#53 A Drowning Life Guard

“Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” Mike Caulk, former MCM Pastor in an email to Tikie, dated 2006, comforting him on his guilt in  being unable to get his converts out of MCM when he walked away in 1982.

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

I could see them running down the dark hallway with huge torch-flashlights in their hands. Bob Weiner and Joe Smith were looking for me.

Bob pointed in my direction with his handheld light and called to Joe, “There he goes… that way!”

I took off running to my left, turning onto another darkened hall that ran at right angles to the one that they both hurtled down.

 I passed door after door,  I was out of breath and knew I could not keep running; for my legs ached and my lungs burned. I reached out and turned the knob on one of the doors. It opened and I stepped onto a landing at the top of a dimly lit stair case.

Peering over the side of the stairs I could see, below me, another door marked with a flickering EXIT sign.  

Excellent!  I could still get out. Pounding down the stairs I heard the door at the top of the landing swing open.

“I see him!” shouted Bob as the beam of his flashlight swept the stairs I was hustling down.

“Tik Tok you better stop running, your soul is in mortal danger!” I heard Joe’s bass voice boom above me.

My hand hit the knob on the exit door and I turned it, hard. But it would not budge. I heaved my entire body into the wooden door, banging my forehead against it… the wooden door was hard…very hard and uncomfortable…hard…I had to move…hard…uncomfortable…hard…

My eyes shuttered open, the wooden kitchen table top was about a quarter-inch away, and a pool of drool  seeped onto the open Safeco ledger and accounting book underneath me. I sat up and looked around. Completely quite reigned.  The only sound came from the faint hum of the electric kitchen clock on the window sill beside me.

“No wind, no rattling…the blizzard must have blown through during the night,” I thought.

I walked over to the front door of my apartment and slipped on my over boots. My nose wrinkled at the smell of burnt coffee wafting over from the still hot pot in the kitchen.

I tried to open the front door, but apparently snow jammed against it.

Then putting all my weight and strength into it I managed to wedge the door open about 18 inches. Snow came cascading into the apartment and I stepped through the open door into about 2 feet of drifting snow.

I now stood on the open steps at the front of my one bedroom apartment.

The only sound came from the light whistle of a breeze pushing over the drifts of snow that rolled out over Main Street and onto the campus about a half mile away. Ice glistened from the tops of the gabled slate roofs of the dorms. Not a soul in stirred.

My lungs and nosed crackled as I drew a deep breath of the cold air. For five minutes I stood there watching the sun break over ice  blue horizon. I did not move and don’t remember even a stray thought entering my head for a long while.

Even today, I think, because of that morning, I love brutally cold winters and blizzards. I have taught myself to skate and ski…and to me there is nothing better than skating on a New England Pond in 20 degree F temperatures with the wind at my back and no sound but the scrape, scrape, scrape of my skates and the grunt of my own breathing. That morning the cold air also refreshed me and heightened all my senses.

For I knew what I must do now.

I tell you I did not even understand completely what this action would mean, and what it would do to me, or even what the consequences, good, evil, or indifferent, were.

I simply knew that I could not keep on.

The future be damned. Suddenly I simply did not care.

And I am glad I could not reason through the chain of events I now unleashed on my insignificant life.

Could I, would I, have gone through with my resolution if I had KNOWN what was in store for me?

Now, Dear Reader, if this were a novel or a good screen play, at this point I would turn, around walk back into my apartment, and have leveled with Tikietwo.

I would have told him, “Look my friend, get the heck out of here, don’t even think about dropping out of school and let me tell you in detail why MCM is a sociological cult.”

And I would also write to you, if in a novel, about how I had an epiphany of the nature of MCM that morning and how I was free as the cardinal that I spied flitting from frost covered fir tree to fir tree.

And Tikietwo would then throw his arms around me shouting, “Thank you for saving my life Tik, you are so brave and such an example of a Godly and courageous man.”

Well, this is NOT a novel, and it is NOT a screenplay (at least not YET) and so this is NOT what happened. For life is not that simple.

Rather than looking at my departure from MCM as the Jail break from MCM by one of the gang from the Mission Impossible movie, a better analogy would be of an exhausted guy, neck-deep in muck and quick sand, who has just grabbed a thin, and not so strong, vine. And using that one vine he  has to pull his way, hand over hand, out of the pit, or drown in the gunk that is starting to pour down his nostrils.

To quote Mike Caulk, “Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” And that drowning man at this point was me.

So I walked back into the apartment, scrambled some eggs, fried some bacon,roused TikieTwo from his slumber, and fed us both breakfast.

“Look Tikietwo I think we need to give this more prayer; about you going full-time I mean. Let’s plan on talking to your folks about all this, you simply cannot drop out of school.  Your witness is desperately needed there.”

I figured that would hold him in place for a while. In the meantime I had to continue to pull on that vine and get out of the muck of MCM to save my own skin.

Then I could worry about Tikietwo.

But as you will see, I was unable to help Tikietwo.

I should have known that the MCM’s multi-layered defenses would soon kick in and label me as Satanic, a Judas, demon possessed, a liar, and a thief.

So I saw Tickietwo off that morning back to his frat house with a promise from him to make no rash decisions.

Then I  got out my $ 5.00 plastic snow shovel (lesson learned: never skimp on snow shovels) and begin the four-hour job of shoveling my car out of the parking lot.

By 2:00 pm I was ready to go and with the streets now ploughed and salted  I headed over to Jim and Dana’s (my co-pastors) house.

Jim was about half way through shoveling his drive, so I grabbed my $ $5.00 special and spent the next hour shoveling and grunting with him. Finally we were through.

“Jim, can we sit in my car for a minute. I need to talk to you.”

I did not want to go in his house, I wanted to be on my own turf and I did not want Dana involved, I really liked her, and I was afraid she could, and would, sway me from doing what I was now determined to do.

Jim gave me a puzzled look and said, “Sure,” and we got into my car.

“Jim, I can’t keep doing this. I want out, and I am getting out.”

He looked at me and said slowly, “Uh-huuuuh.”

I explained about Tikietwo and my discussion last night.

“Look brother you are just exhausted, and you are too emotionally caught up with your sheep and their traumas. I have seen this happen before. You cannot bear all of their burdens, you have to trust God. He will take care of this flock Tikie …you can’t do it all.”

“Jim, stop it alright with the pat MCM answers? It is not about the work load, it is NOT about Tickietwo, it is about EVERYTHING.”

“That is just plain silly…” Jim started to say.

But I cut right over him saying, “I mean EVERYTHING is wrong…look you are a sweetheart of a guy and you are smart too. You saw what went on when Nick was here. That is just a symptom of all of MCM. But it is even more than that, it is Bob, Joe, the whole she-bang- and what we are putting these kids through. You have been to the same staff meetings I have been to. It is about ego, pride, ambition money, and numbers; it is not about Jesus, and certainly not about God’s love.”

He smiled, “Tikie. Look, you are just worn out and I know the finances are getting to you. Let’s go inside, let Dana fix you some supper. Let’s get on the phone and call Bob. You’ll see… you are just in a funk.” He put his hand on my shoulder with a grin.

Now Jim was smart and good guy. If he had started in on that demon possession stuff I would have driven off with him in the car all the way back to Alabama. Somehow he knew that.

He a fireman trying to talk a jumper down off a ledge. And I was the jumper with no parachute.

“I don’t think so Jim. It’s over for me… really it is.”

“Now Tik, just cut that talk out. You know you will be one of the top guys at MCM. Everyone compares you to Rice or Greg.”

“Don’t you get it Jim????…I don’t WANT to be like those guys. The comparison to them makes me sick to my stomach!”

“Okay Tik, I am going to tell you something. Something Dana and I know that you don’t know. Something that we were not going to tell you for another forty-five days or so.” He cocked his head knowingly.

“We have a word for you from the elders.”

I can tell you that a feeling of doom and dread, a premonition of disaster, came over me. A dark cloud was heading over the horizon right at me and I got a sick feeling in my gut. I could taste acid in my mouth.

He leaned into me.

“Your name was submitted by a sister to the elders,” he said. Then he sat back.

He meant a sister had submitted my name to the elders for an arranged MCM marriage.

I felt like puking as bile gurgled in my throat.

“It was submitted about two months ago, and if you did not get the Word (meaning if God did not tell me) Dana and I were going to talk to you about it in March.”

I was clueless, there was not a sister that I was now attracted to anywhere in MCM, or that I had even flirted with since my infatuation with Ellen.

“I think that this whole thing is God showing you that you can’t make it without a helpmate. I certainly could not make it without Dana. You need to get married,” Jim continued.

It was true. Dana took care of everything for Jim so he could concentrate on the ministry, plus, along with our single staff sister, she handled counseling the sisters.

I shook my head. “I can tell you Jim that this is not of God, that I do not bear witness and that I am out of here… Gone!”

“The elders DO think it is God, and I think what you are going through is simply God speaking to you about your need for a helpmate. We all agree it would be a perfect fit, this sister has the gift of prophecy and she will complement your warm approach. You are simply too nice Tik, you take too much of the brother’s and the ministry’s burdens on yourself. She can help you with that and balance your personality.”

He told me her name.

I was aghast. And a light clicked on for me.

I was going to be stuck with one of the single prophetic sisters who would, “Kick me in the ass”, keep me from, Being “too nice and not tough enough,” and help hold me on the MCM reservation.

That did it. Whatever bond that held me in placed snapped. I swear I heard the thing pop in that car.

“Jim, I’m out of here…you are either coming with me or you can step out of this car. This whole thing is no good, I can’t keep inflicting this MCM crap on people. I have tried to do it differently up here… to protect the brothers from the bad stuff, but it is of no use… the whole thing is rotten. No one can fix it.”

Jim, a really nice and soft-spoken guy, a guy I liked a whole lot, and now he had a look of terror on his face.

“Don’t do it Tikie, I beg you. You will be walking out on God, walking out on the brothers that you have brought in, you will be walking out on Dana and me. Look I am a good pastor, but well, we both know that you are the guy that makes this thing spark. What about my family? This whole thing could come apart on us. You are deserting us… your family…my family…you just can’t do that.”

I was crying now, he was right, everything he said was on the money.

Jim was a great guy, his kids, seven and five years of age, called me Uncle Tikie and Dana was like an older sister. And I knew this place might flounder without me.

“Look Jim, you know MCM is rotten, I know your heart, why don’t you get out too? Let’s get the brothers and sisters at our ministry together and tell them that we are out, why we are out, and let’s go back to real-life.”

Now we were both crying.

Jim said through his tears, “God is in this Tikie, sure there are problems, but this is God’s movement and this is my family. And I will live or die with it. Don’t Tikie, please don’t… come inside, let’s talk this over, you know Dana has a great heart and head, let’s spend some time in prayer. Okay?”

I started the car.

“Jim I am loading up tonight then I am out of here as soon as possible. And that is that. Maybe I am deserting you and God, I just know I have to go, I must go, no matter what. Now get out of the car or you are coming with me, I MEAN IT!”

He opened the door and got out.

“Tikie, let me pray for you.”

“Sorry Jim, I am past being prayed for. You are a good guy…God bless you.”

I pulled out of his drive way and turned the corner and drove about a half mile and pulled the car off to the side of the road. I had to. I find it impossible to drive when crying.

I finally got control of myself. “Okay, I gotta get moving, I gotta get the hell out of here.”

It did not seem real, and I felt like I was watching a movie of myself loading my suitcases in my apartment.

I really did not have a clue about what I was going to do and where I was going. I had about $ 200 in my checking account. And because of the snow storms the banks were not shut, and I had neither a credit card or ATM.

That realization set me back. I could not leave until in the morning. I had to have some cash. I went and fueled my car with the money I had on me. When I walked back into my apartment the telephone was ringing.

I picked it up.

It was the guy with the flashlight from my dream last night.

Bob Weiner.

With a really cheery happy sounding, “Hi Tikie, brother are you doing okay?”

He sounded so NICE that he scared me. In fact I had heard Bob passionate, angry, I had heard him plead, cajole and beg. But I had never heard him sound chirpy and light hearted.

“Yeah Bob, I am doing fine. “

“Look Tik, I spoke with uh…(two second pause: was he looking at his notes?)…uh…Jim, and he tells me that you are well, thinking about leaving the ministry? Is that right?”

“That pretty much sums it up Bob, I can’t take it anymore, I don’t feel right about what we are doing…I mean what is really in this for the kids we are bringing in? I think we have lost our way somehow.”

“Now Tik, we all get in the dumps, why even I do on occasion [big laugh]. But Rose, well, she has a way of snapping me out of it. Everyone needs a break and rest…you have done great work, super work I say, why I think you have the potential to be one of our top evangelists. Joe and I both think so. Look, I want to get you out of that depressing snow for a couple of weeks. You have been working non-stop for six months. We’ll get you down to Gainesville, you know, let you kick back a little while…let you unwind and we’ll give you some good one on one ministry with Joe Smith and me. Okay? I have already ordered a first class airline ticket for you, you can fly out in the morning. It’s done, it is on HQ… okay?”

Wow, it sounded great, first class tickets, Bob himself wanting to minister to me…he sounded so warm and reassuring. And it would be good to get back to some warm weather…then I snapped to.

Bob– I appreciate the offer. Overwork is not the problem; the problems are…well the whole thing is not right. What we are doing is wrong.”

“Look Tikie,  sure the ministry needs some course corrections.  That is why we need guys like you. God has given you so much talent, don’t waste it… honor the talents He has given you.”

I would have much preferred a screaming match with Bob; this was NOT what I had expected.

