Spiritual Abuse--Done in God's Name

Assembly Misuse of the Bible

Brent T. explained how George equated the "Heavenly Vision" to his own ministry ("this ministry"), as illustrated by a diagram hand-out.

Brent T. wrote "Three Filters" on Assembly misinterpretation of the Bible.

In 2002 Brent T. wrote Glasnost, Perestroika and the Assembly.

Brent described the pharisaical spirit: an actor, appearing beautiful without, but filthy within.

In "The Wicked Sons of Eli" Brent T. showed God's view of George and Betty's cover-up of their son David's sins.

Betty's nephew and niece came across this website. They wrote up their perspectives on the effects of Betty's family history on the Assembly. It's a fascinating analysis which shows that the roots of the "death to self" teaching went deeper than doctrine.

What was George's purpose in teaching us the cycle of devotion (or heavenly ladder)? Was it possibly to give us an "altered state of consciousness" to enhance our receptivity to George's ministry?

Dave Sable looked  at the problems with the ideal of "getting back to the book of Acts".

Lee Irons delved into some of George's books to show errors in his teaching.

Mark Campbell points out that the Assembly's understanding of holiness was doing rather than done. This article is a key to understanding how the doctrine which sounded spiritual was foundational to the cultic nature of the Assembly. A condensed version and an outline of this article are also available.

Full Salvation by Devout Effort tackles George's teaching on the issue of rewards and how rewards are related to sanctification. Steve Irons wrote it in 1991, a year after the Irons left the Assembly. George distorted every aspect of salvation as "rewards" and taught that the believer must earn these blessings of salvation through diligent effort. George placed the emphasis on our effort to achieve this "So Great Salvation" rather than on God's gracious working in our lives.

•  Adoption became a reward.
•  Inheritance became a reward.
•  The kingdom became a reward.
•  Membership in the body of Christ became a reward.
•  Election becomes a reward.
•  Resurrection and rapture became a reward.
•  Heaven became a reward.
•  Beholding Christ's glory became a reward.

Steve Irons takes a look at the book Jesus is the Son of God and learns what George means by "sonship". George taught a form of "sinless perfection".  For related articles see Is God's Grace Suspended Until We Act? and The Two Natures.

One component of George Geftakys' teaching was "higher life" concepts, as promoted by the Keswick Conference, Watchman Nee, etc. The Assembly songbook, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, was a reprint of the Keswick hymnal. Here is a presentation on the Keswick theology of sanctification. Tom Maddux addresses the issue in terms of George's 'Overcomer' teaching.

Evaluating the Pymouth Brethren Heritage  George's Plymouth Brethren background shaped his theology and his concept of the church. He plagiarized extensively from Brethren writings.

In Already Glorified Joe Sperling points out how George twisted the truth in Romans 8:30 that as believers we are already glorified. In Simple Trust he  underscores that we do nothing to save ourselves, but simply trust in what Christ has already done for us.

In the 1990s George Geftakys preached that the "Beginning of Sorrows" mentioned in the Book of Revelations had begun.

This bookmark is a snapshot of the Assembly's twisted and lopsided teaching on the cross.

In 2001 George published a "spiritual poem" entitled Apocalypse XII. Steve Irons comments on the preface.

Two of George's published pamphlets contradict each other.  Which one are we to believe?

What George Believes About His Ministry, written by Steve Irons in 1990-1991, shows how George believed he was "the Lord's Servant" and as such had the right to hold a position of power and authority over others. And because he had the "mind of the Lord" he was not to be criticized or spoken against.

Steve Irons reported on his meeting with Samuel Ochenjele when he visited Fullerton in 2003. Samuel preached some of the things George taught.

Further Reading

Toxic Faith by Steve Arterburn and Jack Felton is reviewed on The Wartburg Watch blog.

Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Church - Part 1,  Part 2, Part 3 are excerpts from Mike Fehlauer's book, Exposing Spiritual Abuse: How to rediscover God's love when the church has let you down.

Is Your Church Free from Cultic Tendencies? by the by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, is a checklist of 37 questions to ask.

When to Leave...Think It Over was written by Chuck Swindoll, pastor of Fullerton EV Free which lost a number of college students to the Assembly.

