The Need of Training and the Importance of the Regulations of the Semiannual Trainings
The goal of the new covenant ministry is to perfect the saints by feeding them with the unsearchable riches of Christ as life for their growth in life and by helping them develop their organic function to minister Him to others for the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 3:8; 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 3:2). In accordance with this goal, the ministry in the Lord’s recovery has conducted the semiannual trainings in order to nourish the saints with the riches of Christ as life in the Word of God and foster the development of their function to impart these riches to others. The aim of this article is to consider both the need for training and the importance of the training regulations.
The Need for Training
We need to see the crucial importance of training for our maturing in the divine life and our functioning in this life for the building up of the Body of Christ. The apostle Paul’s later Epistles, especially 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, “are filled with the concept of training and discipline” (CWWL, 1973–1974, vol. 2, p. 522). For instance, in 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul says to 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.” This verse indicates that what the apostle Paul had taught—the Lord’s healthy words—had been imparted into Timothy through many witnesses. Now Paul exhorted Timothy to train others with the same, committing to faithful men the healthy words as the good deposit in them so that they too might be perfected to be competent to teach others. Further, Paul’s detailed description of the qualifications of elders, deacons, and deaconesses points to the need for training (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) since these qualifications come from training (CWWL, 1973–1974, vol. 2, p. 522).
Training, which involves proper discipleship, helps build up the believers “in the growth of life, in character, and in dealing with the natural disposition” (CWWL, 1973–1974, vol. 2, p. 525). Training is a matter of teaching, that is, regulation or restriction, and regulation is required for the believers’ growth in the divine life; in brief, “life grows by regulation” (CWWL, 1986, vol. 3, p. 241). If we are not restricted, it is difficult for us to make spiritual progress. The purpose of coming under a training with its demands is not to “keep the law” but to “receive training under the Lord’s grace” so that we may grow spiritually in the Lord (CWWL, 1956, vol. 3, p. 337). Training with its restrictions offers an excellent environment for us to partake of the grace of Christ and grow in the life of God, and our maturation in life enables us to function (Eph. 3:7; Rom. 12:6). Therefore, in order for us to grow in the divine life and thus exercise our function in this life, we should be willing to submit ourselves to the regulations of a training.
The Importance of Training Regulations
Whereas conferences are open to the public, the semiannual trainings require the attendants to register and follow basic regulations in order to maintain a proper order, a high standard, and a clear and uplifted atmosphere for the impartation of the divine truths (The World Situation and the Direction of the Lord’s Move, p. 38). On the one hand, the attendants need to abide by training regulations to serve as a proper audience for the unhindered flow of the divine life and the full release of the high truths. In Brother Witness Lee’s view, “without the proper audience, the ministry is severely limited, but with the proper audience, there is a rich flow of life and an adequate ministry of the word” (CWWL, 1969, vol. 3, p. 551).
On the other hand, the attendants of the training need to adhere to training regulations in order to develop their character in the Lord so that they may learn “how to meet and how to study the Lord’s word” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 187). In 1984 Brother Lee recounted how rigorously the attendants were regulated by the semiannual trainings in the 1970s:
In the beginning the trainings were controlled very strictly. Anyone under the age of sixteen or over the age of sixty was not allowed to register, and anyone who was ill or in a poor spiritual condition was not allowed to come. Moreover, after the trainees arrived, their living was under the training twenty-four hours a day; they were not allowed to visit people loosely or to go out shopping. As soon as the trainees arrived at the registration window, they had to begin living according to the training schedule, including when to rise up in the morning and when to go to bed. They were required to arrive five minutes early for the meetings, and the doors were closed promptly at the meeting time. If anyone was late three times, he was automatically dismissed from the training. The trainees were required to prepare to be tested, and if they failed the test three times, they were asked to leave the training.
By carrying out the trainings in this way, everyone was brought onto the proper track. When the trainees entered into the meeting place of the training, they crossed over a clear dividing line, and no one was loose. Everyone’s spirit was girded up, and the result was very different from the conferences. The saints have strictly adhered to the training regulations. As the one who ministers the word, I have been greatly encouraged, and the winter and summer trainings have been able to continue over quite a long period of time. Year after year I have not had any physical problems, and the number of people attending the trainings has continually increased. Through the trainings, the truth has been constantly spreading throughout the Western world. This is not a small matter. (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, pp. 184-185)
Over the years some of the training regulations mentioned above were adjusted. However, the intention behind these regulations has not changed: to foster a diligent and prayerful attitude among the saints and to provide a proper atmosphere for the release of the ministry and the study of the truth.
We may see the benefit of the regulations of the semiannual trainings by considering a few of the more important ones in more detail.
