Cult Watch - The Fusion Ministries
Post date: Sep 29, 2011 7:46:44 PM
Romans 16:17 Now, it is my desire, brothers, that you will take note of those who are causing division and trouble among you, quite against the teaching which was given to you: and keep away from them. (Bible in Basic English)
And if your brother does wrong to you, go, make clear to him his error between you and him in private: if he gives ear to you, you have got your brother back again.
But if he will not give ear to you, take with you one or two more, that by the lips of two or three witnesses every word may be made certain.
And if he will not give ear to them, let it come to the hearing of the church: and if he will not give ear to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-farmer.
(Bible in Basic English)
I hate writing these. The truth is that we are called to point out and stay away from false teachers or those causing division in the church. Also, once church discipline is done, such people should be treated as publicans and tax collectors. This means that they should no longer have (nor exercise) church authority. In this particular case, I lose a dear friend and mentor.
My friend's name was Nathan Robert Elznic. When I made my solid commitment to God, Nate became a role model for me. It was he who encouraged people to be "radical for the kingdom". All things seemed well at first. But, like every story of a misguided antagonist, things changed.
To protect the privacy of people who are still friends, I will change certain names. As for other parties, I won't occlude truth because it does more damage than good for them to be allowed influence in the lives of others.
On June 22, 2006, God showed up in my life in a miraculous way. I committed myself to Him despite the fact that I would lose my marriage and family.As a new (and committed) Christian, I was without friends. There were no friends from my old life in Saint Cloud nor had I made any new friends. Church was all I had initially. I met Henry (not his real name) within a few weeks of attending Jubilee. Henry and I quickly became friends as I would often give him rides home (he could not afford a car at the time). Henry introduced me to his roommate, Jeff (not his real name). Henry and Jeff were connected to Pastor Nate Elznic through youth ministries. They invited me to come out to Nate's house and work. The first night I got out there, Nate asked what I could do. When I asked what he needed done, he said he had electrical work. Since I had experience wiring houses, I offered to do it. The first night, Nate was discussing how "spiritual fathering" helped a person to gain a greater favour than when a person does it on their own. I contested Nate, saying that a person will always have to start at some place and can't just build on another's success without their own foundation. Nate's response was something along the lines of questioning what authority I had to make that statement.I argued him for a short while while quoting from a previous pastor (not the Bible). At the end, I sat down and stopped to consider.
I spent nights out at Nate's house wiring or working on whatever building project Nate had while joining the youth group. At this point, I am 26 in a youth group aimed at teenagers. Honestly, most of the "youth group" was 17 and up at this time, so my age didn't make things awkward for me being there. That and the fact that there were a few divorced regulars and people with kids. I mingled with people and often served as the camera guy for events. Most events were posted on FaceBook or Photobucket to be shared as fond memories. At some point, Nate asked to meet with me. We started having meetings every other week. I would be open and honest with Nate about what was going on in my life. We became friends and instead of him being a priest I just confessed to, he would share things about his life with me. to keep in touch, our lunches became monthly, all this time, Nate was growing his "Master's Commission" ministry.
In December of 2006, Henry and I began to rent Nate's old house. As time progressed, more guys joined us. The agreement gave me the basement and helped me have a secluded and private place for my kids and I. Things seemed well. During this time, Nate had also been attending my court dates and provided moral support as I went through the divorce. In August of 2007, Henry and his wife bought Nate's house.Things at this point seemed find. I continued to have further ripples in the legal pond due to the divorce, and Nate was always there to be a shoulder to lean on.
I forget exactly when, but Nate proclaimed his house as finished during the summer of 2007. It looked like a home and had very little amateur mistakes. It was quite excellent. As Nate walked through the house, he started to complain about mistakes made by the people from youth group who helped him. He cursed the place as made by inexperienced workers with flaws. I remember feeling very disheartened hearing this. It felt like all the hard work and sacrifices we made were of little value to him.
September of 2007, Nate stepped down from being youth pastor to focus on college ministry. Jeff replaced Nate as the youth pastor. Jeff and I had become good friends after renting Nate's house. I chose to stay in youth ministry rather than focus on college ministry. Things were fine as Jeff continued to recommend people leaving youth go into Master's Commission.
