Never Tell Lloyd Zeigler “No”: A Former Master’s Commission Member Story

My experience at Masters Commission, Phoenix, AZ, as told by a Former Master’s Commission Member.

Where to start?

Well I, like many, became interested and joined Master’s Commission after seeing them perform at one of the local churches where I lived. They seemed so energetic and were bursting with talent from their seams. I was a musician and singer, so the fact that they used the stage for everything from acting to singing really peaked my interest. I was in my last year of high school and after seeing them, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. After I graduated high school I hit the road; destination Phoenix, AZ. There was a diverse group of us (first year students). It was exciting. I remember having a “commitment ceremony” where we, (1st year students) were given a ring to wear as our commitment to God not to date. This was not a problem for me because unbeknownst to everyone there…I was gay. Fast forward in time now… A girl who I will refer to as H, was kicked out of our Master’s Commission. She was also first year. She left and we were told she was demon possessed (because she was gay).
Side-note: I have to say how interesting that Master’s Commission’s BEST services were when they used songs by Ray Boltz. Talk about “annointed” music. When Master’s Commission did their “human videos” to his music; you’d think Jesus would physically show up. Interestingly enough, Ray Boltz just came out that he is gay not that long ago. I guess Master’s Commission didn’t feel the demon possession coming through his music. So hindsight; my privacy was important.

After all, I wasn’t there for any one of them.

I was there for me.

I was there to grow, to learn, to evolve and most important to know God and make him known. I’m so glad that I never confided in Lloyd Zeigler. He thrived to have intimate knowledge of those around him. He would use it to his advantage.

How so?

Well the saying, knowledge is power is exactly how he used his knowledge.  If you don’t believe what I’m saying, then I ask you this; what benefit is there to me or anyone else knowing that one of his subordinates had a struggle with bestiality? No, he didn’t say it to pray for them. It was a flippant bit of information he let roll off his tongue. It was a form of manipulation.

It made you feel that he was all-seeing and all-knowing.

Like a God.

I felt horrible for the person who went to him in confidence, telling their darkest secrets, only to have them repeated. This is just one of many examples of confidentiality being broken. I remember going to a special luncheon with Lloyds wife Chris. It was the first and second year girls who attended.

The one thing that resonated in my mind was when Chris stressed to us to, “NEVER TELL LLOYD NO”.

If he wanted you to perform a part of a human video and you didn’t know the part; it didn’t matter…. You DON’T tell him no. If you are sick but he needs something, you don’t say no. Etc., etc.  I can remember all the second year girls who had already had this talk during their first year nodding their heads in agreement. That wouldn’t be the last time I heard that statement. “Never tell Lloyd no”, would be drilled into us from staff members as well. At that age, and at the place we were at to learn and grow, were were naive and shook our heads in agreement.

Let’s move on to Loyalty.

What emphasis they would put on loyalty.

Loyalty to Lloyd.

During one of our Prayer Sessions, Lloyd came in to a building that at that time was called Carmen Hall. When it was time for him to speak to all of us he began to speak about loyalty. This story I would never forget because it was so twisted. But God forbid I voice that opinion.

He gave an example about loyalty.

He said to us that Pastor Tommy Barnett was his pastor and that he was loyal to him. He said that he was so loyal to him, that if one day he saw Pastor Barnett running after a guy and shooting at them with a gun, that he wouldn’t try to stop Pastor Barnett from shooting that man, but that he would instead help him. Because, he said, for all he knew, maybe that person had tried to assault his wife, Maria Barnett. He stressed that he had trust and loyalty to his Pastor and would not question what he was doing, but trust him and help him.

This blew my mind. We as human beings are fallible.

We are not beings that should be trusted with blind faith and loyalty. But, regardless; his “tale” was a good roundabout way to instill in us, loyalty to our leaders.

Loyalty to [Lloyd.]

There were ex members of Master’s Commission that we were told never to associate with. We were told that they “hurt” Lloyd. And that was enough reason for us not to question any further and to shun whoever they were.

How dare they hurt him….What a load of crap!

