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#10 Washing My Own Brain: Shepherding

I had promised Randy and Marty that I would come by the Maranatha house that afternoon after my physics lab.

My mind reeled from my confrontation with Sheila as I made my way across campus to the MCM House. Although the trees shown with brilliant orange colors while scads of students lolled on the quad, or played frisbee, I did not register any of it. Not really.

My mind focused on Sheila. For I really like people to like me and I especially want those I am close to to be pleased by what I am doing. And I really did not want to disappoint my good friend.

For even a goof like me could figure out that Sheila violently opposed my supposed conversion and new-found faith.

As I walked into the MCM House that afternoon I noticed fresh flowers on the mantle of the fireplace and to my left I could see the large meeting room set up with about 200 chairs with a stage, band equipment, and audio speakers.

At this point in my life, some thirty years later I would ask, “Where is the money coming for all these nice things?” But the only impression it made on me then was, “Wow, this is a very, very nice place, much nicer than the house I grew up in.”

Sam, the associate pastor, and Marty, the MCM administrator, stood waiting on me in the meeting room area. As they stood up to shake my hands Bob Weiner came walking out of the office to my left with another man, a tall, muscular guy with almost jet black long hair parted down the middle in the style of the time. Bob slapped me on the back and asked me how things were going.

“Now I know what it means to be a true follower of Jesus and I can feel the power of the Spirit,” I said seeking his approval.

“Remember”, Bob said “It’s not how high you jump but how you long run. We are running a race for God. And it is a marathon.”

I thought this an odd comment at the time but, as time passed, I slowly understood that running a marathon was an apt description of what would take place. But forget any stands along the way with water to quench your thirst.

The dark-haired fellow gave me a quick crooked smile, said nothing, and kept walking with Bob. The two of them opened a door at the back of the meeting room that I had not noticed last night and disappeared. The tall guy with Bob was Mike Caulk, I later learned, who had just been appointed head pastor of the Auburn Ministry.

Sam, Marty and I continued upstairs to the same room we were in last night.

This room was Marty’s study/bedroom. Marty pulled out a large soft bound book that had a bright red color.

“This is a Bible study for new Christians,” Marty said. “It is called Bible Studies for A FIRM Foundation“. I looked at the cover; the authors were Bob and Rose Weiner.

“Who is Rose Weiner?” I asked.

“Rose is Bob’s wife,” Sam said in a reverential tone. He continued, “She has a true heart and understanding of God’s plan and is a real prophet.”

“Prophet????” I thought. I had never heard the word prophet used except in the past tense when referring to Nehemiah or Jonah, but never in the present tense.

“It is essential Tik,” said Marty, “That you really get a firm understanding of the faith and so we will work you through the basics in these 26 studies.”

He continued, “But we will not begin at the first lesson but rather start today at discipleship: how being a disciple and becoming a disciple is the key to being an overcomer and a first century Christian.”

So I began my first structured Bible Study in Maranatha Christian Ministries. (I obtained a copy of this from Alibris.com. What follows is based on the contents of this study and my recollections of that afternoon.)

The Firm Foundations Study (or the Red Book, as it was called, by MCM) consisted of a list of verses to be read were then followed by fill in the blank statements with a few open-ended questions scattered in.

One verse that we looked at in the study was from Luke.

“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” Marty read.

“You see Tik,” said Marty, “without a shepherd the lost sheep would never find his way to the fold. So all sheep need a shepherd.”

I filled in the study statement.

But if I had been truthful I was having a hard time connecting the scripture to what Mike said.

More importantly what did he mean by, “All sheep need a shepherd”?

He then referred to another scripture out of Mark: “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

“This means that without a shepherd the crowd could not learn the things of God. That is why Jesus felt sorry for them because they did not have a shepherd. His Church is his bride; in fact, we will become like Jesus in time. But in order to do so God will give us shepherds to hold us accountable and to help us grow in our walk just like Jesus acted as a shepherd for his disciples.”

I wrote this down dutifully in the blank spot on the page.

We looked at another scripture from John: “The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.”

Sam said, “This scripture is key to understanding why the traditional churches are dead, and why we Christians who make a commitment to Jesus fall away and get involved in immorality and other sin. You see unless we have a shepherd who is truly committed to our walk with Jesus we will be scattered when the wolf comes. This is why you have been dissatisfied with your walk and with the watered down old line churches and the ministries like Campus Crusade for Christ.”

Now this made sense to me- because this is exactly what I had seen at Auburn and in my own life.

But there was a lingering doubt.

You see I agreed with what they were saying about being held accountable but was this what this scripture actually meant? It did not seem to me to have this meaning this so I stuck this teaching in the closet in the back of my mind along with the Maranatha theory of water baptism.

And finally we reviewed this verse: “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.”

“You see Tik that was the charge that Jesus gave to Peter. Feed his sheep. Jesus was the great shepherd and was the overseer of the disciples and provided them a covering. They in turn were shepherds and covered their sheep. In turn these sheep also covered their sheep and so on. This ensured that the entire Body of Christ would be provided a covering so that all could be disciples.”

“In order to be a Christian you must be a true disciple. In fact, the followers of Jesus in the first century were called disciples long before they were called Christians,” said Sam. “So we can safely say that if you are not a disciple with a shepherd you cannot be a Christian.”

He pointed to the scripture in Acts, “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.”

“To sum it up: to be a Christian you must be a disciple of Jesus. Disciple has the same root as discipline. It means that we must have someone who disciplines us, that holds us accountable, that counsels. Since we cannot be a Christian without being a disciplined disciple, and since we will be scattered without a shepherd watching for us and being accountable for our souls, we must all have a shepherd or we will fall and lose our faith,” Sam intoned.

“Tik, this is why we see so many fake, watered down Christians and dead churches. They have no shepherds, they are not disciples, they are scattered in the wind and are therefore not Christians.”

I followed the line of reasoning. It made sense to me.

No different than what happened in engineering school. I had an advisor and professors that held me accountable, that ensured I was making progress in my studies, that ensured I had the discipline needed to complete my studies. My father had instilled the white Anglo-Saxon work ethic and discipline in me when I was a young boy. And it seemed true: this lack of discipline in Bible Study, in actions, in spiritual growth, was the very weakness I saw in the current Christian organizations I was part of.

But, although I very much liked what they were saying, and it was apparent that the lack of oversight and discipline crippled other campus ministries, I could not connect the scriptures they were using to the points that they were making.

The very points I agreed with.

So I made a critical mistake.

I ignored what my “gut” was telling me, that if the scriptures did not line up then question  the teaching. Rather my reaction was, “What they are saying is correct, and probably true, s0 I’ll over-look the discrepancy.”

Then they got to the main point, the place that we were heading to since we started the study over an hour ago.

“We have been praying about it (‘who was the “we” he was referring to?” I wondered) and it has been decided (“by whom?” I wondered) that Marty will be your shepherd ”

Marty reached over and gave me an awkward hug.

“Tik it will be great growing together in our work with the Lord.”

Then he pushed his glasses up on his nose and cleared his throat. “Tik I will be meeting with my new disciples tomorrow morning in the meeting room at 6:00 am for an hour of prayer and study. I look forward to seeing you there.”

I gulped. I barely had free time as it was with my frat duties, 17 hours of class and labs and at least 20 hours of study along with it plus any attendance at church or bible studies.

I smiled weakly.

“I can’t wait,” I said.

If this is what one must do to be a true disciple, to bear fruit, to be part of what God end movement then why not? It seemed to me to be the only way: to commit to Jesus as much or more than what I was giving to my studies, the frat or my social life. Nothing else seemed to work from what I had seen.

But what I did not understand was that in Maranatha there were no distinct sphere of life- school, social, private- all of my life was considered fair game.

All of it.

So it was I became a sheep and my first shepherd, the person who would gradually and inexorably take control of my life was Marty, a person I barely knew…a person I was giving the keys of my entire life to, although I did not exactly realize this at that time.

For now I was a sheep complete with my own personal shepherd.

 

#9 A Radical Stand Against My Friend

Wednesday, October 18, 1978

I was in a huge hall with massive columns that extended to the right and left of me as far as I could see.

Around me, for I was floating in space, were thousands of people lined up above, below, and alongside me.

Each person held a lit candle and over their heads there hovered a small flame.  We sang “Jesus Name above All Names” in beautiful harmony. I looked up and suddenly we stood in front of, and below, a huge granite throne from which came a brilliant light. All of us around the throne begin chanting “kolachakca uhl kolachacka my kolachakca ” over and over and the sound filled the air and our chest and our heads.

Then bells began ringing in time with our chant, louder and louder they rand…ring… ring… rrriinng… rrrrringgg

RINNNNGGG…

Still murmuring “kolachaka” I looked up.

Rinnnnnnnnnnnng. RINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG…

The phone on the stand beside my bed clanged away. I glanced at the clock on the stand as I pulled the receiver to my ear.

It read 7:45 am.

Yikes! I had an 8:00 am structures class!

“Hello,” I muttered into the handset.

“Well, the mystery man is still alive and made it back home.”

It was Sheila.

“Where in the world did you get to last night? I looked for you after the service and then waited around for almost forty-five minutes. I thought you had been kidnapped!”

She then burst into her trademark husky laughter.

“Sorry Sheila about last night,” I said.  “I went upstairs to talk to a couple of the guys and time got away from me. When I came downstairs it was after 10:00 and you were gone.”

I paused, gathering my thoughts, shaking the sleep from my head.

“Look I have to get off,” I continued, “I have got to grab a shower and make my 8:00 class.”

“Want to meet me at the War Eagle Cafeteria at noon?”  she asked.

“Sure, sounds great… see you then,” I answered back and hung up the phone.

Sheila and I would meet at the “calf”, as we called the War Eagle Cafeteria, a couple of times a week. There we would grab a sandwich and sit out on the wall across from Haley Center, the massive hub of the campus, and talk and watch the world go by.

I raced down the hall to the shower. As president of the fraternity I had one of the few private rooms in the house.

The other two sleeping rooms on the first floor were occupied by our house mother (actually a male grad student who was stuck with the nickname “Mom”) and the house Steward who ran the day to day business of the house in exchange for room, board, and $ 50/month.

The three of us, because of our responsibilities, got free room and board. Next year, upon stepping down as Frat President, I was already assured of getting the job of steward at the house.

It was a good gig and would help me front the bills next year.

Our three rooms were off a hallway next to the TV room and also had the advantage of being relatively quiet, at least for a frat house. I grabbed a piece of toast from Betty, our cook, and threw my backpack over my shoulder, jumped on my bike, and raced down East Magnolia Avenue to the Engineering College.

