My Tragic Love Story, Part 2

Men and women could not, under any circumstances, develop a romantic relationship in the ministry group that I was in. So even though Tool and I liked each other, we could not date.

I was on staff at a ministry training school in a small, bayou-surrounded Louisiana town.  At that time, I had been serving with the same pastors for around five years. Our entire staff and some students had moved from Austin, Texas in 2003 to begin a new school at the church in Louisiana.

In 2004, I met “Tool” (the guy who claimed he was in love with me). Our friendship was a love-hate relationship from the beginning. He had a real problem with women and I was his superior in the hierarchy that was our church. I later learned that the Tool had plenty of childhood and family issues that made him the jerk that he was. After our friendship developed for a year, I started developing feelings for the Tool and he fell for me.

Men and women could not, under any circumstances, develop a romantic relationship in the ministry group that I was in. So even though Tool and I liked each other, we could not date. I was 24 years old and he was around 23 years old at the time.

The steps we had to take to date were lengthy and involved male-initiated leadership. It was taught by our pastors that the man in the relationship had to initiate everything relating to a dating relationship or courtship. That man also had to ask our pastor permission to date the girl of his dreams.

And that pastor had to approve.

For Tool, these were not easy steps.

Is Master’s Commission a Cult?

Another forum post that can be found here: In order to comment on the forum, or take the quiz, you must register as a user.

Do a quick google search for “Master’s Commission Cult” and you produce 31,700 URLS linking you to the subject. There have been forum discussions before this one about Master’s Commission being a cult, but most of them were in random forums without a larger Master’s Commission or ex-Master’s Commission readership.

I hope that this forum will be a more centralized location for people to gather together and spread the word about, because there’s nothing like feeling ALONE after leaving one of those groups. It’s so liberating to find out that there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who left and feel exactly like you and I do!

Welcome to the discussion,
Lisa

Forgiveness

A few months ago, someone shared with me that my blog was missing a section. He shared that some people might find it helpful to see how I’d recovered from this group. What spiritual journey had I taken? he asked. How had I dealt with depression? How had I forgiven? He said you guys would want to know.

I didn’t want to push any of my personal beliefs onto anyone or “preach,” so I haven’t written about this until now. I realize that sharing my own journey doesn’t mean I’m pushing my beliefs onto you, nor does it mean I want you to agree with me. In fact, sharing my journey is perhaps the most vulnerable thing I could do. I don’t trust all my readers. Some, inevitably, are out to get me. Others of you are deeply wounded, like I am and have been for years. We need to stand together and know that we can get through this together. I need this to be a safe place, and so do you.

I’d like to share with you some valuable lessons I’ve learned, from my heart, and some resources that have helped me. Perhaps they’ll offer you some guidance, like they have to me. Perhaps it will just be nice to see that we’re all getting “there,” wherever that may be.

I share a bit of my journey that began in a Religious Studies class here: http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=332. What I learned over the next few years from my professor, Dr. Campagna-Pinto, was to become invaluable to me.

In Dr. CP’s classes, there were such meaningful convicting lessons, such as: “To create change you can’t have hatred in your heart. You have to re-humanize the people who torture you.”

We read A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. I studied the chapter, I Have No Hatred in My Heart, and learned such truths as “When the perpetrator begins to show remorse, to seek some way to ask forgiveness, the victim becomes the gatekeeper to what the outcast desires—readmission into the human community.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117)

What I’d become was an outcast to Master’s Commission and to Our Savior’s Church. They no longer accepted me, as most cults no longer accept outsiders, because I chose to leave their “authority” and “promised land.”

My perpetrator never showed remorse. I had to live with that.

It was a difficult thing for me to face. My perpetrator never showed remorse. Nor did he ever plan to. In fact, his own son said that he looked at people like me as less than nothing.

Although he had never shown remorse, my perpetrator had committed crimes against humanity. Crimes of abuse. Crimes of manipulation for power and reputation. Several years of anger and grieving took me to the place where I’m beginning to feel sorry for my perpetrator. And I’m very thankful I’m not him.

