A Lesson Learned from Watering New Believers
By Ye Cheng, China
In January of this year, I was watering newcomers in the church. Sister Liu and her husband were two of the newcomers I was responsible for. The supervisor told me Sister Liu’s husband had just started investigating God’s work in the last days, had only been to a few gatherings and needed more support and watering.
Both times that I went to Sister Liu’s home, arguments broke out between her and her husband. When I looked into, I learned that Sister Liu looked down on her husband for following worldly trends and not being a devout believer. It occurred to me that her setting unrealistic demands and going off on her husband when he’d only just started investigating the true way might obstruct his progress. One time, I fellowshiped with her about how we must approach people with tolerance and patience. To my surprise, the sister got offended and said she was already very patient. She even said, “If he doesn’t want to believe then so be it. At least that way he won’t affect my state.” I became very worried that her husband might quit the church upon hearing her say that. I complained in my heart, “This sister is so wildly arrogant. She only concerns herself with blowing off her own steam and doesn’t care about how others might feel. I’ve got to have a serious fellowship with her and let her know how grave this situation is.” But when I’d said my piece, Sister Liu argued back saying: “I don’t want to get angry. But he spends all day at social outings or playing mahjong and doesn’t read God’s word. He just doesn’t listen no matter how many times I tell him.” I was a bit angry upon hearing this. I thought: “You’re clearly showing signs of corruption, but you only criticize your husband. You don’t know yourself at all!” So I read her a section of God’s revelation concerning people’s arrogant disposition and interpreted her anger as being the result of too much desire for status. Getting angry and losing her temper to make her husband relent when he didn’t do as she said was a corrupt disposition and must be corrected. At the time, the sister begrudgingly admitted she was being too arrogant, but afterward, she was just the same and didn’t make the slightest change. Later on, I fellowshiped with her several more times and urged her to treat her husband fairly, not always pick out his flaws, and come to know herself. But the sister still kept coming up with excuses. I didn’t know what to do. I’d originally wanted to get her husband to attend more gatherings to help him put down roots on the true way, but all those gatherings were unexpectedly called off.
At the time, I just kept complaining and judged Sister Liu: “She’s so arrogant and keeps coming down hard on her husband. Does she have poor humanity? I’ve fellowshiped with her many times, but she doesn’t practice the truth or help promote gatherings. I really don’t want to water her anymore.” One time, I discussed this issue with the sister I was partnered with and vented all my grievances. The sister recommended an experience testimony video for me. One passage of God’s word in the video really hit home.say, “One must exercise care and prudence and rely on love in their treatment of people who are investigating the true way. This is because everyone investigating the true way is an unbeliever—even the religious among them are more or less unbelievers—and they are all fragile: Should anything not accord with their notions, they are liable to contradict it, and should any phrase not conform to their will, they are liable to dispute it. Therefore, spreading the gospel to them requires tolerance from us. It requires extreme love on our part, and it requires some methods and approaches. What is crucial, though, is reading God’s words to them, conveying to them all the truths God expresses to save man, and letting them hear the voice of God and the words of the Creator. They will thus gain benefits” (The Word, Vol. 2, The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days, Spreading the Gospel Is the Duty to Which All Believers Are Honor-Bound). God demands that we treat each potential gospel recipient with loving care, and should help and assist them with profound patience and love, fellowshiping with them on the truth and bringing them before God. These are the responsibilities and duties of each gospel sharer. I could sense God’s loving care for human life in His every word and phrase. This was why He made these demands of us. Pondering over God’s love and understanding of humankind, I felt ashamed. I thought back on how I’d treated Sister Liu. When I fellowshiped with her a few times for blowing up on her husband and she didn’t improve, I got angry, found passages of God’s word to criticize her based on my own will, analyzed her issues, vented about my frustration with her, and didn’t give the slightest thought to her own feelings or her stature. I even said she had poor humanity in front of my partner. Where was my lovingkindness? Sister Liu had only just accepted God’s work in the last days for six months and still didn’t understand much of the truth—so wasn’t it normal for her to reveal corruption when faced with problems? Not only had I not given her guidance with love to help her practice the truth, I had actually disdained her. I really lacked humanity. Pondering over all this, I realized the reason I hadn’t gotten any results after fellowshiping a few times with Sister Liu was because I hadn’t provided fellowship with love and used the truth to resolve her issues. Instead, I’d arrogantly disdained and delimited her and chided her out of temper. How did I expect to help her understand the truth and improve her state while acting like I was? I came before God in prayer, ready to rectify my intentions and stop treating Sister Liu according to my corrupt disposition.
