Thinking of going to Master’s Commission? Think Again!

Awhile back, I had a potential MC student ask me about any advice I could give to her, as she was considering going to Master’s Commission 3D, now Experience 3D http://www.leadin3d.com/, at Our Savior’s Church www.oursaviorschurch.com, Lafayette, LA under the pastor Daniel Jones and director Greg Thompson. I wrote the following to her. If you’re considering going to ANY Master’s Commission or “discipleship school” please read what follows below FIRST.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight conversations I’ve had with Lloyd Zeigler, the founder of the MCIN, Master’s Commission International Network and founder of Relevant Church in Dallas, TX.

I’m also going to talk about their financial situation and details on how they spend their money.

Finally, I’m going to update you on how my letters to the MCIN and Lloyd have been handled and the details there.

It was during my senior year in high school that I decided to give up my academic scholarships and attend Master’s Commission instead of college. I regret that decision now. I didn’t start my college years until I was 25 years old, because I wasn’t allowed to go to college while I was in Master’s Commission. I also wasn’t allowed to date while I was in the program, so I didn’t have the normal young experience of falling in love, choosing a partner, getting married, etc. I wasn’t able to listen to secular music, or watch regular tv programs or watch normal movies. Essentially, all of my decisions were made for me. That’s not how God wants us to live. He wants us to live able to read the Bible and make decisions on our own. Will we sometimes need the advice of our parents? Yes! I ask my parents advice a lot! But, my parents’ advice is different from the advice I got from pastors that directed my Master’s Commission group. My parents’ advice is to tell me their experiences and then let me make up my mind. The pastors told me what to do, time and time again. That’s no kind of place you want to be–nor do your parents want you to be there.

I don’t recommend the program or any Master’s Commission for many reasons, but the following are more specific and you can find where I’m pulling this information on the top portion of my website under Helpline: Cults and Cults: Signs of an Unhealthy Group is another good one to read:

“Some of the intensive indoctrination techniques they employ (and consequently things to look out for) include
* removing people from their normal surroundings and friends, often with weekend “trips” and “retreats”
* sleep and sensory deprivation
* development of a deep emotional debt
* public confessionals
* low-risk relationships (unconditional acceptance)
* fear of punishment or damnation for even thinking about leaving the new “family”
* viewing all of the outside world as evil or satanic so that any desire to return to it is also evil.

Other things to be on the lookout for are:
* leaders who claim divinity or special relationships with God and insist on being the sole judge of a member’s actions or faith
* demands for total control over members’ daily lives (one of the hardest to recognize once involved)
* isolation and exclusion from the surrounding community
* demands for control of members’ finances
* absolutist views toward difficult life problems and spiritual questions
* special (exclusive) promises of salvation or keys to spiritual understanding (i.e.: “It is only through adherence to our beliefs and our rules that you can be saved”).”

I’d also recommend sending your parents those two articles to read, or you can ask them to read my website. If you want, have them email me.

Finally, I realize that when I was 17 deciding on whether to go to MC or college, the deciding factor for me was that I wanted a closer relationship with God. I wish I could say that I got that, but I didn’t. What I got were people manipulating my thoughts of what God was, and placing themselves in the position of authority in my life. No human being should do that. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Since you’re asking (and since I didn’t seek you out), I’d also like to say, please talk over with your parents some of your concerns. Or if you can’t talk to your parents, please find someone you trust outside of the church to talk to. Make an informed decision, not one based on emotion, or obligation. EDUCATE YOURSELF, and don’t be afraid to read secular information. The only obligation you have is to yourself–making yourself a better person. I personally feel I’ve become a better person through my college education. I highly recommend attending a secular university and studying and working hard. I also recommend staying away from any church or ministry group that has the characteristics of a cult or an unhealthy group, and those 2 resources I recommended above can fill you in more on what that means.

