#52 A Simple Prayer

Sometimes the simplest prayers are the best” 

Johannes Oecolampadius, the reformer of Basil, 1526

MLTS: Tulsa, Oklahoma 1982

Just after my appearance before the magistrate, we took our 120 plus kids down to MLTS, my notes are sketchy, but I think it was in Tulsa.

On the second afternoon at MLTS I was on my way to one of the workshops when I spied Nick P, Leo Lawson, and Bob Weiner heading down the hall towards me.

Bob looked up and said, “Tik come with us,” and he motioned with his arm. We sat down on some couches in an alcove. Leo, by this time, stuck to Bob like a scab on a wound. It actually reminded me of some mob figure with a body-guard.

He glared at me through slitted eyes, while Nick P leaned back with his arm draped behind Bob’s shoulder.

Nick began, “Tik, although your ministry has shown great growth in numbers we wonder about your ability to lead the ministry and to grow it financially. You have got to really develop your style and your leadership image. It is important that your flock see you in the correct light. You see you need to…”

Bob cut Nick off with his usual brashness, “Tik, you’ve got to set the pace, the brothers and sisters will only follow Jesus, the Word, and  the Ministry to the degree that you do. Let me tell you when I look around MLTS I can spot the real leaders…do you know how?”

“How”? I asked.

“Well leaders and winners congregate together; they hang out together. I mean  who is Greg Ball  hanging around with? Why with Rice [Broocks] and Dennis [Darville] that’s who… and Leo, here,” he elbowed Leo Lawson, “Leo here hangs out with Nick and with Joe [Smith] every chance he gets.”

“Okay,” I said.

I was hoping against hope Bob was not suggesting I start hanging out with Nick.

Leo looked up at me and said, “I noticed you spending time around some brothers that are struggling.”

“That guy,” Leo looked over at Bob, “you know Bob, the guy at Auburn, what’s his name?  Tik is spending a lot of time with him, what’s his name?”

“Max,” said Nick, “His name is Max Hatter.”

“Matt,” I corrected him.

“Regardless,” said Nick, “that ministry is on the skids, after being one of the strongest in the country. Even your ministry, Tik, is bringing at least 75 more people to MLTS than that one and Auburn has been around for five plus years.”

“Winners hang around winners Tik. The guys who are struggling will sow doubt in your mind, and will bring you down. You need to polish your image, okay?” and with that Bob dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

I got the message. And I turned my back on my best friends.

I am ashamed that when Matt and Allie asked if I wanted to join them for dinner that night I said, “I have plans”.

And I conveniently forgot about our usual breakfast at MLTS where we caught up and gossiped and laughed at Phil Bonasso’s latest antics to get noticed.

And at the leadership conference in Dallas two months later I walked right by an open seat next to Matt and Allie, my “old” best friends, the couple who had been my refuge at Auburn and who had made my life livable there, to take a seat next to Helen Ball while Greg opened up the session.

It was as if Matt and Allie no longer existed for me.

I knew, that Matt knew, by this time, that I was avoiding and ignoring him.

I did it so I would not be, “Brought down,” as Nick put it. So I would be seen as a winner by the MCM leadership. I closed my heart to Matt and Allie and set my face towards the leadership with my ambition to secure a place in the top ranks of MCM.

It was a terrific betrayal of their friendship and I feel my face burning as I write this.

As Matt later told me, “Allie and I thought we had lost you forever Tikie.”

*************
Blizzard- Midwest 1983
Well, all of this, that I have shared with you, was flashing through my mind as I poured a cup of coffee for “Tikietwo”, my sharpest convert, the night of that terrible blizzard in 1983.

Tiketwo cupped his hands around the steaming coffee and blew into it.

“So what made you risk your life tonight? You really have me worried traipsing over here in a blizzard,” I asked.

“I just can’t take it any more Tik,” he said. The the snow from his pants and shoes was melting, puddling on the carpet.

”The school load, the work load at my frat, the Bible Studies and witnessing. My parents were here yesterday and they have become convinced that I am in a cult and are threatening to cut me off financially.”

I continued to listen, not saying anything, stock still in my chair.

He smiled and said, “I want to be like you Tik. Nick prophesied over me that I would be a warrior and full-time for the ministry. I want to quit school. I think God is telling me to quit. I will get  a job and study full-time under you and help you with the ministry. I want to work full-time in God’s Kingdom. I am totally and radically committed to Jesus, just like you Tikie.”

I stared at him.

Did he really want to be like me?

Did he really understand what I did and went through?

I glanced over at the Safeco ledger book on my small kitchen table.

We were about two weeks away from running out of cash. Supposedly we were to pay MCM corporate back $ 800/month for the $ 10,000 seed money, but after a shouting match with Bob Weiner, Bob Nolte, and the finance guys I had gotten us a 90 day reprieve.

And here was this sharp, brilliant, good-looking guy in the palm of my hand.

He would do whatever I wanted him to do. I could probably get him to hock his late model car and throw the proceeds into our offering plate on Sunday to buy us another month of operating cash.

But unknown to him the old Tik was running amok; yelling and shouting in my head. That Tik would not go back into the closet. Not anymore. And the old Tik was asking some pretty tough questions:

“Do you want this kid dropping out of college on your conscience?’

“And if he drops out does he REALLY know what he is doing?”

“Does he REALLY WANT TO BE THE TORMENTED PERSON YOU ARE?”

And even worse were the questions like:

“Can you live with yourself if you keep sucking people into this …thing… whatever it was… whatever it has become?”

I looked at Tikietwo.

Then I said softly, “Look its late and you are exhausted. Why don’t you rack out in my bed. I have a little work to do and I’ll get some sleep on the couch. Let’s talk about all this in the morning.”

Reluctantly he agreed and thirty minutes later he was snoozing in my bed.

I sat back down at the kitchen table.