One day, I saw a passage of God’s words. “You need to have an understanding of the many states that people will be in when the Holy Spirit performs work on them. In particular, those who coordinate in service to God must have an even stronger grasp of these states. If you only talk about a lot of experiences or ways of attaining entry, it shows that your experience is overly one-sided. Without knowing your true state and grasping the principles of the truth, it is not possible to achieve a change in disposition. Without knowing the principles of the Holy Spirit’s work or understanding the fruit it bears, it will be difficult for you to discern the work of evil spirits. You must expose the work of evil spirits, as well as the notions of man, and penetrate straight to the heart of the issue; you must also point out many deviations in people’s practice and problems they might have in their faith in God, so that they may recognize them. At the very least, you must not make them feel negative or passive. However, you must understand the difficulties that objectively exist for most people, you must not be unreasonable or ‘try to teach a pig to sing’; that is foolish behavior. To resolve the many difficulties people experience, you must first comprehend the dynamics of the work of the Holy Spirit; you must understand how the Holy Spirit performs work on different people, you must have an understanding of the difficulties people face and of their shortcomings, and you must see through to the key issues of the problem and get to its source, without deviating or making any errors. Only this kind of person is qualified to coordinate in service to God” (The Word, Vol. 1, God’s Work and Knowing God, What an Adequate Shepherd Should Be Equipped With). Thinking over God’s words, I realized that whether it’s sharing the gospel or watering newcomers, we must always be aware of people’s actual problems and states, and fellowship the relevant truths to really resolve their issues. If you don’t understand their difficulties and just fellowship based on your own beliefs, not only will you fail to resolve their issues, you’re liable to hurt or offend them. Sometimes when newcomers show signs of corruption and negativity, and fellowshiping several times doesn’t help them improve, we should first reflect on whether we’ve fellowshiped the truth lucidly regarding their issues. If their problems still aren’t resolved because we didn’t fellowship the truth lucidly, then we haven’t done our duty and fulfilled our responsibilities. I couldn’t help but think of how I’d treated Sister Liu. During those times that I’d seen Sister Liu blow up on her husband, I just assumed she was arrogant and bossing around her husband, so I continuously critiqued her and forced her to recognize her own corrupt disposition, but in the end her problems still weren’t resolved. Only after quieting my thoughts and meditating on this issue did I realize the reason Sister Liu kept losing her temper was just because she hoped her husband could quickly lay a foundation in the true way, start consistently attending gatherings, and have God’s protection when faced with problems. So when she saw her husband busy with social outings or playing mahjong, and not reading God’s words, she would lose her temper. I hadn’t fellowshiped with her on this issue, so I didn’t see any results from the fellowship. In reality, the main problem was with me. I didn’t identify the newcomer’s problem to fellowship with her, and even judged her to be of poor humanity and not accepting the truth, and didn’t even want to water her. I really didn’t know myself and didn’t have the slightest love for others. Realizing this, I felt quite ashamed and guilty. I had to rectify my attitude toward Sister Liu, fellowship with regard to her actual situation and use the truth to resolve her issues.
