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Author Topic: Similarities to the "local churches" (Witness Lee)  (Read 17525 times)
anonXian
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« on: January 02, 2008, 07:41:45 pm »

I've been reading this forum for awhile, and it has been very helpful to me. I used to meet with the "local churches," which are centered on the ministries of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. I now meet with a different Christian group for a variety of reasons.

I'd like to ask the following questions:

1) What specific similarities do former Assembly members see between the Assembly and the local churches?
2) What did George Geftakys and other leaders teach about Witness Lee and the local churches, if anything, since they were also located in Southern California?
3) What interactions did Assembly members and local church members have? Were there any cross-over members? Were there any direct conflicts?

Thanks very much.
anonXian
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Oscar
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2008, 03:05:41 am »

I've been reading this forum for awhile, and it has been very helpful to me. I used to meet with the "local churches," which are centered on the ministries of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. I now meet with a different Christian group for a variety of reasons.

I'd like to ask the following questions:

1) What specific similarities do former Assembly members see between the Assembly and the local churches?
2) What did George Geftakys and other leaders teach about Witness Lee and the local churches, if anything, since they were also located in Southern California?
3) What interactions did Assembly members and local church members have? Were there any cross-over members? Were there any direct conflicts?

Thanks very much.
anonXian

Anon,

Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, and George Geftakys all had a background in the Plymouth Brethren movement.  I believe that the Brethren that influenced Nee and Lee were exclusives.  GG spent many years as a member of the Open Brethren. 

This accounts for the high degree of similarity between the two movements.  They shared a common view of Biblical interpretation, church polity, and mystical ideas such as having "the Lord's Servant" as their leader and the idea of a protective "annointing".  GG de-emphasized the doctrine of "taking the church ground".  He placed the emphasis on having the Lord's presence "in the midst" because of the purity and order of the assembly.

GG's way of dealing with the Nee/Lee movemnt was to point out that they had fallen into the old heresy of Modalism, as seen in Lee's teaching of out being "mingled" with God.  Because the two groups were making essentially the same claim, to represent the pure expression of the Church in our times, there was a high degree of hostility towards the Local Church.

Since both groups emphasized campus evangelism, they frequently ran into each other.  Local Church folks were not allowed to attend Assembly bible studies.  If they came to public events they were asked to leave. 

Back in the late 70's or early 80's George attempted to "sic" Walter Martin's anticult ministry on the local church. He wanted them to be labled as heretical.   Martin sent John and Gretchen Passantino out to talk to Timothy Geftakys.  Years later John told me that the more he talked to Tim the more he saw the Assembly itself as a problem group.  They ended up labling the Assembly as an "abberant" church.  By this meant that we were not heretical, but had some serious problems.

Blessings,

Tom Maddux

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anonXian
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2008, 06:59:29 pm »

Thank you for your response, Tom.

Do you mind if I ask, do you agree that Lee's teachings are modalistic? This is something I have been struggling with. As you might know, he emphasized that the Father, Son, and Spirit were "distinct, but not separate." But he also emphasized the "economical aspect" of the Trinity, for example that the Son was the Father and Christ became the Spirit (using Isaiah 9:6, and 1 Cor. 15:45). Towards the end of his ministry Lee taught that we were "becoming God, in life and nature, but not in the Godhead." In essence he adopted the Greek Orthodox teaching of deification.
I'm not a theologian so I can't say whether this is heretical or not. In my experience I can say that eventually Lee's teachings were not helpful to me in following the Lord Jesus, because the Lord became depersonalized.
Probably the hardest thing for me is getting away from the "inner life" teachings. It's hard to know what aspects of those teachings are true and what are unhealthy. There is such a thing as the subjective experience of Christ, but seeking after this can also lead to morbid subjectivity and introspection. It's only after leaving the local churches and meeting with a new Christian group that I feel like I'm no longer under condemnation, and can rest in what the Lord has accomplished.
Thanks again for your fellowship.
- anonXian
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Oscar
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2008, 10:32:37 am »

Anon,

I have not given much thought to Witness Lee's theology for many years, so my opinions are based on memories of conversations I had and things I read a couple of decades ago.  When I discussed this with middle-aged campus leaders from the Local Church back in the 1970's what they advocated was definitely modalism.  They used the same verses you have referenced.

