One of the blogs I read regularly is Alan Knox’s Assembling of the Church. I can’t remember exactly how I first discovered Alan’s blog. I think I kind of stumbled upon it. In any case, Alan, on his blog, is continually analyzing, bit by bit, what the Bible has to say about the church. He is refreshingly biblical, seeking as much as possible to be thoroughly consistent and objective in modern-day application of what the text of Scripture actually says. He is also a student at Southeastern Seminary (working on a doctorate, if I am not mistaken), and, from what I have been able to pick up, has a pretty good command of New Testament Greek.
As a missionary and church planter, I think the topics Alan writes about are very relevant. On the comment string of a recent post entitled Messy Meetings, I engaged Alan in a conversation (in which some other commenters jumped in) on the usefulness of both large and small-group meetings in the church.
This conversation jogged my memory about a book I read quite a few years back entitled Assembling Together, by Watchman Nee. One of the main theses of Nee’s book is that in the New Testament we find various types of church meetings which helped to serve various functions in the life of the church. I have promised Alan that in the next few days I am going to reread over Nee’s book, and report back any relevant insights it has for the discussion related to large and small-group meetings.
I have long been a fan of Watchman Nee’s writings. As far back as my adolescent years, I can remember picking up and reading through several of Nee’s books I found in my father’s library. Books of a devotional nature, such as The Normal Christian Life and Spiritual Authority, have deservedly become well-known evangelical classics.
Nee’s writings on ecclesiology (a topic to which he dedicated quite a bit of space) are a bit more controversial, and not quite so universally accepted. Witness Lee, a disciple of Nee, took some of his more controversial teachings to a next step, converting them into virtual “dogma,” founding what has come to be known as The Local Church movement, which, despite claims to the contrary, is considered by many to be border-line sectarian, and even by some to be a cult. It is my understanding, as well, that the teaching and influence of Nee have been significant elements underlying the massive growth of the house church movement in
I personally find Nee’s writings, even on ecclesiology, valuable, because he almost always interacts directly with the biblical text, and has a keen ability for drawing out insights from Scripture that most others pass over. At the same time, I find his hermeneutics, at times, to be a bit rigid, tending to discount differences of cultural and historical context in his application of biblical teachings drawn from specific situations reported in the New Testament.
Interestingly enough, I see some parallels to Nee’s hermeneutical model both in Landmarkism and Pentecostalism. Landmarkists (as I understand them), and many Baptists who are influenced by Landmarkism, tend to take historical references from the book of Acts, or other contextually-specific elements from the epistles, and make them normative for the local church throughout history and all cultural contexts. Pentecostals (and many Charismatics) tend to do the same things with reference to supernatural manifestations recorded in Acts.
I personally prefer the ecclesiological model described by John Reisinger here, here, here, here and here, in which it is recognized that, although the New Testament has much to teach us about the functions of the church, many of the actual forms a local church takes will vary, on a pragmatic basis, according to the cultural and historical context.
In any case, this is sort of a long and rambling introduction to a quote I found as I was beginning to reread Nee’s Assembling Together. I believe this quote captures the essence of what Love Each Stone is all about. As indicated in the heading, my inspiration for the name “Love Each Stone” comes from the Contemporary English Version’s rendering of Psalm 102.14, which says, referring to “Zion”: We, your servants, love each stone in the city, and we are sad to see them lying in the dirt.
On this post and this post, I have already written a bit about some implications of this for us, as Christian workers, as we join hands with the Master Builder, in helping to rebuild the fallen ruins of the spiritual city of Zion, which I understand to be the Body of Christ, the Universal Church, which expresses itself visibly around the world in different locations in individual congregations. It is my hope that everything I write and discuss together with you who read and leave comments here may indeed help to further the purpose of building up “
From Assembling Together, by Watchman Nee, Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1973, pp. 4-6…
The Bible reveals to us a most wonderful thing when it shows us that the church is the habitation of God. This is found in Ephesians 2. All the revelations in Ephesians are of tremendous dimensions and this one in chapter 2 is one of them. We must know that God has a dwelling place, a habitation on earth. The thought in the Bible of a habitation for God starts with the tabernacle and continues right on up to the present. In the past God dwelt in a magnificent house, the
. Now He dwells in the church, for today the church is God’s habitation. We, the many, are joined together to be God’s habitation. As individuals, though, we are not so. It takes many of God’s children to be the house of God in the Spirit. This agrees with what 1 Peter 1:5 says, “Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house….” templeof Solomon
How is this spiritual house built? It is with living stones, not dead ones. Solomon’s temple was built with dead stones, but today God’s house is made with living stones. Peter was a living stone, for this is the meaning of his name. By putting these living stones together, God gets His temple. Can one believer alone be a house? If there are not stones built on other stones, it is not a good sign, for it expresses the idea of ruin. It speaks of the desolation that comes after judgment when no stone is left standing on another stone. If a house is to be constructed, stones must be built on stones and stones must be joined to stones. Thank God, you are saved, you have trusted in the Lord Jesus, you are now a stone. Don’t then just hide your stone away some place by itself. Let your stone be built together with the other stones and you will have a house. For the stones to be left scattered and independent is not only useless but also can become a cause of stumbling.
As soon as one believes in the Lord, he becomes one of the stones in God’s habitation. He is a stone, but until he is related to other stones, he is useless. It is like the parts of an automobile. The car can run only when the many parts are put together. What use does one have if he remains alone? He will lose out on the riches of God. We dare not say that living stones standing alone become dead stones, but it is certainly true that a stone, though living, will lose its usefulness and miss out on spiritual riches if it is not joined to other stones to become God’s habitation. We can contain God’s richness only when we are joined together with other living stones; then God can dwell in our midst. That is why there should be a conviction in our hearts that we must be in the church.