A day later, it was once again time for our gathering. When I arrived, Sister Liu began complaining, saying her husband had clearly said he’d come to the gathering, but still hadn’t returned home. She also delimited him as a non-seeker and wanted to give up on him. So I fellowshiped with her in light of her situation. I said: “Asking your husband to gather and read God’s words was well intentioned, but we can’t set our expectations of him too high. If you lose your temper when he doesn’t listen to you, he will be unlikely to comply. People have been so deeply corrupted by Satan and don’t love the truth, so their seeking of the truth and life entry comes very slowly. It takes a lot of fellowshiping, experience and even setbacks to get that one bit of insight or understanding. So we need to assist people with love and give them the time to make a change. We’ve seen that God demands people to transform their dispositions, but He never forces people or sets unrealistic expectations. Seeing how we live by our corrupt dispositions and don’t comply with God’s words, He doesn’t unleash His wrath or abandon us, but rather enlightens and guides us with His words, allowing us to experience things little by little and gradually come to understand the truth and achieve transformation. We feel that His approach is very gentle. So if we want to get our family to attend gatherings and read more of God’s words to lay a foundation as soon as possible, this is the right intention, but we must be sympathetic of their difficulties and guide and support them with patience. Only then will they be more likely to comply.” Hearing what I’d said, Sister Liu let out a long sigh and replied: “I’m always trying to get my husband to gather more and read more of God’s words, thinking this is what’s best for him and trying to get him to comply with me. When he doesn’t do as I say, I just blow up on him. Treating him like that really is likely to hurt him. I was wrong. In the future, I’ll practice according to God’s words and stop treating him according to my corrupt disposition.” I also felt great seeing that Sister Liu had gained some understanding and had a smile on her face. After that, we read a passage of God’s word together. “How you are to treat others is clearly shown or hinted at in God’s words; the attitude with which God treats humanity is the attitude people should adopt in their treatment of one another. How does God treat each and every person? Some people are of immature stature; or are young; or have believed in God for only a short time; or are not bad by nature and essence, not malicious, but are just a bit ignorant or lacking in caliber. Or they are subject to too many constraints, and are yet to understand the truth, yet to enter into life, so it is difficult for them to keep from doing foolish things or committing ignorant acts. But God does not fixate on people’s passing foolishness; He looks only at their hearts. If they are resolved to pursue the truth, they are then correct, and when this is their objective, then God is observing them, waiting for them, and giving them time and opportunities that allow them to enter. It is not the case that God will strike them dead over a single transgression. That is something people often do; God never treats people like that. If God does not treat people in that way, then why do people treat others in that way? Does this not show their corrupt disposition? This is precisely their corrupt disposition. You have to look at how God treats ignorant and foolish people, how He treats those with immature stature, how He treats the normal manifestations of humanity’s corrupt disposition, and how He treats those who are malicious. God treats different people in different ways, and He also has various ways of managing different people’s myriad conditions. You must understand these truths. Once you have understood these truths, you will then know how to experience matters and treat people according to principles” (The Word, Vol. 2, The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days, To Gain the Truth, One Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Nearby). When we finished reading, Sister Liu said it was a good passage and asked me to fellowship with her more. I fellowshiped with her, saying: “When we notice in our interactions with someone that they have deficiencies or issues, we can bring them up in a loving and even-tempered way and not expect too much from them. We should give them some time to accept the truth and wait for them to slowly make improvements. God knows that we’ve been deeply corrupted by Satan, and there are a lot of obstacles and difficulties involved in accepting and practicing the truth. Sometimes, even if we understand the truth, we’re unable to practice it right away. God has to fellowship with us again and again. Sometimes He worries that we won’t understand, so He patiently provides examples for us and uses all kinds of methods to guide us to gain an understanding. Sometimes He leads us through His words, sometimes through pointers from our brothers and sisters. Other times, we’re just too numb and rebellious and no amount of fellowship yields results, so God arranges practical situations to chasten, discipline, prune and deal with us, to stir our hearts. God works in a very gentle and loving way, there is nothing imposing about what He does. Even, when at times He strictly chastens, disciplines, judges and exposes us, we can still feel His love and mercy. Through our experiences, we see how God treats people in a very principled way, and never rashly abandons us just because we fail to improve after hearing much of the truth. God has immense love for and patience with humanity and He has a profoundly sincere desire to save mankind.”
