Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

We were taught that you didn’t make a decision without first making sure it was approved by our appropriate Pastor, Master’s Commission Director, or Staff Member. Anyone in an authority position on church staff or ministry staff was clearly way more qualified than we were to make decisions–at least that’s what we were taught. We even had a hierarchy of leadership that were our assigned leaders who helped us make decisions and who we had to go to talk to make a big or little decision, or even to go somewhere as simple as the mall.

The inability to make decisions on our own became a problem for many staff and students leaving, including a few friends I’ve talked to recently. One friend, James*, shared the story of events surrounding his wedding. He had left Master’s Commission years prior and hadn’t seemed to face too many huge decisions until he was getting married. Even though he had met and dated a beautiful woman who was lovely inside and out, James told me he felt like he couldn’t even process on his own after being subjected to the authoritative teachings and life-management we’d been subjected to. For James, it wasn’t a question of whether his future wife was “the one” or not because he loved her more than anyone he’d ever met before and he knew she was who he wanted to marry—it was that he felt that he should be approving major decisions through his Pastor or Master’s Commission Director. He felt the need to get approval for his decision for the first time since leaving, and that realization made him feel that he couldn’t process things on his own.

The reason the teachings we were subjected to were wrong is because they fall into the category of what a destructive group (or cult) displays as characteristics. When a group is defined by professionals and scholars as being destructive or cult-like, they typically have this mind-controlling trait and many others traits working for the leaders of the group to secure loyalty and obedience. The leader uses this decision-approval process to set the levels of hierarchy in the group, and also to set up loyalty tiers within the group.

Recently, a former Master’s Commission student called me to ask me my advice on what decision he should make. It was a personal decision, something related to dating, and honestly wasn’t that huge of a deal. However, I’ve faced the same personal crises over decisions I’ve had to make over the past five years since I left Master’s Commission and my abusive relationship with the pastors of Our Savior’s Church. So, I knew exactly how he felt. I’ve been faced with big decisions like whether to move to Northridge, CA and pursue a writing career, and small decisions like what time of day to take a class that’s offered. Over and over, I’d find myself unable to make decisions or coming to a moment of crisis when I had to make those decisions without someone’s advice or approval. I’d go to my parents or friends and ask them and they’d all say,”Well what do you think you should do?”

That was the BEST advice ever!

My advice to my friend who called was to go with HIS instinct and his heart on the matter and not to listen to anyone else. I think that in order to practice making decisions, you have to just do it. You have to jump out there and see what choices you’re going to make and what effects they have on you—good or bad. The bottom line is that you and I are responsible for ourselves and we’re fully capable of making decisions. We are adults, after all.

No pastor or ministry staff should take away your ability to make decisions. Nor should they ASK for that right. They shouldn’t coerce you, rebuke you or try to silence you. They should allow you to think for yourself, teach you how to search for knowledge (if anything) and allow you to be human.

Making decisions isn’t always easy. Sometimes we do need to ask our parents or friends what to do. But, what I’ve learned in the past few years is that whether I make a “good” or “bad” choice in life, it’s not that big of a deal. So what if I choose something that’s not quite the best choice? Life goes on. I still have to wake up and go to work. I still have a great family who loves me and cares about me.

Most importantly: I’m a smart, capable adult woman who can make decisions on her own.

*Some names have been changed to protect the innocent. Any names that have not been changed may be left intact at the author’s discretion, so that the reading audience gets a full picture of the events that occurred/are occurring in the ministries of the named parties.

Letters to Nowhere: Tim Dilena, Dino Rizzo, Winkie Pratney

Two weeks ago, I sent the following letter to good friends and ministry partners of the pastor of Our Savior’s Church to see if they’d be able to speak with their friend to stop the abuse going on.

Not only did I NOT get a response from these pastors, one of them actually forwarded the letters to the pastor of Our Savior’s Church, who then read the letters to his staff. How awful, but totally expected.

Dear Dino, Tim and Winkie,
I’m writing on behalf of myself and many others who have been deeply hurt by the controlling pastoring that is taking place there, and the illegal employment issues that are taking place there.

I worked for Pastor Daniel Jones for a year as his wife’s personal assistant, which meant I nannied the children and homeschooled their son, as well as cleaned the house, cooked, ran errands, and was involved with the Women’s ministry and Master’s Commission. I was on staff with Master’s Commission 3D for years and was Nathan Davies’ right-hand girl (one of Daniel’s pastors at OSC and the Executive Director of Master’s Commission)–his Executive Assistant while he was Vice President of the Master’s Commission International Network. Nathan Davies is no longer the VP of the Master’s Commission International Network.