What was I doing with my life?

Was God in this? Had He ever been?

Could I continue doing what I suspected, no what I now knew, was wrong?

Could I perpetuate the lie of God’s Green Berets?

And what about this young man who trusted me…and the forty other young brothers who were looking to me for answers? What of them?

But this ministry was my life, my family, my home, MCM was everything I had.

Without MCM I was nothing.

I bowed my head.

Dear Jesus, please help me, please.”

#34 Bounded Choice-Choices in MCM

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John, the disciple that Jesus loved, writing in his account of the life of Christ.

If you have made it this far you still may be asking, “What was the magic in MCM that made the group able to ensnare you so easily?”

By dint of my story, and this post, I hope to show how MCM did not ensnare me, but how, as one of my post titles reads, I ensnared myself.

In the last ten years I’ve read numerous books by Steve Hassan, Janja Lalich and other experts in the area of authoritarian sociological cults. These books helped me understand not only what happened to me but how it happened.

In the mid 1990s I attended two seminars put on by the International Cultic Studies Association a fantastic group of researchers and experts on sociological cults. The ICSA is a great source of information and help for those who might need it.

At one of these seminars I had a chance to hear Dr. Janja Lalich, a former member of a Marxist based authoritarian group, speak. It helped me understand that bad theology was not the driving force behind such groups- bad theology was either a symptom of the group’s authoritarian nature, or a tool used by the group, or both.

Since that time Dr. Lalich’s work has had a big influence on the way I now think about my ensnarement in MCM. I highly recommend Dr. Lalich’s books and her studies about sociological cults.

I use many of her conclusions and views in this post.

Bounded Choice- Choice in MCM

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth probably written about 55 AD.

As I shared with you many of my friends and mentors from Mom (the frat Resident Advisor), to Chris (the pastor at Auburn’s BSU), to Sheila (my best friend) saw a normal guy, a guy that they knew very well, set out on what seemed  to be a bizarre, disruptive and possibly destructive life course.

You probably noticed that my friends and my family assumed that somehow Maranatha had brainwashed, or otherwise induced me against my will, to join MCM. My best friend Sheila said to me, “It is like they have given you a drug or something.”

The assumption, like Sheila’s, that the person has somehow been brainwashed or hypnotized  leads to a further assumption.

This second assumption is that one can somehow un-hypnotize the cult member, who I term a True Believer, by reasoning with them.

This point is illustrated by Mom’s, Sheila’s, Chris’ and my parents’ efforts talk me out of MCM. The more they argued with me about my mis-directed devotion to MCM the further it served to drive me into the fold.

In this post, and in a future post ( The Importance of Language), I will show that the  belief that one can change a True Believer’s mind through rational argument mind is wrong. Directly confronting a new believer and pointing out their mistake may have the opposite of the  affect intended.

For example Sheila became convinced that I had not made a free will decision and that I had been brainwashed.

My reaction to her conclusion was,“No, I have CHOSEN this way, I have CHOSEN to turn my back on the past and I have CHOSEN Jesus. YOU have rejected him!”

Her statement that I might have brainwashed thus worked to reinforce my belief that SHE had not made the correct choices [to be a follower of Jesus] and that she was lining herself up on the side of those that opposed MCM’s work. I soon saw Sheila as an enemy to our cause because it was obvious to me that I had made a free will decision.While she still thought of our relationship as one of being very close friends; I saw our friendship in terms of her either lining up with my free will decision or rejecting it.

And although Sheila KNEW that I was being changed she did not grasp this vital fact: that I was actually changing myself.

In her book, Bounded Choice, Janja Lalich demonstrates that members of sociological cults decide freely to join these causes.

It is clear that I joined God’s Green Berets ( MCM) for a very a simple reason:

I wanted to join MCM.

Now to be sure, the process that I underwent in the first four to six weeks after encountering Maranatha involved a great deal coercion on the part of the leadership, and my shepherds, but the fact was that MCM convinced me to convince myself that what they were saying was so.

This recruitment process, that convinces the True Believer to convince themselves, makes it extremely difficult for an outsider with no experience in the group, to have an influence over that freely made choice.

Later, Bob Weiner and Joe Smith blamed my leaving MCM on religious traditionalists who had poisoned my mind  and on Satanic forces that attacked my spirit.

The reality was this:

I wanted to leave and  because I HAD CONVINCED MY SELF TO BE UNCONVINCED OF MY BELIEF IN MCM’s MISSION.

Dr. Lalich states that this point is extremely important to understand, not only for friends and family of cult members, but also for the  former members themselves.

From the outsider’s perspective the True Believe’s life and the choices they make seem to be circumscribed by the group. This is certainly true; none the less the True Believe makes free will choices every day. However these choices are bounded choices.

I use the term bounded choice to describe the member’s choices.  This is a term coined by Dr. Lalich to describe the choices available for a True Believer within a  group. The True Believer has free choice, only these choices and decisions are restricted, or bounded, by the constraints of the group.

The logic of these choices, within the frame work of the group structure and the groups rules, are usually very rational and well thought out.

At MCM I did have many choices I could make, and some I could not make. For example:

I could decide who to hang around with at MCM events, but I could not decide to hang around with non-MCM members.

I could decide who to ride to an MLTS conference with, but I could not decide whether to go or not to go MLTS.

I could decide whether to listen to an elder about God’s perfect choice (my marriage partner) for my life, but I could not decide to date a sister I was attracted to without the elders deciding that this person was my future wife.

I could befriend a sister but I could not be with her by myself, let alone try to kiss her, if I was attracted to her.

So if an outsider told me I was mind controlled, that I was unable to make choices in my life, I rejected what they said immediately because I did make many choices each day.

Only these choices and decisions were limited or bounded by MCM.