At the same time I studied the South African Apartheid, I learned that there are different ways to think about forgiveness. I read The Sunflower: On the Possiblities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal. Simon tells the story of a dying Nazi soldier asking him forgiveness for his crimes against Jews. The dying soldier even told the horrific story of shoving Jews into a building and setting it on fire. His orders were to shoot anyone who tried to jump from the building. He shot.

After studying the Holocaust, and the amount of death and atrocity that Jewish people went through, I learned that forgiveness is a complex thing. Like Simon discusses in his book, there’s much more to forgiveness than a simplistic, “You’re forgiven.”

Through my studies, and through the years, I have come to believe that there’s a striking flaw in Christianity when it comes to forgiveness. Forgiveness in Christianity is simple: Jesus died on the cross to forgive you and I of our sins. Therefore, when you and I sin, we can “wash away our sins by the blood of Jesus.”

Right?

No. People need to be held accountable. They need to be responsible for their actions.

Thus the flaw in the Christian belief of forgiveness. When something devastating happens to a person, or a group of people, can you expect them to just “wash it away?” No. There are stages of grief that are normal and natural. I learned that Judaism takes seriously the act of forgiveness. During Yom Kippur they pray and fast, asking for forgiveness.

I began to respect Judaism for what I interpreted as a more realistic answer to the “forgiveness problem.” I knew that I had been wronged deeply. Not as deeply or as terribly as the Jews in Germany during the Holocaust, but I’d been wronged nonetheless.

I began to realize that I also felt forgiveness was a complex, serious matter and it was okay if I didn’t instantly grant forgiveness to someone.

In fact, it was more than okay.

It was perhaps responsible.

Rape Victim: Who Me?

I simply couldn’t believe the seven years of my life I’d devoted to God was actually devoted to a destructive group–a cult.

I sat on the couch across from my therapist during one session in 2005. She worked out of the California State University, Bakersfield campus Counseling Center and she was free, which was in my budget at the time.

I’d decided to see her after being referred to her by two professors: one professor witnessed me break down in front of a lecture class of over 100 students during my Freshman year when he asked me why I was attending college. He had no idea that for me, I was attending college fresh from a cult where I was brainwashed and taught that I was less of a human being because I was a woman. After my sob-fest in Freshman Shakespeare class, my professor kindly suggested I see a therapist. I took him up on his suggestion, and am happy I did.

I met with her once a week, on Thursdays. I went through about half her box of Kleenex and left with a runny nose and puffy, red eyes. One hour a week was enough to bring up enough pain to bring me into hysterical fits of crying. Sometimes I couldn’t even talk about my memories or pain.

Sitting across from her one day, she went to her desk and she pulled up the Counseling Center website. She gave me links to the resources to Cults that I have listed on this website. It was only the second time I’d ever heard anyone tell me that they thought my ministry experience sounded like a cult. I was shocked. I was horrified. I felt cheated. If this was true, then how could I have been so stupid? What about those people I loved? There was no way they’d run a cult!

I simply couldn’t believe the seven years of my life I’d devoted to God was actually devoted to a destructive group–a cult.

Years prior, a good friend of the family from our home church in Taft, CA had come to visit me on a motorcycle road trip through Texas. He stopped in our church in Austin and took me to lunch. He visited the offices of Master’s Commission there. When he went home, he told my parents, “I think the place Lisa is in is a cult.” This coming from a life-long church member and deacon shocked my parents and me.

The next thing my therapist told me was even more shocking, though. As if notifying me that she thought I’d been in a cult wasn’t shocking enough, she then told me, “I’ve counseled many, many rape victims and you sound exactly like a rape victim. You have many of the same symptoms. I don’t know if it’s possible to get spiritually or mentally raped, but that’s exactly what I think has happened.”