During the winter of 2007, Nate got an idea to host an underground (unsanctioned) fight event. He convinced a former youth groupie (Jacob) to host the event in his basement. While Nate (who watched tons of UFC) refereed, former youth groupies fought (believing the event was legal). Nate later told people who recorded to not post any of their videos online. Confused, he said it was for the protection of Jacob. Not much additional information would be given.
It was in September of 2008 that things started to turn. Prior to the social event, Nate had his Master's Commission students and former youth groupies over to tend to his yard. It was later at the event that I met a woman named Bethany. While others were content to play volleyball or tell fart jokes, Bethany and I had some deep theological and ministerial conversations. We also talked about our testimonies. It was late by the time we realized that everyone else had gone inside. I thought this woman was refreshingly different, but not my type, since I was interested in another young woman.
In December of 2008, I finally asked Nate to date the other young woman. He was the closest she had to a father at the time, so it seemed natural. Nate and Heidi convinced the young woman to go on a date with me. Her heart just wasn't there. The whole date seemed as if she was obligated to be there, rather than interested in me. At the end of the date, we talked a few more times. She just didn't feel interested at all and stated that Heidi had told her to give it a try. It was the square peg in the round hole routine.
January 31st, 2009 marked a major fight between BJ Penn and George St. Pierre on UFC. Nate was having a ton of people over and borrowed a projector from Jubilee for the fight. On my way, Nate asked me to pick up a cord. I was flat-busted broke at this time. It was food or the cord. I chose the cord because I figured sacrificing for relationship was more important (something Nate had preached a lot). When I got there, the cord was too short and the wrong type. Nate publicly berated me in front of his guests. I felt shorter than a grain of sand that night. I was disappointed that I had let my (spiritual) father (as I was thinking of him at the time) down. Some of the people who saw this exchange stopped attending UFC nights at Nate's house.
February of 2009 marked the mission trip to Chihuahua, Mexico. It was on this road trip that twenty-five of us were packed into a greyhound and shuttled across the Mexican border. During this trip, I realized just how superficial the crew was. Most people were still talking about Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre (two movies I absolutely hated, but they pressured me to like because Nate liked them). It was during this time that Bethany and I started to talk more. Close quarters, no where to go... there are only so many burp jokes you can stand. In addition to the sharp contrast of my personality against the others, Bethany and I were the last two picked for evangelism. The result was that we ended up together rather than being paired with anyone else. As Bethany and I got to know each other better, I realized there was a connection there. I felt as if I should marry this woman. At a point during the mission trip, Fred (not his real name) approached me and told me that people were concerned about me getting emotionally attached to Bethany. Prior to this, I didn't date nor flirt with any of the girls in Master's Commission. Bethany just happened to be in her first year. I conceded and pulled back. It would take a few months for me to realize that she is the woman I wanted to marry.
Over the summer months, Bethany disappeared. I still had dreams about her and wanted to date. I continued to counsel with Nate on the subject while looking for friendly advice. Nate told me how she was one of the problem children of Master's Commission and had no clue how to submit to authority. He told me that she had a Jezebel spirit. I kept having dreams and kept that portion of my life open to Nate (as was expected of anyone who was close to him). Around September of 2009, I was ready to ask Bethany out. I counselled with Nate on this again. He told me that if I had, the marriage would end in divorce. Taking his advice, I would wait until Bethany was out of Master's Commission.
During this time, I continued having dreams about marrying Bethany. Every time I counseled with Nate, I felt as if I was just misinterpreting dreams and chasing something that wasn't of God. Nate always convinced me that the right thing to do was to let her go. I wanted to let her go, so bad, that I wrote her a letter that repeated all the bad things that Nate convinced me were true about her. I said that our relationship was over. We didn't speak for about a month after this, but I still had dreams.
Through the first half of 2010, Jeff began studying theology. It came to a point where Jeff and I had regular conversations on theology. We began to find loopholes in what Nate said was correct. In February, Jeff resigned from being youth pastor to go to college and seminary. This caused Nate to lose his stable income since half his salary was paid by Jubilee and half was commission from Master's Commission. Nate had run Master's Commission to the point where he was struggling to get students. After an 18 student year, the numbers began to dwindle. When I still counseled with Nate, he refused to talk theology and said that it was not important. Nate insisted that we need relationship more than we need theology. As time progressed, Nate became increasingly against theology and stressed relationship and risk.