Finally if we see the True Believer as victims because of external coercion only (please note the word ONLY– external forces and coercion certainly play a major part in a members entrapment) we are kidding ourselves. And our attitude and subsequent approach will generally drive the person deeper into the group, especially in the early stages of commitment.

And Dr. Lalich writes  that, “…former cult members will continue to remain victims (if only in their minds) even though  long out of the group unless they can come to this very real, and what may be a very painful, conclusion that they were co-conspirators in their own entrapment.”

Realizing that I was a co-conspirator in my entrapment, that I was both victim and victimizer, as Dr. Lalich terms it, was the most liberating concept I encountered post MCM.

For it made me understand that I took myself into and out of MCM.

MCM laid the bait right  in front of me that played to, and took advantage of, my very human weaknesses and desires:

my preening ego;

my desire to do better than others no matter what;

my sincere desire to convert others to Christ;

my desire for a closer walk with of Christ;

and finally my  naiveté, idealism and plain old teenage rebellious nature.

This is NOT to excuse the abuses and the evil perpetrated by the leaders of MCM; for they bear a much heavier burden than the rank and file members.

Later I will show that leaving MCM was the most difficult thing I have done in my 45 years on earth. And the two- three years post MCM were probably the toughest years of my life.

For with help from a few friends, and one very special one, I convinced myself to un-convince myself about the mission of MCM, and over time, to untangle my brain from the snare I had willingly wrapped around it.

#32 The Shunning of Peter

One fellow that I really grew to like and admire is a brother I’ll call Peter.

Peter was probably about 27, but he seemed ancient to me at my then 19 years of age. He was a very successful real estate agent in Auburn and a real catch for the ministry. Peter brought a lot of vitality and maturity to the group of single brothers, he was an athlete, good looking and modest.

Peter had been a Christian for a while and I think he liked our (the younger single brothers) enthusiasm, and, probably our naiveté about the whole Christian experience.

He had been a member of the XXX frat and he could relate to my experience. His advice was to stay in the frat. He said that, ” You should be the salt there Tik  and to plough the field that God has put you in.”

I really liked him and found his counsel to be both wise and gentle. He was the only one who did not seem thrilled about me leaving the frat when it was announced in November of the last year.

I later learned that Peter had refused to be re-baptized, or admit that he had not been a Christian, prior to joining MCM. My guess is that this was let slide because of the sizable checks he was probably dropping in the offering plate due his very successful real estate business.

Before long I found myself gravitating to Peter with questions I had and wishing secretly  that he was my shepherd.

He was never dogmatic and encouraged me to seek God or pray about issues. Rather than spouting off quick answers to some of my difficult questions, more than likely than not, my requests for guidance would be met with, “What do you think God is telling you?” or, “What do you think the Bible says?”

Of course he could not be my shepherd because he had not proven himself to the local leadership over time.

From a MCM perspective this prove yourself first mentality before being made a shepherd was a wise policy in Peter’s case.

Peter had a beautiful town house within walking distance of the campus.  He invited us to to use his well-equipped home gym whenever we wanted and also to play basketball in his driveway. He opened his home to us on Sunday afternoons and would feed us pizza and buckets of KFC while we talked about the things of Christ and his thoughts on the Christian walk.

I am not sure that the leadership of Auburn knew about these impromptu sessions.

At least not at first.

Peter would freely admit at these sessions, or in our talks one on one, that to the questions I had posed about some bedrock MCM doctrines there were no right, or wrong, answers. When pressed by me about some of the strange doctrines (for example, water Baptism for cutting away the old man) he would shrug his shoulders and tell me that I should test these in prayer and with scripture.

Another example of his counsel concerned his view of MCM prophetic utterances and words from God. He told us one afternoon that, “We should test any prophetic utterance against what the Word of God says and against our conscience; and if any word from a prophet was contrary to either of these, we should ignore it.”

After the incident with Joe Smith prophesying to that friend Daniel  reconciling with his dead father I asked Peter how Joe could have gotten it so wrong.

Peter sat there for a minute seated on the leather couch in his living room and said, “Well Tik, Paul says we prophesy in part…and well Joe is just human. As I would suggested earlier you should test all prophecy against the conscience God has given you and against the Word. If your conscience tells you no, or if prophecy is contrary to the Word, I would ignore any prophecy no matter what the source, even if it is Joe Smith; even if it is me.”

He also warned me and a couple of other brothers about being overly dependent on advice from elders or anyone else and, “That we should seek multiple counsel about major life decisions.”

He was especially concerned about me withdrawing from the frat.

“Tik I think you should really think long and hard about that one. There are financial practical ramifications, and besides you are a great witness there. Just back off a bit with your MCM work so you can do what you need to do as President.”

Well, you can imagine that this guy rapidly became our hero (that is the four or five single brothers he befriended). He was welcoming, humble, successful and very knowledgeable about scripture and he was great in one-one pickup basketball, elbows, shoving and all.

I grew in five short months to feel like I was Timothy to his Paul.

In March of 1979, about six months after I had joined MCM, I bumped into Peter on the steps of the Maranatha House on a Sunday afternoon.

“Hey bro!” I said with a  smile while lifting my hand for a high-five.

I loved seeing Peter, he always had something positive to say; he always had a word of encouragement. As I told you he was the Christian I wanted to be someday.

He stepped back from me and for once there was no smile on his face and no high-five back.

“Hey Tikie, I am in a bit of a hurry, but can you call me tonight? I want to talk to you about something important.”

“Sure,” I said, and seeing the expression on his face I continued, “is there anything wrong Peter, anything I can do to help you?”

Just then  the front door opened  and out stepped Marty, my shepherd, onto the columned porch.

Peter looked at Marty quizzically and then patted me on the shoulder, “See you around Tikie.” Then he walked up the street.

I looked from him to Marty and then back again to the figure of Peter retreating up the street.

“Anything wrong with Peter?” I asked Marty.

“Tik, he said, “we need to talk.”

