"Brandon" is not my real name, but this is my true story. At the first campus conference I attended in 1996 I heard about being a campus worker. I thought, "Yes, that’s what I want to be. I want to serve God on campus." I was very excited about it, and I felt that it was God’s calling in my life to "leave all and follow Him" and specifically to serve him on the college campus.
I remember going up to Tim Geftakys after that lecture and saying that I’d like to be a campus worker. He said, "I don’t even know who you are. Serve the Lord where you are at on campus with the brethren there and then maybe next year we can think about this then."
Well, here it was three years later. I was now finishing up college, and I still had the campus work on my mind. All through my time going to college I was involved in campus ministry. I didn't really know what I was going to do after I graduated, but I knew that I wanted to serve God in some way. Since I had come to know about Jesus as an adult through this ministry, and since I very much enjoyed ministering on campus, I thought that this was where God was leading me. Being a campus worker just seemed like the next thing I should do to serve God and grow as a Christian.
I looked at my classmates who were also graduating, and saw that they were interviewing for jobs with big-name companies. I considered that, and decided I did not want to have a career like that and just live for money and a nice house. I felt there was something more to life, and the afterlife, than money and personal comfort. I wanted to give my life to God, serve him and help my fellow man.
I prayed much about this decision. I cannot say that God spoke to me about it one way or the other. I wrote a list of why I wanted to go and why I didn't want to go. I decided this was the right decision since I wanted to continue giving my life to God. And I believed that no matter where I went, God would be with me and protect me and lead me in the right path. So I left the Assembly that I came from, my friends, the campus, my job, and traveled down to Fullerton.
When I got to Fullerton, I stayed at the Halverson’s for several months. They were away on the Mission and Training Team in Pasadena. There were other single brothers also staying at the house at one time or another, and we had some good times. But apart from these friendships, things did not go well at all, and got worse every day.
For starters, I could not find a job that had a Monday-Thursday-Friday schedule, which is what I needed in order to fit my campus work schedule. It is very depressing being out of work looking for a job. The money goes out to pay bills, but no money comes in. Soon I was running out of what little I had saved up.
Secondly, the assembly in Fullerton didn't strike me as being the spiritual Mecca that I thought it might be. In fact, I liked the assembly I was from much better. The assembly I was from was a bit younger and I had a group of guys who were also going to college whose company I really enjoyed. Here it was mostly folks in their 40's and 50's with families. They looked haggard and the spark of Christian zeal seemed to have waned long ago. The doorkeepers looked weary, beaten down and under pressure. They very much reminded me of corporate "yes men"--some trying to please the establishment to fit in and advance up the ladder, others not knowing why or how they got trapped in that position, only knowing they were unhappy in it. There were some exceptions, but the overall atmosphere was one of despair rather than the blessings of happiness of freedom in Christ.
Third, I didn't like Southern California at all. People, people, people everywhere. Cars, traffic, and more traffic. A concrete jungle with little of the relief provided by nature. I had wondered for a long time why people would live in a place such as this. While there, I came to the conclusion that it is for the same reason that people live anywhere--they were born there. Most people don't move far from where they are born. I know human nature dictates that once one is accustomed to an environment, especially the place of one's birth and early years, it's very hard to believe that there might be somewhere better. Hence the story of "city mouse, country mouse" has come into lore. But I would postulate that if natives of huge metropolitan areas could only know the joy of living in a rural area, they would never live in these manmade hell-holes.
Experiments have been performed showing that rats become more aggressive when population density increases in enclosed areas. In a small town or rural area, the people are your friends, family and neighbors. In the workplace where that are only a few employees, they become friends. In a metropolis like Los Angeles with a population of several million, people are pests, unwanted obstacles that get in your way, in traffic and in the lines that are everywhere--in the bank, the grocery store, the gas station, the restaurant. It's really sad.
