Open Letter to Assembly Folks
This letter was written by a Worker who, due to unforeseen circumstances, had been unable to be actively involved in the Assemblies for awhile, sometime before George's excommunication in January, 2003. This Worker left the Assembly system immediately after the excommunication, and wrote this letter about a month later. It is a very incisive analysis of the Assembly. The writer attributes his understanding to "time off" from the Assembly, which put things in clearer perspective.
This person submitted it for the website a year or two later, saying, "Reading back through it now, I still find it encouraging, and hope it would be helpful to someone who might still be stuck in the Assembly, or confused about what happened in their Assembly experience. I also found this Profile of Spiritual Abuse by David Henke extremely helpful."
I write this with the sincere hope that the Lord will lead you to something that is spiritually healthy and truly honors his Son, Jesus Christ. Please understand that I was involved with the Assembly almost since its beginning. All of my thoughts and plans for the future had always included being in fellowship in the Assembly.
While I was a worker, I was temporarily unable to gather with an Assembly, due to unforeseen circumstances. My temporary separation did not happen because I saw the issues I am addressing in this letter. It was because I had some time away that I started to see these things. My point is, you need to take some time off from the Assembly before you can start to see it for what it is.
Now that I have left that system, I am so relieved and so thankful for the Lord's mercy that I didn't waste any more time in a system that is false and dishonoring to the Lord. Every day my eyes open more and more to the many false practices we had (not primarily false teachings, although there were some).
I don't say all the saints are false or dishonoring to the Lord. But we have all been deceived. It must be remembered that all the sincere, godly men and women we all love and have looked up to were deceived by and about George Geftakys.
This is crux of what I want to say: The Assembly system was started, and is thoroughly tainted, by George Geftakys, a proud, deceitful, covetous, unrepentant man; therefore it must be abandoned for something that is spiritually healthy, for true Christianity and true liberty in Christ.
Consider how George has lived. He preached about Christ all the time. He preached about how we would all give an account to Christ for every action and every word. How did he live? As though there was no Christ to be accountable to. As though he himself would give no account of his life. Consider that he had sexual relations with at least four or five women, confirmed by personal testimony.
The fact is, it is not what we say but what we do that ultimately shows what we believe. George's actions tell us he did not love God. I Corinthians 13:1-2 says,
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
George's ministry was primarily a ministry of knowledge. Hence the huge emphasis on listening to him preach all the time for extended periods of time. But I Corinthians 8:1 tells us, "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth."
Indoctrination Rather Than Love
Sadly, this ministry has been very lop-sided. We have omitted the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. For example, there was comparatively little emphasis in this ministry on actually helping people, even though Acts 20:35 says, "You ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" How often did we serve the needy, give to the poor?
Individually, various saints may have done just that, but our primary emphasis as a ministry was not that of meeting physical needs, but rather, supposedly spiritual needs. We justified not meeting physical needs by saying, "We're meeting a deeper need."
Yes, at Christmas time, most people would try to go out to someone who was less fortunate, but the primary emphasis of our ministry was young people on college campuses. Ours has been primarily a ministry of indoctrinating people.
You might say, "But we had such an emphasis on outreach and preaching the gospel." That's fine. Did people in the Assemblies truly want people to get saved? Yes. But then what did we want that to lead to? Joining the group. We called it, "making a commitment to fellowship", sharing the Assembly take on New Testament Christianity.
Narrow View of the Church
This is where I am most shocked. What a narrow view of the Church and the Body of Christ was propagated by George in this ministry. We heard plenty of truth about Christ. But our view of the Body of Christ, of other Christians, has really been poisoned.
What did George stand to gain from our sincere evangelism? His power base grew, his financial empire grew, his pride was built up more and more. He wanted to be a great man, and to be thought of very highly.
One example is that when he was challenged about how long he had known about his son David beating his wife Judy, and why George didn't step in to do anything about it, he finally agreed (after two hours on the phone with Roger Grant pleading with him to say the word S-I-N) to admit the sin of ignorance.