My thoughts were of my commitment to “Jesus” and as I prayed to Him my heart warmed and I reflected on the amazing experience I had last night. I felt like I was “in love” and on a first date. My heart raced as I relived that experience.

Pedaling down Magnolia I passed the Maranatha House.

It seemed peaceful and dark this morning in contrast to the excitement and light that had spilled out of the house last night. I craned my neck to catch sight of the parking lot out back. A number of cars were parked there. Mostly older clunkers.

No sign of Bob’s white Mercedes.

I wondered where Bob was staying.

At Dr. Carl’s structure’s class, I tried to concentrate but found myself either praying or thinking about Jesus and being a first century Christian. I was an inveterate note taker in class, and I still am in business meetings.  But this morning I wrote not a single scribble.

About half way through Dr. Carl’s lecture one of my classmates leaned over and whispered, “Hey Tik, did you get stoned last night… or are you just day dreaming about getting some nookie? You have have this silly grin on your face and you have not written one thing down this morning.”

I started in my seat and begin to try to concentrate on the lecture and school but found this impossible to do.

At noon I made my way to the “calf” and found Sheila waiting for me, with her short blond hair pushed back from her forehead by sunglasses. We grabbed a sandwich and walked over to the broad sloping lawn next to Haley center and plopped down.

Sheila and I had become close friends over the last two years. Many people thought we were a “thing”, but we were not. The “it” required for the dating/love thing was not there. I was way too busy to worry about the girlfriend – boyfriend thing. And with Sheila, thank goodness, I did not have to worry about all of that and, besides, I really liked her and liked being around her.

“So what happened to you last night Tik?” she asked.  “I worried myself sick about you. I waited around until almost 9:30 for you at the house last night.”

“Well Sheila,” I said, “something incredible happened to me last night. I think for the first time I understand what it means to be a Christian, the kind of Christian that Paul was in the first century.”

I excitedly explained what happened, how they (Randy, Marty and Sam) knew, from a word God had given them, about everything that was going on in my life. I told her about the power of their faith and about the way their prayers pierced my soul. About them being sold out and committed. About the fact that I had come to see that I was lukewarm and a water-downed Christian. I told her about my baptism last night and how the power of God Almighty had filled me just the way I had read about in the book of Acts.

I left out the speaking in tongues part and the dancing and all of that. I thought at this point that would be too much for her.

As she listened closely she munched on her sandwich-occasionally interjecting with a “hmmm” or “really?”.

After I finished telling her about what had happened she sat there for a moment with a puzzled expression on her face.

Tikie,” she said “I don’t get it. You are a good guy. You don’t walk or chew or run with those who do. You are a good Christian man. You are a straight arrow and a kind hearted person. How in the world could you doubt your salvation?’

“No one is good but God,” I answered.

I then quoted the verse: “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.”

Of course I was actually quoting Bob Weiner but taking it for granted that this was actually in the Bible. It was, but the verse was, of course, totally taken totally out of context in Bob’s sermon last night.  But I was running with Bob’s bad exegesis as fast as I could!

“But Tikie, Christ has forgiven you, His blood was shed so you don’t have to be perfect. You know all this, in fact I have heard you talk about that fact.”

“Sheila,” I challenged her, “find me one verse where it says all you have to do is say the sinner’s prayer and you will be saved. You won’t be able to. The first century Christians gave it all up for Jesus. I am telling you the more I read the New Testament the more I am convinced that the old line churches have lost it. They and everyone in them is dead spiritually.”

She was silent for about a minute.

“Tik, I just don’t like it. Forget everything else, the scriptures, their view of the Bible, all of it. I am talking about those people at Maranatha. Something does not feel right, I am telling you it was creepy… the whole thing was strange.”

She paused for a moment.

“The girls last night practically pulled me away from you and made sure that when the service started I was boxed in and could not get out and get near you.”

I laughed, “Sheila- c’mon – you got to be kidding me. You can’t believe that.”

“No I am telling you Tikie that is what happened. They purposely separated us. And then after the service three of them jumped me. They sat down with me and started asking about my walk with Christ and was I sold out and did I have sin in my life and had I been baptized and did I have the gift of the Holy Spirit and a bunch of very personal questions that, frankly, I found offensive. I am telling you it was weird. Strange. Like I said… creepy.”

“And another thing,” she continued, “the service…we were standing and singing for 45 minutes. My head was spinning by the end of all those choruses. Then that sermon by that Bob Weiner; the guy makes my skin crawl. The whole service was set up to get everyone in the mood, I think, to put us into a sort of trance. Everything to me looked staged and fake, the fake smiles from the band, Bob yelling and screaming for about an hour, the fake friendliness when we arrived… all of it. Tik, I tell you I could not wait to get the heck out of there. But then you had vanished so I stuck around longer than I wanted, waiting on you. Thanks a lot buddy!!”

She burst into laughter.

Sheila and I were polar opposites.

She had this sweet Selma, Alabama accent and was a petite pretty blond; but underneath she was cynical and skeptical. I always wanted to believe the best in people and help them out and give people second, or even third, chances. I tended to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Not Sheila- if they are guilty give it to them- the full treatment complete with water torture.

Before rush that year one of our frat brothers got it into his head, after consuming a case of beer, that he was going to streak Noble Hall, one of the women’s dorm. He got nailed by security butt naked and was hauled before the University disciplinary committee.

The committee recommended he be expelled. “Mom” (our graduate resident advisor) and I rounded up a couple of profs, the President of Pan Hellenic (the inter-sorority counsel) and our chaplain and went before the counsel and pled for his life. They let the idiot off.

Sheila’s reaction: “He’s a drunken fool and expulsion will teach him a good lesson.”

This was Sheila at her finest.

“Look Tik,” she said, “before you get involved with this group lets go to “Rat” (John “Rat” Riley of Campus Crusade for Christ) or Chris (the head of BSU) and get their take on this group and what they are teaching.”

“But Sheila,” my voice was getting louder, “they are part of the problem; not the solution [this time I thought I was quoting Bob but I was actually quoting Bob quoting Eldridge Cleaver]. Rat and Chris represent the established stuck in the mud churches. Look at your own church in Selma. You complain yourself that it is a social club and full of gossiping women.”

“Tik, ya wanna perfect church you are going to have to look a long time for it because it is not out there. Look Tik, forget all of the problems with our church and CCC and BSU. You know that the outer circle in these groups will always be there for the social part…but you also KNOW that there are strong Christians in these groups.”

She paused and took a sip of the Coke she was holding before continuing.

“Tikie are you actually telling me that you think “Rat” (John Riley) is a fake and watered down Christian?”

She had me.

Rat was a former football player and personified what a Christian could be. Humble, funny, good looking a former football player, Rat attracted people and witnessed incessantly. His weekly CCC bible study attracted 400-500 people minimum and he was hard pressed to find a place that would hold everyone. He drove a 10-year-old Dodge Dart had a wife and a new baby and was subsisting on love offerings from his supporters.

“You know I like and respect Rat,” I said. “That’s not the issue; the problem is with his fruit.”

Now I was going to quote Marty quoting the Bible: “Can a fruit tree bear fruit for if it bears thistles it will be chopped down and burned.”

“That’s straight from the Bible,” I said and crossed my arms over my chest.

Sheila stood up and I saw that laser like look of anger turned on me for the very first time.

“Tik Tok what in the world has got in to you? Why are you throwing up all this scripture in my face? What do you mean by that? Do you really think that God is going to cut down Rat and burn him up because some kids come to hear a Bible Study and then go out and party? Get real!… would it be better if he did not have his study and these kids hung out in their dorm rooms getting stoned?”

“What are you driving at exactly, Tik… WHAT?”

She had her hands on her hips, a sure sign of danger, and her pale face now burned crimson.

“I am saying only what is in the Bible and no more,” I said.

I felt the blood rushing to my head as well. I was getting upset.

I could not, in the two years I had known Sheila, recall us ever having a fight or even a disagreement about anything. I was so excited that day to see her and just knew she would be excited about what had happened to me last night. And I wanted her to be part of what I had experienced.

I wanted her to share what I had now. I wanted her to be an overcoming first century Christian.

But she continued to stand there with her hands on her hips staring a hole through me.

“And…,” she paused for a moment or two…,”what does the Bible say about me?”

I gulped. Sam, Randy, and Marty had told me the Word of God was sharper than a sword, but now I was not sure if I liked who it was cutting and how it was cutting.

This was no fun.

“C’mon Sheila, relax,” I said. I am naturally a peacemaker, but not Sheila, not when something mattered to her.

“No,” she said, raising her voice, “I mean it. What does the Bible say about me? Am I lukewarm? Am I a Christian or not? … well Mr. Tik Tok?”

“Okay,” I thought, “she wants to know, she is asking me, so why not? Why not tell her the truth?”

“Are you sold out Sheila, really sold out?  Because if you are not sold out then you are NOT a Christian.”

There, I said what I was really thinking and had been thinking!

She glared at me.

“How dare you Tik Tok. You of all people. When did you become the expert on who and who is not saved?”

“Like I said, Sheila, it’s what the Word of God says not what I say.”

She turned to walk off and then spun around to face me her face now burning a solid red.

“Tik, you can make the Bible say anything… but I think you are in trouble-and you just really hurt my feelings.”

She paused and then, with her voice breaking, shouted: “So here’s one for you and it’s not in the Bible: DROP DEAD TIK TOK!”

And with that she spun back around and stalked away from me towards her dorm on the hill.

“Wow,” I thought, “this radical stand for Jesus stuff is not going to be so easy.”

 

#8 Lightening

Randy, Marty, Sam and I walked down the stairs.

The service had started at 7:00 pm (actually 6:55 pm, this was a quirk of Bob’s) and glancing at my wristwatch it now read 10:30 pm.

I felt a momentary surge of panic because I had planned on heading off to the Engineering Hall around 8:30 pm to get some studying done (I was in the midst of my core engineering courses) after I dropped Sheila off.

“Oh NO!” I thought. “I ditched Sheila. I hope she is not too upset with me.”

Sheila and I had been separated at the start of the service and I had been so enthralled by the singing, excitement of the meeting, and Bob’s sermon that I had forgotten about her.

We reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door into the meeting hall to a surprise.

I had assumed that the place would be empty since the service had ended about 8:30 pm or so.

Instead, two, hours after the service was over, there were at least a 100+ people still in the house, spilling out of the front door into the front yard and out of double French doors to our right.

I heard guitar playing and loud singing coming from these doors which led to the side of the house. That was the side of the house where I had noticed what looked to be a large fish pond the previous Sunday.