Also, I do not think it is good for man to behold only the creations of man his entire life. It is much better for us to be in the environment that God created for us, the open country. It is my theory that this is why odd ideas, such as abortion and evolution, have arisen from these heavily populated areas. People need to be free from their man-made prisons and come to experience real life in the world God has made.
Finally, what really made life in Fullerton unbearable was the fact that I was required to live in a training home. I was 23 years old and already independent, graduated from college, and supporting myself. I felt a training home was completely unnecessary. I accepted it as a part of the campus worker program, but I did not know what I was getting myself into, as you'll read in the following descriptions of my time in Mr. Rodney Zach's home.
I moved into the Zach home in August. I noticed right away that Rod was overly controlling. Here I was, a man by my own rights, yet he, as another man, was trying to bring me under his control as if he were a combination of my father, my priest and my employer.
But I had made a commitment. That meant something to me. I had to stick it out and not quit just because things got difficult. But it got progressively worse. I remember telling him on one occasion, "Rod, the main reason why I came down here to Fullerton was to get a broader perspective of the work of God in other cities. I knew I would live in a training home, but that was not part of my goal, only peripheral to it." He replied, "Oh, ok, so you came here for the campus work, and now you’re saying pooh-pooh on my home. Well, I’d like to broaden your understanding of why you are here. You are here to be trained, and that includes being trained in this home." There was no winning that, since I was stuck there in the home and he was the head of it.
He cited Gen 14:14, about Abraham's household, and I Cor 16:15-16, about the house of Stephanas, as proof-texts from the Bible for why we have training homes. I’d like to point out that those 318 trained men born into Abraham’s house were servants, not his fellow brethren. Also, the Bible does not say that household of Stephanas had single brothers living with an older couple, nor that it was run the same way as their training home. Rod and others were grasping at straws here, trying to justify what they did in their homes.
I believe it was in the Fall that Dan Notti and Rod Zach taught a Testimony to Jesus class. Hardly anyone went to it. The brothers in Rod’s home went to it by compulsion. One of the main points of the class was submission to authority. Elsewhere on this website is an article, George’s Heavenly Vision, that explains the Assembly concepts of the Heavenly Vision and the Testimony to Jesus.
This emphasis on being willing to submit stems from George Geftakys' false teaching that in order for us to be those who reign with Christ in eternity, we need to learn how to submit to authority (namely that of George and his representatives) while here on earth. For further explanation of this idea, see the article, What George Geftakys Believes About His Ministry.
I went home over the winter break and spent some time with my family and some friends. I preached at a Bible Study there on John 10. The chapter is about the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. When I got back to Fullerton, I couldn’t help but think, "Here I am a grown man, one day preaching at a Bible Study and the next day being told by Barb that I didn’t put the dishes away correctly. Something’s wrong here." But again, I made a commitment, so I had to stay.
I shared at the dinner table my experiences while I was away and what I had learned from John 10. I explained to Rod how I saw that Jesus is our shepherd and we are all sheep, answerable directly our Father in heaven. He said, "Oh really, so if I were to tell you that you couldn’t go anywhere Friday night but had to stay in the home, what would you say?" Looking at Rod, I replied, "My fellow sheep, I’d have to ask my Heavenly Father about that," which didn’t settle too well with him.
About this time I made a journal entry that noted the following problems in the Fullerton Assembly:
One afternoon I went for a walk. As I was rounding the corner and coming back towards the house, I saw Rod drive by in his Suburban. He slammed on the brakes, causing the car behind him to do likewise, resulting in that person getting irate and honking his horn at Rod. Rod pulls over and says from across the street to me, "Did you tell anyone where you were going for a walk?" I said, "No, I didn’t know I needed to." Rod said with a grin, almost mockingly, "You might want to let us know where you are going. You know, just to be safe--just so we know where you are." I thought, here I am 24 years old and I need to tell them when and where I’m going for a half-hour walk in broad daylight? In retrospect, I think Rod did this was because he sensed that I was not agreeing with being under his authority, he and was trying to get my goat.
