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Shepherding and Bearing our own Children as Remaining Fruit Within the Groups

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SHEPHERDING AND BEARING OUR OWN CHILDREN AS REMAINING FRUIT WITHIN THE GROUPS

  • We need to enrich the church by gaining half of our increase from among our own children, and the other half from the world
  • We should not depend on large meetings to care for the young people, but prioritize personal contact in the homes
  • Caring for the young people should not be a matter of stirring them up temporarily, but of shepherding them by life according to burden

Being Balanced in Our Way of Increase to Enrich the Church

I believe if the Lord is gracious to us, we will gain half of our increase from among our own children and the other half from the “sea” (i.e., the world). If all the increase is from the sea and none is from among our own children, we will not have a strong church. Paul’s generation could be saved directly from the world, but the generation after Paul, men like Timothy, came in through their families. We cannot expect our increase to always come from the world. We have to expect the second generation, men like Timothy, to come from our own families. God’s gospel does save men from the world, but we also need to bring in men like Timothy. Before the church will be rich, there must be grandmothers like Lois and mothers like Eunice who raise, edify, and nurture their children in the discipline of the Lord. If there are no such people, the church will never be rich. (Raising Up the Next Generation for the Church Life, Chapter 8)

Shepherding Our Young People by Personal Contact and through the Groups

If we are faithful to keep the Lord’s present testimony, we must do our best to build up the small groups….People who slip in through the big meetings also slip out of the big meetings. In comparison, the effort spent on saving people in the small groups produces more dependable results than the effort spent in the big meetings. We do not plan to drop the big meetings. On the Lord’s Day, when everyone has a day off, we should use the big meetings to preach the truth, spread the gospel, and seize the opportunity to propagate the work of the Lord. However, if we totally depend on the big meetings as we have in the past, we will give up the future of the Lord’s recovery.

From now on we must turn and pay attention to the small group meetings. This is the foundation of the church meetings. On this solid foundation we can expand. The big meetings are useful but not dependable, whereas the small groups are dependable. I hope that this kind of fellowship will get into us. Please receive this vision and revelation. Let us spare no effort, but with one heart work in coordination to strengthen and enrich the small group meetings. Then the Lord will have a way. I know that if the Lord speaks these words into our being, the blessing will be upon us, and our horizon will be glorious and full of expectation. (On Home Meetings, Chapter 2)

[All] those who care for the work among the young people must pay attention to doing a personal work. The power and effect of doing a personal work with the young people are many times greater than the meetings. Big meetings do not have much effect on young people; individual contact is most effective. When you gather them together, usually all you can do is give them a message and at most a little work of revival. The emphasis of a genuine work with the young people is individual contact. If you ask me, “How would you do the young people’s work?” I would answer you by saying, “I can do it without holding any big meetings from the beginning to the end of the year but just absolutely working with them individually by personal contact.” It seems this way is fragmentary and wastes a lot of time. You may be able to contact only one person in an hour, and sometimes you may not be able to contact even one person after half a day. It seems time is pitifully wasted. Seemingly, this way is less effective than holding big meetings where you can speak to hundreds of people at once…Please remember, however, if you pay attention to individual contact, although you may not gain one person in a month or may gain only one person in two months, each one who is gained through your personal contact counts.

I hope that all the ones doing the young people’s work, whether it is bringing them to salvation, helping them to be spiritual, or leading them to preach the gospel, will pay attention to individual contact. From 1946 to 1948, when we were in the regions of Shanghai and Nanking, we did not actually have any students’ meetings or young people’s meetings. Most of our work was carried out by individual contact, yet the result was quite good. If the brothers neglect individual contact and pay attention only to young people’s meetings, I can say with certainty that after having so many meetings, the young people’s work will end up with something that is only on the surface, like loose sand without foundation. It will not be able to produce any solid ones. If you want to produce solid ones, you must have personal contact. You must not be disappointed with anyone; rather, you would spend time to contact everyone individually. (How to Lead the Young People)

Any Work Produced by Incitement Being Without Eternal Value

As we lead the church and the work, we should not rely too much upon organization. This does not mean that we should not have any arrangement. No matter what we do or what kind of move we have, there is a need for some arrangement. Without a certain amount of arrangement, it is difficult to move; hence, there is a need for some arrangement. However, to work merely by organization is the way of degraded Christianity. Moreover, we need to pay attention to never incite or stir people up. While this may have some impact at the beginning, in the long run and in reality, inciting people has no eternal value of life. Any work done out of incitement does not last. For example, after the international high-school and junior-high students’ meeting in 1987, the result in all the localities seemed quite good, but things changed with the passage of time, and now we may say that the positive situation was only momentary and that not much fruit remains.

