The Discipleship Program: From Mentor to Manipulator

Have you ever ended a discipleship relationship with someone with the above traits, only to feel that you’ve backslidden in your relationship with God?

If you answered YES to any or all of these questions, you’ve been trapped in an abusive discipleship relationship.

I ran across a great article about the abusive tendencies of the Discipleship Program. What we once considered a mentor turned eerily wrong, and those discipleship program directors and mentors turned into manipulators.

Think about these questions, as you read:

  1. Have you been in a discipleship relationship where you had to agree with the discipler in order to make a decision?
  2. Were you asked to approve your decisions (small or large) through your mentor or discipler before making them?
  3. Were you ever given the impression it was sinful or wrong to disagree with the person who was discipling you?
  4. Have you ever known a Christian who gave you the impression that they heard from God more clearly and frequently than YOU did, simply by their “devotion,” amount of prayer time and Bible study?
  5. Have you ever ended a discipleship relationship with someone with the above traits, only to feel that you’ve backslidden in your relationship with God?

If you answered YES to any or all of these questions, you’ve been trapped in an abusive discipleship relationship.

The entire article can be read here.

Jones Outreach Reported Income

Dear IRS,

The income for Jones Outreach is much greater than this.

Sincerely,

Former Employee

Jones Outreach

Employer Identification Number (EIN)581846266

Name of Organization: Jones Outreach AddressPO BOX 81855, Lafayette, LA 70598-1855

Activities: Evangelism

Subsection: Charitable Organization

Ruling Date: 11/1989

Deductibility: Contributions are deductible

Foundation: Organization which receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public

Organization: Corporation Exempt

Organization Status: Unconditional

Exemption: Tax Period12/2008

Assets: $25,000 to $99,999

Income: $1 to $9,999

Filing Requirement990 – Required to file Form 990-N – Income less than $25,000 per year

Asset Amount$26,820

Amount of Income$5,382 Form 990

Revenue Amount$5,382

National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE)Religion-Related, Spiritual Development: Protestant

 

Master’s Commission: Staff Vacation Benefits

Today is Thanksgiving.

I’m sitting near the fireplace in my grandma’s snow-covered New Mexico house. Sounds of the family playing a card game named “Hand and Foot” fill the warm air. My belly is full of home-cooked turkey and sweet potatoes.

A few years ago, I was a staff member for a  discipleship group named Master’s Commission, which was formed out of Phoenix First Assembly of God under Tommy Barnett. One of the most difficult parts of being in that group (of which I was a member in Phoenix, now MC USA; MC Austin and MC Industries–now Elevate 3D out of Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, LA) was the control they had over our lives as students and staff to prevent us from being close to our family.

Over the years of being in Master’s Commission, I missed all my younger brothers football games because as a staff member, we were not allowed to take a vacation or leave the church campus without permission. Permission for vacations was never granted–unless it was Christmas or Thanksgiving and we were obligated to be back on campus immediately after so we could raise funds for Master’s Commission.

Those football games are games I’ll never get back. I’ll never have the memories of sitting in a cold football stadium, hearing my mom and dad screaming with pride as my brother, Daniel, the star of the team, made another awesome catch and sprinted down the field to make a touch down. He was an amazing athlete–always in the newspapers, interviewed on the news stations and more than once won Athlete of the Year awards. I saw all the newspaper clippings and awards, but wasn’t at a game. I wasn’t at a game because this discipleship program, Master’s Commission, deemed the “service to the Lord”–which was really slave labor (cleaning toilets in the church and the like)– as more important. We “devoted our lives to God” for nine months, and by nine months, they meant EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I was committed to God, but that commitment was abused under the Master’s Commission director I had. Instead of being able to serve God however I felt was right, I was told what was right and what was wrong. There was no “room for the Holy Spirit.”

It was difficult, if not impossible to get a sick day, let alone a day off to see family. Even when family visited us, we often couldn’t spend time with them.

One year–my second to last year–in Lafayette, Louisiana, I worked my last year on staff for Master’s Commission. It was January and it was a slow weekend at church. I worked as Nathan Davies’ executive assistant and right hand girl, but there was nothing special going on this particular weekend.

My parents offered to fly me home from Louisiana to California to go skiing in Mammoth, CA. For those of you who don’t know, Mammoth Lakes is a wonderful skiing resort town with some of the best skiing in the state. My family went snow boarding and snow skiing in Mammoth often, and I always missed the trips because I had “duties” in Master’s Commission.

Let me put this in perspective.

I was on staff in MC, but I was only getting paid $150 at the most per month (usually $50 or $100). We worked 50 hour work weeks in the office, then about 10 hours for church services (setting up the chairs and tearing them down, as well as doing human videos, etc), and on top of that, I nannied the Davies children (cleaned their house, did their laundry and went grocery shopping, too), and finally, I lived in one of the girl students dorms as the Resident Assistant (RA) type. I was in charge of making sure all the girls got to bed on time, shut out the lights on time, read their bibles each night, cleaned and did their chores, and was there to counsel them when I could. I can’t even count how many hours I worked for $150 a month, but it was well over 80.

So, back to Mammoth, and back to my awesome parents.

They felt that if I was working a real job, I’d get vacation time. They also felt that I was getting the short end of the stick, working a job that paid pennies, and never getting a day off. (Technically, we got a “day off” but as a staff member, we were always on call and there was never a full day of rest.)

So, that weekend, they offered to fly me to California, pay for snowboard rental and ski clothes and everything else the trip entailed. Not only was it expensive, but it was family time. It’s what my family did–spend time together. It’s what I did, before I joined Master’s Commission (which I affectionately call the cult).

I had to ask permission to leave the church campus (we all did), for anything (yes, for groceries, fast food, etc.), and this was no exception. I asked Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson (assistant director at the time).

