Think For Yourself

The problem of complicity is a dangerous one. To be complicit, is to refuse to think for oneself. When we listen to what is taught to us without question, without examination, and without doubt, we’re prone to being complicit.

To Think Requires Courage

The problem of complicity is a dangerous one. To be complicit, is to refuse to think for oneself. When we listen to what is taught to us without question, without examination, and without doubt, we’re prone to being complicit.

Complicity is a problem that extends to many religious and political ideologies. Often in politics and religion, a mob mentality is often easier to listen to. When you’re faced with a mob of hostile onlookers, it’s easier to join them than to allow the moral dilemmas of the historical and current times press against the conscience.

Individuals become easily complacent by allowing a group to think for them, and not taking the hard road of freedom of thought and moral action. People must be greatly courageous to think for themselves, both morally and socially, because social ostracism is as prominent now as it ever was. In the history of the Holocaust, thinking for oneself meant the possibility of one’s own life being taken by the SS soldiers. Therefore, to think creates a problem for the individual and for the society. Sometimes, we may disapprove of or doubt what an entire group is thinking and in doing so, may be “attacked” by the mob.

But to go along with the mob as a “just a bystander” creates an even greater problem. Going along with the mob paves the way to some of the lowest points of humanity. The mob mentality was what caused an unthinkable horror such as the Holocaust and mass extermination of an entire culture. Although an extreme example, it’s one I can not forget. The Nazi mentality when they were tried was, “I was just following orders.” The Nazi soldiers who killed innocent men, women and children were “just doing what they were told.” In essence, they weren’t thinking for themselves. They didn’t take responsibility for their own actions.

To think for oneself is one of the most courageous acts a human being can embrace, and because the majority of the world chose to stand by silently, the world has lost millions of precious lives and, for a time, lost their courage.

Should a Pastor have a Full-time Job outside the church?

My friend posed this question to me that he’d once heard:

“How much would it change the church and Christians if the pastor worked a regular job like the congregation and what would be different?”

What would our lives be like if pastors went to work in an office, or the oilfields, or as a teacher? Did you know there are bodies of worship who have pastors with jobs?

Another question I’d like to ask: Are church members to be reliant on pastors for teaching and spiritual growth? If so, why? If not, why not?

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.

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.

Master’s Commission 3D (Lafayette, LA) is NO Longer Legally Affiliated with Master’s Commission International Network

I received the following letter last night from Lloyd Zeigler, Chairman of the Master’s Commission International Network, relating to my 2008 inquiry http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=91 about the cult-like activities going on in Master’s Commission 3D in Lafayette, Louisiana http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=85 , http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=87. After almost two and a half years, this issue has been addressed and partly resolved.

I asked Lloyd Zeigler to provide for me the original letter sent to MC 3D, or as they now call themselves, Experience 3D, of the accusations he was presenting to them, in order to verify that all my issues were addressed, and also because a large group of people I had referred to him had contacted him with their issues. I want to ensure that their concerns were correctly addressed; however, I have not received any of these original documents, which Lloyd has promised to me the past two months. I assume they will be coming by the end of the month, but of that I can not be sure. I’ll share them here when I receive them, as I feel it’s our right as former students and staff to read them. I don’t believe any organization should hide those from the people they are trying to help.

While I’m truly sad that MC3D did not ever respond to my letters, or begin the dialogue I asked them to begin when I sent letters and made phone calls over two and a half years ago, I am happy that there was an investigation and appropriate action taken from the MCIN on the behalf of students and staff who have experienced abuse. This is a big statement for the MCIN to take to stand up against abuse.

I have much more to say about my OWN investigations into the misuse of staff members as unpaid interns and volunteers in the Master’s Commission International Network, Master’s Commission USA and groups of that nature, but I will save that for a post next week.

Look for it soon, but until then, please feel free to read the following letter and share it with anyone who has experienced abuse under the Master’s Commission 3D program that is currently directed by Gred Thompson, and formerly was directed by Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson. This Master’s Commission group is currently located in Lafayette, LA under the umbrella of Our Savior’s Church http://www.oursaviorschurch.com , an independent church senior pastored by Daniel and Maria Jones and senior associate pastors, Stuart and Lindsay Rollings, and associate pastors Nathan and Natalie Davies.

Master’s Commission 3D changed their name today to Experience 3D, as a result of the Master’s Commission International Network removing their affiliation status.

Part of the Experience 3D website http://www.leadin3d.com/#/welcome states: “Allow us to stress that this program is not for “ministry prima donnas”. We understand true, Biblical ministry to be servanthood. Much of a person’s character is built while doing the “unglamorous tasks” of ministry. A goal of Master’s is to cultivate Biblical character and servant leadership.”

What they mean to say by “ministry prima donnas” is that “servanthood” is their main way of training their students for leadership in churches. What they mean by servanthood is modern day slavery, where you as the student or parent will be paying to be used by the senior pastors and associate pastors of Our Savior’s Church, in order to be their live-in gardener, nanny, janitor, etc. all under the guise of become a “servant” to God. God has NO part in that form of servanthood!

