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.

Current Update: MCIN Letter Resolution (Part 2)

During a recent post, http://www.mycultlife.com/2010/07/21/mcin-update/, I stated what Lloyd Zeigler had told me. During this update, I stated that Lloyd made the following rules in 2008 based on my letters and had all the MC Directors sign that this would be new MCIN rules:

  • MC groups must pay staff members the state minimum wage.
  • MC Students can not be discouraged from calling their parents or or coerced from discussing things that happen at Master’s Commission.

Now, I’m directing the following questions to the MCIN and to Lloyd Zeigler:

  1. How are these changes being made?
  2. Who is communicating these changes to the MC Directors?
  3. How often and how are they enforced?

Lloyd told me in a phone call that he had just gotten off the phone with about 80 MC Directors telling them that they were not to prevent students from seeing their parents. Unfortunately, Lloyd didn’t speak to these directors about paying their staff minimum wage, or anything about providing benefits for them.

While it’s great that he’s making strides to try to communicate one thing to the MC Directors, the issue he addressed with him didn’t address a whole lot of what I asked to be addressed.

After much research and discussions with Lloyd and other directors, I can sadly report that I have not found ONE single MC group who has been paying their staff members and support staff members minimum wage. Not even Lloyd’s own Master’s Commission group pays their staff members minimum wage (before OR after he moved from Phoenix, Arizona). He has a handful of staff who DO get paid, but the large majority of staff (at least 40 or more people) are unpaid.

Now, I’ve been known to be very gullible and naive, but all this apparently proves it.

Recently, Lloyd and I talked and I addressed the issue of unpaid staff members on his team. He defended them as “interns” and stated that Washington D.C. has interns, a zoologist friend of his did an unpaid internship years ago, and doctors go through unpaid internships. I argued with him that most internships today are PAID and that the Department of Labor is doing an investigation on Internships nationwide. You can read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/22/fair-unpaid-internships-u_n_547543.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/04/17/obama-administration-considers-cracking-unpaid-internships/

I wrote a letter to the MCIN and to Lloyd over TWO years ago. The bottom line is I haven’t had a resolution since then. I contacted Lloyd about 2 months ago–with the start of this blog–and he promised me that he would take care of this situation. My question is: Why should I have to RECONTACT someone and hound them for getting an issue solved? Isn’t it THE JOB of the MCIN to do this?

Now, nearly 2 months later, the situation is unresolved and the only thing I want from the MCIN and Lloyd Zeigler is for them to DO THEIR JOB. In a recent conversation, Lloyd Zeigler complained that he doesn’t get paid a salary for work for the MCIN. However, he founded the MCIN and he took over Master’s Commission shortly after it’s inception, and has ran it for the past 25 years. He also made it a point to state that he had to be concerned with how other pastors viewed him and he honestly seemed more concerned for his reputation amongst other pastors than he was his reputation to the students and staff who’ve looked up to him and admired him for years.

That’s sad!

To quote the MCIN website: “Master’s Commission International Network (MCIN) is the accountability and glue that holds these programs together.  MCIN isn’t limited to any one  denomination, but works with many churches.”

Now if this statement is true, then why has it been TWO YEARS and nothing has been done to address these issues?

I’m not sure about you, dear readers, but I’m getting sick of the lip service I’ve received from the MCIN and Lloyd personally. I’m tired of waiting. Sadly, over 16 students sent in letters to Lloyd Zeigler regarding the spiritual abuse they faced under Nathan Davies and Master’s Commission of Austin, and nothing has been done.

If it takes a class-action lawsuit, then that’s what it takes but there must be something done about the abuse being done to young people.

If you have been abused by Master’s Commission, please email me at mycultlife@gmail.com to share your story. If you would like to send a story to share on my blog, please email the same address.

The following is a repost of the letter that has yet to be resolved: http://www.mycultlife.com/2010/07/06/letters-to-nowhere-lloyd/

This week, I’ve posted actual letters I’ve written to the pastors I worked for. The next letter in the succession is what I sent to the co-founder of the MCIN, or Master’s Commission International Network, Lloyd Zeigler. I sent this letter to Lloyd because each Master’s Commission group is under the MCIN umbrella and has to agree to follow a set of guidelines.

I urged Lloyd (and Eric Hunsberger, who heads up the Administrative side of the MCIN) to  make note of what happened to me because I was speaking on behalf of several other students and staff members from Austin and Louisiana. I felt that was a responsible thing for me to do.