Some Better Ways to Look at the Bible

After betrayal by a cultic Bible-based group like the Assembly, faith in God has been challenged. Spiritual leaders turned out to be wolves. The Bible was misused to inflict control. The teaching of George Geftakys put in question the eternal destiny of Christians. This section offers some antidotes to doctrinal error.

 • Faith at Risk
 • Back to the Foundation of Faith
 • Sanctification by Faith, Not by Trying Harder
 • The Christian Life - Not Performance-Driven
 • The Will of God - Not Mystical
 • General Encouragement
 • The Church - Organism & Organization
 • Union with Christ
 • Biblical Church Leadership
 • Christian Marriage

Getting Back to the Foundation of Faith

Dr. Harold Bussell, who wrote "Why Evangelicals Are Vulnerable to Cults" and "Checks on Power and Authority in the New Testament", says that a clear understanding of the gospel is the single most important issue in recovery and future immunity to further cultic involvement. This is the key issue in getting free from the bondage of spiritual abuse.

Jesus did what we could never do for ourselves: He lived out a perfect righteousness that is credited to the sinner the moment he believes. On the basis of that righteousness alone, which is received by faith, the sinner is made acceptable to God. Past, present, and future sins are forgiven, and "therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8). Gone is the guilt induced by extra-biblical demands.

Mark Campbell, former Assembly Leading Brother, emphasizes this in his story of recovering from the Assembly. In 2006 Mark wrote a series of Letters to Wounded Pilgrims to encourage former Assembly members in their continuing struggles three years after the end of the Assembly.

A proper understanding of how we are made right with God is the best inoculation against legalism and "overcomer" teaching. Justification by Faith and Its Consequences, a summary of the book, Romans: An Interpretative Outline by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas. As you study Romans with this outline, a new understanding of Paul's message will begin to dawn on you. A reader comments, "AWESOME exposition on justification. The words set me free about some things. Thanks."

• Chapters 1-3, The two methods of justification
• Chapter 4:1-17, The ground of justification
• Chapter 4:18-25, The means of justification
• Chapter 5:1-11, Resulting blessings from being justified
• Chapter 5:12-20: Adam and Christ
• Chapter 6, Dead to sin
• Chapter 7:1-6, Dead to the law
• Chapter 7:7-25, Unending struggle with indwelling sin
• Chapter 8: The security of believers

Book Cover The Galatian Crisis, Steve Irons / Frederick Bruner - Steve uses Bruner's book, A Theology of the Holy Spirit, to critique G. Geftakys' insistence that a fuller obedience on the part of the believer leads to a fuller salvation in the ages to come.

Barely Saved?, Dr Richard Sibbes - We often heard it said on the basis of I Pet 4:18 that some Christians will be barely saved or "saved by the skin of their teeth". Richard Sibbes makes it clear that the righteous are saved already; their salvation was never in doubt.

Beyond Probation, Lee Irons - "Many Christians have the mistaken idea that they have been accepted into the program, but they're still on probation. No, Paul says, you are beyond probation, because Jesus has passed the probationary test on your behalf."

Justified by Works at the Day of Judgment?, Lee Irons - Are we justified (declared righteous) by good works (even Spirit-wrought good works) at the Day of Judgment?  The answer is a resounding, "No!" The answer should settle the nagging doubts you may have about how your life will be evaluated at that awesome day of reckoning.

Righteousness for the Unrighteous, Lee Irons - "The gospel is not first and foremost about the inner spiritual growth that is taking place by God's grace in my life. It is rather about the objective, historical achievement of Jesus Christ in fulfilling the Law and satisfying divine wrath so that I might be right with God. The doctrine of justification stands at the heart of the Bible's message of salvation."

Sanctification by Faith, Not by Trying Harder

The gospel was all too quickly set aside in the Assembly. George denigrated the gospel to "mere forgiveness of sins", which was just the beginning of something far greater. We were terrified with the possibility of missing out on special privileges and rewards with Christ. The possibility of rewards and even of eternal loss was our motivation for living a holy life. This proverbial "carrot on a stick" drove us to constant activity: all nights of prayer, gospel outreaches, stewardships in brothers' and sisters' houses, learning to do the right thing through "consequences", hours of sitting and listening to George, and much more.