A couple of dozen of people loitered in meeting room talking and laughing.  I noticed various clusters of people in deep conversation and praying in soft voices.

I scanned the room but there no sign of Sheila anywhere.

Rats!

Marty stopped at the foot of the stairs.

He looked at Randy and spoke, “Let’s find Bob. Sam, you and Tik wait here and we will be back in a moment.”

Sam and I took a seat while the other two headed outside.

Sam leaned in towards me, “Brother,” he said, “I can see God’s power working in you. Randy told us about you and we prayed fervently for you. I believe that God has a terrific plan for your life.”

Then he looked at me with a beaming smile, “You know Bob actually mentioned you this afternoon. He also believes that you have tremendous potential.”

I felt that something special was happening to me and had that inner thrill I always had when people noticed my accomplishments (and I still get that thrill- it’s the way I am made). I knew my ego was being stroked and I liked it.

I looked up and sure enough Bob, wearing enormous wader boots pulled over his suit pants, was walking towards me with Randy and Marty scurrying behind him.

“Praise God!,” he almost shouted, startling me. He came up and slapped me on the back.

“God is doing wonderful things here. We are seeing revival as God’s spirit is being poured out anew my brother!”

He paused and once again gave me a penetrating stare, saying nothing.

If you ever try looking at someone straight in the eyes without speaking for three or four seconds you will find this very difficult and somewhat disconcerting for both the starer and the staree.

Bob had a habit of doing this: fixing his eyes on people and staring unblinkingly straight into their eyes.  I don’t know if he did it consciously or unconsciously but, regardless, it made me want to speak and to tell him what I was thinking.

Bob, Randy and the guys shared what it means to be a first century Christian and I want to be part of this,” I said as I gestured around the room.

“I want Jesus to be Lord of all of my life. But I do believe I am a Christian. Maybe just not the kind I should be.”

Bob looked over at Sam and they nodded at each other. “You see Tik, you have been brought up in a religious household. You are like the religious young man who comes to Jesus and asks what he must do.”

I was familiar with the story.

“Jesus,” Bob continued, ” told the young man that he must give up everything. And everything means everything. Have you done that???? In fact I know that you have NOT done that have you? Unless you fully repent and turn from your evil ways and are baptized you are not a Son of God. You have been given this ‘once saved always saved’ malarky from the Baptist Church and it is simply not true. No one can pluck you from God’s hand but you can surely jump.”

Bob, of course, just massacred John Calvin’s supposition about the perseverance and preservation of the saints with his “once saved always saved” comment; but my theology was not strong enough to counter this.

He proceeded to show me the scriptures that supported his view. I was not educated enough to know that for every scripture he pointed out supporting his Armenian view (not that I even knew what an Armenian view was) there were three to four that would support the opposite view.

My point here is not to get into a theological debate regarding this view (since I do NOT believe that either view is essential for salvation). But I am simply pointing out that Bob was twisting and bending scriptures to create a theology that served one purpose: to get committed to MCM.

He was successful as you have probably guessed.

“Tik,”  he said, “the Bible talks about being baptized. But this is not the baptism that you have been fed by the stodgy old religious lukewarm churches.”

He was talking about the churches I had grown up with, the Southern Baptist Church; the one, which, in my arrogance and rebellion, I despised. He was playing right to my weakness, that is the selfish pride that told me  I could be a First Century Christian  if I could find the right church group.

“The Bible talks about two baptisms you see. It speaks of the baptism by water and by the Spirit. The baptism by water is NOT just a dunking in water.  Despite what you have been told is it NOT JUST a symbol. ”

Then Bob quoted the following verses from Romans (one of the few times that MCM would ever use the book of Romans was to support their unorthodox views of Christianity): “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God. ”

Bob continued, “This circumcision of the heart is referring to water baptism. Unless you are water baptized the old dead man of sin will hang around your neck and keep you from repenting. You must be baptized in faith and believe that this is happening or you will slip back into sin.”

I was confused.

I knew the Presbyterians and Methodists viewed infant Baptism as a sign and type of circumcision but this sounded strange.

But with Randy, Sam, Marty and the big guy himself telling me “it was so” I stuffed my doubts about this  strange baptismal doctrine into some back closet in my mind.

It would be the first of many times that I did this. Eventually this closet was stuffed full of  strange doctrines.

“The second baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit also happens during water baptism,” said Bob.

“If you truly believe, and have repented, the Holy Spirit will enter you, and, like the Christians in the upper room at Pentecost, you then will begin speaking in tongues. You will have divine utterances that show that the power of God is on you. And the Holy Spirit will bestow some or all of the gifts of the Spirit on you. These gifts are the power of Prophecy, Healing, Evangelism, Teaching, and Pastoring. If you believe in faith this will happen.”

Bob showed me the parts of the first chapter in Acts and then flipping pages in his Bible turned to the verse of Paul’s that said “…and some were give to be teachers …”

Intuitively I got the other side of Bob’s phrase, “If you believe in faith” statement.

That is, if I did not speak in tongues, if I did not receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, if I did not believe that my “old man of sin” was being cut away during water baptism, then I was not believing in faith, nor I was repenting. It would mean that I was not measuring up, not spiritual enough and not striving  to be a true first century disciples if these things did not happen.

I looked at Randy, Marty, and Sam. Their furrowed brows evidenced concern for my life and spiritual future. They had sacrificed and given their own lives  in order to bring sinners like me into true first century Christianity.

I looked around the room, some four hours after the service had started, and at least 50% of the people who had attended the service were still here.

It seemed right to me. This must be the true first century Christianity and the Christ-like group I had been dreaming for these past five years

These people were committed to Christ. They had power; I could see it right now. I had experienced it upstairs.

And I wanted it.

“Tik,” Bob said, “we want you be baptized. To receive the Holy Spirit. To be a true follower of Jesus. To have Him be Lord of ALL.”

He showed me the scripture in Acts where Paul had baptized the jailer and his family immediately.

“Are you ready?”

I nodded yes.

Randy was prepared because he led me to a half bath and handed me gym shorts and a tee shirt and waited outside while I put them on.

Then I was led out through the double French doors and there stood Bob; waist deep in what I had thought was a fish pond surrounded by about 50 people  singing and clapping in time with a strummed guitar.

Bob had his hands on a girl’s head and her shoulders. She looked at me and I stopped dead in my tracks.

Becky, the little sister, the girl from my frat, who had broken down in tears during Bob’s sermon at the frat house looked me in the eyes.

She had never been a church goer.

I knew her of course. But her reputation was one of a party animal and so we had never been friends at all.

She gave me a huge grin. I had never seen anyone look so happy…so…well… joyous! Her smile made me smile and a warm glow came over me and everyone suddenly stopped clapping and singing.

“So, my sister, are you truly repentant of your sins?” asked Bob looking into her eyes.

“Yes,” she said, in a very soft voice and then she began weeping with tears streaming down her face.

“Do you believe on Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

“I do, with all my heart and soul,” she said.

“Are you willing to make Him Lord of ALL of everything in your life?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Do you believe in faith that your old man of sin will be cut away and that you will be raised again in newness life? That the old things will truly have passed away and that you will be a new person made in the likeness of him?”

“I do,” she said.

“Are you ready to receive the Baptism of Fire, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit… to receive the gifts of the Spirit, whatever they may be, and to use them for the glory of God and for his kingdom?”

“I am,” she said.

Bob lowered himself and Beck took a kneeling position in the pond.

“I baptize you my sister Becky xxxxx in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and I rebuke the demons of lust, wantonness and harlotry [“Good Lord” I thought let’s just call her a “sleep around slut” in front of everyone!”] in the mighty NAME OF JESUS!”

And with that Bob pushed her down into the water and music from the two guitar players cut in and everyone begin singing the chorus “What a Mighty God We Serve” (clap! Clap!! Clap!!) with many hopping around and dancing with each other as they sang. And as Becky came out of the water she started shouting out something that sounded like “okallalh balla ofkoola rotalla” and then she was weeping and moaning.

Three sisters surrounded her, covering her with towels and  had to carry her back inside  since she was so overcome with emotion.

And then everyone was looking at me.

And all was silent except the buzz of conversation drifting  from inside the house.

Bob had a huge grin on his face and behind him at the edge of the fish pond stood Randy, Sam, and Marty .

Randy and Sam also were grinning from ear to ear, but Marty, with his glasses perched low on his nose, looked stone faced at me. I would get to know that look very well over the next three years or so.

Bob motioned me over and I waded into the pond.

He went through the same litany of questions with me that he had with Becky. I answered them all with a “Yes” or an “I do”.

All the while I continually prayed,  silently, “Please God give me the faith to believe, give me the Holy Spirit, please let me believe like these people…. let them see that I have faith, give me the gifts Bob was talking about.” This mantra flew around and around in my mind while my heart thumped in my chest.

Then the denouement happened, very, very quickly.

Bob pushed me into the water and then he, with a great jerk,  thrust me out of the water with so much force that my feet came off the concrete floor of the pool.

So out of the water I came with Bob shouting out in tongues.

And I thought well I must give it a go and, so help me, out of my mouth came sounds that I had never consciously considered. A sort of “kalachacha my solockocha” sound that later became my mantra (everyone at MM had a unique “tongue” sound- some sounded more like others, my tongue was in the “kalchahca” category not the “shabalaba” category).

Speaking in tongues felt like a great tension had been released from every muscle in my body and the sound of it reverberated in my head giving me an alcohol-like buzz. Through the water streaming down my face I could see people dancing around in ecstasy, dancing a kind of Hebrew looking dance, with singing, shouting, and waving of arms while I shouted out in  my “tongues” language.

And people were embracing me and suddenly I was dancing that half- Hebrew jig  with them while singing and clapping.

*********

So what happened to me that night?

Was I really speaking in tongues?

Was I really filled with the baptism of fire spoken of in the book of Acts?

Had the old man been cut away in the Baptism of Water like Bob claimed it was?”

Theologically with regards to the “old man” being cut away the scriptural support is nil in the nth degree. That is pretty easy to answer as are most of the questions about the “klatched together” twisted MCM theology (no offense to anyone it simply is true for it had no Aristotelian Logic to it and MCM changed it’s theology as frequently as you change clothes).

BUT, with regards to the whole emotional trance- like experience I had that night, including speaking in tongues without any apparent effort on my part, I must say, that even with 27 years of distance and some 20 years of pondering that experience, I am left with this answer:

I can’t say for sure what it was I experienced that night. But it seemed real, in every sense, and I carried this sense of ecstasy, of what I imagine a drug experience might be, for about a month afterward.

I was on a spiritual high and had never felt as close to God as I did that night.

