A Church Leader Isn’t an Officer
By Matthew, France
My name is Mathieu, and I accepted’s work of the last days three years ago. I became a 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 duty because I had better caliber than the others. I took my duty really seriously, doing my best to fellowship with others to help them with problems in their duties. Over time, I started to feel capable of resolving lots of issues, and wherever I was needed for fellowship, I’d rush over without a moment’s hesitation. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was an excellent leader and a good problem-solver.
Then some antichrists started spreading rumors in the church. They were spreading Communist Party lies blaspheming God in gathering groups, twisting the facts and turning things inside out, judging the work of God’s house. They wanted to lead people astray, away from God. I was holding gatherings and fellowship 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 everyone so they saw 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 of the antichrists’ fallacies and they were affecting me, too. But I didn’t want to reveal my weakness to the others. I wanted to look big and strong, thinking that was being a true leader. I never truly opened up about my own state because I thought that if I showed signs of weakness as a leader, I’d lose that appearance of strength. What would they think of me? Would they think I could only spout doctrine and lacked the reality of the truth? 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 in gatherings, I was always talking about my “profound” understanding ofand my own experience, like how brothers and sisters could be more effective in their evangelizing efforts with my help. But I just glossed over my failures and corruptions, quickly transitioning to the things that I did right. If I got sleepy in a gathering I wouldn’t admit it, and if I did have a problem, I’d say I’d find a path to resolve my weakness in no time. I talked about how I watered new believers and how I gave them learning opportunities to make a show of my good deeds. When sharing my experience, I liked to talk about my sacrifices for God, saying how I’d pulled all-nighters for my duty, hoping everyone would look up to me. Sister Marinette, my partner, really admired me because I was always helping her with words of God relevant to her state. I was really pleased, really content when she expressed her admiration. Brothers and sisters training for watering duty also admired me a lot, and once a sister called me to say that she’d become capable in her duty thanks to what she’d learned from me. This really fed my vanity. I never told her that my helpful fellowship was all God’s guidance, that it came from God’s enlightenment, so all glory should go to Him. Some brothers and sisters said “Amen” after my fellowship, or “Mathieu is so right,” or “I’m so grateful for Mathieu’s fellowship.” Sometimes they spoke to me with a tone of admiration, and they’d always ask my opinion on decisions in their duties, asking me, “Mathieu, is this okay?” I could tell I held an important place in their hearts. When I saw how much they admired me, I did feel a little uneasy, but I liked that feeling of being looked up to. It made me happy. Then one day, I saw a video testimonial called “The Harm Done by Showing Off.” It was really moving. A sister, also a leader, was always elevating herself in her duty. She offended God’s disposition and was disciplined with an illness. The crux was that her behavior disgusted God. Tears started rolling down my face when I saw that video and I realized that by showing off to gain others’ admiration, I was opposing God. I was on the path of an antichrist. I’d never realized that showing off could be such a serious problem. I kept telling myself, “I’ve incited God’s wrath.” I felt really scared and didn’t know what to do.
Then I read this passage of God’s words that helped me understand 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? One way is to testify to how much they have suffered, how much work they have done, and how much they have expended themselves. They talk about these things as a form of personal capital. That is, 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. That is the ultimate effect. Are the things they do to achieve this aim—all their exalting and testifying to themselves—reasonable? They are not. 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, and special skills, or their clever techniques for conducting themselves and the means they use to toy with people. 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 failings 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 house of God 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 yourself within the rational bounds of normal humanity? It is not. So when people do this, what disposition is usually revealed? Arrogant disposition is one of the chief manifestations, 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, and they have found a way to hide the fact that they are showing off, but the outcome of what they say is that people are still 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” (“They Exalt and Testify About Themselves” in Exposing Antichrists). Reading God’s words was a direct blow to my heart. I could see really clearly what was hidden within me. I wanted to construct an image of myself as a strong man, a perfect person. When I fellowshiped on my experience I made a show of my “heroic” deeds, talking about my successes, but hardly ever about my failures. If I was weak or negative, or faced with some problems, or even when I was in the worst state, I’d just say, “I’m fine. I’m going through a bit of a trial, but I’ll get through it with God’s help.” But in fact, I was really in pain. I was always talking about how I suffered for my duty, making a show of how responsible I was. But that’s not how things really were. When I made sacrifices in my duty, it was mostly for the sake of my name and status. Seeing others’ admiration for me stirred something in my heart, and I knew this wasn’t good. But I still hadn’t done anything to put a stop to it. I hadn’t told people not to admire me because I wanted their admiration and praise, and even to surpass God’s place in their hearts. 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 take God’s place in brothers’ and sisters’ hearts, I was trembling with fear and knew in my heart that God detested my behavior. Faced with the facts, I prayed to God, “God, I’ve been showing off, wanting everyone to see me as someone at a higher level and someone who can solve all their problems. I’m usurping Your glory. God, I want to repent to You.” I was full of regret. Then I wrote an apology letter revealing my true self and my self-aggrandizing, and sent it to every gathering group. I also told everyone unequivocally that they shouldn’t admire me. I knew a few people who particularly looked up to me, so I sent them individual messages dissecting myself. A few days later, Sister Marinette told me frankly that she had admired me before and that I’d 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. I’d been showing off to gain others’ admiration. I’d lost all reason. How was that doing a duty? God elevated me to a leadership position, and that’s how I repaid Him? I felt a shame I’d never felt before. But I still didn’t really seek the truth to resolve my corruption, so I was back at it before long.