Red Flags and Warning Signs

what are the warning signs of a controlling group or a manipulative pastor (or discipler) according to your experiences?

Hello readers! I’m in the process of compiling a list of specific red flags and warning signs about OUR experiences in a destructive discipleship program and/or a church that teaches unbiblical doctrine. Most specifically, what are the warning signs of a controlling group or a manipulative pastor (or discipler) according to your experiences?

For example, some Master’s Commission’s applications to enter as a student ask very specific questions about a person’s sexual life (i.e., Do you masturbate? Have you ever had an abortion? Have you had a bisexual experience? Do you use pornography and when was the last time you did?). Other groups take students into a room for a meeting and forbid them to have sexual thoughts, to masturbate, or look at pornography. Other groups tell men and women what to wear, and make women change their clothing or burn it if it’s too tight fitting or revealing. Group and individual confessionals are frequently required.

These are ALL red flags of a controlling group.

in retrospect, what are some warning signs YOU may have seen BEFORE joining a group like this or a church like this?

After your experiences in a church or group like this, what warning signs and red flags can you IDENTIFY now?

Master’s Commission International Network Using Unaccredited College

According to the MCIN (Master’s Commission International Network, www.mcin.org), they’re partnering up with West Coast Bible College and Seminary:

“Master’s Commission International Network recently signed an articulation agreement with West Coast Bible College & Seminary to partner together in the training of ministers worldwide!!! Its been a few years in the making but it is finally done. Can you imagine that while attending any Master’s Commission in the world, students will be able to complete a bachelors degree…….. well now its possible and for only $1,250 per person (plus application fee & books).
However, closer inspection shows that West Coast Bible College and Seminary is not accredited through a typical accrediting program. The Transworld Accrediting Commission is NOT affiliated with the Department of Education in the United States. This information is taken from their website (http://www.westcoastbible.org/accreditation,%20Affiliations,%20and%20Credibility.html):

Transworld Accrediting Commission is in discussions with the U.S. Department of Education regarding becoming a governmentally recognized accrediting agency with a specific focus on theological schools.

What does this mean for students of Master’s Commission? They can spend money on a degree that is not recognizable in the United States to the Department of Education. When they attempt to get their Master’s Degree, they won’t be able to do so without retaking their courses for their Bachelor’s Degree.

Wonder what courses at West Coast Bible College and Seminary are like? They’re not like a typical college class! Take a look: http://www.westcoastbible.org/academics.html

At WCBCS, we are committed to providing our students with the best in academic quality, while focusing on the key principles that will be most used in their chosen field.  Students are required to complete any classes started within a six month time frame.  If a class is not completed in the given time frame, the student will receive an “I” on their transcript.  A student will not be allowed to graduate with an “I” or “F” on their transcript.

Modules – Student requirements for every level include:

1) Read one textbook and write down one personal key truth learned from each chapter and how you can implement it in ministry (our belief is that if everyone can learn one practical truth that will stay with them for life, then the reading exercise has been successful) (Read and write down a personal key truth??? This isn’t college coursework! Not even Bible College coursework. This is less qualified to be “Academic” than homeschooling from a DVD)

2) Listen to two 30-45 lectures or watch an online video and fill in the blanks of the lecture notes.

3) Complete an open book exam – (the student can complete the open book exam with reading – each exam will consist of 20 to 25 questions – however, students MAY NOT collaborate with other students to complete this exercise)

4) Find magazines articles or internet articles discussing the subject and write a summary of each article. (each article must be properly identified with the title, author, and web link noted) (Wow…really? This isn’t college level coursework!)

5) Write a final paper discussing how the subject matter is relevant to your personal ministry and what you will implement.

Students are required to purchase a 2 inch notebook to keep all assignments organized.

This Tract Will Save Your Soul

Back in the days of Master’s Commission of Austin, we used to pass out these tracts by Chick Publications. You know the ones–they’re plainly designed cartoon tracts.