We went into the administration office and Marty shut the door.

“Tik, I have something I need to tell you, something of a very serious nature.”

My first thoughts were, “Have I done something, or failed to do something?”

Marty continued, “You need to know that Peter has been asked to leave the congregation, he is in sin.”

I was stunned, my stomach did a flip. Peter was almost a hero to me. I really looked up to him as an older brother in the faith, as I said.

“But how… why?” I stammered.

Marty scratched his head and looked over my head into the air; a sort of detached look on his face.

“You see Tik, God has called the Body to have one mind to display the unity of spirit. In Ephesians, in fact, Paul tells us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. Without unity and without peace we will become just like the world; with arguments and factions and infighting and without any real direction or purpose.”

Well, one of the reasons I had been dissatisfied with the BSU and First Baptist Church was a lack of a clear sense of direction and purpose.  But I was unsure of how all this tied to Peter… Peter of all people leaving God’s chosen group!

My chest tightened.

“But I don’t understand Marty. Peter loved what we were doing. Nobody is more on fire for Jesus than Peter and he was a real encouragement to all of us… remember Joe Smith’s prophecy over Peter, ‘That he would be a rock like his name sake?”

“Yes,” Marty said, “but you see the Devil is seeking to devour and destroy those that he can. And the easiest way to do this is to plant seeds of bitterness and divisiveness in the Body. And Peter started listening to Satan and because of this he started gossiping and slandering the leadership.”

I just sat there. I could not believe what I was hearing.

Peter in league with Satan?

“You see if we have a disagreement with the leadership we should approach them in love and discuss the disagreement. But ultimately we should submit to each other, just like Jesus submitted to the Father. The Church must submit to Jesus and, in turn, the sheep must submit to the shepherd. But Peter could not, or would, not submit his life to being discipled by the elders. He was too proud to admit his own sin.”

Marty’s voice became quiet and he spoke almost in a whisper, “We went to Peter three times to correct him. Paul tells us to be prepared in season and out of season, to correct and rebuke and encourage with great patience and instruction. But Peter was determined to continue in his rebellion just like Korah. He was sinning against the church and against the brothers when he did this.”

Marty opened his Bible and read, “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death

“Allowing Peter to continue in rebellion would have given birth to sin and then to death. The Bible says that we are to allow no one to miss the grace of God and to not allow the root of bitterness to cause trouble and infect the entire congregation.”

I interrupted Marty, “But what was Peter objecting to? He never showed any sign of sin to me; and certainly not bitterness. He is one of the most kind, thoughtful and gentle people I have ever known.”

It was true. Peter had a real solid quietness about him.

“Tik, I am not going to go into SPECIFIC sins,” he strung out the word specific softly and slowly, “but the sin was real and could affect the ministry and the spiritual growth of others.”

He leaned forward and took my arm.

“In fact Mike [Caulk] and I were especially worried about new brothers like you. We knew that Peter had been cultivating friendships with the younger single brothers. I understand Peter counseled some of you to ignore the advice and guidance of your shepherds. You younger Christians are vulnerable to Satan who roars like a lion.”

I paused and thought about it. Well, it was true that Peter had told us to judge prophecies and teachings of MCM using Scripture and my conscience … but wasn’t I doing that?

“But Marty, I never heard Peter say anything about not listening to the leadership.”

“Maybe not directly”, he said, “but he had a spirit of rebellion. The Bible says that a spirit of rebellion is akin to witchcraft. Peter is against the work we are doing and so we shall give him over to Satan to be sifted.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

”It means what Paul says in Corinthians” and Marty flipped his Bible open and started reading a passage from Corinthians  and I followed along with him.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”

“Are you saying that Peter has been involved in immorality?”

I was incredulous, I knew this could not be true.

“I am not going to go into detail about ALL of his sins; but feel compelled to tell you that among other sins he has been slanderous of the leadership. And this clearly tells us that we are not even to associate with him.”

I must have had an expression of horror on my face. Because this is what I was feeling.

“Now Tik,” he said softly and with compassion, “this is for Peter’s own good. Here is what Paul says about situations like this,” and he pointed to a scripture in Corinthians and then continued, “…hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.’ Unless we give him over to Satan his mortal soul may be in danger.”

I made no response.

What was I supposed to say?Now I was staring off into space.

He put his face into my line of sight.

“Tik, I know this must be a real blow to you, believe me, I felt the same way when I first found out.”

“Yeah Marty, I just don’t get it.”

“God will make it clear to you Tik. Let’s pray now.”

And Marty launched into a sincere prayer for Peter’s soul and a heartfelt plea for Peter’s repentance and he thanked God for my example and walk.

As I left his office he took my shoulder and looked directly into my eyes, “Now remember, no contact with Peter, he is deceived by Satan and has a spirit of witchcraft and rebellion. You are vulnerable to this since you are a new Christian and also because of your friendship with Peter. You must be careful that you do not shipwreck your faith.”

I nodded yes and trudged up the stairs.

Peter had asked me to call him tonight.

But now I had heard he was in deception, that he had a spirit of witchcraft.

If I called him I might not only put my salvation in question, but I would also be violating what the Bible said about “handing him over to Satan” to save Peter’s mortal soul.

And to protect mine.

I shivered.

If I called Peter I could be putting both his and my salvation at risk..

And that was simply a chance I could not and would not take.

For Peter was of Satan and we brothers would now avoid him at all cost.

#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

#28 Confronting My Parents

Confrontation

The next day was Thursday and that afternoon I headed to the frat house to start packing.

I planned on moving my stuff from the frat house to the MCM House with the help of one of the single brothers I had struck a friendship with, Miltie, that afternoon.

On my way back from class I noticed a white Mercury with Birmingham plates parked out back of the frat house. My heart jumped and I bounded over to the car.

On the bumper was a sticker reading Auburn Engineers Build Dreams.

