Treating Leaders According to Principle
By Xiaoqing, China
In the summer of 2016, I was pretty new to a leadership position in the church. One day Sister Wang, an upper leader, came to one of our gatherings. I was trying to figure out if a brother would make a good team leader, and asked her for help. Hearing this, without even getting more detail on this person or talking about the principles of cultivating people, she just said to foster him in that post for a while and see, and switch him out if needed. I was afraid that training the wrong person would hold up the church’s work, so I expressed some doubt to get her to share specific fellowship on the principles. She didn’t share more fellowship, but impatiently criticized me for being arrogant and not accepting the truth, and went on for a long time. Being dealt with like this was constraining for me, and I thought, “Aren’t we supposed to fellowship on the truth to solve problems? When we have problems, you don’t help through fellowship, but haughtily scold us. That’s not leading us to understand the truth and follow principles.” I wanted to share my confusion, but at the thought of how hard on me she’d been in front of everyone, I was afraid she’d start scolding me again and say I was arrogant and wouldn’t accept the truth. So I didn’t say anything.
In the next few gatherings, I noticed that Sister Wang’s fellowship onwasn’t enlightening or practical, but was just literal doctrine and couldn’t resolve actual problems. I wondered if she really had the work of the Holy Spirit. But then I figured maybe she wasn’t in a good state now, and it was normal if the Spirit’s work wasn’t obvious. I thought nothing of it. Later on, arrangements were made for each church to select three leaders to jointly take charge of the church’s work. Sister Wang told us that choosing leaders was really important, so we needed to handle it without delay. But things didn’t go that way when it came time to get it done. I was the only leader then, and sometimes I couldn’t keep up with all the work. I explained things to her, hoping she’d organize an election as soon as possible. She said she would, but some time passed without her doing anything. I wrote to her again to urge her, but nothing happened. I found it odd. She knew how important electing leaders is and her fellowship was great, but she dragged her feet when it came time to do anything. Wasn’t she all talk, spouting doctrine, and not doing practical work? I later heard that she’d delayed other churches’ elections in the exact same way, so proper leaders weren’t found in time, which seriously impacted church life and its work.
I was thinking that Sister Wang was probably a false leader who didn’t do practical work, and if that continued, all of the church’s work would seriously suffer. I figured I should point out these problems to her. But when I was about to write her a letter, it occurred to me that she was a leader, so it was great if she could accept it, but if not, she could make things hard for me, and maybe even find an excuse to dismiss me. I decided to forget about it. I put the pen down and left it at that. But then I was left feeling uneasy. I’d seen her problems perfectly clearly without saying a word—that wasn’t God’s will. I knew I had to say something. But I still just couldn’t put pen to paper. I couldn’t write the letter and I couldn’t not write it. It was a real dilemma for me. I didn’t write that letter. I did pray to God about my struggle. Later, I read these words of God. “All of you say you are considerate of God’s burden and will defend the testimony of the church, but who among you has really been considerate of God’s burden? Ask yourself: Are you someone who has shown consideration for His burden? Can you practice righteousness for Him? Can you stand up and speak for Me? Can you steadfastly put the truth into practice? Are you bold enough to fight against all of Satan’s deeds? Would you be able to set your emotions aside and expose Satan for the sake of My truth? Can you allow My intentions to be fulfilled in you? Have you offered up your heart in the most crucial of moments? Are you someone who does My will? Ask yourself these questions, and think about them often” (“Chapter 13” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in). Every single one of God’s questions felt like they were directed at me. So I asked myself: Am I considerate of God’s burden? Am I protecting the interests of God’s house? I thought about how I’d seen Sister Wang fail to fellowship the truth and resolve problems, and imperiously scold and constrain others. She just fellowshiped doctrine without addressing any practical problems in our work. Elections were going at a snail’s pace. Her behavior had already hindered the work of God’s house. I knew I should say something to her so she knew how serious it was. But I was afraid that if I did, she’d refuse to accept it and make things hard for me, and find an excuse to remove me from my duty. I didn’t dare say anything, but kept one eye open and one eye closed, not protecting the work of God’s house at all. I just thought about my own personal interests. I was so selfish and lacking in humanity! I was a church leader, but when the church’s work was being held up, I didn’t dare put a stop to it. Wasn’t I enabling Sister Wang’s evil? I didn’t protect the work of God’s house in the most basic ways, so how was I worthy of being a leader? I felt guiltier the more I thought about it and I swore to God that I would forsake my flesh and practice the truth.