We were so impressionable at that age. I feel for the people who came in to the program as children, like we did; but stayed into their adulthood and are still there. They dont know it, but they have blinders on. And at this point in their life… What are they going to do? Some of them have families now. Are they helping their family or hurting them? Are they giving their families the very best that they can? Or are they stuck in a program that dictates their finances, relationships and and the true order of priorities? Are they now the next generation of leadership that is brainwashing a group of young bright eyed kids as they used to be themselves?
I’m glad I’m not a part of it anymore. I’m glad I left when I did. I’m now known as one of those people who “hurt Lloyd”. (Who knows what the story is they’ve made up about that).

And you know what?

I just don’t care.

Here is to living life in the light of day.

Cream Cheese and Memories

We’ve all had a moment where we pick up something or hear a song and it takes us back to a specific moment in time. I’ve been having that experience lately with whipped cream cheese. The past few mornings, I’ve been off work and have been waking up to a bagel and coffee at home. As I spread the cream cheese across my bagel, I’m taken back to the years I lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area and first attended Master’s Commission.

After my first year in Master’s Commission Phoenix (which is now Master’s Commission USA, and I’ll refer to Master’s Commission Phoenix as such), I took some time off to work and figure out how to pursue ministry (since my future plans changed drastically after being in Master’s Commission). Many mornings or afternoons, I’d drive to Einstein Bros. Bagels (and no, I’m not getting paid to endorse them, but I would accept sponsorship from them in the form of their honey almond shmear) and get a bagel and coffee for breakfast.

Master’s Commission USA was less of a militaristic boot camp than Master’s Commission Austin (the group is now called Elevate 3D, after getting kicked out of the Master’s Commission International Network) was. Because of that, I have some pretty decent memories of my time living in Phoenix, since I was able to experience the city from time to time.

Master’s Commission USA wasn’t perfect, though. My year there wasn’t something I’d do over again. I was constantly conflicted by what I saw displayed as “Christlike” and what I’d learned was Christlike. I thought to be Christlike, a person should be themselves, be kind and study the Bible to the best of their ability. What I learned in Master’s Commission USA was that to be Christlike, you should compete for a celebrity status, show off your performance skills, and worship God with an outward display louder and better than anyone around you (yelling and screaming, jumping and dancing, and waving your arms were all smiled upon). Becoming Christlike wasn’t a pleasure; it was a task and it was expected of us.

I was absolutely confused, because I wasn’t the type of person that would be accepted in that type of group. I was shy, academic, and independent. I didn’t sing. I couldn’t dance, and I didn’t really like yelling in church. So, I changed. In all honesty, it wasn’t like I changed strictly to fit in. In fact, I tried to stay “me” as much as possible. But, each day we’d have some kind of activity that reinforced the “normal” Master’s Commission behavior. If we weren’t like everyone else, we soon started becoming like them, or being taught how to act like them.

We’d start off prayer in the church sanctuary every morning and we’d be surrounded by our fellow students. Some would be pacing the church floor, shouting out their prayers. Some would be laying on the floor crying out for their freedom or someone else’s.

After prayer, we’d have a number of activities to do, but sometimes we’d have dance practice. I was kind of girl at high school or junior high dances that either didn’t go because I couldn’t dance and so had a fear of dancing, or stood around with a group of friends and couldn’t even sway to the music because my rhythm was off. Now, all of a sudden, I was supposed to be in a large group of my fellow first year students and learn choreographed dances in one afternoon? Oh god.

I wasn’t the only white girl, but I was surrounded by students of different cultural backgrounds and let’s just say that most of them were coordinated. It was terrifying to learn these dances, and even worse when everyone was picking up the dance moves and I wasn’t.

We’d move on to human video practice, which is where Master’s Commission staff or students had taken a song (Christian or not) and choreographed movements to tell a story. Sometimes it was acting. Sometimes it was dance-like moves. Either way, to me it was hard. I was an actress in high school plays, but I’d had no major roles. Not to mention, it seemed like everyone in Master’s Commission had been an actress, a singer, a musician or something creative and done bigger and better performances than I had. Which may have been true…or it may have just been the competitive environment I’d stepped into without realizing it.