It was my parent’s car.

But this weekend was an “away” game for Auburn and they had made no mention of coming to see me.

I shot up the steps through the back door to my room. There was a hand written note taped to my door: “You have visitors in the living room”.

It was in Mom’s handwriting.

I ran down the hall to the living room. This was the show piece of the house and no frat members were allowed in the living room without a date or unless they were with their parents.

It was essentially unused, and pristine, sort of like your grandmother’s living room with the plastic on the furniture waiting for the Pope to visit her.

Through the crack in half-open French doors I caught sight of my parents sitting on a couch, and beside them, in one of the leather chairs, was Chris, the head of BSU.

My blood boiled, I concluded that Mom had called my parents and had them drive to Auburn to try to talk me out of leaving the frat.

I raced back down the hall to Moms’ room and barged in without knocking. Mom looked up from his desk where he was writing in an engineering note-book.

“What do you mean calling my parents and bringing them down here?” I shouted.

“Hold your horses, Tonto.”

Mom pushed back from his desk and in a low steady voice said, “Like I told you Tik on Wednesday,  you are a big boy, and if you don’t want to listen to reason and want to screw your life up, well, that is your business. You are what, almost 20 years old? Go for it. I am done with you. As to who got your parents down here I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. But I would suspect Chris (the head of BSU) is the culprit. Now, could you please go see what your Mommy and Daddy want with you and let me have some peace?”

With that I backed out His room and headed back down the hall towards the living room of the frat house.

My mother and father had a struggling business and for both of them to head down here during a work week was very unusual.

I walked into the living room and my father and Chris both stood.

“What in the world are you guys doing here? “I asked, looking back and forth from my mother to my father.

“Well honey,” my mother drawled in her thick Alabama accent, “ when we heard that you were leaving the fraternity and that you were involved in this, this… this…fanatical religious group, why we wanted to come and talk to you about it.”

My father looked me over with a frown on his face and said, in his gravelly voice, “Tik, we are concerned about you. We are very concerned, especially after talking to Chris about this group you are in. He tells us that a number of parents have contacted him about their kids and some strange things this group is doing to them.

I looked at Chris, “Why didn’t you talk to me first before you called my parents? Why bring them all the way down here without even asking me about it Chris?”

My father motioned me to take a seat with the admonition, ”Now Tik just calm down and take a seat, you are not on trial here, we just want to understand what is going on with you. We have heard some disturbing things about how you are behaving and just want to talk things over with you.”

They both took a seat while I took a deep breath and then sat in one of the leather wing chairs just across from the frat’s huge brick fronted fire-place.

Chris sat up in his chair and cleared his throat saying, “First Tik I did not call your parents, they called me. Second, I can’t ever find you to talk to begin with. You dropped out of BSU after the start of term,  you stopped coming to First Baptist Church and you are never here at the frat house. I left numerous notes for you to call me. I have been by here,” and he waved his arms in a sweeping gesture, “at least a dozen times in the last month, but you are never here.”

It was true; I had ignored Chris’ notes and, frankly, I was simply to busy to bother with him.

Besides, he was part of the traditional church that was stuck in the past and why would I ever attend one of his social events that focused on silly games like a Bible scavenger hunt and then watch the group spend most of their time gossiping amongst themselves?

Chris slowly opened a folder he had in his lap.

“I showed your parents these articles when we met this morning.”

The folder was full of newspaper clippings.

I could see one entitled Aggressive Recruiting Tactics Worry Campus Administrators and another spilled out the headline: Cult or Campus Ministry? A Question Hangs Over Maranatha Christian Ministries. There appeared to be a half dozen, maybe more, clippings in the folder. The articles appeared to be from campus newspapers of around the southeast including the Universities of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State.

“Not only do I have concern about Maranatha,” Chris said as he leafed through the clippings, “but so does Auburn’s Administration and other campus administrations as well. I spoke to BSU directors at Florida , Ole Miss, Georgia, and Miss State. They all say the same thing. This group is very aggressive and they draw idealistic young people in, change them, and then cut them off from friends and parents. Many drop out of school after joining the group and then, in a year or two, they packed them off to start Maranatha sites at some other campuses. Many parents, whose children join Maranatha, have no idea what their kids even are anymore.”

My Mom had tears in her eyes and my Dad had a very grim expression on his craggy face.

Chris leaned forward with his hands folded on his knees and said in a low voice, “Martin  [the frat RA we called “Mom”] says that you quit coming to all frat functions last month and then you showed up at this week’s chapter meeting and resigned as President and as a member. You know I am no fan of fraternities Tik, but you love this place and you were a great influence here. I am afraid these guys from Maranatha are playing on your idealism, naiveté and your desire to make something out of yourself.”

Chris paused.

All I could hear was the ticking of the grandfather clock across the room.

“Do you really know what Maranatha is ?” Chris asked after a moment.

My face turned red.

“Yeah, actually I do Chris. They are the over comers the Bible talks about in Acts. That are the first century church I heard about in high school. They are living, or trying to live, the real Christian life, they are totally committed to Jesus, that is who they are.”

I looked at my mother. “Mama, do you remember how I became a Christian when I was twelve?”

Of course she did, she had wept with joy that night. My mother was, and is, a very gentle kindly and Godly woman.

“Well, for the next seven years I did not bring one person, not one person to Jesus. If fact I never even witnessed. And in the last four weeks fifteen people, FIFTEEN, have become Christians because of my witness. I am talking about some hard-core partiers. So, Chris, I know this: that the brothers and sisters of MCM are making a real stand for Christ.  They are not PRETEND Christians I see all around me.”

This was a real slap at Chris and the BSU but he showed no reaction. He simply took his glasses off and polished them with the edge of the cardigan sweater he was wearing.

He waited a good minute before speaking.

