4. A Church Leader Isn’t an Officer
By Matthew, France
I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days three years ago. I was elected as church leader in October 2020. I realized it was a big responsibility and I felt a little stressed, but I was also really proud. I felt I was elected for that important duty because I had better caliber than the others. I took my duty really seriously, doing my best to fellowship with my brothers and sisters and helping them with problems and difficulties they ran into. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was an excellent leader and could do real work.
Then an evildoer started spreading rumors in the church. He was spreading the Chinese Communist Party’s lies slandering and blaspheming God in gathering groups, twisting facts and turning things inside out, and judging the work of God’s house. He wanted to mislead newcomers into leaving the church and betraying God. So, I was holding gatherings and fellowshiping with the brothers and sisters as much as I could, and I felt like a military commander, leading the troops against enemy factions. I wanted to prove I could protect the brothers and sisters, to show them I could take on a heavy burden, that I was responsible. But in reality, I felt really weak. I myself didn’t know how to refute some fallacies and they were even disturbing me, too. But I didn’t want to reveal my weakness to the others. I thought that as a church leader, I had to be tough, like a president or military commander. I couldn’t let anyone see my weakness! So I never opened up to the brothers and sisters about my own state. Not only did I disguise myself in this matter, when discussing our understandings of God’s words in gatherings, I liked talking about profound understandings so others would think I comprehended them really well. But I just glossed over my own failures and corruptions, quickly changing the subject to the things that I did right. For example, if I got sleepy in a gathering I wouldn’t admit it, and I’d hide it when I did have a difficulty instead of sharing it with the others.
Sister Marinette, who worked with me, really admired me because I was always helping her with words of God relevant to her state. I knew she kind of looked up to me, and I was really pleased and content when she expressed her admiration. The brothers and sisters who were waterers for newcomers also admired me a lot. Once a sister told me that she’d learned from my fellowship and help. I was really pleased to gain others’ approval. In gatherings, some brothers and sisters actively responded with “Amen” after my fellowship, and some even said, “It’s just like Brother Matthew said.” It seemed to me that they spoke to me with a tone of adoration, and I felt like I held an important place in their hearts. I knew that wasn’t appropriate, but I liked the feeling of being looked up to. Then one day, I saw a testimony video called The Harm Done by Showing Off. It struck a particular chord with me. A sister, also a leader, was always elevating herself and showing off in her duty. She offended God’s disposition and was disciplined with an illness. The crux of the matter was that her behavior disgusted God. After I saw that video, I realized that in my boasting and showing off to gain others’ admiration, I was defying and opposing God. I was on the path of an antichrist. I’d never realized that elevating oneself and showing off could be such a serious problem. I felt really scared and didn’t know what to do.
Then I read this passage of God’s words that gave me some insight into my corruption. God’s words say, “Exalting and testifying to themselves, flaunting themselves, trying to make people think highly of them—corrupt mankind is capable of these things. This is how people instinctively react when they are governed by their satanic natures, and it is common to all of corrupt mankind. How do people usually exalt and testify to themselves? How do they achieve this aim? They testify to how much work they have done, how much they have suffered, how much they have expended themselves, and what price they have paid. They use these things as the capital by which they exalt themselves, which gives them a higher, firmer, more secure place in people’s minds, so that more people esteem, admire, respect, and even venerate, idolize, and follow them. To achieve this aim, people do many things that testify to God on the surface, but essentially exalt and testify to themselves. Is acting that way reasonable? They are beyond the purview of rationality. These people have no shame: They unabashedly testify to what they have done for God and how much they have suffered for Him. They even flaunt their gifts, talents, experience, special skills, their clever techniques for conducting themselves, the means they use to toy with people, and so on. Their method of exalting and testifying to themselves is to flaunt themselves and belittle others. They also dissemble and camouflage themselves, hiding their weaknesses, shortcomings, and deficiencies from people so that they only ever see their brilliance. They do not even dare to tell other people when they feel negative; they lack the courage to open up and fellowship with them, and when they do something wrong, they do their utmost to conceal it and cover it up. Never do they mention the harm they have caused to the work of the church in the course of doing their duty. When they have made some minor contribution or achieved some small success, however, they are quick to show it off. They cannot wait to let the whole world know how capable they are, how high their caliber is, how exceptional they are, and how much better they are than normal people. Is this not a way of exalting and testifying to themselves? Is exalting and testifying to oneself something someone with conscience and reason does? It is not. So when people do this, what disposition is usually revealed? Arrogance is one of the chief dispositions revealed, followed by deceitfulness, which involves doing everything possible to make other people hold them in high esteem. Their stories are completely watertight; their words clearly contain motivations and schemes, yet they want to hide the fact that they are showing off. The outcome of what they say is that people are made to feel that they are better than others, that no one is their equal, that everyone else is inferior to them. And is this outcome not achieved via underhanded means? What disposition is behind such means? And are there any elements of