69. Treating Leaders According to Principle
By Xiaoqing, China
In the summer of 2016, I had just started a leadership position in the church. One day, Sister Wang Xin, a leader above me, came to one of our gatherings. At that time, I was trying to figure out if a brother would make a good team leader, and I asked her for help. Hearing this, without even getting any more details about the behavior of this person or talking about the principles of cultivating people, she just said to cultivate him in that post for a while and see how he got on, and that he could be transferred at any time if he was found to be unsuitable. I worried that training an unsuitable person would delay the church’s work, so I asked some questions, wanting to get her to share some specific fellowship on the relevant principles. Rather than share more fellowship, she found a passage of God’s word exposing people with arrogant dispositions, said I had an arrogant disposition and didn’t accept the truth, and scolded me for a long time. This was very constraining for me, and I thought, “Aren’t leaders and workers supposed to fellowship on the truth to resolve problems? When there are matters we can’t see into and principles we don’t understand, rather than fellowship on the truth and help, you haughtily scold and constrain people from a position of status. This isn’t leading us to understand the truth and follow principles in our actions.” I wanted to talk about my confusion again, but at the thought of how hard she’d dealt with me in front of everyone, I was afraid she’d start scolding me again and say I was arrogant, and that I wasn’t accepting the truth. With that in mind, I didn’t dare say anything.
At the next few gatherings, I noticed Wang Xin’s fellowship on God’s words wasn’t enlightening, and that she wasn’t showing any paths of practice. Instead, she was just speaking words of doctrine that didn’t resolve actual problems. I wondered if she really had the work of the Holy Spirit. But then I figured maybe she was temporarily not in a good state, so I thought nothing of it. Later, the house of God arranged for each church to select three leaders to jointly take charge of the church’s work. Wang Xin fellowshiped with us that the work of choosing leaders was very important, so we needed to handle it without delay. But she didn’t behave in that way when it came time to actually get it done. I was the only leader in the church then, and sometimes I couldn’t keep up with all the work. I explained the situation to her, hoping she’d organize an election as soon as possible. She said she would, but more time passed without her arranging an election. I wrote to her again to press her on the matter, but she continued to delay, and did nothing. I found it odd. She clearly knew the importance of electing leaders, and her fellowship sounded very good at gatherings, but she dragged her feet when it came time to actually do anything. Wasn’t she just spouting words of doctrine and empty slogans, and not doing practical work? I later heard that she had delayed the work of other church elections she’d been responsible for in exactly the same way, which seriously impacted church life and all kinds of work. I couldn’t help but think that Wang Xin was likely a false leader who didn’t do practical work, and that if things continued as they had been, all of the church’s work would seriously suffer. I figured I should point out these problems to her. But when I was preparing to write her a letter, it occurred to me that she was a leader, and it would be wonderful if she could accept it, but if she didn’t accept it, she could make things hard for me, and maybe even find an excuse to dismiss me. Then what would I do? I decided to forget about it. I put the pen down and left it at that. But afterward, I was left feeling uneasy. I had seen her problems perfectly clearly and hadn’t said a word, and that wasn’t in line with God’s will. I couldn’t just leave it at that. I had to say something to her. But I just couldn’t put my pen to the paper. It was a real dilemma for me, so I prayed to God about my struggle. Later, I read these words of God: “All of you say you are considerate of God’s burden and will defend the testimony of the church, but who among you has really been considerate of God’s burden? Ask yourself: Are you someone who has shown consideration for His burden? Can you practice righteousness for Him? Can you stand up and speak for Me? Can you steadfastly put the truth into practice? Are you bold enough to fight against all of Satan’s deeds? Would you be able to set your emotions aside and expose Satan for the sake of My truth? Can you allow My intentions to be fulfilled in you? Have you offered up your heart in the most crucial of moments? Are you someone who does My will? Ask yourself these questions, and think about them often” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 13). Every single one of God’s questions felt like they were beating on my very heart. So I asked myself: Am I considerate of God’s burden? Am I protecting the interests of the church? I thought about how I’d seen Wang Xin fail to fellowship the truth and resolve problems, and imperiously scold and constrain others. She only spoke of doctrine in gatherings, and wasn’t able to resolve any practical problems or difficulties in our work. Elections proceeded at a snail’s pace. These behaviors of hers had already obstructed the work of the church. I