Lessons Learned From Subdividing Churches
By Yixin, USA
Early last year, since our newcomers’ churches were growing so much, the leader decided to redivide my and other co-workers’ responsibilities. I didn’t think much of it at first, but when I learned more about what was going on, I saw that the ones I was going to be responsible for were more problematic. Most members didn’t have a good footing in their faith yet, and leaders and deacons hadn’t all been selected yet. But the churches Sister Liu took charge of were doing a lot better than mine. Those new believers were pretty well grounded and had good caliber, and their leaders and deacons were really responsible. I couldn’t help but start to envy her. I was wondering why she got the better churches, while mine had so many problems. It was going to cost me so much effort! If I couldn’t get things up and running, what would the leader think of me? Would she say I was incompetent and couldn’t get anything done? She might not think much of me. Thinking about it that way was really dissatisfying for me. Going to those churches’ gatherings after that, there were always a number of problems to address that took a lot of time. Church after church after church had all these issues. I wasn’t getting much sleep and I was really struggling. I was thinking that something Sister Liu needed one hour to get done took me two or three hours. My own caliber and skills were limited, but the churches had so many problems. I wasn’t making noticeable progress in spite of all that time and effort, so when the leader compared my results to Sister Liu’s, she’d definitely feel I was mediocre, that I wasn’t doing well and didn’t match up to Sister Liu. I was in a pretty bad state during that time and whenever I encountered an issue I felt really upset and wronged. I was tired both physically and emotionally. So, I came before God to pray and seek, saying, “God, I know You’ve allowed this work distribution and I should submit to Your arrangements, but I’m still reluctant. Please enlighten me to understand Your will and my own corruption.”
Then I read some passages of, and one of them was spot-on for my state at the time. God says, “Increasing your burden is not to make things hard for you, but exactly what is needed: This is your duty, so don’t try to pick and choose, or say no, or get out of it. Why do you think it difficult? In fact, if you tried a little harder, you would be wholly capable of accomplishing this. That you feel it difficult, and as if you are being treated unfairly, as if you are deliberately being given a hard time, is the outpouring of a corrupt disposition, this is refusing to do your duty, and not receiving from God; it is not practicing the truth. When you pick and choose your duty, doing the one that is cushy and easy, the one that makes you look good, then this is the corrupt disposition of Satan. If you are incapable of acceptance and submission, this proves that you are still rebellious toward God, that you are fighting back, rejecting, avoiding—which is a corrupt disposition. So what should you do when you know this is a corrupt disposition? When you feel that the task allocated to someone else would only take them a couple of evenings to complete, whereas the task given to you could take three days and nights, and would require much thought and effort, and you would have to do a lot of research, this makes you unhappy. Is it right that you feel unhappy? (No.) Definitely not. So what should you do when you sense that this is wrong? If you push back in your heart, and think, ‘This is because I’m nice, and easy to take advantage of. The easy tasks, the ones that make people look good, always get given to other people. I’m the only one who gets the ones that are difficult, tiring, and dirty. Can’t I not do them? Isn’t it somebody else’s turn? This isn’t fair! Is God not righteous? Why is He not righteous in such matters? Why am I always the one who gets chosen? Isn’t this picking on nice people?’ If this is what you think, then you have no intention of doing this duty, you’re trying to get out of it, so you will find no inspiration in how to do it, and will be incapable of doing it. Where does the problem lie? First of all, your attitude is wrong. What does this wrong attitude refer to? To you having the wrong attitude toward your duty; this is not the attitude that you should have toward your duty. What are you being picky about? You should obey and accept the things you are supposed to do, without complaint or choice” (“How to Experience God’s Words in One’s Duties” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading this, I reflected on what I’d displayed over the last few days. Seeing the members of the churches I’d taken on didn’t have a good foothold and not many could take on a duty, I felt really reluctant. Not all leaders and deacons had been selected and the various projects were hard to manage, so I not only had to spend time and energy to handle things, but things might not turn out well, and then I wouldn’t look good. I just wanted to manage churches already doing well, so I didn’t have to worry about things and I could get results more easily, and others would think better of me. I kept thinking that dividing the work that way wasn’t fair for me, that Sister Liu got the easy work that would make her look good, but I got the hard, tiring work. I wouldn’t get to stand out. So I was really resistant to it and didn’t want to accept it. But through God’s words, I saw that the way I was thinking about it was rejecting that duty, being picky and not wanting to do anything that didn’t bring me glory. I wasn’t remotely obedient. I’d always thought I was really conscientious and responsible in my duty, and I never expected to be exposed that way. I saw my motives and perspectives in my duty were wrong. Instead of trying to satisfy God, I wanted to get others’ admiration and praise. How could I gain God’s approval by harboring those intentions in my duty?