“Tik” he said, “We are not here to minister to those that are well, but to the sick. To those who need a place to come for fellowship in college. We take kids as they are, not as we WANT them to be. The kids at BSU are here to get an education first and foremost. I would be careful about deciding who is a real Christian and who is, as you put it, a PRETEND Christian. Ultimately, the Bible tells us that only God knows the heart. And we can only look at the fruit of a person’s life but we CANNOT know their hearts.”

“Exactly Chris. But as you say we can look at the fruit. How many of the BSU Kids are witnessing and converting people, like the first century Christians did? NONE OF THEM!, that is how many. And the reason what I am doing looks so different to you is that I am actually living the Christian life of the first century. Every… single…day.”

Chris shook his head and said “Tikie who told you bearing fruit had anything to do with converting people? I…”

But My father cut Chris off before he could finish.

“Son, I am concerned that you are letting your schoolwork go. Martin [that is, Mom, our frat RA] told Chris you are missing classes and that your grades are down. Your scholarship is very important. Your classwork has to come first. It’s your future.”

“You are wrong Dad, the Bible says ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you.”

“Are you sure,” asked Chris,” that you what are seeking IS the Kingdom of God? Is Maranatha the Kingdom of God?”

“Well,” I said, “it is a lot closer to the kingdom than First Baptist or the BSU where everyone sits around talking about who is dating whom, who kissed who, and the latest football score.”

My father, stood up and crossed his arms over his chest and glared at me.

Then in his Korean War commander’s voice he spoke, “Now I think you ought to drop this crazy thing right now and get back to real life. You have a lot of great things going for you. Don’t throw your life and your future away.”

I knew I was about to get the, “How hard it was in the depression talk and how I had the opportunity that he never had,” lecture from my father. I was not going to listen to any lecture from father right now. And, I thought, I don’t have to.

So I took an unfair shot at my kind, loving and caring parents; I am ashamed to say.

“Dad, guess what? I pay my own way in this world and have for the last two and a half years. I love you and Mom but this is what I am doing and that is that …and frankly I am my own person. I don’t need your advice and I don’t want it.”

My Mom started crying, the tears running down her cheeks, and through her tears she said, “But Honey, we are so concerned about you. And what about Sheila? She was so upset last night when she called us. She begged us to come down to see you. She thinks you are in real trouble. She is so worried about what you are doing and this group you are in. She says that they have brainwashed you, she thinks this group is a cult like those moon heads selling flowers on the road. And that poor girl was sobbing so hard on the phone last night she could hardly get her breath to speak. It almost broke my heart.”

So that was it, heh?

Sheila was nosing into my business; calling and upsetting my parents; meddling in my life. She had rejected the gospel and what I was doing and now she was trying to get in the way of God’s calling on me.

Did she not have any decency left  in her?

My parents left after about an hour of fruitless talk.

It was not a conversation; we just talked at each other. I would not listen to them. And although they listened carefully to what I had to say they simply could not understand what was going on with me. All they could see was that their son, who seemed to have everything going for him, was heading down a completely different, and, to them, a bizarre path, throwing away what they called, “An opportunity of a lifetime.”

I did not even wave goodbye to them when they left or even shake Chris’s pro-offered hand.

I stalked out of the frat house and headed for “the hill”.

I was fuming.

I was planning on giving Sheila a piece of my mind.

 

#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.

#23 False Teaching

Editors note: Tikie now discusses some of the false teachings given by MCM leadership. The larger point is not the teachings themselves, but rather how these teachings were used to reinforce the power of the leadership and to extend that power down through the MCM hierarchy of elders, pastors and sheep. These tactics are common amongst sociological cults: set the leadership up as infallible; ensure that their directives are seen as coming straight from an unimpeachable source, and then make it impossible for their followers to confront, or even question, the leadership’s actions or motives.

The False Teachings of Joe Smith 

Prophets and Apostles

At the rest of the Maranatha services that week Joe Smith cited the fact that MCM, just like the first century church, had apostles and prophets anointed by God and filled with the Spirit.

And, he stated, there was a clear reason for this.

“My brothers and sisters the Bible says that God’s church is ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone,” said Joe, quoting Paul in the book of Ephesians.

“And any true church, any overcoming church, any church that is the real Body of Christ therefore must have apostles and prophets or it has no solid  foundation. So these fake, watered down, Christian have no real foundation; for without leaders anointed with His Spirit they cannot demonstrate God’s power and His Word.”

Joe frowned, and then paused, and then looked up at us for at least a minute, his head turning slowly back and forth as he gazed out at the congregation from the stage.

In response to this the whole congregation seemed to lean up, on the very edge of their seats, to see what Joe would say next.

Then suddenly Joe’s face broke into a broad smile and his eyes lit up like a kid seeing a birthday cake with candles and he shouted, “But praise God His Spirit has given His church, His new work on earth elders, apostles, and prophets to provide a firm foundation! AMEN AND AMEN!!”

The congregation then broke into loud applause with shouts of, “Praise God and Hallelujah,” while Joe stepped back and took a long drink of water from a glass on the podium.

Then he leaned back over the podium and raised his hand palm up  and just as suddenly as the crowd had erupted with their approval- it once again became silent.

“Therefore my brothers and sisters you can take comfort that God is directing His work through His anointed elders, not those appointed by man’s power, and that, because of this, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of God that is doing his work today!” As he finished a slow smile, and a look of satisfaction, spread across his face while the music kicked in and the ushers began collecting the offering.

******

Only true Christians will rule and reign with Jesus

Joe Smith, that week, also taught us that how we, God’s Green Berets, would, “Literally rule the Nations as Princes,” since we were now, “The Sons and Daughters of God”. We would literally (and he meant physically) make, “The wicked bow before us after His return,” Joe told us.

