I had been in JLH HK since the start of it in 2008, originally it was not JLH but a small fellowship started by few leaders returned to HK from Hillsong in Australia. It was a great fellowship; people love God and are empowering people by using each one’s spiritual gifts. I came to Christ 4 years before I attended the church and I was very active in a local university fellowship during my university life. When the fellowship was taken over by JLH, there were huge controversies and conflicts and I quickly sensed it was not very right. Many leaders at that time opposed the teaching of JLH but failed as Pastor Rod is notorious by not hearing any advices as one could imagine. In 2010, two years after its first establishment, most of the first-generation leaders left.
I did not like the church’s teaching but I understand a church is formed by a group of sinners as revealed by the Bible and there is no perfect church so I decided to give them a second chance. I was assigned as a leader of a small team and also responsible for some ad hoc translation works there. But the situation in the church worsened when Richard became the Pastor of the church in 2011. I started to hear the church deals with people harshly especially on punctuality and relationship issues, but I did not have much idea about what had happened.
Soon a year past, I found the church practice seriously confined my spiritual growth by allowing to do the Blue, Green Book only and listening to over-simplified sermons. I love to read theology books and think a lot but my lifegroup leader forbade us to discuss Bible in depth because it violated the rule of “simple teaching”. The church explanation was “advanced teaching” would scare new people away, but frankly speaking, people loved to learn in-depth Bible truths because it is full of wisdom of life. Moreover, I can tell that is totally different from the teaching of most of the mainstream local churches, I mean including Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. I found I am moving further and further away from the church and so I resigned from the leadership position with an excuse saying I was too busy. Although I did not agree with the church, but I respected the leaders and did not make any troubles.
However, what happened next I will never forget; my disappointment with the church’s teaching hastened my negative experience in JLH HK. It came to me in 2013 finally; I was very careless and shared a lot of thoughts about Bible in the lifegroup after I changed to a new lifegroup. 2 week later, I was asked to stay aside after the lifegroup and my leader accused I have a “poor attitude", saying my body posture was very disturbing to him and he repeatedly saying if I disagreed with him on Bible I should come to him after lifegroup. I assured him again and again I did not disagree on what he said and having different opinion is perfectly fine. I also apologize if I had accidently upset him because of my posture by following the Bible of being a peacemaker with my brothers. But he insisted I need to change my “poor attitude”. I was extremely confused by his vague requirement. After the conversation I was very shock and disappointed and never thought a Christian church leader would accuse his brother in that way. Therefore I use the scriptures (John 12:12-15 and Matthew 7:3-5) to illustrate the image of a humble leader like Jesus on my social network. I did not intend to accuse anyone but I was very upset for a church leader to speak to me in that way and I never heard of any churches would deal with people like this.
The social network message decided my fate in JLH HK. Actually I did not let the leader read the message in the privacy setting therefore the incident revealed JLH leaders spy on people’s social network. 2 weeks after the conversation and message, my lifegroup leader again insisted to talk to me; I refused and said we had already made everything clear. Yet he insisted and I knew he would not give up on it. So we met one day before the church and during the conversation he asked me directly “What do you mean by the message you have written on the internet?”, “Why I cannot see the message?”. I did not tell him I intentionally excluded him to read the message but I honestly told him it was not intended to accuse anyone. He said again I need to change my “poor attitude”. The leader refused to listen whatever I said and I was totally speechless. When he found I refused to “change”, he asked me not to attend lifegroup and refrain from my serving. I was supposed to be very shocked, but I did not. At that moment I was very sure it was not my fault. Again, I never heard of any churches would deal with people like this. After the conversation I decided to leave JLH HK, exactly 5 years after I baptized into the church.
Leaving a community is not easy to me especially I had been in the church for 5 years. Also I was very hurt by the fact that I was being “expelled” by the church. Although they never said so and it was also my own decision to leave, but I got no choice; I had totally no idea how I could satisfy the leader’s unreasonable requirement. Later I found out many ex-members of the church also had similar shocking experience like me. Like others, no one in the church has contacted me after I left. I am just another stranger they never care. Without their support of the kindhearted ex-members I would not recover so soon and able to resume to a stable church life.
(Title added by the Editor)
(To protect the witness, “Brother ZH” is a pseudonym)