Because I failed to learn dances and was horrible at human videos, and because I couldn’t sing, there wasn’t any ministry left for me to do with the exception of janitorial work and discipling people in the youth group (which we were required to do). At Phoenix First Assembly of God, we often had celebrity ministers come visit. On one occasion, Joyce Meyer came to hold a conference. While I wasn’t allowed to attend, because we were busy with our Master’s Commission duties, I was allowed to help out the church janitor clean up the church after the sessions got out. The entire weekend, we spent cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming the three story mega-church.

Although I never got to travel, and experience what all the other students were experiencing on the road, I was able to stay in Phoenix and attend every church service. This allowed me to meet some really wonderful people. I made friends with dozens of people and families. It was so nice to meet families who’d invite me over for a Sunday afternoon lunch and a movie, especially since I was away from home for the first time. On my day off (which I had in Master’s Commission USA and not in Master’s Commission Austin), I’d have people to go have coffee with, or go shopping with and that was really nice.

My experience in Master’s Commission USA wasn’t awful, admittedly. It doesn’t haunt me like my time with Master’s Commission Austin and Elevate 3D in Lafayette, LA now does. It did derail my plans for college for several years and led me into a misguided relationship with God and ministry. Because of that and many other reasons (including their unethical treatment of staff members across the entire network of affiliated groups), I don’t support Master’s Commission and I don’t endorse it.

Since starting this blog, though, what I’ve learned is that when you become a staff member in Master’s Commission, the negative experiences really tend to grow. I’ve spoken with many former Master’s Commission USA staff members who have a very different perspective of the same year I was there simply because they were on staff. They knew Lloyd Zeigler better, had a different relationship with the other staff members, and most importantly, saw everything that was behind the scenes. Sometimes, what we as first year students saw on the front end was incredibly different from what we were told was happening or what happened. My own experience on staff with Master’s Commission Austin and what is now Elevate 3D is a testament to that. As a staff member, you’re held to a certain level of responsibility that students aren’t and that often has a negative effect. Though, in Master’s Commission Austin and Elevate 3D, many former (and current) students have emailed me or spoken to me saying that they had experienced much of what I had.

My experience with Master’s Commission is bittersweet. I met some great people along the way, and lived in some wonderful cities filled with entirely new (to me) cultural elements. I even traveled to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Myanmar. I learned to cook crawfish etouffee and blackened alligator. These experiences are special memories I like to remember.

But in Master’s Commission, I was convinced that I would be a better Christian if I were in the group and in ministry. I developed an elitist Christian mentality, where I believed I was better than the typical church member (also a sign of a cult). I felt I had to invest my energies into constant prayer and Bible study, and had to restrict any fun or recreation and worse yet I had to deny my ability to get a college degree, start a career and start a family.

I wish I’d never met the Master’s Commission group when they came to my church and my high school to perform a school assembly. I’d be long finished with my master’s degree, and be better off psychologically. I don’t believe in the cliche, “Everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that I’m responsible for my choices and my actions. I also believe that I can still make the most of my life, can still achieve my goals, and can eventually heal to a point where I’m not haunted by my time there.

I do feel a little like someone who’s gone through war, or a terrible divorce, instead of someone who joined a discipleship program. Instead of the claims they promised, I find myself battling nightmares and being afraid of people and new situations.

After Master’s Commission, I stopped journaling, because it was something we were forced to do while there. Journaling was something I’d done since I was a child, because my favorite writer, Ann M. Martin gave me writing advice to “journal every day.” My love for journaling was destroyed after seven years of forced note taking and writing.

This blog has restored that love for journaling, as you can tell. And all the therapists are right–journaling is extremely therapeutic. Even as I write these blogs, knowing my inner thoughts are going to be seen online by thousands of people, I still feel like it’s my own personal journal. I feel a great sense of relief when my head is cleared of these memories, instead of letting them sit inside, rolling around, and getting mulled over and over and over.

I also feel a great sense of relief that I should be able to eat a bagel and cream cheese without having to necessarily associate it with much of the negative things I’ve dealt with in life. We’ll see. I’m sure you’ll hear from me soon if the cream cheese keeps me thinking about all of this.