We had this big production called Hells Alternative, where I played this girl who chose a life without God and I entered Hell after the rapture. My friends Sean and Jeremy played two demons who dragged me to hell and tortured me, while my friend Brent played Satan. Satan captured my soul and I screamed bloody murder, “Hell is real…Hell is real…” as I was sucked into Hell’s gates.

At the end of this production, we’d scared a few dozen people into accepting Christ, and we’d often pass out these tracts or have something like this available. When we ministered on the streets of Austin, we had a pack of these tracts available to share with people.

Tonight, I stumbled upon this website for Active Hate Groups in the United States. Many of them are Neo-Nazi groups, others are like the Westboro Baptist Church. I wandered through some of the names to see if any of the ministries I knew or had worked with would be on the list. Oddly enough, Chick Publications (the makers of Chick Tracts), is registered as a General Hate group.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center: “These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs…This list includes a “Jewish” group that is rabidly anti-Arab, a “Christian” group that is anti-Catholic and a polygamous “Mormon” breakaway sect that is racist. Many of the groups are vendors that sell a miscellany of hate materials from several different sectors of the white supremacist movement.”

More information can be found here.

The power of persuasion: 900 deaths left an unforgettable legacy

JONESTOWN: 20 years after mass suicide, new religions inspire hope, caution, fear for followers

Ventura County Star/November 18, 1998
By Tom Kisken

Dead bloated bodies were everywhere. They looked like insects to CBS newsman David Dick in an aircraft 300 feet above Jonestown, Guyana.

“People had died like moths who had fallen to the ground after a light had been turned off,” he said, reading from his on-the-scene notes. “The bodies were almost all face down. It was staggering. Sickening. Yet they looked as if they had merely fallen asleep.”

Twenty years ago today, a religious movement ruled by a drug-addled, delusional Jim Jones turned on itself in a bloody massacre that will forever stain the public view of cults. In a mass suicide that had been rehearsed numerous times, more than 900 people drank cyanide-laced Kool Aid.

Those who resisted were murdered.

Today, cult watchers not only worry about sequels but have proof of the likelihood — in the 39 members of Heaven’s Gate who linked their fate to the Hale-Bopp comet, covered their bodies with purple shrouds and suffocated themselves in March 1997.

They say similar groups, led by megalomaniacs who believe they alone have the ear of God, likely exist but closet themselves so well they will be detected only when exploding in tragedy.

Much more visible are high-pressure ministries that recruit people at college campuses and earlier this month attracted some 15,000 people to the Rose Bowl. With names such as the International Churches of Christ, the groups have no interest in suicide. But they raise concerns about the financial contributions members make and the tendency to pull people away from family and friends.

Dick argues the dividing line that turned Jonestown from a well-meaning commune into a jungle of body bags was the mix of a hugely charismatic but delusional monarch who was known to followers as Father and a quest for absolute truth.

Throw in Jones’ drug addiction and the forced, perverse sexual activities at the commune and you toss a blowtorch into an ocean of gas.

Dick talks so persistently of the dangers of Jonestown he worries about wearing his listeners out.

“It doesn’t take 910 for it to be a tragedy,” he said. “It can be one and be a tragedy.”

Dick is an emeritus professor at the University of Kentucky and runs a small publishing house. He was a lead reporter with CBS for 19 years and was in Caracas, Venezuela, as Latin America bureau chief on Nov. 18, 1978. A telex came telling him to fly to Guyana and report on the death of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan from California’s San Mateo County.

Ryan had heard rumors of thought-control, beatings, gun-running and imprisonment in the People’s Temple. He led a team of reporters and family members to investigate.

They were greeted with beaming reports from commune leaders. But several members asked Ryan for refuge. As the congressman led his delegation away, they were ambushed at an airstrip and gunned down.

The Kool Aid suicides followed.

Dick and other journalists were guided into Jonestown by Guyana government employees. The CBS crew found Jones’ cabin, still soaked with the stench of death though the bodies were removed. The bed was upside down, the furniture strewn everywhere.

