I was a member of the "Assembly" for a little more than a decade. Leaving that group was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I believe that the majority of Assembly members are very sincere about trying to please God. And about 95% of their teaching is sound Christian doctrine.
So why did I leave? I left because of their "treadmill" lifestyle. Any person of normal intelligence understands that life is full of suffering. But these people create suffering through their demanding schedule of events, which they then justify by calling it "suffering for Jesus." As a result several individuals have had mental and emotional breakdowns, and a lot of members seem to develop stress-related physical infirmities.
If someone misses meetings or events, another member will try to find out why he or she was not there. There is a real issue about control in the "Assembly."
I can see now that members are often motivated by fear, shame and guilt. I did not want my family to live in such an environment.
Leaders in the Assembly are often referred to as "shepherds," which is an analogy or term from the bible. However, what "good shepherd" would run his flock to the point of exhaustion? This should never happen! But that is what is happening in the Assembly. Many people wear a fake smile and pretend to be happy.
Furthermore, many children in the Assembly appear very resentful. You can see it on their faces when families show up for the scheduled activities. Many of the Assembly teenagers have struggles coping within the real world. They become so used to constantly being told what to do and what kind of person they should be it is difficult for them to think independently. I could not let my children grow up in that environment.
I worked so hard in that place, giving up my money and most of my time, but it was never good enough. Someone always criticized or demanded more. It felt like a treadmill that was ever increasing in speed and slope. Instead of seeing people's lives improve, they were often bruised and depressed. I once thought though that I should stick around and help those that were hurting. But even effort created more and more criticism. In one instance, I spent time with a discouraged brother at Sunday lunchtime to encourage him. But these actions were somehow wrong because we were supposed to go out witnessing in the community at that time. I asked my critics to show me in the bible where Christians must do Sunday outreach. They couldn't cite a scripture though because it's not in the bible. It was just some rule they made up and tried to enforce by shaming people.
My question is what would Jesus have me do? I believe that Jesus would reach out to a discouraged brother. This is just one example. Why did the Assembly take such strong stands on issues not commanded in scripture? The only answer seems to be they simply want people to do it. And it does not matter what God might want. Why even question what God wants? All Assembly members need to do is follow their rules.
I thought about all this and prayed so hard about what to do. Members of the Assembly say that you are "out of God's will" if you leave and that there is no scriptural basis for leaving. Again, they use shame and guilt to hold you in. Jesus loved everyone, including the Pharisees, but he did not hang out with Pharisees and neither will I.
After I left, I struggled with my feelings of guilt and anxiety. I believe this was due to the spiritual abuse, which I suffered. But God is healing my life and I am thankful. I feel sorry for the many well-meaning people in the Assembly. They are often so miserable, and instead of seeing the unnecessary demands placed upon them as the problem, they have learned to blame themselves. Like the old analogy of a carrot on a stick, they think it's only a little further and somehow they will eventually be happy.
My advice to any Assembly member is first to understand that everyone is free in Christ and to seriously consider how a "good shepherd" treats and interacts with his flock. If Assembly members feel mistreated, they should find another place to fellowship with a good shepherd. These places do exist. My family found just such a place! Also, God is bigger than any assembly, and He will not forsake you if you leave. You can counsel with Godly Christians outside of the "Assembly" if you are considering leaving. If you counsel with those in the "Assembly," they will likely only answer that you should stay. Finally, be prepared for an intense mental, emotional, and spiritual battle if you decide to leave. Remember how you have been taught that there is danger outside of "God's will." But you can have trust in God and God alone, without the Assembly.
Now I realize after leaving how the lines, which should have clearly separated God from any human group, can become so easily blurred within groups like the Assembly. Once I actually had no concept of God apart from the Assembly. I had to relearn this principle.
Always remember the tender character of Jesus in Matthew 12:20...."A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He leads justice to victory" (NIV). The Lord loves and accepts those "bruised reeds"! You can get off the treadmill and find rest for your soul.