I’m attaching a letter that I sent to Daniel Jones, Nathan Davies, and Tim Wilson (who took over for Nathan for one year as MC Director). As you can see from the letter, OSC and MC3D are in serious trouble. They are abusing young people as slaves of the church and paying them less than 40 cents an hour! My story isn’t the only statement out there. I’ve gathered dozens more, and have collected numerous emails.

I have NEVER received an apology letter, phone call or any other sort of communication from Daniel, Nathan or Chris, as of the date of this email in regards to this letter I’m attaching and the issues I’ve addressed in said letter. I have used names in my blog, and I stand by that decision because I know that every fact I’ve shared on there is 100% verifiable by multiple sources, and I have given the aforementioned pastors plenty of chances to seek out dialogue with me. All three have denied the opportunity, ignored my peaceful outreach, and therefore, have shown great disrespect to me.

I’m asking you to read this letter and please do the following:

  1. Respond accordingly
  2. Talk to Daniel about the spiritual abuse.
  3. Encourage him that the ball is in his court to make amends with those he’s abused.
  4. Know that you are now partly responsible for the information I’m presenting to you.

Also, I’m aware that in some ways, you all are either good friends, mentors, or ministry partners with Daniel Jones. Because of this relationship, I feel I should hold each one of you responsible for what I’m sending you.

Now that you’ve read my letter, my blog (www.mycultlife.com) and the comments fellow ministers, church members, and MC staff members and students have left on the blog, I’m holding you responsible for what you’ve seen and heard in this email and in the others that are to come. I don’t feel this is too harsh a responsibility to ask a friend or ministry partner who does close ministry work with another pastor. If you would not like this responsibility, or if I have misplaced it on you, please notify me by email.

If you knew that spiritual abuse was taking place in a close friend’s church and remained silent, I’d be shocked. I’m very sure that none of you would overlook this. Hopefully, as friends, you can approach him in a way that he will receive. Otherwise, I will take further action.

I’d like a response to this email within a week. Please acknowledge that you received the email by July 30th, 2010.

With Respect,
Lisa

Gardner at Our Savior’s Church, or Live-In Slave?

Wow Lisa… I guess I never really knew any part of your story or why you left MC. I was only there for 4 months and during that time I was so wrapped in my own person hell and misery that I couldn’t really see that anyone else was going through the same thing. I was convinced that it was just me and my “discipleship leader” liked to reinforce that belief. I know just how you feel when you sat there contemplating how to escape and toying with the idea of ending it all. It may seem a bit crazy now but at the time, questioning everything you’ve been taught for the last 5 or more years is really scary. I remember fighting with myself and trying to convince myself that somehow everything my body and mind were telling me was wrong. It was demons, my own selfishness, or Satan himself. But it wasn’t any of those things. It was a simple case of manipulation. It was really hard on me when I came to that conclusion because at that point I had no idea who the hell I was or what the hell to believe in. I had been lied to and manipulated for a long time and accepted those lies as the truth and let that consume my life. The next several years became a very trying time of rediscovering who I am. It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that Jacob [Thomas] mentioned earlier. Maybe God created me exactly the way I was. But I’ve got to say I am thankful for that. I now know who I am because of what they put me through.

I don’t know if you knew this or not but Thai Guidry, TJ Guidry, Jordan Belt and I all worked at Our Savior’s Church the summer before Master’s Commission 3D started in Broussard. I didn’t realize it at the time but we were basically live-in slaves. We worked 8 hours a day for 5 days a week maintaining the 30 acres of land that the church sits on. That meant mowing the grass, edging, weed eating, blowing the leaves, maintaining the pool, cleaning the Lodge, prep work for any special services, and basically anything else they asked. Thai and I were pretty much the ones responsible for weeding and edging which is a never-ending task. As soon as you finish edging 30 acres it’s time to start over. I remember one of the pastors telling us he wanted the place to look like a golf course. We did all of this for absolutely NO PAY! We lived in the little pool house in front of the dorms, which flooded any time it rained and we were allowed $50 a week for food.

No not each… $50 in total.