There was an online gathering that other church leaders attended, too. I felt like the brothers’ and sisters’ fellowship was simplistic and I was unsettled. I thought their fellowship was shallow and the other leaders weren’t saying anything lofty. I wanted to show them what good fellowship was, to share my own understanding with everyone so they could learn a lot from what I had to say. I wanted to show them the way. 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 was thinking over the wording to best highlight my fellowship. I really wanted to prove that I had a higher understanding, so others would appreciate my insight. I used lots of examples and metaphors so they would know I could provide detailed, rich fellowship. When I was done, I was really happy to hear everyone say “Amen.” Then I checked the chat window to see if brothers and sisters had said something nice about my fellowship. When we were almost done, Brother Ze’en shared some fellowship without quoting God’s words like we always do, basing everything on that, but he referenced my fellowship, saying we should be doing things based on my fellowship. He used my fellowship as the entire foundation for his understanding. I saw I was exalting myself again, causing others to idolize me. I felt really uneasy in that moment. I remembered some of God’s words we’d fellowshiped on recently. God’s words say, “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 Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “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 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 that are genuine and from the heart; this is most beneficial to others, and most appropriate for them to see” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “If you do not pursue the truth, and always try to win people over, always wish to satisfy your own ambitions and desires, and to fulfill your own yearning for status, then you walk the path of the antichrists. Is anything about the path of the antichrists in harmony with the truth? (No.) What about it is at odds with the truth? For the sake of what do these people act? (For the sake of status.) What is exhibited in people who do things for the sake of status? Some say, ‘They always speak words of doctrine, they never fellowship the reality of the truth, they always speak for their own sake, they never exalt or testify to God. People in whom such things are exhibited act for the sake of status.’ Why do they speak words of doctrine? Why do they not exalt and testify to God? Because, in their hearts, there is only status and standing—God is utterly absent. Such people idolize status and authority, standing is of huge importance to them, standing and status have become their life; God is absent from their hearts, they do not fear God, much less obey Him; all they do is exalt themselves, testify to themselves, and show off to gain others’ admiration. Thus, they often brag about themselves, about what they’ve done, how much they’ve suffered, how they satisfied God, how forbearing they were when they were dealt with, all in order to earn people’s sympathy and admiration. These people are the same type of people as antichrists, they walk the path of Paul. And what is their ultimate end? (They become antichrists and are eliminated.)” (“To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I saw from God’s words that I have to open my heart and share my real experience, speak frankly, avoid empty words and useless platitudes to show off. A true leader shares their own experience and understanding of God’s words, guiding others to understand the truth and bringing them before God. An antichrist fellowships empty words to show off for praise and admiration, and to bring others before themselves. As for myself, I was just spouting empty theories without giving people a path of practice. I hadn’t resolved any real problems. My aim wasn’t to help them understand the truth and enter into the reality of God’s words, but to have them admire me. The consequences of showing off 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. People were always saying things like, “Thanks to Mathieu’s fellowship” or “Just like Brother Mathieu said.” I thought of Paul always being ostentatious and not bearing witness to the’ words. That led believers to adulate and bear witness to Paul’s words for 2,000 years. Wasn’t I doing the same thing as Paul, and on the same antichrist’s path against God? I felt really afraid and just hated myself. I said a prayer, “Oh God, I’m making the same mistake. Your words showed me the way, but I’m still following Satan, satisfying my vainglory. I’m playing the part of Satan again. God, please help me, please save me!”
