My Cult Life Forum – Open Membership

In December I started a Master’s Commission Support Forum for former members of Master’s Commission. Since then, many others have joined the group. I’ve decided to expand the membership to include anyone who has read my blog and come from a similar background/story/experience. Membership is free, confidential and on a secret Facebook group. Members of all faiths or questioning their faith are welcome. The rest of the rules/guidelines exist here. Please read them in full before requesting to join.

To join: 

Contact me with your request and include your Facebook associated email address.

Friend request me on my Facebook profile.

I look forward to connecting with you in the group!

Comment Policy

I’m in the process of developing a comment policy to ensure that this blog promotes respectful dialogue, for myself and the other victims of spiritual abuse who read this. As you may know, as the moderator to this sight, I reserve the right to delete or moderate any comment or remove any person who doesn’t maintain a respectful attitude toward the author of this site, or toward the victims of abuse.

In addition, I’m going to be enforcing some stronger boundaries on the comment board. In order to do so, I’m organizing a Frequently Asked Questions page to appease all those who want to bash the writer with the same comments over and over and over. I’m currently drafting up answers to your most frequent questions, and organizing the hyperlinks to posts that I’ve already answered those questions.

Some of those questions include (but are not limited to):

  • If it was so bad, why did you stay?
  • Don’t you know that you’re slandering pastors?
  • Why did you choose to use names in this blog?
  • Why are you spiritually attacking godly men and women?

And some insults including:

  • You’re not acting very Christian by writing this blog;
  • You’re judging those pastors;
  • You’re the Devil;
  • You’re a Jezebel;
  • You’re bitter;
  • You’re angry;
  • You’re fill-in-the-blank with numerous other accusations.

Most of these questions, comments and accusations have been answered on this blog; however, as I’m always in the process of improving the site, an easier to read page with all of the answers/responses to these will be accessible in the next few weeks.

Thank you for your patience readers and haters.

And no matter what side you are on: Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Is Master’s Commission a Cult?

Another forum post that can be found here: In order to comment on the forum, or take the quiz, you must register as a user.

Do a quick google search for “Master’s Commission Cult” and you produce 31,700 URLS linking you to the subject. There have been forum discussions before this one about Master’s Commission being a cult, but most of them were in random forums without a larger Master’s Commission or ex-Master’s Commission readership.

I hope that this forum will be a more centralized location for people to gather together and spread the word about, because there’s nothing like feeling ALONE after leaving one of those groups. It’s so liberating to find out that there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who left and feel exactly like you and I do!

Welcome to the discussion,
Lisa

The Making of an Activist

Sometimes you get involved in something sort of by accident. My involvement in feminist activism and advocacy for spiritual abuse victims has been quite organic, evolving with time after seeing things happen all around me that I couldn’t sit by and watch.

I recently started researching Mercy Ministries after being prompted by a reader here. Subsequently, I’ve posted a page with information on Mercy Ministries and links to survivors websites. Groups like Mercy are incredibly destructive and harmful, but it’s often difficult for any abuse victims to speak against their abuser. Many abusers are well-liked and charasmatic and Mercy’s founder, Nancy Alcorn is very popular with the Evangelical crowd.

Feminist activism is a tough pill for some to swallow. Being a feminist is equivelant to being an ugly, raging man-hater. Most women have feminist tendencies, as I’ve noticed lately with the birth control battle and war on women that’s raging. Or as I like to call it, The Republican Witch Hunt.

If you are a feminist, or a feminist in the making, I’d like to leave you with a little Robin Morgan. Morgan and others founded WITCH: Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell. If you have time, watch “Sustaining the Activism.”

 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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

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

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

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

That was the BEST advice ever!

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

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

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

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

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

My New eBook – Spiritual Abuse: A Victim’s Guide to Recovery

Written exclusively for my blog readers, Spiritual Abuse: A Victim’s Guide to Recovery is now available for your Kindle.

About the eBook:

Spiritual abuse is happening in increasing numbers around the world. As Christian fundamentalism grows, so do the numbers of psychological and “spiritual” abuse victims. Spiritual abuse is becoming a common term for those harmed in churches and cults. Lisa Kerr is an ex-cult member and former reverend with the Assemblies of God who worked with a group called Master’s Commission for nearly a decade. Today, she advocates for ex-cult members and those who’ve experienced spiritual and psychological abuse in the hands of clergy.

If you enjoy the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or visit my author page for upcoming events.

Leaving Master’s Commission: Practical Advice

A major problem for people leaving intense discipleship programs like Master’s Commission or Teen Mania (or any of a half dozen such programs) is that when they leave—whether it is good, bad or indifferent—they don’t know what to do. These programs gear you up for life in the program.

 

What happens when you leave?

If someone gets kicked out there are many feelings of guilt, inadequacies and failure that a person faces because they couldn’t “cut it.” They are often made to feel like an evil person, someone who had to be removed as a stain on the program. Many of these people have a difficult time adjusting to a normal life because of the sense that there is a stigma about them. If someone leaves at the end of the year and graduates, there are whole different sets of challenges that are faced.