To me, the use Lee made of those verses showed just how unclear he was in his thinking.  Isaiah 9 calls the Messiah a child, a son, a prince, a counsellor, and a father.  Adam is the spiritual father of unregenerate mankind.  Christ, the second Adam, is the spiritual father of regenerate mankind.  All the saved received their everlasting life from him.  For Lee to use this verse to reach the conclusion that the Son is the Father as to his personhood is a case of a theological error known as 'illegitimate totality transfer".  It means that one has assigned one definition to a word when both the context and clear theological principles indicate that a different definition should be assigned.

Regarding the "Higher Life" teachings, I also struggled with those for years.  One of the first clues I saw that the teaching was bogus was that I never met a single person who exemplified the state of spirituality that the teaching claims to produce.  I have also read that many of the advocates of these teachings fell into sins that sure look a lot like "Lower Life" sins that the rest of us fall into.

One thing I know for sure.  George Geftakys, Watchman Nee, and Witness Lee all fell into some pretty serious sin.  As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The Higher Life teaching denigrates the intellect and leads to a morbid subjectivism in those who really take it seriously.  One is taught that they cannot trust their mind, but have to discern the inner motions of the Spirit within them.  (And the Bible says that exactly where?)

A really good book about the spritual life that is based on a much clearer exposition of scripture is "Being Human" by Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrs, (Francis Schaeffer's sons-in-law).  They point out that we are created in the image of God, and that the highest aspect of that image is that we, as is God, are rational beings.  They also point out that the Higher Life teaching comes from a Platonic view of man, not a Biblical one.

Here are couple of links to articles that deal with the area of subjective guidance.  I think they are by a Reformed fellow.  Reformed authors have a tendency to be very strident in their views and are pretty hard on those who they criticize.  Nevertheless I think the fellow is on the right track at least.

http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/articles/print_articles.asp?ID=115

http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/articles/read_articles.asp?id=116

Hope this helps some.

Blessings,

Tom Maddux

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Mark C.
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2008, 12:51:53 am »

Hi Dave K. !

  You probably don't remember me, (Mark Campbell from the Valley) but I remember you from the early Fullerton Assm. days.

   My recollections of you were formed by a campaign to discredit you by Assm. management and I apologize to you for my blindly accepting the smear campaign that was directed at you---- please forgive me for this.

   As to Witness Lee:  I often ran into members of this group at school, and at work (I worked with one of these guys at one job and also had an association via another job where they were contractors).  They didn't want to talk about theology (such as their views of the Trinity) as that was disparaged as being, "in the mind."  I recall Tom Mad's response to this:  "are you out of yours?" Grin

  I recall having to drop off some things at the work place of the contractors I mentioned above one day when about ten of them circled me and began to chant, "O' Lord Jesus", trying to get me to say that phrase so that a vacuum would be created in my heart that the Spirit could fill  Huh.  I found out later that they based this teaching on the Rom. 10 verse re. "who confesses Jesus as Lord" will be saved.

  This kind of thing seems to be heavily influenced by Eastern religious thinking, as does the other less wacko "inner life" kind of stuff that the Assm. was also into.  As Tom points out, the fruit of these kind of teachings prove how close to God's will they really are--- elitist, hypocritical, inhumane, arrogant, and unreasonable!

  Tom mentions that the ability to reason is what most closely demonstrates our being made in God's image, and I would agree with this.  However, that intellectual ability must also be coupled with a moral sensitivity or our religion will lack God's heart. 

  Both of these groups, Witness Lee and the Assm., were out of sync with God not only because they had confused thinking, but because the groups were able to get members to ignore their own consciences.   This led to the kind of abuses where members (like you) could get drummed out because of the false accusations they raised against them!