I wrote this in my journal:
January 30. The air is foul in Fullerton. I remember nights before I came here where it felt good to live, to breathe. But here there's always a suppressing air that makes every day gloomy. I am sick again. I have been sick a lot lately.
To have someone who perceives himself to have authority over you, always asks you, "What are you doing?", "Where are you going?", "What are you up to?", "What are you thinking?", "Where have you been?" This is dangerous. It has the power to make you a prisoner, to second guess yourself. Always having to look over every action to give an account stifles freedom of movement, stifles imagination, desire, character.
I shall never again willingly go into a situation, such as this training home, that limits my freedom. Freedom is too valuable a possession to be given in exchange for even the prospect of learning something. It would be better learned as a free man. But the Lord knows this, and veiled this fact from me before he brought me here to teach me valuable lessons. I'm still not sure yet what they are.
Jesus paid his life blood to set us free... yet the love of Christ constrains us. To be bound to men, subject to them in any and every way, but our hearts yet are subject to Christ--for the purpose that he may be glorified and they may be won to him. Our lives are to be given for the sake of the gospel.
During this time Rod preached on I Samuel 21 in the Wednesday night Bible study. The parallel between Saul and David, and Rod and myself, was uncanny. Rod even said such things as, "Now sometimes you may be living under the authority of a man who gets in the flesh a lot, like Saul. At these times, remember what David did, he trusted in the Lord and found refuge in him."
Here is an example of what it was like living in a training home.
It was my night to make dinner. The menu read, "Vegetable: Green Beans". So I cooked green beans. The next day Barb said to me, "I want to talk to you about dinner. Everything was great, but did you use canned green beans instead of fresh green beans?"
I said, "I used canned green beans."
"Why did you do that?"
"The menu said 'green beans'. It didn't say 'fresh green beans'."
"Don't you know we use fresh vegetables? Have you ever used canned vegetables before?"
"I've used canned corn. I've used fresh broccoli. I can't think of any other time that I've cooked vegetables besides those."
She looked into the distance squinting her eyes. Then she said, "How long ago did you cook canned corn?"
"Two weeks ago."
"Did you see the fresh green beans in the frig?"
"No, I didn't even look for them."
"Well, we always use fresh vegetables."
So she was looking for me to fail. She wanted to point out my failure and went a roundabout way of doing so by asking me questions to prove some point, namely that I was wrong.
Apparently she thought I should have been able to guess correctly what type of vegetables to use, even if the menu didn't specify, based on past experiences with her standard. So if I had answered, "I use fresh vegetables every week, but this week I used canned," it would have shown that I was either rebellious, or empty-headed, or cutting corners. What was the point of that? I guess she could have then shown that I needed some further training and give me a consequence. I really don't think she was too happy that it turned out I wasn't a failure. Sad but true. How do I know? Because she didn't say, "Okay, that's alright, you just didn't know." Instead she stood there with that squint in her eye trying to find some way to accuse me.
In summary, she was believing the worst about me and looking for a way to accuse me. She demonstrated this by asking questions that laid a trap for me. I only managed to escape by remembering about the canned corn, and speaking the truth. If she had brought up the point that I used fresh broccoli several in times past, then I would have been done for, because I did not remember until later that I had never used canned broccoli.
My point is that by such questioning, I'm being placed under a search light, my least actions being questioned with the intent to show the error in them. This is not love. Where is grace? This is a Christian training home? I think that Rod and Barb learned to run their home like this from their time spent in George’s house.
Things became progressively worse. I couldn’t take Rod’s controlling my life, and Rod couldn’t take that I would not submit. One day I just broke. I told him,
"Rod, when I think of a Christian training home, I think of one where we are taught to follow Christ and serve him. But it seems to me that you are training us to serve you."
"Oh, well then I need to repent. Let’s call George up, and Mark and Tim right now and talk about this, because if what you say is true then I need to repent," he said mockingly.