knew I should say something to her so she knew how serious the problem was. But I was afraid that if I did, she’d refuse to accept it, making things hard for me or finding an excuse to dismiss me, so I didn’t dare say anything. I just turned a blind eye, didn’t protect the work of the church at all, and only thought about my own personal interests. I was so selfish, despicable, and lacking in humanity! I was a church leader, but when the church’s work was obstructed, I didn’t dare stand up to expose the problems or prevent the obstruction. Wasn’t this indulging Wang Xin’s evil deeds? I didn’t protect the work of the church in even the most basic way, so how was I worthy of being a church leader? The more I thought about it, the guiltier I felt. I swore to God that I would forsake my flesh and practice the truth. After that, I read the principles of how to treat leaders and workers and understood that for leaders and workers who pursue the truth and can do practical work, if they commit transgressions in their duty or sometimes don’t have much success in their work, they should be lovingly helped, or criticized, censured, pruned, and dealt with, but never casually condemned or dismissed. For those leaders and workers who don’t do practical work or pursue the truth, if they act arbitrarily and recklessly, and refuse to accept the truth or repent when pruned and dealt with, if they are determined to be false leaders or false workers, they should be dismissed. I hadn’t had many encounters with Wang Xin, so although I had seen quite a few indications of her being a false leader, I couldn’t be entirely sure of it. I knew I had to start by giving her fellowship to point out these things. This was my duty. Though I still had some worries and concerns, through praying to God, I did not feel constrained anymore. I wrote the letter to Wang Xin, in which I pointed out her problems one by one. The moment I sent off the letter, I felt a sense of peace and reassurance.
Wang Xin never replied to my letter. The work of the church elections was still being held up, and several churches didn’t have the leaders and workers they needed, so some projects had no means of being carried out in a timely manner. The work of the church had already been seriously obstructed. I wrote to her a few more times pressing her with questions, but nothing came of it. I saw that she was all talk, didn’t do practical work, and that she didn’t repent even after repeated reminders, so based on her consistent behavior, she was a false leader who didn’t do practical work. I then reported her problems to an upper leader. Before long, an investigation by the upper leader confirmed that Wang Xin was a false leader who didn’t do practical work, and she was dismissed. This showed me that the truth and righteousness rule in God’s house. False leaders may have a position, but they don’t pursue the truth or do real work, so they can’t gain a foothold in God’s house. I’d always been afraid of offending my leader and being dismissed, so I didn’t dare to report her problems when I saw them. At that point, I realized I didn’t understand God’s righteous disposition. God’s house has administrative decrees, principles, and rules, so no matter how high in rank or position a leader or worker may be, they must do things according to God’s words and the principles of the truth. Nobody may run amok. Besides, the duty I perform in the church falls under God’s sovereignty and arrangements. That’s not up to any leader. So, there was nothing for me to worry about.
After going through this, I thought I understood some of the principles of how to treat leaders and workers, and that I wouldn’t feel constrained by leaders and workers if something like this happened to me again. However, when I encountered a similar situation again, I was revealed a second time.
In October of 2019, I was transferred for a duty in another church. After a little while, I noticed that the leader violated principles in appointing people. We had a watering deacon, Sister Zhang Ming, who was very selfish and devious. She saw people disrupting church life, but didn’t expose or stop them because she was afraid of offending them. Others reported some problems to her, but she was scared of having to take responsibility if they were not handled properly, so she just made excuses to get out of handling them. This led to problems not being resolved in time. Through investigation, it became clear that this was Zhang Ming’s consistent behavior, that she never protected the work of the church and that she wasn’t able to do practical work, so she had to be dismissed immediately. But when the leader went to look into Zhang Ming’s situation, Zhang Ming said some things that sounded self-aware, tricking the leader into thinking she had truly repented and delaying her dismissal. I wanted to mention to the leader that if a person like this was kept on as a church deacon, the work of the church would certainly be damaged. But then I thought about how I hadn’t been there long, that I had just started in that duty, and about how the leader really seemed to value me, and that if I raised these things with her, she might say I was arrogant and was obsessing over her problems after just a few days in that position. What if, because of that, she stopped cultivating me? This thought made me too afraid to bring it up with her. Even though I did feel guilty about it, I ended up compromising.