Outside, Dick found a box of letters — notes of support that Jones demanded his followers write him. Each was addressed “Dear Dad.”

Later when he was flying over Jonestown for one last view, Dick remembers writing down an urgent message to himself: “Don’t throw up. You’re the only one seeing this.”

Dick doesn’t present himself as a cult expert, just a reporter who witnessed something he’ll never shake. His only advice is to people who find themselves trapped following someone who tries to control their lives.

“I would run,” he said. “I would try to get away.”

Questions unanswered

Jonestown remains a mystery, at least in the eyes of J. Gordon Melton, who has been studying new religions since the early 1960s and is director of The Institute for the Study of American Religions in Santa Barbara.

Who gave the order to kill Rep. Ryan? How many people killed themselves and how many were murdered? Was the State Department warned of the dangers facing Ryan?

“We have a feeling the government knew a lot more about what was going on there than they let on,” said Melton, part of a scholarly delegation that will meet in Washington, D.C., today and demand the government release classified papers on Jonestown.

Melton contends the documents may show government negligence but will likely lay to rest the conspiracy theories fueled by lack of information.

Ron Enroth, a sociologist on religion at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, has studied cults and other new religions nearly as long as Melton. He’s been called anti-God by leaders of the Unification Church and was swamped with 130 interview requests the first day after the Heaven’s Gate suicides.

He heard of the People’s Temple before Nov. 18, 1978, but never had a reason to link the group with potential mass suicide. Same with Heaven’s Gate. He wrote two paragraphs on the movement in ’76, then lost all contact.

That’s the nature of the most dangerous cults.

“They’re not mainstream enough to even have a name,” said F. LaGard Smith, a Pepperdine University law professor who also studies new religions. “They’re so small you don’t notice them until they erupt like a cancer.”

The groups exist, Enroth said. He won’t give out names out of a fear emanating from a death threat already received. But he spoke of four groups from around the country, with memberships ranging from 50 to 200, that have the potential of becoming national tragedies.

They are led by instable, power-wielding authoritarians who believe they alone know the true answers and can change the fate of the world. If those leaders follow Jones’ path and step into emotional abyss, “certainly the potential for suicidal behavior is there,” he said.

In the years following Jonestown, family members would pull loved ones out of groups they considered cults and brainwash them back into the mainstream. Called deprogramming, it is a thing of the past, largely because of a $5 million lawsuit successfully filed against deprogrammers who held a member of the United Pentecostal Church International for five days.

Now, family members are left with the power of persuasion.

When Melton‘s daughter considered joining the Church of Scientology, he tried reasoning with her, explaining the group would try to run her life.

He also told her he would support any decision she made.

“It’s her life,” he said. She joined the group, then left after a few weeks.

Worries on campus

Scholars who study new religions avoid using the word cult, partly because it’s linked so closely to Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate. It seems a broad sword that may unfairly cut groups such as the fast-growing International Churches of Christ. [But are these scholars actually “cult apologists“?]

Still, the ICC and similarly aggressive groups cause their own concerns.

Spun off from the mainline Church of Christ in the early 1970s by Kip McKean, the ICC is a Christian group known for its aggressive recruiting on college campuses. Critics said members are convinced to disavow their old support systems and are pressured to empty their pockets into church coffers.

The church also asks new members to immediately start recruiting more members, said the Rev. Mark Knutson, campus pastor at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. He leads a yearly session with dorm advisers on dealing with high-pressure religious groups.

“A group that does not allow people to question their tenets, I would say, is a group to be aware of,” he said.

ICC recruiting has also caused concerns at Pepperdine in Malibu and at USC.

The International Churches of Christ‘s goal is to have a church in every city with more than 100,000 people by the new millennium. A week ago, the group held a celebration in Pasadena, bringing more than 15,000 people to the Rose Bowl.

