Archive of ‘Our Saviors Church, Louisiana (and Church Plants)’ category

Our Savior’s Church Pastor Minimalized a Family Death

The story of how Master’s Commission treated it’s staff members in relation to family and vacation was terrible and there is much more to it than what I’ve started to write. How Pastor Daniel Jones, Senior Pastor of Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, treated me as his staff member when my grandmother died, was beyond terrible.

After a long summer of depression, burn-out from overwork and little sleep, and suicidal thoughts, I contemplated quitting Master’s Commission for good and heading back to California to live near my family. I found it difficult to view my life outside of Master’s Commission: I had no degree, no career, little professional skills, and no assets or savings. I also had little identity outside the group.

Pastor Daniel Jones got a hold of me after that summer and offered me a job with him. I’d be his wife’s personal ministry assistant, and would have nothing to do with Master’s Commission. He was appalled when he found out Nathan was only paying me $150 a month, and he offered me $500 a month. He said it’d be mostly part-time and I could do any ministry I wanted.

It was a dream come true for me, at the time. I had wanted to be a missionary for years, and had liked working with the women’s ministry.

None of what he promised came true, except that I made $500 a month and that I was his wife’s assistant. The $500 a month wasn’t fair compensation for the full-time hours I pulled at his house, and for being on call every weekend day and night of the week. I was his wife’s assistant, but what I mainly did was home-school their middle son, clean their house, do laundry, and clean their entire house after every major dinner or holiday party they had at their house. So, I was a live-in slave, as I affectionately call it.

Fast forward to October of 2004. My mom’s mother got really sick and ended up in the ICU. My parents paid for my flight home (of course, my paycheck couldn’t cover even part of a flight home) and I grabbed the next one (after asking permission, to which I want to throw up over how stupid I was to do that).

I spent the next day or two at the ICU with my mom, dad, brother and sister. I was filled with a terrible amount of guilt, because I’d rarely seen my grandma over the past few years. I worked in a cult. I wasn’t allowed much time off for the holidays to see my family and never a vacation.

My grandma passed away that weekend. It was awful. I was so sad, and my mother just lost her own mother. We had a funeral to plan, and after that was done, we had to take care of bills, her condo, and all the other paperwork type of stuff that you just don’t think of (when you’re young) and don’t realize you have to do so suddenly after a sudden death.

To top it all off, we’re a very close family and I just felt terrible that my mom was grieving. All I wanted to do was to be there for her, but after the funeral, there was this looming feeling that I had to call Pastor Daniel  to see when I had to come back.

I called.

I explained that I needed to help my mom take care of my grandma’s condo, deal with her mail and bills, and all the other stuff I had no idea was such a big job. I told him Daniel Jones that I couldn’t leave my mom alone here without my help while she was grieving over her mom. I had to help her. I was a grown woman, and it was just right for me to stay to help her. I wanted a week there to stay with my mom.

After that week, I also wanted to go to a long-time friend’s wedding. It was on a weekend in nearby Texas. He had been in Master’s Commission with me, and we had developed such a great friendship. Actually, he was the kind of person everyone loved. He was always laughing and joking and making people feel great about themselves.

Pastor Daniel  said no to me staying to help my mom and he said no to me attending the wedding of a long-time friend.

Like a robot, I headed back to the airport. I was heartbroken. I felt like a horrible daughter. I felt trapped.

My years of friendships and everything my life was all about was in Louisiana. I couldn’t just tell the senior pastor to eff off and stay in California and jeopardize every friendship and relationship I’d come to love. I knew what happened to those kind of people. I knew what awful things were said about them. I knew the Scarlet Letter they wore for life after they did something like that.

Looking back, of course I feel disgusted with myself. I should’ve been stronger. I should’ve left Our Savior’s Church at that moment. I should’ve woken up from the brainwashing. I should’ve shooken off the pixy dust that was covering my eyes making me walk under Daniel Jones’s spell.

I should’ve put my mother first, and I should’ve put my friend’s wedding first.

When I returned, Daniel  didn’t feel any remorse for telling me to leave my mom behind grieving. There was barely a word spoken about it. In fact, we just went back to work and every day I laundered his dirty underwear and washed his dirty coffee cups, I began to resent the fact that I’d come back for something so unimportant and something that I was over-qualified to do.