At the very beginning of the Lord’s recovery, whether in the work related to the church, the gospel, or the students, we always tried to avoid inciting people. From the time we were raised up by the Lord, we have had much experience in this regard and have seen that whatever comes out of incitement does not have the value of life. We have learned many lessons in this matter. Currently, the move of the work in many places depends too much on incitement, especially the work of the high-school and junior-high students. Besides having organization, there is arrangement and incitement. It seems that locality after locality has not paid attention to the testimony of the genuine work of life. Consequently, we need to spend some time to pray before the Lord not only for an open door in all the colleges and high schools but also for some among us to be raised up to bear the burden in life.

Crying out to the Lord and Asking Him to Raise Up Burdened Ones

We love the Lord, fellowship with the Lord, and receive the Lord’s dealing. In the Lord’s dealing, we receive His burden. After receiving a burden, we need to pay a price. Everyone who receives a burden needs to pay a price. Upon receiving a burden, we need to pay the price to labor, sow, cultivate, water, and take care of the new ones. Then at a certain time we will reap the harvest. This is the way to lead the church, and this is also the way to carry out the work with the junior-high and high-school students. Actually, this is the way to carry out every work. There are secondary schools all over Taiwan; I hope that the brothers and sisters will receive a burden related to the students. This applies also to the children.

We need to come together to pray specifically for the students’ work that the Lord would open the door for us and raise up burdened ones to carry out this work. This is a desperate need. As for the way, the brothers’ houses and sisters’ houses are quite good. Moreover, if there are saints who are willing to open their homes as “support stations,” it will be a proper and effective way to labor on the students. Sometimes we do need to borrow some ways, but more fundamentally, we need burdened ones. We all need to cry out to the Lord and ask Him to raise up more burdened ones. (Crucial Words of Leading in the Lord’s Recovery, Book 2: Leading the Saints to Practice the New Way Ordained by the Lord, Chapter 14)

Fellowship questions:

  • How does the particular experience of people like Timothy enrich the church?
  • What has been your experience of personal shepherding as described in this reading? What impressions did it leave with you? If you have not experienced this personally, what have you observed in others who have been shepherded this way?
  • What specific children and young people are the members of your group burdened for? This may include children and young people whose parents do not meet with your group.
  • How can your group support this burden through prayer and shepherding?

Becoming Dynamically Active Through Prayer, Considering and Selecting Whom we Should Contact First, and Being Prepared to go out and Contact People

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BECOMING DYNAMICALLY ACTIVE THROUGH PRAYER, CONSIDERING AND SELECTING WHOM WE SHOULD CONTACT FIRST, AND BEING PREPARED TO GO OUT AND CONTACT PEOPLE

  • We need to pray for our blending so that we can become vital, and for our dynamic activities in the gospel and shepherding
  • We need to participate in the Spirit inwardly and outwardly through our prayer so that we can go out to contact people with impact
  • We need to pray and consider with the members of our group, among all our contacts, who are the best few to begin to pray for and labor on; it is helpful to prepare a list, study and fellowship over the situations, and to consider whom best to contact first and by what way

Praying to Be Blended Together and for Our Dynamic Activities

When we come together in these days, we need to pray mainly for the blending…Since this is the case, how can we be blended with others? There is no other way for us to be blended except by prayer. When we come together, we should pray for our being blended together. The second thing we have to pray for is our dynamic activities. We need to pray for our function, for our activities. Eventually, we need to go out to bring people to Christ and to keep people in Christ and in the church. We need something dynamic, and this needs our prayer. Before the day of Pentecost the one hundred twenty prayed together for ten days. We cannot do anything without prayer. We need to be blended together by thorough and much prayer so that we can go out dynamically. We have to pray for our blending and for our dynamic activities.

Question: What should we pray for when we come together in our vital groups?
Answer: In this period of time we should pray only for our blending and for the activities of the vital groups. We should pray for these two things privately and when we come together. We cannot pray too much for them. We should pray, “Lord, blend us. Blend me with the others in my group so that we can have the impact in our activities.” We should forget about all other things and focus on this.

Confessing is a very crucial part of the blending. Without confessing, we cannot be blended with others. A prayer life is a life that revolts and rebels against our natural being. If we are naturally nice, this may prevent us from crying out by the inspiration of the Spirit. According to our natural being, we may pray too much and too long, not caring for others but only for our own feeling. Others are naturally silent. We have to rebel against our natural being. A prayer life is a rebellion. Some who were born so bold have to rebel against themselves to be silent for a period of time. The real prayer life stops our natural being.