Nate decided to start his own church. He would entitle this church "The Fusion Ministries". Nate began telling people that he would start his own church. He said, "If you want to be radical and come along, tell Mark (Senior Pastor of Jubilee)." The Master's Commission students and many of us who had counselled with or been under Nate's leadership committed to founding The Fusion Ministries. During this time, Nate began focus groups where he would talk to the group and find out what we didn't like about church. Many people were burned out on ministry. The statistic is that ten percent of the people do ninety percent of the work in churches. So, Nate said that anyone who was burnt out on ministry would not have to minister. They would get a free pass. During these meetings, Nate continued telling us which elders said what about him. He told us who called Master's Commission cult-like. He asserted that Pastor Mark's wife felt threatened by his own wife and therefore did not allow her on the worship team. I look back, and this sounds like Stalin addressing the youth of Russia, promising that their dreams would come true if they followed him.
In May of 2010, Nate agree to my staying in his guest room while recovering from surgery. His family was cordial. During this time, I became the center of attention for his children. Both Nate and Heidi spent their time working on The Fusion. Much of the time, dinners were fend for yourself and I would have to ask for help getting things. On the surface, everything seemed healthy. For some reason, I felt afraid of making waves while I recovered. It was like, if I had to ask, I was being a burden.
Nate and Heidi left for a final retreat with the Master's Commission students. The night before they returned, past Master's Commission students just appeared at his house to clean. The atmosphere was like it was expected that they do this or they would be in trouble. It felt odd.
After counselling with Nate prior to the trip and during the time I was at his place, I decided to ask Bethany's parents for permission to date her with the intention of marriage. Nothing odd happened. Her parents just asked my testimony and whatever questions came to mind about my past and who I am as a person. I returned to Nate's to welcome him home (and be sure that I didn't leave anything behind). Nate was visibly upset that I had taken this step. His was said that she was rooting for us and happy. Before actually asking Bethany out, I counselled with Nate one more time. Nate convinced me that the divorce fire and brimstone would come down if I did not wait until Bethany was more submitted under (his) authority.
While this was happening, other guys had become dating. In one case, Nate forbade a guy to date a girl until she matured. Nate then gave him permission shortly after the girl offered to be Nate's secretary. The other relationships were only blessed as long as they counselled under Nate for premarital counseling. Nate refused to marry anyone who had not counselled under him. Nate also refused to marry if there was alcohol at the reception.
With Nate's counsel, I decided not to ask Bethany out.
Before the grand opening of Fusion, Nate and Heidi Elznic were ordained under the Omega Team. Nate instructed those who came to not stick around for the whole ceremony as it would be filled with religious junk. In the small chapel where the ceremony was held, four rows of visitors left immediately after the ordination was complete.
Summer marked the opening of Fusion Ministries. Dr. Jon Davis allowed the church to meet in his office for free. Coincidentally, Jon Davis was one of the elders. the other elder was Joseph Schlicting. These two were the major financial contributors to Fusion.
A going away party was held for one of the group who would serve in Afghanistan. During this party, I approached Nate about a contention that he had against me. Nate said that you should resolve all relational issues within twenty-four hours. For a couple weeks, I was faithful in showing up to Fusion early to set things up and help out, but Nate would still not speak to me. His only explanation was that I was a gossiper, I go behind people's backs, and I eavesdrop. It wasn't until I apologized to Nate that he began to speak to me again. Still, things were not the same.
An older gentleman that I kept in touch with from Jubilee and I spoke off and on. I asked him how one knows that they're hearing from God. The gentleman and I pursued this over the summer.
In August, I had dreams that it was now or never. I either had to ask Bethany out or abandon the notion. Nate was still not speaking to me at this time, so I counselled with Pastor Mark. Carefully considering the dreams and counsel, I asked Bethany out and explained my intentions. Nate was very upset. During this time, he had been counselling just a set group of people who were loyal to him. At this point, he refused to counsel us. Within three weeks, Nate invited Bethany and I to join his premarital counselling group. We attended three sessions. The first session, Nate talked about his goals for us. The second week, Nate set up what his leadership would look like for people leading marital counseling. The third week, Nate cancelled to meet with Eric Dykstra from The Crossing Church in Elk River. During this third week, Nate's brother-in-law (a former Master's Commission student) facilitated. People talked about their experiences in marriage and we were encouraged to open up the failures of our dating. The environment of each group setting felt like it was about praising Nate's marriage and pulling the dirt from your relationship.