There was a passage from God I found. God’s words say, “If you wish to be devoted in everything you do to meet God’s will, you cannot merely perform one duty; you must accept any commission God bestows upon you. Whether or not it corresponds to your tastes and falls within your interests, or is something you do not enjoy or have never done before, or is something difficult, you still should accept it and submit. Not only must you accept it, but you must proactively cooperate, and learn about it and attain entry. Even if you suffer, are humiliated, and never stand out, you must still commit your devotion. You must regard it as your duty to fulfill; not as personal business, but as your duty. How should people understand their duties? It is when the Creator—God—gives someone a task to do, and at that point, that person’s duty arises. The tasks God gives to you, the commissions God gives to you—these are your duties. When you pursue them as your goals, and you truly have a God-loving heart, can you still make a refusal? (No.) This is not a matter of whether you can or not—you should not refuse them. You should accept them. This is the path of practice. What is the path of practice? (To be utterly devoted in all things.) Be devoted in all things to meet God’s will. Wherein lies the focal point here? It is ‘in all things.’ ‘All things’ does not necessarily mean things that you like or are good at, much less things with which you are familiar. Sometimes you are not good at something, sometimes you need to learn, sometimes you will encounter difficulties, and sometimes you must suffer. However, regardless of what task it is, as long as it is commissioned by God, you must accept it from Him, regard it as your duty, be devoted to fulfilling it, and meet God’s will: This is the path of practice. No matter what happens to you, you must always seek the truth and once you are certain what sort of practice is in line with God’s will, you should practice it. Only acting in this way is practicing the truth, and only then can you enter the reality of the truth” (“People Can Only Truly Be Happy by Being Honest” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading this, I knew it was true. A duty comes from God, it’s His commission for us and it’s our responsibility. No matter how hard it is or how little glory there is in it, it’s our obligation that we have to accept. That’s the attitude we have to have, and it’s the reason a created being should hold before God. Those churches I managed weren’t what I wanted and my desire for status wouldn’t be met, but it was God’s commission for me. I needed to accept it, and stop approaching my duty from the wrong perspective. I came before God to pray, wanting to submit to His arrangements, to do everything I could in my duty, water new believers properly, and help them get established on the true way soon. My attitude toward my duty improved a bit after that prayer and I didn’t feel as upset.