And I never would again.

#7 Snaring myself- October 1978

Randy, Sam  and I walked up the stairs of the MCM House.

The upstairs had the same fresh paint and new carpet smell of remodeling as did the downstairs. At the top of the stairs I caught glimpses of bedrooms through open doors. Most had futons or sleeping bags strewn on the floor.

We walked to the end of the hall and entered a fully furnished room. It had a bed, a chest of drawers, a mahogany desk and stacked bookshelves. Three empty metal chairs faced the desk. A young man with glasses perched on his nose wearing a turtle neck sweater, with thin hair brushed to one side, stood to greet us as we walked in.

He had the look of a scholar and the air of one as well.

He greeted me and introduced himself as Marty.  Marty had been the administrator at MCM’s Ole Miss University ministry and now held this post now at Auburn.

We sat down while Randy told Sam and Marty about me. Sam, the associate Pastor of Auburn’s MCM, and Marty, the administrator, proceeded to pepper me with questions while Randy looked and observed the session.

Have you accepted Jesus as your savior?” [“Yes,” I answered,  “When I was 10 years old.”]

“Is there sin in your life?”   [“Yes.”]

“Are you engaging in immoral behavior?” [“I don’t think so…uh…I am not sure.”]

“Is Jesus Lord of everything in your life?” [“I think so, but based on what I heard from Ellen, Randy and Bob, I am not so sure now.”]

“Are you sharing about Jesus…are you bearing fruit and bringing people to Jesus?” [“No, and that is what made me want to listen to Randy and then come here after hearing Bob. I am not bearing fruit and want to do so as a Christian.” ]

This went on for about an hour. I was starting to doubt my salvation; although none of them challenged my faith directly. They just continued asking direct and simple questions of me.

Then Sam said, “Tik, we prayed about you this afternoon and asked God to open your heart to His Word. The Bible is not something you read on Sunday for it is actually the Word that John speaks of in John 1:1.”

He pointed to the scripture in his open Bible.

He quoted John 1. “It divides right from wrong.  The living from bad living, evil from good. It is the light that shines in the darkness.”

He then quoted Paul, “For the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.”

“You see Tik we are going to see what Jesus, the Word incarnate, says about your life. Not man’s interpretation, not what we think about your life and how you are living, not how man views it, nor the traditions of man, but what God Himself, Jesus, says about your life. ”

Marty then opened his Bible and read, “What profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.” And then this verse: “For whoever would save his own life shall lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake shall gain it.”

“But,” I said, “I thought that was referring to the martyrs. What does that have to do with me?”

“You see Tik,” said Sam leaning towards me and speaking in a hushed tone, “we prayed about you intensely this afternoon… and the Lord [with emphasis]… gave us  a WORD about you: that you have a worldly man pleasing spirit. That you are both smart and ambitious and that you have been given tremendous talents, but are using them to promote yourself… to satisfy your own ego rather surrendering them completely to Jesus”.

Now remember, I was pretty naïve. This miraculous word that God gave them hit me hard.

Did they actually believe they heard this all directly from God? Or was it all plain old manipulation?

Now I believe that the old trick fortune teller’s trick deceived all of us in that room that evening.

The carefully crafted questions posed to the subject , followed by affirming play back of the answers with subtle twists, that pointed towards a pre-determined answer, provided by the subject himself, reeked of the fortune teller’s trick.

Just as a fortune teller combines careful questioning, listening and play-back to  to make their pronouncements seem supernatural so did the MCM team that night. Don’t mistake this for an accusation of witchcraft on my part, far from it. What happened that night has an earthly psychological explanation, nothing more, and nothing less, than that.

You see Sam, Marty, and Randy deceived themselves first and then they deceived me. I believed they actually believed that God was telling them these things. I certainly did. We all wanted to believe it and so it became true to us that night.

I shall show later that this dual deception of both the victim and the victimizer represents one of the keys to understanding how MCM, and other sociological cults, can snare people and then hold them. The victim WANTS to believe and actively entraps themselves in a psychological net woven by both the victim and victimizer.

Everyone in that room that night was sincerely and completely deceived. No one was purposefully lying, at least not that night.

For you see, I had poured my guts out to Randy and Bob Weiner that very day after the Praise Band concert at the frat house. Later that afternoon Randy then met with Sam and Marty where all three of discussed and prayed about everything I shared earlier about my life. They then used this to script both the questions and the affirming commentary around my answers. They seemed sincere in thinking that the conclusions came from God.

But they did not.

These conclusions came from Randy and Bob’s interrogation of me earlier at the frat house and from the cues I gave them with my responses.

I am certain of this.

Why?

Because later at MCM I found myself doing the same thing with prospective converts.  Having God “convict” them with my careful questioning. And my knowing questions for the prospective convert were born from what that they had told me, or others, in previous sessions.  And you will see this unfold below as I relate what happened that evening.

Randy  summarized the issues that I had:

1) Personal ambition that kept me climbing the ladder in my frat and in school;

2) my concerned about my lack of closeness with God; and,

3) my lack of fruit and spirituality and holiness.

Then abruptly Marty, the MCM Auburn administrator, cut in, “Tik”, he asked, “tell us about your family.”

And I did.

I told them about my strict Korean War vet workaholic straight arrow Dad. About my eight brothers and sisters. About my devout mother and grandmother (both hard shell Baptists).

Marty steered the discussion into my sports and overachievement in high school and into college.

Randy chimed in, “You know Tik you mentioned you were always vying for your Father’s attention. ”

He looked at Marty and Sam and they both nodded.

Randy continued, “First I think that you have a spirit of oppression on you because of your worldly father’s neglect. You have substituted the passion and wish to succeed in life for the wish to please your Heavenly Father. We are going to drive those demons from your life tonight so you will be free of these chains and set you free to use your talents for the Kingdom. ”

Marty chimed in, “In Matthew Jesus tells us what acts we must take for salvation.”

He read from the Bible slowly, “One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

And then he read, “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”

“You see Tik”, Marty continued, “you tell us you want to be good- but no one is good who is NOT keeping his commandments. Are you keeping his commandments? Have you left everything? ”

I said I had not and I knew I had not.

Then Marty quoted from the book of Peter, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win.”

I was ripe for all of this. I knew my life did not stack up to the example given in the New Testament. I knew that they were right that I was very ambitious, I had not given Christ everything; I had not left everything behind.

This was all true.

And they were using this truth as a weapon against me.

“You see Tik  Jesus said ‘For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?”

“The problem with you Tik,” said Marty, “is that you have never counted the costs. You never gave everything to Jesus. You have never asked him to be Lord of Everything. Are you willing to give it all up? To count everything as lost to live like Peter and Paul? Are you ready to be a real follower of Jesus a doer of the word instead of a fake pretend Christian who hides his bushel?”

It was all hitting home.

I thought back to Bob’s quoting Jesus in the frat house, “I will deny you if you deny me.”

I thought about the last four years of my life and the youth pastor in high school who got fired for having interracial Bible studies along with the hypocrisy I saw at my home Baptist Church. MCM seemed to live the Christian life of the early first century church (or at least what I thought it might have been like) and that contrasted starkly with what I saw at  BSU and CCC.

These guys were, “Sold out and on fire,” as Bob had  put it. Randy was here from Martinsville. Sam from Paducah, Marty from Oxford MS and they seemed like true examples of first century Christians.

“But,” I said, ” I asked Jesus into my heart. I am a Christian. I just need to get my act together. ”

Marty looked at me for a moment, and the other three leaned forward. One- two-three, the seconds moved slowly as we all sat in silence.

“Not everyone,” Marty quoted the Bible, “who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.”

I started for this contradicted what I had learned in the Baptist Church.

“What about John 3:16?” I asked. “What about the phrase whosoever?”

Sam answered: “Tik, Jesus was talking to a religious leader Nicodemus. A VERY religious man.”

He opened the book of John and showed me the earlier verses.

It was true- funny I had never read the earlier parts before John 3:16..

“This guy Nicodemus was praying to God all the time.”

Then he read, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will go to heaven.”

“Find me a place in the Bible where it says say a one little prayer and then are immediately saved.”

You see the problem was that I knew enough about Christianity to understand what they were talking about: that I had sin and was sinful (I still am by the way, as are we all!).

But I did not know enough about the scriptures they were quoting, nor about theology or life, to win this battle.

Of course I could have countered with some pointed questions like, “What about the thief on the cross?” or, “What about the parable of the worker who comes late and earns as much as the workers who worked all day for the master”?

But own ignorance, and, weirdly enough, the very ambition and smarts that they chastised me for helped them point me down this road to bondage.

Here were the milestones on the road I walked down that night:

  1. I was a Christian but without a deep knowledge of scripture and theology. For goodness sake I did not understand the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism and had never heard of Pelagianism. For Maranatha was hyper Armenian at this point, almost Pelagian-like with bits of whacky Latter Rain Pentecostal theology thrown into boot (of course the theology of MCM would veer crazily over the coming years and had little logic to it regardless).
  2. I knew enough scripture for them to wound me- but not enough about it to understand the context of the verses. [A great read on this twisting of scripture by Christian based sociological cults is the book “Twisted Scriptures” by Mary Alice Chrnalogar.)
  3. My own guilt at not living up to ideal First Century Christianity. I knew I did not measure up to Jesus This was impossible of course, what I really needed was a month-long deep study of Romans and Hebrew. For who can measure up to Christ? NO ONE!
  4. They love bombed me while playing on my guilt. But at the same time same time they made me feel special. They pointed out that God had a really special plan for me and that I could be on the inside of something really great playing out on earth today. This took advantage of what anyone who knows me understands is a giant weak spot for me: my ego!

Marty said, “The problem is Tik is that you  are a lukewarm believer in Jesus. But you are not a follower of Jesus. Oh you are religious, just like Nicodemos. But Jesus makes it clear that only those who have given their all to Him, given everything up will have eternal life. You told us you have NOT done this. You have also told us you are NOT bearing fruit. For Jesus said that He will chop down and burn all the trees that do not bear fruit. That He will separate the wheat from the tares and burn the tares.”

Marty leaned forward again and said in a low tone, “Tik- you are NOT a Christian! Christian means little Christ and you know in your heart, you have told us in fact that you are NOT a little Christ. You are NOT keeping his commandments. You are NOT, therefore saved.”

The other two begin praying softly in whispers.

“You are breaking your Heavenly Father’s heart. He is calling out to you; calling your name; and you have ignored him and are living for your own ambition and are under the yoke of a demonic spirit.”

Tears were coming down my face. As far as I knew they had discerned (as I would later term it) everything about my life and they were God’s instruments.

