Unreasonable rules and unreachable standards are imposed upon the members. The critical, shaming essence of the cult environment is gradually internalized by the members, which builds lots of guilt and shame, further magnifying their dependence on the group. Individuals easily feel inadequate, but are more willing to submit to this because the milieu control limits critical questioning, and the mystical manipulation validates the group’s rules.
It was absolutely important that you did everything excellently, or at least with a good attitude, if you wanted to be an ‘overcomer’. An ‘overcomer’ would have the unique privilege of missing out on the terrible lake of fire and judgments that would come on all those (even sincere Christians) who didn’t have special overcoming faith.
If you didn’t live up to these unrealistic and often impossible Assembly expectations, you were quietly shunned as a person or as a family in this group.
If you were truly trusting Christ, then your life would reflect his perfection. They taught that things were not right with your relationship with Christ if there was any area in your life where God’s standard of excellence wasn’t apparent. The standard of excellence was whatever the leaders, i.e. George Geftakys and Mike Zach, believed it should be.
All your attitudes and actions came under scrutiny, first by your authorities and eventually by yourself. We were taught intense introspection and intense dislike of ourselves. We and our children were even taught to memorize negative affirmations as the only way to find victory over besetting sins.
Whole Children’s Hour lessons were devoted to memorizing the “Selfer’s Prayer“. This was when Stage 3 of mind control took a very strong hold of our lives.
In Omaha, the main leader, Mike Zach, put intense psychological pressure on members to align themselves with Assembly protocol. He preached about the different so-called sins or struggles of the members, with an emphasis that if they had only done things the Assembly way or followed his counsel their lives would be different.
An example was a family who wanted to go visit family out of town for the weekend and miss Sunday worship. Mike Zach and Mark Sjogren encouraged them that they could do whatever they wanted, but that they were cheating God to miss worship at the meeting place “where we worship in spirit and in truth.”
The family tried to tell them they felt badly about missing worship, but thought they needed to visit their family. They were told to stop worrying about family. It was insinuated that they were emotionally unstable.
The family got back from their visit, they were When this famithe object of a sermon: “The Israelites didn’t just worship God in any old place. They went to a certain place and always worshiped there.” People were told that this family was not following the counsel of the leaders and was setting a bad example.
These kinds of breakdowns and power plays were endless and went on in a variety of different situations with everyone in the Assembly in one way or another.