Prayer is the release of the spirit. If you do not release your spirit, you can never receive the Spirit. This may be likened to a water hose. When water is coming out of the hose, this means that water is coming into it. Thus, to release our spirit is to receive the Spirit. But a number of us would not care for the release of the spirit but only for our habitual prayer. Some bold and talkative ones should not pray in the prayer meetings for a period of time. This is what it means to rebel against our natural life. The Christian life is a life of the Spirit. To pray is to exercise our spirit, to release our spirit, so that we may receive more of the Spirit. When more water goes out through the hose, more water comes in. If we stop the “going out,” the “coming in” is also stopped. The release of our spirit is the receiving of the Spirit. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 11)

Praying with a Released Spirit and Participating in the Outpouring of The Spirit of Power

When we exercise our spirit, that means we unlock the Holy Spirit. Today the key is not with the Holy Spirit. The key is with us. With the Holy Spirit there is no problem. We need to pray by exercising our spirit so that the Holy Spirit may be released.

This is related to the participation in the outpouring of the Spirit of power. The Holy Spirit first is the essential Spirit, the Spirit of life. Second, the Holy Spirit is the outpoured Spirit as the economical Spirit of power. We need to participate in the outpouring of the Spirit of power as the power from on high and as the dynamic impact. The power from on high is the real dynamic impact, and this comes from exercising our spirit so that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life, the essential Spirit, can be released. The release of the Holy Spirit will usher us into the participation in the outpouring of the Spirit of power. The outpouring of the Spirit of power as the power from on high and as the dynamic impact is for preaching the gospel and ministering Christ to others.

The Spirit within is for our essence; the Spirit without is for God’s economy. The Spirit without is with us based upon the fact that He is the essential Spirit of life within us. Since we are regenerated, we have the first aspect of the Spirit within us as a base. Based upon this, when we exercise our spirit, the essential Spirit will be released, and this will lead us to the enjoyment of the outpouring of the Spirit of power. This outpoured Spirit is the impact for our preaching and for our ministry. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 13)

Now we have to start our action for the increase…We need to look to the Lord so that we can free ourselves from all distractions to have solid times of prayer with Him. Prayer makes us vital. We have to take the lead to be vital. If we are not vital, we cannot pray for others to be vital. To be vital means to be released in the spirit, and this cannot be performed. If we pray for half an hour, we will be released. If we are not released, we are not vital. To contact people, we have to be released persons. If we are not bound, we will be able to release others. A dejected, weeping person cannot make other people happy. If we are going to make people happy, we have to be happy persons. We can only help people to be what we are. In order to go out to effectively labor in the gospel, we must be vital.

Praying, Considering, and Studying with the Members of Our Group, Who are the Best Ones to Labor on and Visit First

Before going out, we must have some preparation. First, we must prepare some candidates for us to go to visit. We need to consider all our relatives, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and friends. Out of these ones whom we know, we need to choose some to labor on for the gospel. Of course, we have to do this by prayer. We should pray, “Lord, who are the best two or three right now for me to work on?” [Previously, we had mentioned], we all should make a list of the people we know who need to be saved. When we read this list prayerfully, we will have some kind of inner registration of the two or three whom we should labor on now. We have to consider their situation and labor on them appropriately.

In our group meetings we should pray and study our candidates for the gospel together. We need to consider people’s condition, especially spiritually, and then act appropriately to meet their need in the gospel. We need to decide how we should visit a certain person and who would be the right one or ones to go. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 22)

In our group meeting in these days, we have to pray for our work of contacting people. Then we should fellowship about the situation with our contacts, so that we can study their cases, fellowship about them, and receive the mutual help. After your study we should pray again. This kind of practice will be very practical, useful, and vital. Then you can decide whom you should contact and by what way. We have to believe that what we are doing by the vital groups will not be in vain, because this is a very practical sowing. Surely there will be the real reaping. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 25)

We need to begin to pray to gain the candidates for our gospel preaching. We need to make a list of our close relatives and acquaintances. Then we need to pray, “Lord, among these, who are the ones that I should take first as my candidates for Your gospel?” The Lord will lead us. We should not take more than five people on our list as our initial candidates for the Lord to gain. It may be that out of these five, three would not be available. Regardless, we have to learn how to prepare ourselves and how to prepare our candidates, the objects of our work. We need to pray for them for about two months. Then we can go out to contact them.

This kind of selection and prayer for those whom we select will give us the impact with them. It is not the best thing to knock on “cold” doors, the doors of people we do not know. We must find a way to get “warm” doors, doors of people whom we know or who have been recommended to us by others. We need to realize that what comes out of our labor can be counted rightly only in the future. Presently, all five whom we choose as our candidates may not be available. But after three years they all will be available due to our prayer. We do not know when the Lord will fulfill our prayer. We should just labor. The apostle Paul promised us that our labor in Christ is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). I believe that every minute we spend for laboring in the Lord’s service is recorded by the Lord. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 15)

Fellowship questions:

  • What is prayer that releases us? Why do we need to release the essential Spirit from within our being?
  • How does being released in our spirit with the members of our group become the Spirit of power that is poured upon us for our dynamic activity?
  • How does this kind of prayer prepare our contacts for our visit, and prepare us to visit them? How does this kind of prayer give us the impact?
  • Why is it helpful to make a list of our contacts? How many people should we hone in on at a time?
  • Why is it helpful to pray, consider, and select whom we should labor on with the members of our group?

