60. Reporting a False Leader: A Personal Struggle
By Gan Xiao, China
In August last year, a leader transferred me to a different church after I was dismissed. I noticed that Brother Liang Hui showed up an hour late to my first gathering there. Sister Tan Min, the church leader, was there too. I thought, “I’ve heard brothers and sisters say that Liang Hui is careless and does whatever he wants in his duty, and that he shows up late for no reason to gatherings all the time. He’s really late to today’s gathering, so Tan Min should fellowship with him on this problem.” But she was being totally casual about it and hadn’t said a thing. During the gathering, another brother talked about how he felt constrained by money, that he couldn’t keep his mind on his duty, and he seemed pretty down. A few of us found some words of God to fellowship and help him, but as a church leader, Tan Min didn’t share any fellowship at all. I saw that she wasn’t taking on any responsibility in the gathering, and was just going through the motions without helping anyone with their problems. I wanted to talk to her about this problem. But then I figured that since it was my first gathering there, I might not be seeing the whole picture, so I should just wait and see before I spoke up. I was taken aback to see that she was exactly the same in the next few gatherings. Sometimes she’d wrap up a gathering pretty quickly after we read some of God’s words without fellowshiping much on them, and she didn’t pay attention to fellowshiping the words of God. I thought to myself: “The main part of a leader’s duty is to guide brothers and sisters in reading God’s words and fellowshiping on the truth, so that they can understand the truth and enter into the reality of God’s words. But Tan Min isn’t taking the lead in fellowshiping God’s words, and she doesn’t resolve people’s problems. Isn’t this a dereliction of duty? Is this not just going through the motions? How is anything going to get done like this? This will delay everyone’s life entry if this continues. I want to say something, but I’m afraid she won’t accept it, that she will say I’m arrogant and that I should be reflecting on myself after being dismissed instead of butting into other people’s business.” At this thought, I decided to back off and just forget it, and focus on myself.
A month later I was put onto another duty and was assigned to two other group gatherings. The brothers and sisters of those gatherings didn’t focus on fellowshiping on God’s words or talking about their own experiences and knowledge, either. Sometimes they’d just shoot the breeze. I felt like the success of church life is directly related to who’s leading that church, and that brothers’ and sisters’ life entry would be compromised if this went on, so I brought it up with Tan Min. To my surprise, she was totally unaccepting, and even insisted that the lack of success in church life was the brothers’ and sisters’ problem. I thought to myself: “She doesn’t reflect on herself and puts all the responsibility on the brothers and sisters. As a church leader, she doesn’t accept the truth at all or listen to brothers’ and sisters’ suggestions, and she doesn’t take on any burden for church life. How can she possibly lead the others to understand the truth, or enter into the reality of God’s word? This will only harm the brothers and sisters. I need to talk with her about this again.” But just as I was about to say something, I started to worry, thinking, “She didn’t accept my recommendation just now, and she had an attitude about it. What good will repeating myself do? She is a church leader, so if I talk to her again, she might say I’m overstepping my bounds and develop a grudge against me. I should just keep my mouth shut.” I felt uneasy with that, but in the end, I decided not to say anything. A few days later, Tan Min told me that she’d dealt with brothers and sisters at a gathering, and then vividly described how she’d dealt with them. I was astonished to hear this, thinking: “How can you be so lacking in self-awareness? Church life is undisciplined because you are irresponsible and careless as a church leader. How could you scold the others for that? Just scolding people without any fellowship on the truth won’t solve anything.” I really wanted to bring up her issues again, but seeing her strong sense of conviction, I didn’t think she’d take it very well. I thought, “I’ve just been dismissed, so what right do I have to mention her issues? Plus, we are constantly crossing paths with one another, so it would make things hard for me in the church if she got offended. Then if she refuses to give me a duty, I’ll lose my chance at salvation. Alright then, I’ll not say anything, and just keep my head down, live the church life, and do my own duty.”