The following articles show the error of this kind of teaching. The truth is that the gospel isn't about us or what we do; it is all about Jesus Christ and what He did (and continues to do for us). The gospel is the great relational truth that God is our Father and he is working out salvation. Our justification is secure in Christ, our sanctification is being worked out, and we can rest assured that what God promised, he will complete. The pursuit of sanctification -- a tremulous, fitful, on-again/off-again experience for most -- does not cause God to regard us in any way outside of his pronouncement in Christ. It is, instead, the natural fruit of God's legal pardon, being worked out in real flesh and blood by challenging and changing our desires, decisions and beliefs. Christians must believe the gospel for both their justification as well as their continuing growth in sanctification.

Gospel-Driven Sanctification, Jerry Bridges, Navigator staff - This article, posted on the Modern Reformation website, is a clear exposition of sanctification. "As we grow in Christ--as the process of sanctification makes us more like Christ--we will come to see the depth of our own sinfulness. Will this fresh realization of our sin, as Christians, drive us into despair? Will it encourage us to toil even harder to cover our sense of guilt? Or, will it drive us to the gospel, where we will realize once again the enormity of God's love for us? It is the gospel believed everyday that is the only enduring motivation to pursue sanctification, even in times when we don't seem to see much progress."

Free to Be Righteous, Dr. Donald Hagner - "We are set free from the law precisely in order that we might pursue righteousness more effectively."

Read The Galatian Crisis for a Scriptural answer to the teaching that fuller obedience will result in a fuller salvation.

What Is Sanctification?, Lee Irons - "When Paul exhorts us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, he is calling us to be more and more conformed to the image of Christ, to have Christ-like humility and love for others, and to be conformed to Christ's humiliation and exaltation. In other words, sanctification is defined in relation to the character of Christ himself." Lee also has a series of MP3's on this topic on his website.

The Christian Life - Not Performance-Driven

We were given in the Assembly an unhealthy dose of teaching on "the higher life" or the "victorious Christian life". These articles are intended to deliver us from the false dichotomy between the "carnal" and "spiritual" Christian.

Death and Unconfessed Sin, Ken Jones - Answers to the question, "What happens to a Christian who dies with a known, yet unconfessed sin in his life? Does he die in an unforgiven state? If he dies unforgiven, then what is the result?"

FAQ's on Ovecomer Teaching - Tom Maddux, who completed an M.A. at Talbot Seminary, succinctly tackles the problems with this teaching in a series of questions and answers.

Living as Heirs, Lee Irons - Commenting on the warning passage of Ephesians 5:5-8, Lee says, "I do not believe Paul is asserting that any believer who may struggle with these sins, is automatically excluded from heaven. Rather, Paul's solemn warning is directed to those who call themselves Christians but who have given themselves up to such sins without shame, without any acknowledgment of the sinfulness of their actions, and without any sorrow for sin and desire to turn from it."

A New Creation - Michael Horton says, "My purpose is to flesh out just what Christians can and should expect the normal Christian life to be like....In the churches of my youth, Romans 7 was typically said to describe the 'carnal Christian' as opposed to the believer who was living in 'victory'  According to that view, someone could be converted and begin to live the 'victorious Christian life,' but then fall into sin and suffer a setback. As a 'backslider,' such a person would still be 'saved,' but he would be failing to live 'the higher life.' But Paul is not presenting us with such a sequence here."

On Perfectionism - Dave Sable discusses how to get on the right track when striving after holiness.

Walking with God is like navigation - Eric Foy shares a helpful analogy to describe the ebb and flow of life's circumstances and emotional dimension.

All of Life Is Repentance - Excerpt from Rev. Tim Keller's insightful take on repentance and why it may be difficult. He introduces a sentence prayer from George Whitfield to craft a very helpful model of prayerful repentance: "God, give me a deep humility and a burning love, a well-guided zeal and a single eye..."

Is God's Grace Suspended Until We Act? - Excerpts from Studies in Perfectionism by B. B. Warfield make it very clear that God's grace is not inoperative until we secure it by an act of will.

