An expert in Australia talks about Mercy Ministries and the scandal.
An expert in Australia talks about Mercy Ministries and the scandal.
Here’s a clip from MSNBC’s expose on Teen Mania Ministries, the abusive behavior some interns have faced and their recovery after leaving the group. Check out Recovering Alumni for more information on the abuses of Teen Mania. Teen Mania is similar to the program Master’s Commission. They’re both discipleship programs which use entertaining multi-media conferences for teens and young adults (such as Aquire the Fire and Master’s Commission International Network conference) to recruit their interns. Both programs are located in Texas.
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 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.
In 1978, Jim Jones’ group of over 900 people, The People’s Temple, committed group suicide by drinking a grape drink laced with cyanide and a number of sedatives, including liquid Valium, Penegram and chloral hydrate.
What does Jim Jones have to do with My Cult Life? Eerily enough,
“Jones kept his commission so busy they were often in a state of exhaustion.
Jones exercised the powers of suggestion, persuasion and manipulation to create a kind of alternative social universe amongst his followers. By 1975 the Chaikins and others were conditioned to accept without question public punishment and humiliation at group meetings…Jones’ dismissed the nuclear family as “noxious” and did everything possible to undermine traditional family ties. There could be only one “Dad” for everyone.“ (Quoted from Rick Ross’ site: http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown61.html)
“What Jones did was try to break all ties that were not to him,” said former believer Vernon Gosney. “Transfer all that loyalty, all that bonding to him. And so families were broken apart. Relationships were divided…Jones deftly justified his actions to his followers by saying that what he did to them was actually for their own benefit, or the benefit of making the church a stronger, tighter-knit organization.” http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown63.html
Everything above is similar to my experience in Master’s Commission and working at Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, LA.
I’ve spent time lining out these specific moments and traits of my leaders, but more than anything, we were kept in a constant state of exhaustion, and all ties with the outside world and family were cut off or highly discouraged. We were to accept things without question or risk the shame of humiliation in front of everyone, or the embarrassment that went along with getting kicked out of the group and no one speaking to us for fear that they’d get kicked out too.
Every morning I go to the French doors at the back of my house and I look upon the wide expanse of desert that surrounds me. I look down at the patio, and I don’t see Ella so my gaze runs out to the East, where my mom and I set a cat trap with salmon. I lost my cat two weeks ago, and although I know her likely destiny was prey to a California desert predator, I keep looking for her to show up.
Grief does funny things to people. It’s an emotion that I didn’t clearly recognize I was going through the years after leaving the cult I was involved in. Some people said they thought I felt rejected and that was why I became depressed. Of course there was rejection upon leaving. Upon disagreeing with the senior pastor, he cut me off from communication (like he’d done to so many others in his past). Why? He became disappointed in me because I was unwilling to come back to Louisiana and I was unwilling to live my life according to his rules. Fragments of conversation trickle down the chain of command there in Louisiana, where eavesdroppers at household conversations and bystanders at after-church discussions mix truth with lies with assumptions about why people leave the church. Eventually, the game of telephone dilutes any truth of why anyone left and people are left to their own assumptions mixed with he-said, she-said which is never generous to the person who leaves the “place of blessing” or “out of the anointing” or “House of God.” Negative assumptions breed rejection, and what I felt was rejection from people I’d grown close to for much of the history of my young adult life.
More powerfully than rejection, though, was the grief I experienced from an amalgamation of losing my friends, people I considered close (like family), and discarding and deconstructing the teachings I now disagreed with.
During a journey of grieving and depression, I allowed myself to be expressive, angry, searching and honest.
I began to grieve and mourn the loss of people I’d considered friends for many years of my life, and I began to grieve the loss of what I thought was my “faith” and what turned out to be a need for people’s approval. As I began to intersect the faith I’d been taught in the cult with the faith I’d felt in my heart was right my entire life, I began to see a great chasm that needed to be reconciled. So, I set out to find my own truth—the things I believed about love, people, dreams—without placing pressure on myself to meet someone else’s approval.
I felt that to become a blank slate was something that would help me ascertain what my own beliefs were, as opposed to what I was taught in the cult.
I deconstructed the idea of Christianity completely.
I took it all apart, piece-by-piece and was left with a sort of artists table with a clean canvas and materials to construct with. I had paints of all colors and tones, magazine cut-outs, fragments of books I’d read, pictures I’d seen, people I’d known, and experiences I’d had. With a clean slate in front of me, I took my old materials and examined them. I turned them to the right and the left and looked at them from the back, and the front with a critical eye. I read from experts in the field of religion, feminism, humanitarianism, literature. I compared them with human beings in history and the present time who were models of exceptional citizenship, who treated people fairly and respectfully.