Spokesman Al Baird, of the Los Angeles branch of the church, scoffs at the harshest criticism — the church doesn’t allow interfaith relationships and marriage, and asks for unrealistic donations. They get 10 percent of a person’s income, as do many other mainline churches.

People call it a cult, Baird said, because they don’t understand.

Call the Church of Scientology in Santa Barbara, which also raises eyebrows with demands for financial contributions that range from $35 to more than 100 times that, and the answer is nearly the same.

It’s not a cult, it’s an answer.

“What’s generally not understood is what you’re getting,” said the Rev. Lee Holzinger, of the Church of Scientology in Santa Barbara. “If you donate $5,000 for counseling that you get that completely changes your life and it really does work, someone is going to say, ‘Hey, I’m never going to miss that $5,000’. ”

But Enroth, the new religion scholar, talks about the phone calls — hundreds of them — with a husband whose spouse threatened divorce unless he joined her religious group, and with parents who tell him of children who renounce their former religions and their loved ones.

“They’re incredibly sad stories,” he said. “They say, ‘Dr. Enroth, it’s like talking to a wall’.”

Warning signs

Concerned that some high-pressure religions pull students at UC Santa Barbara away from studies, family and friends, an interdenominational group called the University Religious Conference outlined the following warning signs:

  • The group claims to have all the answers.
  • New members are asked almost immediately to recruit new members.
  • The group encourages people to put their meetings ahead of all other commitments.
  • Past religious and social affiliations are criticized.
  • Recruits are told their parents and friends don’t have any answers.
  • Doubts and questions are seen as signs of weak faith.
  • Recruits are invited on retreats but are given only a vague idea of the agenda.

The Unpaid Master’s Commission Intern, Legal or Not?

Are Unpaid Master’s Commission Internships Legal or

Not? OR: How to Out Your Pastor for Not

Paying YOU!

A Little Pebble Can Make a Lot of Waves

I just read this in a fishing magazine of all places. My dad and mom love Alaska, so we have a lot of outdoor adventure magazines around the house.

What’s odd is that I always knew I’d wanted to make a difference in the world somehow, but I never thought my blog might make a big difference. What’s unique about this blog is that it’s the only place that I know of that openly speaks about the spiritual abuse people have faced in Master’s Commission.

When I was in Master’s Commission, people would come up to me and say, “You’re a great woman of God,” or “You’re going to change the world,” or “You’re going to be a voice for the voiceless.”

I honestly think that a lot of what people said was sweet, but just very generic and sometimes very hokey (you know the type of old women who come up and wave flags over your head and speak in tongues like they’re on drugs? yeah, that’s hokey to me). But, what is so ironic to me is the fact that my little pebble-self has made some big waves since July, 2010.

Waves Were Made

Not even five months have gone by and I’ve been contacted by Lloyd Zeigler, co-founder of the Master’s Commission International Network (MCIN) and director of my former Master’s Commission group in Phoenix (now Master’s Commission USA in Dallas, Texas). We discussed some very heavy issues for months and I prodded him to take action over a letter documenting spiritual abuse and slavery-like treatment of staff members. He did take action and the group I was part of, Master’s Commission Industries (now Elevate 3D–who operate in Pods out of Our Savior’s Churches in Louisiana), lost it’s affiliation from the MCIN because of the contacts I made with over twenty former students and staff members, and the encouragement I gave them to write to Lloyd Zeigler. They did.

The MCIN Agrees With Unpaid Internships

Lloyd and I disagreed and ended up parting ways over a variety of issues I continued to try to bring into dialogue. I found out we didn’t agree on a great many points and I was not going to stop until things were better for future students and staff members.

Now, I’m on my own and no one is here to advocate except for me. Lloyd argued with me when I told him that seven year long staff members can’t be treated as interns.

It’s unethical and illegal, even if they’re willing to stay!

I shared with him a New York Times article about how the Department of Labor has been cracking down (for several months now) on business who have interns. Trust me, they’ll catch up to Master’s Commission soon enough–even if it’s through my personal contact to them (which I have).

