I was a committed member of the Geftakys group in California during the 80s. I came from an unsaved family. Although there was a child like faith in my mother, my father introduced me to sex, drugs, and rock music at a very early stage in my life. To tell the truth, I could roll a good joint at age five.
I had just enrolled in college and was on the football team. My Father moved away with his teenage girlfriend after being fired from a job due to drug use. I was on my own and away from family. And one personality trait I've always had, is that whatever I'm involved with, I give it my all. At that time it was Football. I lived, breathed, and slept football.
I eventually became involved with the Geftakys group through one of their college bible studies. I sincerely wanted to grow in my knowledge of both God and the Bible. Over the next several months my life changed. Instead of lifting weights and going to practice five to seven days a week, I was going to church meetings every day.
In a Geftakys bible study you are assigned a "discipler." This discipler will meet with you once a week and their whole goal is to train you on how to be a better Christian. The brother I was assigned to was a sincerely nice man. He did help me with some of my sin and gave me some good bible teaching. But all in all he also began to put pressure on me about my commitment to the group. Specifically, I remember one particular meeting when we went over my schedule. The group had all its members make a schedule. This is a clever way to help the "younger" brother or sister plan their spirituality and commitment. That is, commitment to the group. I had made out my schedule and on that schedule were classes, football practice and five days a week of weight lifting. My discipler started out with the weight lifting then moved on to football practice. He didn't say outright that it was sinful to be involved with football, but after several meetings with him and other leading brothers I found myself going to the coach and quitting.
I became more committed to the group than I had ever been to anything else. You couldn't keep me from a meeting. Being a strong young man I saw it all as an enormous physical and spiritual challenge. I was witnessing to large crowds, involved with leading groups of fraternity members to Christ; I even remember having one gentleman kneel in the middle of a busy exercise gym and pray with me to receive the Lord. But all this "fruit" still wasn't good enough. I remember sitting in a prayer meeting at the home of David Geftakys. I had several leads regarding individuals that I had led to the Lord through that week's outreach. But when I did not have follow up information I remember David correcting me and then going into a sermon about how can we be "makers of disciples" if we don't follow up? I explained that I had given them all a bible study invitation and my phone number, but he was still upset. He wanted me to get contact information so I could pursue them.
It was clear to the leading brothers that I had commitment and boldness, but I lacked guidance and so I was encouraged to move into a brother's home. I moved in with a brother and his wife and again he was one of the nicest and most lovable guys you could meet. Not having come from a good family the group became a true family to me. I really did see David and Judy Geftakys as my Father and Mother in the Lord. My house brother and his wife were like a big brother and sister. And other brothers in the home were like good friends and true brothers too.
I believe that a lot of the people in this group are genuinely deceived. Many of them, like I was, are truly saved and sincere about their commitment to God. The group is 80 % theologically sound, but sociologically cultic. In other words, their Statement of Faith would be right, but their social dynamic is like a classic cult in nature.
Examples of their cultic mentality:
Unlike so many other past members, I did not leave willingly. If it was up to me, I might still be a member.
After two years of commitment I was starting to feel some of the consequences of the group. Because of my "witnessing" to my family, all my funds were cut off. By quitting football, I lost my scholarships. I had to quit school and get a job. To the leaders this was a great opportunity for me to grow in the Lord. But to me this meant that after paying for rent, food for the house and my tithe to the group, I could barely afford a small cup of frozen yogurt once a pay period. I had to ride to work on my bike every day. But again, at the time I took it all as a challenge. I didn't complain and I didn't question. Even when my work relocated and I had to ride five miles one way to get there. I also rode my bike on campus during my lunch break so that I could be involved with campus outreaches.
Well it doesn't take a professor of psychology or an expert on human endurance to know where this was leading. I suffered a nervous breakdown. David Geftakys phoned my mother. Even when my mom came to pick me up and take me home I wanted to talk to Brother David to make sure it was OK for me to leave. I loved this group more than my own family. They were the only part of God I knew up to that point in my life. While in the group I had heard rumors of other young men and women suffering similar breakdowns and leaving the group. But it was usually assumed that they had some secret sin in their lives and thus God was punishing them or something.
The truth is, I was one of the most devout followers of the Geftakys Assembly. I had given up pornography, drugs, alcohol and sex. I had left my family and ended a promising career in college sports. I would have done anything they asked. But was this what God really wanted or what they wanted?
Since leaving the group God has taught me to be His Son and heir to His throne. I need no man or group to tell me what God's will is for me. I remain a dedicated Christian and volunteer as a youth pastor. I have been married to a beautiful and godly woman for ten years and work as a Campus Police Officer at an Ivy League University. I am involved with college students every day. And some of those students have gone through what I went through.
I believe God used my experience with the Geftakys group to help me get out of the sinful life. But do I think the group is healthy? No. I often pray for my old friends and other members of Geftakys group. I pray that one-day they too can know the fullness, freedom and joy that is in Christ our Lord.