February 3, 1983
I crouched down on my knees with the phone cradled against my ear; straining its cord and almost pulling it out of the wall. Tears streamed down my face and I felt someone kicking me in the stomach. Hard.
And someone was, but not physically.
The voice on the other end of the line spoke in a deep baritone with an eastern Kentucky twang.
“Tik, I am very, very fearful for your eternal salvation and for your soul,” the voice drawled.
It was Joe Smith, second in command of Maranatha Ministries, the self proclaimed chief prophet of the movement.
“If you leave the ministry I will tell you that there is almost a one hundred percent chance that you will backslide into sin. But there is an even more serious matter that concerns me.”
I grunted, and had now fallen face down into the shag carpet in my parent’s family room.
“The Bible,” Joe continued with his deep voice now taking on the tone of Gospel preaching, “says that it is better to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the sea than to lead the little ones astray. When you moved into full-time ministry, Tik, you became a leader with great responsibility. If you leave Maranatha it could cause those you are shepherding to lose their faith and then their blood will be on your hands! And you will be cut off from the both the vine and your spiritual family and in turn be thrown onto the fires of hell!”
What he said seemed true.
If I left Maranatha it could cause some, maybe all, of my sheep to fall into apostasy. I also knew for a certainty I would lose the “family” of Maranatha that had been mine for five years. I had no other friends outside of Maranatha Ministry, and in fact, it provided my only source of income. I had seen first hand what happened when people left God’s Green Berets: they were shunned, apostate, dirty, and were given over to Satan.
Was my soul in jeopardy?
Would I go to hell?
But I knew what the movement was, had become, or maybe, had always been: wrong, destructive, self-serving and dictatorial. Despite the good intentions, at least at the lower levels, the leadership of the Ministry was in turn arrogant, vindictive, and controlling. If I stayed I would be part of the part of a movement that preyed on people’s fears and used them as long as they performed and conformed.
However, if I left God’s Green Berets I lost everything, my friends, my “family”, my work and, possibly, no probably, my mortal soul.
I sobbed uncontrollably and tears ran down my face.
What should I do???
There seemed to be no way out for me.