My Tragic Love Story, Part 2

I was on staff at a ministry training school in a small, bayou-surrounded Louisiana town.  At that time, I had been serving with the same pastors for around five years. Our entire staff and some students had moved from Austin, Texas in 2003 to begin a new school at the church in Louisiana.

In 2004, I met “Tool” (the guy who claimed he was in love with me). Our friendship was a love-hate relationship from the beginning. He had a real problem with women and I was his superior in the hierarchy that was our church. I later learned that the Tool had plenty of childhood and family issues that made him the jerk that he was. After our friendship developed for a year, I started developing feelings for the Tool and he fell for me.

Men and women could not, under any circumstances, develop a romantic relationship in the ministry group that I was in. So even though Tool and I liked each other, we could not date. I was 24 years old and he was around 23 years old at the time.

The steps we had to take to date were lengthy and involved male-initiated leadership. It was taught by our pastors that the man in the relationship had to initiate everything relating to a dating relationship or courtship. That man also had to ask our pastor permission to date the girl of his dreams.

And that pastor had to approve.

For Tool, these were not easy steps.

Excuses Cult Leaders Use

Pastor Holding Bible

Cult leaders, and manipulative pastors, have a way of making up excuses for their behavior. If Christians aren’t careful, they’ll find themselves (and we’ll find our friends) making up excuses for their behavior, too.

You’ve heard it before. Church members and Christians essentially start excusing abuse and torment that their pastor (or another “man of God”) has done to others by saying, “Well, they’re just God’s mouthpiece,” or “Whoever got offended just wasn’t devoted enough to God,” or even, “It was all part of God’s plan. They must not be close enough to God.”

Some I’ve heard about myself and my situation:

“Lisa was just overly sensitive.”

“Lisa was just an immature Christian.”

“No one else was hurt.”

“It must have just been your Master’s Commission. We didn’t go through that. We had a great Director.”

“God told me to do it. I was just following His orders.”

“We fired that person. They’re not here anymore. Things have changed.”

What they really mean is a) we don’t give a shit b) we’re going to try to intimidate everyone in our church to believe us and not you c) we’re doing everything in our power to discredit you so you shut up and go away.

They don’t give a damn.

Pastor Daniel’s son has told me this about his father time and time again. “He could care less about you. In fact, he looks down on people like you.”

The bottom line is, (most) everything you hear from a controlling pastor or a cult leader after someone leaves and decides to speak up is an excuse.

An excuse for their behavior–their abusive behavior.

I remember being in Master’s Commission, when a student’s parents would complain about something we did. Nathan  would shut them up and the other students by saying, “Things have changed. We don’t do that anymore.”

It was a lie. We never changed. We attempted to, but the truth is, Nathan ‘s ways were set in stone and wouldn’t budge. He taught all of us to disciple those under us with an iron fist, just as he did. Nothing was going to change. But, we had to live up to “expectations” and so we tried to tell people what they wanted to save our reputation.

Questions:

Have you ever heard any of these excuses? In what context?

Have you ever met a pastor who was humble enough to admit his wrongdoing? If so, how did he present it? Did he apologize to the person he wronged?

Forgiveness

A few months ago, someone shared with me that my blog was missing a section. He shared that some people might find it helpful to see how I’d recovered from this group. What spiritual journey had I taken? he asked. How had I dealt with depression? How had I forgiven? He said you guys would want to know.

I didn’t want to push any of my personal beliefs onto anyone or “preach,” so I haven’t written about this until now. I realize that sharing my own journey doesn’t mean I’m pushing my beliefs onto you, nor does it mean I want you to agree with me. In fact, sharing my journey is perhaps the most vulnerable thing I could do. I don’t trust all my readers. Some, inevitably, are out to get me. Others of you are deeply wounded, like I am and have been for years. We need to stand together and know that we can get through this together. I need this to be a safe place, and so do you.

I’d like to share with you some valuable lessons I’ve learned, from my heart, and some resources that have helped me. Perhaps they’ll offer you some guidance, like they have to me. Perhaps it will just be nice to see that we’re all getting “there,” wherever that may be.

I share a bit of my journey that began in a Religious Studies class here: http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=332. What I learned over the next few years from my professor, Dr. Campagna-Pinto, was to become invaluable to me.

In Dr. CP’s classes, there were such meaningful convicting lessons, such as: “To create change you can’t have hatred in your heart. You have to re-humanize the people who torture you.”