He was so pleasant.  Somehow he KNEW where to go with the conversation and he was starting to reel me in. But I kept hold of the vine I was clinging to; and no matter what he said he could not convince me that the cold, muck filled, quicksand pit I was in was a nice warm swimming pool. I had seen too much, done too much, done too many bad things to others.

I had looked into the heart of the ministry and it repelled me.

Bob, sorry, I am checking out.  Call it quitting. Call it whatever you want but I am through with this thing.”

“Tikie I am really concerned about you; about…your walk… your soul…don’t walk out on God. Please…”

I had to end this thing now.

Bob, I gotta go. I’ll think about what you said but I am hanging up now.”

And I put the receiver down.

I had hung up on Bob Weiner.

I had to. I thought if I kept listening to him I would wind up on that airplane and then I would end up in Gainesville and never leave.

I slept fitfully that night. The phone rang about four times but I did not answer it. Early the next morning I called my parents.

My mother answered.

“Mama, I am calling it quits… I am coming home, is that okay?’

“Are you sure honey? You seemed so happy when we came to see you in October.”

They came just as Greg and Helen were on their way out and they had been both dazzled, and taken in, by what was going on; they were especially taken with Greg and Helen.

“Mama, I just can’t keep this up; not sure what I am going to do. Can I bunk in with you guys for a while?”

She laughed, “What a silly question, honey you have always bedroom here, now don’t ever forget that. Why don’t you come to work for Daddy?’

“No way,” I thought. But I said, “We’ll see.”

I headed across campus. I stopped by the Maranatha Hall and laid the operating manual and the Safeco Ledger and Accounting Book on the desk. Then I headed to frat row.

To TikieTwo’s frat house.

I pounded up the stairs and rapped on the door to his room.

It opened.

It was him.

“Oh, uh, hi Tik.” His normal ear to ear grin was gone.

“Hey Tikietwo, I need to talk to you. About me. I’m leaving.”

“I know, Jim and Janet (our single sister) were here last night. They told me not to talk to you; that you were in trouble… that they were trying to get you into counseling down in Gainesville. That you had fallen in sin.”

“No…that is not the case at all Tikietwo. Not at all. I should have leveled with you the other night. But I had to straighten my thinking out. C’mon, I’ll buy you breakfast. I need to help you see what is going on with me and to help you with your thinking.”

He did not move.

“I can’t talk to you Tik…not until I talk to Jim or Janet. Jim told me you might come by here and that I should have you call him if you did. Look I have to take a shower. I have an early morning lab… so… well… I’ll call you later.”

The door shut.

I walked out and sat on the steps in front of the frat house. I could make him understand I was sure…but that would have to wait. I could feel the ministry pulling at me; my own prize, Tickietwo, had literally slammed the door in my face.

What would become of me?

If I stayed and tried to reason with him I would end up talking to Jim , Dana, and Janet and I might get sucked back into MCM. Perhaps Bob was flying up here even now to meet me in person.

I did not trust myself. I had to go and go NOW.

So I headed out-of-town with my car crammed with my clothes, stuff, and every nickel of cash I had. It was eighteen hours of driving to Alabama and it seemed like it was eighteen days.

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

I pulled up to my parents’ home and before I opened the car door my mom was out of the front door and at the car. She gave me a hug.

But I didn’t hug back. It was like I was dead.

And I was.

I knew that my life was over.

I had jettisoned all my college friends pre-MCM. My high school friends were scattered all over the southeast. Everything I had given myself to over the last four and half years was in vain.

The only thing I left in my life was my kid brother, who was still at home, and my Mom and Dad.

I wasn’t hungry even though the last meal I had eaten was breakfast some forty-eight hours earlier with Tikietwo.

There was nothing to say to my parents and no answers to their questions.

For my parents did not even know what questions to ask; for they could not possibly understand what was happening to me and had happened to me.

To them it seemed that I had simply decided church work was not for me and I was going to go into engineering.

But from my view I was cast adrift and, for the first time in almost five years, I had no one telling me where to go, what to do, no mandatory prayer sessions, no calls to Gainesville, no witnessing plans, no special offerings and fundraisers, no clubs to organize, no tracts to hand out, no posters to put up all over campus, no “hootah” and counseling sessions with the brothers, no all-night prayer meetings, no sermons to be listened to or prepared; no Red, Green,Blue, Brown or Pink books to work through, no satellite MLTS meetings, no MLTS conferences, no upcoming road trips to other ministries, no earth shattering revelations or prophecies to look forward to, no certainty about life and my purpose.

No marriage or marriage partner.

No heaven.

No nothing.

Only darkness

#51 I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 3

Burning Ring Of Fire part 3

 Nick P,  the Lead Evangelist and winner of souls for MCM came to town the week after the article appeared.

Nick was a second generation Greek.

He was a shouting hell and brimstone type preacher. He was gruff and rough but he could preach for two hours straight and could quote scripture after scripture from memory.

Bob Weiner thought he was MCM’s best evangelist. Maybe he was.

Well he arrives and we put him up in Jim and Dana’s (our pastor’s) dilapidated rental house. Nick shows up after one night at Jim and Dana’s House and confronts me.

”Look brother I can’t stay in that house under those conditions.”

“What conditions?” I asked him.

“The kids [Jim and Dana’s children], they are too noisy, I need time alone with God, quiet time, I can’t concentrate on my preparation and prayer time. Besides, their place is a dump.”

“Okay, Nick, you can bunk in with me if you would like.”

He stepped back and gave me a look of disdain and sputtered, “Brother, I am God’s anointed, and I need to separate myself. I want you to book me into University Hotel.”

I groaned inwardly. Our cash situation was not desperate; but it would become desperate in a matter of weeks.

“Nick, we simply don’t have the funds to do that, we are counting every penny.”

”Your problem brother, is that you have no FAITH and your people ARE NOT Giving. You are too easy on them, and because you are NOT challenging them to give you are ROBBING them and GOD of a huge blessing. Jim showed me your cont list (this was a list kept of the weekly contributions by each member with names, dates and amounts shown) and the amount being given by your converts is pitiful, terrible.”

He had stepped up and pushed his chest into mine. He was about an inch taller then me.

I did not flinch.

I won a high school state championship wrestling trophy and I knew could take this bully down in about two seconds and have him begging for mercy from a full nelson hold.

Those thoughts actually ran through my mind. I kind of wish I had acted on them… it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble and anguish.

“Look Nick, these are poor college kids, we only have a handful of people with full time jobs. We can’t beat these kids over the head; they are getting their money from their parents or from  scholarships,” I replied stone faced.

My mind shot back to my first few months in MCM. I wanted to protect my sheep from what happened to me.

I had not yet realize that I could NOT do this.  That I was at the mercy of the leadership of MCM and people like Nick.

“B-r-o-t-h-e-r.” he slurred the words out slowly. “You are doomed to failure with this type of faith and belief. You are the leader here and your demonic attitude about faith and money will infect your flock. I am going to have to straighten you and your flock out. You guys are a terrible mess.”

This went on for about twenty minutes. With me being under the mistaken impression that this was my church and that I actually had a say in what Nick could do or say.

Then all of the sudden Nick had the phone in his hand and he was calling Gainesville.

”Hey Charlene, is Bob in?…. yeah its Nick…okay I’ll hold.”

He cupped the receiver with his hand, “We are going to straighten this right now so that there is no question about who is in control here, do you understand?’

He straightened up. “Hey Bob, it is Nick. Yeah the flight was fine. I am up here at XXXX University with Tik Tok. This place is a complete mess; just like I thought it would be. Greg did his usual schtick, got a bunch of people coming to the service but no real commitment, no passion as usual. Tik and Jim are not showing any courage or backbone. Their finances are a mess because they are not believing God to provide.”

He listened and nodded. In the meantime I was seeing red stars. No passion? No commitment?  Did this idiot think that all this just happened by accident?

Greg and Helen had busted their rear-ends with never a complaint. Did he know that all of us had been working fifteen and twenty hours a day for the last three months? Where did he think the 120 kids came from???

When he got off the phone I was going to tear into him.

He kept up the, “Uh huhs and the hmm- hmm,” for about a minute, then he looked up and winked at me and spoke into the phone and said, “He’s right here.”

Nick looked up at me,“Its Bob Weiner, he wants to speak to you.”

He handed me the receiver.

“Hey Tik, what in the world is going on up there? We set you guys up there, give you $ 10,000 and now you are stumbling. You have to be strong brother, buck up. I don’t like what I am hearing.”

“But Bob, things are going great, Greg did a great job, it just that we have a bunch of kids with no money, and Nick is making a wholesale judgment about this ministry and he has not even been here for 24 hours.”

“Listen Tik- Nick is my man. And I sent him up there because I figured you were too new and inexperienced to handle this stage of the ministry. He has my blessing… you get out of his way and he will straighten the finances out-he is a man of real faith… so you had better support him. Do you understand?”

I did understand.

I understood that no matter what the reality of the situation, no matter the fact that I had worked harder and smarter than I ever had in my life, that Bob was basically saying, “I can take you out… and I will… unless you let Nick have his way.”

So I caved in. What would you have done? I make no excuses but I will point out that I was only 21 years old.

I learned a lesson that day I have kept with me, and it has played a very real role in whatever little success I have enjoyed in life. And that lesson is this:

“Anyone who mistreats someone with less power than themselves, whether they are talking to an employee or a waiter, is a bad person and should be avoided at all costs.”

Well, it continued to go downhill at our ministry.

At our Saturday night service we had about 130 people there, our 120 members plus 10 visitors. And Nick launched into a sermon about Esther, and God planting her among the enemies and God being faithful.

There was A BIG problem that night.

Nick was quoting and preaching, almost verbatim, one of Greg Ball’s standard stump speech sermons. I had heard Greg give this sermon three times, twice at outreaches that I had worked on and at our second Saturday service here. It was a magnificent sermon, really a huge story woven with the passion and word pictures, that Greg was so good at painting.

I had no problem with Greg re-preaching his sermons- to different crowds. He had perfected it and it was every effective.

But now Nick was preaching Greg’s EXACT sermon, not nearly as effectively, and I caught the eye of my star convert, Tikietwo, who gave me a weird look and a shrug of his shoulders.

The other thing that caught my ear was that in his sermon Nick again made reference to the fact that he had dropped out of medical school to pursue full time ministry.

I knew for a fact that this was a bald faced lie and not true.  So in the midst of plagiarizing a sermon that most of the people here had heard only two weeks before he was also lying.

At the end of the service Nick spent ten minutes talking about giving, and robbing God of his tithes, and how they were letting the ministry and God down, and how if giving did not increase that, “Tik’s job was on the line,”or something to that affect.

I was appalled and disgusted by the whole thing.

Afterwards, when the place was almost cleared out, I asked Nick to come back to the office.

“Look Nick I have some real problems with what went on tonight.”

“Like what?” he said.

”Well first, your sermon. That was Greg’s sermon, I have heard him preach it three times. You stole it.”

He was out of his chair and on top of me in a flash, he bared his teeth.

“Don’t every accuse me of stealing, do you understand me? You are nothing here. NOTHING! I am in charge; didn’t you hear Bob this morning? I’ll have you sent packing in one minute. Secondly I did not steal the sermon; I actually wrote it and gave it to Greg and gave him permission to use it. He is a good preacher; but he has trouble coming up with material.”

Nick towered over me. What could I say? I knew Greg wrote his own material.

Nick was lying.

“Well maybe so Nick, but I plan on asking Greg about it.”

I continued, “And not only that but you are telling my people that you went to medical school. This is not true and I will not have you telling lies!”

He put his fist in my face and muttered, “Look my uncle was a doctor and I was in pre-med [Tik’s note: this was also not true]. I am doing what Paul did, being all things to all men. Brother, I would suggest that you worry about your own problems here, or life could get tough for you, understand?”

I could not believe it.

Who did this guy think he was, Marlon Brando in the God Father? He was threatening me, and unfortunately I was pretty sure that he was not bluffing…and his threat was real.

So I wimped out and let Nick run roughshod over me and the ministry for the next three weeks.

He insulted me in front of my congregation and he suggested that I should let my hair grow out [it was to short and I looked like a marine]. He suggested, and I am not kidding, that I needed to buy some expensive watches and jewelry so I could demonstrate my prosperity to the brothers. This in a ministry that was so cash negative that I could hear the sucking sound in the bank account.

My co-pastor Jim was so intimidated by Nick that he actually got physically sick and was incapacitated for about half the time Nick was here with shingles.

Finally Nick was there when the next set of Forerunners were delivered.

”What is the plan with these Tik? We got to get these out to campus ASAP.”

I explained what had happened and how I had narrowly avoided being taken to court and being fined for placing the Forerunner all over campus.

He snorted at me and said, “What a wimp, no wonder this place is such a mess. You are afraid of a little persecution. Do you think Peter and Paul would have worried about a fine? Get some back bone. I want the brothers here this afternoon and we are going to get these things all over campus- and I want you to personally deliver a stack to the student affairs building. And I mean it.”

I gulped and we did it.

Nick left three days later, and it was one of the highlights of my life to see him get on the airplane.
**********

Seventy two hours later I found myself answering a summons and standing in front of a judge and explaining why we did not have or need a permit and being fined $ 1,500 and being told I was lucky that I was not going in the slammer for a day or so.

 

 

#50 I Fall Into A Burning Ring Of Fire Part 2

I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 2

We had converted some campus leaders, including the President of the largest Greek Fraternity on campus. I will call him “Tiketwo” because he reminded me of myself, and people actually thought we looked and acted like brothers. He was a Methodist and dissatisfied with his church. Go back and read Parts 1-5 of this Blog and the same thing happened to him that happened to me; I hate to tell you.