To specify more, I’m going to go through and talk about each one of the above mentioned traits a bit more:

* Removing people from their normal surroundings and friends, often with weekend “trips” and “retreats”
–On several occasions, we’d have meetings or events that would happen in MC and we’d be told that our parents “probably wouldn’t understand, so it’s best we don’t tell them.” This fits in with removing people from their normal surroundings and friends. If you consider where the church dorms are, and the amount of time you’ll be spending away from your friends and family, this is just a common sense thing. You WILL be removed from your friends and won’t see them.

* Sleep and sensory deprivation
–During my third or fourth year in MC, I developed migraines due to sleep deprivation. My doctor told me that I needed to sleep more, and I told him I didn’t have a choice due to the work and time obligations Master’s Commission put on us. I was prescribed medication for it, but it often didn’t work because it had to be taken at the onset of a headache and we were working so much I didn’t keep my medication on me. I’d sometimes have to leave a project in tears because my migraines hurt so badly.

I lived in a dorm with several other girls and there was no peace and quiet for me to rest and get better. Also, during Hurricane Katrina, the tuition-paying students at Our Savior’s Church under Daniel Jones were asked to work 15 hour days and were reprimanded if they didn’t work hard enough. Talk about sleep deprivation! Also, that’s illegal. Many other Master’s Commission groups drove to Louisiana to help work, as well. They are breaking all kinds of labor laws by enslaving minors to work for the church like that while they got government grants. In addition, staff members at nearly ALL Master’s Commissions are treated as “interns” and not paid! How do you like the idea of signing up to be a life-long intern?

* Development of a deep emotional debt–this occurred any time the pastors gave us something or helped us out; whether it was one-on-one counseling or a very tiny paycheck.

* Public confessionals–we were repeatedly asked to go before the entire MC group and confess some sin were struggling with. We were also made to do private confessionals, too.

* Low-risk relationships (unconditional acceptance)–it’s very easy to enter into this group and gain acceptance but it’s very difficult to leave. if you do leave, you lose all your friends.

* Fear of punishment or damnation for even thinking about leaving the new “family”–this is actually true. you will get punished if you leave the “family.” and they DO call you a “son” or “daughter in the house” and “family.”

* Viewing all of the outside world as evil or satanic so that any desire to return to it is also evil–anyone or anything who disagrees with their theology or dictatorship can be seen as satanic. We were often told that if we questioned them we were rebellious and being rebellious was from Satan. So we were basically being satanic if we rebelled against them.

If you have anymore questions or would like me to send an inquiry to a particular Master’s Commission group (while keeping your name private, of course), feel free to email me at mycultlife@gmail.com.
Good luck in your decision!
Lisa

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15 thoughts on “Thinking of going to Master’s Commission? Think Again!”

  1. Before I read your blog, I had never really thought about all these things. I left MC almost 10 years ago. As I read this I started to think about some things. I did feel weird leaving. I was not given a hard time because I do not believe that I was well liked, they might have been happy that I left. I have just began to process all of this. The more I read and think about all that happened to me and others my eyes are being opened. I truly believed that I was the only one that this happened too, but I was wrong and I wished that I was right.

    Not sleeping was a normal in MC. It does not matter how old or young you are, you need sleep!! Lack of sleep can cause mental problems as well as health issues (even weight gain). I can say this, there will always be work and people just have to learn to leave it for the next day.

    When I tell people about MC I get really weird looks. No one can understand why I paid to go there and that is just by telling them what we did on a daily basis and not what happened to me.

    Keep it up Lisa!!

  2. I’d like to add that there are a few aspects made mention above that can be synonymous with Masters Commissions around the United States. However, I do not believe all Masters Commissions are like what many of us experienced. I have come across a few that really seem to understand the healthy characteristics of being part of a discipleship group.