We read A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. I studied the chapter, I Have No Hatred in My Heart, and learned such truths as “When the perpetrator begins to show remorse, to seek some way to ask forgiveness, the victim becomes the gatekeeper to what the outcast desires—readmission into the human community.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117)

What I’d become was an outcast to Master’s Commission and to Our Savior’s Church. They no longer accepted me, as most cults no longer accept outsiders, because I chose to leave their “authority” and “promised land.”

My perpetrator never showed remorse. I had to live with that.

It was a difficult thing for me to face. My perpetrator never showed remorse. Nor did he ever plan to. In fact, his own son said that he looked at people like me as less than nothing.

Although he had never shown remorse, my perpetrator had committed crimes against humanity. Crimes of abuse. Crimes of manipulation for power and reputation. Several years of anger and grieving took me to the place where I’m beginning to feel sorry for my perpetrator. And I’m very thankful I’m not him.

At the same time I studied the South African Apartheid, I learned that there are different ways to think about forgiveness. I read The Sunflower: On the Possiblities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal. Simon tells the story of a dying Nazi soldier asking him forgiveness for his crimes against Jews. The dying soldier even told the horrific story of shoving Jews into a building and setting it on fire. His orders were to shoot anyone who tried to jump from the building. He shot.

After studying the Holocaust, and the amount of death and atrocity that Jewish people went through, I learned that forgiveness is a complex thing. Like Simon discusses in his book, there’s much more to forgiveness than a simplistic, “You’re forgiven.”

Through my studies, and through the years, I have come to believe that there’s a striking flaw in Christianity when it comes to forgiveness. Forgiveness in Christianity is simple: Jesus died on the cross to forgive you and I of our sins. Therefore, when you and I sin, we can “wash away our sins by the blood of Jesus.”

Right?

No. People need to be held accountable. They need to be responsible for their actions.

Thus the flaw in the Christian belief of forgiveness. When something devastating happens to a person, or a group of people, can you expect them to just “wash it away?” No. There are stages of grief that are normal and natural. I learned that Judaism takes seriously the act of forgiveness. During Yom Kippur they pray and fast, asking for forgiveness.

I began to respect Judaism for what I interpreted as a more realistic answer to the “forgiveness problem.” I knew that I had been wronged deeply. Not as deeply or as terribly as the Jews in Germany during the Holocaust, but I’d been wronged nonetheless.

I began to realize that I also felt forgiveness was a complex, serious matter and it was okay if I didn’t instantly grant forgiveness to someone.

In fact, it was more than okay.

It was perhaps responsible.

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 (http://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

Red Flags and Warning Signs

Hello readers! I’m in the process of compiling a list of specific red flags and warning signs about OUR experiences in a destructive discipleship program and/or a church that teaches unbiblical doctrine. Most specifically, what are the warning signs of a controlling group or a manipulative pastor (or discipler) according to your experiences?

For example, some Master’s Commission’s applications to enter as a student ask very specific questions about a person’s sexual life (i.e., Do you masturbate? Have you ever had an abortion? Have you had a bisexual experience? Do you use pornography and when was the last time you did?). Other groups take students into a room for a meeting and forbid them to have sexual thoughts, to masturbate, or look at pornography. Other groups tell men and women what to wear, and make women change their clothing or burn it if it’s too tight fitting or revealing. Group and individual confessionals are frequently required.

These are ALL red flags of a controlling group.

in retrospect, what are some warning signs YOU may have seen BEFORE joining a group like this or a church like this?

After your experiences in a church or group like this, what warning signs and red flags can you IDENTIFY now?

Master’s Commission International Network Using Unaccredited College

According to the MCIN (Master’s Commission International Network, http://www.mcin.org), they’re partnering up with West Coast Bible College and Seminary:

“Master’s Commission International Network recently signed an articulation agreement with West Coast Bible College & Seminary to partner together in the training of ministers worldwide!!! Its been a few years in the making but it is finally done. Can you imagine that while attending any Master’s Commission in the world, students will be able to complete a bachelors degree…….. well now its possible and for only $1,250 per person (plus application fee & books).
However, closer inspection shows that West Coast Bible College and Seminary is not accredited through a typical accrediting program. The Transworld Accrediting Commission is NOT affiliated with the Department of Education in the United States. This information is taken from their website (http://www.westcoastbible.org/accreditation,%20Affiliations,%20and%20Credibility.html):

Transworld Accrediting Commission is in discussions with the U.S. Department of Education regarding becoming a governmentally recognized accrediting agency with a specific focus on theological schools.