wickedness? This is a kind of wicked disposition” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Four). Reading God’s words felt like a direct blow to my heart. I could see what was hidden deep within me. I had always wanted to construct an image of myself as a strong man, a perfect person. I liked talking about my elevated understanding and my successful experiences to leave people with a positive impression, but I hardly ever talked about my weaknesses or actual difficulties. If I was feeling weak or negative, or faced with some problems, or even when I was in my worst state, I’d just act like everything was great in order to protect my pride and reputation. But in fact, I was really in pain. Seeing others’ admiration and adoration for me, I had some awareness of it, and I knew this wasn’t good. But I hadn’t told people not to adore me, because I wanted everyone’s admiration, adoration and praise. Wasn’t I just as arrogant as the archangel? I wasn’t bringing others before God, but I was bringing them before myself. When I realized I could be taking God’s place in the brothers’ and sisters’ hearts, I was trembling with fear and knew in my heart that God detested my behavior. I was full of remorse and prayed to God, “God, I’ve been showing off, wanting everyone to see me as a good leader, above everyone else. I’m usurping Your glory. Oh God, I want to repent to You.” Then I wrote a repentance letter revealing how I showed off and elevated myself and sent it to every gathering group. I also told everyone unequivocally that they shouldn’t adore me. I knew a few brothers and sisters who particularly adored me, so I sent them individual messages opening up and dissecting myself. A few days later, Sister Marinette told me frankly that she had adored me before and that I had held an important place in her heart. I was really ashamed to hear this and felt like it was evidence of my evil. I saw my own ugliness in that moment, and felt like I’d lost all reason, getting the others to worship me. How was that doing a duty? Was that what God hoped for when He gave me this duty? I felt really uneasy and ashamed. But I still didn’t really seek the truth to resolve my corruption, so before long I fell back into my old ways.
One day I went to a gathering that other church leaders attended, too. I felt that the brothers’ and sisters’ fellowship was simplistic and I was unsettled. I felt like their fellowship was shallow and I looked down on them a bit. I wanted to show them that my fellowship was more practical than theirs. So I mentally prepared what I wanted to say. I thought about saying something more enlightening so I could stick out from the crowd and share some weighty fellowship. I thought over the wording to best enrich my fellowship. I really wanted to prove that I had a higher understanding so others would appreciate my insight. During my fellowship I used lots of examples so they would know that my fellowship was detailed and rich. When I was done, I was very satisfied to hear everyone say “Amen.” Then I rushed to check the chat window to see if the brothers and sisters had said something nice about my fellowship. When we were almost done, Brother Zen shared some fellowship. Instead of quoting God’s words and talking about how we should practice based on God’s words like he used to, he referenced my fellowship. I saw I was exalting myself and showing off again. I felt really mad at myself in that moment. In the gathering we’d just shared some of God’s words with everyone, stating that we need to speak from the heart. How could I be boasting and showing off? I simply didn’t dare believe I was acting that way. I looked up the passages of God’s words we’d read in the gathering so I could give them some careful thought. God says, “If brothers and sisters are to be capable of confiding in each other, helping each other out, and providing for one another, then each person must speak of his or her own true experiences. If you say nothing about your own true experiences—if you only repeat limpid words of doctrine, and parrot catchphrases and platitudes about faith in God, and do not open up, at all, about what’s in your heart—then you are not an honest person, and you are incapable of being an honest person” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person). “When bearing testimony for God, you should mainly talk more about how God judges and chastises people, what trials He uses to refine people and change their dispositions. You should also talk about how much corruption has been revealed in your experience, how much you have endured, how many things you did to resist God, and how you were eventually conquered by God; talk about how much real knowledge of God’s work you have, and how you should bear witness for God and repay Him for His love. You should put substance into this kind of language, while putting it in a simple manner. Do not talk about empty theories. Speak more down-to-earth; speak from the heart. This is how you should experience. Do not equip yourselves with profound-seeming, empty theories in an effort to show off; doing so makes you appear quite arrogant and senseless. You should speak more of real things from your actual experience, and speak more from the heart; this is most beneficial to others, and most appropriate for them to see” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition). I saw from God’s words that I have to open my heart with my brothers and sisters, talk about what is in my heart, share my real experience, and avoid showing off with empty words. Thinking about myself, I was just talking about some empty theories to flaunt myself and gain others’ admiration. The consequences of this were very clear. The others looked up to me and didn’t bear witness to God’s words, but instead used my fellowship as their reference. In gatherings I would frequently hear people saying things like, “Thanks to Brother Matthew’s fellowship” or “Just like Brother Matthew said.” I thought of Paul always elevating himself and being ostentatious, and not bearing witness to the Lord Jesus’ words. That led believers to adore Paul and bear witness to his words for 2,000 years. Wasn’t I doing the same thing as Paul, and on the same antichrist’s path of resisting God? I felt really afraid and hated myself. I said a prayer, “Oh God, I’m making the same mistake again. Your words showed me the way, but I’m still following Satan, satisfying my vainglory. I’m playing the part of Satan again. God, I need Your help, please save me!”
