By Shixing, Malaysia
“Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28).
Pastors and elders frequently use this verse of Scripture to teach us that pastors are established by God, and that obeying our pastors is obeying God. Especially when I saw how my pastors were familiar with, how they labored and paid a price, and how they could devote their entire lives to the church, I felt that they were a worthy example to imitate, so I actively took part in serving the church and later became a church worker.
Over several years, the number of people coming to church steadily declined, and when we encountered problems and difficulties, the pastors only used rote Scripture to console us, or told us to read the Bible and pray more, without resolving our problems at all. I couldn’t find a supply of life, my spiritual state was increasingly depressed, and over time, some brothers and sisters couldn’t resist temptation, left the church, and began pursuing worldly trends.
To retain some younger believers and increase church membership, the pastors began running direct sales and promoting products in the church. They told us this was also church work, asked us to actively take part, and encouraged the believers to pursue being a successful in business, saying this would both glorify God and benefit themselves. We did whatever the pastors asked us to do, because obeying the pastors was obeying God. But after a period of time, the church not only didn’t receive, but in fact became more desolate. Many brothers and sisters, because they were involved in direct sales work, had their hearts pulled away, their spiritual lives became even darker and more depressed, and the more the pastors realized it, the more perplexed they became. In frustration, our church affiliated itself with a megachurch as it sought a way out of the crisis. After that, the pastors no longer focused on leading the congregation in the investigation of Scripture, but instead preached about divine miracles, grace, and blessings to encourage everyone, and these sermons inspired people in the moment they heard them, but after a short while, their enthusiasm faded again, and they stopped praying and attending meetings regularly. All that happened deeply impressed a realization into my mind: The is no longer with our church, and the Lord’s presence is no longer with us in our service.
Despite this, our pastors still admonished us many times not to investigate or have contact with Eastern Lightning and its people. The pastors said this was to protect us. At the time, I thought that since the pastors had interpreted the Bible and served the Lord for so many years, they must understand more than us, so I couldn’t go wrong by listening to them.
One day in July of 2017, Brother Fang Yi, originally a member of my church, told me that recently he had been investigating’s work of the last days, and he had seen that Almighty did indeed have authority and power, that they were the voice of God, and that he was certain Almighty God was the returned Lord Jesus. He invited me to investigate with him. His words shocked me: Brother Fang sincerely believed in the Lord and was loyal to the Lord, so how could he have accepted Eastern Lightning? Our pastors told us not to have any contact with people from Eastern Lightning, and listening to the pastors seemed right. So, I tried to bring Fang Yi back into the church, but he refused.
A month later, I met him again, and this time, he patiently fellowshiped with me that after he accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, he had gradually come to understand much of the truth—God’s three stages of work, His 6,000-year management plan, the mysteries of the Bible, God’s disposition, and much more, and he had also gained more knowledge of God. I was very surprised that Brother Fang could come to understand so much in the time since I last saw him, which made me curious about Almighty God’s work of the last days. So, to learn more, I agreed to go hear a sermon with Brother Fang.
After the sermon, I shared my own confusion regarding the desolate state of the church, “I remember when I first began following the Lord, I had a great deal of faith, and my energy to expend for the Lord seemed limitless, but it seems like I can feel God less and less today, and I don’t find God’s guidance when I read the Scriptures, pray, or go to meetings. I have completely lost the work of the Holy Spirit. At this crucial moment of the Lord’s coming, why would my church become desolate? What could be the reason?”
One of the brothers fellowshiped, “When we speak of desolation in the churches, it’s impossible not to recall the state of desolation in the holy temple late in the Age of Law. The temple had become a den of thieves where cattle, sheep, and pigeons were traded. What were the reasons behind that? On one hand, the Jewish religious leaders didn’t carry out the laws of Jehovah God and had no fear of God in their hearts. They abided by traditions inherited from their ancestors, abandoned God’s commandments, didn’t practice according to God’s word, and had completely departed from God’s path, causing them to lose the work of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, because the work of the Holy Spirit had moved, and God had already come incarnate to do the work of redeeming mankind based on the foundation of His work in the Age of Law, when the Holy Spirit maintained the Lord Jesus’ work, only those who accepted the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption enjoyed the work of the Holy Spirit and received the Lord Jesus’ salvation and had their sins forgiven, while those who rejected and resisted the work of the Lord Jesus were eliminated by God’s work and cast into desolation. From this, it isn’t hard to see the root cause of the desolation in the churches in the last days. Many leaders in the religious world are familiar with the Bible, but this doesn’t mean they have knowledge of the Lord or follow the Lord’s way. As they shepherd their churches, they do not focus on interpreting the Lord’s way, leading their believers in experiencing the Lord’s words, or helping people gain knowledge of the Lord, but instead only recite rote Scripture verses, talk about theology, exalt and testify their own suffering and the paths they’ve walked to make others worship and obey them. Some even pursue wealth, fame, and worldly paths under the banner of working for the Lord by opening factories or doing business in churches, or attempt to seal the church and prevent believers from investigating the returned Lord’s work, among other things. All they say and do departs from the Lord’s teachings, and the Lord detests them, which fulfills Jehovah God’s prophecy, ‘Behold, the days come, said the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah’ (Amos 8:11). The pastors and elders of the religious world have left the Lord’s path, which is one of the primary reasons for the desolation in the churches. The other is that because God has already come again in incarnate flesh to do the work of judgment beginning with God’s house under the name of Almighty God, to express all the truth required by mankind to make them attain full salvation, to judge and purify people’s sins, and to refine and change corrupt satanic dispositions within people, the work of the Holy Spirit has moved. Those who follow the footsteps of the Lamb will gain the provision and irrigation of the water of life, but those who do not seek and acceptand words in the last days will fall into starvation, desolation, and darkness, which is the source of the desolation in the churches today. Only by being wise virgins, by investigating and accepting God’s new work, can we again receive the work of the Holy Spirit.”
