In 1970 (before the Assembly began) there was a weekend seminar in George and Betty Geftakys’ home. Some people hung around afterward to talk–his teenage son, Tim, and his friends, several women in their sixties who had been part of a similar ministry in the past, several young couples who were experimenting on Saturday nights with their ideas of what the church really ought to look like. George proposed, with enthusiasm (as he did everything), “What we need is a prayer meeting! You people here are the backbone of this ministry. We need to meet every two weeks on Saturday to pray all day for this ministry! The Lord wants to do great things, and there is great opposition. What do you say, friends! Is that too much to ask for the Lord?” Thus was born the Workers Prayer Meeting.
Now, wherever he went he could say, “This ministry is bathed in prayer. I have a whole group of people praying for me all day twice a month.” That tended to set polite skeptics back on their heels a bit. After all, the guy was apparently not a lone wolf, he had serious people behind him.
On another occasion George said, “I remember the days when Billy Sunday preached in tent meetings. Those were wonderful days, friends, wonderful! God came down on that tent, glory filled it. It’s a shame there are no more tent meetings. God used them in a mighty way. I’m all for raising up a new tent campaign for the Lord, what do you say, friends! Wouldn’t that be glorious, a tent right here on Harbor Boulevard!”
And so the yearly Fullerton and Huntington Beach tent campaigns were born. Never mind that they were an anachronism, they never drew crowds of people, they sucked huge amounts of time and energy from many people to put them on. That didn’t matter, because George was able to say, “In this ministry, we don’t care about the latest fad in the churches. We do things the old fashioned way. We just preach the gospel, like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.”
“…So George could say”….How much of what we did was really for this purpose, so George Geftakys could give an impression – “This is my ministry, this is who I am.” All nights of prayer, summer schools on university campuses, even the seminars…In addition to being tools for mind control, they were stage setting and props and cast to support the illusion of George and Betty Geftakys’ drama.
7 thoughts on “So George could say…”
How could George Legend-in-His-Own-Mind Geftakys remember the tent meetings of Billy Sunday when he was 7 when Sunday died? Additionally, it appeared that he had stopped using tents after his was destroyed by a storm in 1906 or so. Nevertheless the tent campaigns were in and of themselves not-so-bad experiences. My sojourn in the group was barely over a year (and three or so on the Cal State Long Beach campus), so I got away relatively unscathed.
Brett, thank you for your comment and the reminder about the Fenelon chapter. It is a wonder how so many could have read that and discussed it at dinner table devotions in training homes, and not have seen the obvious application. We read through Christian Perfection several times at the “House of Peace” and yet it never dawned on any of us – which shows how deep the mind control was. You retained your critical thinking.
You go on to express your current beliefs, which are not Christian but derive from eastern religions. It is completely understandable that you would have withdrawn from what you experienced in the Assembly. But the Christianity of the Assembly was a serious distortion of the truth. God is not the perfectionist tyrant he was made out to be. His chief characteristics are goodness, love, justice, truth and mercy – very unlike most of his “servants” in the Assembly.
Brett, you need to consider that your philosophy does not take into account the guilt that constantly arises from failing to live by your own principles – without a Redeemer there is no hope. May Jesus draw you back to himself.
I am very greatful for my experience with the Assembly but wish I had left sooner because I outgrew what it had to offer after a few years. When i did leave, it took a lot of courage, in 1997, and I believe divine intervention. One of the good things I got out of George was an introduction to Fenelon. I would read Fenelon and listen to George and others teach on the exchanged life and being selfless servants and then watch in awe as they did exactly the opposite of what they preached in the way they lived and managed the church. I followed their examples but I had serious silent objections (not always so silent) to the hypocracy. Like the the author of this “So George could say…”, I came to realize that praying, preaching and Bible study could be ego building tools rather than ego diminishing tools.
Fenelon had one letter that really openned my eyes. He talks about how before we are “saved” our egos seek self glorification via power, money, prestige, etc. (in modern terms, in my case, sex, drugs and rock and roll). Then he says after we are “saved” our egos can trick us to pursue the same goal of self glorification via preaching, praying, Bible study, etc. Thus, much of what was taught was good but it was ruined by how it was translated into actions which were stark contradictions to logic based on what was preached. At one point, I realized that people were not committed to truth in the Church, especially George and his henchmen. Their egos were so in charge and had corrupted things holy into the work tools of the “Devil”, preaching, teaching, praying, etc.
This sounds very black and white, which is how we learned to think in the church, the truth is none are all black or all white including George and co. The true enemy is the small self in each of us which keeps us stuck in a belief that we are separate from God. In reality all things and people are one with God, even if they are rebelling against God. God is everywhere at all times, none can be separate from God, but they can resist doing God’s will because God allows us free will.
The ego is the key. If we get rid of self will, we get rid of ego. If we get rid of ego, we get rid of selfwill. The ego ain’t an amigo. Ego stands for Edging God Out! However, the ego is a mighty opponent. The ego plays tricks on us, we can feed the ego by teaching others how to live free from ego. This is George and co. It is also me and co. to a less degree perhaps, but the fact is the ego is the same in essence in all as God is the same in essence in all. The ego is the mud on the mirror of the soul. The key is living it, not my will but thy will be done, not preaching it and manipulating people to do your will in the name of God’s will.
Ok, one last thought, this issue is not just a George and Co. problem but universal. Since leaving the church I have studied all the major world religions and see the same pattern of abuse in every religion, also I have seen true spirituality in all religions when anyone from the heart desires to do God’s will, God responds to that person even if they do not believe in Jesus. Not my will be done but thy will be done is the key to salvation, belief in Jesus or whatever does not benifit unless it results in this transformation of the will from self driven to God driven.
As John the Baptist said, He must increase and I must decrease, not my will but God’s will be done. God reveal your will to me and grant me the grace to do it, not talk or pray or teach, but to do as You instruct me to do day by day, moment by moment free from the bondage to the small self, the false self, my ego. Also, Jesus is God, but God has such strong self esteam that he does not care if you understand him correctly. In fact no one does understand him correctly because he is beyond all words and comprehension of the mind. Although we can never understand God truely intellectually, we can know him via love for him and from him, the language of the heart.
There is nothing quite so unifying to an abusive church as a sense of elitism, the feeling that we alone are the special, dedicated ones. Abusive leaders foster that attitude in many ways.
I really enjoyed your post about the things that George had us do “so he could say…”. It is amazing how many accolades could go along in his resume – preacher, teacher, college lecturer, apostle, missionary, counselor, mystic, theologian, etc. And he impacted the campuses, the community, the world.
I do remember one tent meeting that just happened to be scheduled the same time as the Harvest Crusade at Anaheim stadium. The contrast was, well, telling. Nevertheless you are right. Did effectiveness matter, or was it simply “so George could say…”?
The toxic pastor of the church I was in had the same ideas-
She would call ‘prayer meetings’ where only the ‘heart of the church’ where invited. These were member who were unquestioningly loyal to her. These meetings were full of gossip about those not invited.
And she always said she was going to hold a tent revival like Billy Sunday.
Aaah!!! Flashback, flashback!
Oh, well. George will probably one day be able to say that gasoline has a better chance of surviving Gehenna unburnt than he does. But he does seem to serve a useful purpose as a warning not to associate with people of a certain type.