I read the principles in work arrangements for how to treat workers and leaders and saw that for the ones who pursue the truth and can do practical work, if they commit transgressions in their duty or sometimes don’t have much success, they should be lovingly helped, or maybe reproved and dealt with, but not casually condemned or dismissed. For those who don’t do practical work or pursue the truth, if they insist on going rogue and they won’t accept the truth or repent when criticized, it’s determined that they’re false leaders and should be dismissed. I didn’t have a lot of personal experience with her. I’d seen quite a few indications of her being a false leader, but I couldn’t be entirely sure of that. I knew I had to start with giving her fellowship, and that was my duty. So I picked up a pen to write out her problems, and honestly, I was feeling pretty nervous. Then I prayed and asked God for strength, so I could forsake myself and protect the church’s interests. I didn’t feel as constrained after that, and I wrote out Sister Wang’s problems one by one. In that moment I sent off the finished letter, I really felt a sense of peace.
She never replied. The church’s elections were still being held up, and a lot of churches didn’t have the workers and leaders they needed to carry out projects in a timely manner. It seriously hindered the work of God’s house. I wrote to her a few more times to urge her on, but nothing came of it. I saw that she was all talk and didn’t do practical work, and wouldn’t change after lots of feedback, so based on her consistent behavior, she was a false leader who didn’t do practical work. I wrote to an upper leader explaining her problems. Before long, an inquiry within God’s house confirmed that she was a false leader who didn’t do practical work, and she was dismissed. This experience showed me that the truth and righteousness hold sway in God’s house. False leaders may have a position, but they don’t pursue the truth or do real work, so they can’t gain a footing in God’s house. I’d always been afraid of offending a leader and being dismissed from my duty, so I didn’t dare to bring their problems to light. At that point I realized I didn’t understand God’s righteous disposition. God’s house has administrative decrees, principles and rules, so no matter how high up of a leader someone is, they have to do things according to God’s words and the principles of the truth. Anyone who goes their own way will find themselves without a footing. Besides, God is in charge of whatever duty I can do in the church. That’s not up to any leader. It’s not their call. There was nothing for me to worry about.
In October 2019, I was transferred for a duty in another church. After a little while, I noticed Sister Chen, the leader over me, didn’t appoint people according to the principles. We had a watering deacon, Sister Zhang, who was really selfish and cunning. She saw people disrupting church life, but did nothing, afraid of offending them. Others mentioned some problems, but she fobbed off the responsibility, so these problems weren’t dealt with in time. It was looked into and it became clear this was Sister Zhang’s consistent behavior, that she’d never upheld the church’s work or done practical work, so she had to be dismissed immediately. But when Sister Chen went to do just that, Sister Zhang said some self-aware things, so she was taken in by her facade and delayed the dismissal. I saw Sister Chen wasn’t following the principles for dismissing leaders and workers, which is a serious problem. I wanted to mention it to her. But then I thought about how I was pretty new to that duty and she really valued me, so it would be great if she accepted my suggestions, but if she didn’t, she might say I was being arrogant, obsessing over her problems after just a few days in that position. What if she didn’t keep cultivating me because of that? This thought scared me off from bringing it up. Even though I did feel kind of guilty about it, I ended up giving in.