Multiplying the Groups

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  • We need to consider the condition and the function of the vital groups; the condition of the group is that the members are intimately related to one another, and the function is to visit sinners or dormant saints to gain them for the Lord; without the proper condition, the function will not have any impact
  • When a group reaches 12-15 members, it is difficult to maintain the condition of the group, and therefore the function of the group gets lost
  • We need to use the little power that the Lord has given to us to learn how to multiply the groups so that there can be more building and more increase in the church
  • Splitting the groups regularly gives us a new start and keeps the vital groups from becoming our “new routine”

The Function and Condition of the Small Groups

[The small group meeting] is the most important meeting for the building up of the church. The function of this meeting is to sustain the brothers and sisters, to recover those who have not been meeting, and to bring in new ones. The ability of the church to increase depends on the condition of the small group meetings, because in the small group meetings there are mutual fellowship, care, shepherding, and exhortation, which constitute the base for the building up of the church.

There are presently three or four thousand brothers and sisters meeting regularly in the church in Taipei. In the past the church in Taipei had only eight to ten elders, and there was no way for them to care for so many people. Presently there are more than eighty elders, but there is still no way for them to adequately care for all the saints. Therefore, all the brothers and sisters must function in the small group meetings and bear the responsibility to feed and care for one another. It is easy for eight to ten people, who meet together once a week in a small group meeting, to know one another. Moreover, even if they do not have any feeling for one another, after meeting together two or three times, they will begin to care for one another, because human beings are social by nature and rich in emotions. They will know one another and care for one another’s condition, health, and job. Instead of feeling as if they are strangers, they will be concerned for one another and cherish one another. There will be a sweet feeling in the meeting. (Three Crucial Matters for the Increase and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 4)

It is best that a group meeting be started with a small number of persons. To start with too many persons makes it difficult to get thoroughly, intimately, and lovingly acquainted. However, with only two to five members it will be difficult to practice the proper function of the group, which needs to visit sinners and gain them for the Lord. It is better to have seven or eight in a group. After a period of time everyone will be acquainted with one another. Before this time we should not go out to work. We should first form ourselves into an acting, working, and moving group by getting acquainted, built up, and trained. Then we can begin to function by visiting people for the preaching of the gospel. In this way new ones can be gained gradually, one by one. If the group gains people little by little, it will not be difficult to follow up on and care for the new ones.

Seven can gain one more and become eight. Then eight can work together to gain another new one. It is easy for eight to care for one new one and thus become nine. Gradually, after working for six months, the group may have fifteen or sixteen. By that time everyone will be acquainted and trained. The group can then divide into two groups. After becoming two groups, everyone will be able to work because they have already become acquainted and have had practice and training. Every group will begin not with new beginners but with trained persons. These will be the foundation for the next generation, and that generation will be ready to go on. We should spend the first five or six months in the groups to get ourselves built up. After this we can double our number in the next half year. This will double the number in the groups. After this number doubles two more times, we will have at least a onefold increase of the whole church. Perhaps our progress will be slower than this, but we anticipate that this way will be successful if everyone will labor. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 5)

Splitting a Group When It Reaches a Certain Size
to Maintain its Condition and Function 

On the average each of our groups has about eight persons. When you bring one to your group, this does not mean that he is vitalized yet. He or she is still not vitalized, but they may like to come to your vital group meeting. When we bring two more to join our group and we reach ten saints, we should divide our group into two groups of five each. Each of our vital group meetings presently has about eight members. When we gain two more and reach ten members, we should divide. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 24)

Our regular and adequate spiritual exercise is in the small group meetings. We must spend our energy on the small group meetings. The number of people in a small group meeting should not exceed ten. It is best if there are only seven or eight people. If the number in the meeting exceeds twelve people, the meeting should be split into two groups. Because human beings are social, it will not be easy for us to split a meeting after the saints meet together for a period of time. Initially, the members of a group might not know one another, but gradually they will feel that the meetings have flavor because they know one another, care for one another, and fan one another into flame. Gradually, their number may increase to twelve, fifteen, or even twenty. Then they will feel that it is difficult to split the meeting into two groups. However, a meeting that does not split into two groups will not spread. Therefore, the meeting must split. We hope that every home will have a meeting and that these meetings will flourish and split until the home of every brother and sister has a small group meeting. (Three Crucial Matters for the Increase and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 4). Please note that the reason the suggested size at which to split a group varies is because this is not a fixed rule but a principle to help the groups maintain their condition and function. 