“So church you see that the old dead mainline churches’  idea of namby pamby Christians sitting round on clouds, strumming little golden harps, and singing their little sweet songs for eternity is a lie from hell! But, my brothers and sisters, it is clear that if you want to rule and reign with Jesus then you have to be an overcomer in today’s world!”

Joe quoted First John, “Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous.”

And then he combined it with this admonition from Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

“Note brothers and sisters the phrase ‘parents in the Lord,” said Joe.

“Who are your parents in the lord?” he asked us .

Then quickly answering his on question he stated, “Well Jesus clearly tells us that we must be willing to leave our father and mothers… so the apostle Paul cannot be referring to your earthly parents.”

“No it is very clear from the Word that your parents in the Lord are your shepherds who provide for your spiritual safety,”  Joe continued.

“So flock you see that if we practice that Christian righteousness and if we obey our parents in the Lord then we will rule and reign with Jesus as the Sons and Daughters of God when He returns.”

“Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Can you say AMEN CHURCH?… WE WILL RULE AND REIGN WITH HIM AND THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HIM IF WE SIMPLY KEEP HIS COMMANDMENT!”

And the place went berserk as music kicked in and we all joined in singing John Saw the Multitude of the Overcomers and soon the crowd spilled out into the aisles dancing that MCM Hebrew jig in their excitement of learning that they would rule and reign with Christ.

But despite my addled state much I had heard that night concerned me. And even as I was dancing in the aisle with my new found Christian brothers and sisters I was troubled by Joe’s pronouncements.

For Joe made had it clear that those who were, “Not in right standing with Christ  could not, and would not, be Sons and Daughters of God”.

And who, or what, determined if a person was or was not in right standing with Christ?

It seemed clear as to who determined a sheep’s standing with Christ; Their shepherd and the elders that were over the shepherd…right on up the line to Joe Smith, Bob Weiner and Bob Nolte: the Apostles and Prophets of MCM.

And the what that a sheep did to keep their standing with Christ  seemed to mean obeying God’s word as given by the elders of MCM.

Those were serious long term issues that I should have been worried about at a that point.

But there were actually more pressing issues that evening I had not considered yet; my job as President of my frat.

Because things were heating up at the frat.

And I would soon learn that I could ignore my duties as frat president for only so long.

#21 Cutting Myself Off

 

Editors Note: Here Tikie shows us how members of sociological cults begin cutting themselves off from their friends; the very people that might help keep them from ensnaring themselves further in the cult.

“I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me:
It makes the lame to walk
and the blind to see,
Opens prison doors sets the captives free,
I have got a river of life flowing out of me.”
From a favorite chorus of MCM in the 1970s

 

I had now been a member of MCM for just about three weeks and had seen over ten of my friends join MCM and at least four of them had  brought other people into the Ministry. I had participated in at least 15 discipleship sessions with Marty and attended at least eighteen two hour MCM services. I was babbling on and on, to anyone who would listen, about God’s Kingdom, the need to leave everything for Jesus and be totally committed to Him and the Body.

But the  “old Tik” was still able to take control at this point in my journey.

It was as if he, the “old Tik”, was banished to the small closet in the back of my mind. The same closet containing the four or five weird Maranatha doctrines as well as my unanswered questions about its unceasing demands on me.

I am not into the pyscho-babble, Freud, and all that stuff.

In fact, I fully expect to get e-mails from outraged psychiatrists telling me that this stuff about the “old Tik” being shunted aside and locked in a closet is a bunch of junk.

Maybe it is.

All I can tell you, my friend, is that throughout my time in MCM the “old Tik” was always inside my head somewhere.  Or perhaps I was simply insane the entire time I was a member of MCM. I sometimes believe that-  looking back on this experience.

Sometimes “the Old Tik” would yell and scream from inside the closet, “ARE YOU CRAZY? HAVE YOU LOST ALL YOUR SENSE OF HUMANITY”????

At other times he would merely whisper, or sit staring at the wall and brood. The “Old Tik” would especially get upset when I put the Kingdom ahead of everything else especially people, their lives and their feelings.

Which, after a while, I did routinely.

At this point in my MCM journey the “old Tik” [the Tik, by the way, that is typing this on a laptop as I watch my twin seven year olds at a gymnastics session] was still occasionally let out of the closet and allowed to takeover.

To run things as he saw fit.

But gradually the “old Tik” [me!, that is!] was banished to this closet, then eventually the closet was locked, and finally the “new Tik” and my overseers, with help from the head honchos at MCM, tried to wall the door to the closet up with the bricks and mortar made of twisted scripture, all night counseling (shepherding) “hootah sessions”, discipleship classes, deliverance sessions, Bible Studies, endless work on behalf of MCM and conferences like Maranatha Leadership Training School (MLTS) where we would hear sermon after sermon from top leaders in the shepherding movement.

This was done so that the “old Tik” would never emerge again…ever… and so all of us would comply willingly with the will of the elders of MCM.

However the “old Tik” took control immediately after the service on this night, however.

For once, post- service, no one was taking the slightest notice of me.

Good. Time to make my get-away.

I hurried out of the front door.

It was 8:15 pm; the earliest I had ever left the MCM House after a night service.

Once at the frat house I picked up my telephone and called Sheila’s dorm room. I was determined to talk to her before the weekend was out. I was using the excuse of confirming our lunch appointment on Monday to do so.

I mean I couldn’t just call to talk to her without an excuse could I?

“Hello.”

It was Jane, her roommate.

“Hi Jane, it is me, Tik.”

“Hi Tikie.”

“Is Sheila there?”

“Just a minute”

I could hear her hand covering the speaker on the handset, but I could not hear what was being said. I could, however, make out a muffled exchange of voices.

“She is not here.”

“C’mon Jane, cut the baloney. I know she is there I just heard you talk to her.”

Jane was a sweet heart but she had the mentality of a, well, a parakeet and the voice to match.