When we finally asked for more money for food we had the same thing told to us. We were ungrateful for what we had and out of line for asking for me. I felt like Oliver Twist. Can I have some more sir?? That should’ve been my first sign of what was to come next.

But at the time it made sense because that’s how the church operated. No one was paid and everyone was supposed to be grateful for “serving the kingdom.” More like serving the money generating machine that is OSC with unpaid labor.

Told by Ryan Baudoin

www.ryanbaudoin.wordpress.com

Is A Car Wreck a Direct Result of Disobedience to your Pastor?

A former MCA student talks about his experience in Master’s Commission of Austin, under the leadership of Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson. What you are about to read is a real experience that helps to illustrate the controlling nature of leadership in MCA, and the ways they’d isolate us from our parents.

“When Nathan Davies left MCA, Pastor Dan Matlock from Rockford MC took over. He was amazing. He realized how spiritually and emotionally messed up we were and we had a healing service the first week with the counselors of Glad Tidings. It was healing spiritually and emotionally. In your blogs on mycultlife.com, there is mention of needing permission to do things and if you disobeyed the [leaders] there would be affliction from the devil. One specific instance is when we were on a travel trip to Winnie, Texas. PE [Pastor Nathan] let me drive my personal car because it was close to my home town. I wanted to take my car so in down time I could go see my mom and dad.

PE had told me that during my down time I was not to go see my mom and dad—that I was to hang out with the team. Well I did not do that. I decided that no one was going to stop me from seeing my mom or dad, for they had just recently given their hearts to God at one of our services. On the way back [from visiting my parents] I had fallen asleep at the wheel and slammed my car into a guardrail on the side of the highway while driving back to the church where we were staying. When it was all said and done while back in Austin, PE called me into a meeting with him and Tim Wilson. I was told that the reason I got into the wreck is because I did not obey [Pastor Nathan] when he told me to not to go see my parents. Because I disobeyed him, the wreck was a direct result of my disobedience. The reason I fell asleep is that I was so tired and ran so thin from all the travel trips back to back that I could not focus.

I was so convinced that it was my disobedience that caused the wreck that I was never going to disobey again. PE made me write a letter to my parents apologizing to them for almost killing myself through disobedience. That same year I injured my neck by falling. One day after that, while still in my neck brace, Tim Wilson cornered me in the hallway of the Third Floor by the Master’s Commission Offices and said, “Josh you notice how you’re always getting hurt or injured? What’s going on man? What kind of secret sin are you hiding?”

I did not have any secret sin that caused me to injure my neck. I did not have any secret sin at all, so I just made something up to appease him. Because when I said I had nothing to hide, that answer was not good enough.”

JOSH SPORT

Rainy night in Austin, TX

It was a rainy night in Austin, TX (not Georgia) the year 2000; I flew out to visit   my daughter Lisa; it was her first year there at MC.  I had never been to Austin, TX so when I arrived at the airport I expected someone from MC to greet me (as they did at Phoenix, AZ MC); no one was there.  I got a rental car, no gps, no cell phone, a road map and started to drive to Glad Tidings Church.  The rain was pouring down; eventually I looked up and saw a sign saying I was almost in another state; I pulled over to use a payphone called MC Heather Brown answered and I chewed her out saying “Do you people not want any visitors, I am really lost and scared.  This is no way to greet out-of-towners.” It was near midnight, and for those of you who know “mom time” we are in bed by 10 p.m. That was my first impression of Austin, TX, MC and I was quite naive about churches and Lisa and I were already in the first stages of brainwashing. What a terrible way to greet parents of MC students and staff.


This story told by Lisa’s mother, Laura.

As many of you have read under the Articles section, one of the signs of an unhealthy group or cult is the alienation from friends and family. This story from my mother is a prime example of one of the ways Master’s Commission of Austin alienated us from our friends and family. My parents lived in California, so to visit me they had to take a four to six hour flight, not to mention take time off work. Needless to say, my parents trusted my judgment and were always very supportive of my decisions but neither of us had been to visit the church or Master’s Commission in Austin before I made the decision to move out there.


Letter to Lloyd and MCIN from former MCA Member

The following is a letter from Sean M. Mitchell, who was one of my best friends during my years in Austin, TX. Sean was a wonderful friend and support during those years in Austin, and has remained a true friend as well as the voice and face of kindness to me when I was in the darkest moments of my life. Thank you Sean for never turning your back on me, always reminding me of the goodness that lay inside me when I couldn’t see it, and supporting me through the years. Thank you, also, for allowing others to read this very heartfelt letter that many others will be able to relate to.

