Joe Sperling first posted this on the Assembly bulletin board in October, 2006.
Why did I join the Assembly? It was a combination of things. In my case I had received Christ, known the great love of God and his lovingkindness, but had failed to ever join a church, and slowly drifted back into what I had done before. God began to chasten me for this, but I mistook the chastening for severity, and began to fear greatly that God was very displeased with me.
The only way to "get back to God" was to work for it. I knew in my heart this was not correct--I knew the Good Shepherd, but I allowed myself to be deceived into thinking one could "gain" the love of God by "giving everything you've got" for him. I went to a Bible study meeting on campus at Pierce College, and then to one of the regular weekly Bible studies, and saw that these people had devoted almost every day to "serving" God. Maybe God would "receive me back" into the fold if I was as dedicated as these people were.
But the greatest reason I joined the Assembly was a total misunderstanding of Biblical truths. If I had really known what the Bible taught I would have seen immediately that this was not a place that lived off of the grace of God, but a place based on "works performance"--based on what we could do, rather than what God had already done. I remember being so unlearned in the scriptures that I didn't know who or what "the Lamb of God" referred to. I had to ask the brother who had taken me to my first worship service, Stan C., what he meant when he mentioned "the Lamb of God" in his prayer. You see, I had accepted Christ--he truly had entered my heart--I truly had known his kindness and tasted of his sweetness---but I knew nothing of the "doctrine of Grace" at all. Stan explained about the "Lamb of God" and then I remembered John the Baptist saying, "Behold the lamb of God...," but the concept, "It is Finished", was something of which I had no understanding.
I must say I knew there was something wrong. The God being taught just didn't match the God I had experienced, though I knew so little. God often allows a newly born-again person to experience his great loving kindness and mercy and comfort. A good example would be a baby of a few months who cries when out of the arms of it's mother. It cannot speak, or communicate in very many ways--but it "knows" it's mother through the experiences, comfort and love it has received at her hands. When being held by another it cries, "You're not my mother!!" because it inherently knows the loving arms which have held it before.
In a very similar way I "knew" this wasn't the same God I had "seen" and "felt" spiritually before. "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me." Even though I was in the Assembly for about five years, I could never follow George's teachings, and read and searched through books and commentaries looking for spiritual food.
It always amazes me to think that it was actually this "uneasiness" which led me to read far more deeply into the Bible, and to read commentaries by the great Puritan authors, and books by Hannah Whitehall Smith like The God of all Comfort, and others which showed me that what I was crying after, yearning after, and thirsting for was the very grace of God.
I am not sure, but perhaps my whole Assembly experience was a form of God's chastisement upon me. And, if it was, then it was meant for good and not for bad. "All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose". I know why I joined the Assembly, and though it took many years to get past all of the mental and spiritual debris, I believe it was used to draw me to and instill in me a love for grace, a love for Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross. I think if I had understood far more what the words, "It is finished", meant, I would never have joined the Assembly in the first place.
But as they say, "God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform". So I joined the Assembly--whether I was led there or I simply "joined up" is something the Lord will show me one day. But in the end it will have proved to be all for something far better and far more glorious, of that I am sure.
This is my personal testimony, and I know that everyone has a different story. But I believe that some of the facets of what I shared are consistent with other testimonies:
I'm sure there are many more things that draw one into a cult-like atmosphere--these are just a few of the ones that I know helped draw me in.