He had a steady girlfriend who I will call “Sheilatwo’, because she looked like my old friend Sheila, only in this case we converted her as well and used her to pop Helen Ball into her sorority and snag about seven of her sorority sisters for MCM.

Tikietwo and Sheilatwo brought in, personally, at least twenty kids.

“Tiketwo” really, really looked up to me as an ideal”Christian, one who could do no wrong and that scared me.

And weighed heavily on my conscience.

So I started the daily Red Book and shepherding sessions, and casting demons out of kids who were just being kids and got them on board and committed, and started witnessing classes. We got a Christian Prof to front a Victory Club which in turn converted two baseball players through a jointly sponsored event with the respected Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Then, with almost no warning things begin to go downhill quickly.

First, Headquarters in Gainesville loaded us up with corporate literature and brochures for the tune of $ 4,000.  This ate big time into the war-chest that I had established on my own. As I mentioned our seed money from corporate had evaporated.

Second, about five thousand Forerunner Magazine Newspapers, at 50 cents a throw, begin to show up every other month. I mean stacks and stacks of these things. These cost us, if my memory is right, about $ 2,500 a whack. And there was no arguing with Gainesville about accepting or paying for these things, as I will show.

The Forerunner was Rose Weiner’s brainchild . Rose wanted to start A Mother Jones newspaper, but instead of being a leftie rag, she wanted a  rightie rag, it was chockfull of articles by Theonomy writers pontificating about the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth etc. etc. etc. Simply put the Forerunner celebrated the Manifest Destiny of America theory but repackaged to highlight the kooky and inane doctrines of MCM.

Well we were supposed to sell these things at best, or at least give them away. Either was very hard to do, it turned out.

So like a good trooper, and to get them out of the meeting hall, I organized work parties to put these things out in stacks on campus. And this was during autumn.

A very windy autumn.

And the wind blew the papers all over campus.

I mean no one was actually picking these things up to read them. At least the campus commie left wing rag had a sense of humor and some funny, if rather strange, cartoons. The Forerunner was about as interesting as the pages of  a dictionary if every page were the same. It was chloroform in print.

Now we had stupidly taken the time, and effort, to stamp our local ministry address and phone number on every paper.

This was infinitely stupid.

Because I got a phone call-from the campus police.

“Hello,” I said as I answered the telephone.

“Yes this is Captain Jim Smith of the campus police. I am trying to reach the person in charge of MCM at Big University.”

“That would be me, Tik Tok.”

“Well Mr. Tok you have managed to cover the university with your papers, they are every where, in the trees, in the fountains and complaints are coming in from all over the place.First you don’t have a permit to distribute papers on campus, second, even if you did, we must have approved paper boxes. Third it is going to cost us at least $ 10,000 to clean up the campus. I am going to give you a break… either you clean these up in the next 24 hours or I am going to bring you in on a misdemeanor charge of littering and creating a public nuisance. Any questions?”

So we went back and for fourteen straight hours we cleaned up papers.

And the Forerunner, literally being all over campus, piqued the interest of the editor of the student newspaper. Who, being a smart kid, called me up to try to find out WHAT we were doing and exactly who we were doing it for.

Our converting over 100 kids, the infiltration of fraternities, conversions of a couple of baseball players, and three sold out Saturday nights at the Maranatha Hall had gotten a lot of attention on campus. And our newspapers being literally everywhere piqued his interest, as I said.

When the phone rang, and it was the editor of the campus newspaper, I was to naïve to give it much thought. He asked questions about me, my background, where I came from, about Greg, what MCM was, who headed it and where we had come from.

About a week after Greg and Helen had left Jim, my co-pastor, walked in with a paper under his arm.

”See this yet?” he asked.

“Don’t tell me that you found another Forerunner in a bush,” I laughed.

”Tikie this is serious!” and he laid the newspaper out in front of me.

Front and center, the headline on the weekly campus news read “Cult on Campus?”

And below it in a printed frame was a photo of Greg and me on campus with about eight or ten students gathered around us praying.

The story read:

“Maranatha Christian Ministries came to town last month with a splash. Their new meeting Hall is packed out every week and their posters promise, “Real Christian Answer to Life’s Pressing Questions”. But who are they and what do they want? Despite their claims to lead students to an Abundant Christian Life their reputation at other college campuses tells a different story. “I would not recommend this ministry to any student,” said Dr. Herb Butz, Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. “We believe that this group uses cult like tactics to entrap and cut off lonely or idealistic students, interfering with their studies and recruiting them to perpetuate the group and it’s goals.”

It got worse from there and they quoted me as Pastor Tikie and laid into the tactics we used including posing as a campus sponsored club when in fact this was not the case.

It also had interviews with fraternity members, where Greg and I had preached, accusing us of coming into the frat under false pretenses, stealing their members, then effectively cutting them off. The head of one frat said that I had posed as an official university affiliated non-denominational minister, which he said was a lie.

The article also questioned where our finances were coming from and that we expected the students to tithe and support us. It contrasted our taking of offerings from poor students with that of other ministries like Campus Crusade and the Baptist Student Union that asked for no donations.

Although there was much truth to this, there were some differences between what they wrote and what was actually happening. One inaccuracy was that we had not encouraged the fraternity and sorority members to leave their organization. I felt like that they could do more good inside the frats than if they left them.

But of course since we WERE MCM so we ate up all their free time, they began making radical lifestyle changes that we encouraged.  And, as I related, although I never claimed to be an official university sponsored chaplain, I never corrected the wrong assumptions made about me and MCM.

The article was a disaster.

We now had about 120 members, counting the ten that had come for the planting. It was a great start,but only a start. And now with the spate of articles about MCM Jim and I noticed that our first time visitor attendance dropped off dramatically.

Another part of the problem centered on our finances. Jim did not have enough outside support coming in for him and his family. We knew this was a problem upfront but thought it would solve itself once we had the ministry rolling.

So I was subsidizing him out of my $ 1,500 per month in outside contributions I had pledged to me. The rent, because of the wonderful location right next to campus, was about $ 1,800/month. The cost of our initial blitz had taken our seed money to zeros plus my own war-chest balance was now down to about $ 2,000.

Our offerings were only averaging about $ 300/week despite our success in numbers after three months. If I had any sense I would have calculated that at our giving rate we would need well over 1,200 college kids tithing out of their funds just to break even. Could we have gotten more out of them? Probably, but I was reluctant to hit these kids up hard, like Mike did at Auburn, because of the pain it had caused me as a new recruit.

I have mentioned that I paid a MCM tax of about 12% on my monthly $ 1,500 plus I threw 10% of that in the plate. And on top of that 10% of our local ministries gross income for the Ministry went right back to Gainesville.

Could it get any worse for me and our new church plant?

The answer, as you probably guessed, was yes, it could, and did, get worse.

Much worse.

 

#40 Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation within MCM

 

Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation

One of the reasons that I had joined MCM was that I perceived  it as an egalitarian Band of Brothers and Sisters focused on God’s Kingdom. For Paul wrote that no one part of the body was more important than another in his letter to the first century church at Corinth.

But hierarchy and status mattered within MCM and I would soon find out how that status affected me!

Based on interviews with a number of ex-MCM members (including Mike and Missy) I believe this description of the Auburn site applied to other ministry sites as well. Having said that some sites were more lenient than Auburn, and, believe it or not, some were much stricter.

Regardless, all of MCM operated under this system of hierarchy, status and subjugation.

***********

I was, when writing this Part, tempted at first to use the military analogy of soldiers and sergeants. But the idea repels me both because of Bob’s use of the term God’s Green Berets and the dishonor it would do to the men and women in the armed services.

A much better analogy would be that of a plantation.

For each MCM site was like a plantation; complete with slaves, overseers, house servants, production, quotas and the threat of being sold down the river minus your family. Members constantly faced the threat of banishment and being shunned like my mentor, Peter, who after being thrown out of MCM was never heard of or mentioned again.

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

At the lowest level of the MCM plantation hierarchy were the slaves; the single brothers at the bottom of the MCM heap.

These single brothers lived together communally and footed the bill for the meeting-house and for the pastor’s apartment.

They had neither private lives nor any privacy at all. They must be ready at a moment’s notice for action. Additionally they did jobs such as keeping the meeting-house, grounds, and living quarters in order and they acted as gophers for ministry staff. Their personal needs, when they conflicted with those of the ministry, were never considered. [See my description of one of my  hootah sessions for details]. In fact the ministry reveled in this on-call life style and sold it to the brothers as proof being the spear point of God’s Green Berets.

Now there were grades within this lowly single brother hierarchy.

At the bottom of this grade were the grunts that were brand new baby Christians, those that had not born any fruit (brought in converts) or those were not deemed sharp enough to have the potential to go full-time. These low-level grunts condemned to a life of servitude, might, just might, be able to break out of this rank if they worked hard enough and if they brought enough converts in.

Or so they believed.

Next in status within this grade of single brother/slaves were those who were bringing in converts, or, were contributing significant sums of money because of a having a professional job. My friend Peter, due to his lucrative real estate business fell into this latter category prior to being banished.

And at the top of this lowest level were those single brothers that were slotted for full-time service, like yours truly. These brothers MIGHT have a shot at full-time paid ministry if they were diligent enough, if they were submissive enough, if they contributed enough and if they continued to bear fruit (bring in new converts).

That’s a whole lot of ifs and with no promises.

Worse yet, did any of the ones who were striving for full-time ministry really understand what they were signing up for???!

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

Another group inhabited the lowest order of MCM- the single sisters.

It is a coin toss as to who had it worse: the single brothers or sisters; but my money is on the single sisters.

For the single sisters were also called upon at all hours to  work for the ministry just like the single brothers.

And single sisters had an extra burden to bear. That burden required exhibiting the traits of femininity that MCM considered Biblical. Any sister that did not show these traits was in for a rough time.

So, in addition to the burdens of the single brothers  the single sisters had to deal with other requirements imposed on them by MCM.

  • They had to dress in a feminine manner, but they must not show too much leg or cleavage for then they were “tempting the brothers.”
  • They could not be too aggressive or masculine, nor seem too independent. If a brother challenged a teaching precept or an elder/shepherd then he would be chastised; but the thinking was,  “Boys will just be boys,” and, “Potential leaders always test the boundaries”. But any female, who dared challenge or question the leadership, ran the risk of being labeled a Jezebel. And being labeled a Jezebel was being equal to Satan’s bride. Do it more than twice and you got the boot. Because, having a Jezebel among you was worse than a plague carrying rat eating at the communal dinner table.
  • The single sisters had to give money, perform  feminine ministry work, and also bear fruit (bring in converts)…and perhaps, just perhaps, they would get the privilege of marrying a brother whose destiny was  full-time ministry. More than likely a brother that they barely even knew.

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

Ranked above the single brothers and sisters  in the hierarchy were the overseers.

These overseers on the MCM plantation were the older brothers and sisters, many who were single themselves, who acted as shepherds. Now when I say older I don’t think there was a shepherd at MCM north of thirty years old.

These shepherd’s lives were not much easier than the slaves/sheep because they were accountable for all the actions of their sheep. If a sheep acted poorly it reflected poorly on the shepherd and any bad action by their sheep brought into question the shepherd’s spirituality and ability to properly lead and discipline their charges.

Those overseers who were too lenient with their charges would be disciplined for, “Not being a proper role model.”. If they were too easy on their charges they could ruin their chances of making it into full-time service; for wasn’t that the goal?

These shepherds had to lead by example so when their charges found themselves assigned a job, like renovating the back house for the sisters, the shepherds had to be there as well. And they had to set an example in hard work and diligence.

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

Oh, and there was a hierarchy within the ranks of the overseers, or shepherds, as well.

One might easily get the impression that the single sister shepherds had no power within MCM.

I would argue that this was not the case, and that, in many ways, some of these sisters who were shepherds had as much, or more power, than the single or married brothers who were overseers/shepherds.

Within the group of sisters who acted as shepherds there were those deemed prophetesses. These prophetesses  were deemed to have special insight or intuition from God.

This elevation of some of the sisters, who supposedly possessed this special gift prophetic gift, derived from Rose Weiner.

Many of Bob’s goofball proclamations originated in the nonlinear, non-logical, and nonsensical mind of his wife Rose. Anyone who got on Rose’s bad side was dead on arrival in the ministry. Most of the full-timers were scared stiff of her and for good reason. Those that crossed her might find themselves a deacon in Iowa City, or worse, thrown out of the ministry altogether. And likewise, anyone that she deemed of God or Chosen of God was considered anointed and untouchable.

There is no doubt in my mind that the power behind the throne of MCM, and behind the elevation in power of certain full timers, was Rose Weiner.

Now at the local level, at Auburn  this small coterie of prophetic single sisters, in the Rose Weiner mold, also held sway. For indeed, all the prophetic sisters in MCM descended from either Rose Weiner or her sister-in-law Mildred Russell.

It worked like this: anyone that Rose or Mildred shepherded and deemed having the prophetic gift became a MCM prophetess. And anyone that these prophetesses shepherded, who supposedly had this anointing, was also deemed a prophetess.

For example Missy Caulk was once Mildred Russell’s hand-maiden (translation full-time servant). She was marked as prophetic by Mildred. Any sister that Missy shepherded at Auburn, and she marked prophetic, now also became a prophetess. And so forth.

These prophetess sisters, because of their descent from Rose and Mildred, had a lot of power within MCM.

