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; he seemed to know exactly the right words to say to a person. He was 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 team seemed so different from members of 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 girl friends. 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 had became fast friends over the last two years. As a member of CCC (now know as CRU) she shared my Christian values and usually, after the date night dinner at the frat, we attended “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 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 lowering her southern drawl 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 West 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 mingled on the lawn. 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 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 joined the MCM Florida ministry last spring. This 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, “The amazing response we are getting on campus 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 girl stepped up onto stage. Depressed and contemplating suicide she met a MCM girl who shared the gospel of the total lordship of Jesus with her. 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” and “He is Lord of all or not Lord at all.” 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 at new church plantings. But the outline I just about have memorized!
However, Bob’s preaching a sermon is like calling the movie “The Lord of the Rings” a documentary I can tell you.
He started by telling how he started seeking for life’s answers as a washed up Hippie and converted during the Jesus movement of the late 60s. That he was a full-blooded Jew and thus called to preach to the Jews and the Gentiles… like Paul. He and his new wife started a Youth Group in a Methodist Church and that group fell away from Jesus and the Faith when he left for a trip.
That he and Rose (his wife) prayed and fasted for a week and 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 him through the scriptures that a real New Testament church was sold-out and fully committed to Jesus. God told him that today’s churches were the white washed tombs Jesus spoke of with disdain.
He quoted Jesus who said, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head,” and said that the parable of bride-maids who waited on the 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.”
As he wove this story his voice would peak up and down; pulling you hard one way, and then gently another; inviting you too,”Understand that God is calling you… you… and 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 how a New Testament church should operate. He drew a stark comparison between a true New Testament church and the watered down Christianity I was seeing around me.
Finally Bob spoke a brief prayer and then issued a 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… it will scripture strictly relating what God says about being a follower of Jesus and what 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.
“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.