GlassTexan, are you out there?

I came across this post on the Rick Ross Cult Education forum. Since this post was from 2006, it’s highly unlikely this person will find my answer, but in response to your question, “GlassTexan,” yes I’ve had a bad experience in Master’s Commission. Come find me and let’s talk!

“Has anyone had a bad experience with the Master’s Commission program(s)? It is generally based out of Assembly of God churches. I believe the “main” group is in Phoenix.
If led by the wrong sort, this group can be very dangerous. I had an awful experience and have heard others have as well.
The group I once attended was removed from the church after a change of pastors. The leader of the Master’s Commission left the state and many of the MC students–and even some of the church!–left with him. He is still running a MC group.
If anyone reading this went through something similar (in an MC group), I would appreciate hearing about it.
Once again, I don’t believe all MC groups are bad–but the wrong leader can do serious damage.
Thank you.”

Read the original post and respond to GlassTexan here: http://forum.rickross.com/read.php?12,17907

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

Antimodernism: The Demonization of Dating

What is antimodernism?

There’s a phrase in the religious studies community: “antimodernism” that can help us describe some of what goes on in the fundamentalists mind. Antimodernism can be defined as the rejection of modern technology, ideals, etc. for a “purer” historical or pre-historical way of life. Antimodernism doesn’t just describe religious fundamentalists, but the term does apply in many ways.

In my experience, Master’s Commission held many antimodernist ideals:

  • The rejection of technology.
  • The rejection of dating.
  • The rejection of classical or “secular” education.
  • The rejection of the women’s movement.

I’ll explain each of these further.

The rejection of dating occurs in many Master’s Commission groups. Just google “Master’s Commission rules.” You’ll get a return search of several MC groups Information Packets that include amongst their rules “no secular music, no rated R movies, limited cell phone and internet usage.”

In my own Master’s Commission experience, we weren’t allowed to date as a first-year student. As a second-year or third-year “intern” or “support staff,” dating was rare and often forbidden, depending on a person’s choice of dating partner.

Eventually, dating was demonized and courtship was the appropriate way of meeting a partner.

What is courtship? Courtship is a way of meeting a marriage partner. Two people only enter into a courtship when and if they feel ready for marriage and they have “prayed” about their partner being the “one” who matches their “destiny” in life. The two must be sexually pure during the time of courtship, and often are mentored by pastors or church elders who hold them accountable to their purity.

Courtship usually entails rules of no kissing and even no hand-holding. Courtship can also mean group dates or dates that are with family or accountability partners only.

Alone time in a courtship relationship is strongly forbidden, as the couple may “stumble” and “submit to sexual temptation.”

For more information on courtship, see I Kissed Dating Good-bye by Joshua Harris and Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot.

The power of persuasion: 900 deaths left an unforgettable legacy

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

Ventura County Star/November 18, 1998
By Tom Kisken

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

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

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

Those who resisted were murdered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kool Aid suicides followed.

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

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

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

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

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

Questions unanswered

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the nature of the most dangerous cults.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worries on campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not a cult, it’s an answer.

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

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

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

Warning signs

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

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

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.

 

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

 

No More Excuses by Daniel Venie

My name is Daniel Venie, and it was MY cult life, too.

I’ve been a christian for thirteen years here in Wasilla, AK. During those years I’ve done just about everything a good christian should do. I’ve done missionary work in China and went through two years of ministry school training, as well as becoming heavily involved in my local church. Through that ministry school I received a License to Preach with the Assemblies of God denomination, although I decided last year to let my credentials lapse so I am no longer affiliated with the A/G. I’ve also worked extensively at a church where I live. For about six years I served as the Assistant Youth Pastor at that church. From there my wife and I had a desire to be more involved in worship so I added that to my repertoire. After a few years of serving in both ministries my wife and I decided to pursue worship ministry as our sole focus and served as my church’s main worship leaders for the last two or three years we were there.

Currently I still live in Wasilla with my wife and two kids. We stopped attending church and have not been in well over a year now. I enjoy being a husband and father and most importantly, having a life. I also play video games instead of reading my bible. I have a deep love for people and enjoy seeing others set free to live life as God intended it.

***

So I’ve been reading and commenting on a few of the posts on this website for the last
several weeks. I, like many others, have found it to be very eye opening to the spiritual
abuse that takes place in these Master’s Commission programs which have become a
staple program for most healthy and “cutting edge” churches to have.