“What must I do?” I asked.

Marty pointed to his Bible and some highlighted scriptures saying, ” You must declare Jesus as Lord, you must repent, be baptized, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

“I want to do that, but how?” I asked.

All three of them laid hands on me and begin jabbering in that weird language “shabalabala dear God shabalabal, shababalalaaa….”

And Marty shouted out, “I rebuke you Satan and I tell you, you demons of religion and you spirit of witchcraft [“Huh- demons and witchcraft???” I thought] you LEAVE this young man and I banish you all in the NAME of Jesus the almighty powerful name- by which all must bow! ”

Then Marty said , “Repeat after me…”

“Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord…”

And I repeated this about ten times.

And Sam said, “Are you ready to give up EVERYTHING for JESUS. To give up your ambition, your family, your friends in fact your life to make him LORD?”

I nodded yes…and they all broke into “Hallelujahs …thank you JESUS!”

And Sam said, “Brother, God is speaking to me and telling me that TIK has truly begun his repentance and counted the cost.”

“Tik are you ready to follow Jesus wherever he leads?”

I answered “Yes.”

“Are you ready to give up everything your life, friends and your ego?”

I nodded and murmured through my tears “Yes.”

“Are you ready for baptism?”

I nodded.

Sam looked at the others and then nodded.

“Let’s take him to Bob and explain baptism to him for we have water and we have the Spirit.”

And they led me back downstairs.

I had been upstairs for about two hours.

And my life was about to taking a radical turn that would lead me in a strange and different direction for the next five years.

#6 The Line- October 17, 1978

Bob and Randy drove off and I walked back into the fraternity house.

Becky, the girl who had stood up with me during Bob’s service, sat in the corner of the dining room talking to Ellen and Vicky from the Praise Band. I started to walk over to speak to them but I could see they were deep in prayer or something. Both Vicky and Ellen had their eyes closed as they murmured softly. So I made a U-turn and headed up stairs.

I had finally seen someone take a radical stand for Christ. I realized that was a phrase I had heard Randy ask me about the past Saturday at the frat house, “Tik, are you willing to take a radical stand for Christ Tik? Are you?”

They were not kidding about radical stands, I thought.  I had never met anyone like Bob; who seemed to know exactly the right words to say to a person. He was so unlike anyone I had met in church work with beautiful clothes… and he drove a Mercedes, to boot.

What’s more the four or five people I met thus far from MCM could have stepped out of modeling ads.  They all looked like presidents of Frats, jocks, cheerleaders, or homecoming queens. The MCM members  seemed so different from the staid Christian groups I knew.

In fact that was exactly what the evangelizing teams, the out front people, almost always were at MCM.

In MCM terms they were the “sharps” as in, “He is a really sharp one.” The plain-looking or normal people found themselves in the role of backstage servants.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

A couple of my frat brothers asked me why I had let Bob pray over me.

“You are a religious guy Tik, now ole Darrell,” they were speaking of our resident party animal, “now he could have done with a good dose of that hell fire salvation!”

With that comment they all broke into laughter.

I started to explain to them what happened but then decided not to.

Now every Tuesday evening our Fraternity hosted a date dinner night for the brothers and their dates. My date that night (and almost every date night over the last two years it turned out) was my “almost” girlfriend, Sheila, whom I had met two years before at a freshman Student Government meeting called Freshman Forum.

Her role as President of one the oldest, and most prestigious, sororities on campus, along with our friendship, had helped bring our two organizations together this past year for a campus wide fund-raiser. Although my Frat was a big one and considered good it could not compete with the older more established fraternities in terms of prestige.

But our joint party with Sheila’s sorority had raised our status on campus and that had shown at this fall’s rush when  a record number of pledges signed up to join our fraternity.

Sheila and I hit it off when we met and became good friends. As a member of CCC (Campus Crusade for Christ) she shared my Christian values and usually, after the date night dinner, on Tuesday nights we want to  “Rat” Riley’s massive Bible Study~ cum social affair. Sheila and I sort of dated but had always been friends. We were never boy/girlfriend in the “love” sense.

At least as far as I was concerned.

I walked to the Hill, where the sororities were, to pick Sheila up. A pretty and petite girl with short blond hair her south Alabama accent would melt sugar. I was not in love with her, but I sure was in “like” with her because she was funny, smart and modest to boot with a straight “A” pharm school major.

On our walk back to the frat house for dinner I told her what had happened in the Frat house at lunch with Bob and the Praise Band.

Her reaction caught me off guard when she said, “Tik it sounds really interesting; I’ve seen their posters all over campus and saw them playing on the quad last week. I know that my friends at CCC are not sure what to make of them.”

And then her southern drawl lowered to a whisper, “They say they are pretty sure that they are Pentecostal, ya know, speaking in tongues and shouting and all that.”

She got that cute grin that I really liked.

After dinner that I sprung the news to her.

“Sheila I know we were going to Rats’ tonight but I promised Bob and Randy that I would check out their service at the Maranatha House. They have a great band and Bob is preaching on the Great Commission.”

Sheila paused, grinned and said, “Okay, let’s go give it a try.”

So we walked down East Magnolia Street to the MCM House just about a mile away.

The sun was going down and at the bottom of the hill, just across from Ross Engineering Hall (both are now gone), stood the lit up MCM House. The house, bathed by spotlights, had its front doors open wide allowing golden light to spill out onto the lawn from the interior. A fair-sized crowd milled around outside, probably about 100 people or so. As we got closer we heard up tempo music playing and the buzz of conversation and laughter.

I briefly looked around the front yard for someone I knew, but recognized no one, so I took Sheila by the hand and led her into the house.

The bright floral wall paper in the entry hall struck me immediately as being out-of-place in a church as we entered into what looked like the sitting room of a Frat House.

High backed wing chairs, brass lamps, and an overstuffed couch filled the room. Water color paintings and prints lined the walls of the entry way. I learned that all the furnishings Rose Weiner, Bob’s wife, had chosen all the decor.

Later people told me this in hushed and awed tones. This all before the MCM asset lite era that began in the early 1980s.

I looked up and saw Randy waving to me. To his side stood a girl with high cheek bones, almost white blonde hair pulled back in one of those sorority like head bands,  with long slender legs that seemed to reach her armpits. Yet another Maranatha beauty! It turned out the blonde girl was a former U of F Cheerleader who had been saved at U of F last spring. The Gainesville ministry was the newest planting by MCM and had opened about a year earlier. Randy engaged me in conversation about the rest of my day, and Bob’s sermon at the frat house that afternoon. He told me that, “This amazing response is proof that the Holy Spirit is moving through MCM.”

When I looked up from our conversation I saw that the blond MCM girl had whisked my date Sheila away. I could now see them across the crowded room surrounded by a group of girls. Then the music cranked up and Randy ushered me to a seat. I looked around and could barely see Sheila through the standing crowd; she gave me grin and a  wave from across the room.

The Praise Band kicked in and sang a beautiful song about the harvest of souls and (this was pre-power point, but high-tech at the time) someone cut on an overhead projector and words to a praise and worship song shown on a screen. The song being belted out was a new one to me: “Jesus, Name Above All Names.” Then the band leader yelled out, “Everyone stand up!” and we stood in unison and sang one song after another.

Boy, this was not the old “three hymns and a sermon” Baptist service!

Suddenly Bob jumped (and I mean jumped!) onto the stage and said, “Now we want to bring some folks up here and tell you about the great things that God is doing on this University. AMEN!!?

And the crowd shouted back ,”AMEN!!!!” amidst clapping and laughter.

This place is really hopping,” I thought.

People laughed and shouted back at Bob and then a good-looking girl got up and told everyone how she considered taking her life during the past weeks. Depressed over a break up she had considered suicide when a  MCM girl approached her and shared the Gospel. She said that she really had not understood who Jesus was but, “Now he was not just her Savior but Lord of ALL.”

Bob grabbed the microphone from her and shouted into it, “That’s right my sister if He is not Lord of ALL He is not LORD AT ALL!” and handed the microphone back to her.

“And tonight,” she continued, ” I will have the burden of sin cut away from me’ [shouts of, “That’s right sister” and “Praise God”’] and I will become a true Daughter of Zion one of the chosen ones of God!”

She was beaming and everyone broke into wild applause; in fact I found myself applauding even though I did not understand much of the stuff she was talking about.

And I thought I knew my Bible, at least the NT, pretty well.

It sounded something like the revival services I went to as a kid but the terminology was all new to me such as,  “Cutting my burden of sin away,” and being a “True daughter of Zion.” I did not know it at the time but my first dose of Latter Day Rain theology was administered that night !

Then came another upbeat song when suddenly Bob Winer again literally leapt onto the stage and launched into a sermon.

His sermon that night has merged into the many, many sermons I heard him give in the next few years.

Calling Bob’s preaching a sermon is like calling the movie “The Lord of the Rings” a documentary……and I can tell give you the basic outline of his sermon.

He told how he looked for Jesus as a washed up Hippie and converted during the Jesus movement of the 60s. He was a full-blooded Jew and thus called to preach to the Jews and the Gentiles… like Paul. That he started a Youth Group in a Methodist Church and that group fell away from Jesus and the Faith when he left for a trip.

How he and Rose (his wife) prayed and fasted for a week and how they cried out to God to show them what was wrong with the church and Christianity today and why their converts had fallen away.

And he told how God begin showing through the scriptures that a real New Testament church was sold-out. That today’s churches were the white washed tombs Jesus spoke of with disdain.

He quoted Jesus, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head,” and further,  Tthe parable of bridemaids who waited on her bride reflects the posture of His true church,” and that, “The young man who wanted to go back to bury his father reflected mainline Christianity’s view of life.”

AND“, shouted Bob, “do you know what Jesus told that religious young man? LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD.”

And he while wove his story his voice would peak up and down; pulling you hard one way, and then gently another; inviting you to,”Understand that God is calling you… you… YOU“.

I looked at my watch; he had preached for one hour; but it seemed to me like five minutes had passed.

Everything Bob said appealed to what I knew, or thought I knew, of the NT church and the comparison between the early church and the watered down Christianity I  was seeing around me.

Finally he spoke a brief prayer and then issued summons, saying to the crowd, “Don’t be a member of the wicked and perverse generation. But I warn you it is better to be ice cold towards Jesus than to be luke warm because He said, “I will spew the luke warm out of my mouth!

This all rang true to me and as the service ended with a rousing song Randy put his arm around my shoulder and leaned over and said, “Tik- we both know God is speaking to you.”