Taking this Way with Just a Little Power,
Keeping His Word, and Not Denying His Name

I would like us to take note of a few points to help us go on with the Lord: (1) We all have had some start. (2) We need to improve, to grow, to mature. (3) We are used to analyzing, to lingering, and to doubting about what we have experienced, and we would not forget about what we have experienced and be brought on to maturity, to perfection. 

We need to realize, however, that we are not worthy of being analyzed. We have to say, “Thank You, Lord, that You have afforded me the grace to learn the ‘ABCs.’” This is better than nothing. Yet we also have to say, “Lord, grant me further favor that I could learn more.” Maybe we have the feeling that we have not started so well. This kind of feeling, on the one hand, urges us to go on. Yet on the other hand, it is also a kind of hindrance, because we do not have the assurance that we have started. 

Satan is subtle, and our self is also hard to deal with. No one among us can have a thorough, “one hundred percent,” start. No one among us can have a repentance with a confession that is thorough to the uttermost. So we should not be disappointed, nor should we be contented. We can pray, “Lord, thank You. Since I heard the messages on the vital groups, I have started, Lord, by Your mercy, to repent and confess. Yet dear Lord, You know that my repentance needs to be improved, my confession needs to grow, and my whole practice in the vital groups needs to mature. I look to You to take me on.”I want to say again that the Lord is the One full of authority, full of power. He has the key, the power, to open the door that no one can shut, and He has the power to shut the door that no one can open. Yet He was so clear about the situation of His best church. Even His best church had only a little power. The Lord was satisfied with this. The Lord did not expect that this top church could have great power—just a little power. But why was the Lord so appreciative of this church? Because she had a little power and also kept His word and did not deny His name. We do have a little power, and we can pray, “Lord, thank You for Your mercy. We have started. Yet Lord, we still need more mercy. Have more and more mercy upon us that we could go on, that we could grow, that we could improve, and that we could mature.” (The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, Chapter 10)

The Lord has shown us that the only way for us to go on is to come back to His Word, and His Word tells us that He ordained a way in the New Testament for us to take. He has shown us that we cannot take this way as a form or a ritual. If we do, we are just dropping an old ritual and picking up a new one. You hate the old routine, but you love the new routine. We do not want to pick up another routine. This is why you have to go to the Lord directly. (The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, Chapter 9) 

Fellowship Questions:

  1. What is the function of the small groups? What is the condition of the groups? How are they related? 
  2. How is the function of a group connected to the number of saints in that group? What has been your experience in this matter? 
  3. Is your group increasing in number? Why do you think this is? 
  4. Has your group grown to a size that is too large to maintain an intimate atmosphere among the members? If so, how can you fellowship about caring for both the condition and function of the group?

Building up a More Intimate Fellowship by Contacting one Another in Twos and Threes Outside of the Meetings

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BUILDING UP A MORE INTIMATE FELLOWSHIP BY CONTACTING ONE ANOTHER IN TWOS AND THREES OUTSIDE OF THE MEETINGS

  • We need a breakthrough in practicing the one accord by learning to open to one another and to be grouped together
  • We can contact one another during the week and meet together in twos and threes outside of the meeting to build up a more intimate fellowship with one another and shepherd one another in specific ways
  • Building up the one accord through this kind of contact will be our impact in the gospel and cause those we shepherd to similarly practice to be blended together in groups

Our Needing a Breakthrough in Being Grouped Together

Among us there is a great need for a breakthrough to allow the Lord to carry out the grouping. From the very beginning in the four Gospels, when the Lord Jesus sent out His disciples, He did not send them one by one; rather, He always sent them two by two, grouping them together…According to the proper interpretation of the New Testament, the one accord is the one Body. We must practice the principle of the Body; then we will have the one accord. Although we may not fight with one another, we still may not have the one accord…It is difficult for us to open ourselves to one another, but it is even more difficult, after listening to one another’s fellowship, to speak something in response in a way that is frank and full of love. After coming together in our groups, we should be free to tell the others concerning our inward situation with the Lord. Likewise, the others should be free to respond. Because we are afraid to expose ourselves and are afraid of offending others, we pretend with one another and are unwilling to let people know our real situation. We need the intimate and thorough fellowship. Of course, we need to be careful concerning what we open to one another…I do not mean that we should open ourselves in a careless way. Nevertheless, we need to find a way to be blended. Otherwise, the Lord has no way out of our present situation. We need to be blended until we have an intimate love for one another. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 10)

Learning to Open to One Another in Twos or Threes

[Besides meeting with one another in a larger group], you may have two or three [you can meet with outside the meeting]. You two or three should come together and pray and get to know each other. Although you may have met in the same church for years, you may not know how many children each other has. Furthermore, you may not know that the wife of one of the brothers has been ill for a considerable time. If you had been practicing the proper grouping, within one hour after one of the group members became ill, you would have known it. In grouping together, the first thing to do is to know one another. Whenever you come together, you should ask concerning the present situation of each group member. We may say that we know each other, but actually we do not. When one of our family members is sick, we may avoid telling others. We may say that everyone in our family is well when actually some are not well. Instead of opening our situation to one another, we hide things from one another.

