In the Lord’s recovery we have many kinds of trainings. Each year, the Living Stream Ministry (LSM) hosts two, six-day trainings for the seeking saints and two trainings for the elders and responsible ones among the churches. LSM also furnishes the full-time training in Anaheim, which is for seeking college graduates. This training has been replicated in many countries throughout the earth. In addition, numerous co-workers hold various kinds of trainings worldwide as part of the one work in the Lord’s recovery. Furthermore, there are local trainings in which the prophets and teachers in each church train the saints in their locality to preach the gospel and to shepherd, nourish, and perfect their fellow believers. Now let us consider the matter of training and why it is so important in the Lord’s work and move.
In their ministry Watchman Nee and Witness Lee spoke much concerning the need for training in the Lord’s recovery, and they labored much to conduct trainings for “the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). We feel it would be profitable to consider, in this and future articles, the crucial matter of training in the Lord’s recovery. In this article we will consider some basic motivations for training, and in future articles we hope to consider some particular trainings in the history of the Lord’s recovery.
The Bible is replete with examples of training and with the thought of training. Moses’ respeaking of the law in the book of Deuteronomy was “a renewed training given to the new generation of the children of Israel after their long wandering, to prepare them to enter into the good land promised by God and inherit it as their possession” (Deut. 1:1, footnote 1). The Gospels reveal that the Lord Jesus trained His disciples in many matters during His earthly ministry. The book of Acts indicates that the apostle Paul spent considerable time with the saints in Antioch, Corinth, and Ephesus, respectively, for the purpose of training the believers (Acts 11:26; 18:11; 20:18, 35). Moreover, as Brother Lee notes, Paul’s “later books—especially 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—are filled with the concept of training and discipline” (The Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1973-1974, vol. 2, “The Normal Way of Fruit-bearing and Shepherding for the Building Up of the Church,” p. 522). In 2 Timothy 2:2, for instance, Paul charges Timothy: “The things which you have heard from me through many witnesses, these commit to faithful men, who will be competent to teach others also.” Having trained Timothy, Paul charged him to train others according to the training that he had received from Paul.
The Bible is replete with examples of training and with the thought of training.
“The maturity comes from growth, and the skill comes from training. Therefore, in order to perfect the saints, we need to feed them with spiritual food that they may grow, and we also need to train them to develop certain skills.”
The ministry speaks much concerning our need for training. On a basic level, we need to be trained so that we can cooperate with the Lord to develop our capacity to function properly as members of His Body. In a message given in 1964 on the need for training, Brother Lee says,
In order to cooperate with the Lord in spiritual matters, we need exercise and practice. We may think that because we have the Spirit and the life of God, we do not need spiritual exercise. However, 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Exercise yourself unto godliness.” To do many things in our human life, such as driving a car or playing a musical instrument, it is not sufficient to merely have the human life. We also need exercise, practice, and training. Likewise, much of what we do in our Christian life also requires exercise, practice, and training. (CWWL, 1964, vol. 1, p. 351)
In the Life-study of Ephesians, in his speaking concerning the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12), Brother Lee shares that perfecting involves both growing in life and becoming skillful in function. To become skillful in function, we need training:
Once when I was visiting a certain place which was regarded as being rather spiritual, I was asked why we conduct trainings in the Lord's recovery. I replied that as human beings we need to grow and we need also to learn. If we do not grow, we shall not have the stature required to do certain things. If we do not learn, we shall be “barbarians.” For example, if a child is not taught to eat properly with the necessary utensils, he will be “wild” and unruly at the table. Do not think that as long as a person is spiritual in life, he requires no training. No, in spiritual things, as in physical things, there is the need of training. In spiritual things we need the maturity, the growth in life, and we also need the skill. The maturity comes from growth, and the skill comes from training. Therefore, in order to perfect the saints, we need to feed them with spiritual food that they may grow, and we also need to train them to develop certain skills. (pp. 352-353)
Brother Lee further explains that “to be trained is to have the rich supply of Christ ministered to us that we may grow, and it is to be equipped that we may be skillful in speaking, in contacting new ones, in shepherding, and in preaching and teaching” (p. 353). It is helpful to realize that to be perfected unto the work of the ministry, we need to develop skills in speaking and in many other spiritual matters. These skills are acquired through training and are for our proper functioning.
In another message Brother Lee indicates that the need for training in the Lord’s recovery is especially great, and the standard of training especially high, because the work we are carrying out is that of building up the Body of Christ, which is of special importance to the Lord. Brother Lee says,
The work of building up the Body is different from every other work. No other work demands as much from us as the building up of the Body. We can be somewhat careless in hewing out stones and cutting wood, but we cannot be careless in the work of building with these materials. A person who constructs a building must be trained, and while he is carrying out the building process, he must be careful. Otherwise, because of his carelessness he may tear down more than he builds up. The principle is that we cannot do a work that is higher than what we are, regardless of how much we labor and toil. If we are spiritually at a certain level, our work will only be as high as that level. Thus, we must be trained for the building up of the Body. (CWWL, 1964, vol. 3, pp. 410-411)
Given their deep realization concerning the work of building up the Body of Christ and the importance of perfecting the saints to carry out this work, it is not surprising that Brother Nee and Brother Lee emphasized the matter of training in their ministry and endeavored to carry out various kinds of trainings. Brother Lee shares the following concerning Brother Nee’s burden for a formal training:
When I was with Brother Watchman Nee, he would often say, “Witness, we need the training.” Brother Nee was saved in 1920, and he began the work for the Lord in 1922. After a number of years, he realized that there was the need of training. In 1936 he bought a portion of land and built a center for the purpose of training. However, in August of the next year, Japan invaded Shanghai, and the building was destroyed. Three years after that, in 1940, he rented a place in Shanghai to begin the first formal, year-round training. Every week there was one meeting for training, and many persons remained there all week to wait for that one training meeting. Besides this, we also attended all the church meetings. For the whole year we heard three messages a week, one in the training meeting and two in the church meetings on the Lord’s Day and on Wednesday night.
After the war, the work of the Lord spread widely throughout China, and Brother Nee returned to his ministry. He told me, “Witness, I will not carry out my ministry in the way that I did in the past. What I will do now is simply take care of the training.” After 1948 he no longer took care of the church meetings. He stayed on the mountain with many lodgings in order to train people. These trainings were selective; not everyone was allowed to attend. The first period of training in 1948 was about six months long, and the second period in 1949 was also six months long. He charged me to care for the work and fight the battle elsewhere. I was to send the believers as the good material to him to be trained, and after their training, he would send them back to the churches. By this, I realized that in the first stage of the Lord’s work there is not much need for training, but after the churches have been raised up and there is the responsibility of caring for the serving ones, we need the training. (CWWL, 1973-1974, vol. 2, “The Normal Way of Fruit-bearing and Shepherding for the Building Up of the Church,” pp. 523-524)
We do not have the space here to consider some of the particular trainings in the history of the Lord’s recovery, but we intend to do so in future articles. Hopefully the present article has given us some impression from the ministry of our need for training. As those who love the Lord and desire to cooperate with Him for the building up of the church, may we pray, as Brother Lee encouraged us to pray, “Lord, we want to be trained. We want to know how to grow in life in a practical way, and we want to develop all the necessary skills” (Life-study of Ephesians, p. 360).
“To do many things in our human life, such as driving a car or playing a musical instrument, it is not sufficient to merely have the human life. We also need exercise, practice, and training. Likewise, much of what we do in our Christian life also requires exercise, practice, and training.”