    1. Sean,
      Would you be able to elaborate what groups you’ve come across that seem really healthy? What makes them healthy? There are potential future MC students and their parents who read this blog and I’d like to provide them that information.
      Thanks,
      Lisa

  3. I went to Master’s Commission and was also treated some of these ways. I think a major difference between me and other students Is that God had called me to Preach and that’s what I do today! I would maybe never recommed it to someone who wasn’t. It’s a place of breaking in more ways than one. I wouldn’t trade it for anything because there’s one thing it taught me How to hear and trust in God! The lonliness only drew me closer to God. It was a great place for character building that you won’t really find anywhere because you are forced to deal with You! I thank God for that time in my life all it did was prepare me for my ministry, sacrificial hard work, no pay, living by faith!
    These Pastor are not trying to build there own chuch.. This is about the kingdom, souls being saved. And dear friends a man reaps what he sows! God has blessed me in so Many ways for what I’ve done because I keep my heart pure, and did everything for him and not man. And some of the cult stuff is silly.,,I mean just read Jesus’s teaching., he requires us to die daily. Anyways that’s my story. Our Church is in the creating stages of our new intern program we are making sure..Our #1 requirement ” Must be called by God To The Full time Ministry”( not to be used to coast or because nothing better to do, you will be in for a rude awakening).

  4. I’m not affiliated with MC or Our Savior’s Church but I feel some defense must be taken. I realize that many of these comments and feelings were rooted in and skewed from an unresolved emotional hurt in these individuals.

    In response to the comments about sleep deprivation – MC is a SCHOOL worthy of college credits. Talk to any college student and they will complain to you about sleep deprivation. It is a scientific fact that your body only requires 5-6 hours of sleep per day. If I am not mistaken, curfews at MC are at 10pm and Lights are to be out at 11pm. Even if you were required to wake up at 6 am, this would equal at least 7 hours!

    In response to comments about modern-day slavery – Once again you are a STUDENT INTERN working at a CHURCH! You are getting the opportunity to HELP change peoples’ lives and to lead them to the LORD. Isn’t there enough satisfaction in that? To know that you have a purpose and a role in seeing lives changed and the Kingdom of God built? This is in no way different from a student who is pursuing a degree in nursing or medicine. Do you think a nursing or medical student gets paid for working in clinicals?! NOPE! And trust me, the hospital makes much more profit off of these students than OSC “makes” off of you. At least OSC uses these funds to throw many events (SPA, conferences, Hope Center, etc…many of which are either free or at reduced costs to attendees). Yes, they have to use some of their income to pay their staff…as does any organization. They do have over ten pastors among others who have walked through exactly what you have. Most of them are products of MC and are reaping the blessings of obedience during their time at MC

    In reponse to comments about friends and family – Any friend or family member has the opportunity to see their MC student (at the very least) during a weekend service. Many of the students who attend MC come from rough backgrounds (addictions, drugs, etc) so it’s only natural for the leaders to be skeptical about contact with old friends. “You are known by the people you keep.”. If you place a recovering alcoholic in a room with a case of beer, wouldn’t that be an immense temptation that he might not be successful in overcoming? Many of the ways of MC are DIFFERENT than the ways of the world…because the ways of the world are DIFFERENT than the Word contained in the Holy Bible. The leaders are trying to COACH (not dictate) ways to combat the evils of the world…the same as any good parent would do for their children. That means that you sometimes have to intervene when someone doesn’t have the spiritual weapons to fight their own fight. That’s the purpose of MC…to build their students to the point that they will be able to fight their own battles.

    I really believe that everyone who has commented had great and valid points. As I’ve said, I’m an outsider to the church and the program so forgive me if I am wrong in my defense. Remember this, however, as you continue to post negative comments about the church and program – “are you helping to save lives or are you hindering the salvation of many lives?”. Is all this ridicule and accusations really worth the loss of potentially thousands of people who will never walk through those doors because of what you’ve said? God will work out the kinks and flaws in His church. He doesn’t need you to do it for Him.

    As a final thought…MC is a CHOICE not a COMMAND. You are not required to attend and if you do not like the ways of the program, there are many Bible colleges around the nation you can go to. OSC is not a cult in any way – NONE of it’s members are held to standardse mentioned throughout your network of posts…Jesus is lifted up and praised throughout every service…lives are saved each weekend….and ministries are present in every part of the region. I’m sorry to hear all of the people who say they were “trapped” but, honestly, those remarks hold no validity. You were always free to leave….that doesn’t define slavery in my book. .you’ve already mentioned that you’re not getting paid so what was keeping you “trapped?”.