After opening to one another concerning our present situation, we should pray for one another and care for and help one another. This is a further step in the practice of the group meetings. Because we do not open ourselves to one another and do not have the mutual care for one another, we have lost our impact. If you will practice the new way, immediately you will have the impact. After forming a group, you should not go the next day to visit people by knocking on new doors. Rather, the group members should pray together…When we come together to fellowship, we still do not fully open ourselves to one another. Thus, there has been little result from our fellowship. It seems that the Lord is not with us, or that He is with us only partially. Yes, the Lord is gracious, and He is broad. He takes care of us, but that does not mean that He is happy with us. He is happy with us to the extent that we open ourselves to our fellow members. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 2)

Contacting One Another Outside of the Meetings to Build Up
More Intimate Fellowship and Shepherd One Another Specifically

We need to build up an intimacy with all the members of our group. To do this, one sister may call another during the day for a few minutes of contact and fellowship. If we love one another, we will always feel that we miss one another. If we would contact one another in this way, we will see the difference. We will be enlivened and stirred up to love the Lord. Our hearts will also be softened toward one another, and we will be able to receive something from one another.

The way to have an intimate and thorough fellowship is to exercise our spirit. Whenever we speak something in fellowship, we need to exercise our spirit. According to my observation, a number of saints have the teaching concerning exercising the spirit, but in practice they do not have the reality. For the proper fellowship we need to exercise our spirit with much and thorough prayer. In the vital groups we need to fellowship concerning our status, our spiritual condition, and our present situation in and with the Lord. (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 10)

Let us have more specific fellowship concerning how to [contact one another outside of the meetings]. First, we must pray for [one another]. If we want to bring someone to God, we must first go to God on their behalf. We should mention them by name to God…and pray for them often. Such prayer is necessary and should be specific. We should no longer have general prayers, saying, “Lord, revive Your church. Remember the brothers and sisters.” It is not that general prayers are not effective but that the effectiveness of our prayers depends on how specific they are…Instead of general prayers, we need to bring the believers by name to the Lord and bear their specific burdens practically in prayer. If we love [others], we need specific prayers for them.

After interceding, we need to contact [them] personally. We will know their true situation by contacting them. We will know their occupation, their family, their financial situation, any marital problems, their children’s education, and their spiritual condition. We can be clear concerning others only after we have personal contact with them. Such contact will guide our prayers and deepen our burden. Knowing [one another’s] actual situation is the base for intercession.

A brother may consecrate himself to the Lord but not know what he should do next. If we know his situation, we should pray specifically for him, asking the Lord to lead the brother in a definite way. Some may ask what the definite way should be. A consecrated person should know assuredly that he needs to forsake everything and that he has consecrated his strength, time, and energy to the Lord for His use. This is definite. Some believers make decisions concerning their finances immediately after their consecration. They say to the Lord, “From now on, I offer everything in my hand for Your use. Not only so, a portion of my income will be separated wholly unto You.” This is a definite way. These believers did not say in a general way, “I am a consecrated person.” Hence, if someone has consecrated himself but has not yet taken specific action, we need to pray for him and shepherd him in this regard.

We need to contact [one another] and also pray for [one another]. The more contact we have, the more we will pray, and this prayer will cause us to have even more contact. Our contact with [one another] should be spontaneous, not rigid. We can find opportunities to contact [one another] before or after a meeting. This method is simple yet effective. At times we might need to [invite one another for a meal]. If we cannot invite eight people at once, we can invite them in smaller groups. A married brother who has children can invite a couple over for mutual fellowship.