Of course that's baloney, since everyone in this ministry and the world, for that matter, is ignorant of many things. George, Betty and David G. were far less ignorant than most of us. The point is, George has not admitted to any wrong doing. He has behaved as a thoroughly arrogant, thoroughly proud man.
Pride is seen in the fact that he would not listen to his brethren when they pleaded with him for hours on end to repent to the saints for knowing and not doing anything about the beatings. Instead, he told all the leading brothers and elders in Fullerton that it was they who were "all in darkness".
Was the Assembly System Pre-Planned by George?
Consider the following:
George has always claimed he has no bank accounts. Yet he is reported to have an international tax attorney, and bank accounts in at least Hong Kong and Greece. This indicates he has planned repositories for large amounts of money, while at the same time communicating to the Assemblies that their offerings were always immediately dispersed for “the work of the Lord.”
George had been denied a leadership role by elders in two previous churches, because he was too domineering, before he started the Assembly. George was accused of adultery in these churches before he ever started the Assembly. He has done these things before, and been withstood for them before. Now elders in three churches have withstood him.
The fact is that most of us never knew how this ministry got started. It was always presented as, "When God got real brokenness in my life..." "The Lord laid a burden of prayer on me." "The board of elders told me, 'Brother, if you really believe these things, you need to go and preach them somewhere else,'" as though he had the support and sanction of elders to go and start his own ministry, as though he left in peace, when in fact he was just kicked out for teaching things they did not agree with.
It would appear that George had the Assembly system and all its deceitful, controlling characteristics in mind from the start.
Why did George's son Timothy never get saved until he was in high school? The first time I ever heard anyone say anything bad about George was on the 1991 team to Seattle. Tim met with me for breakfast, and in the course of the conversation he said, "My father was a horrible father." In ordinary life this is a common complaint, but in the Assemblies it was unheard of to say such a thing about the leader of the group.
I couldn't understand it. I didn't ask him about it, but I figured he knew what he was talking about. From that time on, I thought of George as someone who really heard God's voice, who was truly the Lord's servant, but who had some struggles in his family life. After all, who doesn't have struggles? Of course, we didn't know what we know now about George.
In fact, George does not seem to care about his family. Consider that when his granddaughters Liz and Dawn went with their husbands to talk with him, before the adultery was uncovered, about his lack of repentance in allowing David's wife and daughter to continue to be abused, Matt quoted Romans 16:17, "Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them," George replied, "That's fine. That's what you think."
Dawn and Liz were in tears--his own grandchildren--but he didn't love them. Matt reported that when they confronted him about neglecting his family, and his granddaughters were weeping, George said, "Well, I have never put my family first, you know that," as if it were some super-spiritual characteristic.
George appears to have not cared about his family. George and Betty knew about David beating Judy for over twenty years, likely since they were first married. This has been confirmed by believers in Tuscola who saw the abuse first-hand and related it to George and Betty long ago.
He knew that David had beaten his granddaughter, Rachel. He did nothing to stop it. He continued to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to his son to fund all sorts of ungodly activities and lifestyle.
If George did not care about or love his family, is it likely that he ever cared about or loved the saints? No. But growing the Assembly system expanded his power base, his importance, his pride and his financial empire.
Did he teach many true things about Christ? Absolutely. What sincere Christian would want to join something that was not scriptural? Not many. There is not one person in fellowship who can say we didn't learn wonderful things about Christ. For that I am thankful, and I attribute it not to George, but to a merciful and faithful God, whose Word is living and powerful.
George knew that the best way to keep the system going was to maintain, as much as possible without losing control of the system, a Biblical standard of Christianity and the person of Christ. I say "as much as possible a Biblical standard of Christianity", because in fact, we have been involved in a very narrow and sickly example of Christianity.
The Assembly System
There was so much good in what we did--for example the emphasis on worship, open praise, plurality of ministry, preaching the gospel--that we ignored the things that were questionable. George surrounded himself with SINCERE GODLY men and women. That only legitimized the system more. But there are Assembly practices and terminology that show the falseness of the system.
For many of us, we've never known anything different, and its going to take some time and thinking and praying to work through these things.