July 26, 2010

RE: Spiritual Abuse in Lafayette, Louisiana

Dear Lloyd and MCIN Board:

I am writing in regards to my growing concern for the practices by high leadership at Masters Commission 3D and Our Saviors Church (OSC) in Lafayette, Louisiana. I spent over four years at Masters Commission of Austin under Nathan Davies in Austin, Texas and know everyone who went to Lafayette very thoroughly. I have strong reason to believe that there is spiritual abuse and potential cultic practices taking place at OSC.

Since many of my friends moved to Louisiana, I have had multiple conversations with over ten former staff members who have been personally manipulated, controlled, and ostracized by Daniel Jones, Nathan Davies, and Tim Wilson. I have heard from multiple friends that disagreement and questioning of leadership is strongly condoned. Any staff member that questions executive leadership on a decision is often brought up in front of staff meetings for the purpose of embarrassment and isolation. Staff members are told to unconditionally obey leadership in order to stay under the covering of their spiritual authority; not obeying authority is said to result in affliction by the devil. The type of tight-lipped control executive leadership has on its staff members characterizes some of the symptoms of well known cultic groups like Heaven’s Gate, Branch Davidians, and Mormon fundamentalist.

Additionally, the control that executive leadership has over day-to-day life decisions of staff further concerns me. In the name of Godly submission and shepherding, I have heard that staff is required to ask permission for things like having babies, buying new homes, receiving permission to court someone of the opposite sex, and divulge details of personal finances. Failure to submit to these controlling practices would require those in high power to disown and dismiss those on staff, justifying their actions by stating that the staff member has chosen to no longer be “a son or daughter in the house.”

I can personally attest to similar dealings during my time as a staff member at Masters Commission of Austin (MCA) under Nathan Davies. The many manipulative and controlling practices at MCA are undoubtedly from the influences of Daniel Jones over the last 20 years, not a reflection of the leadership at Glad Tidings. While I was on staff, Nathan Davies often used strong, coercive language to manipulate members of his staff to do what he thought was the will of God. For example, after telling Nathan that I was not traveling to Louisiana with others but moving to Norway to be apart of a missionary organization, he told me that he was very “sick to his stomach” about me leaving. It took the encouragement of the, at the time, Senior and Associate Pastor of Glad Tidings to convince me I could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit myself. After departing MCA, I was faced with a long journey to deprogram my thinking from the toxic teaching that everything had to be approved by a leader or else it was sin. I realized that I could make my own decisions without asking permission for every single action.

I am asking that Masters Commission International Network investigate the abuse of my dear friends who have left OSC hurt and confused. Furthermore, I fear that some of my closest friends still at OSC will incur long lasting mental and spiritual damage if nothing is done.

Sincerely,

Sean M. Mitchell


 

It was MY CULT LIFE, too.

I received this email last week and since I had this person’s permission to post it, I thought it would be a good time to share it. I have changed a few minor details to protect the identity of this person, because no one deserves to be harassed the way I’ve been harassed for speaking up. Please read on:

Dear Lisa,

Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know I’ve been following your blog. Thank you for speaking out, I feel the exact same way but I never understood the importance of confronting it until I recently read everything you’ve been posting. 

I spent years at MCID (now Master’s Commission 3D), and it took me a year or two to realize what had actually happened: that I had been in a cult.

God bless you, L! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me.

I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t believe it for a while. I’ve spent the last several years being content to say to myself, “Well I know that a lot of things that took place were wrong, but I’m just going to hold on to the good things that God did in me and forgive and forget the rest.” Boy, a lot of good that has done for the naive ones that have followed our footsteps, eh?

I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with another one of my former peers who has not regarded our time at MCID with contempt.

Thank you for sharing, I’m reading and pursuing my own path of healing and desire for justice. I don’t want this to continue to happen, and I pray that the Lord will move on their hearts as they read and hear about those who have been hurt and scarred under their leadership.

Signed,

“It was My Cult Life, Too”

Dear “It was My Cult Life, Too:” What a beautiful letter! Thank you (you and I know who you are). I hope you know that you are a valuable, wonderful human being and are not responsible for what happened at that place. You are a child of God. Keep your head up and keep smiling. I wish you the very best life has to offer.