Reporting a False Leader: A Personal Struggle
By Gan Xiao, China
In August last year, I was transferred to a different church after I was dismissed from my duty. I noticed that Brother Liang showed up an hour late to my first gathering there. Sister Tan, the church leader, was there too. I thought, “I’ve heard brothers and sisters say that Brother Liang is careless and does whatever he wants in his duty, and he shows up late to gatherings all the time. He’s really late to today’s gathering, so Sister Tan should fellowship with him on this problem.” But she was being totally casual about it and hadn’t said a thing. During the gathering, another brother talked about how he felt constrained by money, and he seemed pretty down. A few of us found some words of God and linked them to our own understanding and experience, but Sister Tan, the church leader, didn’t share any fellowship at all. She wasn’t taking on any responsibility, but was going through the motions without helping anyone with their problems. I wanted to mention it to her. But then I figured that since it was my first gathering there, I might not be seeing the whole picture, so I should just wait and see. I was taken aback to see that it was exactly the same in the next few gatherings. Sometimes she’d wrap up a gathering pretty quickly after we read some of, and didn’t put any effort into fellowship. I was thinking that the main part of a leader’s duty is to guide brothers and sisters in fellowship on God’s words so that they can understand the truth and enter into the reality of God’s words. But Sister Tan wasn’t taking the lead in fellowship, and she didn’t address people’s problems. Isn’t that a dereliction of duty? I knew that would delay everyone's life entry if that continued. I wanted to say something, but I was afraid she wouldn’t accept it, that she would say I was arrogant and I should be reflecting on myself after losing my duty instead of butting into other people’s business. At this thought, I decided to just forget it, and focus on myself.
A month later I was put onto the editorial team and was assigned to two other group gatherings. I was really surprised to find that the members of those gatherings didn’t focus on fellowshiping on God’s words or talking about their own experiences, either. Sometimes they’d just chat casually. I felt like the quality of church life is directly related to who’s leading that church, and that brothers’ and sisters’ life entry would be compromised if that went on, so I brought it up with Sister Tan. She was totally resistant to it, and even insisted that the quality of church life was the brothers’ and sisters’ problem. I thought about how she wouldn’t reflect on herself but put all the responsibility on other church members. Even as a church leader, she wouldn’t accept the truth or listen to brothers’ and sisters’ suggestions, and she didn’t take on a burden for church life. How could she possibly lead the others to understand the truth, or enter into truth reality? That could only harm brothers and sisters. I felt that I should talk with her about it again. But just as I was about to say something, I started to worry. Last time, she hadn’t just refused to accept it, but had an attitude about it. What good would repeating myself do? She was a church leader, so if I talked to her again, she might say I was overstepping my bounds and then develop a grudge against me. I figured I should keep my mouth shut. I didn’t feel comfortable with that, but in the end, I decided not to say anything. A few days later, Sister Tan told me that she’d dealt with brothers and sisters at a gathering, and then really vividly described how she’d dealt with them. I was astonished to hear this—how could she be so lacking in self-awareness? Church life was undisciplined because she was irresponsible and careless as a church leader. How could she blame the others for that? Just pruning and dealing with people without any fellowship on the truth won’t solve anything. I wanted to mention her issues again, but seeing how indignant she was, I didn’t think she’d take it very well. I’d just been dismissed from my duty, so what right did I have to mention her issues? Plus we were constantly running into each other, so it would make things hard for me in the church if she got offended. Then if she refused to give me a duty, I was afraid I’d lose my chance at salvation. I decided not to say anything, but just keep my head down, live a life of the church, and do my own duty.