After fellowshiping with Sister Liu, I suddenly thought: “How much of what God’s demanded have I practiced myself? I only fellowshiped with Sister Liu on how to treat her husband properly, but I didn’t treat Sister Liu properly! When I saw Sister Liu get angry at her husband and she didn’t improve after fellowshiping with her a few times, I privately judged her to be arrogant, lacking in humanity, all bark and no bite, and so on.” Thinking back on what I revealed, I felt quite ashamed. Sister Liu was a newcomer and didn’t have much experience, but I forced her to recognize her arrogant nature and demanded that she change. When she didn’t make a transformation, I just delimited her as someone who doesn’t seek or accept the truth, and even judged her to have poor humanity. I clearly hadn’t grasped Sister Liu’s state and hadn’t fellowshiped with regard to it, but I still forced her to accept, submit and make changes. I was truly arrogant and irrational. It was then that I realized I had betrayed my corrupt disposition—Sister Liu’s state was just a mirror, allowing me to see my own corruption. She had only believed in God for half a year, so it was normal to be unable to reflect on and know herself. I had been in the faith for years and often fellowshiped the truth with others to resolve issues, but how much truth had I actually practiced? Wasn’t my talking a big game without practicing just like the Pharisees who only spoke of doctrines? At that point, a passage of God’s words came to mind. “There are some people who equip themselves with truths only in order to work and preach, to provision others, not to resolve their own problems, never mind putting them into practice. Their fellowship may be of pure understanding and in line with the truth, but they do not measure themselves up to it, nor do they practice or experience it. What is the problem here? Have they truly accepted the truth as their life? No, they have not. The doctrine one preaches, however pure it may be, does not mean that one is possessed of the reality of the truth. To be equipped with the truth, one must first have entered it oneself, and put it into practice when they understand it. If one does not focus on their own entry, but is out to show off by preaching the truth to others, their intention is wrong. There are many false leaders who work like this, incessantly fellowshiping to others about the truths they understand, providing for new believers, teaching people to practice the truth, to perform their duties well, not to be negative. These words are all well and good—loving, even—but why do their speakers not practice the truth? Why do they have no life entry? What is going on here, really? Does a person like this actually love the truth? It is hard to say. This was how the Pharisees of Israel expounded the Bible to others, yet they could not keep God’s commandments themselves. When theappeared and worked, they heard God’s voice but resisted the Lord. They crucified the Lord Jesus and were cursed by God. Therefore, all people who do not accept or practice the truth will be condemned by God. How wretched they are! If the doctrine of words and letters they preach can help others, why can it not help them? We would do well to call such a person a hypocrite who has no reality. They provide others with the words and letters of the truth, they have others practice it, but they do not practice the least bit of it themselves. Is such a person not shameless? They do not have the reality of the truth, yet in preaching the words and letters of doctrine to others, they pretend to. Is this not deliberate deception and harm? If such a person were exposed and cast out, they would have only themselves to blame. They would be unworthy of pity” (The Word, Vol. 2, The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days, Part Three). God’s words were an exact description of my own state. Thinking back on my time watering Sister Liu, I had lived by a corrupt disposition and hadn’t treated her fairly. All I saw was how Sister Liu betrayed her arrogant disposition and didn’t accept the truth, but I didn’t reflect at all on what corruption I myself had betrayed. I didn’t recognize my own ugly face, and shamelessly criticized Sister Liu with God’s words, demanding that she make improvements. It was as if other people needed to reflect on their corruption, but I wasn’t corrupt and thus didn’t need to reflect. I really didn’t know myself and was so shameless! I used God’s words to fellowship with others and resolve their problems, but I didn’t reflect or gain entry in the slightest. How was this any different from the falsely pious Pharisees? How did I expect to be helpful to people when doing my duty in this way?