In fact it was almost a requirement for a full-time staffer to marry a prophetess. For this meant that each pastor’s wife could mark a line of succession back to Rose and Mildred. This was yet another way for these women, and the elders of MCM, to control the pastors and local sites. In a future post I will share how I narrowly escaped just such an arranged marriage.

Now Auburn mirrored what happened at MCM corporate with Rose and her insights..

These prophetic single sisters influenced things behind the scenes and could either mark a brother or sister [meaning discern and proclaim that the sheep’s problems were of Satan] or they could receive a word from God which could alter a person’s life radically.

Maybe for good, maybe for bad.

Marty, my shepherd and site administrator, aside from Mike and Missy, was the other fulltime employee at Auburn, and, because of this, he wielded great influence at Auburn. My portrait of him is correct; he was a true believer, dry, dogmatic and fanatical.

There was only one other person, aside from Mike and Missy Caulk, who rivaled my shepherd, Marty, in influence and power within MCM, and she a single sister prophetess.

In a later post I will show how a word from this sister, and a clash between this prophetess and Marty, changed my life radically while I was at the MCM Auburn ministry.

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

Now one group that I did not mention, thus far, in my discussion of the hierarchy of the MSM, was the band, or as we called it at Auburn, the music group.

Music was very important to MCM, extremely important.

In my plantation analogy the house servants were the members of the music group. These were the privileged few who did not have to chop cotton, tote water, and act as slaves, and sometimes enjoyed a few of the  benefits of the plantation setting.

In MCM music set the tone for each service, allowed us to worship God, and showed everyone that God was in control and blessing us. Our internal and external services centered on the Auburn music group who provided this musical sound track.

The music group set the pace for all the meetings and ensured that the sheep were prepared for the message from God by plowing their hearts  with inspiring music.

And if you were kind enough to read the earlier parts in my story you can see that the national music group for MCM, the Praise Band, made a huge impression on me. They were a primary mover in all outreaches, second, only to Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, in influencing the crowds.

The music group was so important to MCM that members of the group at Auburn were exempted from the normal routine and mundane duties that I have listed like setting up for meetings, cleaning and maintaining the house, cooking, and most importantly the spur of the moment requests that chewed up so much of the member’s time.

Now Matt, the band leader, who I have already introduced you to, had a level head, played a mean guitar player and was also spiritually mature.  He became the music group leader early on after the Praise Band left Auburn in 1978.

It was important to have an accomplished actor as leader of the music group because the leader must be perceived by the flock as in tune with God and the Spirit, really experiencing the worship of God, and catapulting the crowd at the service, if you will, before the very throne of God.

A service was solemn, worshipful, introspective, joyous, or militant, or maybe all these in one service, based on the music chosen and the attitude of Matt, our music group leader.

But the music group leader also must be a thinker who, although appearing to be swept away by holy worship, or raucous celebration, had to continually think about the next song and the agreed upon (from preparation in the staff meeting and rehearsal) direction.  Was he to hype the crowd up and then bring them down into slow soft worship? Or would it be all joy and celebration and militancy?

It all needed to appear spontaneous (to be of the Spirit’s leading- there was nothing worse in MCM’s eyes than an order of service) but it was also carefully rehearsed.

Another purpose of the music group and leader was in providing the sound track for the Movie of the MCM service. Try watching a horror movie without a soundtrack. A movie sound track  may evoke fear, or for  a love story dreamy music may play when the lovers reconcile. Without an appropriate sound track the emotion induced by a movie becomes less palpable.

So it was at MCM, for music both set, and manipulated, the emotional tone of those participating in the service.

For Bob Weiner  learned from Hollywood that music could capture, and would channel, the emotions of people in just the direction he wanted.

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

Now the plantation was always facing requests for more money, special offerings, help for other campus plantings, and the occasional quack-pot schemes like preparing for food and water shortages that would come at the end times.

The people who dealt with all these requests and oversaw the plantation’s day-to-day activities were our senior pastors Mike and Missy Caulk.

Now, although Mike and Missy Caulk were at the top of the MCM Auburn heap it would be wrong to think of them as the plantation owners. They were more like share croppers who got a very small cut of what the ministry produced. They had all the responsibility, but none of the bennies.

They served totally at the mercy of the elders including  Bob and Rose Weiner and Joe Smith.

Mike and Missy had absolutely no job security, and, if they did not produce and/or if they did not submit to the HQ requests they could be taken out on a moment’s notice.

In fact they had a double dilemma: if they grew too quickly and the ministry grew very large they could attract the big fish that might come in and steal it from them; relegating Mike and Missy to mere bystanders or worse.

This happened in Gainesville when that ministry took off and grew rapidly.

Of course if Mike and Missy did not grow the ministry (grow in the sense of increased attendance and contributions) they might be dismissed and sent away for help and counseling into one of the smaller ministries.

As I mentioned Missy Caulk was one of MCM’s prophetesses  because she had been personally discipled by Mildred Russell, Rose Weiner’s sister-in-law, who was one of the top women leaders within MCM. I eventually met Mildred, at the University of Georgia and I will tell you she was one scary sister.

Missy had also worked as Bob’s personal assistant for two years in Paducah and was thus doubly trusted.

Mike and Missy’s marriage was a MCM arranged marriage. I am not sure how they fared in their early days of marriage when the Ole Miss ministry started but by the time they got to Auburn they seemed to have ironed things out.

Any idea that Mike and Missy had it made as pastors at Auburn, or that they were living the life of luxury, would be fallacious.

Their entire lives were subject to the wishes and whims of the elders meaning, at this time, Bob Weiner, Joe Smith, and Bob Nolte

Here is how Missy described their experience in working with Bob and the rest of the  leadership (keep in mind that they pastored, at that time, one of the most successful sites at MCM).

“I never felt like I was “given” Auburn. WHO wasn’t somewhat intimidated by Bob ?? I think that is part of the whole manipulation thing that occurred in MCM. Some men control like being Santa Claus, other out of fear and intimidation. “

But eventually they would overcome their intimidation and fear and set an example of how Bob and his reign of terror could successfully be challenged.

But that would come much later.

One example of how Mike and Missy’s lives were subject to the whims of the elders had to do with a VERY personal issue: children. Missy and Mike wanted to start a family. And they had to submit desire this to the elders.

In Missy’s words:

The worst thing to happen to me was that I was 27, Mike was 30 and we wanted to have a baby.”

Bob said, “NO, you have enough babies to take care of ……..spiritual babies.”

However, God intervened and we got pregnant with Christa at Steve and Beth McDowell’s wedding in Memphis. As it turned out 4 other couples in leadership at new churches did as well……….so he really didn’t say anything after that… But, I did cry my eyes out for weeks……….surprised you didn’t hear me Tikie!”

Bob could not, thankfully, control biology and ultimately he could not subvert, as much as he might unknowingly try, the will of God.

For God’s sake the man was abusing a newly married twenty-seven year old girl, for Missy was no more than a girl at the time!

This example alone should suffice to show how the pastors and the full timers were both victims and victimizers. Mike and Missy desperately wanted to serve God, but were caught in a system that they both intuitively knew was wrong.

And they were being abused and abusing…it was a terrifically bad system that Bob and others bear responsibility for.

But Mike and Missy tried to make the best of it.

#39 I Hit Bottom

 

I Hit Bottom

You may recall that my missing a shepherding meeting early in my experience with MCM had earned a rebuke from Marty, MCM Auburn administrator and my shepherd.

But that was all that came of it.

However, later on whilst I was still slinging pizzas 25 hours/week and with a full-time school load, I was thirty minutes late to set chairs up for a midweek evening service.

The rule was that the chairs must be set up by 6:00 pm in order to not interfere with the music group’s 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm pre-meeting rehearsal.

Well I did not get there until 6:00 and I proceeded to set up chairs during the music group’s warmup. Matt (the leader) did not say one word to me as I humped it to complete the chair set up in record time.

Well I get through with the set-up at about 6:45 pm, in time for the 7:00pm service. I am sweating like a pig by this time when suddenly Marty grabs me by the arm and pulls me into his office.

“Brother, you are have lax in your duties; you just completely disrupted the Music Group’s rehearsal and you are setting a poor example for the younger brothers. You need to learn to manage your time more wisely.”

I will tell you that I was dog tired, I was averaging not more than 5 hours of sleep a night, my Tuesday structures lab had run late because of equipment problems and I knew that after this service I would head to the pizza joint for a four hour shift while Marty was doing God knows what.

So I lost it.

“Look Marty, I just finished nine hours of class and study, my lab ran late and after the service, while you are fellowshipping, I will be slinging pizza and will be lucky to get to bed by 1:00 am. How dare you confront me on time management!”

I found my voice rising to a shout.

Which was utterly and completely stupid of me. I had just trashed the ministry administrator and my shepherd. Looking back on it I should have simply said, “Yes brother I was lax and I promise it will never happen again.”

That would have ended it.

In response to my outburst Marty raised his arm and then stabbed a finger into my chest, and with each jab of his finger emphasizing his points saying, “Brother, you have a bad attitude and I sense bitterness toward the ministry and what is God is doing here… What time will you get back tonight? [he meant from my pizza job]”

“Midnight,” I answered.

And thus was birthed my first “hootah session*” …to cast out demons of rebellion out of me.

For those of you who did not endure one or for those who are clueless about this MCM ritual, I will inflict this description of my hootah session on you.

First rest assured that Marty was not going to risk taking on these demons alone.

Not a chance on that.

For indeed, unbeknownst to me  but knownst to Marty, I had seeds of bitterness and a spirit of rebellion. If left unchecked, these demons would lead to my utter doom, and even worse I was contagious and thus could infect the weaker brothers. For demons it seems are much like the common cold  they can leap from brother to brother and perhaps from brother to sister.

So Marty recruited Joe, a morose frat boy convert that I knew and disliked in my earlier life, and Paul a red-haired well-meaning guy who seemed to permanently live in another dimension with angels, visions of God and apparently audible voices from unseen beings.

In other words Paul was a well-meaning, sweet spirited, kook.

Well, I left the service that night feeling pretty upbeat, Mike Caulk’s sermon was a good one. I had calmed down from one of my very rare blow ups. I thought that I should apologize to Marty while explaining that my blow up was caused by a lack of sleep and the pressure I was feeling from my heavy class load.

Silly me.

For when I returned at 1:00 am from my 4 hour pizza shift, smelling like a 160 pound garlic clove, there was Joe, Pat and Marty waiting on me in the entrance way.

Marty stood up when I walked into the floral wall papered entry way.

“Tik, I have been praying about you and have discerned that you are having some real struggles.”

I looked at Mike and then to Joe and Paul. “What in the heck was going on here?” I thought.

“Tik lets step into my office.  We are going to pray for you and help you get your life back on track,” Marty continued as he waved us all into his office.

I did not move but instead suggested, “Hey Marty, why don’t Paul and Joe hit the sack? I have thought about what happened earlier and would like to talk to you about it privately.”

Marty pushed his glasses up onto his nose. “Brother I spoke with Mike Caulk about this and we are in agreement that we need to pray over you and break this demonic strong hold over you, for you are in rebellion.”

So we stepped into the office and I sat down in a chair, and the others pulled their chairs up around me.

“Brother,” Marty intoned “You were in rebellion tonight and also exhibited the roots of bitterness. The old man was cut away and you are a new man for certain, but I have discerned demons in your attitude, demons that we must destroy or it will bring death.”

Paul opened his Bible and read a verse, I am too weary to look it up, but it was about the seeds of bitterness leading to death.

I said, “Look guys, I was not planning on getting into this in a group setting but I was simply worn out and tired… and I snapped at Marty. I am sorry, alright? I should not have snapped at you Marty, it was wrong.”

I continued, “But Marty, you might have asked me WHY I was late and maybe shown a little mercy, and maybe have even offered to help me set up the chairs.”

I said this in a reasonable tone, I had long since calmed down. But it was an idiotic thing to say.

Marty, Joe and Pat looked at one another then back at me.

Marty said, “This is EXACTLY what I am talking about Tik. You have a spirit of rebellion. Now you are blaming your sin on others. Your blaming YOUR temper tantrum on me failing to offer help shows that the seeds of bitterness are bearing fruit in your heart. You have obviously been mulling over some perceived  slights and it [the demon] is feeding on these thoughts.”

They proceeded to pepper me with questions:

“How was my prayer life, was I praying in the spirit?”

“Was I in the Word enough?”

”How much time was I spending studying?”

“Was I masturbating?”

I had to answer among other things that I  was, “Not praying as much when I first joined MCM. That I was to0 busy to pray as much as I wanted to. Blah blah blah!”

Joe chimed in, “But not too busy to play a game of football on Sunday afternoon.”

He was right.

Sunday afternoon I joined the brothers in playing in a football game organized by Miltie Toast and Mike Caulk during the fall and spring.  We went out to the drill field and proceeded to try break each other’s legs and collar bones while we slung a football around. This three to four hours after the church service on Sunday morning were the only relaxation I ever took.

They also discerned that I had a spirit of intellectualism because I countered their accusations with facts and made the mistake of mentioning that I was studying twenty-five to thirty hours a week in addition to my classroom time of seventeen hours a week.

“Guys,” I said, ”if you add it up that is 45 hours a week on school, twenty-five to thirty hours a week at Domino’s Pizza and another thirty hours at MCM not counting services. That does not include things like cooking dinner, cleaning up dishes at the communal dinner, or any other thing that pops up in the week that the ministry needs help with.

“That proves it Tik. You are not a good time manager. Why I have As and Bs and only study ten or twelve hours a week,” Joe said.

“But Joe, for goodness sake you are a business major and are taking 10 hours a term. No offense but my course load is a lot harder, I am taking 17 hours and engineering is a lot more strenuous than business.”