Prophesying to Strengthen the Messages
After a message is given, the trainees are required to exercise to practice prophesying. Brother Lee emphasized the need for perfected saints to bear the burden to enrich, strengthen, and uplift the semiannual trainings by prophesying (cf. Exo. 25:12-14; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; 1 Cor. 14:1, 3-5, 31). Since many saints pay a high price to attend the trainings, they should hear not only the speaking of the brothers who give the messages but also that of many perfected saints. Regarding this matter Brother Lee said the following:
In our trainings we should be on the alert to not allow time-wasting testimonies to take over our meetings. Some saints speak in a loose way, without any serious consideration. Such ones have a habit of sharing long stories that are of little value. I am concerned that in the training meetings those who are qualified to strengthen the messages may often hesitate to speak. This makes room for those who are not qualified to give unprofitable testimonies. In the trainings the co-workers need to function in order to enrich and strengthen the meetings. They should strengthen the messages by prophesying. (CWWL, 1993, vol. 1, p. 209)
Brother Lee highly esteemed the sharing of the saints in response to the messages as well as their speaking during the testing. This is because through both the saints' sharing and the testing, the content of the messages is repeated, enabling the saints to receive a deeper impression of the truths presented in the messages so that they may see a vision. Concerning this matter Brother Lee made the following observation:
During the past eleven years we have had twenty-two Life-study trainings in America. After each message there is a time for sharing and also for testing. Sometimes the saints do not understand what I have said from the podium, but during the sharing everyone becomes clear. The saints who still do not understand become clear when the message is repeated during the testing. This is the way that the Lord uses the speaking of the brothers and sisters to enable everyone to see a vision. (CWWL, 1985, vol. 2, pp. 285-286).
Since the semiannual trainings are based on the biblical truths, the trainees “need to study these truths and learn to confirm them from the Bible so that they may be able to present them to others” (cf. Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:2)” (CWWL, 1993, vol. 1, p. 291). The trainees should pray over and study the points of the message outlines, the important burdens of the messages, and the verses that support these points and burdens (Eph. 6:17-18; Jude 20; Psa. 119:15). They are sometimes exhorted to memorize and recite crucial verses in the Bible or key utterances in the outlines and the messages so that they may be able to speak the truths with the proper verses and utterances, that is, with “spiritual words” taught by the Spirit to interpret spiritual things (Acts 8:26-39; 1 Cor. 2:13).
The trainees are also required to prepare themselves for testing by using their notes from the spoken messages, the outlines, and the text of the verses. In Brother Lee’s view, laboring on the truth in preparation for the testing is not only a requirement of the training but also a source of genuine enjoyment:
When the trainees are being tested in the summer and winter trainings, I frequently tell them to come to the altar. If we do not get on the altar, it remains an altar in our sight, but once we get on the altar, it becomes a dining table. We are so happy to labor in and with the Lord because this labor becomes our enjoyment. We need to get ourselves exercised by His requirements. Because He requires us to do something, we have no choice, but when we do it, it becomes a dining table, a real enjoyment, a real joy. (CWWL, 1988, vol. 4, p. 508).
During the tests Brother Lee perfected the trainees by critiquing the content of their speaking, correcting inaccuracies in their speaking, adjusting the speed at which they spoke, and helping them use proper gestures in their speaking. This is because Brother Lee had the freedom in the semiannual trainings to say things to the saints to perfect them that he did not have in the conferences. (Elders' Training, Book 03: The Way to Carry Out the Vision, p. 90).
The Need to Consecrate Our Time to Attend the Semiannual Trainings
In 1984 Brother Lee stated that “the ministry is so strict” in maintaining the regulations of the live and video trainings because “we hope the saints would be willing to take twenty days a year and give them to the Lord to be properly trained in His Word” (CWWL, 1984, vol. 5, p. 187). Further, in 1985 Brother Lee stated that full-time serving ones need to attend the semiannual trainings:
We have two major trainings every year. The summer training is around the time of the American Independence Day, and the winter training is around the Christmas and New Year holidays. While other people are enjoying their holidays, we are working and serving. This is what a full-timer should do. (CWWL, 1985, vol. 2, p. 78)
When Brother Lee made the above statements, each life-study training lasted ten days. Currently, each semiannual training lasts only six days. May the Lord grant us the mercy to treasure the semiannual trainings as a God-ordained provision to help us grow in life and develop our organic function in the Body of Christ, and may we receive grace from the Lord to consecrate twelve days a year to be trained. May the Lord also enlighten us concerning the importance of the regulations of the semiannual trainings for establishing an excellent environment for us to be trained in the divine life and perfected in our character, our study of the Word, and our prophesying for the building up of the Body.