“He has presented you with a choice tonight. The Bible says that God orders your steps. I would like to share with you what it really means to be a sold out Christian, a true first century overcomer. Everything I will show you will come strictly from the Bible. No opinion… strictly scripture strictly what God says about being a follower of Jesus and  God is saying to YOU tonight.”

I scanned the room for Sheila and did not see her.

“But I have a date here…,” I started to say.

“I understand and if you want to find her and leave that is fine,” he murmured. But there was a question in his voice… as if this were a test.

It was.

“Well,” I said, “I would love to hear more about it.”

“Let’s go upstairs,” and he motioned towards the stairwell and, as he did, another guy walked to my side. This person was Sam who I later found out was one of the associate pastors.

And with that the three of us headed upstairs.

#5 The Hook- October 17, 1978

Tuesday October 17, 1978 Bob Weiner and the Praise Band

Ellen and Randy (not their real names), before they left the frat house that Saturday morning, asked if they could pray with me.

I remember Ellen and Randy’s prayer session clearly.

Of course I had plenty of experience praying in groups. The Baptists, at least at that time, had their famous “hour of power” prayer meeting every Wednesday evening and I also participated in public prayer sessions at the Baptist Student Union.

So when they said, “Can we pray with you?” I said, “Sure,” expecting a prayer some thing like this, “Dear God thank you for our time and thank you for your son and bless this man and keep him safe and so on.”

I dutifully bowed my head and was promptly blown away and taken on  what seemed a religious mind trip (I imagine a small shot of LSD would have the same effect on me that this prayer did!).

For no sooner had I said yes to their request than they both hunched forward and laid their hands on my head and shoulders.

Okay, I was not so thrilled with Randy’s hands on my head, but with Ellen laying her long slender hands on my shoulders I thought I could put up with this for a bit.

Then Ellen cut loose with (and I am transliterating) the following incantation:

“Shabalaa lla la shaball la la oja balla Dear Jesus, oh sweet Jesus!, we thank you for you saving power ohsballalalaa la and for leading us Dear Jesus here today oshaballa bal lala la. We thank you for you salvation and mercy and for the power you have given us and we pray for your child Tik ooshabalala ba labsha halas and we ask for your spirit to touch him and to convict him and to heal him and to open his eyes; for he surely is seeking you oshabalabala and we thank you Dear God that you said that he that seeks shall find and  that if anyone knocks at the door you shall open it and guard his heart and open his eyes and keep him safe and I command the demons to leave him alone AMEN and AMEN!

And along in the background Randy, like a bass guitar playing accompaniment, is murmuring the entire time in a deep voice, “Thank you God, thank you Lord, Yes Dear Jesus, Thank You God, Yes Dear Lord.”

And when Ellen finishes we, all three of us, just sit there for a minute or so.

Me in this stunned, “What in God’s earth just happened to me?” fog and Ellen and Randy smiling like they had just prayed, “God is great God is good let us thank him for our food, amen.”

And then they stood up and Randy puts his arm around me and says, “Tik – please come tonight for what could be a tremendous service; the House is just down the road on East Magnolia…and  remember: we don’t bite!”

With that they strolled to the front door and headed down the street. I watched them walk down West Magnolia  thinking to myself, “Wow now THAT was different from anything I had ever seen!”

But on Saturday night USC was playing someone, Notre Dame, I think. This game, headlined by the networks as a season maker for either team, was a high scoring thriller. Earlier that day Auburn had their brains beaten out by Bill Battle’s Tennessee Volunteers, and I briefly considered heading down to the Maranatha House to take a break from football and studying.  In the end the prayer, or whatever it was they had done, scared me off so I decided to continue to study and watch football in the deserted frat house.

Sometime that evening, however, I took a break and went to look at the poster that Ellen had placed on the bulletin board in the dining room.  There it hung, alright, with blazing purple writing showing the dates for Bob Weiner’s preaching and the performances of the Praise Band for the next two weeks on campus.

Then I noticed another poster that had the headline “Presenting the Praise Band with Bob Weiner”  hanging on the opposite wall. Someone had handwritten the name of my fraternity into the blank where and time space in a blue marker. It announced  a concert by the Praise Band at noon on Tuesday at the Frat House.

Funny thing was I could not remember either one of them writing on the second poster or hanging it up.

Had the couple returned after our meeting this morning? I looked closely at the poster and saw that the smiling female lead singer in the photo of the band, with her dark hair and beautiful dark eyes, was none other than my new friend “Ellen”.

Now, this was getting interesting!

********

The next morning I hitched a ride to First Baptist Opelika church service. During the the Sunday school that morning the talk of our college aged group centered on Coach Barfield [Auburn’s beleaguered head coach] and the “butt whooping” that Tennessee had administered his team in a driving rain storm yesterday, the latest dating gossip, what people thought of their chances of making the Dean’s list that semester, and, “Where we in the world would we have lunch after church,” and, “All of the little things”, as Samuel Johnson, noted some three hundred years ago, “that make up the fabric of what we call life.”

And throughout that morning I contrasted this seemingly trite buzz with  Ellen and Randy’s proclamation about the overcoming life, the first century church, and the power of Jesus to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

Ellen and Randy showed no shyness in their faith and although the “sha balaing”  puzzled me, their prayers seemed to have both power and conviction in them. They had clearly stated that Christians must be sold out like the idealistic first century Christ.  The phrases “sold-out” and “over-coming” they had mentioned over and over again  kept flashing in my mind like neon sign boards the entire morning during Sunday school and the later church service .

I had, earlier in September, noticed work going on at the defunct and derelict CHI PHI house on West Magnolia. Swarms of people worked feverishly on the old house; painting it a gleaming white and planting fresh, beautiful, flowers and shrubs around the old house.  Now the house looked brand new and constructed to the right of this columned house sparkled a beautiful  fish pond. The refurbished Maranatha House, standing at the northern edge of campus, seemed to gleam like a miniature version of the Parthenon in Athens.

Well, my friend and I drove by the Maranatha house that Sunday and I noted a black and white sign out front. “Maranatha House” the sign read …and below this marquis in removable letters (like you see under a McDonald’s sign) appeared the words “Jesus is God”.

That message struck me as stark and unusual. I thought of Jesus as God’s Son and the Trinity as some vague concept.

Was Jesus God?

I found the question provoking and made a note to ask our pastor Chris, at BSU, about it.

I turned and asked my friend, and frat brother, “Know anything about that group?” as we drove up Magnolia Street.

Kent shook his head “Not sure what they are”, he said, “I hear that they are an offshoot of a Methodist Group and that there are about 10 guys living in the house and that it is a church, not just a youth study group. Whoever they are they are sure spending a LOT of money on that house and on advertising.”

This certainly seemed true because their colorful posters had shown up all over campus and the house was truly beautiful and immaculate.

On Tuesday morning I woke up and headed to class making a mental note to be back to the frat house by 11:30. During morning classes my head swirled with thoughts of Ellen (lovely Ellen) and Randy, and their prayer, and the mysterious, and dynamic Bob they had spoken of, and the dull First Baptist Church of Opelika I had attended  Sunday, and my seemingly staid Baptist “home” church in Birmingham.

I could not wait to see what Bob would say today.

On Sunday night the Social Chairman and the VP of the frat had accepted my explanation of the Praise Band; especially after I pointed to Ellen and said, “She had this big smile on her face and asked me if they could play here… pretty please???”

Jack, our social chairman, said, “Well if she is as pretty as her picture I could care less if she can sing!”

So that morning I walk into the frat house’s parking lot to a trailer blocking the back door where about six guys were loading equipment into the large dining room. There I saw Randy talking to a short guy, almost overweight, with a sport-jacket (expensively cut) and a tie, wearing a gold bracelet and what seemed beautiful Italian leather loafers.

I walked up to Randy and he gave me a big smile and a clap on the back and said, “Hey Tik- thanks for setting this up!”

Then he looked to the short guy, who had jet black hair with combed over bangs and amazingly blue piercing eyes, and said, “Bob this is the guy I told you about, Tik.”

The short guy, Bob stared at me with those amazing blue eyes.

Albert Spear, the young architect, and later Nazi wartime armaments Minister, described his first meeting with Hitler in his book “Inside the Third Reich” like this: “I don’t remember exactly what he [Hitler] said to me but I do remember the eyes; staring, cold blue, sizing me up, looking into my soul, captivating me, and freeing me at the same time.”

I will not try to improve on Spear’s prose; but I will tell you that I had a similar reaction to this meeting and, like Spear, recalled it afterwards as a very important event in my life [I still do]. Years later when I read  Spear’s description of meeting Hitler for the first time it rang true to me because I had the exact same reaction that day meeting Bob Weiner for the first time.

I felt a primal powerful presence and the sense of standing in front of  a very special person. This visceral reaction to Bob occurred in split seconds and I reacted immediately to the force I felt coming from him. I imagine that a rat must feel this way when confronted by a cobra: fascinated and frightened at the same time.

Bob looked at me for three to four seconds, his face expressionless, and then suddenly he broke into a big smile and shouted, “Praise God!”

I looked around and a couple of my frat brothers turned our way with frozen expressions on their faces.

“God is doing great things here in Auburn and we are at the center of it my brother!”

He shook my hand and then said “I hear you are president of the fraternity here. God needs leaders like you; He has given you talent: are you giving it back to Him?”

The guy nailed me, right in my sweet, weak, spot, for I do have a talent with people. I don’t like bragging, nor do I believe in false modesty, at least not any more. People seem to immediately like me and trust me, I try focus on their needs, and am genuinely interested their stories; I am reasonably attractive and confident.

BUT I always feel like I am not doing enough, not achieving enough, not giving enough.

And 30 seconds after meeting me Bob probed deep into my psyche; pushing those hot buttons of mine and asking deeply personal and meaningful questions of me.

Oddly enough, or maybe not so oddly in retrospect, I found myself wanting to please him and to be with him and his cause.

Well I introduced Bob and Randy to the 70-80 frat brothers, pledges, and little sisters that had gathered for the concert and, with a wave to my friend Ellen, I sat down.

Then the drummer Carl started in with a Led Zeppelin beat and the lead guitarist starting making his guitar sing like Lynyrd Skynyrd playing “Free Bird” [the long version] and the Praise Band started cranking out their hit song “the Race” with two beautiful female singers, Ellen with her dark hair, and a gorgeous blonde, Vicki (none of the names are real other than Bob’s) lit out with a fast paced beautiful two-part harmony duet.

The band proceeded to crank out three hard-core rock and roll songs that had the crowd clapping and stomping their feet. I had never heard Christian Rock, this being 1978, and I am guessing that none others in the audience had either. The band was talented and the music was fantastic that was for sure.

