My Old Master’s Commission Gets a New Name

Since the beginning of this blog, in an attempt to ‘clean up’ their reputation, MCID has gone through a myriad of changes-but it looks like they think the dust has settled enough to introduce the new ‘image’ and name.

They’ve called it Summit School of Leadership and the description is the same as it always was. Looks like nothing has changed.

It’s no surprise to anyone whose been in a cult before that the leadership changes and names change anytime a controversy is stirred up. When I started blogging, my old group was still called MCID, or Master’s Commission Industries. We were a ministry out of Our Savior’s Church in Broussard, LA. After the blog gained popularity, the old director, Nathan* was fired and a new director Greg* was put in charge. Greg* had been mentored by Nathan* and Tim*, so the teachings and spirit of it all stayed the same.

When Lloyd Zeigler kicked MCID out of the MC International Network, the students were told that MCID left MCIN intentionally. Riiight. Unfortunately, those kids knew no difference and were loyal to their leaders. Some even argued with me via email/FB/text that I was wrong. I remember being in their shoes–innocent and naive, believing my leaders cared about me and were trustworthy and honorable. When I questioned the kids about the current schedule and activities, not a damn thing had changed. I believe they changed the group names but the core of the program stayed the same. MCID then changed their name, as if I would never find out. Oh my! You’re so sneaky. I’ll never find you.

Since the beginning of this blog, in an attempt to ‘clean up’ their reputation, MCID has gone through a myriad of changes-but it looks like they think the dust has settled enough to introduce the new ‘image’ and name.

They’ve called it Summit School of Leadership and the description is the same as it always was. Looks like nothing has changed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

Want to make a difference? Share this post on Twitter or Facebook: http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=374

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

A Dialogue with Master’s Commission Directors

I recently got an email from a Master’s Commission director who was very kind about my blog, but his last line lingered with me: “Keep doing what you’re doing.  I hope it doesn’t take the good ones down with the bad…”

This has clearly been something I’ve been very thoughtful about since I began this project. I feel really torn on the subject, because I know there are probably some good programs out there; however, I’m not sure exactly how that can be determined based on the current MCIN structure, and

I’ve heard more stories of abuse than I think should be tolerated within any structure–public, private, Christian or not.

Part of my reply to him was the following questions, and I’ll pose them to you, current Master’s Commission directors, and ask that you answer honestly (either in comment form, an email to me, or to your conscience).

I’d love to hear from you if there’s anything you’ve changed in your program, or revamped [after reading my blog]. Do you mind me asking if you pay your staff and support staff at least minimum wage? That’s one of my main concerns for the student workers, since I know all Master’s are typically something that end up being a large work force for any church.

I’m also concerned with the intangible things, such as the level of control the directors and staff put onto the students. In my group, for example, we weren’t allowed to listen to secular music, watch any movie that was not PG or G rated, and we had to dress in a way that was extremely modest or we were forced to change clothing. Do you have any rules like that? Implied or explicit?

What I’m most concerned with, as you can understand, is seeing whole, healthy young adults walk out of Master’s Commission. I’m finding that the more open I’m becoming, that’s sadly not the case [meaning there are a lot of existing wounded young adults who’ve left MC]. I don’t want the cycle of abuse to perpetuate past my years there. It’s wrong and it sickens me. I can’t sleep at night if I know that people are going through what I went through–and sadly a large number of people are.

I hope we can all work together to make the abuse stop. I know the first step is an open dialogue, so I thank you for reaching out and emailing me. It means a lot.

So, if you are a Master’s Commission director, or a pastor affiliated with an MC group in your church,

 please take time to answer honestly how you are treating these young youth workers in your church. My advice to you is this: if you can’t afford to pay everyone on staff and support staff minimum wage or better (hopefully better), then what are you doing with that many staff members? You have to make a choice between operating illegally and abusively, and treating people kindly. You also have to make a choice who you are willing to keep, and pay, and who you need to tell that you have to let go. Even if they are willing to work for you for free, it’s WRONG on your part to keep them and abuse that naivete.

Finally, if you know of an MC group who could benefit from these questions, please drop me a line with their name and email address to: mycultlife at gmail.com.

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


 

Stop Telephoning Me: I’m Kinda Busy

To my haters/stalkers from the cult; In the words of Lady Gaga:

Stop telephoning me…

Sorry, I cannot hear you,
I’m kinda busy.

K-kinda busy
K-kinda busy
Sorry, I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy.

Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce–Telephone

If you don’t like my blog, that’s cool. Three words: Don’t Read It! While you’re not reading it, please watch Lady Gaga’s video so you’ll be entertained and if you STILL insist on reading this blog, then just know that

I’M KINDA BUSY DOING THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Getting paid BANK at my job, rather than getting paid 40 CENTS an hour! I get paid really well at my job, and honestly, anything is better than 40 CENTS an hour, wouldn’t you agree?
  2. Spending the past several years vacationing in HAWAII, where my sister lived. Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We spent one week our vacation house which had it’s own private beach. Eat your heart out, pastors.
  3. Even though my pastors wouldn’t let me go visit my family, because I was “too busy” working for them, I now get to spend lots of time with them. Some examples of things we do: Go flying in my dad’s private airplane; Deep sea fish on my parent’s boat; Spend weekends in the winter in Mammoth, CA snow skiing; Spend weekends at the lake water skiing.
  4. Instead of eating food that was donated to our church/ministry by Albertson’s grocerty store (can we say OLD meat?????), I dine at places like Ruth’s Chris. Yes, you heard me…the food we used to eat in the cult was OLD meat and old food donated to us from local grocery stores. How disgusting was it? So gross. Just ask anyone who lived there.
  5. I’m kinda busy living in a brand new house, rather than living in a dorm with over 15 other girls or living in an old converted barn that has a mouse and bug problem. Yes, my living quarters, which the pastor so frequently said was part of my pay, was an old converted barn! He lived in a home that was selling for around $750,000 while I lived in that barn! What a way to treat your employees.
  6. Living guilt-free and dogma-free.
  7. Thinking for myself.
  8. Going to an actual doctor with actual medical insurance, instead of sitting at some county welfare office waiting for health services because the pastor can’t afford my health care.

Letters to Nowhere: Lloyd

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, Jacob Aranza), which is around $2.00 an hour.

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 (Davies, 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