After three months [of contacting one another in this way, we may feel we] are able to care for some others. [Then] spontaneously [we can contact another] two or three [saints]. Therefore, this fire of love spreads quickly. This is the practice of love. (Service for the Building Up of the Church, Chapter 2)

Because we have never opened ourselves to our fellow members, we have very little impact. When you go out to [contact people for the gospel], even the unbelievers can sense that between the two or three of you there are some problems. There is no need for you to tell them; they can sense that you have problems. That reduces your impact. But if you are really one, the unbelievers can sense this also. They may say to themselves, “How marvelous that these three people are one. In my whole life I have never seen such a thing.” That is the impact. With such oneness and impact, surely the unbelievers will make the decision within themselves that they would like to join themselves to you. Perhaps they will not understand clearly what you preach to them, but after you leave, they may say to one another, “These people are sincere. They speak what they believe, and they speak what they are.” After the day of Pentecost the believers…had everything in common (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32) in order to show the entire universe, including the demons, the angels, the Lord, and Satan, that they were truly one. Spontaneously, the impact was there (5:12-14). (Fellowship Concerning the Urgent Need of the Vital Groups, Chapter 2)

Fellowship Questions:

  1. In what ways do we need to learn to practice fellowship and opening ourselves to one another? What is the way to carry out this fellowship in a way that is spiritual and not natural?
  2. How can we build up intimacy with the members of our group outside of the group meeting itself?
  3. What experiences have we had of practicing fellowship, prayer, and shepherding in twos and threes that could be of help to one another?
  4. Are there some members in the group that the Lord is burdening you to contact outside of the meeting?

Learning to Prophesy Organically Through the Practice of the Groups

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LEARNING TO PROPHESY ORGANICALLY
THROUGH THE PRACTICE OF THE GROUPS

  • A vital group is a group of normal Christians who build up the Body of Christ by prophesying
  • All believers have the capacity to prophesy, to speak forth Christ
  • In the group meetings we should learn to speak for the Lord by mutually asking and answering questions; thus we will learn to prophesy organically and spontaneously minister Christ to others

What a Vital Group Is

Now I would like to ask, “What is a vital group?” You may say that a vital group is a group that is living, burning, and bearing fruit. But this may be a doctrinal answer without vision. Actually, a vital group is a group of normal Christians. Today most Christians are abnormal, including a number of us in the recovery. My burden in endeavoring to carry out the vital groups is to change the generation.

After reconsidering the holy Word, we found out the way in which Christians should serve and meet. This is the God-ordained way, the way ordained by God in the Bible. This way ordained by God has four steps.

After the begetting stage, the nourishing stage, and the teaching stage comes the building stage. After you graduate from a four-year college, you have to do some business. Our business in the church life is to build up the church of Christ, the Body of Christ, by prophesying. This is fully developed and presented in 1 Corinthians 14. The church is not built by one minister, one preacher, speaking all the time. This concept came from Satan to spoil the Body of Christ, to nullify the headship of Christ, and to make the church nothing. The practice of one man speaking and the rest listening does not build up the church, the Body of Christ. Instead, it builds up a hierarchy, a kind of religious system with rank and position. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that we should all desire to prophesy, to speak for the Lord (v. 1). Paul says that we can all prophesy (v. 31). To prophesy in 1 Corinthians 14 means to speak for the Lord and to speak forth Christ. We need the variety from many saints speaking in the meetings. After a new one gets baptized, he can say, “Praise the Lord Jesus! I love Him. He is so good to me.” In a family it is good to hear all the members of different ages speak, from the young children to the grandparents. The church life should be like this.

Thus, we have seen that God’s ordained way has four stages: the stages of begetting, feeding, teaching, and building. Nearly everyone in the recovery likes the God-ordained way, but when we actually begin to practice it step by step, we will be a changed generation. We will get out of the old generation and become a new generation. This is what I expect to see in the recovery—a change of generation. We must get out of the deadness, lukewarmness, and barrenness. We must get out of the oldness, the staleness. We must get out of the routine, the formality, the silence, and the prayers of the traditional way. We hate deadness, lukewarmness, and barrenness. We are struggling to fight them down. We need a change from the old way to the new way, from the old age to the new age in God’s ordained way with four steps: begetting, feeding, teaching, and building. We need a change of generation. (The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, Chapter 6)

All Believers Having the Capacity to Prophesy

First Corinthians 14:31 says, “You can all prophesy one by one.” This verse is one of the clearest verses in the entire Bible. It says that all the believers have the capacity to prophesy. Capacity denotes an ability by birth. Dogs do not have the capacity to speak human language; they have the capacity only to bark. Human beings, however, have the capacity to speak. We, as members of the Body of Christ, all can prophesy one by one. Romans 12:6-8 mentions seven gifts, including prophecy, and says that these gifts differ according to the grace given to each member. These verses, however, refer to the exercise of the gifts outside the meetings. In the Body of Christ we have different gifts and functions outside the meetings. The gifts in Romans 12 are not the gifts exercised in the meetings. In the meetings all the members can prophesy (1 Cor. 14:24, 31).

Many saints among us may feel that all can prophesy except them. However, there are no exceptions. We may not be eloquent, but we can still prophesy. Verse 31 does not say, “You can all prophesy eloquently.” There is no such adverb in this verse. It simply says, “You can all prophesy.” It does not matter how we speak; it is sufficient simply to speak. The Lord wants all of us to speak.