    1. Randy,
      Thanks for the comments and for reading.

      If you read more closely, you’ll find that many people I’ve spoken to have stated that they were never in bed by 10 pm and were up well before 6 am. That’s just a fact of life in the MC world. There is severe sleep deprivation going on there, and that sleep deprivation has been accounted for by numbers of former students and staff as well as current MC students and staff. I have files of written statements from people that have yet to be posted due to the fact that this project has become more than a blog–it’s become a second job and I am working on finding the time to post everything I have in my emails and files.

      I’m sorry to hear you disagree with each persons points and don’t find what we’re saying valid. The point of what we’re all saying is that spiritual abuse stems from abuse of the power of spiritual authority and other misaligned principals and they are not tangible things that you can just say, “I’m free to leave.” On the contrary, when there is emotional and spiritual abuse going on, it’s intangible, harder to define and harder to leave. The verbal tactics of manipulation are deeply rooted and entrenched into the core values of OSC and MC.

      If you’re a member of OSC, which is sounds like you might be, then perhaps you’ll find comfort in knowing that much of this abusive behavior isn’t experienced until you’re in a more “inner circle” of ministry or leadership. Try entering those inner circles or being the “favorite” of one of the pastors and see if I’m wrong. ;P
      Lisa

    2. Randy,
      The following article and every article on line (from webmd to msnbc) disputes your “fact” it being “It is a scientific fact that your body only requires 5-6 hours of sleep per day.” We actually need 8 hours a day!

      Please read the following or access it here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3076707/

      Why do we need so much sleep?
      msnbc.com

      Eight hours of sleep a day seems like a colossal waste of time, doesn’t it? After all, in the hectic world we live in, those precious hours could be put to use responding to all those e-mails or hitting the spa. So why do we need so much sleep? Dr. Neil B. Kavey, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, offers some clues:

      We don’t fully understand the importance of sleep. What we do know is that sleep is an anabolic, or building, process. And we think it restores the body’s energy supplies that have been depleted through the day’s activities.

      Sleep is also the time when the body does most of its repair work; muscle tissue is rebuilt and restored. We know, for example, that growth hormone is secreted during sleep. This hormone is important for growth in children, but is also important throughout adulthood in rebuilding tissues.

      A daily tune-up
      Think of the body as a car. No car can keep going and going and going without a tune-up or oil change. If it’s not tuned, the car may keep running, but not as smoothly as it did when it was maintained properly. You can think of sleep as your body’s daily tune-up.

      Human beings can function without a full tune-up, but they will be in a state of relative sleep deprivation and won’t be able to work or to think as well as they do when they are fully rested. It’s like an engine that gets only four out of eight spark plugs replaced and then runs sluggishly.

      Sleep is also a time for restoring mental energy. We spend all day thinking and creating, and that uses up our energy stores.

      It is interesting that in dream sleep the brain is actually very active. And this is where things get really theoretical. We’re not really sure exactly what dreams accomplish. Some experts believe that dreaming is actually some king of clearing-out process. More sleep researchers think that dreams serve the function of helping to reorganize and store psychological information taken in during the day.

      Not enough ZZZ’s
      One of the ways we have of understanding why we need to sleep so much is to look at what happens if we don’t get enough sleep. It affects our personalities and our sense of humor. We may become irritable and less tolerant. Parents of small children often tell me that when they’re tired they get irritated at the antics of children that might amuse them if they were properly rested.

      Lack of sleep clearly affects our thinking, or cognitive, processes. A sleep-deprived brain is truly running on four rather than eight cylinders. If we’re trying to be creative, the motor doesn’t work as well. We can perform calculations, but not as quickly. We’re much more likely to make errors. It’s because the brain’s engine hasn’t been replenished.

      Sleep deprivation also affects us physically. Our coordination suffers. We lose our ability to do things with agility. Sleep improves muscle tone and skin appearance. With adequate sleep athletes run better, swim better and lift more weight. We also see differences in immune responses depending on how much someone sleeps.

      The amount of sleep a person needs will vary from individual to individual. But most people require around eight hours.

