My Gains From an Election
By Mu Tong, Japan
The church recently held a special election to fill a leadership role. When I learned that the upper leadership was planning on promoting Sister Zhao, I couldn’t help but question the decision: Sister Zhao? As a leader, she’d sowed jealousy and discord and suppressed and punished others, harming her brothers and sisters and disrupting and interrupting the church’s work. The sisters and brothers had exposed her many times but she never accepted any of it and was later replaced. Had she reflected upon and come to know herself? Had she repented and achieved transformation? But then I thought, “If the leadership is planning to promote her, they must have evaluated her case according to principle. She must have repented and transformed to a degree. And after all, the leadership election is a matter for the upper leadership and is not so relevant for me. I shouldn’t idly worry about it.”
A few days later, the leaders held a gathering in which they discussed the principles of electing church leaders and read evaluations of Sister Zhao from informed sources. From the evaluations, I learned that when Sister Zhao was dealt with, she would often be resentful and argue, and had a hard time accepting the truth. What’s more, these evaluations made no mention of how she viewed her past transgressions. I thought to myself: “If Sister Zhao hasn’t reflected on and come to know herself, then she must not pursue or accept the truth. If she is elected leader again, won’t she just continue to sow jealousy and discord and suppress the brothers and sisters?” But then I thought, “I haven’t seen her much these couple of years and am not clear on her current situation, so I shouldn’t worry about this matter. What’s most important is attending to my own work. Anyways, it doesn’t really matter who serves as leader.” At the time, I just let the matter be and life went on. To my surprise, a few days later, the leaders held another gathering. They said that there were brothers and sisters who opposed Sister Zhao’s promotion because she hadn’t reflected and gained understanding of her previous transgressions and hadn’t repented and changed, and that she wasn’t fit to be promoted to a leadership role. The leaders made a thorough investigation of Sister Zhao’s situation, making sure that allegations made were factual, and finally made a judgment based on principle that Sister Zhao was indeed unfit to be a leader. When I found out about all this, I felt ashamed: Why were others able to report issues when they saw them and safeguard the church’s election while I stood by and didn’t take the matter seriously? What was I thinking?
Realizing all this, I felt a bit down so I came before God to seek and pray: What lessons should I learn from this situation? I came across this passage of: “All who pretend to be spiritual when they do not understand spiritual matters are fakes, and they care about nothing except spending all day rigidly adhering to rules or parroting words of doctrines; this is akin to what ancient scholars did, ‘burying themselves in the classics and ignoring what is going on beyond their immediate surroundings.’ People who pretend to be spiritual find that whatever other people do has no bearing on them, and however other people think, they regard it as these other people’s business, and they refuse to learn how to discriminate among people, look beyond the surface in things, and understand God’s will according to God’s words. Most people are like this. When they have finished listening to a sermon or reading God’s word, they note it down on paper or store it in their hearts and treat it as doctrines or rules, to which they pay token observance and then they are done with it. As for what relationship the things that happen around them have with the truth, or what connection the various behaviors and manifestations they see in people around them have with the truth, they never ever ponder or try to fathom this in their hearts, nor do they pray or seek. This is the kind of shape that the spiritual life of most people is in. For this reason, when it comes to entering into the truth, most people are slow and superficial; their spiritual life is extremely monotonous, they merely follow rules, there is no principle to the way they do things. We could say that, in the case of most people, their spiritual life is empty and out of joint with real life. For this reason, even vis-à-vis the blatant conduct and behaviors of wicked people and antichrists, they have absolutely no concepts, much less any definitions, nor do they have any ideas or make any distinctions” (“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 Five)” in Exposing Antichrists). Reading God’s words, I felt like they were describing my own practice of faith. I acted in just the way God’s words exposed: “burying themselves in classics while ignoring their immediate surroundings.” I believed that it was enough to just fulfill my duties and attend to my portion of the work. Anything outside of that had nothing to do with me. In my mind, I thought that faith in God consisted of just praying to God, reading God’s words, fulfilling one’s duties and not making any big errors. By doing these things, one could earn God’s commendation. Only after reading God’s words did I realize how absurd this notion was. God’s work is highly practical and not the least bit vague—no aspect of it is disconnected from realities. At the same time that He supplies us with truths, He also devises all kinds of situations in our everyday lives to help us experience His words and practice viewing things through the lens of His words, so that we can gradually come to understand and gain the truth. Thinking back on that leadership election, some people were able to seek the truth and exercise discernment based on God’s words. When they realized the leader wasn’t promoted according to principle, they were able to stand up in time to intervene and safeguard the church’s work. Through this situation, they learned to discern people and things and attained practical gains. As for me, I approached the same situation like an outsider, checking out as soon as the election was over and not seeking to understand what lessons might be learned in the slightest. And, as a result, I gained nothing. My practice of faith was completely disconnected from my real life. I didn’t place importance on experiencing God’s work, much less did I emphasize seeking the truth in the situations God devised. No matter what was going on, I always removed myself from the situation, just like a nonbeliever. As a result, there were many things that I was just oblivious to, and in ten years of faith, I had come up empty-handed, not having understood any of the truth or gained any discernment of people and things. How pitiful and poor!