  It was good that you had some previous Christian training and experience, but think of the many who now wander the Earth thinking they "tried that Christian thing" and as a result now have no enjoyment of God.  There are those who can't step inside a church anymore as they fear what might happen to them! Cry   

  To me a cult is a cult (primarily) when it is more concerned with advancing the selfish interests of the leader/leaders, and the goals of the group, vs. building the faith of the individual member.  Cults attempt to destroy any vestige of individual expression while true God inspired ministry seeks to "buildup" the individual believer in their faith.  This is a danger any Christian group can get into and the reason Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. constantly reminded us of this error.

  This cultish attempt to violate personal boundaries can be performed while seeming to be very orthodox in ones teaching of the bible.  All of the "cultishness" happens via subtle alternations and misuse of scripture--- as in: "brother, are you standing in unity with us or are you going to give place to the devil?"

  However, those that courageously challenge those who misuse authority in the church are the true servants of Jesus Christ; in a cult these will be forced out!

                         Good to hear from you.  God bless,  Mark C.   
 
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outdeep
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2008, 08:05:40 am »

A really good book about the spritual life that is based on a much clearer exposition of scripture is "Being Human" by Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrs, (Francis Schaeffer's sons-in-law).
Minor correction:  Jerram Barrs was involved with L'Abri from the early days and actually began and ran the England branch.  He married Francis Schaffer's secretary but was not related to Dr. Schaffer himself.  He is currently at the Francis Schaffer institute at Covenant seminary and has some good online courses:
http://www.covenantseminary.edu
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outdeep
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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2008, 09:53:47 pm »

Years ago (around 1991) a few of us met with the Passentinos formerly of Christian Research Institute.  I remember Gretchen saying something insightful:

She said essentially that if you went into the Local Church, you would come out with a weird idea of how to get saved as well as how to grow in the Lord.  If you came into the Assembly, you would probably have a decent idea of how to get saved but you would have weird ideas of how to grow in the Lord.

This does ring true to me.  While there certainly were much similarities in the teaching about the nature of the church, who we were before God, how our worship is better, how to incorporate spiritual truth in our lives, the warfare "us vs. them" mentality,  I always (and to this day) felt the Local Church was weirder.  They always looked geeky because Witness Lee felt anything other than outdated black shoes and collar shirt was worldly.  Whenever I talked with them, they always seemed awkward, strained, forced and nervous.  Until the early 1980's, they were much more militant in that they would go to someone else’s outreach (including ours) and take over.  I witnessed them busting into one of our campus concerts and passing out their literature.

Some time in the 1990's I stopped in the Living Springs bookstore on Ball Road in Anaheim.  I picked up a children's song book that said basically, "God is processed this I know for the Bible tells me so."

I guess we missed the fact that they were doing and believed many of the things that they were because some of the differences were so pronounced.

Side note:  one of their biggest hits was around 1978 when their #2 man (I think Max Rappaport) defected from Lee and became very critical.  OK, another similarity.
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anonXian
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« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2008, 07:54:26 pm »

Thank you, Mark, Dave, and Tom, for your comments.

(Mark, I couldn't tell in your response if you were referring to me as "Dave K." You started off that way and then kept saying "you", i.e. "it's a good thing you had Christian training." I'm not Dave K., and I wasn't involved in the Assembly.)

Let me ask you all (and anyone else who reads this), how do you "get over it" after being in a group like this? The difficulty I have is that the local churches contain a lot of truth and healthy things mixed in with the weird things. Now that I'm out, I've visited other Christian groups, and they're okay, but in many ways they're lacking. I finally decided on one, but I still miss what I once experienced in the local churches. Do you see the problem? I can't go back to the local churches because I was there long enough to see some things that were wrong. But I can't feel at home in "Christianity" because I learned a lot of things that make it seem kind of shallow. I meet with a Christian group now because I know it's not good to be alone, and something's better than nothing. But once you've been part of "God's purpose" and left it's not easy to move on.

I realize I'm asking a lot. If it's too much you could just direct me to other places where you've written about these things on the forum here. I'd like to hear your stories about how you moved on with your Christian lives. Do you meet with other Christian groups now? How did you decide where to meet? And how did you replace the teachings you learned (especially the inner life stuff) with healthy teachings?