Lloyd and his wife called me as soon as they received my letter and talked to me for two hours. They apologized on behalf of Master’s Commission and said they weren’t aware of any of this until my letter came. Lloyd also told me if I felt I should pursue a lawsuit, I would have their support. I knew I’d have enough of a case to win a lawsuit, but my family has never been the type to pursue lawsuits. I also don’t think Lloyd realized that he’d be implicated in that same lawsuit, if I pursued one, because the Master’s Commissions in Austin and Louisiana were tied to his network of ministries and he might ultimately be responsible.

Lloyd said he’d be sending my letter to his lawyer to see if there were some things from it they could add into the MCIN guidelines to protect students and staff members from this type of thing happening, but he and his wife moved to Dallas, Texas to start a new church after that phone call and that was never done (to my knowledge).  He also said that because Nathan Davies was the Vice President of the MCIN he’d have to stand by him and support him, and I’d have to understand that. I didn’t and don’t understand that, actually. I think my letter and my demeanor on the phone must have been too mild to really convey the type of damage that was done to me and many others by this ministry for him to take Nathan’s side. Otherwise, Lloyd wouldn’t stand by and let young people get abused. At the end of the phone call, Lloyd told me to give his cell phone number to any of the people I was writing on behalf of, if they wanted to call him, he’d apologize to them and talk to them, too. I’d like to believe he really meant this, but I’m not sure because I gave his number to one of my good friends and she said he never answered her phone call or returned her voice mail.

Although I’m disappointed that this issue was completely discarded after my conversation with Lloyd and Tim, at least they had the integrity to call me and talk to me. For that, I am extremely thankful. However, the fact that young men and women are still getting spiritually abused and that my letter fell to people who just gave me lip service and ignored the rest of my pleas, is cause for me to need to talk about my experience.

The following is the letter I sent to Lloyd and Eric in 2008:

Dear Lloyd Zeigler and Eric Hunsberger,

This letter may come as a surprise as I’ve been out of Master’s Commission Industries in Lafayette, LA for three years; however, the issues I’m addressing in this letter are relevant to the future of the MCIN.

After spending a year in Phoenix in 1998-99, I feel I developed a respect for both of you (Lloyd and Eric) and that respect has carried on into my years as a staff member in Texas and Louisiana (under Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson).

My writings here are not of an offended, immature Christian, but of a burden I feel from God to speak my heart on what has happened to me because I know I’m not the only person I’m speaking for. There are many silent staff members (former and current), and students (former and current) who have felt deep, intense pain and betrayal after leaving Master’s Commission. And more importantly, there are issues of manipulation and ostracizing that need to be heard and dealt with for the safety of the MCIN and the students and staff.

My suggestions and claims below are based on my own personal experience as a staff member and student of Master’s Commission of Austin (Director, Nathan Davies) and Master’s Commission Industries (Director, Tim Wilson in Lafayette, LA), under Pastor Daniel Jones. I seek dialogue to be opened up between the offending parties (Nathan, Wilson, and Jones) and the groups which govern or oversee them (MCIN). My wish is that change would come and MCIN would take responsibility for the changes that need to take place.

While I will not go so far as to say that all Master’s Commissions are cults, I will say based on my experience (and experiences of my peers), Master’s Commission Industries falls into the category of what experts call a destructive group or a cult. The reason I use these terms are based on studies that have been done on cults. The following are traits that Master’s Commission Industries has:

  • A Totalitarian worldview: A group that approves of unethical behavior while claiming goodness and promotes the goals of the group over the individual.
  • Exploitation: There is pressure to give money, to spend a great deal of money on special projects. Exploitation can be financial, physical, or psychological.
  • Alienation: Separation from family, friends, and society, a change in values and substitution of the group as the new “family”.
  • Exclusivity: Secretiveness or vagueness by followers regarding activities and beliefs; recruiting and fund-raising with hidden objectives and without full disclosure; use of “front groups”.

Additionally, some of the following are issues I have personally felt in my experiences in MC Industries (both under Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson):

  • 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 the group leaders imposed:

  • 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”).

During my time as a student or staff member, I made effort to resolve and voice my complaints while working for the above mentioned parties. However, when I brought up certain issues, I was both rebuked and harassed, or dismissed as unimportant. Equally as important as the psychological effects, are the the financial issues.

I was paid $100 a month for well over 60 hours of work, which is less than $0.40 an hour (40 CENTS). Only one year was my pay increased to $500 a month (and that was when I worked as a nanny for senior pastor, Daniel Jones), which is around $2.00 an hour.