Lloyd Zeigler stated his case: He’s known doctors who interned for a year and weren’t paid. He knew a zoologist who interned unpaid for a year. It was ethical to him, because Master’s Commission was giving value to the students who interned (for more than a year…even for fifteen years).

I explained to him that there was a huge difference. A doctor goes into the field knowing that he will spend several years studying very demanding biology courses, and then will take a difficult MCAT exam and will spend some time training in the field so that he can make a six figure income (or more).

Additionally, I know teachers who have earned their teaching credential by spending one or two years (depending on the school they attend) taking credentialing courses and student teaching. Student teaching is unpaid, but you’re warned about it early on. You’re also qualified to teach after the student teaching, and can earn a great salary, benefits and three months off in the summer. Not a bad deal.

“Interning” in Master’s Commission is not at all like becoming a doctor or a teacher. If a Master’s Commission student or staff goes into ministry, they rarely become a senior pastor. Most, if not all, become a youth pastor and/or a Master’s Commission director. These youth pastor jobs aren’t always high paid, and Master’s Commission directors do have the luxury of getting compensated financially out of their MC budget.

Why Master’s Commission Staff Members Don’t File Complaints

Why don’t Master’s Commission staff members file complaints, speak up, or report their unpaid “internships?” In my case, I had a very difficult time finding out WHO was the proper person to report this violation to. I spent time as a staff member unpaid, and other years was severely underpaid at $50-$150 a month.

The New York Times reports that, “…It is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.”

I know this to be true. Many of my peers who served as staff members in my own Master’s Commission, or close-by groups in Texas complained to me about not getting paid or getting severely underpaid. However, none of them wanted to be the whistle-blower.

For good reason.

Master’s Commission carries with it a “don’t criticize” and “don’t question the authority” unwritten rule. If you do speak up about something you’re unhappy about, you’re often accused of being “ungrateful” or your spiritual life is called into question.

No “intern” or staff member would want to speak up and risk the chances of being labeled a troublemaker or endangering their chances of networking with a pastor who knows of Master’s Commission and respects the group. If your ultimate goal was to be a pastor, you wouldn’t want to speak up either.

Where To File a Complaint

The other question is where do you speak up, if you want to?

I considered several places. The “Christian” thing to do, in my mind then, was to talk to the pastors themselves. The ones I had an issue with. So, I did. That went nowhere, which left me a bit helpless.

Where else was one to go?

I went to Lloyd Zeigler, and let him know that these things were happening, and he should address them. Turns out, it took a few years for anything to change, and even then, not much has changed within the Master’s Commission International Network and their treatment of staff. I learned during those months that Lloyd didn’t even pay his staff members a fair wage (severely less than minimum wage).

I also learned that the position a Master’s Commission staff member is in it is less likely to draw attention from the Department of Labor if laws are violated because the way the groups are set up. Often, the groups aren’t set up as ministries within the church, but sort of under an umbrella. Not to mention, churches often aren’t scrutinized by the government, since they non-profit groups. They typically have to be reported to the government, by the intern his or herself.

Seek out an Employment Lawyer–Immediately

Another option that would resolve issues is for the staff member to contact an employment lawyer in the state that he or she served in Master’s Commission. If the offense happened in Texas, then you must contact a Texas lawyer who handles Employment Law.

What is the offense? If you were a staff member in Master’s Commission, or on any church staff, and were unpaid or underpaid, you have the right to file a suit against that group for back wages. You can search online for wage comparisons for the type of work you did and find the minimum wages that you should have been paid. Any job worked should have been paid minimum wage, at the very least, but jobs such as Administration have a minimum yearly salary that is required to be paid (even by churches). To ensure winning your case, you should speak to a lawyer within two years of leaving your Master’s Commission group, or church. Some lawyers will attempt the case after three years, and there are some cases where a lawyer may take your case due to the cult-like behavior of a group like Master’s Commission. In this case, a lawyer will file against the Master’s Commission group up to several years after you’ve left, especially if you can prove that you required medical attention or therapy after your years within the group.

