Free Will

Free Will

by Steve Lien <>
(September 7, 1998, Taipei, Taiwan)

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9

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It requires great courage to leave the Taipei Christian Church. It is difficult to tell people what happened to me because my heart and soul feel great pain at this moment. My ex-girlfriend Jenny came to my apartment a half hour ago with tears to move everything out, and I cried too. We had been lived together for a year and planned marry in April 1998. We did not know it was a sin against God at that time, but we deeply love each other.

The story began in December of 1997. Jenny and I had just returned from L.A. California, where we had a great 2 weeks vocation in L.A. and then went to Vancouver to visit my 14 years old nephew, who studied in secondary school. After returned to my work (I work in the family business with my oldest brother) I was very busy, and careless about Jenny’s needs. We started to fight over tiny things.

Jenny suggested both of us go to a church to seek spiritual growth. I promised to go. I knew my cousin Jerry and his wife LiLy had returned to Taipei from Boston six years ago and established a church with around 500 members. I did not know this church was affiliated with Boston Christ of Church, though, a rapidly growing “cultic” church in the North America.

After I visited the American Family Foundation (AFF) web site and related sites, and it helped clear up my questions and doubts. I found I was right about the Taiwan Christian Church, and it was too late to pull my leg. I cannot believe I was involved in a cultic church, although there have been many cults which have appeared in the past 2 years in Taiwan.

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Bible Study

The very first time Jenny and I went to church, I found the brothers and sisters powerful and sincere. After Sunday Worship, many young brothers and sisters came to greet and hug me again and again. I told myself that this was the church we needed — it changed my mental image of the church.

Jerry came up to me and invited Jenny and I to study the Bible. We had no doubts, and accepted the invitation.

For the first Bible Study we met in a small cafe downtown. We sat together around the table. Jerry told me that, to be a powerful and good Christian, it was most important to follow Jesus’s teaching and go and make disciples of all nations ( Matthew 28:19 ). We did not need to be traditional Christians who did not have the Holy Spirit inside of them. He called the other churches, “religious”, meaning that most other churches were full of only “Sunday Christians”. I agreed with him about that.

Jenny told me she liked this church very much. At the same time Lily, who had come to the first study with Jenny, asked Jenny to move out of my apartment. Jenny told me that living together was sinful in the eyes of God — Christians cannot live together before marriage. I agreed with Jenny, and I helped her to move out 2 weeks later. In order to get new lives in Christ, both Jenny and I started to study the Bible. Everything seemed so great. I studied the Bible by myself every night.

Jenny and I attended Bible Study a least once a week. Jerry appointed two disciplers to study with me — it was a two-on-one Bible Study. One interpreted the Scripture while the other took notes. It made me felt so warm. The senior discipler, Michael, was a Medicine Doctor. The other, Barry, was an engineer — he graduated from the top university in Taiwan.

The first problem to arise came from Jenny. She told me that Lily kept pushing her to change. I was not aware of any problems, and comforted her, saying we must be patient and accept the teaching from the church. I also spoke with my cousin Jerry. He told me I must trust the church, and then I would get a better relationship with God. Jenny’s Bible study was a little ahead of mine.

One night, Jenny met me at a café located in the outskirts of Taipei. She looked so serious, and told me that we had lots sins in front of God which I did not understand completely. She opened the Bible in Galatians 5:19-21. It listed every kind of sins. When I tried to explain to her what I thought, she told me, “I AM A SINNER.” Jenny really surprised me and argued with me, insisting that I must confess my sins to God.

After the date, I did not feel comfortable. I called Lili — Jenny’s discipler. She gave me the same answer — I must totally trust the church and Bible. So I gave them my total trust. That was one of biggest mistakes of my life.

After one Sunday worship, Jerry and my discipler asked me to leave Jenny, and did not tell me why, except that it was necessary in order to have good relationship with God. Nothing could come between you and God. I did not answer them immediately, and I felt pressured by the church. I had serious questions. I asked myself why I had to leave Jenny if Jesus forgave my sins and loved people unconditionally.

The next day, however, Jenny called me. She agreed to leave me for a while, and asked that I not call her, but told me, she loved me and nothing could separate us. I began question what they were teaching.

A week later I confessed my sins to God, and (of course) my two disciplers. They led and guided me through the confession, pointing out how bad I was, just like they had before. I cried. Many questions and doubts began come to my mind. I kept asking myself, “Am I really that bad?” I could not fall asleep at night easily. I felt guilty all the time. Even when I was out driving or talking to the customers at work, I always kept thinking about the sins which I had committed.

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When Bible Study was basically completed, my disciplers invited me to attend evening services every Wednesday and to “share face”. [“Share your faith”] This means to go out on the streets and invite people to church. I went out with brothers for “D.P.” (discipleship) time. My disciplers and the other brothers kept probing my mind, asking me, “Do you think God loves you?” “Do you really like to be a Christian?” “Do you think have a good relationship with God?” I did not know they always reported everything I said to one of the elders, Jerry, and to the evangelist, David, but I felt spied on and that every word I said was recorded.