Many of my old materials needed to be discarded. They came from a long line of historical violence, a present day close-minded manner and an anti-intellectual path that I no longer wanted to walk on.
As I felt more liberated, I acted more liberated.
The years of grief were mixed with years of feeling buoyant, vibrant.
There were years I’d sit at a writing desk and feel like a dried out old pen, because I was worried what the people from my past would think. How would they judge me? What gossip sessions would occur because of what I was about to write? What prayers of concern would go up to God from them on behalf of my soul, because I was now changed from the Lisa they knew? I had no voice to speak—only fear, yet I had words that were jamming up in my head and twisting like pretzels to get out. When I would begin to write, the nightmares would come. The mornings I’d wake up with fear that they were real. I was back there. The women were coming for me—ensuring I didn’t escape.
Grief isn’t something you navigate out of like short river boat ride. Grief is complex and misunderstood: the outer shell of humans experiencing it often not showing signs and other times causing people to fall apart, lose their ability to reason and calculate and concentrate.
Grief can also be like a painting:
black and hazy,
with a few strokes
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.
During my first few years of undergraduate education, I decided to minor in Religious Studies. The majority of this decision came from my desire to reconcile my religious past as a reverend into my current questions surrounding that time of my life. So much of how people treated me after I left the church I’d worked for for years was not Christlike, and I wanted to better learn of the history of Christianity so as to properly senthesize what happened to me.
In 2005, I enrolled in a general education class that fulfilled a requirement to graduate. My professor was new to Bakersfield, and had formerly lived in San Francisco and attended Harvard for his Ph.D. He was far more liberal than most people in Bakersfield and was an avid supporter of gay rights. He taught us not to believe what he believed, but to be good students, to work hard, and to be open minded beyond what we may have been raised to believe. It was in this environment that I flourished and grew. My religious experiences with Christianity began to make sense for the first time since I left the cult, and I began to learn the history of Chrisitianity (both good and bad).
One class session, we watched the movie Saved with Mandy Moore. The way the “Christians” treated those who were outsiders in high school made me feel very similar to how the “Christians” I had worked with for several years were currently treating me. I started tearing up in my desk, so thankful that the lights were out and that people were focused on taking notes, and not on me.
When I left the class, I couldn’t help but break down and cry. I was in the hallway, sitting on a wooden bench when Dr. Campagna-Pinto, my professor, walked up to me to ask me if I was okay. I told him briefly about my experience with the fundamentalist cult I was part of and how several years of my life history seemed to be negated now. I explained to him how painful it was to lose hundreds of friends and what I considered “family.”
From that day on, Dr. Campagna-Pinto would meet me in the hallway when I’d be sitting on a wooden bench with tears in my eyes. He’d take the time to listen to me, and he’d take the time to explain that not all Christians are like the ones I’d had the experience of meeting. He’d also tell me that Christianity had a rich history, contrary to what the fundamentalists believed and taught.
As I learned more about Christianity in his classes over the years, I understood that Christian fundamentalism was truly very different than the historical, scholarly perspective of Christianity. Christianity was a religion that had a history of good and bad, but I was able to see the good in Christians for the first time in years.
I walked away from my classes seeing religion in a different light. I had a greater understanding of humanity in general, and a greater appreciation for religious communities worldwide. I sought to better myself by being open minded, which was difficult after being a close-minded Christian fundamentalist for years. I attempted to consider life as a journey on a path that I pave myself, rather than a road that’s already been carved out before me. And I tried (and still try) to earnestly see the good in humanity, and have hope that human beings can and will do the right thing–even when things in our future and history look bleak.
I continue to be gracious with myself, because the harder I am on myself, the more I fall back into fundamentalist thinking and guilt. I also continue to study and seek knowledge from a variety of secular sources, because I trust my own judgement and trust that my heart and mind are good things, rather than evil things.
My journey is only just beginning and like the Chinese proverb says, “The journey is the reward.”
Enjoy the journey and enjoy the questions.
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:
Now, I’m directing the following questions to the MCIN and to Lloyd Zeigler:
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
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.
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 email@example.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:
Additionally, some of the following are issues I have personally felt in my experiences in MC Industries (both under Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson):
Other things the group leaders imposed:
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:
For the future of the MCIN, I would like to suggest the following for the safety and wellness of the staff members:
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.”
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
My name is Daniel Venie, and it was MY cult life, too.