Another place to contact is the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU. In order to receive legal representation, you must find a local affiliate. You can do so here: http://www.aclu.org/affiliates.  I’ve reported my case to my local affiliate.

Find an Investigative Reporter

When Ted Haggard was outed for his sex scandal, Mike Jones (the callboy) turned to a news reporter, Paula Woodward, an investigative reporter at KUSA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Denver, Colorado. A news reporter, especially a local investigative journalist may be able to begin work on the story. (For more information, click here: http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/how_pastor_ted_got_outed.php)

I’ve contacted several investigative reporters, and have been emailing one in Lafayette, Louisiana.

I’ve also contacted Oprah, 60 minutes, CNN, Gloria Allred, and several lawyers in Texas and Louisiana.

Every local news station or news paper has an investigative reporter. You can google to find the official newsite and then look at their reporter’s profiles to find their email address. Most journalists respond to emails sent to them.

In addition, places like CNN, FOX News, or MSNBC are very interested in hearing these type of stories. They always have a contact page on their official website, with instructions to follow. You typically have to prepare a press release write-up, which can be a lot of effort, but you can always find sources online that can help you prepare a press release with your story. Include facts, such as how much you were paid (or not paid), how many hours you worked, what types of labor you did, and any other information that you think would be relevant to a media story.

How to Report to the Internal Revenue Service

Additionally, you can report financial indiscretions (such as political contributions, which are illegal or being underpaid as a church employee) to the IRS. On the IRS website, it talks about reporting a church to the IRS:

The IRS may only initiate a church tax inquiry if the Director, Exempt Organizations Examinations, reasonably believes, based on a written statement of the facts and circumstances, that the organization: (a) may not qualify for the exemption; or (b) may not be paying tax on unrelated business or other taxable activity. This reasonable belief must be based on facts and circumstances recorded in writing.

The IRS can obtain the information supporting a reasonable belief from many sources, including but not limited to:

  • Newspaper or magazine articles or ads,
  • Television and radio reports,
  • Internet web pages,
  • Voters guides created and/or distributed by the church,
  • Documents on file with the IRS (e.g. a Form 990-T filed by the church), and
  • Records concerning the church in the possession of third parties or informants.

The IRS must derive the facts and circumstances forming the basis for a reasonable belief from information lawfully obtained. If this information is obtained from informants, it must not be known to be unreliable.  Failure of the church to respond to repeated IRS routine requests for information is a factor in determining if there is reasonable cause for commencing a church tax inquiry.

You can find more information on the IRS auditing Churches here: http://www.irs.gov/charities/churches/article/0,,id=181365,00.html

My Tragic Love Story, The Final Chapter

The steps the pastor required for a man to date a woman in the discipleship training program was like a maze. These weren’t easy for the Tool, but I saw this jerk-for-a-boy turn into a vulnerable, trusting man as he tried to do what was required of him. It wasn’t his fault that these insurmountable rules had been set up before him, preventing him from dating. It also wasn’t his fault that I was extremely hot and intelligent—so much so that his own best friend wanted to date me, too.

The pastor that Tool had to approach was egotistical and had a huge God-complex. It was either his way or the highway. That was not something he learned from God—it was just something he flaunted due to his own insecurities. Tool didn’t know that the pastor didn’t respect him at all and constantly told me that he wasn’t good enough for me. He’d list the reasons one-by-one, and sadly, some of them were true: he wasn’t from a good home, he probably wouldn’t make a good pastor, he was rebellious, and he didn’t treat women well.

What pissed me off was not that Tool was right or wrong for me, but that someone ELSE was interfering in my love life at the age of 24 years old! Not only was this pastor making suggestions, he was out-right making my decisions for me. He was attempting to think for me, and teach me that his way of thinking was right and that there were no other options but how he thought.