To my observation, only a small percentage of the saints regularly speak forth Christ. In each Lord’s Day morning meeting, many saints do not speak, but after the meeting they have much to say. We do not need to be concerned with how well we speak; we simply need to speak. Even if our grammar is poor, people will understand us. Many times we like to “save our face.” If we do speak, we desire to be the top speaker. However, we do not need top speakers; we simply need speakers. We all can prophesy one by one. (The Practice of Prophesying, Chapter 1)

The Organic Practice of the
Priests of the Gospel Accomplishing God’s Purpose

In the previous [sections], we have seen clearly that God’s desire in the New Testament is that every saved one be a priest of the gospel. First, we need to go and preach the gospel to gain sinners that they may be regenerated so that we may offer them to God as sacrifices. After this we need to pick up the burden to go to their homes regularly to nourish and cherish them that they may receive the life supply and grow in the spiritual life until they can present themselves to God as living sacrifices. Then we need to continue to carry out in them the work of teaching and perfecting. This requires us to bring them to the small group meetings to have contact and fellowship with the saints that they may open themselves up to the saints to receive mutual care and supply. In such a small group meeting everyone has the equal opportunity and right to open his mouth to speak, to ask questions, and to answer questions. Everyone also can teach others and be taught by others. The questions asked are mainly of two categories: one category concerns the divine truths in the Bible, and the other category concerns our Christian pursuit and growth in life. It is best to have such a small group meeting once a week. For fifty-two weeks in a year, all should come together weekly to fellowship, minister, ask questions, answer questions, teach, and learn. In this way we can gradually enter into the knowledge of the truth and the growth in life. As a result, we will be perfected to do the same work that the gifted ones do, with all of us carrying out our respective functions for the building up of the Body of Christ.

In the stage of perfecting, we need to help others to exercise and learn to speak for the Lord, that is, to prophesy. This is not to gossip or speak ordinary words. Instead, this is to speak concerning Christ and to minister Christ, to speak forth God’s eternal purpose, plan, and economy, and to speak forth the proper spiritual living and the spiritual experiences, which we who belong to the Lord should have. This is to prophesy according to the biblical revelation in coordination with our own experience of life and in conjunction with the instant inspiration that we receive. Hence, this kind of prophesying is organic and in the Spirit, not mechanical or according to doctrines and reasonings in letters. Such organic prophesying and spiritual speaking spontaneously minister Christ to others and release the light of truth so that people may receive enlightenment and life supply. This is not limited to two or three people, but all attendants have the equal opportunity and the same right to speak. Hence, prophesying is everyone speaking and everyone listening; it is mutual speaking and mutual listening.

In such a meeting for prophesying, at least over half of the attendants can speak. This does not mean that the others may not speak, but because of time not everyone may have the opportunity to speak. If someone does not have the opportunity on one occasion, he can wait for the next occasion to speak, if time allows. There may be some whose speaking is not rich or strong, but there will always be some who speak in a very rich and strong way. All the speakings are needed, whether they are deep or shallow, high or low, rich or poor. This is because a church meeting is not like a class in school. In a class all the students have the same status and are at the same level, but in a church meeting there are young ones, middle-aged ones, older ones, more advanced ones, and less advanced ones. All are blended together, and even the newly saved ones are encouraged to open their mouth to speak. Everyone presents what he has received of the Lord; in this there are true riches. Furthermore, everyone can receive much supply and edification from what is spoken, heard, taught, and learned. Then week after week the supply that we receive will be of a great variety, and the functions in which we are perfected will be extensive. (The Church Life in the Lord’s Recovery Today, Chapter 5)

For our present church life we need three kinds of meetings. We need the home meetings in the new believers’ homes to nourish and to cherish the new ones. We need the group meetings so that the saints can fellowship with one another, pray for one another, and take care of one another. In these group meetings, the saints can ask questions concerning the truth and concerning life, and everyone can answer these questions. Thus, in the group meetings everyone asks, everyone answers, everyone teaches, and everyone learns. After meeting in the group meetings in a regular way throughout the year, all the attendants will be taught with the truth and will be built up in life. Eventually, we will all reach the high peak of prophesying for the building up of the church. Prophesying is the highest attainment in our church life. (The Advance of the Lord’s Recovery Today, Chapter 7)

Fellowship Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be a normal Christian in the context of prophesying?
  2. How could the traditional way of one man speaking affect our feeling concerning prophesying? Why do we need a “change of generation”? How does the way different members of a family speak illustrate the different kinds of speaking needed in the church?
  3. What factors may hold you back from prophesying? How could your practice in the groups help to address some of these challenges?
  4. In what ways can your group encourage and equip each member to function in the prophesying meeting?