Later on, when Sister Liu’s husband returned, she said to him: “My sister just read some passages of God’s word to me and I realized I’ve been wrong. I’ve been suppressing you with my arrogant disposition. In the future, I’ll practice according to God’s words and will stop treating you with a corrupt disposition.” Seeing how Sister Liu was able to practice God’s words, I felt even more ashamed. Before, I’d delimited her as someone that didn’t accept the truth, but now the reality of the situation was like a slap in the face to me. On my way home, I thought about how I’d delimited and judged Sister Liu and felt quite guilty. I thought of God’s words which say: “If, in your heart, you truly understand the truth, then you will know how to practice the truth and obey God, and will naturally embark on the path of pursuing the truth. If the path you walk is the right one, and in line with God’s will, then the work of the Holy Spirit will not leave you—in which case there will be less and less chance of you betraying God. Without the truth, it is easy to do evil, and you will do it despite yourself. For example, if you have an arrogant and conceited disposition, then being told not to oppose God makes no difference, you can’t help yourself, it is beyond your control. You would not do it on purpose; you would do it under the domination of your arrogant and conceited nature. Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account; they would cause you to exalt yourself, constantly put yourself on display; they would make you scorn others, they would leave no one in your heart but yourself; they would rob you of God’s place in your heart, and ultimately cause you to sit in the place of God and demand that people submit to you, and make you venerate your own thoughts, ideas, and notions as the truth. So much evil is done by people under the dominance of their arrogant and conceited nature! To resolve the problem of doing evil, they must first resolve their nature. Without a change in disposition, it would not be possible to bring a fundamental resolution to this problem” (The Word, Vol. 2, The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days, Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition). Pondering over God’s words, I saw my own corrupt disposition even more clearly. Thinking back on my time watering Sister Liu, when she didn’t improve after fellowshiping several times, I didn’t reflect on myself, even thinking that I had precisely identified the issue and could fellowship and resolve her situation. If Sister Liu didn’t comply, it was because she didn’t accept the truth. I had only met with Sister Liu on a few occasions and didn’t really know her at all, but I still carelessly judged and delimited her, as if I had a great grasp of the truth and could see through to someone’s essence after meeting just a few times. After being exposed time after time, I realized that I didn’t grasp the root and essence of people’s issues, and didn’t treat people based on their overall behavior, nature and essence. I really didn’t understand the truth and yet I deeply believed in myself and held fast to my beliefs. I didn’t have the slightest knowledge of myself. I realized that if I kept treating the newcomers according to my arrogant disposition, at the least, I would develop biases toward them, and would be liable to constrain and harm them and delay their life entry. At the worst, I might judge and delimit them and might even carelessly abandon them. That would be indebtedness to them. Realizing this, I was a bit horrified, but I also felt relieved. When I had shown signs of arrogance, my partner had pointed it out, allowing me to recognize my issue and make a timely change. This was God’s protection! Later, I had to temporarily leave the church due to work-related demands. One month later, when I saw Sister Liu again, she told me about how she had experienced and borne witness to God’s words while spreading the gospel. Sighing with emotion, she went on, saying: “But recently, through sharing the gospel, I’ve seen how everyone has many different notions regarding God. It’s not easy for people to accept God’s work in the last days and come before Him. Before, I always thought that my husband wasn’t seeking, and demanded that he refrain from many things. I demanded too much from him—that was my bad. God’s words are truly great and I still need to experience them more.” When I heard this, I felt so happy for her, but I also felt quite ashamed and was moved with emotion. It really does take time and experience for people to accept the truth. After that, when newcomers showed signs of corruption in the course of watering, I would focus on identifying the root cause of their problem, and seek related principles with which to handle them. During that time, I also saw how coming before God and laying down a foundation is a process that takes time. In the process of watering and supporting them, I would also reflect on myself and rectify my own improper states, supporting them with love, allowing them to lay a foundation and come before God as quickly as possible. Doing my duty in this way made me feel truly peaceful and at ease.