“There’s No Good Way To Leave A Cult”: The Potters Field Case
The following report is true to the best of my ability to verify. I believe the people I spoke to spoke truthfully. The report is presented without malice and is a work of journalism
After prayer, much consideration, and a unanimous decision, Mike Rozell and Potter’s Field Ministries has been removed from the official list of affiliated Calvary Chapel pastors and churches. We find that the Potter’s Field form of discipleship training and methods of ministry are not compatible with the Calvary Chapel form of ministry taught to us by Pastor Chuck.
The CCA Council”
This was the letter sent out by the Calvary Chapel Association breaking affiliation with Mike Rozell and Potters Field Ministries.
We now know that this letter was sent after a lengthy attempt at intervention with the ministry to get Mike Rozell to step down from his position and protect the young people participating in the program.
After many interviews with former and current employees and participants in the program we also know why they believed that intervention was necessary.
All of the people we interviewed made similar allegations of a controlling, cult like, atmosphere where Mike Rozell and his wife Pam demanded strict obedience and loyalty to themselves and used cultish techniques to achieve their ends.
Rozell allegedly, repeatedly, stated that “all the ground is not level at the foot of the Cross”…that he was given the authority of God in his ministry and over those who were involved in it. Any sort of rebellion against him was rebellion against God and that particular sin had to be rooted out of any who showed signs of it.
The preferred method of freeing the young people’s souls from such sin was to be brought into a private office and verbally abused for hours until you broke and confessed…employees were often broken then fired and made to beg for forgiveness and their place back in ministry.
One story told over and over again was of a young man who was berated from early in the morning until two the next morning…his wife was then convinced to throw him out of their home until he completely repented and he spent three nights sleeping in a car during the Montana winter.
Insiders also claimed that these lengthy sessions of verbal abuse were also used to extract confessions of sexual sin (whether it existed or not) from victims that were then used against them if they opposed Rozell or tried to leave.
Many of the women claimed that conversations with the Rozells often turned to sexual matters with particular interest in masturbation. There was consensus among those I spoke to that conversations with both were often uncomfortable and inappropriate. Objections were answered with rebukes to “grow up”.
One woman told me “when I walk out more stumbled over sexual sin than when I started, that’s abuse”.
There were allegations made of “triangulation” where Mike Rozell would demean husbands in front of their wives while affirming the wife at the same time,thus usurping the husband and controlling the family unit.
Participants also spoke of romantic relationships and friendships outside the group being torpedoed by Rozell and being the occasion for more verbal abuse.
Another common form of control is to keep the participants in a group exhausted.
People reported working 60-80 hours a week for (often much less) than minimum wage, 6 days a week.
On top of that, there was also required attendance at church services and bible studies that left people completely and continually exhausted while part of the program.
They were also broke…because of the low wages many sold personal belongings just to keep afloat.
One of the ways the Rozells framed this alleged labor abuse was through signed contracts where the participants agreed to “donate” at least 20 hours a week to the various PFM enterprises on top of regular working hours.
Objections were often met with a slew of Scriptures about “giving your all for gospel” and “laying down your life for the kingdom”…spiritual abuse heaped on top of fear and exhaustion.
They also were required to pay rent and tithe out of what they earned.
We would encourage the tax and labor boards in the states where PFM and the “Mud Man” hamburger trucks are incorporated to do a full investigation of the labor practices of PFM.
Since this scandal broke, there are reports of PFM seeking to come into compliance, but those could end up being temporary adjustments.
(The Mud Man logo looks a great deal like Rozell…a claim he denies.)
All of the people we interviewed had serious questions about how much money was coming in to the three PFM non profits, Potters Field Ministries, Potters Field Ranch, and the Mud Man burger franchises.
These are questions that can only be answered by an outside audit.
“There’s no good way to leave a cult”…
When people attempt to leave because of the issues detailed above (and others), they are often met with threats and verbal abuse.
To avoid such, some people fled in the middle of the night.
As one former intern told me, “there’s no good way to leave a cult”.
We were told that Rozell has threatened to “hunt them down and ruin their hope for ministry” if a person left and spoke ill of their PFM experience.
The familiar tactics of shunning and demeaning come into play whenever people try to leave under less than ideal circumstances.
When one does leave, they are spoken ill of in the group as well to insure solidarity…those who left were “in sin” and rebellion against God.
Attempts to contact those who left were discouraged by the Rozells, even to say goodbye.
“You don’t want the devil to get in there,” they were told…effectively controlling both the people involved and the dissemination of information.
Those who remain are conditioned to reject outside criticism through being told to expect persecution because of the special ministry that they are called to.
When this story first broke we believed it to be part of a conflict between Don McClure and Mike Rozell.
What we have learned since is that this was a good faith attempt by McClure and the CCA to deal with real and substantial issues with the Montana based ministry.
Further, we were told by many that Don and Jean McClure have been very supportive of those who have left.
One of the errors of the letter sent out out by the CCA was that this ministry didn’t meet the standards set by Chuck Smith in the way he discipled people.
The reality is that it mirrored the worst of the way Chuck Smith dealt with his inner circle.
Smith had a volcanic temper and fired and verbally accosted people frequently, only to bring them back when his wrath passed.
He was aware of the need people had for his approval and his place as their spiritual and emotional father and he used that for his benefit against them.
The same strategy, multiplied, seems to have been in play with Mike Rozell.
The allegations against PFM present textbook cases of spiritual and emotional abuse.
We call on the CCA to speak again and even more clearly about this situation, lest we lose more of this generation to the wiles of the enemy.