I am speaking up about these issues because there are many more staff members and students who are willing to give their heart to these ministries and may walk away harmed spiritually, financially, and mentally.

I am requesting that the Master’s Commission International Network and the Assemblies of God (or appropriate governing boards) investigate these issues and particularly Master’s Commission Industries. I ask that you, MCIN, take an aggressive stance toward these issues. Upon investigation, I would like to offer that they establish guidelines to benefit the future employees/students.

For the future of the MCIN, I would like to suggest the following for the safety and wellness of the students:

  • Safe “complaint” system established that a student can go to without retributions in order to bring to the attention of the MCIN any matter of harassment, mental harm, destructive teaching, or all manners of an unhealthy group or cult-like teachings.
  • Guidelines established involving limitations on how much a director can dictate of a student’s “self-discipline.” Including, but not limited to dating, entertainment, music, clothing, etc.
  • Establish clearly that the Director or Staff Member is NOT the voice of God for the said students and staff members and in no way should exercise such grossly misguided authority.
  • Protection of the student from authoritarianism of a Director’s or Staff members by revoking a group’s affiliation with the MCIN, if deemed necessary.
  • Guidelines and hours set to protect the student from over-work, long term exhaustion or fatigue, or physical ailments due to over-work for no (or very little) monetary payment. Following the laws that the Department of Labor establishes, according to www.dol.gov
  • A board of directors for each Master’s Commission that should include parents of students or staff members. Also, a safe “complaint” system established in which a student or staff member’s parent(s), guardian or friend can go to without retributions in order to bring to the attention of the MCIN any matter of harassment, mental harm, destructive teaching, or all manners of an unhealthy group or cult-like teachings.
  • Regularly monitoring of activities, and teachings to prevent further development of patterns of cult-like teachings, destructive and harmful teachings and practices.
  • Encourage students to engage in open relationships with their parents, family and friends and not to exclude or hide anything from them. To develop an “Open Campus” policy and Parent’s Board for parents to question policies, procedures, pay scale, work load and work schedules.

For the future of the MCIN, I would like to suggest the following for the safety and wellness of the staff members:

  • Set, enforced guidelines regarding pay scale for staff members relevant to actual work done that would be in the secular environment in the specific metropolitan area. Additionally, following the Department of Labor laws on employment and minimum wage.
  • Provide some type of minimum paid sick days and funeral leave standard to secular work place.
  • Provide access or information to health benefits or coverage, and adjust pay to appropriate for health care. (Note: Health care and health benefits do not mean the state run insurance!)
  • Provide paid vacation for full-time staff members, relevant to secular workplace.
  • Provide mileage compensation for job related driving.
  • Allow for staff members to date at their discretion, under advisement of the pastor only if the said staff member requests the advisement of a pastor. Take away the “No Dating” policy for students or staff members who are beyond their First Year. No dictating, scare tactics, or harassment of the staff member’s choices of dating.

Perhaps the greatest issue not covered is the issue of a person who leaves Master’s Commission (most groups included in this) is often ostracized. To ostracize is to: 1. exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc. Ostracizing is what some modern churches do, but it’s wrong. If you don’t follow their tenants, you get excommunicated. After serving MC for several years, I followed the voice of God to go home. This voice of God that I heard was contrary to the voice of the pastors. What’s ironic here is that I followed the voice of God, but was shunned from their ‘bubble’ and my reputation was ruined within that ‘bubble’ for not obeying the pastor.

I have carbon copied a number of persons for this letter. Please know that I care deeply about the future of Master’s Commission, my former employers and their children; however, I would be doing a great injustice to the ministry itself, it’s pastors, and related friends and benefactors had I failed to bring these wrongs to your attention.

I speak also on behalf of many alumni and former staff members who did not wish to risk personal retributions or emotional trauma from resurfacing these issues. They now have a voice and I hope forgiveness and open dialogue can one day enter all of our hearts. As Pulma Gobodo-Madikizela says, “For in the end, we are a society of people and not ideas, a fragile web of interdependent humans, not of stances.”

Thank you,

L.

Cc: Nathan Davies, Tim Wilson, Daniel Jones

Resource: ACUI International Conference presentation “Desperately Seeking Community: The Appeal of Cult Leadership”, Mindy Griffith, University of Arizona. March 6, 2000, New York, NY.

Additional information on Cults obtained from Purdue University Counseling Center and
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Counseling Center.