I began to question this — it was not right for them to try, through every kind of activity, to know me inside deeper and deeper. It meant the church wanted to control you totally.

I also questioned why many young single brothers and sisters lived in “Brother’s Flats” or “Sister’s Flats”, although most of them were talented in their professional fields. Many of them quit their professional jobs, and took jobs that required only 8 hours work a day, in order to be present for every activity of the church. It really surprised me that even Jenny encouraged me to move in a “Brother’s Flat” to seek spiritual growth.

There were at least five nights every week when I was involved in church activities until 11:00 pm. I did not have time to stay with my family and work on the family business, or to take care of personal things. When I talked to my disciplers about this problem, they told me that we worked for God, and if I could not do it, I could not have a good relationship with God or become more spiritual. They insisted that I must rearrange my schedule. I did not know how to answer them, but I knew I had to take care of my family business.

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Count the Cost

My discipler made an appointment at the home of the evangelist, David, with his famous former female singer. I did not know they called this “counting the cost”. This meant that Jerry, Lily and my disciplers sat down together with Jenny and me and determined, based on our behavior and what we said, whether Jenny and I were qualified to become Christians or not.

David kept asking me why I wanted to be a Christian — what did I think? I had never ever seen such an arrogant evangelist — he kept asking me the questions. Suddenly David shouted at me and said “You are so prideful!” I asked how I looked so prideful and arrogant. He told me that I still had sins inside of me. He interrogated me just like a prisoner. He insisted I had changed, not solely for Christ, but also for Jenny.

I cried again, but I did not know why I cried — maybe for Jenny. I was afraid I would lose her. They still did not allow us to call each other on the phone.

Then we prayed, and ended this appointment. I felt I had been through a disaster.

Two weeks later, Jenny was baptised in the pool at National Taiwan University, but I was last one told about it. Before the baptism, my discipler and I were in the café near the university. Jenny was happily saying to everyone that she had a new life in God.

A few days later Jenny called me. I found she had changed into another person — she had become her discipler. She copied totally the image of her discipler. She said I needed to be completely broken. I got confused — was I talking to Jenny on the phone or to someone else? I asked about our marriage, and she told me that I still lived in the darkness and needed to be saved. She looked forward to seeing me at my own baptism. Too late I understood what had happened — the church took Jenny away from me.

I made a phone call to our common friend, Rosa, who had been a Christian for more than 30 years. I told her everything. She tried to help me get Jenny back, and told Jenny how I felt, but Jenny told everything to her discipler. That night disaster struck. My discipler and evangelist told me: “You are so prideful!” “You are two-faced!” “You hurt the kingdom of God!” “You need to re-study Bible!” etc. I could not fall asleep that night. I almost had a mental breakdown.

I went to the Baptist Church Pastor, Robert. He is an enthusiast pastor — I had gotten to know him about two years earlier. I told him everything about this church and the Bible Studies. He opened the Bible, picked a verse, and interpreted it for me, and continued as we spoke. I found out that there were many Scriptures misinterpreted by the Taipei Christian church. Robert asked me to come to church on Tuesday evenings to re-study the Bible, to correct these misinterpretations. After this I did not feel guilty or blame myself anymore.

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I did, however, try to find out what kind of church I had joined. I searched the Internet. I only knew the church from Boston — I didn’t know its name. I began searching from Yahoo. When I entered “Boston Church”, Yahoo showed the International Church of Christ in Boston, and everything seemed O.K. In the corner was displayed, “Boston Movement”, so I clicked it.

I thank God that He made me aware of an errant church, the ICC, one of the “cult” churches of North America. After reading what I found, I began to know the history of the ICC, and understood that my cousin had been recruited in Boston by the ICC. (He was studying at the Boston Art Museum School in the late 1980s.) He is one of the “12 apostles” who returned to Taipei and “planted” the Taipei Christian Church.

I kept in touch with them until two months ago. I decided, with pain, to leave. I could not feel the love of Jesus in this church, only control and manipulation, but I respect most of the members — they are so innocent and talented.

I really do not know how to end this article. In the Taipei Christian Church, God is under the control of the church and few men. I have read articles on ICC-related web sites by many former members. They talk about families being broken up, students leaving school, talented people quitting their jobs and careers, and couples separated to join the “Movement”. It helps me to understand what ICC has been doing.

I must thank those who supported and loved me during this harsh time — especially my parents, Pastor Robert, and Rosa. After I left the church, I went to counseling every week. Pastor Robert told me that God gave us free will so that we could choose to live under Christ — it is not under the ICC’s control.

Steve Lien
Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China
September 7, 1998

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©1998 by Steve Lien. All rights reserved.

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