Perhaps the fountainhead of modern abusive church teachings is this classic, Spiritual Authority by Watchman Nee. Watchman Nee was responsible for a Christian movement in China called “Little Flock“. But because of his Christian faith, Watchman was put in prison by the Communists and died there in 1972. Then, Watchman Nee’s successor, Witness Lee was the founder of an abusive church movement called “Local Church“. This movement claims for itself to be the sole move and expression of God on earth today and Local Church members also claim to be the most orthodox of Christians.
Passages from Watchman’s book clearly commands heavy shepherding and unquestioning obedience such from page 71: People will perhaps argue, `What if the authority is wrong?’ The answer is, If God dares to entrust His authority to men, then we can dare to obey. Whether the one in authority is right or wrong does not concern us, since he has to be responsible directly to God. The obedient needs only to obey; the Lord will not hold us responsible for any mistaken obedience, rather will He hold the delegated authority responsible for his erroneous act. Insubordination, however, is rebellion, and for this the one under authority must answer to God. What Watchman Nee speaks here is he wants us to submit to who is just above us.
I attended a church where this book was required reading. The pastors and elders were controlling, and wanted to know about everyone’s lives in detail. This book was used to deceive everyone, and get the lay members to submit. Eventually, the churches in this movement basically dissolved, and the work came to nothing. A lot of people were hurt in the process. I can’t believe this book has so many positive reviews and so few negative ones, in light of how many people it’s hurt in the past. This book was mostly based on the example set by Moses. However, Moses was a poor example for our time because He was under the Law. When Jesus established the covenant of grace, He came as a servant, though He is also our Lord. — Martin Pierce, Baltimore, MD (Amazon)
Trying not to attack those that misused its teachings, I will say that this book lay at the heart of some erroneous teachings championed by two movements, one originally based in New England (in which I had twelve years’ experience), and one based in Florida (I’ve only read about this one). It can, and has, led to a concept in which an evangelical organization becomes run from the top down, like the Roman Catholic Church. So read it and understand it, but realize that much of its teachings come from a time in the Old Testament in which God really did speak to Moses, and Moses spoke to the children of Israel. The average person back them did not have the advantage of the indwelling Holy Spirit or of the law of God written on his heart, and the canon of scripture was not yet complete. If you want to submit to a human figure in the way that the children of Israel had to in the wilderness, then you risk spending your Christian life in the wilderness. — Howard M. Merken (Amazon)
Any church that requires the reading of this book by Watchman Nee should be look twice since this book justifies authoritarian leadership system which may only lead to spiritual abuse.