Once, the leader joined my group’s gathering, and I wanted to bring it up, but she mentioned she was new to the duty, that she was having a lot of difficulties, and that she wasn’t in a good state, so I hesitated. I thought that if I mentioned her problems while she was already having so many difficulties, would she think I had bad humanity and no compassion? I decided to drop it, afraid the problem wouldn’t be resolved and that she would have a bad impression of me. With those things in mind, I didn’t dare bring it up. It was later discovered that there were many unresolved problems in the watering deacon’s work, which greatly harmed the brothers’ and sisters’ life entry and the work of the church, and I felt very guilty about this. If I’d brought it up in good time, there might not have been so much damage. Later, we read some of God’s words at a gathering that really stirred me. God said, “Many in the church have no discernment. When something deceptive occurs, they unexpectedly stand on the side of Satan; they even take offense at being called Satan’s lackeys. Though people might say they have no discernment, they always stand on the side without truth, they never stand on the side of the truth at the critical time, they never stand up and argue for the truth. Do they truly lack discernment? Why do they unexpectedly take the side of Satan? Why do they never say one word that is fair and reasonable in support of the truth? Has this situation genuinely arisen as a result of their momentary confusion? The less discernment people have, the less able they are to stand on the side of truth. What does this show? Does it not show that people without discernment love evil? Does it not show that they are the loyal spawn of Satan? Why is it that they are always able to stand on the side of Satan and speak its language? Their every word and deed, the expressions on their faces, are all sufficient to prove that they are not any kind of lovers of the truth; rather, they are people who detest the truth” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth). I felt very guilty when I read this. I’d clearly seen that the leader not promptly dismissing an exposed false worker had already impacted the work of the church. I should have brought this up with her and protected the work of the church. But I was afraid of offending her and impacting her image of me, so I kept quiet and didn’t dare uphold principles, thus damaging the work of the church, and I had a part in that. I saw that I didn’t love the truth or have a sense of righteousness at all. I was just a despicable person defending my own interests and standing on Satan’s side. God had elevated and graced me so that I could practice in such an important duty. He had provided me with so many aspects of the truth, allowing me to understand the truth and develop discernment. He had also guided me to see these problems, hoping that I would uphold the principles and protect the work of the church. But I was selfish and despicable, and bit the hand that fed me. To protect my own interests, time and again I had turned my back on the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and guidance, and hadn’t practiced the truth, which had not only harmed and hindered the work of the church, but had also harmed the life entry of my brothers and sisters. In doing this, I had committed transgressions before God, and I was living in darkness and disgusting God.
Later I started reflecting on why I couldn’t help but protect my interests whenever something happened. What kind of corrupt nature was I being controlled by? I read a passage of God’s word and found the root of the problem. Almighty God says, “Until people have experienced God’s work and understood the truth, it is Satan’s nature that takes charge and dominates them from within. What, specifically, does that nature entail? For example, why are you selfish? Why do you protect your own position? Why do you have such strong emotions? Why do you enjoy those unrighteous things? Why do you like those evils? What is the basis for your fondness for such things? Where do these things come from? Why are you so happy to accept them? By now, you have all come to understand that the main reason behind all these things is that Satan’s poison is within man. So what is Satan’s poison? How can it be expressed? For example, if you ask, ‘How should people live? What should people live for?’ people will answer, ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’ This single phrase expresses the very root of the problem. Satan’s philosophy and logic has become people’s lives. No matter what people pursue after, they do it for themselves—and so they live only for themselves. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. These words have already become the nature of corrupt mankind, the true portrait of corrupt mankind’s satanic nature, and this satanic nature has already become the basis for corrupt mankind’s existence; for several thousand years, corrupt mankind has lived by this venom of Satan, right up to the present day” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Walk the Path of Peter). From God’s word, I understood that when something happened, I always protected my own interests because I was controlled by satanic toxins like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Sensible people are good at self-protection, seeking only to avoid making mistakes,” and “When you know something is wrong, it is better to say less.” I had been steeped in those satanic poisons for so long that they had become my very nature. I lived by these things, so I protected my own interests in every situation. When interacting with my brothers and sisters, I only thought about my reputation and status, and not the work of the church at all. I had seen a leader clearly violating principles when transferring people, but I was afraid that saying something could offend the leader and be bad for me, so I turned a blind eye to protect my status and future. I didn’t bring up the matter with the leader or offer fellowship and help in time, preferring to see my brothers’ and sisters’ life entry and the church’s work suffer before compromising my interests. I was so selfish and despicable! Living by these satanic poisons, I had not only harmed myself, I had also obstructed and disrupted the work of the church. I saw that these satanic poisons do nothing but corrupt and hurt people, so we can’t help but rebel against God and resist Him. If I didn’t repent, I would end up rejected and cast out by God, and I would lose my chance at salvation. I also saw God’s tolerance and salvation for me. Even though I was so rebellious, God had used His words to guide me and show me my corruption time and again. I had to stop rebelling against God, and needed to forsake my flesh and practice the truth.
