his faith remained unconquerable. He sang hymns
in his cell and preached the gospel to everyone he met. He remained
in prison until his death more than twenty years later.
His words remain an abundant source
of spiritual revelation and supply to Christians throughout the world.
His last eight letters provide a glimpse into his suffering and feeling
during his confinement. While prison censorship did not allow him to
mention the Lord's name in his letters, in his final letter, written
on the day of his death, he alluded to his joy in the Lord: "In my
sickness, I still remain joyful at heart." Watchman Nee was practicing
the word of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord
always." He died in confinement in his cell on May 30, 1972.
He left a piece of paper under his pillow,
"Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and
resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe.
I die because of my belief in Christ."
There was no proper notification of
his death and no funeral. He was cremated on June 1, 1972. His wife
had died six months earlier, it was her eldest sister who was informed
of his death and cremation. She retrieved his ashes, and they were buried
with his wife in his hometown of Kwanchao. In May, 1989, the ashes of
Watchman Nee and his wife were transferred to and buried in "The Christian
Cemetery" in Shiangshan in the city of Soochow of Kiangsu province.
Watchman Nee's writings on matters of
the individual Christian life have been a source of inspiration to Christians
throughout the world, including his writings on the local churches.
His most popular work remains The Normal Christian Life. In English
there are approximately fifty-five books of Nee available.