By the way, Tom, thanks for the links to the criticisms of inner life teachings, that was very helpful.
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Mark C.
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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2008, 06:12:31 am »

Hi Anon!

  I was talking to Dave K. and also joining in with the Local Church discussion in my usual confusing manner of conversing here Wink.  These poor communication skills have gotten me into trouble in the past, but thankfully most contributors are tolerant of me  Wink

  You (anonXian) have a very good question, and one that many of us struggle with.  I have tried to address the issue of adjusting to post Assembly life in the "Wounded Pilgrims" thread on this BB for years now.  The issues will be very similar for you as a former member of the Local Church.

  What makes the question so difficult is that each one of us is different and what works well for one person is not always helpful to others.  Many have found that one of the most helpful things is to just to try and chat about what they're going through with someone who can listen with a sympathetic ear.

  I can relate very much to your feelings regarding leaving a place where there is a very strong sense that you are deeply involved with God.  When I left the Assembly over 16 years ago I felt like I was living in a void---- left adrift in a great sea of no meaning without a rudder!

  There didn't seem to be a place that I could find where I could replace what I felt in my group.  (Former members who were not so subjective as I was don't struggle like I have with these emotional issues).  You seem to be like I am, in that your relationship with God is one that is deeply felt, not just a matter of theology and reason.

  I have discovered that leading with my intuitive perceptions of what is spiritual leads to disappointment.  What I mean by this is that trying to experience God via an inner sense can be similar to taking drugs where we are seeking to feel good via an altered state of consciousness.  We are no longer seeking God but a thing we call God that is actually an experience that can rise to ecstasy.

  The "fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.", so emotions must play a part, but if this is all that we are trying to pursue we are ignoring God.  What the Local Church, and the Assm. presumptuously called deeper life was actually a pretty shallow life.

  When I first left the group my view of myself was of a believer who was superior to the others in the  churches that I visited.  My former group was far more committed, intense, disciplined, knowledgeable, and spiritual.  I have come to discover that I am no better than the next guy and this working of humility in my soul has been the greatest benefit in my adjusting to post Assembly life.

  Humility allows an opportunity to honestly assess our past religious arrogance in our groups that claimed to be so close to God.  It helped me to drop the intense effort to keep up an image of spirituality and to be less judgmental of those in the churches where I visited.  It also helped me to make a critical evaluation of what is truly spiritual and how my former group was fundamentally flawed in their thinking.

  What I'm trying to say is that a fundamental change in how I view spirituality (life with God) has been the most beneficial on my road to adjusting since leaving. 

   I hope some of my experiences make some kind of sense to you and help you in your recovery.

                                                                 God Bless,  Mark C.       
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Oscar
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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2008, 11:16:04 am »

Anon,

I can really empathize with you having gone through the exit process when I left the One True Church.  Of course, my OTC was a different one from yours.  There were, however, many similarities.  As Mark has stated, it really helped to be able to talk about my experiences with a sympathetic brother.  In my case it was a pastor.

One of the things that really helped me was some thoughts I had picked up from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book, "Life Together".  Here are a few excerpts from the chapter called "Community".

1. Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream.  The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it.  But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams.

2. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.  He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream.  God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.  Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.

3. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive.  He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrifical.

An online summary of Bonhoeffer's book can be read at http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2737&C=2488

Mark's reply to you is very insightful. I want to comment on this part:
Quote
  I have discovered that leading with my intuitive perceptions of what is spiritual leads to disappointment.  What I mean by this is that trying to experience God via an inner sense can be similar to taking drugs where we are seeking to feel good via an altered state of consciousness.  We are no longer seeking God but a thing we call God that is actually an experience that can rise to ecstasy.

Mark is quite correct when he says that the "inner sense" can be similar to taking drugs.  In fact, it can be the same thing!  The only difference is that we produce the drugs from within ourselves.  The drugs are such things as adrenaline and certain endorphins such as dopamine.  They can be just as addicting as drugs we injest or inject.  Many Christians evaluate their spiritual lives by the state of their feelings.  Emotions are important, but are not a replacement for a life of faith and service.