My brother’s fellowship was a sudden awakening for me. I realized that the root of the desolation in the churches was that God is doing new work, the work of the Holy Spirit has moved. He would no longer maintain the churches as in the Age of Grace, the pastors and elders of these churches were no longer abiding by God’s way, and they had been forsaken by God. I recalled how over the past few years, my pastors had only preached a superficial understanding of the Bible, or else theological knowledge, but they couldn’t speak about the Lord’s will, and they provided no paths for practice. To retain believers and increase the church’s membership, they had begun doing direct sales, they had actually encouraged us to pursue success in business, and they had even striven to seal up the church and prevent us from investigating Almighty God’s work in the last days. This went entirely against the Lord’s teachings. No wonder the Holy Spirit had forsaken them.
After the meeting, I downloaded The Church of Almighty God’s app, hoping to learn more about The Church of Almighty God.
But there was still one point that confused me—weren’t the pastors established by God? If so, how could they go against the Lord’s way and be forsaken by God? At one meeting, Sister Gu, who was also investigating God’s work, asked about the question of whether the pastors were established by God. She said, “It is written in the Bible: ‘Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God’ (Acts 20:28). We’ve always thought that pastors are established by God, but through our fellowship over this period and our discussions of the cause of desolation in the churches, I’ve become confused about the view that pastors are established by God. I lack penetration into this question, and I’d like to hear your fellowship about it.”
Sister Zhang, who was in charge of watering work, heard her question and patiently fellowshiped in answer, “Sister, you’ve raised a very important question. We’ve always believed that pastors are selected and established by the Lord, and that as believers in God, we should obey our pastors, or we are resisting God. Actually, the words we keep from which we derive that view were spoken by Paul, not the Lord, so we need to consider the question. Does that view accord with the Lord’s will? Is it verified by the Holy Spirit? And since it doesn’t and isn’t, isn’t it a view derived from human notions?” Her words surprised me, because in the past we only thought that since these words were in the Bible, and spoken by Paul, they shouldn’t be mistaken. We never actually considered whether or not they accorded with the Lord’s will. How could we have all ignored such an important question?
Sister Zhang continued, “In each age, God selects certain people to aid in His work. Those established by God are proven by God’s word, and in their work they have God’s maintenance. In the Age of Law, for example, God established Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God personally appeared to Moses and told him, ‘Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come to Me: and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt’ (Exodus 3:9–10). God asked Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and afterward asked him to proclaim the laws and commandments. In the Age of Grace, when God established Peter, He said to him, ‘That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18–19). ‘Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me?’ … ‘Feed My sheep’ (John 21:16). God entrusted Peter with the care of His flock and the work of shepherding of His church. From this, we can see that the people used by God are personally selected and established by God and are proven by God’s word, or if they lack God’s personal declaration, they at least have the maintenance and testimony of the Holy Spirit. The pastors in religion today, however, are pastors because they are all graduates of theology schools. They are pastors because they have some grasp of biblical knowledge and a theology degree, not because of a basis in God’s words or because they are personally testified or used by the Holy Spirit. So, for us to say that they are established by God, and that obeying pastors is obeying God, is our own notion and imagination.”
I had always believed that the pastors were established by God, but when I heard my sister’s fellowship, I realized that was only my own notion and imagination, and that it didn’t accord with. Those established by God are proved by God’s word, and have the maintenance and testimony of the Holy Spirit. Peter and Moses were established by God, and they had God’s word as proof of their use by God. The pastors, meanwhile, claimed to be established by God, but that claim was their own. God did not make that claim, nor did the Holy Spirit testify to it. In the past, I lacked discernment toward the pastors. I thought they were people used by God, and that only by obeying them could I obey God, so I was never suspicious of the things they said. Even when I thought what they did was wrong, I never doubted. Now I saw that I was truly foolish. They weren’t established by God at all. This fellowship resolved a notion I had held for a decade, and my heart was finally brightened.