At the end of the third song Randy stands up and brings Bob up who grabs a microphone which he did not need given the size of the room.

Bob starts off like this: “I am here today to tell you about Jesus. Not the namby -pampy Jesus you hear about in nursery school, not the meek and mild Jesus who hopes you will ‘pretty please say a prayer’. I am here today to talk to you about a real he man, a man who came here to earth and battled all the forces of evil and all of the sin that is destroying mankind; the very sin that has many of you in bondage. ”

He looked directly at one of our little sisters, sitting at a table, and pointing at her with the mike in his hand Bob shouted, “I know that some of you, probably most of you, have said a sinner’s prayer and go to church on Sunday. But God is speaking to me right now that there is a girl here who is involved in sexual immorality; who has this secret sex life that she thinks she can hide from God, who has sacrificed her virginity to a guy who could care less about her, who pretends to be a Christian but who acts like a harlot.”

She will cry out “LORD LORD!”

Bob opens his bible and points to a scripture and says in a low voice, “and Jesus speaks to just such a one like her, ‘and I will say to them DEPART from me you evil doers.”

With his voice rising Bob continued in a sing-song voice, “For anyone who acts like a Christian and professes to be a Christian, but lives in the sin of lust and idolatry blasphemes the name of Jesus who SUFFERED for us.”

I kid you not the girl at the table starts crying openly.

Sobbing like a baby.

My mouth dropped open in amazement.

“WOW,” I thought “this guy sounds just like an Old Testament Prophet like Nehemiah or Jonah- unbelievable this guy minces no words. He is power personified and somehow he knows just what to say.”

And then his tone changed and his voice then became soft and gentle again. “You see he loved you, you, you, you…” and as he said this Bob turned to look people in the eye and pointed at them. Finally he slowly turned to the sobbing girl and, in a barely audible voice, he whispered “….and you.”

“My sister he cared enough about your sins to die a vicious death, He who could have summoned an army of angels ….he died… because of your sin … your sin…”

He then turned and now looked squarely at me.

“Some of you have been given gifts and you are not using them to God’s Glory. You are like the servant who hid the gold coin instead of using it for good. And I tell you YOUR sin is as great as the one who commits a sexual sin of immorality…in fact it is far greater. ”

And with that the Praise Band broke into soft music and Bob shouted “I Know that God has brought people here that He has spoken to, a direct message He has given you. Don’t ignore God. ”

“The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit…and that means ignoring what the Spirit is saying to you now.”

Then he asked everyone to close their eyes and that if God was speaking to them they should raise their hands.

My hand shot up involuntarily.

Next he asked everyone who had raised their hands to open their eyes, look up, and look him in the eyes.

I did so and I found myself locked in the grip of those piercing blue eyes for ten… twenty… thirty seconds… maybe for an hour, I am not sure.

He then broke the spell and said, “Jesus said that ‘if you deny me before men I will deny you before God in Heaven.’ If you are willing to make a stand for Jesus, to be a real follower of Jesus, not a Sunday only Christian, I want you to stand now. Everyone, if you want to answer God’s call stand up. If you don’t stand up you are denying the Lord God Almighty.”

With that I stood up and I saw that Becky, the little sister at the table, was also standing with her body racking with sobs.

“Come up here,” Bob said to both of us.

I walked up front and Bob and Randy put their hands on my head and shoulders while Ellen and the other female singer put their hands on Becky, the sobbing little sister. The band played soft music in the background, and Bob ripped out a prayer about salvation, demons and the power of God.

Afterwards while the band members stowed their equipment Randy, Bob and I went out and sat in Bob’s Mercedes. We talked about my experience and my feelings about my Baptist Church and Christian life and everything that had been swirling in my head the past week since meting Ellen and Randy.

Bob locked eyes with me and said, “Brother God has big plans for you, big plans.  It is NO accident we met today. I want you to come to the service tonight because I will be preaching on the Great Commission tonight and how we are going to evangelize the world with this generation.”

I promised both Randy and Bob I would be there.

 

#4 The Bait- October 1978

Editor’s note: Soon after this was published on Tik’s original blog he was contacted by Ellen (not her real name) who immediately apologized for being the bait that helped draw him into the group. Of course Ellen, according to Tikie, was just as much, if not more, of a victim than he was. Ellen was not to blame for Tikie’s involvement and he asked us to make this certain point. Tikie’s theory about how people ensnare themselves in sociological cults, which he discusses later in this blog, makes this perfectly clear. In short Ellen was a victim of MCM, no more, no less.

Saturday October 1978: Ellen

The rain pelted hard against the window panes as I walked down the winding stairs.  Reaching the first floor landing I could hear the blaring television from the empty TV room of the fraternity house.

Auburn had a game scheduled that afternoon with the University Tennessee in Knoxville some six hours away. The social chairman of our fraternity had organized a bus trip that would drive members to the game for the weekend. About half of our fraternity and their dates left for the all night bus trip (translation: a drunken all night brawl) around midnight the night before. From my perspective it did not seem like the trip there and back would be much fun unless your idea of entertainment involved a shower in Miller Beer and having someone vomit all over you and with no way to get cleaned up. The rest of my fraternity brothers had either headed home for the weekend or were perhaps holed up somewhere studying or sleeping off the previous night’s fun.

For once the house was as quiet as Auburn’s Draughn Library. So rather than heading there I settled down for a study session in the deserted social room. No sooner had I opened my books than there came a loud knock from the front of the house; which I found both startling and strange.

Startling, because apparently the knock came from a metal door knocker on the front door of our Greek columned Frat House. Until that point I did not know that such a door knocker even existed. Strange because no one, at least not during in my two years of living at the house, had EVER used the massive, elaborately carved, front door. Ever!

I opened the door and there, framed by that door, stood a gorgeous black-haired, dark-eyed, girl. Next to her, ramrod straight, stood a tall blond guy. Both had their arms full of colorful flyers and posters. Each wore  the preppy style clothing that had swept the campus this fall ( for you youngsters we were just moving out of the John Travolta/ polyester suit phase!).  He with penny loafers, khakis, and a buttoned down shirt; she wearing tight pants and a form-fitting black sweater.

And me being 19 years old, well, I am not ashamed to admit that her figure and looks had me nailed!

WOW!

She smiled, he smiled, [rows of white teeth!] and she said, “We are  with a new group of kids from UT Martinsville who are establishing a college outreach at Auburn and wondered if we could put a couple of posters up?”

The blond guy reached out to shake my hand and soon we were sitting in the social area  with the pair peppering me with questions.

I guess I grew up early, but even as a nine or ten-year old I noticed that people’s conversations tend to center on themselves, their experiences, their feelings and interests.

It’s just the way most people are.

My early social success, and many of my later ones, even today as  President of a large company, center on the fact that if you focus on what interests people, and on what they have accomplished, you can get them to do almost anything for you and they will think you are a WONDERFUL conversationalist to boot.

Now these two very good-looking people caught me way off guard for they kept pushing the conversation towards me, my interests, my experiences and what motivated me in school and in life. I found this both disconcerting and exhilarating at the same time.

The whole conversation stuck me as an unusual  one and this should have been a warning for me.

Well with this very pretty girl showing a great deal of interest in me I stayed engaged in the conversation. Her beauty, warm smile and charm lowered my guard. Her handsome side kick showed a great deal of interest in everything I said as well.

Looking back on it I should have asked myself, “Why are two perfect strangers so immersed and mesmerized by my story?”

Over the following years I came to stark conclusions about their attitude towards me that day, but I’ll save them until later-on.

I finally managed to turn the conversation back to them.

“What kind of outreach brings you to Auburn?” I asked them.

“And who is this Bob Weiner and the Praise Band that your Poster is advertising? ”

“And why set up yet ANOTHER campus ministry at Auburn?”

This last question was an important one because  Rat Riley and Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) had a huge following at Auburn. In addition the Navigators met each week in differing locations on campus, Intervarsity had a thriving group and the Wesley Foundation, with its massive near campus center, attracted a large assembly of kids every Saturday and Wednesday night.  The BSU (Baptist Student Union), one of the groups I hung out with, had a huge membership.  And the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (the FCA) had a number of high-profile varsity jocks attending their twice weekly meetings.

Good Lord Auburn served as the brass plate of the Bible Belt and yet these guys were building a new church here?

Both of them, it turned out had come from Martinsville TN and had spent two years there with Maranatha Ministries building out campus ministry. Before that they worked with the same Maranatha Ministries in Paducah, Kentucky.

They told me that they followed Jesus (I thought it odd that they always used the name Jesus, never Christ or Jesus Christ the way I had learned to do as a kid) and that they had sold out to Jesus. When they spoke of Bob, their leader, they became animated and excited.

“He is really something else, a dynamo,  and he leads people who really want to follow Jesus… just the way the original disciples did two thousand years ago. You will love Bob!”

For some reason, and I don’t think that either of them intimated this, I came away from the conversation thinking  that Maranatha Campus Ministries  and Maranatha Music (the newly minted Christian Music Company that produced songs that I loved)  were one and the same thing.

But that assumption was dead wrong.

They found out that I served in the student government and that I also served as the newly elected president of my social fraternity. They acted very impressed and excited about this. I did not consider the implications of this strange enthusiasm about my  leadership position in the frat. In contrast, the Baptist Student Union leader, Chris, actually counseled me against taking on this new role as President.

“Too much risk and time involved,” he had counseled.

After talking awhile they told me God had given me strong leadership gifts. They said that I should see my leadership ability as a gift (which I believed and still do believe).

But later that night it struck me as odd that they would say all of this without really knowing anything about me.

Then Ellen (not her real name), asked me, “Are you really using all of your potential in the way that God would have you use it?”

What a loaded  and carefully aimed question she asked!

I had to answer that I probably had not done so. Her question went right to my soul because I had  grappled with this since high school.

Frankly, I still grapple with that question today.

They asked if I would come to a service that evening at the Maranatha House: an old fraternity house the group refurbished over the summer. In addition they mentioned that the Maranatha sponsored rock group, the Praise Band, continued to play ‘gigs” all over campus.

“Could the Praise Band set up to play this Tuesday during lunch at the Fraternity House and could their leader Bob Weiner speak afterwards?”

Again I made the mistake of thinking that this was a band sponsored by Maranatha Music and that thought really jazzed me up.

Now technically the social chairman and social committee of the frat had to approve such a request from an outside group. But I thought, “This fraternity could use a dose of Christian music and if Bob Weiner is anything like these two I am it sure could do this Fraternity some good.”

Over the next few years I would see the decision to allow the Praise Band  to play, and Bob Weiner to preach, at my fraternity as the best decision I had ever made and one clearly inspired by God.

