In 2019, I was approached at a mall by two people who introduced themselves to be from Living Bread Ministries, a new Christian organisation. I started meeting one of them (I’ll call him A) for Bible study. I felt awkward to have a mentor of the opposite gender, but was also flattered by his concern for me. Having a mentor of the opposite gender is not prohibited in the Bible, but placing oneself in this situation leads to a higher possibility of wanting to meet the other person for reasons apart from studying the Bible.
A went through about Abraham’s faith journey, what the standard of faith is, God’s dwelling place, the parable of the 4 soils. Everything felt Biblical, and A clearly knew his Bible verses well; I didn’t.
One day, A brought up that there was a hard-to-come-by opportunity to enter a 6-month intensive Bible study. I had to first pass an interview, and to my joy, I did.
Lessons were held in an industrial site, using a company’s name as a front. The study had no name; we were told that it was a course teaching us how to God’s Will. As someone terrified of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23, I wanted to learn badly how to do God’s Will. There were 2 teachers – I will call them Pastor B and Teacher C. During the study, Pastor B repeatedly reiterated that if what we were learning was not 100% truth, we could leave the study. Of course, most of us stayed on because we were also pointed to many verses of judgement on unbelievers, such as Matthew 7:21-23. Later on, when I stopped trusting in Shincheonji, I learnt that these verses were used out of context, and were used to control us emotionally.
I lived for 1 month fearing that I was eternally doomed. If what was preached in this study was correct, I was not saved yet. If what was preached in this study was wrong, I felt condemned since that meant I was committing lies, which God hates. I felt my brain shrink from stress. My acid reflux condition worsened. The veins in my eyes grew worryingly visible from the mental pressure and insomnia.
I contemplated leaving, but one day, my church pastor preached about being rooted in God’s Word. He referred to some verses mentioned in the study. I thought God was telling me that Pastor B and Teacher C were right. I wept, my shoulders literally shaking. From then on, I started trusting them.
During the study, we had daily homework, where there were often questions asking what were some of our “own thoughts” we needed to “discard”. I found that too strong a term, but didn’t dwell on it.
3 months into the course, my classmates and I received a phone call from Pastor B, telling us there would be no more Bible study, and that they were from Shincheonji. It turned out that they had been investigated by the Singapore government, who had sped up its investigations regarding Shincheonji’s activities in the country, due to the group’s link to the Covid-19 situation in South Korea.
In the months to follow, I felt really lost. However, I still trusted in what I had been taught in the study. I then spent hours and days listening to the Shincheonji graduation ceremonies and seminars posted on Youtube, hoping to find out what the truth was. I also disconnected myself from my church community, as I did not trust what they had to share about the Bible. Then, I watched a video that Shincheonji produced, which wrongly stated and denied the Christian belief of the Trinity. I stopped believing in them from that day onwards.
I am still learning about what parts of the study were teaching God’s truths. It helped that people whom I am familiar with in my church discussed with me the questions I had. I still find it hard to trust people, commentaries and other Bible resources, but I learnt that while God does give supernatural ability to the believer to understand God’s word and His parables, he also gives us other means to understand them, like Bible scholars who write commentaries. These are all God’s gifts of grace on us to help us grow and learn His word.
I would like to encourage everyone who struggled with their experiences in Shincheonji with these verses:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”-2 Corinthians 1:3-4