One time Sister Chen joined my group’s gathering and I wanted to bring it up, but she mentioned she was new to the duty and it was hard for her, she wasn’t in a great state. I thought that if I mentioned her problems when she was already struggling with leadership, would she think I was inhumane and not loving? I decided to drop it, afraid the problem wouldn’t be resolved, she’d end up feeling negative, and she’d have a bad impression of me. I didn’t bring it up. The watering deacon wasn’t replaced, leaving lots of unresolved problems in her work, which really harmed brothers’ and sisters’ life entry and the work of God’s house. I felt really guilty about this. If I’d brought it up in time, it might not have been that bad in the end. Later we read some of God’s words in a gathering that really moved me. “Many in the church have no discernment. When something deceptive occurs, they unexpectedly stand on the side of Satan; they even take offense at being called Satan’s lackeys. Though people might say they have no discernment, they always stand on the side without truth, they never stand on the side of the truth at the critical time, they never stand up and argue for the truth. Do they truly lack discernment? Why do they unexpectedly take the side of Satan? Why do they never say one word that is fair and reasonable in support of the truth? Has this situation genuinely arisen as a result of their momentary confusion? The less discernment people have, the less able they are to stand on the side of truth. What does this show? Does it not show that people without discernment love evil? Does it not show that they are the loyal spawn of Satan? Why is it that they are always able to stand on the side of Satan and speak its language? Their every word and deed, the expressions on their faces, are all sufficient to prove that they are not any kind of lovers of the truth; rather, they are people who detest the truth” (“A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). My conscience felt really accused when I read this. I’d seen Sister Chen go against principles for transferring leaders and workers. She hadn’t dismissed the exposed false worker in time, which had affected the church’s work. I knew I needed to offer her fellowship and help to protect the work of God’s house. But I was afraid of offending her and changing her image of me, so I kept quiet and didn’t uphold principles. That meant the work of God’s house was impacted and I had a part in that. I saw I didn’t love the truth or have a sense of righteousness at all, but I was just a despicable person defending my own interests and standing on Satan’s side. God had elevated me to develop myself in such an important duty and earnestly fellowshiped so much truth so I could learn the truth and gain discernment. He had also guided me to see these problems, hoping that I would uphold the principles and take a stand for God’s house. But I was selfish, biting the hand that fed me. To protect my own interests, I kept turning my back on the Spirit’s guidance, harming and holding up the work of God’s house, committing transgressions before God. I was also living in darkness, inviting God’s disgust.
Later I started reflecting on why I just couldn’t help but protect myself whenever something happened. What kind of corrupt nature was I being controlled by? Then I found the root of all this in a video reading of God’s words.says, “Until people have experienced God’s work and gained the truth, it is Satan’s nature that takes charge and dominates them from within. What, specifically, does that nature entail? For example, why are you selfish? Why do you protect your own position? Why do you have such strong emotions? Why do you enjoy those unrighteous things? Why do you like those evils? What is the basis for your fondness for such things? Where do these things come from? Why are you so happy to accept them? By now, you have all come to understand that the main reason behind all these things is that Satan’s poison is within you. So what is Satan’s poison—how can it be expressed? For example, if you ask, ‘How should people live? What should people live for?’ people will answer, ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’ This single phrase expresses the very root of the problem. Satan’s philosophy has become people’s lives. No matter what people pursue after, they do it for themselves—and so they live only for themselves. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life and the philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. These words have already become the nature of corrupt mankind, the true portrait of corrupt mankind’s satanic nature, and this satanic nature has already become the basis for corrupt mankind’s existence; for several thousand years, corrupt mankind has lived by this venom of Satan, right up to the present day” (“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). What I got from this was that I always protected my own interests because I was controlled by Satan’s poisons. “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Sensible people are good at self-protection, seeking only to avoid making mistakes,” “When you know something is wrong, it is better to say less.” I’d been steeped in those satanic poisons for so long, they’d become my very nature. I was living by these, so I just protected my own interests in every situation. Among brothers and sisters, I just thought about my reputation and status, not the work of God’s house. I saw a leader clearly violating principles when transferring people, but I was afraid saying something could be bad for me, so I kept one eye open and one eye closed to protect my position and future. I didn’t offer fellowship and help in time, ready to see others’ life entry and the church’s work suffer before compromising my interests. I could see how selfish and despicable I was. I’d been living by these satanic poisons, becoming more and more selfish and cunning, living without any humanity. I’d harmed myself and held up and disrupted the work of God’s house. These poisons do nothing but corrupt and hurt people, so we can’t help but rebel against God and resist Him. I knew if I didn’t repent and seek the truth to resolve these problems, I’d end up cast out, eliminated by God, and I’d lose my chance at salvation. I also saw God’s forgiveness and salvation for me. God had set things up time and again even though I was so rebellious, guiding me with His words, showing me my corruption. I knew I had to stop disobeying God, to forsake my flesh and practice the truth.