One evening while preparing for a gathering, I saw this passage: “What is the greatest taboo in man’s service of God? Do you know? Some people who serve as leaders always want to try to be different, to be head and shoulders above the rest, and to figure out some new tricks that will 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; they are always trying to show off. Is this not precisely the revelation of an arrogant nature? … 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” (“Without the Truth, One Is Liable to Offend God” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). These words from God left me paralyzed. Through this revelation I saw my wild ambition and desire to achieve great things. I wanted to preside over gatherings to display my eloquence. I loved showing off and never lost an opportunity to do so. I wanted admiration and for others to say, “Brother Mathieu holds such wonderful gatherings! There’s no better leader than him!” Driven by these desires, I rushed around from one gathering to the next, working, gathering, resolving problems. 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.” I was trembling, and I felt a sense of fear deep in my heart. I thought I’d been satisfying God, but I realized I was disgusting Him. I was disgusted with myself, too. I just wanted to do something great, preach something lofty. I wasn’t motivated by bearing witness for God or practicing the truth, and I wasn’t taking on a burden for brothers’ and sisters’ lives. It was all to exalt myself and have a special place in others’ hearts. That’s an offense of God’s administrative decrees, which state, “Man should not magnify himself, nor exalt himself. He should worship and exalt God.” “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 Ten Administrative Decrees That Must Be Obeyed by God’s Chosen People in the Age of Kingdom” in). It wasn’t just self-exaltation that offended the administrative decrees, but even worse, I’d gotten the others on the wrong path and resisting God because they were admiring a person. The consequences are serious and would definitely anger God. I was terrified. I thought God couldn’t possibly forgive me for offending His disposition. I was in misery. I prayed, “God, I’m really in pain. I didn’t know I was inciting Your wrath, and I’d like to repent. Oh God, please help me understand Your will.”
While I was lost in my fear, 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” (“You Should Put Aside the Blessings of Status and Understand God’s Will to Bring Salvation to Man” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading this gave me a sense of peace. I thought I’d offended God in an unforgivable way, but that wasn’t the case. God was disciplining me, but He didn’t hate me. He wanted me to change. I could see God’s righteousness, and His tolerance and forgiveness. I knew this time I had to seek the truth and resolve my corruption.
I read another passage of God’s words: “As 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 people 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. This is deceitfulness. 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 what is manifested in you, and about the words in your heart. Is this easy to achieve? It requires time; it requires an internal struggle, and we must practice constantly. Little by little, our hearts will open up and we will be able to lay ourselves bare” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). This passage helped me understand what God wanted of me. He wanted me to be an honest person. That is, I had to learn to expose my corruption and honest thoughts to others so they could see my weaknesses and difficulties. If I kept exalting myself without revealing my failures and weak points, but just built up a fake image of myself through my fellowship, that would be a lie. It wouldn’t be honest with others or with God. That day 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 what God wants. God wants simple, honest people. Such people can open up about their faults, they love and practice the truth. They focus on brothers’ and sisters’ life entry, and seek the principles of the truth, not seek to fulfill their ambitions. I remembered what 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’d been putting on an act my whole time as a leader, hoping people would idolize me. I realized I was really far off from what God requires. A leader plays the role of a servant, a servant with a tremendous responsibility. They always have to keep their responsibility in mind, that it’s to water and support brothers and sisters, seek the truth to help them resolve problems. A leader is not an officer and isn’t above anyone else. God is the Creator, and all humans are created beings, no matter their position. We should all worship the Creator. In that moment I understood my role and responsibility, that I should stay 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 started to work on being honest. When I noticed I was exalting myself, I’d open up and be sure to expose my corruption and faults. Sometimes that was painful, but it showed me how dishonest I really was. I played so many games and fooled others so much. The more I opened up, the more I saw my true colors and true stature. I realized I was nothing. In all my fellowship, I’d been putting myself up on high, encouraging and helping people with doctrine. But now I started sharing my true state with brothers and sisters, being frank. I’d had the same difficulties they did, the same kinds of corruption they did, and I was a leader, but we were the same. We just had different duties. 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 enlightenment from others’ fellowship. I’d hardly paid attention to others’ fellowship before, arrogantly assuming I was the one providing enlightenment for others. Thanks to God’s words, I developed a closer relationship with the others, so I understood them better and could see their actual state. I saw that God’s arrangements allowed me to gain a lot of from them while I was helping them. I learned so many things through our fellowship together. I stopped being so haughty and self-important. I was able to treat others like equals, more reasonably and normally, and sometimes I would forget entirely about my status as a leader while sharing fellowship. I’m so grateful to God for this change in me.
Sometimes I still catch myself showing off and it shows me how deeply Satan has corrupted me. It’s not just a passing thing, but it’s in my bones, in my blood. Without the sustenance of the truth, without God’s judgment and chastisement, I’d have kept brothers and sisters under my control and kept vying with God. That’s a fact. Failing to change is really dangerous. It was only the truth that helped free me from my satanic disposition. Without that, I would have become an antichrist and been condemned. Thanks to God’s guidance, I’ve shifted my perspective, and now I have a purer outlook on my duty as a leader. More importantly, God is saving me from being controlled by my satanic disposition. Thank Almighty God!