The Will of God - Not Mystical

Is it biblical to think we must try to discover the exact, bulls-eye will of God for our lives in particulars such as where to go to college, what job to take, who to marry? (Of course this was a necessary dogma in the Assembly, for how else could the leadership justify all their meddling in peoples' lives...)

What is God's Will? - We were taught in the Assembly that we could find God's will for a specific situation by getting a promise or verse that "spoke" to our situation. Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton address that practice in this excerpt from Let the Reader Understand: Scripture and Guidance.

Wisdom Along the Way and Paths of Righteousness - Two very balanced articles on guidance by J. I. Packer that are a helpful corrective to the notion that a specific verse from the Bible will stand out and indicate God's will for each decision.

Getting a Promise - Joe Sperling shares humorous anecdote about hoping to find God's will for a wife as a young man in the Assembly. 

General Encouragement

A Conversation in God's Kitchen - Michael Spencer has a simple yet profound and comprehensive approach to understanding the Bible that is a very helpful antidote to the wrongheaded hermeneutic we learned from G. Geftakys.

Magic Books, Grocery Lists and Silent Messiahs: How rightly approaching the Bible shapes the entire Christian Life - Michael Spencer makes you want to start reading the Bible again. He describes the common practice of looking for verses to provide specific guidance as "the magic Book approach," but goes on to give a great nutshell introduction to rightly approaching the Bible.

Hermeneutics - What is it, and why do Bible readers need it? - an instructive and very readable blog post by Dr. Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary. We didn't believe in no fancy Herman-utics in the Assembly, much to our detriment - if you don't know you have one, you don't examine it. But unknown to us, we did have a very well-developed hermeneutic - J. N. Darby's.

Michael Spencer wrote on grace versus legalism: "Our Problem with Grace", and "The Gospel-Believing Christian in the Midst of Legalism."

I Will Restore - An anonymous devotional thought on God's promise to restore us.

Kirk C., formerly of the San Luis Obispo Assembly, wrote The Beach of Glass, an encouraging meditation on Joel 2:25, "I will restore to you the years the cankerworm has eaten."

Tamilla P. wrote A God Unlike the Assembly God about how her view of God had changed after being out of the Assembly for a year.

Philip Yancey gives insight into one way to look at how God interacts with the disasters in our lives. In 'Chess Master', an article he wrote for Christianity Today in May 2000, Yancey is talking about bad decisions we make in life. In our case, as former Assembly members, adults were deceived into joining the group, so the real culpability for the choice was Satan, the great deceiver. Yancey describes how a chess master has the superior knowledge to counter every move by an inferior player. In my view, Satan is the inferior player, throwing adversities and tragedies at us to separate us from God. But God is able to work on our behalf in spite of those things to keep us for Himself.

Learning What We Already Know - Al Hartman says, "I have known the twenty third psalm since I was a small boy. Now I am learning it."

Book Cover Making Sense Out Of Suffering - Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College, and an apologist for the faith in the tradition of C. S. Lewis. He has written a book on the problem of suffering entitled Making Sense Out Of Suffering.  The article is most of Chapter 7.

Preacher of Good Tidings - There are some verses in the Bible that we never get beyond. John 3:16 is one of those verses, expounded by Dr. R. B. Kuiper in The Glorious Body of Christ.

The Progress of the Gospel - Lee Irons takes heart in the way the Apostle Paul reports on the progress of the gospel even in his imprisonment. He says, "Your trials, your difficult situations, are not obstacles to be overcome but divine appointments to be embraced. Do not run away from them. Do not stoically persevere in spite of them. Take your trials, embrace them as God's foreordained purpose and plan, flip them upside down and turn them into the moment you've been waiting for, an opportunity to know Christ better and to make him known to others."

Reminders from the Heart of God - This brief essay on God's heart of love has been adapted from the writings of Jeff VanVonderen.

An excellent book on how spiritually abusive groups misuse the Bible to manipulate their members is Twisted Scriptures: A Path to Freedom from Abusive Churches, by Mary-Alice Chrnalogar.

The Church

We need to re-think what we believe about the Church. Is "organization" unbiblical? Is it wrong for a church to have a trained pastor? What about worship?

Beyond the Style Wars: Recovering the Substance of Worship - by Michael Horton.