What does this mean for students of Master’s Commission? They can spend money on a degree that is not recognizable in the United States to the Department of Education. When they attempt to get their Master’s Degree, they won’t be able to do so without retaking their courses for their Bachelor’s Degree.

Wonder what courses at West Coast Bible College and Seminary are like? They’re not like a typical college class! Take a look: http://www.westcoastbible.org/academics.html

At WCBCS, we are committed to providing our students with the best in academic quality, while focusing on the key principles that will be most used in their chosen field.  Students are required to complete any classes started within a six month time frame.  If a class is not completed in the given time frame, the student will receive an “I” on their transcript.  A student will not be allowed to graduate with an “I” or “F” on their transcript.

Modules – Student requirements for every level include:

1) Read one textbook and write down one personal key truth learned from each chapter and how you can implement it in ministry (our belief is that if everyone can learn one practical truth that will stay with them for life, then the reading exercise has been successful) (Read and write down a personal key truth??? This isn’t college coursework! Not even Bible College coursework. This is less qualified to be “Academic” than homeschooling from a DVD)

2) Listen to two 30-45 lectures or watch an online video and fill in the blanks of the lecture notes.

3) Complete an open book exam – (the student can complete the open book exam with reading – each exam will consist of 20 to 25 questions – however, students MAY NOT collaborate with other students to complete this exercise)

4) Find magazines articles or internet articles discussing the subject and write a summary of each article. (each article must be properly identified with the title, author, and web link noted) (Wow…really? This isn’t college level coursework!)

5) Write a final paper discussing how the subject matter is relevant to your personal ministry and what you will implement.

Students are required to purchase a 2 inch notebook to keep all assignments organized.

This Tract Will Save Your Soul

Back in the days of Master’s Commission of Austin, we used to pass out these tracts by Chick Publications. You know the ones–they’re plainly designed cartoon tracts.

We had this big production called Hells Alternative, where I played this girl who chose a life without God and I entered Hell after the rapture. My friends Sean and Jeremy played two demons who dragged me to hell and tortured me, while my friend Brent played Satan. Satan captured my soul and I screamed bloody murder, “Hell is real…Hell is real…” as I was sucked into Hell’s gates.

At the end of this production, we’d scared a few dozen people into accepting Christ, and we’d often pass out these tracts or have something like this available. When we ministered on the streets of Austin, we had a pack of these tracts available to share with people.

Tonight, I stumbled upon this website for Active Hate Groups in the United States. Many of them are Neo-Nazi groups, others are like the Westboro Baptist Church. I wandered through some of the names to see if any of the ministries I knew or had worked with would be on the list. Oddly enough, Chick Publications (the makers of Chick Tracts), is registered as a General Hate group.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center: “These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs…This list includes a “Jewish” group that is rabidly anti-Arab, a “Christian” group that is anti-Catholic and a polygamous “Mormon” breakaway sect that is racist. Many of the groups are vendors that sell a miscellany of hate materials from several different sectors of the white supremacist movement.”

More information can be found here.

My Tragic Love Story, The Final Chapter

The steps the pastor required for a man to date a woman in the discipleship training program was like a maze. These weren’t easy for the Tool, but I saw this jerk-for-a-boy turn into a vulnerable, trusting man as he tried to do what was required of him. It wasn’t his fault that these insurmountable rules had been set up before him, preventing him from dating. It also wasn’t his fault that I was extremely hot and intelligent—so much so that his own best friend wanted to date me, too.

The pastor that Tool had to approach was egotistical and had a huge God-complex. It was either his way or the highway. That was not something he learned from God—it was just something he flaunted due to his own insecurities. Tool didn’t know that the pastor didn’t respect him at all and constantly told me that he wasn’t good enough for me. He’d list the reasons one-by-one, and sadly, some of them were true: he wasn’t from a good home, he probably wouldn’t make a good pastor, he was rebellious, and he didn’t treat women well.

What pissed me off was not that Tool was right or wrong for me, but that someone ELSE was interfering in my love life at the age of 24 years old! Not only was this pastor making suggestions, he was out-right making my decisions for me. He was attempting to think for me, and teach me that his way of thinking was right and that there were no other options but how he thought.

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