I heard some brothers and sisters say that Tan Min was in charge of gospel work, but she didn’t even have gatherings with them for a while. They also said that they couldn’t address newcomers’ problems, and some newcomers had been disturbed by religious pastors and elders and stopped attending gatherings. I thought, “Gospel work is so important, but Tan Min isn’t doing anything to address the real problems. This is so irresponsible! Tan Min doesn’t do any practical work and has a direct hand in newcomers giving up because they’re not getting any watering or sustenance!” I felt like this was a really serious problem, and I absolutely had to talk to her about it face to face. I saw Tan Min a couple of days later and brought up the issues those brothers and sisters mentioned, but she still blamed the whole thing entirely on the brothers and sisters. She didn’t seem to take any responsibility at all. I also pointed out that by not doing anything to address practical problems as a church leader, she was being irresponsible and neglecting her duty, and that this would delay the work of the church and bring harm to the brothers and sisters. But she just pulled a long face and refused to say a word. I thought: “She isn’t doing practical work, she isn’t taking on a burden for her duty, and she has never accepted the truth. This means she is a false leader that has been exposed, and I should report her problems to a leader higher up to have her removed as soon as possible.” But I was hesitant, thinking: “If I report her and she finds out, would she say I am picking on her and intentionally at odds with her? It wouldn’t be so bad if she were dismissed, but if she isn’t, wouldn’t I just offend her? That would make it really difficult for me to stay in this church. If she dismisses me and I lose my duty, would I lose my chance at salvation? Fine then, I won’t report her problems, and I’ll just hold on to the duty I have.” But when I thought that way I felt really guilty. I could see that the church had a false leader, but kept it to myself. Was this upholding the work of the church? I felt really conflicted, so I came before God and prayed, “Oh God, I’ve seen Tan Min’s problems and I’d like to report her, but I have some concerns. Please guide me so I can overcome these dark forces and safeguard the work of the church.”
Afterward, I read a passage of God’s word: “What is the attitude that people should have in terms of how to treat a leader or worker? If what a leader or worker does is right, then you can obey them; if what they do is wrong, then you can expose them, and oppose them and raise a different opinion. If they are unable to do practical work or do wicked deeds that cause a disruption to church work, and are revealed to be a false leader, a false worker, or an antichrist, then you can discern, expose and report them. However, some of God’s chosen people do not understand the truth and are particularly cowardly. They fear being suppressed and punished by false leaders and antichrists, so they don’t dare uphold principles. They say, ‘If the leader kicks me out, I’m finished; if he has everyone expose or forsake me, then I will no longer be able to believe in God. If I am expelled from the church, then God will not want me and will not save me. And won’t my faith have been for nothing?’ Is such thinking not ridiculous? Do such people have true faith in God? Would a false leader or antichrist be representing God when they expelled you? When a false leader or antichrist punishes and expels you, this is the work of Satan, and has nothing to do with God; when people are removed or expelled from the church, this is only in line with God’s will when there is a joint decision between the church and all of God’s chosen ones, and when the removal or expulsion is wholly in line with the work arrangements of God’s house and the principles of God’s words and the truth. How could being expelled by a false leader or antichrist mean you cannot be saved? This is the persecution of Satan and the antichrists, and does not mean that you will not be saved by God. Whether or not you can be saved depends on God. No human being is qualified to decide whether you can be saved by God. You must be clear about this. And to treat your expulsion by false leaders and antichrists as being expelled by God—is this not misinterpreting God? It is. And this is not only misinterpreting God, but also disobeying God. It is also kind of blasphemous against God. And is misinterpreting God in this way not ignorant and stupid? When a false leader or antichrist expels you, why do you not seek the truth? Why are you incapable of telling the difference? And why did you not report this to the higher-ups? This proves that you do not believe that the truth reigns supreme in the house of God, it shows that you do not have true faith in God, that you are not someone who truly believes in God. If you trust in the omnipotence of God, why do you fear the retribution of a false leader or antichrist? Can they determine your fate? If you are capable of discernment, and detect that their actions are at odds with the truth, why not fellowship with God’s chosen ones who understand the truth? You have a mouth, so why do you dare not speak up? Why are you so afraid of a false leader or antichrist? This proves that you are a coward, a good-for-nothing, a lackey of Satan” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Three). Reading this really brightened my heart. When we find a false leader in the church, we shouldn’t kowtow and be constrained by them at every turn. We need to stand up, expose them, and report them to upper leaders. That’s God’s will. I knew Tan Min didn’t do practical work, and that she was a false leader, but I didn’t dare speak up about her problems because I was looking at it from the wrong perspective. I was thinking that the leader had authority, and that she decided whether or not I could do a duty, and if I offended her, I could lose my duty and then I wouldn’t be saved. I saw that in all my years of faith I still had no understanding of God. In the house of God, the truth and God Himself hold sway. Whether I have a duty or whether I can be saved is up to God, not up to any individual leader. Even if a false leader held authority and I truly was suppressed, that would be temporary. God sees everything and the Holy Spirit will reveal all, so false leaders and antichrists will be exposed and cast out sooner or later. I didn’t understand God’s righteous disposition, and I was afraid of offending other people, but not of offending God. God didn’t have a place in my heart. What kind of a believer was I? I’d been thinking that since I wasn’t a leader, I was in no position to critique Tan Min and I worried that other people would say I should mind my own business. The way I was looking at things was absolutely ridiculous. As a member of God’s house, it doesn’t matter if I’m dismissed or what duty I do—if I discover a false leader in the church, it is my responsibility, my obligation to report them. That is safeguarding the work of the church and it’s a positive thing. It’s also taking responsibility for brothers’ and sisters’ lives, and that’s never overstepping my bounds or meddling, and it’s especially not being arrogant and getting on a pedestal. This is doing the duty of one of God’s chosen people. Realizing this made me reflect on why I’d been so afraid to expose a false leader. What was the real root of the problem?