      No one really knows how humans evolved to sleep an average of eight straight hours each night. Factors that influence human sleep patterns probably include our physical size, muscle mass, brain size and the ability to think.

      © 2010 msnbc.com Reprints

    3. This person sounds like they are speaking out of emotional hurt (as someone else stated.) I attended 2 years of Masters Commission, never was i sleep deprived curfew was at 10 and we didnt get up until 730-8, also we had 1-2 days off a week. as for not listening to or watching secular music and videos and not dating. this is so that you can focus your time on God. Each MC is different but most all are you can not date the FIRST year, which is a really good idea though it seems stupid at first. Instead of investing your time into a significant other your investing your time into the bridegroom, the one who will never leave you. Also if you do your accredited classes you can have a license to preach in two years or less. You dont go to MC expecting to come out a doctor, you go expecting to come out a minister. The one i attended prepared us not only for preaching but for every area of ministry. We did a lot in areas of Youth, Children, Missions, Adult, Worship, Evangelism and so much more. Any confessions of self actions are spoken at will and for those around you to help you, strengthen and pray for you. There is no obligation to stay. I pray that you forgive anyone who may have hurt you. If you do not have a desire to enter into a discipleship program (MC) then you will see negative things rather then all the good thigns about it.

  5. If you would have read my post, I said that you all have valid points. I’m not arguing that. I’m saying that I do not agree that you were slaves because you were not forced to attend. Also, as I’ve told you, I’m not a member nor affiliated with OSC. I have been to a few of their special events.

    Ps: recommendation and requirements are two totally different things. Optimally, your body needs 8 hours of sleep. However, as one ages he needs less sleep. So whereas 6 hours may not be “optimal,” you can survive. Every college student and parent can testify to this. :P.

    On a lighter note, I’d like to thank you for your time at OSC…whether in MC or as a staff member. The church seems to be growing and the events I have been to are spectacular. You’ve played a special part in that, I’m sure. :). I wish the best to you and your family and may God bless

  6. students’ sleep was not a priority to the leadership there.
    i did NOT come from a background of addiction, yet i was told No when asked if i could go to target for toiletries and such (and there wasn’t some complex circumstance. simply, everyone else was loading into cars to take a trip in the middle of a sunday afternoon and i was told no, with no explanation). these is ONE of the HUNDREDS of things that just are a glimpse.
    what lisa says is true, about manipulation and abuse not always being tangible. when you have devoted all you are to something you believe in, and these “leaders” claim to hear God FOR your life, and make you believe that when you disobey (i.e. disagree) with them you are OUT of the will of God, it is alot harder to leave than you think.
    i invested 2 years into building relationships with the people there. God pressed it on my heart HEAVILY to leave MC in the middle of my 2nd year. OSC was my church since i was 15, so i did not plan on leaving the church. i had no offense with it (or so i thought). but AS SOON AS I STEPPED OFF THAT PROPERTY, no one, and i mean no one, answered my calls, texts, and voicemails. i called and called. these girls who were SISTERS.
    i sat there for weeks, by the phone,trying to stay “strong” and connected with my MC “family.” then i had other folks from high school that i bumped into around town inviting me to UL games and such. worldly, secular folks showed more of an interest in me and my wellbeing than my “christian” friends.
    talk about, make you offended with God altogether!!
    thank goodness i met other christians who showed me that not all are like that.
    God brought me to another city and another church, where the pastor CELEBRATED when people transitioned to other churches or towns, nations, ministries, etc. He trusted the God in THEM; that they too were image bearers of Christ. he didn’t HOARD the workers, like OSC does. then they cut you off and dispose of you when you’re of no use to them, or you start asking too many questions.
    lisa is also correct about it being different for the regular church-going folk and those on the inside. SO different. almost to the point where i don’t even want to tell my mother about what happens behind the scenes b/c i feel she won’t be affected by it simply in the congregation, and i know she enjoys the service.
    but she found out. and she cried.
    the joking about how good looking “pastor jacob” is and “pastor eugene” is gets OLD. the mexicoon jokes get old. its all a way to keep the commoners entertained while the rest of us ran around doing their grunt work. if you’re a yes-man there, you do go far. like you said, most of those pastors were in our shoes at some point. which is SAD. that they had to sell their brains and souls to conform to the “vision” of another man, in order to be garanteed a position on staff at the “best church in acadiana! woohoo!! i’ve personally seen my closest friends become nothing more than DRONES.
    because they have become detached from all of their outside family AND friends. they have shut everyone out because as staff, they were COMMANDED to. they have no personal cell phones or housing– it is all mandated and “provided” by the church. clearly as a means of control!
    b/c think about it. if these people were ever to LEAVE, as you think is so easy to do, they would have NOTHING.
    the fear of every friend and family member shutting you out like you did to them. your phone and home, GONE. your car, TAKEN BACK by the church member who “loaned” it to you. they would have nothing, and that fear haunts them. i know it for a fact b/c i almost became one of them.