Law and Works
Although we TAUGHT faith, we PRACTISED religion. We practiced performance. We became like the Galatians. Christ plus performance. Christ plus George. Christ plus meetings. Christ plus faithful attendance. In this ministry, if you didn't come to everything, you were not “committed to fellowship”, you were unfaithful, and you were a bad example.
Jon LeG. left Omaha because, among other things, he was told he was a bad example for wanting to go to a family get-together on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate his wife’s birthday, and that for suggesting this he “spoke the words of Satan.” I wonder who was really speaking the words of Satan?
The Lord says in Matt 11 to take “MY YOKE.” His yoke is EASY, his burden is LIGHT. Something the Assembly yoke was not. Paul says not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. The fact is, this Assembly system was just that--a yoke of bondage all based on PERFORMANCE, on WORKS.
Performance included but was not limited to: giving your money, giving ALL of your time, coming to ALL of the meetings, DOING EXACTLY what the “leading brothers” told you to do, being “available” for whatever “the LORD” (George) wanted.
Truly committed ones became Workers and were willing to move where-ever, when-ever, at the expense of job and career, to support a covetous man who lacked nothing and would not actually lift his hand to serve the Lord’s people.
He put in his time, that’s true, just to increase his Bible knowledge so he could be considered a greater “man of God.” 2 Timothy 3: 6-7, “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Ruling Peoples Lives
In this ministry you had to “seek counsel” about who to marry, your personal schedule, where you would live, what you would read, watch, where you would work or go to school, what you would study, etc. This amounts to cult-like control.
We have practiced and taught the need to OBEY the leadership, and to do so even when “they are wrong.” We were taught that God would “cover” us and “protect” us even if the leadership was wrong. WRONG.
IF the leadership is wrong, then they are WRONG. Remember, we believe in things like absolutes. Verses like Hebrews 13:7, 17, "Obey them that have the rule over you," were used to make us think that we have to do what “leading brothers” and elders tell us to do. That’s baloney. In the Body, as seen in Ephesians and I Corinthians, does the hand tell the ear what to do? Does one hand tell the other hand what to do? No, only the Head tells the Body what to do.
And in true New Testament Christianity, the only One telling people what to do is Jesus Christ. Good examples like elders, are recognized by their GODLY LIFE, not their ability to issue commands. And they are to be JUST THAT, good examples. Not little generals commanding the Lord’s people.
Study the Greek words behind RULE and OBEY and you’ll find it has much more to do with persuading others by your own example of godliness, being “spiritual guides”, than being spiritual commanders and police.
W. E. Vine says of “ obey” peitho (3982): “to persuade, to win over … The ‘obedience’ suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.” Thus the scripture says, "Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
We are to primarily follow the faith and good example of our spiritual guides, such as elders or deacons, considering the outcome of their behavior, not let them micromanage and command our lives. Read this on Watchman.org. It pretty much describes what we were in.
Clergy & Laity
For years we heard we have no paid ministers. True. The fact is we had OVER-PAID ministers For years we have heard that we have no clergy and laity. As can be seen from the hierarchical authority system described above, we clearly had clergy and laity.
Where in the New Testament does it teach no accounting of the money? In the Old Testament it says, 2 Kings 12:9,12,
“But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the LORD: and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the LORD Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen: for they dealt faithfully.
This would have worked fine in the Assembly if the men had been faithful. George used this verse so he could hide what was done with the money. The problem is the New Testament church is not the nation Israel. This blending of New Testament/Old Testament and secrecy could only lead to disaster.
In fact, if you look at the practice of Paul, he never handled the money himself, and he always had faithful brethren chosen from among the local gathering who had given the gift travel with him and present that gift to the saints in need.
George always acted like he never touched the money. The fact is that it all came into his home at the end of the day, and he and Betty divided it up how it pleased them.
I can remember as a little boy, going with my dad to George’s house with the Lord's Treasury Box every Sunday night, after the leading brothers meeting was over, to drop off the money.