Ecclesiology of Ephesians - Lee Irons takes Paul's two-age construct (the "already" and the "not-yet") and applies it to the doctrine of the Church. "The empirical church that we see now, the church with all its warts and foibles and even apostasy in large sections of it, is the church in its pre-consummation form, still waiting for the glory of the not-yet. That is the church as visible. The church from the perspective of her present participation in Christ's death and resurrection, the church as already raised with Christ and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, waiting only the public vindication at the last day - that is the church from the point of view of the already, the church as invisible."

An Organism and an Organization - George took an extreme position in his characterization of the church is an organism and not an organization. Dr. R. B. Kuiper explains how the Bible" speaks unmistakably of the church as both an organism and an organization."

The Universal Office - You've heard of the "priesthood of all believers". But did you know that each and every believer in the church actually holds three offices? Dr. R. B. Kuiper underscores the wonderful truth that, "Every single church member is at once a prophet, a priest and a king."

Special Offices  - When George talked about "man-made appointments" in the ministry he was setting up a straw man. Does it necessarily follow that because a man is trained in a seminary that he becomes a "professional", or that the headship of Christ is denied? Dr. R. B. Kuiper shows that these things do not necessarily follow, because, "The special offices are rooted in the universal office."

Union with Christ

Book CoverThere has been an amazing amount of recent New Testament scholarship. Herman Ridderbos is one of those scholars. He lays out the main lines of Paul's preaching in his book, Paul, An Outline of His Theology, from which we've excerpted sections from Chapter 2, "Fundamental Structures".

This redemptive-historical perspective of Scripture shows that union with Christ is firmly planted in objective history, not in our subjective experiences. It is grounded in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ some 2000 years ago.

Christ as His people's "corporate" head (the "Last Adam") has objectively incorporated us into his death and resurrection.  This union objectively took place in history. We don't need to have a subjective feeling or "experience" of communion with Christ in order to make that union effective in our lives. It is an already-accomplished fact!

Get ready for some scholarly reading that will renew your mind and enlarge your heart. To see the progression of thought, the articles should be read in the order given:

• The Fullness of the Time
• In Christ, With Christ
• Revealed in the Flesh

Thousand Year Reign of the Saints, Dr. William Hendriksen - There are other views on the Millennium (the thousand years of Revelation 20) than what we heard from George. This an interesting, alternative view that the thousand year reign of the saints is not a future glorious era, but is happening right now in heaven.  If what is depicted in Revelation 20:4-6 belongs to the present and not the future, then perhaps we can breathe a sigh of relief that George's view (that we could "miss out" on co-reigning with Christ) is just one of many "theories", as Dwight Pentecost puts it in his book Things to Come.

Biblical Church Leadership

Abuse of authority is an integral part of spiritual abuse. Elders and "Leading Brothers" in the Assembly went far beyond the Scriptural limits of Church leadership.

Authority and Leadership - Danny Dixon, a former member and campus worker of the cultic International Church of Christ, examines the concept of church leadership from the original Greek texts, concluding that whenever leaders bind their opinions beyond the confines of the Scriptures they have assumed a role of authority that God has not given them.

Checks on Power and Authority - Harold Bussell describes the checks on power and authority found in the relationship between Christ and the apostles as well as the apostles with believers.

The Inner Ring - C. S. Lewis observed that the longing to be a part of the "inner circle" is one of the "great permanent mainsprings of human action". He warned that unless we take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of our lives.

A Pastor's Authority - Pastor Ray C. Stedman preached on the scriptural limits of pastoral authority. He expounded the Greek in Heb 13:17 and concluded, "...the clear thrust is that leaders are persuaders whose ability to persuade arises not from a smooth tongue or a dominant personality, but from a personal walk which evokes respect."

Christian Marriage

Subjugation of women is a very common element in spiritual abuse. In the Assembly, the teaching that husbands were to "train" their wives did untold damage. What is the Biblical role of husbands?

Book Cover A Real Marriage - This is Chapter 7 from Families Where Grace Is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen. The first half of the excerpt is about Eph.5:18-21, a great exposition of being filled with the Spirit, which applies to everyone, not just to marriage. "Paul is actually presenting a major concept that empowers all believers to live the Christian life."

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