Brother Watchman Nee established one publication work in China in the late 1920s. Then in 1950, because Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taipei were now in three different political regions, he expanded his one publication work to three offices in these cities. Eventually, due to the situation, the office in Taiwan became the sole authorized publisher of Brother Nee’s ministry. Later, Brother Witness Lee followed Brother Nee’s pattern and established a publication work in the West to supply the churches with the New Testament ministry and to spread it to all the Lord’s lovers and seekers everywhere. This endeavor provided the way for Brother Nee’s ministry to spread throughout the whole earth. As it developed over the years, the Lord opened more and more doors for the spread of this ministry worldwide.
Initially after Brother Lee settled in the U.S. in 1962, his ministry was primarily a spoken one, conducted in meetings in the Los Angeles area and during his many travels within the U.S. Thankfully, most of those early meetings were recorded on tape and have been preserved in print in The Collected Works of Witness Lee. In 1963 Brother Lee began to publish The Stream magazine, his first formal publication in the U.S. He considered this magazine, which contains some of his spoken messages, as his “personal publication…to serve in putting out the word” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 183). Under the Lord’s blessing, The Stream was published periodically, at least twice each year from 1963 to 1977, to supply spiritual food to hungry ones not only in the U.S. but also in many other countries.
The inaugural issue of The Stream, dated June 1, 1963, featured two messages, “The Divine Stream,” Part I, and “The Prayer of the Age.” It also contained a new hymn, “Oh what a life! Oh what a peace!” (Hymns, #499); a newsletter section; and some announcements of conferences, trainings and new ministry publications (including several booklets by Brother Lee). The second issue of The Stream was released several months later, featuring “The Divine Stream,” Part II, and “The Increase of Christ.”
For the first few years, The Stream contained individual messages given by Brother Lee, such as “The Central Thought of God” (Jan. 1, 1964), “God’s Purpose for the Church” (July 1, 1965), “The Tree of Life” (May 1, 1966), and “The Exercise of the Spirit” (Feb. 1, 1967). Then, toward the end of 1967, The Stream began to include series, or lines, of messages given by Brother Lee. The first series of messages, “The Priesthood,” was released in five issues of The Stream over the course of one year from November 1, 1967, to November 1, 1968. The next two issues featured “The Three Stages of Christ.” Subsequent issues included other crucial lines of ministry, such as “The Seven Spirits for the Local Churches” (1969-1970), “The Recovery of God’s House and God’s City” (1970), “Christ as the Reality” (1971-1972), “Life and Building” (1973), “The Indwelling Christ” (1974-1975), and in the final two issues, “The Lord’s Recovery” (1977). It was through The Stream magazine that a limited number of Brother Lee’s messages were first put into print and distributed. All of these messages can be found in CWWL.
The announcements in The Stream give us a window into the development of the publication work in the United States. Prior to May 1, 1965, the announced list of titles by Brother Lee was rather short. It consisted of a handful of booklets, including A God Who Hides Himself and The God of Resurrection. Then, in the May 1, 1965, issue of The Stream (vol. 3, no. 1), an initial announcement was made concerning a new hymnal. (The release of this hymnal was delayed due to unforeseen complications.) Several years later, in the May 1, 1968, issue, a new ministry book, The Economy of God, was announced, followed one year later by The All-inclusive Christ, as well as additional booklets by Witness Lee. In subsequent issues of The Stream, seven additional books by Witness Lee were announced: The Practical Expression of the Church (Nov. 1, 1970); How to Meet (Aug. 1, 1971); Christ versus Religion (May 1, 1972); The Vision of God’s Building (Aug. 1, 1972); Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms (Feb., 1973); The Experience of Life (Aug., 1973); and The Knowledge of Life (Feb., 1974). Then, beginning with the February 1975 issue of The Stream, announcements were made concerning the printed Life-study messages, first from Genesis and Matthew, and then from Romans, and then from John, Hebrews, Revelation, and so forth.
Letters included in the newsletter section of The Stream give us a clear indication of the magazine’s expansive geographical reach and deep impact on its recipients. Browsing through these newsletters, we find letters not only from many places in the United States but also from many places beyond it, including Saigon, Vietnam; Mindanao, Philippines; Hassleholm, Sweden; Chatou, France; Lagos, Nigeria; Tauranga, New Zealand; and Chadstone, Australia—to name only a few. These letters often overflowed with gratitude and even elation, testifying that The Stream provided spiritual food to its hungry recipients, revealed the deeper truths in God’s Word, and prompted at least some of them to seek out the genuine church life. They also demonstrated an eagerness among The Stream’s readers to assimilate and experience what they were reading. For example, some had begun to practice exercising to pray-read the Word and drink the Lord. While there are many touching letters from grateful recipients of The Stream, we have space here for only a small sampling.
As these letters (and many others) testify, the Lord used The Stream magazine to bring more than a few of His lovers and seekers into the divine stream. Because of this “little magazine,” as Brother Lee sometimes called it, many crucial messages given by our brother were polished, printed, and sown far and wide. In The Stream we can trace a definite development in the publication work for the propagation of the New Testament ministry, and for this we can surely thank and worship the Lord.
The truths of your pamphlets and books are becoming more preciously real and convincing with every reading. A little group of us are reading, studying and sharing these truths together and waiting on God to lead us by His Holy Spirit into every step of the future. We are in complete agreement with all these Scriptural truths and know we can never again be satisfied in any denominational church. Mrs. B. N., High Point, North Carolina (in vol. 4, no. 1)
We rejoice to learn about the pray-reading in the U.S. We are also pray-reading in every meeting. We even pray-read in the meeting of our marriage, and there was a real blessing. We realize how important it is to have a good digestion of the Word. A. & S. H., Toyama, Japan (in vol. 5, no. 4)
The messages on the priesthood met my husband’s heart in such a way I could hardly believe it. He couldn’t get over Brother Lee saying that we must enjoy the Lord. It has changed him from an unhappy Christian to a very happy one. Mrs. E. B., Romero, Mich. (in vol. 7, no. 2)
I would like to thank you for the copies of The Stream that have been received by some of the sisters here in Tauranga. They have been sharing them around with a few of us and we have been greatly blessed by that which the Lord has been revealing to us through them. Since some of us have read the one on pray-reading the Word, we have been having some wonderful times in the Word, and it is opening up to us in a new and wonderful way. D. N., Tauranga, New Zealand (in vol. 8, no. 2)
I have finished reading your magazine, and I have found that it is of great spiritual value. Praise the Lord! It helps me very much in enjoying Christ and partaking of Him. All of the members of my family have been greatly blessed by the Lord in reading The Stream. We do appreciate your efforts in the Lord, and pray that these writings will never cease to be published. N. T., Illaya, Dapitan City, Philippines (in vol. 9, no. 2)
For months I have been reading The Stream. The Lord has richly blessed me through this magazine. It has been much help and encouragement in my life. How I praise the Lord that He is giving me such a simple way to enjoy Himself. Pray-reading has vitalized our Christian life. What a tremendous truth, and what strength! O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah! T. H. T., Sarawak, Malaysia (in vol. 9, no. 3)
It was through the Stream I found the way to turn to the Lord in my spirit and to just stay there and to eat and drink and breathe the Lord Jesus — this has changed my whole Christian life to one of just enjoying the presence of the Lord all day long. Later I heard that there was a local church in Toronto so I left the denomination to which I was going near my home and now travel 27 miles to meet with the saints in Toronto. I just praise the Lord, He is so rich. H. P., Maple, Ontario, Canada (in vol. 12, no. 4)