The Workers were nothing more than a Super-Class of Christians above the rest, who were comprised mainly of “leading brothers” in various local gatherings, who made sure that George accomplished everything exactly the way he it wanted in each local gathering. I do not mean that in general we thought of ourselves as such, but that’s how we functioned in the system.
The system of performance and works can also be seen in the requirement of Workers to provide a written “contribution” at each meeting. This was supposed to document the things the worker had done in the past two weeks, including visitation, letter writing and any other contributions to “the work.”
The danger of this system is that it tended to produce performance for the sake of pleasing men, not God - i.e., “Here’s my list of good deeds."
• “Leading Brother” Where is the term "Leading Brother" in the Bible? Nowhere. There are only deacons and elders (the same as bishops - though a different Greek word, it will refer to them both as the same functionality). For example:
In Titus 1:5, when it talks about appointing elders in every church it goes on to say in verse 7, "For a bishop must be ...," and gives the qualifications.
Again in Acts 20:28 when Paul addresses the elders of Ephesus he tells them that the Holy Spirit has made them "overseers". This is the same Greek word as "bishop" 1 Peter 5:1, "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed".
Acts 14:23, "And when they had ordained them elders in EVERY church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."
Titus 1:5, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in EVERY city, as I had appointed thee." Acts 20:17, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church".
Why do we not have "elders in every church?" Because it would have been too much of a threat to George's authority. He said himself in one of our Workers meetings, "You are not my peers." The "leading brothers" in every place have been functioning in the biblically defined elder capacity, but without independent local authority.
Then there were officially appointed "elders." These were like SUPER-ELDERS. The problem is their authority, like George's, always extended its long arm beyond the reaches of the local gathering to make decisions for other places. The local testimonies ARE autonomous. But we have not functioned that way.
This illustrates another characteristic of this ministry--that we have often taught the truth but not PRACTISED it. There should be elders in every place. THEY should stand before the Lord for decisions in every place. Not a few elders here and there. That’s unhealthy, and unbiblical.
• “A Commitment to Fellowship” This is a strange phrase. I think all Christians would say we’re committed to fellowship with all the Lord’s people who love Him. In the Assembly, being "committed to fellowship" meant being willing to sign your life away to the group, to the Assembly, to George, all under the guise of giving your life to Christ.
But it wasn’t to Christ, it was to George and his system, as so many are finding out after years of giving everything they had to this system. Remember John 2:24-25, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them" because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” Sadly we’ve been committed to following men, albeit sincerely, thinking that that meant following Christ.
• “Leave Fellowship” How many have left the assemblies to walk with the Lord, but did not leave fellowship with Christ or his Body?
• “A Testimony, A Lampstand” What arrogance to think the only way there could be a true testimony to Jesus in a place would be if one was “raised up” through “this ministry.” How small minded and limited to think God the Holy Spirit was only raising up testimonies to his Son through the Assembly.
How many gatherings didn’t have all the HEAD KNOWLEDGE we had, but had much more LOVE. How many were more Christ-like in meeting the needs of their generation, and the needy. Ultimately the two Greatest Commandments are all that matter.
• Why were we so exclusive? We rarely (twice in my memory) invited anyone to preach from outside the Assemblies. We operated as though we were the truest form of New Testament Christianity existing today. That’s what was implied.
• Why did NO-ONE ever leave fellowship on good terms? Why was NO-ONE ever presented in a good light when they “left fellowship"? We treated everyone who had left as though they had been excommunicated according to Matthew 18.
Of course, we didn't use the word excommunicated. That’s not what we TAUGHT, but it's what we PRACTISED.
When anyone came into fellowship, they had seen “the heavenly vision” and when they left they had “lost the vision.” I’m not saying no one ever left our gatherings because they didn’t want to walk with the Lord. I’m sure there have been a few.
But the majority likely left so they could walk with the Lord. Sadly, ALL MY LIFE I have been taught that anyone who leaves is evil, bad, has lost the vision, settled for less or settled for SECOND BEST.
In one Assembly where most of the saints left because the bad fruits of George Geftakys' labor--lies and mistreatment of God's people--were coming out in such a horrible way in one of the men he had trained and appointed there, a poor misguided sister was concerned because we were all going to "miss out on the inheritance".