When I realized I had this problem, I felt pretty down, but I was willing to turn my state around and learn a lesson from that election. Upon reflecting, I realized the reason I hadn’t shown any concern for the church’s leadership election was because I had always held onto the mistaken idea that who is elected leader is irrelevant to me. I’d continue practicing faith in God and fulfilling my duties as before, regardless of who was elected. Only later on, when I came across a passage of God’s words, did I finally come to grasp the meaning of church leadership elections. God’s words say, “What is the cause of the emergence of the category of people who are leaders and workers, and how did they emerge? On a grand scale, they are required for God’s work; on a smaller scale, they are required for the work of the church, they are required by God’s chosen people. … The difference between leaders and workers and the rest of God’s chosen people is only a special characteristic in the duties they perform. This special characteristic shows principally in their leadership roles. For example, no matter how many people a church has, the leader is the head. So what role does this leader play among the members? They lead all of the chosen ones in the church. So what effect do they have throughout the whole church? If this leader takes the wrong path, God’s chosen people in the church will follow the leader down the wrong path, which will have a huge impact on all of them. Take Paul for example. He led many of the churches he founded and God’s chosen people. When Paul went astray, the churches and God’s chosen people he led also went astray. So, when leaders go astray, they are not the only ones who are impacted, but the churches and God’s chosen people they lead are impacted as well. If a leader is a right person, one who is walking the right path and pursues and practices truth, then the people they lead will eat and drink God’s words properly and seek truth properly, and, at the same time, the leader’s life experience and progress will be visible to others, and will impact others. So, what is the correct path that a leader should walk? It is being able to lead others to an understanding of the truth and an entry into the truth, and to lead others before God. What is an incorrect path? It is to pursue status, fame, and profit, to frequently elevate oneself and to bear witness to oneself, never bearing witness to God. What effect does this have on God’s chosen ones? They will stray far from God and come under this leader’s control. If you lead people to come before you, then you are leading them to come before corrupt mankind, and you are leading them to come before Satan, not God. Only leading people to come before truth is leading them to come before God. Leaders and workers, no matter whether they walk the right path or the wrong one, have a direct influence on God’s chosen people. When they have yet to understand the truth, many of God’s chosen ones follow blindly. The leader could be someone good, and they would follow them; the leader could be someone bad, and they would also follow them—they don’t differentiate. They follow as they are led, regardless of who the leader is. And so it is crucial that the churches choose good people to be their leaders. Which path the faithful walk is directly related to the path that is walked by the leaders and workers, and can to varying degrees be influenced by those leaders and workers” (“They Try to Win People Over” in Exposing Antichrists). After reading God’s words, I realized that leaders have an immense impact on church life and the life entry of God’s chosen, and a direct influence on the path people take in their faith. Whether or not the leader is a right person, whether they seek the truth and what path they follow has a direct impact on the quality of church life and the life entry of God’s chosen. A good leader can use their real-life experience to resolve brothers’ and sisters’ issues and help them understand the truth and enter into the reality of truth even faster. Brothers and sisters can gain certain benefits from the leader. If a leader does not walk the path of seeking truth, and only works to preserve their status, only ever speaks of doctrine without exalting and bearing testimony for God, fails to do practical work and doesn’t resolve people’s actual issues, then, over time, they will only ever bring people before them and draw them farther and farther away from God, ultimately harming them and bringing them to ruin. Reflecting on Sister Zhao’s behavior, when pruned and dealt with, she would be resentful, argue and fail to reflect on herself and learn. She hadn’t reflected on and recognized her past transgressions, much less had she truly repented. From this, one could see that Sister Zhao did not seek the truth and didn’t possess the qualities of a leader. If she were elected to a leadership role, she’d only speak of doctrine and wouldn’t be truly helpful to people. How could she guide us to understand the truth and enter into the reality of truth? But I held to the absurd belief that no matter who is elected leader, we’d still read God’s words, fulfill our duties and go about church life as usual and it wouldn’t have any big impact. What a foolish notion!
