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. When I went to Taiwan in 1984, I told the leading elders that I could not go on in the present dormant situation of the recovery. We need to come out of the deadness of Sardis (Rev. 3:1-2), the lukewarmness of Laodicea (vv. 14-16), and the barrenness of the degenerating believers (John 15:2a). I want to bring the recovery into another age with a new generation, a new people.
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. The first step is to preach the gospel to get sinners saved so that they can become members of Christ. This is the begetting stage to bring forth, to beget, members of Christ. When sinners repent, believe, and are regenerated, they become like newborn babes who need to be nourished by us. This brings us to the second stage, the feeding stage, the nourishing stage. After the feeding stage comes the teaching stage to educate them. The teaching stage takes a long time. Humanly speaking, an education takes six years for elementary school, six years for junior high and high school, and four years for college. Spiritually speaking, we also need to be educated in the divine truths for the Christian life and the church life. This is the teaching stage, which is called the perfecting of the saints in Ephesians 4:12. After a certain period of time, the saints become “graduates” in the church life. The length of time it takes to “graduate” differs with people according to their desire for the Lord, their endeavoring, and their capacity.
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 the source of 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 said that we should all desire to prophesy, to speak for the Lord (v. 1). Paul told us 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 everybody 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.
I would like to say again that a vital group is a group of normal Christians. A normal Christian always lives a holy life in the church. He lives in the Body. He does not save people into a denomination but into the church, into the Body. Because many of us were not saved in this way, we were not normal. A normal Christian lives the normal church life and preaches the gospel in a normal way to save people into the church, into the Body.
Normal Christians beget, bring forth, normal Christians. After hearing the preaching of the gospel, a person should be led to repent thoroughly. He should make a thorough confession before God of his mistakes, wrongdoings, shortcomings, defects, transgressions, trespasses, sins, and evils. He should also ask forgiveness of anyone whom he has offended. Through this kind of repentance and confession, he will begin to have a close, intimate fellowship with the Lord and with his fellow believers. Then he can also be perfected concerning how to pray, how to read the Word of God, how to call on the Lord’s name, and how to exercise his spirit. Spontaneously, he will become vital—living, burning, and fruit-bearing. A vital person is one who repents to the uttermost, confesses thoroughly, contacts the Lord God intimately, and fellowships with his fellow Christians closely.
(The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)