You might think that I would have learned to put a sock in it by now.

“Maybe you need to give it up for the Lord Brother and drop out of engineering school. I see a spirit of intellectualism in you as well,” Mike said in a threatening tone.

That did it.

I had to stop this madness or I would end up dropping out of engineering school and majoring in, say, basket weaving.

So I did the smart thing. I surrendered and confessed to the sins of rebellion, idleness, bitterness and mind worship and whatever else they forced me to confess. It was late, I was tired and in the back of my mind the threat of dropping out of engineering school pushed me into submission. I probably would have confessed to making love to the devil’s sister that evening if it would have gotten me out of Marty’s office and into my bed.

So they cast at least three demons out of me. When we finished it was 3:00 am just in time to get three hours of sleep and be up for a shepherding session with Marty’s sheep at 6:00 am.

But at least I was free of demons, right?

And lest you think I am exaggerating; what I just described was not unusual at MCM.

I can assure you it was typical.

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

*It is my understanding that these demon exorcising sessions became known as “hootah” sessions because when Bob Weiner started speaking in tongues, many times the first words out of his mouth was “Hootah… followed by some nonsensical chant, as in “hootah ala shaba randosomo.”

When Bob was casting demons out of brothers in the early days of MCM he would pray in tongues whilst casting out said demons with an utterance that began with “Hootah…”

Thus was born the name “Hootah session” or so the MCM legend had it.

#38 The Secret of Money and MCM

“Follow the money.” Deep Throat, a source quoted by the reporters who broke the Nixon White House Watergate scandal in the 1970s

The MCM Business Model

As I worked up the courage to start this blog one of the questions that I kept asking myself included this one: “What was behind MCM’s finances?”

I now believe that MCM had stumbled onto, probably by accident, a business model that generated cash for the ministry. Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think Joe, Bob or Bob Nolte (who never came to Auburn and who I never spent more than a few minutes with in five years) were NOT in it for money.

Oh, they loved the nice cars, and fine clothes and the private plane that flew them around the country. But I do not believe that money was the primary motivator for them.

Now, you might think that the tithes from the local churches or the special needs offerings that continually disrupted the local ministries, and the lives of the sheep, would be their main source of income.

But this was not the case. The special needs offerings were inevitably for capital expenses; a new meeting-house purchase, a plane purchase, a car purchased for some elder. But I do not believe that these offerings, as hard as they were on the sheep, went for operating expenses like the elder’s salaries.

I mentioned in a earlier post that there were four reasons that MLTS was so important to MCM, and, in that post, I covered three of those reasons.

The fourth and most important reason that MLTS was so critical to MCM was that it was a primary source of income for the elders.

Let’s take a moment at look at MTLS strictly as a business venture.

Registration at MLTS cost about $ 50/person. That would be the equal in 2006 dollars to roughly $ 150. MTLS at that point was held every four months during the late 70s and early 80s.

Or three times per year.

Eventually MLTS would move to an every six month schedule, but fees would go up.

With 3000 members paying $ 150 (in 2006 dollars)  every MLTs kicked out $ 450,000 (2006 equivalents) every four months or about $ 1,350,000/year in 2006 dollars.

This represented a HUGE cash and profit generator for MCM.

At each MLTS was a tape and book store hawking tapes of the speakers at MLTS and also of sermons from Bob, Joe and other MCM elders.

You may recall my destitute band, at our first MLTS, blew almost all of our money (pooled ) on a tape set containing teachings from Bob and Rose Weiner. At each MLTS the ministry sold hundreds of such boxed set teachings to the faithful.

S0 if we add-on the cut from the sales of books and tapes and other “impulse purchases” that occurred and Maranatha was generating, in 2006 dollars, in excess of $ 1,500,000/year from MLTS each year.

Using very high estimate for expenses, including speaking fees paid to  both MCM leaders and outside speakers,  I would submit the ministry brought in over$ 1,000,000 of net, tax-free (church, remember?) per year in 2006 dollars. Remember that $ 1,000,000 is free and clear and net of all expenses! And that does not include the $ 20,000- $ 30,000 in speakers honoraria paid each year to Joe and Bob from MLTS.

At the end of this post I have generated a pro-forma P/L for MLTS in 2006 dollars along with my estimates of cash flow and profits for the average ministry using my own estimates

So if we looked at MCM’s finances it was MLTS that made the profits and paid the way for Bob and Joe and their vision of taking over the world.

To reiterate, in terms of a business model, MCM hosted and made money from Christian Seminars.

Now the big risk, in holding concerts and seminars, or running a utility or airline for that matter, are the high fixed costs involved. If I rent an auditorium including the people to keep it open etc. I have essentially the same cost whether ten people attend or one hundred do. So I might spend $ 10,000 to rent a hall for a night and only have 20 people paying $ 100 each to attend. In this case I lose $ 8,000.

But once I go beyond this fixed cost I make tons of money. Let’s say I rent a hall for $10,000 and I have 1,000 people show up and pay $ 20/head. Now my revenue is $ 20,000 but my fixed costs of $ 10,000 have not changed one bit.

But MCM had none of the “fill the seminar” risks that I just outlined. Every member HAD to attend MLTS. So MCM knew exactly how big (and how much to spend) on an auditorium and bam- they made money every time.

If you throw the tape and book profits on top of this you can see why MLTS was a money machine!

MCM had a cannot lose money-maker in MLTS as long as they could keep the number of members up and control the flock so that they wanted, or had to, attend.

For the profits for MCM were certainly not with the struggling campus ministries that depended on the tithes and offerings of poor students like me and a few others with full-time jobs.

This MCM was dependent on MLTS for funding and any disruption to MLTS would quickly crater their cash starved enterprise.

Don’t get the idea though the MCM did not squeeze every nickel beyond MLTS from these poor students.

The tithes and offerings covered staff overhead and such.

The campus ministries themselves barely broke even with tithes just covering pastor’s salaries and the “houses and meeting places” being funded by rents charged to the single brothers.

Please see addendum number two for a pro-forma P/L for an “average” campus ministry using what I believe very reasonable and conservative estimates.

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

It is not an exaggeration to say that all the sufferings of the sheep happened so a group that hosted Christian Seminars could have guaranteed profits and cash flows.

***************
Addendum # 1
A Financial Analysis of MLTS- Pro-forma Profit and Loss for 1978

I will use 2006 equivalent dollars in this analysis, these are “ball park estimates” for one MLTS are based on my recollections and estimates. Please note that from 1978-1982 three seminars were held per year according to my notes.

Revenue from registration fees (3000 X $ 150) $ 450,000
Revenue from purchases (estimates) $ 25,000
Rebate from travel agents (3000X $ 20) $ 60,000

Total Revenue /MLTS $ 535,000 or $ 1,605,000/annually

Expenses
Speakers Fees (4 X $ 12,500) $ 50,000
Auditorium Rental $ 50,000
Audio/Stage Personnel Expenses $ 10,000
Travel Expense for Staff and Speakers $ 15,000
Flowers, banners etc etc $ 15,000
Miscellaneous $ 10,000

Total Expenses/MLTS $ 150,000

Net Profit $ 385,000 or $ 1,115,000
Or 71% net profit as a % of revenue

Note: Joe Smith and Bob Weiner would be paid $ 12,500 in speaker’s fee according to these estimates.

All travel reimbursed for speakers and MCM corporate staff I believe .

These expense estimates are based on my work in the medical industry in setting up conference and seminars.

At this time MCM was hosting three MLTS per year so the net profit in 2006 dollars would have been about $ 1,155,000.

Note that Joe Smith and Bob Weiner, using these assumptions, would have netted $ 37,500 each in personal income from speaking fees in 2006 dollars.

Addendum # 2
Estimated P/L for the Auburn Ministry for 1979

For comparative purposes I will use 2006 dollar equivalents. This analysis is based on my best estimates for the ministry which I believe to be conservative. It must be also taken into consideration that the Auburn Ministry was one of the more “well off” ministries in MCM.

Assumptions:
130 members
Average income per member in FY 2006 $ 20,000/year
Tithes per member: $ 2,000/year
Total of tithes: $ 260,000/year
Special Offerings per member: $ 200/year
Total Special Offerings: $ 26,000/year
Rent per single brother: $ 2,550/year
Total Rent from 20 brothers: $ 51,000/year

1979 Proforma Profit and Loss Estimates Auburn MCM using 2006 Dollars

Total Tithes and Special offerings $ 325,000
Rent from brothers $ 51,000

Total Income: $ 376,000

Mortgage $ 46,000
Utilities $ 14,000
Repair Reserve $ 8,000
Salaries/benefits $ 170,000
Payback of startup costs $ 10,000
Promotional Outreach Effort $ 20,000
Misc. $ 10,000
Benevolence $ 5,000
Tithe to HQ $ 26,000
Special Offering Repatriation $ 26,000

Total Expenses $ 374,000

Net Profit $ 2,000

Notes:
The cash flow back to HQ is the sum of:
A. Payback of startup costs: $ 10,000
B. Tithes to HQ $ 26,000
C. Special offerings $ 26,000

Total cash to HQ $ 62,000

Discussion

Cash Flow from the Ministry sites
If Auburn represented a “typical ministry” then the total cash flow in 1978 from 26 sites back to MCM from the sites would have been:

26 X $ 62,000= $ 1,612,000 = cash flow back to MCM from the individual ministries in 2006 dollars/ year

This cash flow was used to pay all overhead costs, salaries, travel, fundraising, publicity, startup funding etc. and my estimates are that this overhead burden was equal to at least 51%.

Net “profit from Ministry sites would equal $ 789,000 in 1006 dollars

Cash Flows from MLTS in 1979

$ 1,605,000/year
Profit for 1979 MLTS:
$ 1,115,000 profit for MLTS in 1978

Conclusions:

MLTS contributed 60% of “net” profits to MCM in the late 1970s
The campus ministries provided the ready-made and must attend  audience for MLTS the money seminars put on by MCM.

Additionally the Campus Ministries provided cash flows to cover corporate overhead etc. and to bail out Corporate MCM in time of crisis.

Finally the Campus Ministries provided a “farm league” for future evangelists and pastors who would be sent out to recruit and provide yet more “must attend” people for MLTS.

#37 Abuse: Being Drained By The Ministry

“Truth is the daughter of time, not of power.”
Sir Francis Bacon

“Now make your fist into a ball, there you go, okay, I can see that vein now…very good Mr. Tok.”

The nurse in the white coat swabbed my arm with alcohol and then massaged my bulging forearm vein with her gloved finger.

She pulled a very long sharp, hollow needle out of a sterile pouch and quickly stuck it into my bulging vein. The clear plastic tube fitted onto the needle was attached to a clear plastic bag.

And that clear bag started quickly filling with my warm crimson blood.

The needle and the catheter tugged on my arm, stinging me with cold while my chest ached in rhythm with the beat of my heart beat.

Turning my head to the right I saw another fifteen donors laying on tables row on row. Most of them, with the exception of Patrick a brother from MCM, were in their early sixties and had the washed out look of winos or derelicts.

It was early June 1979.

I had gotten the idea of selling my plasma from Patrick in early March 1979. That night Mike Caulk, our pastor, walked up to the podium during one of our week night fellowship meetings with a grim expression on his face

“Brothers and sisters the Devil is attacking the Ministry,” he said slowly.

A low murmur ran through the crowd. I wondered what this attack was, was someone ill?  Had there been a fire at one of the ministries? We, all 150 brothers and sisters, waited expectantly and anxiously as Mike looked us over stone faced.

“God, as you all know, told the elders in January that the Ministry needed to replace the old single engine ministry airplane.” [This was a single engine Cessna 210 that flew Bob, the top elders and the Praise Band from used to fly from  site to site].

I remembered that fundraising effort clearly.

There had been innumerable bake sales, car washes and door to door knockings where we carried buckets labeled MCM Christian Relief Fund to try to get people to throw money at MCM in the near freezing February weather for the new plane.

We had also staged a walkathon entitled Evangelistic Explosion 1978 to raise money for this new twin-engine airplane, a Piper Aerostar (new to MCM but purchased used).

I actually kicked in about $150 from my stash of $400 from my savings. At this point my savings were down to $ 250. This after entering MCM with almost $ 900 in the bank in November (that is about $ 2,700 in 2006 dollars).

I was barely holding my own with expenses; even  working 25 hours in the Pizza joint/week and even with the DOT grant that Dr. Carl had made magically appear.

All of this ran through my mind as the congregation waited for Mike Caulk to continue. He slowly shuffled through a stapled stack of printed papers that lay on the podium.

Then, looking up, Mike cleared his throat and said, “We found out yesterday that a piston cracked on one of the engines in the new plane. And the ministry plane is now grounded.”

He paused and said, raising his baritone voice to an almost shout, “Satan is attacking us in the midst of our success. But God will triumph here and we, his Green Berets, will answer His call.  The Ministry as a whole must raise $ 75,000 to cover the costs of replacing the engine by mid April. I am counting on the Auburn ministry to come through in a strong way, as usual.”

I sat with my mouth hanging open in disbelief as Mike outlined a series of fundraising efforts including a special offering and urged us all to give sacrificially that night.

I remembered the all-out effort to raise money for the new twin-engine plane in February; how almost every waking hour, not devoted to school, work, or the normal frenetic MCM activities had been devoted to getting money out of the community and out of our own pockets no matter what.

At that time Mike explained to us how this new larger and faster plane would enable the leadership to spend more time ministering. It would speed the work of evangelizing the world; it would carry more people and more equipment for the Lord. That the plane was a critical part of the plan to bring God’s Kingdom on earth in our lifetime.