One day, I came across another passage of God’s words that discussed what kind of attitude people should have during elections and what improper intentions and notions they might have. Only then did I gain some understanding of myself. God’s words say, “Whenever there is a church election, whether for leaders and workers or for God’s chosen ones, everyone is responsible and has an obligation to defend the election work. … Some people simply sit back and watch, saying, ‘I can’t become a church leader anyway. Whoever serves, it’s all the same. Whoever has the ability can serve. If an antichrist wants to serve, it has nothing to do with me, and as long as they don’t purge me, it’s fine.’ That is what the most negative people say. They cannot imagine what the consequences would be if an antichrist served as the leader, and the impact it would have on their belief in God. Only people who understand the truth can see this for what it is. They will say: ‘If an antichrist becomes the church leader, it is God’s chosen ones who will suffer, especially those people who pursue the truth, have a sense of justice, and readily do their duty, all of whom will be suppressed and excluded. Only those muddle-headed people and yes-men will be in favor, and they will have been captured by the antichrist, in the palm of their hand.’ But those negative people do not consider these things. They think: ‘One believes in God in order to be saved. Belief is an individual path. Even if an antichrist becomes the leader, it won’t have an impact on me. As long as I don’t do bad things, an antichrist cannot suppress me or exclude me, or purge me from the church.’ Is this the correct point of view? If none of God’s chosen ones is concerned about church elections, once they allow an antichrist to take power, what will the consequences be? Will it really be as simple as people imagine? What kind of changes will church life undergo? This directly relates to God’s chosen ones’ entering into life. If an antichrist holds power in a church, then the truth does not hold power there, and God’s words do not hold power there. It is a church where Satan and nonbelievers hold power. Although God’s words may yet be read at gatherings, the antichrist controls the right to speak. Can the antichrist fellowship about the truth clearly? Can the antichrist allow God’s chosen ones to freely and openly fellowship about the truth? That is impossible. When an antichrist holds power, there are more disruptions and disturbances, and church life will surely be diminished in its effect. If that happens, then God’s chosen ones will not reap much when they gather, and it may even cause disturbance to their gatherings. The problems of God’s chosen ones cannot be resolved, the practice of truth is also disrupted, and the atmosphere of church life is entirely changed. When black clouds appear and block out the sun, does enjoyment remain in church life? It will definitely be compromised, in no small way” (Identifying False Leaders). God’s words exposed all the ideas and apathetic attitudes of people when they are faced with church elections. It felt as though God were standing before me judging me. My behavior was exactly the same as what His words exposed. During that election, I realized that Sister Zhao didn’t seem to be seeking the truth, but I didn’t seek the principles of church leadership elections, failed to consider what consequences would come from Sister Zhao being elected, and I certainly didn’t raise my doubts about the election results to the leadership, instead opting to stand by in apathy. I believed that who served as leader made no difference, they’d perform their duties and I’d perform mine, neither would interfere with the other. I also thought that even if there were issues with the election, that was a matter for the upper leadership and was not my problem. I barely paid it any mind and couldn’t be bothered to worry about it. So during that election, I didn’t have my own point of view and just blindly followed and submitted. Wasn’t I practicing faith just like those of the religious world that only concerned themselves with filling their bellies and blindly followed? I lived by such satanic toxins as “Let things drift if they do not affect one personally,” “Whoever gives me money and feeds me is my beloved.” I just obeyed and followed whomever the leader was without the slightest discernment. How mistaken I was! If the church were controlled by antichrists and false leaders, not only would the church’s work be disrupted, God’s chosen would also be harmed and their chances of attaining salvation would be destroyed. But despite this being such an important issue, I still acted in such a selfish, apathetic and irresponsible manner. Where was my conscience and rationality? I thought of God’s words, which say: “If you do not truly devote yourself to your faith in God and performance of your duty; if you always go through the motions and are perfunctory in your actions, like an unbeliever working for their boss; if you just make a token effort, you don’t use your mind, you muddle through each day as it comes, not reporting problems when you see them, seeing a spill and not cleaning it up, and indiscriminately dismissing everything that is not to your own benefit—then is this not trouble? How could someone like this be a member of God’s household? Such people are unbelievers; they are not of the house of God. Not one of them is acknowledged by God” (“To Perform One’s Duty Well, One Must at Least Be Possessed of a Conscience and Reason” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Based on God’s words, my behaviors were not those of a person of God’s house. I had believed in God for years, and read His words freely, enjoying His grace and blessings, yet I didn’t safeguard the church’s work. No matter what kind of interruption or disruption occurred in the church, or how much damage was done to the work of God’s house, I just turned a blind eye to it, not wanting to bother worrying about it. I was so selfish and despicable—I was an unbeliever in God’s house, and in God’s eyes I was just a nonbeliever. In this case, the person promoted to leader just wasn’t suitable for the job and I had already acted so indifferently. If an antichrist or evildoer controlled the church, manipulating and disrupting an election, and someone needed to stand up and fight back against the antichrist or evildoer, I would certainly shrink away and stand by apathetically. I wouldn’t step up and safeguard the work of God’s house. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how God despised my apathetic attitude toward the work of God’s house. If I kept on acting like that, I would eventually be cast out.