Just remember that Jesus said, "I will build my church".  Our job is to accept it for what it is, not for some ideal image that we hold in our minds. 

Many blessings,

Tom Maddux

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anonXian
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2008, 05:57:10 am »

Thank you, Tom and Mark, for your responses.

I was greatly helped by those quotes from Bonhoeffer.

Also, I will look in more detail at the "Wounded Pilgrims" thread. There's so much there that it's overwhelming. Yet it is amazing how much the experiences are similar.

I may not be able to post for awhile, but I will try to again.

Grace and peace to you brothers.
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Margaret
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2008, 01:38:14 am »

Anon,

In case you aren't aware of it, there is another website about the Assembly and other Bible-based high-demand groups, called Assembly Reflections, http://www.geftakysassembly.com/Reflections/Home.htm. There are a couple of articles about the Local Church and Nee teaching, as well as a section on Recovey.

Godspeed on your road to recovery.

Margaret Irons, Editor
Assembly Reflections
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anonXian
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« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2008, 07:54:54 pm »

Margaret,
Thanks very much. Yes, I'm familiar with the Geftakys Assembly website, and have begun reading several articles there. Thank you for your help and concern.
By the way, in case it would interest anyone here, there is a forum for the local churches (made up mainly of ex-members) at http://www.thebereans.net/forum2/forumdisplay.php?f=342 . I've been helped reading lots of those posts.
My impression is that there are lots of similarities between the two groups, and that the issues people have to deal with once they leave are pretty much the same.
- anonXian
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amycahill
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« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2008, 08:20:51 am »

Mark's reply to you is very insightful. Mark is quite correct when he says that the "inner sense" can be similar to taking drugs.  In fact, it can be the same thing!  The only difference is that we produce the drugs from within ourselves.  The drugs are such things as adrenaline and certain endorphins such as dopamine.  They can be just as addicting as drugs we injest or inject.  Many Christians evaluate their spiritual lives by the state of their feelings.  Emotions are important, but are not a replacement for a life of faith and service.

I wanted to comment on this.  It's funny...I've talked here about talking to God frequently before, and was received with some bemusement, and now I know why.

Believe me, many times in my life I've been led down the garden path...badly.  This was because I did NOT get what I was told discerned.  Now I have discerners around me as reality checks, and check anything theological against sound theology.  If what I hear is against sound theology, guess what?  I'm wrong!  In this way is the inner life balanced with reason AND reality.

Many things I have heard have come to pass as I have been told they would, and the sane and sensible people closest to me all believe my communication with God is very real.

So I agree.  The inner life is vital, but will not lead you to the truth all by itself.

Edited to add:  Oh, and just to explain, of course God does not lie.  But when you have the ability to hear spiritually, too many beings are more than happy to pop in and say, "Hi, I'm God!  Now here's the way it is..."  Lying through their teeth, of course.  I have discovered when I'm wrong it's usually because I believed something I shouldn't have, that I didn't get discerned, or made some unwarranted assumption that I thought was part of something valid I was told but was not.  The only thing I was told (and got discerned) that would happen that did NOT was something I was ALSO told was a "conditional prophecy."  Here's a good example of one of those.  God doesn't speak to my husband usually at all, but one night we attended church up the mountain.  God spoke clearly to him that he would be attending a funeral...his own!  That is, of course, if he sped down the mountain like he was planning to.  Well he didn't and here we both are.  Smiley

But I think adding this probably convinced you even more how necessary it is to have reality checks with this sort of thing.  God loves it when I question and investigate what I hear and has told me repeatedly NOT to believe things I haven't had discerned.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2008, 09:12:27 am by Amy Cahill » Logged
poormansprophet
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« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2009, 11:41:17 pm »

Yes, in reading through some of these posts the assembly is strikingly similar to the Local Church of Witness Lee and visa versa!!! 
I have found a wealth of information on this site  http://localchurchdiscussions.com/vBulletin/index.php
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