There was another passage I read later on. “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 them, and report the things they do that you believe to be problematic, but they are just in the cultivation period, and should not be viewed as people who have been made perfect, much less as someone blameless, 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. … What is the point of Me saying this? In order to tell everyone that they must not misinterpret the house of God’s promotion and cultivation of various types of talents, 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. So what is the most rational way to act toward them? To think of them as ordinary people and, when there is a problem that needs to be searched, to fellowship with them and learn from each other’s strengths and complement each other. In addition, it is the responsibility of everyone to monitor whether leaders and workers are doing real work, and whether they are competent in carrying out their duties. If they are not, and you have seen through them, then waste no time in reporting or removing them; choose someone else, and do not delay the work of the house of God. Delaying the work of the house of God is hurting yourself and others, it is good for no one” (“Identifying False Leaders (5)” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). This passage showed me the principles for how to treat leaders and workers. They don’t start out understanding the truth and well suited for that post. They’re in a period of practice, they have flaws and shortcomings, so we have to be fair and just with them, and not be too demanding. But at the same time, we have a responsibility to keep an eye on their work. When it’s in line with the truth, we need to accept it, but if not, we need to point it out and offer fellowship and help so they can see the mistakes in their duty and correct them as soon as possible. That’s good for their own life entry and the work of God’s house. If it becomes clear they’re a false leader that doesn’t do practical work and isn’t capable, that needs to be reported right away. I knew Sister Chen was new to that duty, so she was bound to be making mistakes. Since I’d seen problems, I had a responsibility to point them out and offer fellowship. I could report and expose her if she refused to accept it. I couldn’t just stand idly by and watch the work of God’s house suffer. At that point I didn’t want to protect my own interests anymore, and was ready to correct my motives to protect the work of God’s house. Sister Chen came by a few days later to take a look at our work, so I told her about how she’d violated principles and opened up to her about my own recent selfishness and craftiness. She used God’s words to reflect on herself and saw the mistakes she’d made and the corruption she’d revealed handling those matters, and expressed a desire to change.
After that, we talked more about the specific principles for changing people’s duties. We had more clarity after our fellowship and saw God’s guidance and blessings. After that, she replaced Sister Zhang, as required by the principles. This experience taught me that offering feedback and help as soon as I see problems in a leader’s duty is a positive thing. It’s just and it protects the work of God’s house. I also saw that God’s house treats everyone according to the principles of the truth. No one will lose their duty because of a momentary transgression or some corruption they reveal, but their path, their nature and essence, and their attitude toward the truth are all weighed and they’re treated accordingly. It’s fair and reasonable. Only treating leaders and workers according to the principles can benefit the work of God’s house and others, and is in line with God’s will. These experiences showed me the proper approach toward leaders and workers, and the principles to handle the various problems that they may have. I also gained some understanding of my selfish, crafty corrupt dispositions, and wanted to stop living selfishly. I finally upheld the principles and had some sense of justice. I’m so grateful to God for what I’ve gained.