Former Leading Brother Sounds a Warning
My name is Jon LeG. I was in the assembly in Omaha for about 22 years, and was a leading brother for much of that time.
I was somewhat reluctant to write this initially, but as it says in Ezekiel, the time has come to blow the trumpet of warning, lest the blood of others be on my head. I entreat all who hear to take heed, and no longer continue in the ways of silence, discrediting others, and damage control that enabled George Geftakys to continue in deception and abuse unchallenged for decades. I firmly believe that if not for the courage and conviction of those who came forward in this way to expose George Geftakys's unfruitful deeds of darkness, that it would have been "business as usual" in the assemblies. George would still be viewed as God's Servant.
Recently, my wife Amy and I have been contacted by several saints from the Omaha assembly, and they were much more interested in the details of why we left nearly 4 years ago than they ever were before. I see this as a healthy and hopeful change. Many have expressed a desire to make right any wrongs and have said that they believed that the leadership should talk to us after hearing my story. However, I have only heard back indications that the leading brothers do not feel they have done anything wrong. "No one comes to mind" that they may have offended. This concerns me because it is indicative that the legacy that George Geftakys began is still intact and functioning well. If the brothers are not aware of any problems, perhaps this letter will help them see. If they already know what I'm saying and they are more interested in doing damage control and avoiding the truth, then I pray God will have mercy on them and all who are affected by them by putting an end to this game and bring true repentance.
I want to say that I have learned many good things through the assembly, and I still consider many there dear friends. God saved me and discipled me there. It was there I met my wife and was married to her by Mike Zach. But for a long time before I left I was in conflict about many views we held and ways we treated others. I began to see our ways of dealing with God's people as abusive and manipulative. I read books about grace and spiritual abuse, and even suggested going through one of them together with the leading brothers, but we never did. Mike Zach seemed threatened by my voicing my concerns. He indicated he was worried about me.
In time I began to have panic attacks which we thought was due to my schedule, but I believe it had more to due with inner turmoil over being asked to participate in things that I could no longer agree with. For instance, I was told to tell a brother he was not allowed to sing harmony in the meetings even though I and many others did. The elder that sent me to talk with him said, "We don't sing harmony here". He said even though I didn't share his conviction about it, I needed to do this because he is an elder. I also was reprimanded for telling a brother he could miss outreach in order to study for a board exam he needed to take the next day. I sat by and listened as a single mom was literally screamed at because her children were just sitting in the meetings and not taking notes.
I could give many more examples of abusive behavior, but my point is, it bothered me to see this going on, and if I try to address it I become the problem. I was also concerned with how much our decisions were affected by what George would think. We bought some chairs with padding to replace our hard metal ones. When George found out we spent the money on these "worldly" chairs instead of sending it to the work, he was angry. So Mike Zach told us we needed to get rid of the chairs before George came back to Omaha. Another Leading Brother and I disagreed, because we could not recover enough money to buy new chairs again, which would be bad stewardship at this point. When George saw that we still had the chairs, he was so angry that he rebuked the leadership for worldliness in his preaching. The real issue was, like Judas, he "held the bag, and was a thief."
After that, Mike Zach and Mark Sjogren insisted we comply with "Brother George," and dump the chairs. I told Mike once that because, as a full time worker, his livelihood was dependant on what George thought of him, I was concerned that he would do whatever George said, even if it was morally wrong. Mike just looked at me, and said nothing. Soon after this conversation, Jim Hayman came to visit. Jim shared ministry that Sunday, and we were told he wanted to have a leading brothers meeting with us. In the meeting, Jim said he wanted to go around the room and ask how each of us thought things were going in the assembly and particularly in the brothers meeting. He began with me, and the conversation stayed there all evening. As I shared some of my concerns, I brought up how I wanted to miss the Sunday afternoon meeting on Easter to go to my Mom's because that is when my family celebrates Amy's birthday, and we usually get there so late that everyone else is ready to leave. Jim said that would be a bad example if I missed the meeting for that reason. After some discussion I was given an ultimatum: "Quit making waves about how we do things, etc., and don't miss the meeting to go to your Mom's - Or you can't be a leading brother anymore!"
I asked, "If I step down from leadership, and still go to my Mom's on Easter, won't you still consider that a bad example?"
They replied "Yes, but we will make it clear to the saints that you ARE a bad example, and you will no longer be held up as a good example." They gave me until Saturday to decide. The next day, Jim was still in town, and he called me. He said he really enjoyed talking with me, said a lot of things about what a neat guy I was and how he really liked me. But his next words were, "But the problem is, Jon, is you have a heart of darkness and you speak the words of Satan." I told him I thought it was really odd that he would say how great I was and how evil I was in the same statement. He said "Yeah, but its true." I said, "Does Mike Zach agree with what you are saying?" He said "Mike is right here with me listening." Amy was also in the room with me and knew what was being said.
During the week as my family and I prayed, God spoke to me to "not walk in the way of this people any longer." Also during the week, and before I announced my decision on Saturday, I took opportunity to ask the brothers if they agreed with Jim's comment about my heart and words being dark. I thought their answer might confirm if they were just yes men or were they acting on their own convictions before God.
Mark Sjogren's response was to not answer my question. Mike Zach suggested I might have misheard Jim, but neither he,, or the others, would confirm or deny if they believed that I, "Spoke the words of Satan." They were stuck with either having to support Jim's statement or to say he was wrong. As a former member and leading brother, I know how hard it is to say that one of "God's Servants" is wrong. Yet Paul did to Peter in Galatians.
Next, I carefully wrote a letter to say goodbye to the saints. I tried to not say anything that would make the brothers look bad, mainly that I loved them and would pray God would use them to do great things. I brought it to Mike Zach and asked him to read it while I was there. I asked him to let me know if he needed to edit it or if he chose not to read it. He said he would have the brothers read it and let me know. On Thursday night, my family and I prayed at home as we knew the saints would be hearing that we had decided to leave the assembly. The next day people were calling us, confused and upset, wanting to know why we left without saying goodbye. These brothers never did read my letter to the saints, and they did not ever get back to me like I asked Mike to.
Please hear my heart on this. I do not write this so the brothers will give me an apology. I am not looking to rub the brothers faces in George's sin either. My burden is that all the abuse, manipulation, superior attitudes, arrogance, lying, pretending, and cover-ups would stop now. I don't want to see another generation perpetuate the wrongs that George and others who stood beside him lived and taught.
Some of these ways are so ingrained in us by now that it is hard for us to even recognize them. Simply recognizing these ingrained errors, and then "moving on, forgetting the past," is pure folly. That's why I think the six week challenge is a great idea. I hope all who read this will be edified, and encouraged that God is sovereign, and much greater than the problem. I also appeal to Mike Zach and any others to not discredit or vilify this letter, but to truly repent.