It’s opened my eyes up to the reality and severity of the problem as well as it’s depth.

It goes well beyond the borders of MC programs and takes place in churches across the nation. While I attended a
young adult ministry training program, which was modeled after an MC program but not
affiliated, I didn’t experience much spiritual abuse until after I had graduated and moved
into full time ministry at my church. I’ll save the telling of that personal story for another
article so for now, this will have to suffice. One of the things that surprised me when I
first found this blog was how easily I could relate to what Lisa had experienced, along
with many others who have commented and testified of their own experiences of being
spiritually abused. For me it has really blown the door wide open on all the shit that my
wife and I experienced and caused me to face a lot of hard and difficult truths. So I have
decided that I can no longer sit idly by and continue to ignore or make excuses for those
who manipulate and abuse others for their own gain.

I left my church over a year ago now and haven’t been attending anywhere since then.
After leaving I’ve had many talks and meetings with people that I was close with. These
weren’t strangers or casual acquaintances but people that I have known for years and done
lots of ministry along side of. People I trusted my own children with and vice versa.
Usually these meetings would be about how much they miss us and how badly they want
us to come back; and they would say it in the most sincere and genuine way possible. I
then would explain to them why I could never come back and be apart of the church
again, the main reason being because of how much the pastors controlled peoples lives.

What is sad to me is how often these people agreed with what I shared in regards to the
spiritual abuse we experienced. As I’m talking they will nod their heads as if they really
understood and knew what I was talking about. They would even share stories of how
they too have been hurt and abused by the church.

Without fail they then will take an about face and begin to make excuses for those doing the abusing.

WHAT!!!??!!!

To go from agreeing with me to excusing the spiritual abuse doesn’t even compute in my mind!
The excuses I have heard range from: “Their intentions are not to hurt you Daniel or even
to control you,” or “They don’t realize how their actions are affecting people,” or “They
just don’t know any better.” I can’t think of a more offensive response to my pain. First of
all, by excusing the pastor’s behavior they are instantly disqualifying what I experienced,
things they supposedly understood and even agreed with. Second of all, if these people
were really my friends, why are they not standing up for me? And most importantly they
are sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what their own heart is telling them
about their current situation!
I’ve often asked myself if I was justified in how upset and angry I am at what my wife
and I experienced at our church.

What if they really didn’t know any better?

What if it all was some big mistake or misunderstanding on their part?

Shouldn’t I give them the benefit of doubt?

Shouldn’t I too excuse their behavior?

The answer that I have come to is no. For years while I was involved in ministry I made excuses.

I ignored my own heart and feelings and hoped for the best. I’d tell myself over and over that they just don’t know
any better or that this is how it is and I have to accept it. The truth is that it isn’t how it’s
supposed to be, it isn’t okay, and most importantly it is not something you can excuse away.
Whether someones intentions are to NOT hurt and control people is besides the point. If a
person accidentally kills another person they are still held responsible.
It’s called
involuntary manslaughter and doesn’t change the fact that someones life was destroyed.

The truth is that there are thousands of people every day that are being torn to pieces by

spiritual abuse. It is a HUGE problem in churches and Masters Commission programs

around the nation. I can no longer pretend that nothing bad happened to me. It’s got to

stop and for me, it stops right here. I will never excuse away spiritual abuse, or cover it

up, or be silenced for fear of speaking against the supposed men of God. My own heart

compels me to speak up, and that I can no longer ignore.

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Master’s Commission 3D (Lafayette, LA) is NO Longer Legally Affiliated with Master’s Commission International Network

I received the following letter last night from Lloyd Zeigler, Chairman of the Master’s Commission International Network, relating to my 2008 inquiry http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=91 about the cult-like activities going on in Master’s Commission 3D in Lafayette, Louisiana http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=85 , http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=87. After almost two and a half years, this issue has been addressed and partly resolved.

I asked Lloyd Zeigler to provide for me the original letter sent to MC 3D, or as they now call themselves, Experience 3D, of the accusations he was presenting to them, in order to verify that all my issues were addressed, and also because a large group of people I had referred to him had contacted him with their issues. I want to ensure that their concerns were correctly addressed; however, I have not received any of these original documents, which Lloyd has promised to me the past two months. I assume they will be coming by the end of the month, but of that I can not be sure. I’ll share them here when I receive them, as I feel it’s our right as former students and staff to read them. I don’t believe any organization should hide those from the people they are trying to help.