But now I see the decision that day as a very sad one, and one that would bring heartache to many, including myself.

But I have long since realized that we make our decisions and mistakes and live with them ourselves.

However, I often wonder what would have happened if I had given Ellen and Randy the boot that day.

# 3 Forward to Tikie’s Story: 1975-1978


Thanks for taking time visit this site. I hope my story will serve as a warning to those tempted to join a group that professes a singular and special relationship with God, or one that claims to be a chosen élite and thus different than any other church.

I also hope to show how a  normal and well-educated person can entrap themselves in a sociological cult.

One common misconception about cult members is that they are  uneducated or unsophisticated.   The truth is just the opposite. For a cult member has a higher IQ and higher socio-economic status than the average American according to experts.

Some may read this because they were in Maranatha Christian Ministries and are affected by those experiences even after so many years.

Others might be curious to understand how sociological cults snare members and, more importantly, how they keep people in the group; despite the abuse heaped every day onto these very members.

I would invite all of readers to consider my experience and, perhaps, I pray, learn my very human mistakes.

For years I considered my experience wasted, but now I pray that God turn what was evil for His good and gracious purposes.

********************

This blog recounts of my personal experiences in MCM and conclusions about such.

One may legitimately question my recollections and conclusions since I was emotionally involved in each situation and this account was written some twenty years afterwards. Having said this I invite the reader to carefully consider what I have written.

If you are up for it please join me for a journey back in time almost 30 years ago to a group called Maranatha Christian Ministries.

Please note that most names are changed unless they are in “bold” in which case they are the true names of the people (almost always the well-known or public leaders of Maranatha) or unless I obtained written permission from those so named. In addition, as is my habit, I used prayer and devotional journals to help me with my recollections as well as interviews with members of MCM. However every human effort is prone to error and these writings are certainly no different; despite my efforts to tell the truth as I experienced it.

***************

High School Late 1970s
I was an All-State football player , a national honor society member, and vice president of my student body during high school. My parents raised me as a Southern Baptist and some of my earliest childhood memories involved our local church.  Our family almost lived in this church, attending Sunday morning and night services, Wednesday prayer night services, and Thursday night visitation every week. At the age of twelve I professed faith in Jesus Christ using the Baptist tradition of walking down the aisle and standing at the front of the congregation . Afterwards, as Baptists do, I found myself being dunked in the water filled baptistery in front of the entire congregation.

I guess my faith was typical for a Southern Baptist boy raised in the South. I tried to live my faith; reading the Bible daily and trying to practice Christ’s teachings every day in my actions.

However, by the time I was a senior in high school the dichotomy between what the members of my church said versus how they actually lived everyday life really weighed on me.

Now some thirty years later I understand that these church members were just being people with all the foibles, problems, self centeredness, and sin of, you guessed it: church members.

in 1975 my Baptist church seemed blessed, or cursed, with a very idealistic, good-looking, youth pastor. He went into our high school sharing the gospel and managed to convert a number of kids, including athletes and student government leaders, to Christ .

The youth pastor was a devout Christian: both sincere and humble. But during my last two years in high school I saw my church in Alabama refuse to allow African-Americans to attend our church; much less allow them to become members. This even though they numbered among the converts of our youth pastor. The very deacons who enforced church segregation smoked cigarettes in the parking lot and huddled in the parking lot to laugh at dirty jokes after church services. My father, a super role model and a straight as an arrow business person, would talk to my mother during dinner about the crooked dealings of the chairman of the board of deacons. Late one night I overheard them whispering about an affair between the Minister of Music and the church organist.

But the youth pastor, with idealistic zeal, continued to encourage the members of our church youth group to, “Live like first century Christians.”

And all the while he taught us I attended a church whose purpose seemed to be socializing, gossip and business.

For what I saw, in the only church I knew, contrasted sharply with the vision our youth pastor gave us. In my youthful zeal I saw my home church as being full of nothing but hypocrites; none of whom seemed to me to give one thought to living the real teachings of Christ. To top it off the church deacons banned integrated Bible studies thus causing our  youth pastor to quit at the end of my senior year in high school; just as I was leaving to attend Auburn University in 1976.

All of this helped set the stage for what was to come at the beginning of my junior year in college in 1978.

Only in retrospect I did understand Paul’s admonition that God used the weak and the foolish to show His glory. Now I understand youthful arrogance and my know it all, but understand nothing, attitude.

You can see, then, that I was no different from 90% of all American teenagers!

Auburn University 1978

Acceptance into engineering school came in 1976 and once again my habit of over achieving kicked in. I approached every activity not only to do my best but to do it better than others; whether it was in sports, socially, or academically. I have thought often about what drives me to try to out do others and myself. Part of this is my wiring  but also I think it was the only way to get my very busy father’s attention.

Regardless, I was on the dean’s list my first two years in engineering school, I became part of the student government, joined a fraternity, and in September of my junior year, won the presidency of my large social [Greek] fraternity.

With my parents’ encouragement I became active in the Baptist Student Union and attended the local Baptist Church when possible. Still despite, or perhaps because of, my accomplishments I felt a calling to make a real difference in the world.

But at Auburn I saw kids who professed Christianity, attend  Rat Riley’s Bible Study (a large CCC study) and then get drunk and stoned, or have sex on Saturday and Friday nights. The idealism of my former youth pastor and the Christian revival I experienced in high school continued to affect my perception of these Christian groups.

And it also continued to affect the way I viewed my own life.

If I really was a Christian, like the idealistic first century church I dreamed about, then why did I not lead people to Christ ? Why did I not stand in the market corner and preach like Peter and Paul did almost two thousand years ago? Why did I not seem to have the power of the Holy Spirit that fueled these early Christians?

It seemed obvious that my Baptist Church back home had little of the things I read about in Acts and in Paul’s letters. They had no on fire passion for preaching to non Christians nor any evidence of the spiritual unity, or life style, of those first century Christians that I longed to emulate. Neither, it seemed to me, did any of the Christian groups I hung around at Auburn University.

Could anyone possibly live the Spirit Filled life of the early first century Christians?

# 2 Prologue- Trapped: February 1983

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.

# 1 PREFACE: THE EDITOR

My interest in sociological cults came about because of my younger brother’s involvement and entrapment in the Way International in the early 1980s. Although my brother left the Way in the 1987 it bothered me that  a highly intelligent college student could be lured into an authoritarian group. I watched in horror as he devoted seven years of his life to their cause while almost destroying himself both physically and emotionally. He left the cult physically in 1987 but spent years breaking free mentally.

We both determined to understand what had happened to him and, just as importantly, the how and why.

We begin reading all we could about  sociological cults including ground breaking books like Steve Hassan’s Combatting Mind Control and Michael Langone’s Recovery From Cults: Help For Victim of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. I visited websites including Rick Ross’s website and (sadly) the now defunct FACTNET site to help my brother as he struggled for years to put his experience behind him.

I stumbled across Tik Tok’s writings in late 2006 through a link to his website everynationexposed (http://everynationexposed.blogspot.com/) on FACTNET.

I devoured every sentence of Tikie’s account of his time in Maranatha Christian Ministries. I can recall reading his blog for almost eight hours straight in a sitting. At the time I thought it one of the best personal accounts of cult membership, not just due to Tikie’s riveting writing and vivid descriptions, but also because of the way he plumbed the whys and hows of sociological cult membership.

One reader wrote of Tikie’s blog in 2006 that it was, “The Magnus Opus of sociological cults,” and another said of the blog, “A fantastic novel-like read minus the horrible punctuation.” A former member noted that, “A better account of the leadership and their personalities involved [in MCM] could not be written.”

Numerous comments left on his blog testified the help it provided  readers in  better understanding how to interact with someone caught in a sociological cult. Tikie provided not only clear insight into how a sociological cult uses a person’s own mind as a prison, but also importantly, provided guidance on how to break free from this prison of the mind.

Tikie’s original writings were posted on, and linked to, many anti-cult websites and attracted wide spread attention .  The shuttering of Tikie’s blog in 2010 removed a valuable resource to those who want to understand, and respond to, the cult phenomena.

Some may readers might ask,”How could a story about a college campus ministry that disbanded over twenty-five years ago be relevant today?”

The first answer to this question is that manipulative sociological cults, knowingly, or unknowingly, use the same basic tactics to entrap members and estrange them from their families and loved ones.  Thus, this account could be of help for those who are trying to understand how cult entrapment works and take to action to help their loved ones or themselves.

The second answer, a troubling one, is that Maranatha Campus Ministries and its associated groups never actually went away. This is one of Tikie’s hypothesis. A quick search on google reveals many churches founded by former MCM pastors who continued the same pattern of abuse that plagued MCM.  Faith Christian church, founded by former MCM Pastors,  is alleged to engage in the same abusive practices as MCM.

This recent article in the CU independent alleges many of the same abuses Tikie experienced are present at these churches: https://cuindependent.com/2017/04/17/parent-current-resurrection-church-member-speak-accusing-church-abuse-financial-manipulation-grace-faith-christian/

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/front-range/boulder/cu-boulder-student-resurrection-church-spiritually-abused-me

One particular quote in the article above that, “We have lost our sons and daughters” is an utterly heartbreaking one. Unfortunately Tikie’s writings are still  relevant for today’s readers.

Through his blog, in late 2006, Tikie and I began a correspondence about my brother’s experience. This developed into a friendship between us that outlasted his now shuttered blog .

After almost six years of pursuing Tikie (via email and Skype) I gained his agreement recently to allow me to edit and repackage his original posts that appeared between 2006 and 2009.

My editing consists of both cleaning up many grammatical errors and of changing the structure of his story. Tikie wrote his original blog from a strictly chronological viewpoint which allowed the reader to move through his journey as it unfolded.

Although there is much power in this approach; my view was that both a chronological and a thematic organization of his writings would serve the reader better. Thus our plan is to begin with a chronological account of Tik’s entrapment in MCM, then follow this account with thematic posts, and finally to end with his dramatic account of how he broke free both physically and mentally from the group; ending the blog with his final conclusions.

I admit it is a bit frightening to try to improve on what I think is a genre masterpiece but I believe it is worth the try.

Tikie provided me with his original MS Word documents and agreed to give me complete editorial freedom as long as I did not alter his observations or conclusions.  Therefore any diminution in the power of his story and journey are my fault. But my hope is that this new version of Tikie’s story will affect the new reader as much as it affected me when I came across it some nine years ago.

The Editor

Note: All materials in this site are copyrite 2006 by Tik Tok and all rights are reserved by him. Tikie’s writings are used here with  his permission.