II. CONDUCTING TRAININGS
Watchman conducted trainings as the second specific means of fulfilling his ministry. Let us read his own word concerning this matter, given in his second testimony in Kulangsu, October 20, 1936:
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 acres1 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.
A. The Initial Stage
Watchman’s trainings were initiated in 1933. In the initial stages he began with a few young brothers, who stayed upstairs in the meeting hall in Shanghai. At that stage the training was informal. The trainees lived together, studied the Bible, and spent some time with him individually for spiritual help. On occasion he would spend time with us in the evening when there was no church meeting. Such informal training lasted for a period of two years.
B. The Training in Shanghai
In 1936 Watchman began to build a training facility in Chenru, in the suburbs of Shanghai. Just before the building work was completed, the war between Japan and China broke out, and the building was destroyed. After that he had no opportunity to carry out his burden until 1940.
After returning to Shanghai from his trip to Europe, he determined to stay in Shanghai all the time to release his messages on the Body of Christ and to help in the practical building up of the church. At that time he rented a place in Yu-hwa village in Shanghai in which to conduct his first training. Since his burden at that time was mostly on the Body of Christ, his training was focused on that theme. In the training he would frequently ask us to give our testimony on how we had seen the Body. Following each testimony, he would frequently declare, "No, you have not seen the Body." Then he would proceed to prove by the very words the trainee had used that the trainee had not seen the Body. To some who testified, he pointed out that the Body to them was just a doctrine or theory, not a vision.
He also trained us in the matter of consecration. Every morning he asked one of the trainees to give a testimony regarding his or her consecration. After each testimony he would diagnose it like a medical doctor, judge it with the thorough discernment of a judge, and frequently operate mercilessly on us as a surgeon. Only a few passed his keen and stern examination regarding their consecration. All, however, received practical help in life. The training lasted about two years, and quite a few from other cities remained in Shanghai for a longer period to be trained. The number of trainees was approximately seventy or eighty.
(Watchman Nee—A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, Chapter 24, by Witness Lee)