After a while, more and more churches were being set up, so the leader split up our responsibilities again. From the churches within my scope, the only one doing a bit better and the one sister on watering duty who was doing well were assigned to other people’s management. I was really upset and unhappy about it. I felt like they understood my situation well, that I’d taken on the churches with the most problems and I’d already been working so hard. It wasn’t easy to find that watering sister who was doing well, and she was being taken away, so how could I get anything done in my work? If I kept struggling to get good results, what would the others think of me? They’d think I was inept and couldn’t get things done. That would be so embarrassing! How could I show my face in co-worker meetings after that? Turning this over in my mind brought me to tears. I also realized I’d become dissatisfied and disobedient again. I kneeled down in prayer right away, and started to reflect on myself. Then I read a passage of God’s words. “Regardless of what work they undertake, the kind of person who is an antichrist never gives any thought to the interests of the house of God. They only consider whether their own interests will be affected, think only of tasks that are right in front of their nose. The work of the house of God and the church is just something they do in their spare time, and they have to be prompted to do everything. The protection of their own interests is their real vocation, the things they like doing the real business. In their eyes, anything arranged by the house of God or relating to the life entry of God’s chosen ones is of no importance. … No matter what duty they are performing, all they think about is whether it will raise their profile; as long as it will boost their reputation, they rack their brains to come up with a way to learn how to do it, to carry it out; all they care about is whether it will set them apart. No matter what they do or think, they are only thinking for themselves. In a group, no matter what duty they are performing, they only compete over who is higher or lower, who wins and who loses, who has the bigger reputation. They only care about how many people look up to them, how many people obey them, and how many followers they have. They never fellowship the truth or solve real problems, they never talk about how to do things according to principle when performing one’s duty, whether they have been faithful, have fulfilled their responsibilities, have been deviant. They pay not the slightest attention to what the house of God asks, and what the will of God is. They only put their head down and do things for the sake of status and prestige, to satisfy their own ambitions and wants. This is the manifestation of selfishness and vileness, is it not? This fully exposes how their hearts brim with their own ambitions, wants, and senseless demands; everything they do is governed by the ambitions and wants within their hearts. No matter what they do, the motivation and starting point is their own ambitions, wants, and senseless demands. This is the archetypal manifestation of selfishness and vileness” (“Excursus Four: Summarizing the Character of Antichrists and the Essence of Their Disposition (Part One)” in Exposing Antichrists). God’s words talk about how selfish and vile antichrists are, that they have their own ambitions and desires in their duty and always protect their own interests in their approach to things. No matter what duty they do, they never think about God’s will, how to do their duty well, or make sure the work of God’s house doesn’t suffer. They just think about name and status, with no regard for the church. As for my behavior, seeing the churches under my care had lots of issues, the first thing on my mind wasn’t how to lean on God to do my best to support them, but it was my fear of not doing well and having the others look down on me, which would be an embarrassment. I was resistant and unhappy with the distribution of work, and even slacked off in my duty. When I knew that a pretty capable sister working under me was going to be transferred, my first reaction was that I was losing a good worker, so my own achievements in work would slip. Then the leader would think I was inept and I couldn’t get a grasp on the church’s work. I realized that all I thought about in my duty was my own reputation and interests, how I could skate by without too much effort, and still make a good show and gain others’ admiration. I wasn’t looking at the big picture of the church’s work. I was so selfish, and that’s an antichrist disposition. Really thinking about it, I knew that putting me in charge of more difficult churches was God’s will. Those churches with more newcomers who weren’t established yet required me to lean on God and seek the truth more to resolve all those difficulties. I also had to pay more of a price to support them, so they’d learn the truth on God’s work and gain a foundation in the true way. It was good practice for me. And the harder things got, the more it forced me to come to God to seek the truth and find solutions, so I could end up learning lots of truths that way. It was good for my life entry. Then I realized that that duty wasn’t anyone trying to make things hard for me, but it was God’s love and blessing. I had to accept it and submit, and put my heart into it. This realization helped me change my attitude, and I didn’t feel as bad anymore.