I went to the gospel team’s gathering later on and they were saying that when Sister Tan was in charge of gospel work, she didn’t even have gatherings with them for a while. They also said that they couldn’t address newcomers’ problems, and as a result some newcomers stopped attending gatherings. I thought, “Gospel work is so important, but Sister Tan isn’t following up on their problems or doing anything to address them. That’s incredibly irresponsible! Sister Tan has a direct hand in newcomers giving up because they’re not getting any watering or sustenance!” I felt like it was a really serious problem, and I absolutely had to talk to her about it face to face. I saw Sister Tan a couple days later and brought up the issue of the gospel team, but she put it entirely on the brothers’ and sisters’ shoulders. She didn’t seem to take any responsibility at all. I also said that by not doing anything to address practical problems as a church leader, she wasn’t doing her duty, and that this would harm the work of God’s house and be a disservice to brothers and sisters. But she just pulled a long face and refused to say a word. She wasn’t doing practical work, she wasn’t taking on a burden for her duty, and she never accepted the truth. I knew this meant she was a false leader and I should report this to a leader higher up to have her removed from that position as soon as possible. But I was hesitant. If I did make the situation known and she found out, would she say I was picking on her and intentionally at odds with her? It wouldn’t be so bad if she were dismissed, but if not, wouldn’t I just offend her? That would make it really difficult for me to stay in that church. If she sent me back home and I couldn’t perform a duty, that would mean I’d lose my chance at salvation. Then wouldn’t all my years of faith have been for nothing? So I decided to forget about reporting on her problems, and just hold on to the duty I had at the time. But when I decided to handle it that way I felt really bad. I knew Sister Tan was a false leader, but kept it to myself. That wasn’t upholding the work of God’s house. I felt really conflicted over it, so I came before God and prayed, “Oh God, I’ve seen Sister Tan’s problems and I’d like to report her to protect the work of God’s house, but I have some concerns. I’m afraid she’ll be offended and take it out on me. Please guide me so I can overcome these dark forces and practice the truth.” I saw a video reading of God’s words after that.says, “What is the attitude that people should have in terms of how to treat a leader or worker? If what a leader or worker does is right, then you can obey them; if what they do is wrong, then you can expose them, and even oppose them and raise a different opinion. If they are unable to do practical work, and are revealed to be a false leader, a false worker, or an antichrist, then you can refuse to accept their leadership, and you can also report and expose them. However, some of God’s chosen people do not understand the truth and are particularly cowardly, and so they do not dare do anything. They say, ‘If the leader kicks me out, I’m finished; if he has everyone expose or forsake me, then I will no longer be able to believe in God. If I leave the church, then God will not want me and will not save me. The church represents God!’ Do these ways of thinking not affect such a person’s attitude toward those things? Could it really be true that if the leader expels you, you can no longer be saved? Is the question of your salvation dependent upon your leader’s attitude toward you? Why do so many people have such a degree of fear? If, as soon as one who is a false leader or an antichrist threatens you, you do not dare to report it higher up and even guarantee that from then on, you will be of a single mind with the leader, then are you not done for? Is this the sort of person who pursues the truth? Not only do you not dare to expose such wicked behavior as might be committed by satanic antichrists, but on the contrary, you obey them and even take their words as the truth, to which you submit. Is this not the epitome of stupidity? Then, when you are harmed, is that not what you deserve? Has God caused you to be harmed? You have wished it upon yourself. You took an antichrist to be your leader, and treated them as though they were a brother or sister—and that is your fault. What is the attitude with which one should treat an antichrist? One should expose them and struggle against them. If you cannot do this alone, then multiple people must come together and report them. Upon discovering that certain leaders and workers higher up were walking the path of an antichrist, making the brothers and sisters suffer, not doing real work, and coveting the benefits of status, some people signed a petition to remove those antichrists. What a fantastic job these people did! It shows that some people understand the truth, that they possess a certain amount of stature, and that they are