The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, by Witness Lee


In John 15 the Lord Jesus unveiled God’s economy in this universe in a very simple way, in the way of a parable concerning the vine tree, the true vine. Yet the revelation here is not that simple. In this message my burden is to show us that in this parable the Lord points out what our status is. To be a Christian, a believer in Christ, and to be a follower of Christ, what kind of persons should we be? The Lord says that our status in Him is to be a branch of Him, a part of Him to branch Him out (v. 5).

We were created by God in Adam, and eventually we were born in Adam. That was our status. But God transferred us out of Adam and put us into Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). Our being in Christ is a union in life, making us one with Christ in life and in nature. He is the tree and we are the branches. There is no difference in anything between the tree and the branches, because they are one entity. The only distinction between Him and us is this: He needs us to branch Him out, and we need Him to be our supply and to be our everything.

Here we can see our function and our commission on this earth. A branch of a vine tree is there for nothing else except to bear fruit. Bearing fruit is an issue of the flow of life. In order to bear fruit, we must abide in Christ. In John 15:5 the Lord said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” In order to bear fruit, we must abide in Him, remain in the union of life in Him, keep ourselves always one with Him, and never be separated from Him. If we are apart from Him, we have lost our status, we have annulled our function, and we can do nothing.

Look at today’s millions of Christians. Who is functioning to branch Christ out, to issue forth Christ in fruit-bearing? In Christianity we see the clerical class, the educated, trained, and disciplined ministers and preachers. What are they doing? Many of them are doing a work, but they are not doing a living work. They are not living a life as the branches of the vine tree. Then the majority of the so-called laity have become useless, having their functions annulled. Where can we see the picture that is portrayed, depicted, in this parable in John 15? It is hard to see such a picture on the earth today.

We also need to consider the situation among us in the light of John 15. We love Christ, we seek after Him, and we pursue Him. But we have to admit and confess that we do not live a life like a branch of the vine tree—to abide in Him all the time that we may flow Him out, branch Him out, to have an issue in bearing fruit. I want to make one thing clear: the vital groups are just normal believers living a life as the real branches of the great vine tree in this universe. We are not just preaching the gospel to win souls for an increase in our number.

What we expect to see is that in the Lord’s recovery all the dear saints who love the Lord, who are pursuing after Him, would see their status as the members of the living Christ. These members of the living Christ are the branches of the vine tree. We are branches of the vine tree to bear fruit, to flow Him out, to branch Him out. This is our function. This is our commission. This can take place only by our constant abiding in the vine.


Romans 8:4b shows that normal Christians should walk according to the spirit. This spirit can be spelled with either a small s or a capital S. This is because the human spirit and the divine Spirit are mingled as one spirit. There is a person today in this universe, even on this earth, who is called the Spirit, and we are one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). The normal Christians, the vital group people, should be those who live, act, walk, and have their being according to the spirit. In other words, they would not do anything that is not according to the spirit. Even good things and things that are according to the highest standard of morality they would not do, unless they do them according to the spirit.

A person who does things only according to the mingled spirit is a normal Christian, and he surely is a member of the vital groups. Such a person surely is a functioning branch of the vine tree. This kind of person always sets his mind upon the spirit (Rom. 8:6). Of course, he also knows how to keep himself away from the flesh, from the self, from the fallen humanity, in order to be one with the Spirit in everything.

(The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)