One evening I saw this passage of God’s words: “Do you know what is the greatest taboo in man’s service of God? Some leaders and workers always want to try to be different, to be head and shoulders above the rest, to show off, and to figure out some new tricks, in order to make God see just how capable they really are. However, they do not focus on understanding the truth and entering the reality of God’s words. This is the most foolish way to act. Is this not precisely the revelation of an arrogant disposition? … In serving God, people wish to make great strides, do great things, speak great words, perform great work, hold great meetings, and be great leaders. If you always have such grand ambitions, then you will violate God’s administrative decrees; people who do this will die quickly. If you are not well-behaved, devout, and prudent in your service to God, then sooner or later, you will offend His disposition” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). Reading these words from God left me trembling with fear. Through this revelation of God’s words, I saw my wild ambition and my desire to achieve great things. I wanted to preside over gatherings and make grand speeches. I loved showing off in gatherings and wanted the brothers’ and sisters’ adoration, hoping they would think I had good caliber and profound understanding. Driven by these desires, I wanted to preach and show off at every gathering I attended, hoping that others would admire me. I loved that kind of leadership. But when I read “If you always have such grand ambitions, then you will violate God’s administrative decrees; people who do this will die quickly,” my heart was trembling, and I felt a sense of fear deep in my heart. I thought I’d been satisfying God before, but I now realized I was disgusting Him. I had just wanted to do something great, hold great gatherings, preach something lofty. I wasn’t bearing witness for God or practicing the truth, and I wasn’t taking on a burden for the brothers’ and sisters’ lives. I was exalting myself to gain a place in their hearts. This would offend God’s disposition. In “The Ten Administrative Decrees That Must Be Obeyed by God’s Chosen People in the Age of Kingdom,” it states, “1. Man should not magnify himself, nor exalt himself. He should worship and exalt God. … 8. People who believe in God should obey God and worship Him. Do not exalt or look up to any person; do not put God first, the people you look up to second, and yourself third. No person should hold a place in your heart, and you should not consider people—particularly those you venerate—to be on a par with God or to be His equal. This is intolerable to God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God). After reading God’s words, I suffered greatly within myself, and I thought God couldn’t possibly forgive me for offending His disposition. I prayed, “God! I’m really in pain and am suffering, I didn’t know I was inciting Your wrath, and I’d like to repent. Oh God! I seek Your enlightenment to understand Your will.”
In my terror, I read this passage of God’s words: “Today God judges you, chastises you, and condemns you, but you must know that the point of your condemnation is for you to know yourself. He condemns, curses, judges, and chastises so that you might know yourself, so that your disposition might change, and, moreover, so that you might know your worth, and see that all of God’s actions are righteous and in accordance with His disposition and the requirements of His work, that He works in accordance with His plan for man’s salvation, and that He is the righteous God who loves, saves, judges, and chastises man. If you only know that you are of lowly status, that you are corrupt and disobedient, but do not know that God wishes to make plain His salvation through the judgment and chastisement that He does in you today, then you have no way of gaining experience, much less are you capable of continuing forward. God has not come to kill or destroy, but to judge, curse, chastise, and save. Until His 6,000-year management plan comes to a close—before He reveals the outcome of each category of man—God’s work on earth will be for the sake of salvation; its purpose is purely to make those who love Him complete—thoroughly so—and to bring them into submission under His dominion” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. You Should Put Aside the Blessings of Status and Understand God’s Will to Bring Salvation to Man). Reading this gave me a sense of peace. I thought I’d offended God in an unforgivable way, but that wasn’t the case. Although God was using His words to judge and reveal me, He didn’t hate or condemn me. He wanted me to repent and change. I could see God’s righteous disposition, as well as His mercy and tolerance. I knew this time I had to seek the truth and resolve my corrupt disposition.