Her husband said he was “going to keep the doors open so that when all the saints find out there is nothing else out there they can all come back.” The saints left so they could honor Christ. What arrogance, what pride, to think that we were the only Body of Christ, the only thing out there.
• Why were there VERY FEW elderly people in fellowship? – They could see control from miles away. They had EXPERIENCE.
• Why was there such an emphasis on campus outreach? – Because younger people with their enthusiasm, idealism and LACK OF EXPERIENCE would be the easiest ones to get involved in something like the Assembly.
• Why were there so many unmarried older singles? Because all their relationships were controlled by men who had no business messing with their personal lives.
• Why the overemphasis on teaching, and little emphasis on giving or meeting physical needs? Jesus did BOTH. Acts 10:38 “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him."
Leaders in the Assembly have done several things since George Geftakys was excommunicated. They have either been: A. supporters of George, B. distanced from George but unwilling to give up the system, or C. humble enough to see what they have been involved in and step down.
• Supporters of George Geftakys
Supporters of George are deceived and spiritually VERY dangerous. They are either:
a.) best case--totally deceived and actually believe George has done nothing wrong in the face of over-whelming evidence to the contrary – evidence even confirmed by George’s own family
b.) deceived into thinking that somehow they can continue to support a wicked man and not partake of the consequences themselves, or
c.) wicked men themselves who see little wrong with George's ways, just a few lamentable failures, and who doesn't fail at times?
• Distanced from George, but unwilling to give up the system
Many of the leaders who are unwilling to give up the Assembly system are sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. Most of these men truly love the saints. The problem is they are all involved together in a system that is UNHEALTHY, CONTROLLING, and DISHONORING to Christ.
If they saw things as they were they would encourage the Lord’s people to seek fellowship in some spiritually healthy gathering. To the extent that these men are sincere, may God have mercy on them.
But they are actually a hindrance to God’s people. Doing things like calling brethren frequently to “encourage them” really means this, “Don’t leave fellowship.” Or making visits to other assemblies to “rally the troops.”
All this means is they are unwilling to let people think for themselves and unwilling to trust the Lord that HE CAN SHEPHERD his people without them.
These men also are spiritually dangerous. Maybe doubly so, because they seem sincere and they make it clear that they want to be distanced from George’s evil ways.
What they don’t understand is that top to bottom the whole Assembly system is influenced and TAINTED by George’s ways of thinking and ways of operating. The system has to be abandoned.
• Humble men who have stepped down from leadership
Praise God for the men who have had the wisdom and humility to step down, step aside, and let God work. These men had seen to some extent the system they have been involved in did not honor Christ. One example is Danny Edwards, a leading brother in the San Luis Obispo Assembly.
I was shocked to hear that in SLO they actually went to a pastor of another Church for help. We have never done that in this ministry. We were way too proud. We thought we had MOST of the truth, and had nothing to learn from other gatherings. There are many other good examples, including some of the brethren in Fullerton.
This Assembly system is totally tainted by George, his teachings, practices, ways of thinking, ways of treating other Christians, and ways of treating each other. Anything that continues that remotely resembles what the Assembly has been cannot honor Christ; what is needed is a TOTALLY NEW BEGINNING.
God can do anything. I’m not saying every gathering must fold. In most cases that may be the most healthy thing. Who knows what God can do?
But people must be TOTALLY FREE to leave if they believe that is what honors Christ. People need to be TOTALLY FREE to think for themselves, to read relevant material (including this website) and make decisions for themselves.
I think in many cases former assemblies continue to be controlling, spiritually dangerous and abusive because those in leadership don’t want to let go of their place of power and control.
In most cases we can’t blame these men for doing what they are doing. They are simply doing what they have been taught. But they are deceived and therefore spiritually dangerous.
Don’t stick around because you have so much time or heart or love invested in the Assembly. Love the Lord’s people, but get out of the abusive system. Find a healthy gathering of Christians to meet with. Be thankful it's not an exact copy of the Assembly. It will be different. But that’s a good thing.