After that I read another passage of God’s words that helped me understand my problem better.says, “If someone says they love the truth and that they pursue the truth, but in essence, the goal they pursue is to distinguish themselves, to show off, to make people think highly of them, to achieve their own interests, and the performing of their duty is not to obey or satisfy God, and instead is to achieve reputation, gains, and status, then their pursuit is illegitimate. That being the case, when it comes to the work of God, the work of the church, and the work of the house of God, are they an obstacle, or do they help move these things forward? They are clearly an obstacle; they do not move these things forward. All who wave the banner of doing the work of the church yet pursue their own personal fortune, prestige, and status, run their own operation, create their own little group, their own little kingdom—is this kind of leader or worker performing their duty? All the work they do essentially interrupts, disrupts, and impairs the work of the house of God. And so what is the consequence of people’s pursuit of status and prestige, judging by its essence? First, this affects the chosen ones’ entry into life, it affects how the chosen ones eat and drink God’s words, how they understand the truth, and shed their corrupt dispositions, it stops them from entering the right track of faith in God, and leads them onto the wrong path—which harms the chosen ones, and brings them to ruin. And what does it ultimately do to the work of God’s house? It is dismantlement, interruption and impairment. When they perform their duty in this way, can this not be defined as walking the path of an antichrist? When God asks that people put aside status and prestige, it is not that He is depriving people of the right to choose; rather, it is because, while pursuing status and prestige, people harm the work of God’s house, they interrupt the brothers’ and sisters’ entry into life, and even have an influence on others eating and drinking God’s words normally and understanding the truth, and thus achieving God’s salvation. What’s even more serious is that, when people pursue their own prestige and status, such behavior and actions can be characterized as cooperating with Satan in harming and obstructing, to the utmost extent, the normal progress of God’s work, and stopping God’s will from being normally carried out among people. They are deliberately opposing and arguing the toss with God. This is the nature of leaders’ and workers’ pursuit of status and prestige. The problem with people pursuing their own interests is that the goals they pursue are the goals of Satan—they are goals that are wicked and unjust. When people pursue these interests, they unwittingly become a tool of Satan, they become a channel for Satan, and, moreover, they become an embodiment of Satan. In the house of God, and in the church, they play a negative role; toward the work of the house of God, and toward the normal church life and normal pursuit of brothers and sisters in the church, the effect they have is to disturb and impair; they have a negative effect. When someone pursues the truth, they are able to be considerate of God’s will, and are mindful of God’s burden. When they perform their duty, they uphold the work of the house of God in every regard. They are able to exalt God and testify to God, they bring benefit to the brothers and sisters, and support them, and provide for them, and God gains glory and testimony, which brings shame upon Satan. As a result of their pursuit, God gains a creature that is truly capable of fearing God and shunning evil, that is able to . As a result of their pursuit, too, the way for God’s will is carried out, and the work of God is able to progress. In the eyes of God, such pursuit is positive, it is upright, and it is of the greatest benefit to the work of the house of God and to God’s chosen people in the church” (“They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part One)” in Exposing Antichrists). This gave me more understanding of my pursuit of self-interest. I realized that when people do that, they’re acting on behalf of Satan, becoming a tool for it to disrupt the work of God’s house. Before I’d thought that only doing obviously evil things, clearly obstructing the work of God’s house and church life was acting as a minion of Satan. But then I saw that if we just pursue selfish interests in our duty and disregard God’s house’s interests, we’ll just have a negative impact on the church’s work and be disruptive. I thought about what I’d displayed in my duty, and even though it looked like I was never idle, that I could handle some hard work and burn the midnight oil, and I never did anything clearly disruptive, I didn’t have the right motives in my duty. It wasn’t to satisfy God, but it was an effort to stand out and gain others’ admiration. When I didn’t like the way the work was split up, I was really discontent and didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t just submit and think about how to do that duty well, or how to offer immediate support to brothers and sisters. Without realizing it, I’d already hindered our watering work. The truth was that I’d had more experience than my co-workers. Some of the other sisters were new to the job and weren’t familiar with the church’s work, so assigning the better churches and waterers to them was good for our work overall. But I was selfish, wanting to keep the better churches and waterers under my charge. But if things went the way I wanted and the newer co-workers took on the churches with more issues, the work would have suffered and it wouldn’t have been efficient, which wouldn’t be good for God’s house. My churches had more problems in them, but it was actually good training for me. I could just put a little more effort in and get some of those things done, then our overall efficiency could be improved. Wasn’t that the best arrangement? Then I realized how this duty brought to light my selfish, awful, and unreasonable thinking. I also saw that if I had self-serving interests in my duty, that could only do harm to the work of God’s house. In the past, I’d just gone after name and status, and personal interests in my duty, and I had committed transgressions. If I didn’t change this time, but kept stubbornly protecting my own interests, I knew I’d hurt the work of God’s house again, offend God’s disposition, and be cast out. This was a frightening thought for me. I came to God to pray and repent. I said, “God, in my duty I’ve done nothing but protect my own interests without any thought of the church’s work or Your will. With my humanity, I’m not worthy of taking on a duty. God, I want to truly repent.”
