It was the summer of 2007 and I was in Tijuana, Mexico building homes on a Teen Mania mission trip with nearly 600 teens from around the country. A young girl on my team was a current intern at Teen Mania and mentioned to me that the ministry had been hunting for Ron’s new
assistant. They have spent several months collecting resumes and interviewing people from around the country. Teen Mania had gone so far as to hire Rebecca Contreras, a former White House aide to President Bush, as a consultant to
interview prospective applicants.
reach the build site where we were constructing a 350 square foot house for a
family that had been living in a glorified wooden shack for many years. The
wood and building materials had been delivered the night before and lay in
front of their dusty dirt plot that would soon become their home. As I arrived
I noticed that the wood had a large blanket laying over it that hadn’t been
there the night before. As I grew closer I saw the blanket moving and realized
wood that night to ensure that no one took their future home. The family showed
incredible gratitude for our help, and hugged each and every one of us with
tears in their eyes as we handed them the keys to their new home.
submit my resume to Teen Mania to become the next assistant for Ron Luce. I
wanted to make a difference. I wanted to change lives. I wanted to do things
that mattered to the least of these, and most of all I wanted my life to count
for more than just myself. I gave up my very successful career working for JP
Morgan Chase Bank. I sold my home and virtually all of my possessions because I
believed I was answering the call. Please
understand, I don’t say any of that as credit to myself, but to illustrate that
I meant my commitment when I chose to enter full time ministry.
that I had made a terrible mistake. The first day I arrived I had a meeting
with my staff of interns. Within the first thirty minutes of that meeting I
noticed that several of the interns were crying. I began to probe and try to
ascertain what was happening and almost immediately was told a statement that
sounded like a rehearsed PR speech, “The Executive Office is a very challenging
ministry placement and requires great faith and perseverance to endure.” I had
heard “Christianese” lingo like that before, but this seemed like something
that had been said thousands of time before my arrival. I knew something was
very wrong, but I just didn’t yet know what or who was the source of the
problem. Little did I know I was about to discover the truth behind the tears.
son was turning thirteen and Ron had planned a ceremony for him to celebrate
his “becoming a man.” As part of this event Ron had instructed us to purchase
his son a Braveheart-like sword that would be presented to him at the ceremony.
Ron told us to have the blade inscribed with a Biblical phrase in Latin. After
it had been inscribed by the engraver I asked a few of the interns to have the
sword picked up to be presented to Ron. When they arrived they walked into the
office and stood at my doorway looking completely distraught. Apparently the
engraver had made a mistake on one single letter. I honestly couldn’t
understand why they were so upset. It seemed like such a small mistake and more
importantly one that could be fixed. But they knew something I didn’t…
Luce detests mistakes of any kind.
Ron had overheard the commotion and
walked into my office. He took the sword and noticed the mistake immediately.
It was the first time I had ever seen him angry, and it was jarring to say the
least. He didn’t speak for what seemed like an eternity, but you could visually
see that he was seething. Finally he broke the silence, “I am so deeply and
completely grieved at this complete lack of excellence. I am completely
He walked away without saying
another word and then slammed the door to his office.
ones responsible for the mistake were completely destroyed by his words. This
was a man they loved and revered in every sense of the word, and they had let
him down by a simple mistake that wasn’t even their fault. Never mind the fact
that this was a personal task that he himself should have been doing on his own
time. I wish I could say that this was the last time this type of behavior occurred,
but even in the short time I spent at Teen Mania I witnessed this type of
verbal mistreatment on countless occasions. My job eventually became spending
large portions of my week trying to convince many of the interns not to quit
and leave the ministry entirely. Crying in my office became a regular
occurrence and no matter how hard I tried to shield them from his emotional
outbursts, they continued on a regular basis.
after my departure because a while back I called the Executive Office at random and
spoke to one of the interns who happened to answer the phone. Without even
knowing her name I told her that I was praying for her and that I understood
the hardship that she was facing by working in that department. Not even two minutes
into the conversation had passed and she was crying quietly telling me how much
she couldn’t stand the hardship of the Executive Office and how much she missed
financial failures of this ministry. It is easy to poke holes through the
mistakes that were made by allowing Mr. Luce to maintain his white knuckled
grip on a multi-million dollar empire that it became, but the biggest tragedy
are the lives that he has damaged by his words, his actions and his inability
to accept fault or failure.
the end of my tenure with Teen Mania Ministries. Towards the end of my time at
Teen Mania I had discovered that my wife had been unfaithful to our marriage
and I believed I needed to take time to try and recover what remained of our
relationship. I sought a private one-on-one meeting with Mr. Luce to discuss my
need for time away from the office. Despite the fact that I already had one
foot out the door and my ongoing reservations with his behavior I decided to
bear my heart to Mr. Luce. He remained quiet as I relayed the somber and
devastating news to him. When I had finished he very confidently sat up in his
chair and said something that to this day completely and utterly blew me away.
He explained to me that I was
responsible for her behavior. He said that my absence from my home was likely
to blame and that spiritually I was responsible for the mistake that she had made.
He put the blame of my wife’s affair
completely and totally on my shoulders.
To put that into perspective you
need to understand the context of why that statement was so completely
unfounded. Prior to my tenure at Teen Mania I was working a normal 9 to 5 job
and had a very normal and healthy family life. It wasn’t until my arrival at
Teen Mania that I was forced to work upwards of 90 hours per week and spend
countless nights at the office. In January of 2008, my wife and I had decided to
take time to go to Dallas to celebrate our anniversary. Our anniversary fell on
a Saturday, but Ron was up against a book deadline and insisted that I come
into the office to help finish his book, “Re-Create.” I told him that I would
come into the office and work on the book until 2pm that day and that I would
leave so that I could spend time with my wife. When 2pm rolled around I called
him to let him know that I would be leaving. Well I am sure you can guess what
that night before I was able to go back home and spend a few fleeting moments
with my wife and kids before they went to sleep.
I do not blame Ron Luce for the
failure of my marriage. I do not blame Ron Luce for the choices I have made or
more importantly didn’t make. I blame him for the fact that he had continued to
make slaves or people in the name of “God” and “ministry.” If you have ever
spent any time serving in any capacity at Teen Mania you know this to be true.
Like so many of you I took the leap
of faith to partner with Teen Mania Ministries to make a difference in the
lives of people who were in need. I wanted to serve, give, and dedicate my life
to the cause of Christ and show people His love. It never occurred to me that I
would be spending my life running personal errands for Mr. Luce or making sure
he was bumped up to first class on every flight or we weren’t “excellent.” What
started as a noble decision ended up as an incredible disappointment because
the focus went from people to person. It has taken me nearly seven years to get
the courage to say all of these things because I truly wanted to just forget
this part of my life and move on. But I owe it to each and every one of you to
remind you that we serve Christ and Him alone, and when anyone or anything
stands in the way of that service…
I cannot speak for anyone else, but as for me and my house, we will serve the