Later, I read another passage of God’s word, “Promoting and cultivating someone doesn’t mean they already understand the truth, nor is it saying that they are already capable of performing their duty satisfactorily. … People must not have high expectations or unrealistic demands of those who are promoted and cultivated; that would be unreasonable, and unfair on them. You can monitor their work, and if you discover problems or things that violate principles in the course of their work, you can raise the issue and seek the truth to resolve these matters. What you should not do is judge, condemn, attack, or exclude them, because they are in the cultivation period, and should not be viewed as people who have been made perfect, much less as people who are perfect, or as people who are possessed of the reality of the truth. They are like you: This is the time when they are being trained. … What is the point of Me saying this? In order to tell everyone that they must correctly approach the promotion and cultivation of various types of talents in God’s house, and must not be harsh in their demands of these people. Naturally, people must not be unrealistic in their opinion of them either. It is foolish to be overly appreciative or reverential of them, nor is it humane or realistic to be overly harsh in your demands toward them. So what is the most rational way to act toward them? To think of them as ordinary people and, when there is a problem that needs to be searched, to fellowship with them and learn from each other’s strengths and complement each other. In addition, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep an eye on whether leaders and workers are doing real work, whether they use the truth to solve problems; these are the standards and principles for measuring whether a leader or worker is up to par. If they are capable of dealing with and solving general problems, then they are competent. But if they can’t even handle and fix ordinary problems, they are not fit to be a leader or worker, and must be quickly dismissed. Choose someone else, and do not delay the work of the house of God. Delaying the work of the house of God is hurting yourself and others, it is good for no one” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). After reading God’s word I understood that being elected as a leader does not mean that a person understands the truth or that they are fit for the role. They are in a period of practice, and they have flaws and shortcomings in their work, so we have to be fair and just with leaders and workers, and not be too demanding. But at the same time, we have a responsibility to keep an eye on the work of leaders. When the things leaders do are in line with the truth, we need to accept and submit to them, but if they are not in line with principles, we need to point this out and offer help, so they can promptly see the mistakes in their duty and correct them as soon as possible. To do so is beneficial for their own life entry and the work of the church. If it is confirmed that they are false leaders who don’t do practical work, they need to be reported and exposed promptly. I knew the leader was new in practicing that duty, so she was bound to make mistakes. Since I had seen problems, I had a responsibility to point them out, help, and offer fellowship, and I could report to the higher-ups and expose her if she refused to accept it. I could no longer just stand idly by and watch the work of the church suffer. At that point, I was willing to correct my intentions, practice the truth, and protect the work of the church. The leader came by a few days later to take a look at our work, so I told her about how she’d violated principles and opened up to her in fellowship about the corruption of selfishness and deviousness I revealed during that period of time. She used God’s words to reflect on herself and saw the mistakes she’d made and the corrupt disposition she’d revealed in handling those matters, and she expressed a desire to reflect and change. After that, we fellowshiped more about practicing the specific principles for changing people’s duties. We had more clarity on these principles after our fellowship. After that, she dismissed Zhang Ming as required by the principles.
These experiences taught me that offering feedback and help as soon as I see problems or deviations in a leader’s duty is a positive thing. It protects the work of the church. Only treating leaders and workers according to principles can benefit the work of the church and our brothers and sisters, and only this is in line with God’s will. At the same time, I also saw that the church treats people fairly and justly, based entirely on the principles of truth, their nature and essence, the path they walk, and their attitude toward the truth. People are treated on a case-by-case basis. The church never dismisses or casts out people for momentary transgressions or displaying some corruption. These experiences showed me the proper approach toward leaders and workers. I also gained some understanding of my selfishness and deviousness, and was able to forsake the flesh, practice the truth, and perform my duty. I am very grateful to God for what I’ve gained!