 

The root of these roadblocks is that the programs are ill-equipped to equip people for life in the real world.

 

Too many leave to wander around trying to figure out what to do with the information they have learned and the experience of such an intense time frame. These programs often lead people to go in the opposite direction after they leave because it is impossible to replicate the same level of commitment in everyday life that is demanded of a person during the year.

 

So how does a person adjust to life and still maintain a relationship with God?

Establish Personal Convictions

First, establish personal convictions. This seems simple enough, however many of the “convictions” people have while in a program are not their own. Oftentimes, the rules of a program are adopted based on the relationship the director has with God. Because he wants to instill in his students the same ardent commitment to God that he has he projects these same convictions on to his students and expects them to adopt without question. These could be anything from types of movies or music to more serious life decisions. But most students don’t agree with everything. In fact some could argue that no student agrees with everything.

 

Our relationships with God are personal because God is personal. He approaches each person differently because he made each of us differently.  1 Corinthians 10:23, “Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive.”  Also in verse 29, “…For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” The freedom we have in Christ is total. The choices that are made are between the person and God and no one else.

 

Seasons of Life

Secondly, know that there are many seasons to life and not all of them will be like the one that was just left. Look at the history of any person and their life has peaks and valleys. The apostle Paul did many great things for God, but he was also thrown in prison and executed. No one does the same thing his or her whole life without some change. Praying for an hour everyday before you go to work may not be realistic if you have to be at work at four in the morning. The best way to have devotional time is when you are sharpest and most focused. The important thing to know is that God will not smite you if you only pray for 20 minutes one day and fall asleep reading your Bible. There may be another season in life with the opportunity to have the same or more of a devotional life is possible. When that happens jump on it. Just know that a continued relationship is one of commitment of heart and soul.

 

Marketable Skills

Finally, learn a marketable skill! This is something no discipleship program will teach. You cannot pay your bills or feed your family by doing human video’s and cool skits. A friend sent a text message the other day asking for prayer for him to find a job. He did not go to college, but spent years in Masters Commission and ministry. The funny thing about ministry is that it often fails to pay those who do it. That is why Paul made tents. This man is married with children and has to feed them, clothe them and keep the lights on. He was led to believe that if he stayed wholly devoted to God ministry would work out as his only occupation. This is not the case. The numbers of young people who enter a discipleship program with delusions of being employed full time in the ministry are grossly inordinate. Learning a trade, or getting an education is more important to future stability than is spending many years in a discipleship program. Some would say that this is a lack of faith. But 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family he has denied the faith.”

 

Life outside of an intense discipleship program is not easy. But most of us will spend longer out of it than in it. If having a relationship with God is important to you then developing your own convictions, embracing new seasons and learning how to provide for a family are vital.

 

Spiritual Abuse is Abuse

I went on a job interview a few weeks ago and my blog ended up in the conversation. When asked what I wrote about I said “Spiritual Abuse” which is the sort of standard term we use for what cult survivors and general survivors of abuse from pastors.

The man interviewing me asked what that meant and in an attempt to explain it, I listed some of what has happened to myself and others I know. He said, “Oh, real abuse.”

Lesson learned: rape, physical maltreatment, being hit, verbal abuse–these are all ABUSE. Maybe we shouldn’t use the term spiritual in front of them. It seems that some people (even ourselves) don’t take it seriously.

Do You Think It’s Easy?

To do what I’ve done?

To come against former friends, pastors, and people who I considered family and call them cult leaders and cult members is not easy. In fact, I questioned myself. I’ve had people call me crazy. I’ve had people unfriend me on facebook and in real life. I’ve been cussed out, harrassed, and belittled.

It’s EMBARRASSING for me to put all my personal business on the Internet. I’d much rather forget this ever happened and move on. Trust me.

The worst part about it, is I’ve felt alienated by literally everyone except my family and my best friend over the years. No one stood by my side and said, “Hey Lisa, we’ll give statements with you,” or “We agree with you.”

No.

In fact, when I’ve asked people their stories or to stand with me, they’ve doubted me, called me crazy, or told me I was wrong. They’ve questioned my motives, told me I was acting out of line, or just made me feel really stupid. And I am really stupid–the bottom line is, I can’t change any one and I certainly can’t change an entire ideology (cult or not). I can’t change a person who leads thousands of people and indoctrinates them week after week.

But, in the back of my mind, I see my high school teacher, John Kopp’s poster on the wall: “Stand up for what is right, even if you’re standing alone.”

See, in the words of one of my good friends, whom I’ll call “E”, no one was our advocate when we were there. No one told us that it was a cult. No one helped us see that it was wrong, or find a way out. No one spoke up for us. No one knew. It’s our responsibility to speak up now that we know what went on there–the amount of abuse and hurt we went through–so that young people after us and staff after us don’t have to suffer the mental and spiritual abuse we did. We need to give the silent a voice. They don’t know they need it yet, but one day they might.

I feel like I’m doing the right thing. You might not agree, but I ask that if you do, you please email me your personal statement at mycultlife@gmail.com.

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