 

Labor Laws may be obtained at the Department of Labor website: www.dol.gov

 

Wear Pink or Be Called Manly

A Former MCA Student tells her very personal story about spiritual abuse and discrimination that happened to her during her years in Master’s Commission of Austin.

MCL: Year you were in Master’s Commission?

 

Former MCA Student: 1998-2000, 2000-2001 Intern under MCA

MCL: City you were in Master’s Commission?

 

FS: Austin

MCL: What were you doing before Master’s Commission?

 

FS: Working and I was a youth leader at my church assisting the youth pastor

MCL: What first introduced you to Master’s Commission?

 

FS: I met people from Master’s Commission in Dallas

MCL: Why did you decide to join Master’s Commission?

 

FS: Thought it would be a great place for me to go since I did not plan on going to college (went to college in the Fall of 2001)

MCL: Who were your Directors at the time?

 

FS: Nathan Davies

MCL: Once you entered MC, what was your impression of the rules that were presented to you?  Can you remember any specific rules? Please describe them.

 

FS: I remember how we had to keep our rooms really really neat!!!!  Nathan could come in anytime and check our rooms.  If he did not like what he saw he would take everything that was “out of place” and throw it in a pile in the middle of the floor.  I remember felling like I was in the military.  I remember one girl stating that everyone should have matching bedding so it would look nicer.  I remember thinking that I did not want to look like everyone else

We had lights out at a certain time.  I really do not remember what time it was, but I do remember that if we as students broke the lights out, we would be in trouble.  If lights out was broken because we were up late working on a project that was fine.

We also had to ask permission from our staff leader before we went anywhere.  I understand that they wanted to know where we were, but if you were not able to find this one person you were not supposed to leave.  I went to the laundry mat with another girl because we were out of clean clothes.  Tim and Victoria came running into the laundry mat and said we did not know where you were and they chewed me out for leaving without permission.  Funny thing is they must have know where I was or they would not have found me.  It was quite embarrassing that it all took place in public, how weird did that look.

I remember that we had a strict dress code.  We had to dress up for prayer and class in the morning, but then we had to change to work.  If you had to go into the church office you could not go in your work clothes.  I spoke with an MC student from a different church and they stated that they have never seen people change clothes so much.

MCL: What was your impression of “20/10?” Did you ever have a hard time staying awake reading your bible? Please explain.

FS: I do not remember the 20/10.  That might have been after I left.  I do remember being required to read a lot.  I could never keep up.  It was not for a lack of effort.  I even remember having to turn in book reports. It was so hard keeping up with all the reading while we were building the coffee shop, cleaning the youth room, and working on many other projects all day long.  On the books that I could not read in time I just skimmed.  I was so afraid that if I did not finish I was going to get in trouble.


MCL: What was your impression of the “no dating” policy? Did you ever have a personal instance where you asked to avoid someone that you had feelings for? Please explain.

 

FS: I thought the dating policy was a little odd, but I just figured that it was because we were all in such tight quarters.  I figured that they did not want a girl getting knocked up and causing problems.
MCL: Did you ever have a conflict with the leadership or directors? Please explain.

FS: I had plenty of conflict, but I never really said anything.  I was actually told by a staff member at one point that I had not grown enough over the time that I had been there (first year) so I was not allowed to go to Royal Family Kids Camp. She told me that God woke her up at 3 am to tell her this.  My thought was that she was not listening to God or he would have told her sooner and when she was awake. I was so sad.  I really wanted to go and work with the kids.  I found it funny that I was good enough to work in the nursery just about every Sunday, but I was not good enough to go to Royal Family Kids Camp.  I was allowed to go the next year and I cam back from San Antonio for four years after that to go to the camp.

MCL: Was there ever a time you were put on the spot and completely embarrassed? Were you ever made to be “an example?”