I called him on his bluff, though. I said, "Ok, let’s call them." He didn’t, and we talked some more. I told him, "Rod, haven’t I done all that you have asked? Why do you insist that I have such a problem with authority? That is not the problem here. I think you try to exercise too much control over us, and that is what I am resistant against. You have said that you're a control freak."
"I never said that."
"My roommate said you did."
"Well, call your roommate in here."
My roommate said, "Yes, Rod, you told me that, and you know it’s true. You are a bit of a control freak sometimes." Rod avoided me for the next few days.
The following Rod preached about the authority of the elder. He went through verse after verse which supposedly showed how God has given his authority to men here on earth as his representatives. He said, "When I think of the authority that God has given to his representatives on earth, it’s awesome! Oh, it’s AWESOME!" I thought, "Hmm, wonder if he’s talking to me?" My roommate said, "Yeah, that Rod is an interesting cat."
These are some of his points, which were backed up with proof texts from all over the Bible.
All authority comes from God. To go against his divinely appointed leaders is a serious matter. Divine authority is demonstrated by God-prepared, God-appointed men. In the church, those who lead are elders. Among churches, it is apostles. Elders must meet certain qualifications: I Tim 3:4, "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity." An elder walks before the Lord, and the rest of the church trusts that that is the case.
He made a special point of I Tim 5:17-21, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour...Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses." He said, "Did you catch what it said? I think it’s important to read this again in case you missed it. The Bible says, 'Let elders that rule well be counted worthy of DOUBLE HONOR.' And it gives further instruction, that you are not to accuse an elder unless there are two or three witnesses. "
It is clear what Rod was trying to do here. He thought that I was not respecting him enough nor submitting to him as I should, so he addressed it in this public manner. This was typical of the Geftakys ministry. The leaders defamed people in public by preaching against them from the pulpit. What a childish act for this "elder". It seems clear that Rod’s Catholic upbringing also contributed to the way he thought.
At the time, this was very hard for me to deal with, as I was a creature of conscience. Some of what he said made me feel badly, even though I knew that he was wrong for what he did. But he was an elder, and he misused his place of authority to abuse us. That was a terrible thing for him to do.
Later that day, while I was cutting up strawberries in preparation for dinner, Rod came into the kitchen and stood in the doorway.
"So, Brandon, what did you think of the message this morning?"
I said something about how it was interesting.
He said, "Some people have a problem with authority. You know that some people have a problem with authority, wouldn’t you say, Brandon?"
I said, "Yes, we are all sinners and have a problem with authority."
He said, "Yes, but some people really have a problem with authority, wouldn’t you say, Brandon?"
I was getting a bit flustered and said, " Yes! Rod, have you ever gotten a speeding ticket before? I guess you have a problem with authority, don’t you?"
He was a little dumbfounded, but not enough to break his arrogant mood. He made some more comments, then walked away.
It was a around this time that I wrote this in my journal:
April 8. Can I submit to and obey someone without them being my lord? Yes. There's one Lord, one head of the church. He does have leaders because his house must be ordered, for his glory. But those leaders are not our lords, they are our guides. They are not over us, they are along side us, serving and being our examples.
Campus work wasn’t going so well, either. I had learned much more on my own on my college campus then being under Tim and Jim. Their very presence discouraged the students and campus workers from taking initiative. At my campus the students did just about everything. Here, these old farts in their late 40’s did most of it. It suppressed the students’ ingenuity and any inkling they may have had of taking charge and making this their "baby." So the adults kept their role, but the "kids" now in their early 20’s stayed kids.
During the Spring quarter, we were in the book of Acts at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. We were going through the chapters where Paul made a mistake in going to Jerusalem, going against what the Holy Spirit said. I saw that I was in a similar situation. I took courage in the fact that God comforted Paul and stood by him, even though he made a wrong turn, and God turned it all out for good and for the accomplishing of his purpose.
By the time June rolled around, I was sooo ready to leave. As I drove away in my car, with all my earthly possessions in the back, I yelled like Braveheart, "FREEEEDOMMM!!!!"