neither controlled nor deceived by Satan. This also proves that antichrists and false leaders do not hold a dominant position in the church, and they do not dare to show their true selves too plainly in anything they say and do. If they do reveal themselves, there are people to monitor them, identify them, and spurn them” (“They Try to Win People Over” in Exposing Antichrists). Reading this really brightened my heart. When we find a false leader in the church, we can’t kowtow and be held back by them at every turn, but we need to stand up and expose them, report them to upper leaders. That’s God’s will. I knew Sister Tan didn’t do practical work, that she was a false leader, but I didn’t dare speak up about her problem because I was looking at it from the wrong perspective. I was thinking that the leader has the right to decide whether I had a duty or not, and if offended her, I could lose my duty and then I wouldn’t be saved. But in fact, in the house of God, the truth and God Himself hold sway. Whether I have a duty or whether I’m saved is up to God, not up to any individual leader. Even if a false leader did get control over the church for a time and I was suppressed, that would be temporary. God sees everything and the Holy Spirit will reveal all, so false leaders and antichrists will be exposed and eliminated sooner or later. I realized that I didn’t understand God’s righteous disposition, that I was afraid of offending other people, but not of offending God. God didn’t have a place in my heart. What kind of a believer was I? I saw what a fool I was. I’d been thinking that since I wasn’t a leader, I was in no position to criticize her and people would say I should mind my own business. That wasn’t the right way of looking at it. As a member of God’s house, it doesn’t matter if I’m dismissed to do devotionals and reflect on myself or whether I have a duty—if I discover a false leader in God’s house, it is my responsibility, my obligation to report them. That is upholding the work of God’s house and it’s a positive thing. It’s also taking on responsibility for brothers’ and sisters’ lives, and that’s never overstepping my bounds or meddling, and it’s especially not being arrogant and getting on a pedestal. I saw how absurd my outlook on it had been before.
Realizing this made me reflect on why I’d been so afraid to expose a false leader. What was the real root of the problem? I read this passage of God’s words in my seeking: “Conscience and reason should both be components of a person’s humanity. These are both most fundamental and most important. What kind of person is one who lacks conscience and does not have the reason of normal humanity? Generally speaking, he is a person who lacks humanity, a person of extremely poor humanity. Going into more detail, what manifestations of lost humanity does this person exhibit such that people say he has no humanity? Have a go at analyzing what characteristics are found in such people and what specific manifestations do they present. (They are selfish and mean.) Selfishness is one, and so is meanness. What is manifested, furthermore, in what they do? Such people are perfunctory in their actions and stand aloof from anything that does not concern them personally. They do not consider the interests of God’s house, nor do they show consideration for God’s will. They take on no burden of testifying for God or performing their duties, and they have no sense of responsibility. … There are even people who, upon seeing a problem in the performance of their duty, remain silent. They see that others are causing interruptions and disturbances, yet say nothing, and do nothing to stop them. They do not consider the interests of God’s house in the least, nor do they at all think about their own duties or responsibilities. They speak, act, stand out, put forth effort, and expend energy only for their own vanity, prestige, position, interests, and honor” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “Most people wish to pursue and practice the truth, but much of the time they merely have a resolution and the desire to do so; the truth has not become their life. As a result, when they come across evil forces or encounter wicked and bad people committing evil deeds, or false leaders and antichrists doing things in a way that violates principles—thus causing the work of God’s house to suffer losses, and harming God’s chosen ones—they lose the courage to stand up and speak out. What does it mean when you have no courage? Does it mean that you are timid or inarticulate? Or is it that you do not understand thoroughly, and therefore do not have the confidence to speak up? It is none of these; it is that you are being controlled by several kinds of corrupt dispositions. One of these dispositions is cunning. You think of yourself first, thinking, ‘If I speak up, how will it benefit me? If I speak up and displease someone, how will we get along in the future?’ This is a cunning mentality, right? Is this not the result of a cunning disposition? Another is a selfish and mean disposition. You think, ‘What does a loss to the interests of God’s house have to do with me? Why should I care? It’s got nothing to do with me. Even if I see it and hear it happen, I don’t need to do anything. It’s not my responsibility—I’m not a leader.’ Such things are inside you, as if they had sprung from your unconscious mind, and as if they occupy permanent positions in your heart—they are the corrupt, satanic dispositions of man. … You never say what you really think. It all has to be pre-edited by your brain, in your mind. Everything you say is a lie, at odds with the facts, it is all in your own spurious defense, to your own advantage. Some people are taken in, and it’s good enough for you: Your words and actions have achieved your objectives. This is what is in your heart, these are your dispositions. You are wholly controlled by your own satanic dispositions. You have no power over what you say and do. Even if you wanted to, you could not tell the truth or say what you really think; even if you wanted to, you could not practice the truth; even if you wanted to, you could not fulfill your responsibilities. Everything you say, do, and practice is a lie, and you’re just sloppy and perfunctory. Evidently, you are wholly shackled and controlled by your satanic disposition. You may want to accept and strive for the truth, but it’s not up to you: You are nothing but a puppet of corrupt flesh, you have become a tool of Satan, you say and do whatever your satanic disposition tells you to” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “You never seek the truth, much less do you practice the truth. You just keep on praying, building up your determination, making resolutions, and swearing oaths. And what has come from all of this? You are still a yes-man; you don’t provoke anyone, nor do you offend anyone. If a matter is none of your concern, then you will stay away from it, and think: ‘I won’t say anything about things that have nothing to do with me, and this goes without exception. If anything can harm my own interests, my pride, or my self-regard, I will pay none of it any heed, and will approach all of it cautiously; I mustn’t act rashly. The nail that sticks up gets hit first, and I’m not that stupid!’ You are totally under the control of your corrupt dispositions of wickedness, cunning, hardness, and detesting the truth. They are running you into the ground, and have grown harder for you to bear even than the Golden Hoop the Monkey King wore. Living under the control of a corrupt disposition is so exhausting and excruciating!” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words helped me understand that being afraid of exposing a false leader came from living by satanic philosophies like “Let things drift if they do not affect one personally,” “Sensible people are good at self-protection, seeking only to avoid making mistakes,” and “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” These satanic poisons had become part of my nature, so I was constantly trying to protect my own interests without any thought for the house of God. I’d become more and more despicable, selfish, and cunning. I clearly saw that Sister Tan didn’t do practical work and wouldn’t accept the truth, that she was a false leader. Her behavior had already seriously impacted the church’s work and brothers’ and sisters’ life entry, so I should bring this to light. But I was afraid of a backlash from her if she was offended, and afraid I’d lose my chance to do a duty, so I didn’t dare report her. I wanted to protect my reputation and my future destination, so I just watched the church’s work and brothers’ and sisters’ life entry suffer with a totally hands-off attitude, turning a blind eye to a false leader. I was standing on Satan’s side, coddling and harboring a false leader who was disrupting the church’s work. I was living by Satan’s poisons, only looking out for myself, totally lacking devotion to God, devoid of conscience and reason. I was Satan’s lackey and wasn’t living out a human likeness at all. I saw what a selfish, cunning, and evil nature I had. When this all became clear to me, I felt like I really owed God and I hated how selfish and unconscionable I was being. I wanted to report Sister Tan right away and stop hurting God’s heart. So, I told the upper leader all about Sister Tan’s issues, but a few days went by, and I didn’t hear anything from her about how she’d handled the situation. I felt kind of anxious. If this false leader wasn’t dismissed soon it could hold up the work of God’s house, so I thought about writing again to see what was going on. But then I thought that if I brought it up again, that leader might think I was putting my fingers in too many pies. Since I’d already said my piece, maybe I’d fulfilled my responsibilities and shouldn’t worry about the rest. But this thought left me feeling uneasy, and I couldn’t get any sleep that night.
