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Watchman Nee (1903–1972) was a Chinese Christian author and church leader during the early 20th Century. He spent the last 20 years of his life in prison and was severely persecuted by the Communists in China. Watchman Nee became a Christian in 1920 at age 17 and began writing in the same year. During his 30 years of ministry, beginning in 1922, Nee traveled throughout China planting churches among the rural communities and holding Christian conferences in Shanghai. In 1952 he was imprisoned for his faith; he remained in prison until his death in 1972. His words remain an abundant source of spiritual revelation and supply to Christians throughout the world.
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Nee Shu-Tsu (Watchman Nee) was born in Foochow, China. Nee's grandfather, Nga U-cheng, born in 1840, was a Congregational preacher of the American Supplies Commission. He died in 1890. Nee's father was Ni Weng-Sioe (W. S. Ni), born in 1877, and the fourth of nine boys. He was an officer in the Imperial Customs Service. He died in Hong Kong in 1941. Nee's mother was Lin Gwo Ping (Peace Lin), who was born in 1880. She died at the age of 70, in 1950. Nee's parents were Methodists, and Nee was baptized as a child by the American Methodist Episcopal Mission.
When Nee was 17 years old (1920), and still a student, he went to hear an evangelist by the name of Dora Yu in the Church of Heavenly Peace, who charged the people to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, a call that Watchman Nee accepted. From that day on, he consecrated himself completely to Jesus Christ and to the preaching of the Gospel in China. After his conversion, many of his class-mates were converted due to his testimony and consecrated living. During Nee's college years, Miss. Margaret Barber, an independent British missionary was his teacher and mentor. She treated him as a young learner and frequently administered strict discipline. Miss Barber died in 1930 and left all her belongings to Watchman Nee.
Watchman Nee became intimately familiar with the Bible through diligent study of the Bible using various methods. His development was strengthened by the influence of Jessie Penn-Lewis, Robert Govett, D. M. Panton, G. H. Pember, John Nelson Darby, Theodore Austin-Sparks, Andrew Murray, mystic Madame Guyon, and many others, reading as many as 3,000 books from various authors since first century. In the early days of his ministry he spent one-third of his income on his personal needs, one-third on helping others, and the remaining third on spiritual books. He had an ability to select, comprehend, discern, and memorize relevant material, and grasp and retain the main points of a book while reading. In his gospel preaching and ministry, Nee always stressed more on the "inner-life" issue in a believer's life rather than the "outward-work". Nee claimed that to be a Christian is altogether a matter of the divine life. He believed that a belief is not a religion, and therefore he did not establish headquarters or create a hierarchy of leadership positions in the church. He once stood up and said against a certain collected assembly:
"You may well have light and truth, but knowledge alone will benefit you nothing."
Today many of his written books are published in English, although most have been translated from Chinese. He published regular articles in his own magazine, with The Present Testimony and The Christian being some of them.
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