At the several meetings that followed, we fellowshiped on the mystery of the incarnate flesh, the mystery of, and the significance of God’s work of judgment and chastisement in the last days. Through reading Almighty God’s words, I saw that since mankind was corrupted by Satan, we are filled with notions about God, rebelliousness against God, and resistance to God, and that only by experiencing judgment and chastisement can we truly come to know God and ourselves, and be changed and purified by God. As we do, we will feel more and more that God is the truth, the way, and the life. At the same time, I realized that many brothers and sisters just like myself had believed the words of the pastors, were keeping to desolate churches, and felt spiritual hunger and thirst. I felt an urgent need to preach the gospel to them.
So, I contacted Brother Li, a member of my original church, conversed with him on aspects of the truth regarding the cause of desolation in the churches, the three stages of God’s work, and true and false Christs, and he expressed interest in investigating Almighty God’s work of the last days. Afterward, I sent him some of Almighty God’s words and some videos on WeChat, but I never thought that he would send Almighty God’s words to our pastors. When our pastors learned I believed in Almighty God, they warned everyone in the church not to have any contact with me, or they would be sharing in my “wickedness” and be cursed. For several weeks afterward in the church, our pastors wantonly condemned Almighty God’s work, causing many believers to not dare to investigate the true way. After that, I saw the pastors openly judging and condemning Almighty God’s work on the church’s Facebook page, and preaching sermons about resisting Eastern Lightning at worship on the Lord’s day. Never could I have imagined that the pastors wouldn’t have the slightest desire to seek after they saw Almighty God’s words and the videos, but instead would even more vigorously resist God. This was deeply confusing for me.
At a meeting, I asked Sister Zhang about these things, and she read me a passage of Almighty God’s word, “Those who read the Bible in grand churches recite the Bible every day, yet not one understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one is able to know God; moreover, not one is in accord with the heart of God. They are all worthless, vile men, each standing on high to teach God. Though they brandish the name of God, they willfully oppose Him. Though they label themselves believers of God, they are ones who eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such men are devils who devour the soul of man, head demons who purposefully disturb those who try to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks that impede the path of those who seek God. Though they are of ‘robust flesh,’ how are their followers to know that they are antichrists who lead man in opposition to God? How are they to know that they are living devils who specially seek souls to devour?”
Sister Zhang said, “Two thousand years ago, when the Lord Jesus came to do the work of redemption, He expressed many new truths and revealed many divine miracles which shocked the Jewish world to the core. The chief priests and Pharisees knew clearly that the Lord Jesus’ words had power and authority, but they wanted to protect their own status and jobs, so they strove to condemn the Lord Jesus, fabricated many lies to slander the Lord Jesus, and ultimately conspired with the Roman government to have the Lord Jesus crucified. Now, in the last days, as Almighty God has come to work, these pastors and elders are also aware that God has already returned to do the work of judgment, and they’ve seen many of their best sheep accept Almighty God’s last-days work, so they try to protect their own status and keep people under their control by using biblical doctrine and theology to confuse our brothers and sisters, by condemning Almighty God’s words and works, and by sealing their churches off from the world to stop our brothers and sisters from investigating the true way. This is obviously contending with God for His chosen people. Some brothers and sisters lack discernment and listen to these pastors, thereby forever losing God’s last-days salvation. The Lord Jesus said: ‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in’ (Matthew 23:13). ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’ (Matthew 23:15). Without the things revealed by Almighty God’s work and in God’s words, we would never be able to discern that the nature of these pastors is to resist God, and they would still be deceiving us!”
It was only after reading Almighty God’s words and hearing my sister’s fellowship that I finally gained some discernment about the fact that the nature and essence of these pastors and elders is to resist God. It was a shock to discover that not only do they use Bible verses to deceive us, make us think they were established by God, make us obey them, and make us treat them as God’s equals. Now, they also prevent our brothers and sisters from investigating the true way. Isn’t this dooming people’s souls? Today, I finally see clearly that obeying the pastors and elders isn’t obeying God, it’s resisting God alongside them. Also, when our brothers and sisters lack discernment toward their pastors, and accept whatever they say, they will never be able to gain God’s last-days salvation. This realization made me especially miserable. I felt ashamed for blindly listening to my pastors in the past. If it wasn’t for God’s mercy and guidance, I also wouldn’t be able to receive the returned Lord.
I am now more certain than ever that only the truth expressed by Almighty God can save us and give us discernment. I wish to accept Almighty God’s work in the last days, pursue the truth, and achieve change and purification! Thank God! All glory be to God!