The process of joining Shincheonji is not one that is short nor easy.
By short and easy, I mean short in a sense that anyone can just become a member within an hour, and easy in a sense that there are no requirements for someone to join. This is how most churches today are.
What does it take to join Shincheonji?
For instance, the most basic requirement of a member of Shincheonji is to be able to understand the flow of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, the purpose of the Word, the work of God, along with other fundamentals such as the main contents of the Bible and the reason why Jesus Christ, the center of our faith, is the Messiah. This process of learning can take up to 6-9 months because there is much to learn about God’s Word.
A student also does not just learn head knowledge, but must understand the heart and mindset of a believer according to the Bible— and this requires more than just memorizing content but being able to experience the process of becoming a believer. It is a hugely transformative process.
Therefore, to simply claim that members pretend to be someone’s friend just to have them join the church is to undermine this process that members willingly take. Guiding others to understand the value of the Word requires a genuine heart of care not only on the evangelist’s part but also in the student’s part simply because a heart of care is the only way for someone to be able to persevere through the whole process. A false heart of care towards the student will start to show early on and it will actually be the surest way that the student does not join the church.
How do people change in Shincheonji?
One may ask about the transformative process and what it entails; one can liken it to the process of weight loss. Weight loss, depending on someone’s goal, can last a certain period of time— usually months. During this period of time, the participant doesn’t just concern themself in gaining knowledge of how to lose weight, but also learns certain skills that will help them put the knowledge into practice.
Similarly, with learning the things of the Bible it is not just about memorizing scripture or learning about connections within the Word but it is also about the student changing their heart and attitude towards God and His Word, and building up faith so that with the things they must overcome, they can overcome.
Students who have gone through the whole process have reflected back on how they have changed. Many have said that their reverence towards God has grown and shown through their posture. For example, prior to learning about God’s Word, students confess that they would pray laying down on their beds, falling asleep before even getting to say Amen, or that they would read the Bible just as a checklist, something to cross off even though they did not really understand what a passage meant.
My prayers changed because of Shincheonji
But upon understanding more of God’s heart and will, they grew to understand the position that God played in their lives, the value of prayer, and the heart behind the words of scripture. These changes are reflected in their prayer life, the way they treat others around them, and even the way they view themselves.
In this process, the student is able to experience the fruit of their effort but also be able to experience changes to their person holistically as a result of treasuring God’s Word.
The person starts to notice that they have been transformed. Their drive is stronger, their understanding is clearer, their attitude towards others have become more positive, even their heart has become more fervent. Most importantly, their faith and understanding of God has grown. This transformation could not have been achievable without the experience and without people who genuinely cared about the student’s progress.
Why does Shincheonji evangelize so much?
Guiding others to the Word is a basic of a believer (Mt 28:19, Acts 1:8) but it is not done with an unwilling heart. Often, students who are themselves still in the learning process invite their friends and families to join not because they are told to do so but they have perceived the importance of God’s Word and want to share it with others.
Can this really be called someone who is acting out of pretense? Students and members are by no means unfamiliar or immune to such callous claims. It is painful to be accused of being a false friend by strangers who have only seen the surface but the student and the member who carry out the work of evangelism are not surprised at having been met by persecution.
This was a behavior that happened 2,000 years ago during the first coming where persecution occurred between the family of God. One group of believers persecuted Jesus and his disciples, even calling them demon-possessed or sect leaders (Acts 24:5, Luke 4:16-29, John 1:10-11, Matthew 12:22-23, John 18:40).
Students and members understand that to follow after the life of Christ also means to face harshness not just from non-believers but even from believers in their own faith. Even today, this fact is supported simply by looking at who persecutes Shincheonji the most and it is hardly those who are not of faith.
Was this person really my friend in Shincheonji?
The world has its definition of friend. This definition is “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations”.
Typically, friendships are started by firstly introducing oneself to each other and naturally proceeds by talking about commonalities and interests. In the early stages of friendships, there is a deciding period where both parties can choose to commit to strengthen the friendship or not to, and both options are acceptable. It is also the period in which either parties wonder if the other person wants to continue being friends but it is important to take note that to maintain the friendship, both parties need to put in the effort. It cannot just be one-sided.
With evangelism, often the evangelist has already decided to put in the effort but the person they have talked to should also choose whether or not to reciprocate.
What happens when Shincheonji people try to recruit you?
One of the things that can happen is that the person whom the evangelist has talked to only responds out of politeness and does not make it clear they don’t wish to be friends, and so effort that is put in by the evangelist is perceived as strange and off-putting. Many students and members share feelings of disappointment when the person who they have been reaching out to stops messaging them without warning.
But the heart of the student and the member is not to hold grudges against the person because they understand the path they chose to walk on. Therefore, the evangelist continues to carry out the work of outreach, facing rejection after rejection to fulfill their duty as a child of God. This is their heart. Is this the heart of a fake friend, or someone who did this for their own means? I don’t think so.
It’s the heart of a believer, it’s the heart of a genuine friend, and it’s the heart of someone who knows the value of the Word we are sharing.