I read a passage of God’s words after that that really gave me a path for entry. “For all who fulfill their duty, however profound or shallow their understanding of the truth, the simplest way of practice by which to enter the reality of the truth is to think of the interests of God’s house in everything, and to let go of selfish desires, individual intentions, motives, reputation, and status. Put the interests of God’s house first—this is the least one should do. If a person performing his duty cannot do even this much, then how can he be said to be performing his duty? This is not performing one’s duty. You should first consider the interests of God’s house, consider God’s own interests, and consider His work, and put these considerations first and foremost; only after that can you think about the stability of your status or how others see you. Do you not feel that it gets a little easier when you divide it into these steps and make some compromises? If you do this for a while, you will come to feel that satisfying God is not difficult. In addition, you should be able to fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put the interests of God and His house first. After experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to live. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being narrow-minded or mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act. Gradually, the desire within your heart to gratify your own interests will lessen” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading God’s words taught me that God’s house has to come first in everything that happens, not my personal benefit. Reputation and status are temporary, and pursuing those things is meaningless. Not living in corruption, practicing the truth, and doing God’s will is the only way to get God’s approval. Understanding this was enlightening for me. No matter how work was divided, I couldn’t keep protecting my personal interests, and my face and status, but I had to comply and do my duty well. Even if I didn’t get great results, I had to focus on living before God and accepting His scrutiny. No matter what others might think of me, putting my heart into my duty and being responsible was the only way to do God’s will.
For the next few days, I threw myself into my duty, not thinking of my own interests. By doing that, I felt like I wasn’t so controlled by my corruption. Discussing work with a sister a few days later, she said her spoken English wasn’t that great and she needed an interpreter when she checked up on a newcomers’ church. She was having difficulties and wasn’t achieving much in her duty. When she said that, I thought that my English was okay, so maybe I could switch with her, and I could keep track of that church’s work. But then it occurred to me that that church had lots of problems, so taking that on would probably require lots of effort and there might not be much progress. I worried it might impact others’ opinion of me, so then I didn’t want to switch with her. But at that thought, I realized I was only considering my own benefit again, protecting my face and status, so I quickly came before God in prayer, asking Him to guide me to forsake myself. After praying, I realized that the situation was God testing me and giving me a chance to practice the truth. I couldn’t keep living in corruption, protecting my own interests like before. If making this change would benefit the work of God’s house, I had to do it. So I gave some thought to our other co-workers’ responsibilities and felt like it really was best for me to switch with that sister. I shared my thoughts with the leader and she and the other co-workers all agreed to it. I felt really at ease after we made the changes, and I appreciated it in a way I can’t describe. I felt like I was finally practicing the truth and being a real person. Just as God says, “You should be able to fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put the interests of God and His house first. After experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to live. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being narrow-minded or mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act. Gradually, the desire within your heart to gratify your own interests will lessen” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days).
After that, I stopped being negative about the churches I was in charge of, but I did my best to take care of every church’s work. When some people in the watering team complained about their work struggles, I’d fellowship on God’s words to correct their wrong perspectives, and rely on God and seek the truth with them to resolve those problems. When I saw some newcomers had lots of issues and weren’t attending gatherings, I stopped blaming them for being difficult, but I had real conversations with brothers and sisters to get an understanding of their struggles, and fellowshiped with them on God’s words. As for not having enough leaders and deacons in place, I worked more on training talents. I fellowshiped with the brothers and sisters with better caliber, who were more fit for those roles, on the significance and principles of doing a duty, and spent some time working side-by-side with them. When I noticed there was some fairly complicated work in the churches and no one was checking up on it, I made the effort to take it on. At first I didn’t know if I could get it done well, but I had no doubt that I couldn’t keep distancing myself from those matters, that I couldn’t just selfishly consider my little realm of work, but I had to consider God’s will and uphold the church’s overall work. After a while there was progress on my work, all the leaders and deacons were chosen in the churches I was managing. In some of the churches, there was twice the number of people taking on a duty, and some of the newcomers could do a job on their own. In churches that hadn’t been doing too well before, every part of their work was looking up. I could really see God’s deeds in that. I also truly experienced that what God wants is people’s hearts and obedience, so if we can consider His will and only think of the work of God’s house, not our own interests, we can gain God’s guidance and blessings. Understanding this strengthened my faith in God. Thank God!