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


We also need to realize a second principle. This second principle is that there are many imperatives in the New Testament which tell us what to do. All the words spoken concerning the overcomers are imperative. When Paul said, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead,” this was an imperative. You have to do it. The book of Revelation is a particular book full of imperatives for those who desire to overcome. The Lord charges those in Laodicea to buy from Him gold refined by fire that they may be rich, white garments that they may cover their nakedness, and eyesalve to anoint their eyes that they may see (Rev. 3:18). No one would give these things to you. You have to buy them at a cost; you have to pay the price. From the beginning of the New Testament to the end, every step of God’s grace to us is imperative. We are told to repent and believe into the Lord Jesus. This is imperative. The Lord Jesus tells us to come to Him. This is imperative. No one can do it for you. You have to do it.

Second Timothy 1 says that God has not given us a spirit of cowardice. He has not given us a weak, “wishy-washy” spirit. But God has given us a spirit of power, with a strong will, a spirit of love, with a loving emotion, and a spirit of sobermindedness, with a clear mind (v. 7). You must be strong in your will. All the followers of Christ, all the martyrs of the Lord, are people with a strong will. You cannot be wishy-washy. If you are, you can do nothing. We, the seekers of the Lord, must learn to be strong in our will. Because I have received a vision and am under the Lord’s enlightenment, I have to be strong for the Lord’s interests.

I say again that you must have a time to go to the Lord. You must go to the Lord again and again until you get the enlightenment and are exposed in His light. If you come to Him, He will expose you, and you will repent and confess. Then you will be brought into His intimate fellowship. This will make you vital. To be vital is not a matter of shouting some slogans or of carrying out some movement. To hear the fellowship concerning the vital groups and then to go to do it in ourselves is a movement. It means nothing. Only one thing counts—for you to contact the Lord by yourself. To do it with anyone else will be a frustration to you. You must go to Him directly by yourself. A thorough confession can be made to the Lord only by yourself.

I hope that we would take this fellowship and receive the imperatives from the Lord in His Word. I can tell you that you need to repent, but I cannot repent for you. I can prepare the food for you, but I cannot eat the food for you. No one can eat for you. You can be charged to eat, but you still need to eat for yourself. My duty, my responsibility, and my ministry is to tell you that you need to eat. If you do not take this word, then whatever you hear means nothing. Today we are in a stage in which we need to be vital. We need to be living, burning, and fruitful. Who can do this for us? Only the Lord Himself. What we need in this stage is to go to the Lord directly. We have to look to the Lord for a time that we can go to Him.

I would like to give you a short testimony of my experience in this matter. I was with the Brethren for more than six years—from 1925 to 1931—when the Lord shined on me in a particular way. In August of 1931 while I was walking on the street, something deep within me said, “You have been with the Brethren for all these years. You have gone to meeting after meeting and have heard message after message. But look at how dead you are. In these years you didn’t bring one person to the Lord.” I was really bothered by this realization. The next morning, I went to the top of a hill to spend some time alone with the Lord. I wept and prayed, “Lord, have mercy upon me. What shall I do?” That was something vital. I did that every day for quite some time.

After a number of months, an intimate friend of mine who was a very dear brother in the Lord came from Shanghai. He had gone to Shanghai to do some business and had stayed there for a few years. He told me about the meeting of the church in Shanghai. I sent word through him to Brother Watchman Nee that I would like to invite him to come to our town. Later, he came and held a conference in our denomination. The day after he left, the Lord sent someone to me and we spontaneously became companions. That was the start of the church in my hometown. We two became vital. There was no need for us to go to people. The Lord sent people one by one to come to contact us. Just after two weeks’ time, we had eleven brothers coming together to take the Lord’s table. That was a vitalized situation.

There is the need of a real start among us today. There must be some contact between you and the Lord. When I had my times with the Lord on the top of that hill, I had to repent and confess. This brought me into an intimate fellowship with the Lord. I did this day by day for a number of weeks. What I have been teaching here is according to what I have experienced. The many teachings which I had received from the Brethren did not help me in the matter of life. It was not until the Lord shined upon me that I began to be brought into the pathway of life.

You may say, “Well, the Lord has not come to me yet.” But I would say, “The Lord is waiting for you. You need to go to Him.” The Lord is within you, but you may not care to listen to Him. He is speaking all the time. You need to stop yourself from all other things. Go to a closed room, to a mountaintop, or to some other place to be with the Lord for a personal time. The only thing that has helped me and that can help you is to contact the Lord directly. No one can escape from the Lord’s presence. He is the source. Go to Him and you will be enlightened.


You must take care of another principle in your fellowship with the Lord. When you go to the Lord, you must be sincere. You must not try to avoid the Lord by choosing the easy way or by compromising. That means you sell yourself cheaply. When you go to the Lord, you have to say amen to whatever He speaks to you.

Do not say that you cannot do something or that you can do something. We cannot do anything in ourselves, but we can trust in Him. This is a great gift. The babe does not need to cook, but the babe should trust in the mother’s cooking. Our problem is that we either do not do anything or that we try by ourselves to do it. Both are wrong. Do not do it, but trust in Him. Then He will do it for you all the time. Paul said that he was able to do all things in the One who empowered him (Phil. 4:13). He told us clearly that we could do nothing, but he also told us that we can trust in Him. Thus, Paul gave us a lot of imperatives. We need to take these imperatives by trusting in the Lord. Do not take the vital groups as a movement. Just go to the Lord. Get yourself vitalized. Then go to produce a vital group, not form one.

Verse 14 of Ephesians 5 is an imperative—“Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead.” We should take heed to this word. There is not any doctrine here. We must wake up. If we do not, we are through. We say that we hate the deadness of Sardis, but we have to arise from the dead. Awake and arise! I feel this verse is very practical to us. If we awake and arise, Christ will shine on us. His shining will work out many things and show us where we are. He will shine on us to expose us. If we do not arise, Christ’s shining is not with us. His shining is waiting for our arising. We need to be vitalized because we are sleeping. We need to be saved from our deadness.

Do not trust in others to help you in this matter. You have to pray. You have to put your trust in the Lord. Only the Lord is the source. Only He can shine on you. Only He can bring you into the light to cause you to be fully exposed. Only He can render a real repentance and confession to you. The vital groups should be started by your going to the Lord. This is the sowing of the seed, and something will grow out of this.

(The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)