I read this in God’s words one morning: “If a church contains no one who is willing to practice the truth and no one who can stand witness for God, then that church should be completely isolated, and its connections with other churches must be severed. This is called ‘burying death’; this is what it means to cast out Satan. If a church contains several local bullies, and they are followed by ‘little flies’ that entirely lack discernment, and if the congregants, even after having seen the truth, are still incapable of rejecting the binds and manipulation of these bullies, then all those fools will be eliminated in the end. These little flies might not have done anything terrible, but they are even more deceitful, even more slick and evasive, and everyone like this will be eliminated. Not a single one shall remain! Those who belong to Satan will be returned to Satan, while those who belong to God will surely go in search of the truth; this is decided by their natures. Let all those who follow Satan perish! No pity will be shown to such people. Let those who search for the truth be provided for, and may they take pleasure in God’s word to their hearts’ content. God is righteous; He would not show favoritism to anyone. If you are a devil, then you are incapable of practicing the truth; if you are someone who searches for the truth, then it is certain that you will not be taken captive by Satan. This is beyond all doubt” (“A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth” in). I could see from God’s words that His disposition is holy and righteous, and won’t tolerate any offense. He doesn’t allow false leaders and antichrists to disrupt the church’s work and hinder brothers’ and sisters’ life entry, either. God hates those who don’t practice the truth or uphold the church’s interests when false leaders and antichrists appear. They understand the truth and still don’t practice it, but instead just think about their own interests. They’re really crafty people, and they’ll be eliminated if they refuse to repent. I saw that Sister Tan was a false leader, and now that the leader above her wasn’t responding quickly enough, I needed to keep speaking up and see this through to the end. But I just wanted to protect myself and disregard anything that didn’t personally impact me. Instead of reporting a false leader, I was allowing her to run rampant within the church and disrupt its work. That was standing on Satan’s side and taking part in a false leader’s wickedness. It didn’t look like I’d done anything terrible, but if I didn’t practice the truth or protect the work of God’s house in the face of problems, I could only be eliminated in the end. When I realized this, I seriously regretted not reporting Sister Tan sooner, and I knew I had to stop putting my personal interests first and letting a false leader continue to compromise the church’s work. I read this in God’s words later on: “In everything you do, you must examine whether your intentions are correct. If you are able to act according to the requirements of God, then your relationship with God is normal. This is the minimum standard. Look into your intentions, and if you find that incorrect intentions have arisen, be able to turn your back on them and act according to the words of God; thus will you become someone who is right before God, which in turn demonstrates that your relationship with God is normal, and that all that you do is for God’s sake, not your own. In all you do and all you say, be able to set your heart right and be righteous in your actions, and do not be led by your emotions, nor act according to your own will. These are principles by which believers in God must conduct themselves” (“How Is Your Relationship With God?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words showed me the way forward. As believers, we have to speak and act according to what God requires, and accept His scrutiny. When we find that our personal motives aren’t correct, we have to forsake ourselves and practice the truth. That’s God’s will. The upper leader delayed handling Sister Tan’s issue, so even though I didn’t know the reason behind that, that was a test for me to see if I could put my personal interests aside and uphold truth principles. I had to continue to bring this to light and report Sister Tan to protect the interests of God’s house. So, I mentioned the situation to the upper-level leader again and emphasized the dangerous consequences of failing to dismiss a false leader. She responded and said that over the last few days, she’d had some urgent matters to take care of, but that she’d dismiss Sister Tan right away, in line with principle. It was a really big relief for me to see that response and I learned that the only way to know peace is to put the truth into practice.
Sister Tan was removed from her duty before long and another leader was elected to take on the church’s work. Church life returned to normal after a little while, and all of our work started to gain steam. I was really happy to see things turn out that way, but I felt some guilt and regret. After noticing a false leader, I hadn’t put the truth into practice and reported her quickly enough, but I just thought about my personal interests. I’d shown a selfish, cunning satanic disposition and that impacted the work of God’s house. I saw how living by corrupt satanic dispositions and not practicing the truth is actually doing evil, and it’s all condemned and despised by God. I also saw how wise the work of God is, and seeing this false leader in the church helped me develop discernment. I also experienced the great harm a false leader in the church can do to God’s chosen people, and that dismissing them is a display of God’s righteous disposition. Even more, it’s protection and salvation for God’s chosen people. I saw that in God’s house, Christ and the truth hold sway, and no individual gets to call the shots. No matter how high up someone’s position is, if they don’t practice the truth and do what God demands, they’ll never get a firm footing in God’s house. They’ll be eliminated in the end. Only putting God’s words into practice and doing things according to principle is in line with His will.