FS: I was made as an example.  We were working on the set for Hell’s Alternative and I was assigned the task of pinning an extra piece of fabric to the curtain to make it longer.  The curtain did not touch the floor.  I was given a pile of black fabric that did not match the black curtain.  I wanted it to be perfect because I was afraid that Nathan would make a big deal about how bad of a job I did  if it was not perfect.  I asked two people that were not doing anything to assist me because it was hard to pin it with all the extra fabric and making sure the safety pins did not show on the outside.  After we had pinned up a good portion I went to the front pew where Nathan was sitting.  I stood there by him not saying anything (MC students had to wait until they were acknowledged to speak if a staff person looked busy).  I stood there for almost a 1/2 hour and he never even looked at me, so I went back and finished up the curtain.  We ran out of fabric before curtain, that is when I found out that the so called “extensions” were not made for the curtains specifically as I had thought.  Nathan had us all come into the youth room and gave us icecream to thank us for all our hard work.  I took a seat in an armchair.  One of the other girls wanted to sit in the same seat, but I had beat her so she sat on the arm of the chair and put her legs across to the other arm.  He then tore into another MC student and then into me.  I had wasted several hours and many people’s time.  He could not believe how bad of a job I had done and it would have to be done all over again.  I was then called into one of the offices in the youth room with Tim, Victoria, Kathie, and Nathan.  Nathan told me how I made him sick to his stomach.  He told me that I always walked around with another girl hanging on my arm.  I was shocked.  Many of the MC girls held hands, played with each others hair, and rubbed each others backs.  I did not like doing that stuff.  I was getting in trouble because someone came up to me and hooked arms with me while we skipped like in the Wizard of Oz and because another girls decided to sit on the arm of a chair that I was in (we were not even touching).  They told me that I was too manly.  They were calling me a lesbian without coming out and saying it. When the meeting was over I went to one of the Sunday School rooms and I cried for two hours.  I just imagined what things would be like if I was dead.  Then I thought it is time to leave and I thought about walking/hitchhiking back home (which was 5 hours or more away) did not tell anyone what happened.  I wondered if anyone would miss me.

 

I was able to deal with what had been set before me.  I found that they wanted me to wear pink to look more like a girl.  What a joke!!  I loved pink, never had a problem with it, but I just never found anything that I liked in pink.   I was also told that I needed to be more open with Kathie.  She set up nightly meeting with me so we could talk about what happened that day.  I informed her that I was an open book, ask and I will tell.  I was told that I knew what I needed to tell them and they expected me to come to them.  This did not last long because she did not have time to meet with me.  I was also told that I needed to stop hanging out with certain people that I had a strong friendship with and make a friend ship with another certain person.  I did not like speaking with this person because things that were said went back to staff.  I attempted, but all my attempts were ignored.

I was told that not wearing make up made me look like I was not presentable. I had put on some make up, but it was not enough.  A certain person chewed my butt  for 15 min telling me how I needed to wear make up.  Other students were walking by and could hear what was going on.  I tried to explain how I had on make up.  I was then quizzed on what I had on.  I responded that I was wearing what they had told me I needed to wear.  I was then told that I needed to wear more.  I explained that I ran out of and I was told to borrow the make up from someone else.  Borrowing others make up is gross, there are diseases that are transmitted that way.  Me being rebellious did not borrow anyone’s make up and I did not put anymore on.

Just an FYI to all those that thought I was too manly, I have been married for almost 5 years to the love of my life, and I love to get dressed up when I want too not when I am told.  I still wear blue jeans and t-shirts and I do not look sloppy.  I still don’t wear make up and my skin looks great!!  It has taken me a long time to realize that God has made me a beautiful woman and that I don’t need anything else to make me look better especially make up.

MCL: What was the most difficult thing you faced once you were back in “the real world?”

FS: I went to a church that had an MC program in San Antonio.  I never thought I would have problems because I was in MCA.  People that were in their MC group knew my name before I introduced myself to anyone.  At the new church their MC group had a meeting about me.  They thought that I was a spy from MCA that was coming to see what they were doing.  Their MC pastor had some problems and went to Nathan.  I had to explain myself over and over again that I was not in MC anymore and that I was not there to spy on them.

Being alone with the opposite sex was really hard for me when I left MC.  It was terrible to be in a car or anything without a second person to be a witness to make sure that we did not start making out randomly.  It took me a long time to get over this issue.

MCL: What were the circumstances surrounding you leaving?

FS: I just kind of disappeared.  I did not have any really tight relationships with anyone. I was made fun of for my car that had a bad fan belt, for being Native American, and for growing up in Holliday, TX (yes 2 “L’s”).  A few of the MC’s said good-bye to me.

MCL: What year did you leave?

 

FS: 2001

MCL: What was your position at the time (example: 1st year student, 2nd year student, Staff, etc.)?

FS: I did two years as an MC and then I was a part of the trial program of interns, it was not really under MC

MCL: Were you blessed when you left? Were you humiliated when you left?

 

FS: No one really cared that I was leaving.  They did not talk to me when I was an intern.  I left just about everyone my phone number and email address so they could contact me.

MCL: How many hours did you work on average during a week?

FS: I never really counted the hours that we worked, but it was sometimes around the clock.  I got really sick from the lack of sleep.

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