What is Master’s Commission?

I recently started a forum to discuss issues related to this blog in further depth. You can access this article here: http://www.mycultlife.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=9. You must be a registered forum user to leave a comment on the forum, though.

You can also read the article here:

According to the Master’s Commission International Network, MCIN, website http://www.mcin.org, Master’s Commission and MCIN are described as the following:

Master’s Commission is an intense discipleship-training program dedicated to making Disciples of Christ. There are currently 120 programs world-wide in 15 different countries. Each program is based out of a local church and comprises of students mostly between the ages of 18-25. 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.

An overview of the Master’s Commission USA program that Lloyd Zeigler currently oversees in his newly planted (as of 2008) Dallas, TX church, Relevant Church, states the following http://masterscommissionusa.com/page/overview/:

What started in 1984 as a small group of people agreeing to dedicate one year of their life to God has now grown into one of the most powerful, intense discipleship movements in the world. This one-year discipleship-training center started with just one program in Phoenix, AZ. Now it has spread to 91 affiliated programs in 10 countries and includes an international network (MCIN). Both Master’s Commission USA and Master’s Commission International Network, founded in 1995, are housed at Relevant Church in Dallas, TX.

MC USA has grown and developed each year by remaining on the cutting edge of this worldwide ministry. Between our ministry institutes: dance, drama, music, youth, children’s and evangelism, and our other ministries, including Restore community outreach, church services, travel within the US, missions, foster children mentorship, and more, you will be sure to find a place to develop your talents, pursue your dreams, and refine your desires. Last year Master’s Commission USA reached over 238,000 people with the gospel of Christ! Come join us as we endeavor to reach the world with the love and message of Jesus Christ.

You will be included in incredible Biblical teachings and ministry trainings from a staff whose calling and heart is to see you grow. To graduate our program each disciple is required to fulfill curriculum requirements, finish each discipleship obligation, and participate in all scheduled activities. Master’s Commission USA is committed to setting the pace in ‘hands on’ ministry training; therefore optional missions trips and ministry tours are available at an additional cost.

The staff is comprised of committed disciples who have lived the call and caught the vision of the Master’s Heart. Where other programs have one or two leaders for every twenty or thirty students, our staff-student discipleship ratio is better than one leader to two students. We look forward to meeting you and having you join our team. A year of your life spent ‘face to face’ with God is an experience that you will never forget, and one that you don’t want to miss!

You are eligible to apply for the year of discipleship (First Year Program) if you are of college age and have a high school diploma or equivalent. You are eligible to apply for our Second Year Leadership Program if you have completed one year in another affiliated MC program and Staff Internship Program. If you do not fall into these categories, we would still love for you to be involved with us. We welcome any help with City Lites, Youth, and other ministries at Relevant Church. Also, during the week our evenings are open to any one who would like to attend our After Hours. If you are interested in financial involvement, please visit the Master’s Society link on our home page. To be kept informed of all our major events, be sure to keep an eye on our Calendar. Master’s Commission begins in late September and ends in mid May.

 

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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STAND

Lisa,

It takes a lot of bravery to stand up for oneself when the opposition is not just one person; but hundreds. And what I don’t think some understand is that you are not just moved to do this for yourself, but also for those that suffered before you; and in hopes to prevent any more destruction to those in the future. We are to follow with blind faith, yes… But not an organization, not a man made hierarchy, and definitely not a human being who is just flesh and blood. We are to follow God with blind faith and no other.

Our loyalty should be to God, not an organization or man.

I’m proud of you for standing and looking injustice in the eye, instead of turning a blind one. I pray for your success and want you to know that you have an ally in me. When I stood up for what was right, I was ostracized but I have NO regrets. I’d do it all over again. I sleep well at night knowing that I didn’t fall/break under pressure. It would have been the easier route…But it would have been the wrong one.

What I witnessed the last month that I was at Phoenix MC was truly heartbreaking.

I wrote a song about that experience. I hope that it conveys to all before us and anyone who is going through it now that they are not alone.

-Audrey Gossett