Upon reflection, I also realized I was mistaken to think that the upper leadership supervises and oversees the leaders’ work so all the decisions that they make must be according to principle and there is nothing to question or raise doubts about. Later on, through reading God’s words, I realized this view was not in accord with the truth. God’s words say, “When someone in the church is promoted and cultivated to be a leader, they are merely promoted and cultivated in the straightforward sense; it does not mean that they are already a qualified leader, or a competent one, that they are already capable of undertaking the work of a leader, and can do real work—that is not the case. Most people do not see clearly about these things, and they look up to these promoted ones relying on their imaginings, but this is a mistake. No matter how many years they may have believed, do those who are promoted really possess the reality of truth? Not necessarily. Are they able to bring to fruition the work arrangements of the house of God? Not necessarily. Do they have a sense of responsibility? Are they possessed of commitment? Are they able to submit to God? When they encounter an issue, are they able to search for the truth? All of this is unknown. Do these people have a heart that fears God? And just how great is their fear of God? Are they liable to follow their own will when they do things? Are they able to seek God? During the time that they perform the work of leaders, do they regularly and frequently come before God to search for the will of God? Are they able to guide people in entry into the reality of the truth? They are certainly incapable of such things right away. They haven’t received training and have too little experience, so they are incapable of these things. This is why 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. The difference is that they undertake more work and responsibilities than ordinary people. They have a responsibility and an obligation to do more work; they pay a greater price, suffer more hardship, take more pains, solve more problems, tolerate the censure of more people, and of course make a greater effort, have less sleep, eat less fine food, and engage in less chit-chat, than normal people. This is what’s special about them; apart from this, they are the same as anyone else. 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” (Identifying False Leaders). Through God’s words, I realized that leaders are no different from brothers and sisters; they are also being cultivated and trained. It’s just that due to the needs of the church’s work, some people must be promoted to take on this special role. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re a qualified leader or worker, or that they have the reality of truth. I should view them in light of God’s words and approach them in a just and objective manner. I shouldn’t have overly lofty expectations or demands of them and shouldn’t be overly critical. As a member of the church, I have a responsibility to monitor the work of leaders and workers and coordinate with them to safeguard the church’s work. When leaders act according to the truth, I should submit to and accept it, but if I find that leaders are having issues or deviations, I should expose and correct them right away and help them make a change and gain entry, as doing so will be best for the work of God’s house. If false leaders or antichrists appear in the church, I should report them to their superiors. This is being responsible for the church’s work and responsible to myself and, more so, is fulfilling my responsibilities and duties. When I realized the principles regarding how to treat leaders and workers, I felt much clearer and had a path of practice.
Some time later, I observed that the leader Sister Liu wasn’t keeping up with the watering work, saying that she was too busy to attend to it. Sometimes, when brothers and sisters came to her with issues, she would even be resentful that they were making more work for her. I thought to myself: Leaders are responsible for a lot of work, but one can always prioritize. They don’t need to do all the work personally, they can assign someone to keep up with some work, and then evaluate and supervise after the fact. If a leader always uses being busy as an excuse, and doesn’t oversee the work they’re responsible for or just goes through the motions, that’s serious negligence, it’s not practical work and I should report this issue to their superior. But then I thought that I shouldn’t be concerned with how the leader was performing in her job, and I should just make sure to fulfill my own duties. Just then, I thought of God’s words, which say: “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” (Identifying False Leaders). I realized that I had the wrong idea. I should remind the leader and help her correct her issue quickly. So I plucked up my courage and raised the issue with her. The leader said: “Hmn. You’re right, this really is an issue. I will definitely think this over and reflect.” I was really moved to hear her say that. After that, I saw that the leader started actively keeping up with the watering work, and resolved some practical issues facing that work. This experience helped me realize that no matter our duty, we all must safeguard the work of the church. This is everyone’s responsibility and duty.