But the cost of this new plane had never been mentioned.

I had never considered what this cost meant to all of us and the drain it imposed on our finances. And now this newly purchased ( apparently with no warranty) plane needed $ 75,000 of work to keep it flying.

Even now $ 75,000 to repair an engine is a large chunk of money and equal to  $175,000 in 2006 dollars. This seemed a huge sum to all of us in the Auburn ministry.

And it was.

And this amount, mind you, was on top of the money MCM had raised to buy this  two-engined plane just four weeks ago to tune of $ 300,000 (or almost a million dollars in 2006).

I remember thinking all of this but the thought went nowhere as I swatted it down.

Did MCM REALLY need a plane?

At the time MCM had about ~30 ministry sites and ~4,000 members. Campus Crusade dwarfed MCM in size yet CCC has never had a corporate plane much less a two engine twelve seater. But no one, including me, thought to ask that question, or maybe dared to ask it.

So the elders cracked the whip and we went into high gear fundraising mode.

I did not really have time to take part in the fundraisers; I never had any time but I was going to have to make time it seemed.

Marty told the sight single brothers in our shepherding group, “I expect the single brothers to lead the way here, the Auburn Ministry has committed to send in $ 5,000 (the equivalent of  15,000 in 2006) for this need.” He looked over the glasses that had dropped down his nose, sighed and continued, “And I am counting on each of you to bring in at least $200; we single brothers are the spear point of God’s Army.”

And this money had to be raised by by mid-April; a date that was less than four weeks away.

Now with my savings down to just $ 250, and my time, as I have already told you, stretched to the breaking point, I did not see how I could make this happen.

I had already crimped my studies for the marathon of fundraisers to buy the plane in February and my grades showed it. And to make my quota ($ 300) for the special needs offering for the  plane  I had thrown in $100 from my dwindling bank account.

I would flunk out of school if I was not careful, or be unable to pay my bills, or both.

But one night, just after this fundraising pep talk , Patrick, my roommate, let me in on his secret and it seemed like an answer to my prayers.

And that is why I was laying on a clinic table watching two pints of my blood drain into the bag. The bag was full now.

My arm really hurt now and I was chilling.

“Okay honey,” said the nurse who walked up and fingered the two pint bag of my warm blood,“I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

She unhooked the bag from the catheter but left the needle and the tube hanging from my arm.

She put the bag containing my blood in a centrifuge that sat on a counter a couple of feet from the table I lay on. Soon it started whirling around with the sound of a rusty mixer. In about two minutes the red corpuscles of my blood had been separated from the yellow/clear plasma in the bag.

She drained the yellow plasma out of the bag into a clear bottle, wrote on a label attached to it, and then brought the bag containing my red blood cells back to the chair. Then she re-attached this blood filled bag to the catheter still hanging from my arm.  She lifted the bag onto a pole and the blood, minus the removed plasma, starting draining back into my arm.

The cold blood hurt my arm as it streamed back in my body. It continued to hurt.

This part always hurt.

The rules of the plasma bank were that you could give plasma once per week. It paid $ 25 per drain. That was equal to $75 in 2006 money.

But Patrick and I were gaming the system.

For there was one blood/plasma center in Auburn and another one in Opelika, a town about 15 miles away. Patrick had a beat up Chevy and on Monday we would hop in his car and donate plasma in Opelika and then, on Thursday, we would walk to the center in Auburn to donate plasma.

So we doubled the amount we could earn despite the prohibition on more than one plasma donation per week.

In two hours total I could earn $ 50 per week ($150 in 2006 dollars).

But there was a drawback.

I started getting sick.

I could not recall having been sick enough to take to my bed since I was a little kid. I had begun doing this in March (three months) and ago I started being sick a lot.

First it was a bad cold, which I could not shake; that turned into bronchitis, then it was the flu. Then there were the headaches and I also found myself tired all the time.

But my plasma brought in about $ 200/month; the equivalent of $ 600/month in 2006 dollars.

This was equal to what I earned in slinging pizza in a month so it doubled my income. I banked some of this extra money replenishing my savings account; but about half of it went into the ministry offering plate or for the special needs offering that popped up regularly.

Like the plea to fund the repair to MCM’s twin-engine plane in April described above.

Or the plea the next month (May) to purchase a $ 200,000 meeting house for the new MCM planting in Argentina where apparently God had James Thomas speaking fluent Spanish after one week on site.

Well, we found out in April of 1979 that Auburn had once again exceeded its special needs offering goal by a huge margin and that MCM had been able to replace the blown aircraft engine.

Mike Caulk seemed very pleased and relieved

For my part I had thrown about $ 300 into the special offering for the plane, easily exceeding my required fund-raising quota of $ 200; most of this coming from my plasma money.

The entire ministry had been flogged for cash so that Bob and Joe would not have to fly commercial. I had literally been drained for some of this money.

Well, my grades and finances reached their nadir during  Spring term 1979 as I barely eked out a “2.0” C grade average. But that was enough, at least, to hold my term to term tuition DOT grant in place.

My engineering scholarship was gone forever with two consecutive terms of  grades below the required B average .

Lost.

With my work schedule, my rigorous engineering course of studies and my ministry efforts I also found myself permanently exhausted. And donating four pints of plasma a week was not helping me either.

I was sick and tired all the time.

#31 Kindness Is Shown Me

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

The large brown envelope addressed to me arrived in the mail at the Maranatha House on December 20th, 1978 during Christmas Break.

It lay there with its University of Auburn postal markings in the mail bin.

I was a nightmare come true for me.

And it would take me ten minutes to work up the courage to open it.

The Auburn MCM leadership, since I was such a “new baby” Christian, thought that it would be best if I stayed at Auburn during Christmas break. This rather than going home to work at my normal United Parcel Service (UPS) Christmas job in Birmingham.

This was the Christmas UPS student work program that paired students with regular UPS deliverymen to get all the Christmas packages and goodies out on time. It was an 80/hours per week job for three weeks in between fall and winter term.

The $ 8.00/hour pay was equal to $ 20/hour in 2006 dollars which was good money for a college kid in the US. I had gotten the UPS Christmas job two years ago after my Big Brother in the frat, Bill, with UPS connections, had recommended me and you might imagine that these Christmas jobs were coveted by students. I could clear almost $ 1,200 or about the equivalent of $ 3,600 in 2006  during the break.

It was a nice way to replenish my usually depleted bank account.

But, nonetheless, I walked away from that lucrative UPS job during the 1978 Christmas break to stay at MCM in Auburn in order, in the words of Marty, my shepherd, “To strengthen my faith.”

My shepherd, Marty, had then prayed with me about finding work to pay my way at Auburn.

You may remember that I had lost, or left (depending on your view of things), my frat job in early November. It had provided me with free room and board and was worth about $ 2,400/year in 1978 or about $ 8,000 a year in 2006.

It had been decided by my shepherd, and two of the older single brothers, that one of the jobs I had applied for in early December, slinging pizza, was a good once since I could work all day Saturday and every weekday night.

This work schedule meant that I could make all the MCM meetings and services (which occurred on Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, and Sunday morning and Sunday night) with little outside interference.

The pizza job hours were from 9:30 pm- 12:30 am five nights, from Monday to Friday, each week. I would get home about 1:00 am each weekday night.

On Saturdays I would work eleven hours from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Sundays I would have off.

I would work about 25 hours per week.

I could study early in the afternoon and Saturday morning, or so this theory went. I would go to school during the day as usual.

The pizza job paid $ 2.25/hour (minimum wage in 1978) or about $ 5.75/hour in 2006 terms. Plus all the pizza I could eat and a red doughboy hat.

It meant that I was pulling down about $55 a week in wages.

With all that on my mind, there I was after “mail call” looking at a brown envelope with my name on it from my scholarship source “Tau Beta Pi”. My chest felt heavy. I already knew what it contained.

And this took no gift of prophecy on my part.

I opened the large brown envelope and looked at the letter inside it.

It was the kind that got blown out by the old fashioned “clackety clack” main frame teletypes of the 70s.

It read:

Dear Scholarship Recipient:

We regret to inform you that the Grade Point Average (GPA) you earned in the core engineering courses taken during the FALL QUARTER 1978 fell below the minimum 3.0 GPA requirements for scholarship maintenance.

Because of your failure to meet this GPA minimum requirement your scholarship has been temporarily revoked for Winter Quarter 1978 and your scholarship is now placed on probationary status.

In order for your scholarship to be reinstated you must achieve a GPA of 3.0 greater during Winter Quarter 1979.

If a GPA of 3.0 in core engineering courses is not achieved in Winter Quarter 1979 your scholarship will be permanently revoked.

Please be advised that a minimum core course load of 15 hours, excluding laboratory work, must be maintained each quarter for scholarship eligibility.

Please contact the office of admission and scholarships at the School of Engineering if you have any questions or if you think that this notice has been sent in error.”

I sat down in a chair with my head in my hands.

That scholarship paid tuition and books and was worth about $ 2,400 per term or $ 4,800/year in 1978. That would equal about $ 15,000 per year in 2006 dollars.

This was not an insignificant sum for a poor college student like me.

Not only had I lost my free room and board job at the Frat, now I had also managed to lose the other hidden part of my income at Auburn: my scholarship.

I was being bankrupted and my grade point average was being destroyed as an added bonus.

I am not ashamed to admit, that although I knew that this letter was on its way to me, I started crying.

I could not see my way clear. My finances and grades were both disasters now. There had never been room for much error in either; my shoe string finances, and the heavy course load required in engineering school, made my scholastic existence problematic at best.

On the financial side my new pizza job would clear about $ 200/month after taxes. The rent and food at the Maranatha House cost me about $ 180/month and I would tithe another $ 20/month.

Just enough money would come in to get by if I worked a double job in the summer, and, rebuilt my savings during that period.

Of course I could only make it if I contributed nothing to the routine and ongoing Maranatha special offerings (more about that later) that were above, and beyond, the required 10% income tithe that I was expected, and required, to contribute to the ministry.

Fortunately, I still had about $ 400 in the bank despite the fact that I had blown about $ 125 at MLTS last month. I had also thrown another $ 100 into the offering plate of the Auburn Ministry during November for some special request from MCM HQ; what it was now eludes me.

Perhaps I could land yet another job, a second job, to pay tuition. But then when would I study if I did this?

Oh, and apart from the time required for my pizza job, there was the time required for all of my assigned duties MCM and the official MCM meetings. [Please see the appendix at the end of this Part for my “official” MCM schedule for the first week of January 1978].

The total hours of official MCM meetings and duties ate up about 18 hours of my time per week.

My assigned duties would rotate weekly; perhaps I would have to clean all of the bathrooms, or perhaps I had to do the lawn and rake the leaves, perhaps I had to clean all of the common areas, or, perhaps it was my turn to set up and take down for the meetings. It was all the same: about 18-20 hours of labor for MCM per week as a single brother.

But just looking at this schedule of “official MCM duties and meetings” did not really tell the whole tale.

Why? Because it excluded the following types of requests which happened weekly, and even daily:

Brother we have two sisters moving in can you help load and unload the truck?”
or
Brother I sense you are having a tough time and need some deliverance- let’s get together” [Get ready for a two hour deliverance session” hootah”-the thought of these deliverance sessions alone would keep us “on the reservation”, so to speak]
or
Tik, This brother needs some deliverance are you available?” [this meant two hours of praying and casting out demons but at least some other poor sucker was on the hootah session hot seat and not me]
or
The Band is going on a gig can you load the van up?”
or
This week we are going to do the service on the front lawn of the student center lets load all of the chairs and equipment, oh and could you run back to the house we forgot the programs and flyers?”
or
We need these posters put up in all of the male dorms and frat houses, can you do it?”
or
We are sending a SWAT team in to help open up the South Carolina/Florida State/GA Tech ministry- can you miss a weekend of work and drive back all night Sunday so you can start the week with no sleep?”
or
“As a gift to the leadership lets imitate Jesus and wash and wax all their cars or give them a special gift to honor them”

It was almost impossible to say no to these requests without being labeled as “selfish”, “world centered”, “putting yourself above others”, “not having a servants spirit”,  or being labeled has having a “spirit of laziness”, or being infected with “worldly concerns”, or the other phrases in MCM’s special language.

Not doing this stuff would retard whatever chance you might have of going into the ministry full time, or at the very least, of being seen as an over-comer’ by the leadership.

Well I’ll stop this line of writing before I start retching up my lunch.

Okay, I am back and feeling a bit better now.

Yikes…I now see that I was in such a hurry writing the last paragraph that I forgot to include other optional things like the campus blitz days on Saturdays where we would go two by two witnessing, handing out tracts on campus for a couple of hours;

or
standing outside the arena before, during, and after basketball games handing out tracts;

or
starting front clubs at the university such as the Fellowship of Christian Students that was really a bait and switch scheme to get students into MCM;

or

the one thousand and one other things that helped market and sell MCM to the unsuspecting and ensnare fellow students; things which I have, thankfully, blanked out of my mind.

When you add in all of this busy work  the time commitment for MCM was  50 hours/week.

All right; enough already. I am about to start going crazy again.

As I said, the work at the pizza shop would consume 25 hours per week of my time.

And, of course, lest I forget, there was that little bitty thing we called engineering school.

I was scheduled to take 17 hours of class next quarter in engineering school.

As I have told you, the rule of thumb was about 1.5 hours of studying for each hour of class work. Total time for school and study should have been about 45 hours a week if there was any hope of making my grades.

So if one was brave enough to add it up the time required for school, work, and MCM activities totaled close to 125 hours per week.