In September, Jeff and a few others began to withdraw. I wasn't sure what was going on because they would not talk to me about it. They just said that "something" had come up. A few months later, Jeff called me. The call took me off as Jeff was very emotional. He was confused and upset. Jeff said that Nate had started a cult and that Fusion was his grip on people. Jeff was there at the hospital for me. Jeff has been my best friend for the past few years. I trust Jeff, but his words caused me to question my friendship with Nate. When it's friend against friend, I had to remove my heart from this and look at the facts objectively.
I started investigating the whole issue. I called people who left the counsel of Nate long ago. Among them, I counselled them that were for and against Nate. I also talked to people who were neutral in this. I honestly thought this was a bunch of people who were angry and upset that they did not have full access to Nate. Nate and I talked about what was happening. I told him what I just didn't understand how people could come to the decision. Nate continued to insist that they were just angry people who were taking their father issues out on him (Nate).
The investigation lasted two weeks and occupied much of my attention. My life and the entire circle of friends I had would change if Jeff was right about Nate, so I took great care in carefully recording all of my findings.
I will post my findings at some point, but for now I will reveal only some of the discoveries made.
People who left Master's Commission struggled with integrating back into society.
People who left Nate on bad terms ended up in destructive lifestyles.
People who left Nate questioned their walk with God (some if God was even real)
People both inside of Nate's circle could not think of any flaws he had
People outside of Nate's circle reported tons of gossip and even things that I had told Nate in private about myself (that no one else knew)
At this point, my friend was less and less of a friend and more of an abuser. Oddly enough, Nate offered to marry Bethany and I, despite previously stating that he would not. This offer, during my investigation, seemed odd to me. Why would an innocent man try to bribe someone investigating a situation? I emailed Nate, Jon Davis, and Joseph Schlicting regarding my findings. Nate simply emailed back that I had not spoken to him at all and therefore went about this the wrong way. In that one email, Nate succeeded in discrediting me before his elders. What's worse is that his elders did not reach out to find the truth. They, instead, continued to support Nate. I was (and still am, to a point) heartbroken. I thought the church was supposed to work. I had thought that an elder of the church should be someone with the courage to confront the pastor if something was wrong. Someone who would care more about the truth than protecting their friend. With Fusion, I was dead wrong.
After a week of not hearing back from Fusion, I assumed that things were over and that there was no more I could do. I posted on my (then scattered) blogs about Nate and all the things that he had done and why I left Fusion. One of the people from Fusion emailed me and told me that I was being immature. the truth is that I didn't (and don't) want others to be hurt by this man. As it turns out, a month after my investigation, Pastor Alan Langstaff (Omega Ministries) began his own investigation and asked to meet with me, my fianceé (Bethany), and others who had come forward. The end of his investigation would spell the disassociation of Nate and Heidi Elznic from ministry under the Omega Team.
Since my investigation, I have recommended that people NOT visit, attend, nor support Fusion. The discoveries I made while under Nate prove that relationship with this man in his current state does more harm than good. While still under his leadership, I watched nine students commit themselves to his Master's Commission under the Fusion branding. All except for one of his students dropped out. The program had no direction and Fred (the director of Fusion's Master's Commission) wasn't paid by Nate. Instead, Nate used the Master's Commission money to pay off his house (a fact that was later revealed by one of the students).
More recent departures from Fusion have yielded people who have informed me that Nate warned people against talking to those outside of Fusion. He said that they would try to steal people away to other ministries. When people asked about Nate's involvement in some of the activities a pastor should not, Nate often blamed other people for being there.
In the end, the man who was my friend and mentor has placed himself at the top of a cult. He and his wife are the only people who can clearly hear from God for the Fusion and its members. For the longest time, their core values state that all attendees and members exist to serve the leadership and purpose of The Fusion. Nate (to this day) still states that he can be equal with God.
And... most importantly... ...
Nate has not attempted any form of reconciliation with the 60+ people he has hurt over the years in relationship.
I pray that God changes this man's heart and completely removes him from ministry.
I hate writing these, and I hope that you never find yourself in a damaging place like this.