I read these words from God in my seeking: “Conscience and reason should both be components of a person’s humanity. These are both most fundamental and most important. What kind of person is one who lacks conscience and does not have the reason of normal humanity? Generally speaking, he is a person who lacks humanity, a person of extremely poor humanity. Going into more detail, what manifestations of lost humanity does this person exhibit? Have a go at analyzing what characteristics are found in such people and what specific manifestations they present. (They are selfish and mean.) Selfish and mean people are perfunctory in their actions and stand aloof from anything that does not concern them personally. They do not consider the interests of God’s house, nor do they show consideration for God’s will. They take on no burden of testifying for God or performing their duties, and they have no sense of responsibility. … There are some people who do not take any responsibility regardless of the duty they are performing. They don’t promptly report problems they discover to their superiors, either. When they see people being meddlesome and disruptive, they turn a blind eye. When they see wicked people committing evil, they don’t try to stop them. They don’t give the slightest consideration to the interests of the house of God, nor to what their duty and responsibility is. When they perform their duty, people like this don’t do any real work; they are yes men who are greedy for comfort; they speak and act only for their own vanity, face, status, and interests, and are sure to devote their time and effort to anything that benefits them. The actions and intents of someone like that are clear to everyone: They pop out whenever there is an opportunity for honor or to enjoy some blessing. But, when there is not an opportunity for honor, or as soon as there is a time of suffering, they vanish from sight like a tortoise retracting its head. Does this kind of person have conscience and reason? (No.) Does a person without conscience and reason who behaves in this way feel self-reproach? Such people have no sense of self-reproach; the conscience of this kind of person serves no purpose. They have never felt reproach from their conscience, so can they feel the reproach or discipline of the Holy Spirit? No, they cannot” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. In Giving One’s Heart to God, One Can Obtain the Truth). God’s words helped me understand that being afraid of exposing and reporting a false leader came from relying on satanic philosophies like “Let things drift if they do not affect one personally,” “Sensible people are good at self-protection, seeking only to avoid making mistakes,” and “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” These satanic philosophies had become part of my mottos and controlled my thinking, so I was constantly trying to protect my own interests without any thought for the work of the church. I’d become more and more despicable, selfish, and deceitful. I clearly saw that Tan Min didn’t do practical work and wouldn’t accept the truth, that she was a false leader. Her behavior had already impacted the church’s work and had delayed brothers’ and sisters’ life entry, so I should bring this matter to light and report her. But I was afraid of being condemned and suppressed by her if she was offended, so I didn’t dare report her. I wanted to protect my reputation, status, and my future destination, so I just watched the church’s work and brothers’ and sisters’ life entry suffer with a totally hands-off attitude, turning a blind eye to a false leader. I was standing on Satan’s side, indulging a false leader who was disrupting the church’s work. I was living by Satan’s poisons and had become its slave, only looking out for myself, totally lacking in devotion to God, and devoid of conscience and reason. I wasn’t living out a human likeness at all. I saw that I was still under Satan’s dominion and belonged to Satan. I had to pursue the truth, forsake Satan, and be someone who obeys God. When this all became clear to me, I felt like I really owed God and I hated how selfish and unconscionable I was being. I had to report the false leader right away and stop hurting God’s heart. So, I told the upper leader all about Tan Min’s issues of not doing real work or accepting the truth. But a few days went by, and I didn’t hear anything from the upper leader on how they had handled Tan Min. I felt kind of anxious. If this false leader wasn’t dismissed soon it could continue to hold up the work of the church, so I thought about writing again to see what was going on. But then I thought, “If I bring it up again, the upper leader might think I’m putting my fingers in too many pies. Anyway, since I’d already said my piece, maybe I’ve fulfilled my responsibilities and shouldn’t worry about the rest.” But this thought left me feeling uneasy, and I couldn’t get any sleep that night.