For those of you still with me that is about 18 hours a day. Was sleep required?

I hoped not because this schedule showed I was running out of time to do even that.

And like I said I was running out of money too.

So I went to see the Marty, my shepherd.

He was my spiritual guardian, right?

The person who was my overseer, my big brother in the Lord, the one who would supply me advice and prayer and counsel and hold me accountable for the things of God and my  Christian walk  in this world.

Yeah, him. That one. As you can see Christ is still working on my attitude towards him.

I don’t claim to be perfect.

So I got with Marty that afternoon and laid out my time and finance problems. I showed him the letter from Tau Beta Pi putting me on probation, taking away my winter quarter scholarship, and threatening to permanently cancel my scholarship if my grades did not get back on track.

I also explained the time problem of 19 hours a day in a 24 hour day, the 19 hours to keep up with work, MCM requirements and school.

“Marty, I can’t see how this is going to work I am just overloaded,” I said, sniffling back tears.

“Brother, you are caught up in the concerns of the world, God will supply everything if you will lay it all before him, lay down your cares.”

He continued, giving me his over the glasses quizzical, “I know best, just relax,” look that came naturally to him.

“Perhaps, Tik, God is speaking to you. I think that maybe He is telling you that you need to lay down your ambition to be an engineer. And we (who was the “we” he was speaking of????) think that you have a ‘spirit of ambition’. This spirit needs to be broken. One way to break it would be to take a couple of quarters off from school, spend time building your faith, perhaps get a second job to get on your feet financially. You are being burdened by this worldly spirit of ambition. You may need to lay it aside for God.”

“Besides, we know that God has you destined for full time ministry,” he said as he sat back and waited for my reaction.

His tone of voice was very warm as he put his arm around my shoulder.

He continued to look over his glasses as we sat there for a minute in dead silence, side by side.

Truthfully at that point Marty’s suggestion of dropping out sounded appealing.

The money was not there to go back to school; at least not right now.

And the time was not there to go to school AND hold down two jobs. Not with my commitment to the activities and kingdom work for MCM.

And there was that issue of the worldly spirit of ambition.

I really did want to be successful in all that I did. I was always stretching myself and overreaching- or so it seemed. Maybe I did need to, “Lay down,” this, “worldly ambition,” this desire to succeed.

BTW: “Lay it down translates” into give it up as a show of submission to MCM. [More on MCM’s special language and the purpose of such a language in sociological cults will be written about in a future post by Tikie: the Editors]

Besides, hadn’t I heard a prophetic utterance from the head prophet Joe Smith, the main prophet of MCM himself, that I WOULD go into full time ministry and lead many thousands into the kingdom just last month?

God Himself had spoken directly through Joe Smith that I would be one of the mighty men of God, right?

If that meant laying down the spirit of ambition, in order to achieve this worthy goal of being God’s man, shouldn’t I do what Marty was suggesting and drop out of school for a while?

All of the pressure I was feeling would go away if I dropped out of school.

Juggling the studying, the working, the keeping up with my MCM duties and my study of the faith would all become easier if I did this.

If I dropped out of school I could concentrate on nothing but the kingdom and earning money. It would almost be a “spiritual sabbatical; giving it all over to God and the leaders of MCM, wouldn’t it?

But the old Tik, the Tik that is writing this blog, that old Tik, was stirring.

Well guess what?

Despite everything that had happened over the last three months he was still struggling to keep me, the New MCM Tik, from completely destroying my life and my future.

Oh the Old Tik was hardly conscious at this point, bound and gagged in that little closet in the back of my mind. He, the Old Tik, the real Tik, was surrounded  and tied up and gagged by a bunch goofy doctrines, weird sights, and strange utterances I had heard, and seen, over the last three months.

So far I had been able to almost completely ignore him and my doubts.

But somehow that rotten old Tik, that sinning worldly Tik, that Tik that had begged me not to walk away from Sheila,  on that bitterly cold December afternoon, shook off the bonds that had him tied and gagged in that closet in my mind.

And that rotten old Tik through a gargantuan effort of will, managed to get his hands, temporarily, back onto the controls of my life that day.

And I thank God Almighty that somehow that rotten old worldly ambitious Tik got loose and ran amok that afternoon.

Now, I had already learned already that it was not wise to disagree straight away with any recommendations of the leadership, especially those of your personal shepherd.

Despite Marty’s concerned manner and warm tone that afternoon, I knew that if I disagreed with him openly, or challenged him at all, he would immediately harden his positions and could make me do whatever he was suggesting.

But I also knew that the particular MCM phrase Mike had used that,  “Perhaps God is telling you,” meant that Marty, at least for the time being, had not decided on the final course I should take.

Not yet anyway.

It was a small opening and I had to act quickly to take advantage of it.

Now to be sure if he had uttered the phrase, “God is speaking to me,” or , “God has given us/you/me a word,” then any argument to the contrary, no matter how rational, was useless.

For then I would risk being labeled rebellious and seen as  possibly being influenced by some sort of spirit or demon if I challenged him on this word or direction for my life.

And if I continued in my resistance to this word then I would be hauled before Mike and Missy Caulk our pastors for the MCM crime of  rebellion against God. It was clear that those sheep who engaged in such arguments with their shepherds, or who exhibited any signs of independent thinking, apart from the advice of the leadership, would be hampered in their spiritual growth.

It would signal that they were not ready move up in God’s Green Berets and take on more responsibility. This, by the way, was especially true for women. [Editor’s note: We have a post coming up where Tikie writes about the hierarchy and the treatment of women in MCM]

Any challenge or resistance to the leadership could even lead to expulsion, apostasy, shunning, and being given over to Satan.

Looking back on this twenty plus years later it is really hard to believe that this is how things worked at MCM- but it is the truth!

So, knowing that any DIRECT disagreement with Marty would be counterproductive, I said the magic words, in MCM’s  special language that I was mastering.

The words used by sheep at MCM when they were cornered, “Brother let me pray about it.”

This phrase was the equivalent of saying, “Abracadabra ala kazam,” because it was like a special spell that would temporarily halt a MCM shepherd, or elder, in their tracks.”

But it only would engender a temporary halt.

Now I knew that he would not, and could NOT, come after me after I uttered those words. Nor could he force a decision on me, well, not immediately, anyway. Because I  had said I was seeking God’s will for my life. No one could argue with that. At least not right away.

After our counseling session I walked outside into the cold windy December afternoon.

The sun was setting in the cobalt blue winter sky as I plopped down on a bench across the street from the Maranatha House on East Magnolia Avenue.

Now the old Tik,  reveling in his temporary freedom, was thinking, “Now let’s see…exactly WHY are you here at Auburn? And what is the PRIMARY purpose that brought you here?’

Well the answer was pretty obvious to the old Tik :

I was not at Auburn to work in a pizza joint.

I was not at Auburn to be in a frat.

I was not at Auburn to socialize.

My primary purpose at Auburn was NOT to proselytize for MCM and build Bob Weiner’s Kingdom.

I was PRIMARILY here at Auburn for ONE thing:

I was at Auburn University to get an education and my degree and improve my situation so I could provide a good living and home for my future wife (whom I had not met) and my, as yet, unborn children.

Makes me a genius, huh?

Well I can tell you that many MCMer’s never figured that out. They did not graduate from college, and post MCM blow up, or after they crawled away from MCM, or were given the boot for some sin, they had nothing to fall back on.

Well that day the Old Tik was thinking  through all of this very carefully.  I knew very well what had happened to my friends and frat brothers who had gotten in trouble and dropped out for a quarter or two.

Vic, one of my good friends had done so last year. He had gotten a job with AlaGasCo as a utility man making $ 15,000 a year ($ 40,000 in today’s dollars) for just a term or two.

But once a person got used to that kind of money it was hard to go back to being a poor student. Vic never returned to school.

In fact, with the exception of Ricky, one of my converts to MCM (and a former frat brother), I had never known anyone to come back to school and complete their education once they bailed out…. even if they thought they would leave for a short time  to get their head back together.

Sp there I sat on the bench, shivering in the December cold wind, thinking this all through.

I had no one to talk to about this my financial and academic problems, not anyone who could offer me advice, other than Marty; or the leadership of MCM at Auburn.

And I, the Old Tik did not like the line of MCM thinking regarding my schooling if you haven’t figured that out yet.

But who else could I turn to?

I had pretty much told my parents to shove off. There was no way I was going to reach out to them. I would not have them see me crawling back to them.

Mom [my Frat RA] and I had parted ways… Sheila… nah, I had destroyed that relationship…my Big Brother in the frat, a graduate student in chemistry, Bill, would have been a good choice; but I had sissy slapped him and called him hell bound… Chris at the BSU- no way could I talk to him…not after calling him a “pretend” Christian and basically telling him to stick it. Going to him would be as bad as crawling back to my parents. Maybe worse.

Except for the brothers and elders at MCM I had no one to turn to, it seemed.

Then who else could help me?

For about ten minutes I sat there in the whistling December wind, and despite what I had told Marty earlier, you can see that not much praying happened.

Only hard thinking, problem solving thinking, if you will, on my part.

Then I had a thought.

It was one that both scared me and also gave me hope.

I thought of the one person I could seek out for advice and help.

Dr. Carl.

My engineering professor and advisor.

Remember him?

Sure, he was a real hard ass, and pretty much an all-around jackass (what you saw was what you got) but he was a straight shooter, and, I knew in my heart, despite all of his efforts to appear hard and gruff, that inside he really cared deeply about his students and graduate assistants.

He had talked me into coming into the particular major I had chosen two years ago. He had helped me get that scholarship that kept me in school.

And I knew he cared about me.

School was out, but Dr. Carl had a couple of grant programs ongoing, and I was pretty sure that he and his grad students would probably be working on these projects during the break.

Life takes many turns and twists as you know.

There is a great book  called the Tipping Point which discusses how the big things in our lives, and in our society, many times hinge on what, at the time, appear to be small and insignificant decisions.

One example of a small decision that changed the course of my life, and the lives of at least one hundred and fifty other people, was my decision to spend time with Ellen and Randy and to invite the Praise Band and Bob Weiner to my frat House in October 1978.

And another example of this was  the decision I made, on that cold December afternoon in 1978, to seek out Dr. Carl for advice.

It was a decision that reverberates in my life even today as I type this on my Dell laptop, sitting in an American Airlines Boeing 737, winging my way cross country on this warm sunny May afternoon in 2006.

Consciously or not I (the “old Tik”, that is) was seeking guidance from someone who had nothing to gain or lose  from the decision I was facing.

I was looking for someone who would counsel me impartially; someone who I knew would try to give me advice that they believed would best for me and my future.

I should mention, by the way, that Dr. Carl was, and is (for we still talk on occasion), a self- proclaimed agnostic.

Not quite an atheist, but almost one.

As I headed up the steps of Ramsey Hall I knew I was in luck. Because I could see the cheap florescent lights on in Dr. Carl’s office. It  told me he was working that afternoon.

Dr. Carl was a genius and had been one of the lead engineers, right out of grad school, on the US Apollo Lunar Program in the late 1960s. When that had dried up he had gotten his PhD from Purdue University and had now been at Auburn about ten years.

His specialty was now nuclear structures.

He was at his desk wearing his favorite green cardigan sweater. Yes, the kind with leather patches on the elbows that you see profs wear in the movies.

He looked up at me as I walked in.

“Mr. Tok, what are you doing here? I thought you would be in Birmingham helping Santa and his elves deliver Christmas goodies (he knew about my usual Christmas gig with UPS).

“Dr. Carl. I have a serious problem.”

“I should say so after your surprisingly abysmal academic performance this past quarter. Pull up a chair Mr. Tok.”

He said this while brushing his long hair out of his face. He closed the book he was taking notes in and his pony tail swung behind him as he turned to face me.

“Well, I am not here to talk about the problem with my grades last quarter… but another problem,” I said.

He put folded his arms into a prayer position and cradled his chin in his hands.

“Okay- shoot… tell me what’s the matter?”

“I have a sudden money problem. I left the frat and lost my free room and board that went with it.”

“Good decision,” he said, “nothing but a nest of rats in that frat house anyway. Terrible place to live and too many distractions for a good student like you. Well done.”

“And now I got this.” I pushed the letter about the scholarship loss across his desk.

He looked at it for a moment.

“Hmmmmmmmm,” he murmured.

”You have to get your grades up…and you can…if you apply yourself.” he said looking up at me, his bangs hanging down just over his eyebrows.

He pushed his hair back over his forehead ; crossing his arms behind his neck and cradling his head with his hands.

“I know, and I am going to do better next quarter, but… well, I am out of money… and I can’t pay tuition in January. It’s that simple.”

“I see, let me think about this for a second Mr. Tok.”

He sat there for a moment and leaned back. He then turned in his chair and stared out of the second floor window to the street below where the last leaves of autumn whirled down Magnolia Street like dervishes.

After a moment he turned, picked up his telephone, and dialed a number.

“Bertha, hey it’s me Dick down here in Nukes. Hey, I have a good student of mine, a good kid, who is in a bit of trouble and can’t pay tuition, scholarship trouble, you know what I am talking about… eh?”

He paused listening into the handset.

“Okay, how do we look on those DOT grants that came through last week?”

“No, he is here, yep, uh huh…Tik Tok is his name…no I have a couple of forms here…uh huh… yep… okay then… what time?…okay, thanks Bertha.”

He hung up.

“Okay Mr. Tok, it’s your lucky day. That was Bertha in the bursar’s office. We have three DOT engineering grants that just came through last week. Two are already spoken for but one is still available for any student that we choose to recommend.”

