Having This Ministry
A Digital Newsletter from Living Stream Ministry

The History of the Life-study Publication Work

From 1974 to 1995, Brother Witness Lee conducted a book-by-book study of the entire Bible that he called a life-study. The published volumes contain 1,984 messages that we know as the Life-study of the Bible. These messages have become an indescribably rich heritage to us in the Lord’s recovery.

Brother Ron Kangas served as the main editor of the Life-study messages. In May 2023 we sat down with Brother Ron for an interview concerning the history of the Life-study publication work. Here we offer the first part of that interview, with the remainder to be published in subsequent issues of “Having This Ministry…”

The History of the Life-study Publication Work

Brother Ron, can you recount for us the history of the Life-study publication work and your involvement with it?

In January 1974 Brother Lee asked all the leading brothers in all the churches in the United States to come to Los Angeles for the weekend. From Friday night through Lord’s Day afternoon there were various meetings. It was a very significant historical event for the going on of the Lord’s recovery in this country. The relevant matters from that time are related to Brother Lee’s ministry and to the life-study.

Brother Lee made it very clear that he had the leading and the burden to relocate his ministry on the practical side from Los Angeles to Orange County, and he had decided the relocation would be to Anaheim. This was a significant move for him. He then conveyed the feeling that he was coming to a colossal, tremendous matter, and he said that he would begin to have the life-study of the Bible. This was of utmost importance to him due to the Lord’s leading and the fact that Brother Nee lacked the opportunity to have this kind of a thorough Bible study. He was sixty-eight or sixty-nine years old when he began the life-study, and he completed it in the July training of 1995.

A subject of one of the meetings with Brother Lee in January 1974 concerned a feeling that some small churches would come together to be the church in one city. I was meeting in Detroit at that time. Most of the saints in Detroit had the leading to go to Florida, but I had the leading to be in California. After the last meeting I had a brief fellowship with Brother Lee, because he had mentioned that he wanted to have a translation of the New Testament for a Recovery Version. We didn’t have the real experts around at that time, and I gladly yielded to them as soon as I could. Because I had had several years of Greek, from ancient Greek to the common Greek in the New Testament, I had the feeling to say to Brother Lee that I was willing and available to help him. He wanted to start with the translation of Romans. A few minutes later he came up to me and said, “Very good.”

I was supposed to move to Anaheim in the spring of that year, but prior to that, one of the co-workers called me on behalf of Brother Lee to tell me that once I was in Anaheim, Brother Lee wanted me to be the brother editing all the life-study messages. He would begin giving the messages during the first weekend of April and wanted me to come and get the work established, so I went.

Brother Lee held the life-study meetings in south Orange County. There were meetings on Friday nights and Lord’s Day afternoons for several weeks. On Friday night Brother Lee would give a message on Genesis, and on Lord’s Day afternoon he would give a message on Matthew; he was on these two lines. We were hoping that the believers in Orange County and those who were seeking the Lord and had a heart to study the Word would come. We didn’t want to startle them by the way we meet and the way we pray, so for a couple of weeks we didn’t have the kind of meetings that we normally have. We prayed to God in a kind of formal way. Eventually we realized that that was phony, so we let it go. We just had to be what we were, but in a wise way. These meetings took place until about June.

Brother Lee then announced that he was going to have semiannual life-study trainings beginning in August 1974. For that we worked together on the Recovery Version translation of Romans. I did the best I could, but about five days before the beginning of that training, Brother Lee had a very serious problem with one of his eyes and needed immediate expert surgery. The surgery required weeks of recovery, so Brother Lee asked four of his coworkers to give the messages, but not on the life-study line. Rather, they were assigned to have the training on the experience of life in various aspects. We know what happened next, but I’ll mention it as a kind of parallel to the history of the Life-study publication work. In 1978 one of those coworkers led a rebellion. Ten years later two of the other coworkers left the recovery. In 1984 the fourth coworker contracted a very aggressive kind of cancer and died in the fall of that year, which was the same year that an older, faithful brother who knew Brother Lee for decades in China also passed away. In those days things were simple. We didn’t have memorial meetings. I’m not going one way or another on this; it’s just a fact. We gathered around the gravesite for the burial of one of the two brothers who had passed away, and Brother Lee said that they were two victors. I mention this as a sidebar comment to help the saints to see that we need the Lord’s mercy and grace to be faithful to the end. When Brother Lee had a meeting in Anaheim after he recovered from eye surgery, he said that the Lord had told him, “Pray to be prayed for.”

In December 1974 we began the first of the semiannual life-study trainings. The sequence of the books is significant. In the spring of 1975, he had a life-study training on John in Washington, D.C., and in July and December he had two trainings on the life-study of Hebrews in the Anaheim Convention Center. It’s so sad that we don’t have videos of the Hebrews training, because some years later Brother Lee said that the training on Hebrews was the most precious to him. It was indescribably wonderful.

In the first part of 1976, the building of the meeting place in Anaheim began. It was for the church and for LSM. Eventually it was used primarily for LSM, but the church met in part of it. It was finished in June. The first semiannual training in the Anaheim meeting hall was on Revelation, so the first life-study trainings were on Romans, John, Hebrews, and Revelation. After Brother Lee conducted the life-study of Matthew in July and December 1977, he went on to certain key books of Paul, namely, Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians, and Philippians. That was the sequence. He did not resume the Friday and Lord’s Day meetings for the life-studies. Instead, he had a weekly, midweek ministry meeting for the life-study, so at that time he took one line. He took the line of Genesis for months. Then for Exodus it was more than months; it was a couple of years. At the semiannual trainings he would focus on a particular book. When it came to conferences, he focused on particular subjects.

Starting in April 1974 I began to work on the Life-studies with Brother Lee. He had the grace to bear with me. He was twice my age. This was the minister of the age, sitting with me at the table in his apartment where he lived for a few years. We sat there every Thursday morning from 8:30 to 12:00 or 12:30. He had me work on the Life-studies, and then he realized that he needed to train me. I remember working on the first few and just being alone with the Lord. I believe this was a result of the Lord’s intercession and maybe Brother Lee’s intercession, but I said, “These are not my messages. These are Brother Lee’s messages, and I will edit them in his spirit and with his vocabulary, burden, emphasis, and way. This has nothing to do with me. I’m not going to insert my vocabulary.” He made it very clear that he wanted the vocabulary to be around a seventh-grade level so that it would be readable for saints all over the earth.

While I was working, a verse from the Old Testament came to me (Deut. 25:4). It is about the ox who is grinding up the grain, going around and around, but it cannot be muzzled. Paul applied this to someone ministering the Word and to a leading brother (1 Cor. 9:9-10). I told the Lord that I would gladly be an ox and that I would nibble on everything I work on. There was no muzzle.

To be continued…