I’ve been a christian for thirteen years here in Wasilla, AK. During those years I’ve done just about everything a good christian should do. I’ve done missionary work in China and went through two years of ministry school training, as well as becoming heavily involved in my local church. Through that ministry school I received a License to Preach with the Assemblies of God denomination, although I decided last year to let my credentials lapse so I am no longer affiliated with the A/G. I’ve also worked extensively at a church where I live. For about six years I served as the Assistant Youth Pastor at that church. From there my wife and I had a desire to be more involved in worship so I added that to my repertoire. After a few years of serving in both ministries my wife and I decided to pursue worship ministry as our sole focus and served as my church’s main worship leaders for the last two or three years we were there.
Currently I still live in Wasilla with my wife and two kids. We stopped attending church and have not been in well over a year now. I enjoy being a husband and father and most importantly, having a life. I also play video games instead of reading my bible. I have a deep love for people and enjoy seeing others set free to live life as God intended it.
So I’ve been reading and commenting on a few of the posts on this website for the last
several weeks. I, like many others, have found it to be very eye opening to the spiritual
abuse that takes place in these Master’s Commission programs which have become a
staple program for most healthy and “cutting edge” churches to have.
It’s opened my eyes up to the reality and severity of the problem as well as it’s depth.
It goes well beyond the borders of MC programs and takes place in churches across the nation. While I attended a
young adult ministry training program, which was modeled after an MC program but not
affiliated, I didn’t experience much spiritual abuse until after I had graduated and moved
into full time ministry at my church. I’ll save the telling of that personal story for another
article so for now, this will have to suffice. One of the things that surprised me when I
first found this blog was how easily I could relate to what Lisa had experienced, along
with many others who have commented and testified of their own experiences of being
spiritually abused. For me it has really blown the door wide open on all the shit that my
wife and I experienced and caused me to face a lot of hard and difficult truths. So I have
decided that I can no longer sit idly by and continue to ignore or make excuses for those
who manipulate and abuse others for their own gain.
I left my church over a year ago now and haven’t been attending anywhere since then.
After leaving I’ve had many talks and meetings with people that I was close with. These
weren’t strangers or casual acquaintances but people that I have known for years and done
lots of ministry along side of. People I trusted my own children with and vice versa.
Usually these meetings would be about how much they miss us and how badly they want
us to come back; and they would say it in the most sincere and genuine way possible. I
then would explain to them why I could never come back and be apart of the church
again, the main reason being because of how much the pastors controlled peoples lives.
What is sad to me is how often these people agreed with what I shared in regards to the
spiritual abuse we experienced. As I’m talking they will nod their heads as if they really
understood and knew what I was talking about. They would even share stories of how
they too have been hurt and abused by the church.
Without fail they then will take an about face and begin to make excuses for those doing the abusing.
To go from agreeing with me to excusing the spiritual abuse doesn’t even compute in my mind!
The excuses I have heard range from: “Their intentions are not to hurt you Daniel or even
to control you,” or “They don’t realize how their actions are affecting people,” or “They
just don’t know any better.” I can’t think of a more offensive response to my pain. First of
all, by excusing the pastor’s behavior they are instantly disqualifying what I experienced,
things they supposedly understood and even agreed with. Second of all, if these people
were really my friends, why are they not standing up for me? And most importantly they
are sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what their own heart is telling them
about their current situation!
I’ve often asked myself if I was justified in how upset and angry I am at what my wife
and I experienced at our church.
What if they really didn’t know any better?
What if it all was some big mistake or misunderstanding on their part?
Shouldn’t I give them the benefit of doubt?
Shouldn’t I too excuse their behavior?
The answer that I have come to is no. For years while I was involved in ministry I made excuses.
I ignored my own heart and feelings and hoped for the best. I’d tell myself over and over that they just don’t know
any better or that this is how it is and I have to accept it. The truth is that it isn’t how it’s
supposed to be, it isn’t okay, and most importantly it is not something you can excuse away.
Whether someones intentions are to NOT hurt and control people is besides the point. If a
person accidentally kills another person they are still held responsible. It’s called
involuntary manslaughter and doesn’t change the fact that someones life was destroyed.
The truth is that there are thousands of people every day that are being torn to pieces by
spiritual abuse. It is a HUGE problem in churches and Masters Commission programs
around the nation. I can no longer pretend that nothing bad happened to me. It’s got to
stop and for me, it stops right here. I will never excuse away spiritual abuse, or cover it
up, or be silenced for fear of speaking against the supposed men of God. My own heart
compels me to speak up, and that I can no longer ignore.
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I'm Lisa Kerr. I'm a writer and blogger from Southern California, who does side work as the body double for Zach Galifianakis.
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