“What is a DOT grant?” I asked.

“Free government money… courtesy of the Department of Transportation and Uncle Sam,” he said as he laughed. “Graft, handouts, hell; call it want you want… I call it tuition money for the needy!”

“Now these grants don’t have the cache of a Tau Beta Pi scholarship, nor are they guaranteed (my scholarship was backed by the Tau Beta Pi Endowment and as long as I made my grades I got the money). They just come in over the transom, so to speak, usually at the end of the term, if they come at all.”

He reached into his drawer and pulled out a triplicate form.

“We just got three grants each for the winter and spring terms and one has not been spoken for. Like I said I don’t know when and if we will get any more… and in fact we may never get another one!”

He continued, “It works like this. You have to get two faculty members in your college to recommend you. I have a form here and Ralph (he meant Dr. Jenkins in Hydraulics, another one of my profs) will sign this with me. Our signatures on the form will approve you for the DOT grant. You get your transcripts from the registrar’s office and take them with this signed completed grant application to the bursar’s office to Bertha Jones. And, voila, you get your tuition paid, courtesy of Uncle Sam.”

He paused, “As long as you maintain a “C” average your tuition is at least covered for the next two terms.”

I could not believe it.

This hard ass of a guy, and one of the toughest profs in the school of engineering, was doing me the favor of a life time.

And he wasn’t even a Christian. Note my thinking with the word: even.

UGH!

“Dr. Carl, I don’t even know what to say… thanks, thank you, THANK YOU!”

I stood up and walked over to give him a hug I was so overcome with emotion.

“That’s Okay, Mr. Tok.” He waved me off. “Just consider it a Christmas present.”

Merry Christmas Mr. Tok!”

Merry Christmas Dr. Carl.”

Appendix:

Tik”s Schedule for the first week of January 1979 with regards to MCM “official meetings” and duties assigned by Marty his shepherd and administrator of the Auburn Church:

Sunday
am- Meeting set up
am-single brothers Bible Study
am- morning worship service
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Monday
am- Dicipleship group
pm- kitchen cleanup

Tuesday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Wednesday
am- Discipleship group/victory group on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

Thursday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Friday
am- Discipleship group/victory group
pm- kitchen cleanup/witnessing on campus

Saturday
am- Discipleship group/witnessing on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

#27 Robbing the Poor for Jesus

Editor’s Note: In this chapter Tik reveals one source of MCM’s income but not its only, or even its most important, revenue source. In a later post Tik goes into detail on how MCM derived revenue from its operations and describes MCM’s  business model. None the less this chapter demonstrates how destructive sociological groups use member’s money not only to enrich themselves but to also impoverish members which in turn, makes these members even more dependent on the group.

The night, after the uproar at my Frat House, I attended another Maranatha Service hosted by Joe Smith.

Joe had been at Auburn for about three weeks, preaching, prophesying and healing.

At that service that I was hailed like a conquering hero.

I was brought up on stage by Mike Caulk and Joe Smith who announced to the capacity crowd that, “This is what an overcoming Christian looks like. Tik, here, has taken a radical stand in his frat, he has seen many people in his frat saved and brought out of the frat. Because of this he is being persecuted and God has called him to shake the dust from that place off his sandals.”

Maybe I was being persecuted…but I also had stopped doing my work as President.

The fact of the matter was that no one in the frat was suggesting that I leave the frat because I was involved in Maranatha. But they WERE suggesting that if I were going to accept room and board for being President that I should attend to my duties.

It was that simple.

Up on stage Joe got that far away prophet look of his, and with a beaming smile said, “You know Tik I believe that the Lord has a word for you.”

He then placed his hands on my head.

I looked up at him expectantly.

“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts I am well pleased with my servant Tik for he has been obedient to my call and I have given him the first fruits. You have become a mighty warrior for me and yea the enemy is now fleeing from you. And behold, I am calling you as a mighty evangelist and I say that if you are faithful to me, and if you bear fruit, and if you are faithful to my Body, I, the Lord God of Hosts, will use you mightily and thousands will be saved because of your ministry.”

It was a thrilling prophecy.

This was especially so since it was coming from the number two man at Maranatha and it’s chief prophet. Essentially the prophesy said that I was being called to full time ministry.

Being called to full time service was a huge thing in the MCM hierarchy, for it meant that you had God’s anointing, the same anointing that, perhaps, Silas and Paul had possessed.

Of course, as you probably noticed, and I did not at that time, there were a whole bunch of “ifs” tied to being full time: “if” I was faithful to God, “if” I bore fruit, and “if” I was faithful to the Body, then yes, I would be a full time evangelist.

After the service I spoke with Marty about the arrangements for moving into the Maranatha House.

There were about 15 brothers living there in 20 rooms at the House. Five of my frat brothers, following my example were leaving the frat. Three of them would move into the Maranatha House to live. The other two were living off campus. They would not be moving in to the Maranatha House because of lease considerations.

The rent at the Maranatha house was $ 85 per month, about $100 less than the frat house rent for a room/month.

The catch was that the savings were illusory; because I had not had to pay rent since my freshman year because as Rush Chairman last year (a job that actually took more time than being President) and, as President this year, I got a free ride for rent and food.

Now my food at MCM would cost about $ 100/month. The single brothers and sisters pooled their money and took turns cooking and cleaning up. And  single brothers and sisters would eat their meals at the House every evening. Once again this was cheaper than the frat house, but since my meals were part of my free “package” as frat president, it actually cost me money.

Back at the frat house that night I did the calculations. This was going to cost me at least $ 185 per month and I currently had about $ 700 in the bank. Enough for five months- but without ANY spending money left over. No trips home, no phone calls no nothing.

Oh, and there was ONE other thing I have forgotten to mention.

Something that had happened after one of the services that week.

Marty had pulled me aside after a service and said, “Brother, we need to talk about something.”

“Okay,” I said and we went into main office on the first floor.

He shut the door. “You know Tik, everything we have belongs to God.”

Then he pointed out a scripture in James and read loud, “Every good and perfect gift comes from God.”

“All we have comes from God- and God asks that we give a portion of it back to Him.” He pointed to the scripture in Malachi that said bring your tithes to the store house. He also then referenced the scripture that states that if you fail to tithe you are, “…robbing from God.”

I just looked at him.

I believed everything he said, for goodness sake I was raised a Southern Baptist and they preached on tithing and giving like nobody’s business.

“I believe what you are saying is true, Marty.”

“Maybe so Tik, but I have been watching you the last two weeks and I have not seen you put any money into the offering.”

“Marty, there is a simple reason for that, I don’t have any money and I have zero income,” I laughed. It was true- other than selling books door to door in the summer for a Bible publishing company I had zero income.

“How are you going to school then? How are you paying your way?” he asked.

I explained to him my free ride at the Frat and told about my engineering scholarship money and the fact that I worked a job in the summer to save enough for spending money during the year.

Marty said, “God is not going to bless you unless you return a portion of your money to him. You should plan on giving at least 10% every week of what you have every week- and then also give money above this- this additional giving is called an offering. He read the scripture to me out of Malachi that described tithes and offerings.

“Otherwise you are not being obedient to God.”

Marty was dead serious.

He meant that if I did not give money to Maranatha I was robbing from God and was being disobedient.

I said, “Marty I am not sure how I am going to pull this off.”

“Brother lets pray that God will work this out.”

And we prayed. But my mind continued to worry this like a dog picking at a bone.

On the way home I continued to recite the scripture that, “God will take of my needs according to His riches in glory.”

#26 Walking Away

November 1978

On all my mid-term I scored grades of Cs and Ds. Mathematically I knew that pulling my grades up to a B average for this term was impossible.

And Sheila?

Well, other than one or two lunch meetings, and a note or two for her and from her, we were incommunicado.

In fact I pretty much had cut myself off from my former friends and they had cut themselves off from me.

Other than my Christian clan  all of the frat members avoided me. And JD was leading the charge to have me thrown out as President.

I spoke to Marty, my shepherd in Maranatha, about JD’s plan to impeach me; but he showed me numerous scriptures that demonstrated that, “We overcoming Christians will be persecuted and scorned for our Kingdom work.”

Furthermore, he said that I should rejoice in what was happening and, besides, at least fifteen people had come to Jesus because of me and my stand.

Marty said, “Those souls you have played a part in bringing to Jesus are eternal stuff, Kingdom stuff, and the very proof that God is leading you in His powerful work.” He then quoted the scripture about the flowers not having to toil and work.

The day before the monthly Frat business meeting I told Marty, “I have to miss the Maranatha service tonight.”

He did not like it, but when  I told him I had to be there and that it would be a chance for me to witness to 120 frat members he smiled and said, “God’s blessing on it, I bear witness to this decision, Tik.”

That was MCM speak for, “Okay you can do it.”

And, as it turned out, this was to be my last frat chapter meeting.

As I walked into the chapter room I saw JD sitting at the ornate desk used by the frat President and about 120 brothers, lined up in in row upon row of folding chairs, facing the small raised speaker’s platform.

“Oh,” JD said as he stood up from the ceremonial president’s chair, “I was getting used to sitting here. This certainly is a surprise seeing you here Tik and it is not even dinner time!”

Laughter reverberated throughout the room.

The meeting moved along in a boring fashion just like every other chapter meeting I had attended since being initiated as a frosh.

I called the members to order and the treasurer and members of the house corporation made their presentation. Usual stuff: money in, expenses out, we were going to have to replace the roof next year, and eventually the air conditioning system, which was on its last leg.

Then the new business session started as I slammed down the gavel on the small table to my right .

JD immediately stood up from his front row officer’s seat walked to the speaker’s platform and, like an attorney making a plea before a jury thundered, “Brothers I have a serious charge to make and I want to bring a motion to the floor.”

He stood for a moment looking around the room and tucked his thumbs into his belt loop before going on, “Our President, Tik Tok, has been derelict in his duties, he has been absent from almost all activities over the last month, he would hardly qualify as an active member much less as a President. I would like to move that we bring a vote of impeachment against him and then vote to remove him from office.”

Well the place went crazy, with a small group of my pledge brothers defending me; but none of my Christian frat clan because they were all at the Maranatha Service that was now underway.

I looked over at Mom and, as usual during a chapter meeting, he was saying nothing, just stroking his red mustache, seated in a stuffed wing back chair just to my right.

It went back and forth, and I, in my Maranatha arrogance, thought of Jesus being,“Silent before his accusers”.

It is embarrassing for me now that I was comparing myself to Jesus and the martyrs for the faith; but there you have it. They were innocent of the charges against them, but I was guilty as charged that night.

For the truth I had been given a job for which I was paid in free room and board, and had, for all intents and purposes, walked away from this job.

JD was rallying his forces and everyone was jabbering and interrupting each other and it looked like they could get a vote for a move to start impeachment proceedings when Mom stood up and then walked next to where I was seated.

Mom rarely spoke at these meetings, other than to occasionally pull two quarreling members apart before they came to blows.

He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Hold it brothers. Tik here has not said a word. Brothers, if Tik will commit to doing his duties, to making all our events, to attending all chapter and business meetings, can we just drop this garbage.? This is going to tear our frat in half.”

The place went silent. And everyone looked at me.

What was I could I say?

I hardly had time to breathe with the 40 hours plus of MCM activities, and I was falling further and further behind in my studies. I knew that it truly was either Maranatha or the fraternity. There was hardly time for my studies; much less my job as Frat President, that was apparent.

I needed to take a stand here in front of my accusers, it seemed to me. Isn’t that what Bob had said the first day I met him, “To be either hot or cold but not lukewarm?”

The reality was that the frat held no appeal for me anymore.

Maranatha was the eternal stuff, the real stuff, the Kingdom, and Jesus, and changing the world. Saving souls, right?????

And I made what I confess to be a snap decision.

In the world I was now inhabiting, the world of radical overcoming Christianity, the World of Seeking First the Kingdom, the World of God supplying everything I needed, the world of making Jesus Lord of All, why, my decision made perfect sense.

But to all my frat friends, to “Mom”, to everyone who knew me before MCM entered my life, it was an insane decision.

It seems insane to me now- looking back at that night.

I swallowed and looked up at the 120 faces staring at me.

“Fellows,” I said softly from my seat, “JD is right. I have been neglecting my duties. ”

“I have been neglecting them because I have a new life  for I am a now radical follower of Jesus. And that new faith makes it impossible for me to act as President. So I resign effective immediately.”

No one said a thing. Not a person moved or seemed to breath. I could  feel Mom’s hand on my shoulder; his grip tightening there.

“Not only that I have come to realize over the last four weeks that this fraternity is no place for me to be. It has no appeal to me. I am seeking the things of God, and again, I invite you all to seek Him with me. Because of my commitment to Jesus I am also resigning my membership in the fraternity immediately.”

Bedlam broke loose.

JD let out a loud laugh and three of my friends, members of BSU, walked over and tried to speak with me.

But I pushed past them, ignoring Mom’s plea of, “Tik hold your G*d d*amned horses” and walked over to where JD stood.

I handed the ceremonial gavel to JD.

“It’s your’s now JD,” I whispered and then walked out of the chapter room and down the hall to my sleeping room.

I locked the door, took my phone off the hook, and knelt to pray, ignoring four or five knocks that pounded on my door for the next hour or so.

I was relieved that I confronted the issue of ignoring my duties head on.

And I would talk to Marty about moving into the Maranatha House in the morning.

But I had a nagging fear as I stood up from an hour of prayer to crawl into bed.  How in the world would I come up with the money for room and board now?

As I went to sleep that night I recited the scripture, “He will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory.”

I was leaving the fraternity and walking away from the world.