    it is not at all what you think it is. there are so many facets to this thing.

  7. I also gave up a college scholarship to attend Master’s Commission. It was the best experience of my life. As with any organization, you need to be aware of the differences from facility to facility. The differences should not vary as widely as they do, but that is the case. I attended in Phoenix, AZ, the founding Master’s Commission and I never once felt like a slave. We were not forced to do anything. Everything I learned I have been able to put to good use and my resume was built strongly because of it. We were not kept from attending movies or listening music of our choosing. I’m a classic rock girl and always have been. No one judged me for it or made me stop listening to my favorite secular music. We were always given days off to rest and had plenty of time that was all about getting closer to God. None of the staff I encountered during my attendance believed themselves to be better than me and none of them claimed any special direct line to God other than prayer, just like the rest of us. I felt completely safe in that environment and Pastor Lloyd (and the staff under him) were honorable in their dealings with all of us.

    I’m sorry for your bad experience, but to claim that all Master’s programs are bad, and especially to claim that they are cults (or cult-like) is false.

  8. WOW! you must have had a HORRIBLE experience!!! I hear what you are saying, but not all Masters Commissions are so rediculously controling and crippling, I was in one that let you make your own choices, and just reminded you to filter your descisions through the filter of Gods word and the Holy Spirit…I started school at 25 as well and it worked out better for me because I knew myself more, had a better feeling of what it was that God wanted me to do, so I wasn’t wasting my time changing majors, plus the scholarships and grants are way better after 23 years old!

    My advice to whoever this is ranting and raving about how much they hate MC, consider the thousands of MC grads that are now successful, well adjusted members of the body of Christ, whether that be in the secular world or on the mission field…what you get out of it is what you decide to get out of it, God uses uncompfortable situations to grow us spiritually all the time!

    I hope this message is allowed to stay up. The purpose of a discussion is hearing both sides, and this is the other side.

  9. I enjoyed reading about your Master’s Commission experience, mainly because it verified what I have suspected about that place for quite some time.  I have two friends who attended the one in Phoenix together in the mid 90’s, and they talked about it extensively after returning home.  They were very enthusiastic, but I wasn’t all that impressed with what they had to say.  It sounded very controlling, manipulative, and kind of strange overall……..almost like a cult of some kind.  I am a Christian who desires to grow in Christ, and I do think it is a good thing for young people to dedicate a year of their lives to serve the Lord.  However, according to what my friends had to say, I didn’t get the feeling that the objective was to serve the Lord as much as it was to serve the pastor at Master’s Commission and do what he wanted……….like they were under his control.  I heard about negative ways that some students were treated, things they were required to do that seemed to have little or no point, and got the feeling that there were many unnecessary extremes.  Having never attended myself (and I don’t plan to), it may seem unfair of me to come to these conclusions without firsthand experience.  But now that I’ve done some research, I can see that you are far from alone in your impressions of Master’s Commission.  I can now say with utmost confidence that I trust the negative vibe I got from the beginning.   

  10. Not all masters commissions are like that. And I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s a cult. Some leaders aren’t as good leaders in some programs like this. But MC does change lives and draws people closer to God.

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