I read these words of God one morning: “If a church contains no one who is willing to practice the truth and no one who can stand witness for God, then that church should be completely isolated, and its connections with other churches must be severed. This is called ‘burying death’; this is what it means to spurn Satan. If a church contains several local bullies, and they are followed by ‘little flies’ that entirely lack discernment, and if the congregants, even after having seen the truth, are still incapable of rejecting the binds and manipulation of these bullies, then all those fools will be cast out in the end. These little flies might not have done anything terrible, but they are even more deceitful, even more slick and evasive, and everyone like this will be cast out. Not a single one shall remain! Those who belong to Satan will be returned to Satan, while those who belong to God will surely go in search of the truth; this is decided by their natures. Let all those who follow Satan perish! No pity will be shown to such people. Let those who search for the truth be provided for, and may they take pleasure in God’s word to their hearts’ content. God is righteous; He would not show favoritism to anyone. If you are a devil, then you are incapable of practicing the truth; if you are someone who searches for the truth, then it is certain that you will not be taken captive by Satan. This is beyond all doubt” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth). I could see from God’s words that His disposition is holy and righteous, and won’t tolerate any offense. He hates that false leaders and antichrists disrupt the church’s work and delay brothers’ and sisters’ life entry. God detests those who don’t practice the truth or safeguard the church’s interests when false leaders and antichrists appear. This kind of person understands the truth but still doesn’t practice it, and instead just thinks about their own interests. They’re really deceitful and sly, and they’ll be cast out if they refuse to repent. I knew that Tan Min was a false leader, and now that the leader above her wasn’t responding quickly enough, I needed to keep speaking up and see this through to the end. But I just wanted to protect myself and disregard anything that didn’t personally impact me. I was allowing her to run rampant and disrupt the work of the church. I wasn’t being considerate of God’s will and standing on the side of the truth, but was standing on Satan’s side. That was taking part in a false leader’s wickedness. Though it didn’t look like I’d done anything terrible, if I didn’t practice the truth or protect the work of the church in the face of problems, I could only be cast out in the end. I knew that this time I couldn’t be concerned about my own interests and that I could no longer allow this false leader to continue to damage the work of the church. The upper leader delayed handling Tan Min, so even though I didn’t know the reason, that was a test for me from God to see if I could put my personal interests aside and uphold the principles of the truth. I had to continue to report this false leader to protect the interests of the church. So, I reported the situation to the upper-level leader again and emphasized the dangers and consequences of failing to dismiss a false leader. She responded and said that over the last few days, she’d had some urgent matters to take care of, and that she’d dismiss Tan Min right away, in line with principles. It was a really big relief for me to see that response and I learned that the only way to know peace is to put the truth into practice.
Tan Min was removed before long and another leader was elected to take on the church’s work. After a period of time, the church life achieved a lot of great results and all of our work started to gain steam. I was really happy to see things turn out this way, but at the same time, I felt some guilt and regret. After noticing a false leader, I hadn’t reported her quickly enough. I’d just thought about my personal interests, and shown my satanic disposition, bringing losses upon the work of the church. I saw how living by satanic dispositions and not practicing the truth is actually doing evil, and that it’s all condemned and despised by God. I also saw how wise the work of God is, and seeing this false leader in the church helped me develop discernment. I also experienced the great harm a false leader in the church can do to God’s chosen people. I also learned about God’s righteous disposition, and I saw that in God’s house, Christ and the truth hold sway, and no individual gets to call the shots. No matter how high up someone’s position is, if they don’t practice the truth and do what God demands, they’ll never get a firm footing in God’s house. They’ll be cast out in the end. Only putting God’s words into practice and doing things according to principle is in line with His will.