Then I read another passage of God’s words: “To be an honest person, you must first lay your heart bare so that everyone can look into it, see all that you are thinking, and glimpse your true face; you must not try to disguise or package yourself to look good. Only then will others trust you and consider you honest. This is the most fundamental practice, and the prerequisite, of being an honest person. You are always pretending, always feigning holiness, virtuousness, greatness, and feigning high moral qualities. You do not let people see your corruption and your failings. You present a false image to people so that they believe you are upstanding, great, self-sacrificing, impartial, and selfless. Is this not deceitfulness and falsity? Will people not be able to see through you after a while? So, do not put on a disguise, and do not package yourself; instead, lay yourself and your heart bare for others to see. If you can lay your heart bare for others to see, and lay bare all your thoughts and plans—both positive and negative—then are you not being honest? If you can lay yourself bare for others to see, then God, too, will see you and say, ‘You have laid yourself bare for others to see, and so you are surely honest before Me, too.’ If you only lay yourself bare to God when out of view of other people, and always pretend to be great and virtuous or just and selfless when in their company, then what will God think and say? He will say, ‘You are genuinely deceitful; you are purely hypocritical and petty; and you are not an honest person.’ God will condemn you thusly. If you wish to be an honest person, then regardless of when you are before God or other people, you should be able to provide a pure and open account of the states inside you and the words of your heart. Is this easy to achieve? It requires a period of training as well as frequent prayer to God and reliance on Him. You must practice speaking simply and openly from the heart in all things. With this kind of practice, you can make progress” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person). Reading this passage of God’s word helped me understand what God wanted of me. He wanted me to be an honest person. That is to say, I had to learn to expose my corruption and honest thoughts to others so they could see my weaknesses and shortcomings. If I kept exalting myself without revealing my weaknesses and failures, and instead always used fellowshiping and gatherings to show off, it would be extremely dishonest. It would be cheating my brothers and sisters. I saw I absolutely had to be an honest person. I also gained some understanding of my own mistaken ideas. I thought a leader should be a heroic person without weaknesses, like some director out in the world, on a higher rung than others, better than others. But that’s not the kind of leader that God wants. God wants simple, honest people. Such people can open up about their corruption and shortcomings, and they love and practice the truth. The purpose of their fellowship isn’t to show off, but to use their own experience to help the brothers and sisters. I remembered what the Lord Jesus said: “But be not you called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all you are brothers. … Neither be you called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:8–12). I realized that a leader plays the role of a servant, a servant with a heavy responsibility. No matter what, they always have to keep their responsibility in mind, and this responsibility is to water and support their brothers and sisters, and seek the truth to help them resolve problems. A leader is not an officer and isn’t above anyone else. But I had been putting on an act during my whole time as a leader, hoping people would admire and idolize me. Was this not contrary to God’s requirements? God is the Creator, and all humans, no matter how exalted or lowly their position, are created beings, and should worship the Creator. I knew my role and responsibility, that I should stand in the place of a created being and properly do my duty. I had a change in my mindset from that point on and I began to consciously practice being honest. When I noticed I was exalting myself and showing off, I’d open up and consciously expose my corruption and shortcomings. Sometimes that was painful, but it showed me how dishonest I really was. I saw that I had been fooling my brothers and sisters so much. The more I opened up, the more I saw my true colors and true stature. I realized I was never as high and mighty as I’d thought. Before, in all my fellowship with my brothers and sisters, I’d been putting myself up on high, encouraging and helping people with doctrine. But now I started sharing my true state with my brothers and sisters, opening up my heart to them in fellowship. When I did this, I didn’t feel like I was any smarter than the others. Instead, I was able to learn from their experiences and gain illumination and enlightenment from others’ fellowship. I’d hardly paid attention to others’ fellowship before, arrogantly assuming I was the one providing illumination for others. Now that I was having heartfelt conversations with everyone, I was able to truly listen to the experiences and knowledge fellowshiped by the brothers and sisters. I was less haughty and self-important and could get along with the brothers and sisters on an equal footing. My reason was becoming normal, and I was able to open up my heart during fellowship in gatherings. I’m so grateful to God for this change in me.
Now, sometimes I still catch myself showing off and it shows me how deeply Satan has corrupted me, that this isn’t just a passing thing, but is in my bones and in my blood. I need to read God’s words more, experience the judgment and revelations of His words, to come to know my corruption and faults, manage to cast off my satanic disposition, and be saved by God. Thank Almighty God!