If you’d like to read more about this “servanthood,” be my guest. There are many details on this website, and more first-hand accounts to come from this so-called leadership school.

Many thanks to the hours the MCIN Board spent meeting and discussing each student and staff members concerns when it came to these issues. I greatly appreciate each one of you taking action and responding to the great many written and verbal statements you received from this website and from people I’ve spoken to over the years. I was told this was a unanimous vote, and for that I am thankful.

I hope this incident will help Master’s Commission be a healthier place for students to attend in future years, if they should feel the need to go. Based on my experiences in Master’s Commission and the research and statements I’ve received over the years, I can not endorse or support any Master’s Commission group to students or parents who ask my opinion. However, if you do choose to go, I wish you the best, and I hope you realize that after today’s action the MCIN has taken against abuse, they’re working on becoming more of an advocate for students rights.

Since the MCIN does read this blog, I do wish that you would revisit and address the issue of payment for staff members, or “interns” or “volunteers” as many of you call them. I will be posting blogs relating to this issue in the weeks to come.

Please make that your next issue of concern, as I addressed it in 2008 and it has not yet been actualized.

August 26, 2010

RE: MASTER’S COMMISSION 3D AFFILIATE STATUS

To Whom It May Concern:

Master’s Commission International Network (“MCIN”) recently received several reports from individuals formerly associated with “Master’s Commission 3D” located in Broussard, Louisiana (“MC3D”). These reports were received in the form of letters, blog posts, and verbal reports.

In response to these varied reports, MCIN undertook and completed an investigation concerning MC3D. As part of its investigation, MCIN requested that MC3D provide MCIN’s Board of Directors (the “Board”) a detailed response to the various allegations and other concerns. Having concluded its investigation, MCIN presented the results to the Board.

In light of the facts and information presented to the Board, and after careful deliberation, the Board decided to terminate MC3D’s status as a Master’s Commission “Affiliate”.

We know this decision may affect students currently enrolled at MC3D, and as such, we informed MC3D that should any of their students desire to relocate to another Master’s Commission Affiliate in good standing, MCIN is available to assist them and answer questions they may have in that regard.

MCIN values the commitment and contribution of all students and leadership associated with the Master’s Commission Affiliates. Accordingly, we believe that our actions in this regard were both appropriate and necessary.

Lloyd Zeigler, Chairman
Master’s Commission International Network

 

Discipleship Schools: Foe or Friend?

Recently, I was discussing the issue of discipleship schools with a good friend. She brought up a very valid point: discipleship schools are NOT needed in churches today.

Why?

If a young person wants to enter into the world of ministry, currently the best option would be a Christian college or university or a secular university where they major in theology or religious studies. A minor in psychology would help, as well. I strongly encourage anyone who’s entering ministry to take a few classes on Christianity from a secular university, so as to learn the historic traditions of the religion. You will not regret this.

Another option, brought up by my friend, for a young person pursuing ministry is a paid internship. Many churches offer these, and they allow  young people to work for a particular pastor or ministry group, while getting paid experience.

If someone wants to volunteer at a church, there’s always that option. I’ve never heard of a church who turns away volunteers.

The difference between a discipleship school and volunteerism is this: when you volunteer for a church or organization, you aren’t held to anything. You are working for free and free to come and go as you please. You’re not demanded to do certain things–you simply are there to help and can leave when you wish.

Not so with a discipleship school.

If you enroll in a discipleship school, you may hear the term, serving unto the Lord or you may be told that you’re just volunteering to help the church.

What’s wrong with this terminology?

For starters, anytime someone labels what you’re doing “unto the Lord,” there’s a real good possiblity that something unhealthy is going to go on. For example, if you’re cleaning the gym of a church “unto the Lord” it’s going to be extremely easy for the person who’s asking  you to work for them to take advantage of your situation and your attitude. Clearly, Christians have been taught to give to God selflessly, and it’s been our idea that the pastor and church are reflections of God, so giving to them is just like giving to God.

Right?

Wrong.

When you volunteer, just be aware of the following:

  1. You set the time that you work and you get to dictate how long you work.
  2. You should make sure that your boundaries are clear. If someone you’re working for is disregarding those boundaries, you have the right to stop working with them or tell them to stop what they are doing that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  3. You’re not being paid, therefore you are giving something to someone who needs it. That person (whether it’s a pastor, or minister) should be grateful for your help and should not take advantage of you. If so, they’re probably not someone you should volunteer for again.

These days, discipleship schools require young people to give up their freedom to date, restrict any personal contact with the opposite sex, financially contribute to the school, report to a pastor about every move they make, and selflessly serve that pastor for years of their life–neglecting their dreams, financial stability and potential to start a family.

Does this sound like something a HEALTHY CHURCH would want or need?

No.

Readers: Help me define some other reasons why discipleship schools are unnecessary in today’s day and age.