Watchman Nee recognized the importance of training for the Lord’s testimony and move in His recovery, and he endeavored to conduct trainings throughout his ministry, often in the face of fierce opposition from God’s enemy. Let us consider some of the trainings carried out by our brother.
In his printed ministry, Brother Nee speaks much concerning the need for various kinds of trainings, including new believers’ trainings and migration trainings. In a message given in 1950, for instance, he emphasizes that training is needed to prepare the saints for migration:
In the days ahead God will certainly take the way of migration. Therefore, every brother must be trained. We should not hope that people will migrate to Nanchang in the future, yet expect the church in Nanchang to train them for us. We have to train them now. I am afraid that the brothers and sisters have no training before God, and when the time of migration arrives, such ones will not be able to go out. Therefore, everyone must learn something concerning the church. We must learn much more before God regarding how the whole Body serves. If we do this, there will be a way for God to go out from us. (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 55, p. 167)
Brother Nee also endeavored to carry out trainings throughout the course of his ministry. As Brother Lee observes in chapter 24 of Watchman Nee—A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, Brother Nee used trainings as a specific means of fulfilling his ministry. In 1933 he initiated a small, informal training in Shanghai that lasted for two years. In 1936 he began preparing a facility for a young peoples’ training and expressed the following burden concerning this training:
If the return of the Lord should be delayed, it will be necessary to raise up a number of young people to continue the testimony and the work for the following generations. Many co-workers have already prayed concerning this matter with the hope of providing a suitable place for the purpose of training young people. My thought is not to establish a seminary or a Bible institute, but to have young people staying together to live the Body life and practice the spiritual life. In such a place they would receive training for the purpose of edification, by learning to read the Scripture, to pray, and to build up a good character. On the negative side, there would be training for the purpose of learning how to deal with sin, the world, the flesh, and the natural life. At a suitable time, the young people would return to their respective churches in various places to be tempered together with other saints to serve the Lord in the church. I have purchased over ten acres of land at Chenru, in the suburbs of Shanghai. Planning for building on that site is in progress, and before long, young people will be able to go there for training. (CWWN, “Watchman Nee’s Testimony,” vol. 26, p. 479)
Before this training facility could be completed, however, war broke out between China and Japan, and the facility was destroyed.
“My thought is not to establish a seminary or a Bible institute, but to have young people staying together to live the Body life and practice the spiritual life. In such a place they would receive training for the purpose of edification, by learning to read the Scripture, to pray, and to build up a good character.”
“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.”
It was not until 1940 that Brother Nee had the opportunity to carry out his burden for a formal training. In that year he began a year-round training, which lasted about two years. Then, after the resumption of his ministry, Brother Nee held two trainings in Kuling Mountain, the first in 1948 and the second in 1949. Concerning Brother Nee’s burden for the Kuling training, Brother Lee says,
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. (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,” pp. 523-524)
During the Kuling training, Brother Nee shared messages on many crucial matters, including how to be a minister of God’s Word and how to help new believers. (These messages can be found in The Ministry of God’s Word, Messages for Building Up New Believers, The Character of the Lord’s Worker, and other ministry publications). What Brother Nee released during the two training sessions in Kuling Mountain have become, in Brother Lee’s estimation, “a great help to many who are seeking to follow the Lord in the Lord's recovery. The issue of those trainings is invaluable to us today” (Watchman Nee—A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, p. 223).
It should come as no surprise that Brother Nee’s trainings were fiercely opposed by God’s enemy. Concerning this opposition, Brother Lee says:
From the very beginning of the Lord’s recovery among us, Brother Nee realized that there was the need for a training, but whenever he would begin a training, the enemy would come in to attack. In 1936 Brother Nee built a house in a suburb of Shanghai in order to have a training there. However, immediately after the completion of this house, Japan invaded China, and the house was destroyed. When Brother Nee tried again to have a training in the early 1940s, the enemy attacked again, and a turmoil arose in the church in Shanghai. This caused Brother Nee to suspend his ministry for six years. In 1948 Brother Nee resumed his ministry and held a training in his hometown for two terms. At this time, however, the Communists came in, terminated the training, and confiscated the buildings used for it. (CWWL, 1989, vol. 3, “The Exercise and Practice of the God-Ordained Way,” p. 479)
In the same message, Brother Lee helps us understand the reason for Satan’s opposition to trainings in the Lord’s recovery and the importance of being trained to fight for God’s kingdom:
The Bible likens the church to an army (Eph. 6:11-20; Rev. 19:14), and an army is formed with soldiers. Without training the soldiers could not be formed into an army. The enemies of a country always hate to see that country build up an army. Satan hates the church as the army. Because of this, it has been a struggle to have a training in the Lord’s recovery.
The Lord’s move on the earth is for the purpose of establishing His kingdom. In order to establish a kingdom, there is the need of fighting. After being trained, we become the fighting ones, the “soldiers” to fight for God’s kingdom. According to the book of Numbers, Israel was formed into an army in order for God to establish the kingdom in the good land (Num. 1:2-3, 45). Without the formation of the army, the kingdom could not be established. The fighting of the Israelites brought in God’s kingdom. (p. 480)
In this light, we can better understand why Watchman Nee faced such strong opposition as he endeavored to conduct trainings. Trainings are an important means of forming the saints into an army to fight for God’s kingdom, and Satan surely resists the formation of such an army. Thankfully, Brother Nee managed to conduct trainings despite such resistance, and we in the Lord’s recovery are still benefitting from the issue of those trainings.
“The Lord’s move on the earth is for the purpose of establishing His kingdom. In order to establish a kingdom, there is the need of fighting. After being trained, we become the fighting ones, the “soldiers” to fight for God’s kingdom.”