Their answers to my request were no. They said, “What if something major comes up at church this weekend? We might need you.”

At that point in my MC career, the only thing major I was needed for was babysitting and that wasn’t an emergency in my eyes.

I gave them plenty of notice, and I’d never asked for days off like that. It was a once in a seven year MC career thing that I EVER asked for any time off.

The story continues…of course I stayed behind. My family had a BLAST. And NOTHING major happened at church.

This isn’t the only story, and there is actually a much worse story surrounding Daniel Jones and the death of my grandmother. It’s awful and I’m even ashamed that I didn’t quit at that point, but I didn’t.

To be continued…

 

 

Definition of a Cult

You’ve heard my definition of a cult, and some supporting evidence (though not exhaustive…yet).

  • How would YOU define a cult?
  • What characteristics would you say leaders of cults have?
  • What groups would you place (or not place) in that category?

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

In 1978, Jim Jones’ group of over 900 people, The People’s Temple, committed group suicide by drinking a grape drink laced with cyanide and a number of sedatives, including liquid Valium, Penegram and chloral hydrate.

What does Jim Jones have to do with My Cult Life? Eerily enough,

“Jones kept his commission so busy they were often in a state of exhaustion.

Jones exercised the powers of suggestion, persuasion and manipulation to create a kind of alternative social universe amongst his followers. By 1975 the Chaikins and others were conditioned to accept without question public punishment and humiliation at group meetings…Jones’ dismissed the nuclear family as “noxious” and did everything possible to undermine traditional family ties. There could be only one “Dad” for everyone. (Quoted from Rick Ross’ site: http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown61.html)

“What Jones did was try to break all ties that were not to him,” said former believer Vernon Gosney. “Transfer all that loyalty, all that bonding to him. And so families were broken apart. Relationships were divided…Jones deftly justified his actions to his followers by saying that what he did to them was actually for their own benefit, or the benefit of making the church a stronger, tighter-knit organization.” http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown63.html

Everything above is similar to my experience in Master’s Commission and working at Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, LA.

I’ve spent time lining out these specific moments and traits of my leaders, but more than anything, we were kept in a constant state of exhaustion, and all ties with the outside world and family were cut off or highly discouraged. We were to accept things without question or risk the shame of humiliation in front of everyone, or the embarrassment that went along with getting kicked out of the group and no one speaking to us for fear that they’d get kicked out too.

My Teen Mania Experience: Life at the Honor Academy and Beyond

I received this email from a fellow blogger, Recovering Alumni, who writes for www.recoveringalumni.com:

“I can’t believe today is the first time I’ve come across your blog. It seems we’ve lived parallel lives :). I was involved with Teen Mania for 2 years and it nearly destroyed my life….Anyway, just wanted to give a shout out to a fellow activist and say keep up the good work! Exposing truth and bringing these stories into the light is a noble thing. I look forward to reading more!

RA”
www.recoveringalumni.com

We’ve since been corresponding and have found a frightening correlation between my experiences in Master’s Commission and hers in Teen Mania.

Recovering Alumni’s blog is something I would recommend any of my reader’s to read. She’s got a great number of resources and stories and a website that’s easily navigable.

Please visit the site and drop an email/comment to Recovering Alumni.

Secrets

Secrets your church leadership is hiding. Secrets the Pope is covering up. Secrets are everywhere.

It’s ironic that Christian churches and leaders try to cover up secrets every day. Shouldn’t churches be transparent and honest? Especially if they’re teaching their “disciples” to be this way?

As you may have read, a pastor that I worked for and knew intimately was fired for stealing money from the church and for allegations of physically hurting a student. What typically happens in a situation like this, is that the secrets all come out in a meeting with the senior pastors and other important staff members, and then they tell the church something much more vague. This particular church is infamous for it. I should know. I was intimately tied to this pastor and the senior pastor. I know how these meetings work, what’s said in them, and that only particular people get the real story.

Isn’t that great for the person with the secret, though? I mean, after all, you don’t want to embarrass someone publicly do you?

I honestly think it’s complicated. My opinion is this–there’s such a brutality to exposing people’s secrets in public. After all, that’s what was done to us in Master’s Commission by this very leader. But when it’s the upper echelon of leadership that hundreds, if not thousands of people look up to, is it right to cover it up like it never happened? No. I don’t think it is. I think you’re causing harm in the church if you do that for many reasons.

One, think about your own self for a minute. Of course, we all have secrets. We all have broken a law, or hurt someone’s feelings or done some level of damage to people. Maybe you’ve stolen money, maybe you’ve stolen someone’s happiness. Whatever. My point is…aren’t pastors human, just like we are? Nod your head yes with me. They are. Regardless of what you might think, or who you might put on a pedestal, they are simply human.

With that being said, they shouldn’t be exempt from laws, like we are. Let me break it down. If I go into Macy’s and steal my favorite perfume, Versace Bright Crystal, and get caught I’m going to be punished.

Many people of all backgrounds look up to pastors, priests, Presidents. When you deny things that really happened for the sake of protecting the church’s reputation and in an attempt to continue the facade of the  untouchable pastor or leader, you honestly do a real injustice to people. They’re not able to see you say the f-word in traffic, or wake up without makeup, etc. and soon they begin to believe that you are a god or something like one. It creates a false sense of reality when people begin to make mistakes of their own. Often people who look up to “perfect” pastors feel like they’re really messed up, or failures, because they can’t live as perfect as what they think someone else is living.

In all reality, every pastor or leader has a secret they’re hiding from their congregation. For some priests, it’s that they’re messing with the alter boys. For some pastors, it is stealing.

I think it’s time we all start being honest with ourselves and asking others to be honest, too.