While I’m truly sad that MC3D did not ever respond to my letters, or begin the dialogue I asked them to begin when I sent letters and made phone calls over two and a half years ago, I am happy that there was an investigation and appropriate action taken from the MCIN on the behalf of students and staff who have experienced abuse. This is a big statement for the MCIN to take to stand up against abuse.

I have much more to say about my OWN investigations into the misuse of staff members as unpaid interns and volunteers in the Master’s Commission International Network, Master’s Commission USA and groups of that nature, but I will save that for a post next week.

Look for it soon, but until then, please feel free to read the following letter and share it with anyone who has experienced abuse under the Master’s Commission 3D program that is currently directed by Gred Thompson, and formerly was directed by Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson. This Master’s Commission group is currently located in Lafayette, LA under the umbrella of Our Savior’s Church http://www.oursaviorschurch.com , an independent church senior pastored by Daniel and Maria Jones and senior associate pastors, Stuart and Lindsay Rollings, and associate pastors Nathan and Natalie Davies.

Master’s Commission 3D changed their name today to Experience 3D, as a result of the Master’s Commission International Network removing their affiliation status.

Part of the Experience 3D website http://www.leadin3d.com/#/welcome states: “Allow us to stress that this program is not for “ministry prima donnas”. We understand true, Biblical ministry to be servanthood. Much of a person’s character is built while doing the “unglamorous tasks” of ministry. A goal of Master’s is to cultivate Biblical character and servant leadership.”

What they mean to say by “ministry prima donnas” is that “servanthood” is their main way of training their students for leadership in churches. What they mean by servanthood is modern day slavery, where you as the student or parent will be paying to be used by the senior pastors and associate pastors of Our Savior’s Church, in order to be their live-in gardener, nanny, janitor, etc. all under the guise of become a “servant” to God. God has NO part in that form of servanthood!

If you’d like to read more about this “servanthood,” be my guest. There are many details on this website, and more first-hand accounts to come from this so-called leadership school.

Many thanks to the hours the MCIN Board spent meeting and discussing each student and staff members concerns when it came to these issues. I greatly appreciate each one of you taking action and responding to the great many written and verbal statements you received from this website and from people I’ve spoken to over the years. I was told this was a unanimous vote, and for that I am thankful.

I hope this incident will help Master’s Commission be a healthier place for students to attend in future years, if they should feel the need to go. Based on my experiences in Master’s Commission and the research and statements I’ve received over the years, I can not endorse or support any Master’s Commission group to students or parents who ask my opinion. However, if you do choose to go, I wish you the best, and I hope you realize that after today’s action the MCIN has taken against abuse, they’re working on becoming more of an advocate for students rights.

Since the MCIN does read this blog, I do wish that you would revisit and address the issue of payment for staff members, or “interns” or “volunteers” as many of you call them. I will be posting blogs relating to this issue in the weeks to come.

Please make that your next issue of concern, as I addressed it in 2008 and it has not yet been actualized.

August 26, 2010

RE: MASTER’S COMMISSION 3D AFFILIATE STATUS

To Whom It May Concern:

Master’s Commission International Network (“MCIN”) recently received several reports from individuals formerly associated with “Master’s Commission 3D” located in Broussard, Louisiana (“MC3D”). These reports were received in the form of letters, blog posts, and verbal reports.

In response to these varied reports, MCIN undertook and completed an investigation concerning MC3D. As part of its investigation, MCIN requested that MC3D provide MCIN’s Board of Directors (the “Board”) a detailed response to the various allegations and other concerns. Having concluded its investigation, MCIN presented the results to the Board.

In light of the facts and information presented to the Board, and after careful deliberation, the Board decided to terminate MC3D’s status as a Master’s Commission “Affiliate”.

We know this decision may affect students currently enrolled at MC3D, and as such, we informed MC3D that should any of their students desire to relocate to another Master’s Commission Affiliate in good standing, MCIN is available to assist them and answer questions they may have in that regard.

MCIN values the commitment and contribution of all students and leadership associated with the Master’s Commission Affiliates. Accordingly, we believe that our actions in this regard were both appropriate and necessary.

Lloyd Zeigler, Chairman
Master’s Commission International Network

 

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