She also had the emotional maturity of a five year old. This was her third year of rooming with Sheila. Honestly I don’t see how Sheila stood it.

“I was talking to myself,” Jane said.

Great.

“Jane, tell Sheila to grow up and stop acting like a kindergartener.”

Another muffled exchange.

“She’s busy.”

This time I heard Sheila break into that husky laugh of hers. Then she picked up the phone.

“What.”

It was a flat, hard, statement, not a question, from Sheila.

“What do you mean ‘What’?” I asked,

“I mean WHAT. That’s what.”

Then she and Jane started laughing.

That’s one of the things I liked about Sheila- she could “fire and forget.”

Sure, she was going to give me a hard time, she was going to jerk me around a little, but she was not going to pout and stay mad.

Not Sheila.

“Look I wanted to talk about Saturday and missing our date at the game. It was a jerky thing to do- but I got tied up and ran about an hour and a half late. I tried calling your dorm, the sorority, and then the frat house. I got JD on the phone and asked him to find you… but we got cut off. Please forgive me, it was unintentional, I promise.”

“Don’t sweat it Tik. It is just not that big of a deal. I am a big girl. Besides we are just friends, right?”

Emphasis on the “are”.

I hated that term “just friends” and Sheila knew it. But I let it slide. I was being an “oh so humble Tik” tonight.

“Right,” I answered.

“So are we on for tomorrow?” I asked.

“Sounds great,” she said. “See you at noon at the Calf.”

That next morning in class Dr. Carl’s face was frozen in a frown as he handed me the graded structures exam.  The exam that I had taken and sweated over on Friday morning.

“Very disappointing, Mr. Tok, very disappointing. And you failed to come by my office Friday afternoon like I requested.”

The tests had been stacked on his desk.

It was a ritual flagellation for those who did not measure up, at least, to retrieve your graded test.

To get our graded tests we had to walk up to his desk, sign a book, and then he would pull the graded test out of a folding file. Those who measured up to his expectations got a comment of “Okay”, or “All right”. Those who did not measure up were beneficiaries of a more personalized comment on their performance in front of everyone.

Like the comment he had just given me.

I peeked at the top of the page. My stomach turned: the score was a 68, a “D,” and it was the lowest exam score I had gotten in two years.

Dr. Carl did not believe in curves. “Who knows,” he said, “there is a small chance that one day I will have a class the superior of Einstein and if I grade on the curve I could really screw things up.”

I already knew where I had goofed up. I had  spent three hours last night in the library mastering ‘inderminate structures”.

That was not the problem. The problem was that I should have mastered them before Friday’s test.

Oh, and there was another problem.

I had a thermo-dynamics test tomorrow that I should have been prepping for last night rather than catching up on indeterminate structures theory. My plan the night prior was, well, to pull another “all-nighter” Monday night, after the Maranatha service.

That plan had been put on hold because of my “all- nighter” casting demons out of a brother with Sam and Marty that evening. I was exhausted once again and I knew I did not have the physical or mental stamina to go seventy two hours without sleep.

So I prayed, “God you know my heart, Your Word says to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added to me.”

Marty had shared that with our group on Saturday morning.

“I am trusting you to do that God,” I added.

Maybe a miracle would occur and I could get through my thermo test intact. But it looked like my new Maranatha activities were quickly getting me into academic trouble.

At noon I headed up to the War Eagle to meet Sheila.

I was anxious to catch up with her and to see what was going on. Meeting Sheila for lunch was a hobby of mine- she was interesting and smart and had a very dry cynical sense of humor. She was also a straight arrow and a devoted Christian. At least I used to think she was before that day I met Bob Weiner.

At lunch we would get in our spot and talk about anything and everything. Sometimes it was the latest gossip- who was dating whom- who was dropping whom- who had flunked out. Sometimes it was a deep discussion of our Christian faith and what it meant to be a Christian.

Sometimes it was about our two childhoods, which could not have been more different. She was fascinated by my upbringing. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Birmingham, one of eight kids; my parents had a struggling business and there was never enough money to go around.

I had saved enough money, by the time I had graduated high school, to pay for about a year of college.  By combining that money with my “free ride’ at the frat with room and board, and a “books and tuition” scholarship awarded at the end of my freshman year by Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society) I had cobbled together a way to get through school.

This set up also gave me a reasonably decent social life.

It was a shoestring existence all the way around, however.

And it was dependent on me maintaining a “B” average in my core engineering studies and my “free ride” at the frat as President and maybe next year as Steward.

Sheila, on the other hand had grown up as an only child of a prominent wealthy family in Selma, Alabama.

She had a brand new car. I had a bike.

She always had the latest clothes and she had all the things materially I never had. In fact she said her parents would pretty much give her whatever she wanted and needed. She found the contrast in the way we were making it through school fascinating.

And I liked the fact, that despite the piles of money and material possessions, she was as down to earth and as nice as anyone I had ever met.

Funny to boot.

In some ways it was hard for me to figure out why we had become friends. I met her at Freshmen Forum and then again at a IFC/Panhellenic Pledge social our freshman year.

We had ended up at both functions talking to each other almost exclusively; with me spending most of the time laughing at her cynical humor. Over the next two years our paths had taken a similar trajectory- we were both Rush Chairmen and we were both elected President of our Greek chapters for our junior years. And, because she detested the “nose in the air” attitude of the frat that her sorority normally associated with, we had schemed to bring her sorority and my fraternity together for fundraising and social events last year.

We grabbed our sandwiches and went to our normal hangout spot to watch the world go by on the lawn in front of Haley Center.

But, something was different today.

With Sheila I never had to think about conversation. It just happened. It was a stream of consciousness.

But today the conversation was… and I am trying to recreate the scene in my mind right now… it was… stilted.

I mean usually I had something on my mind and just blurted it out. Or she had something to say and she did the same.  Many times we would each launch into a machine gun burst of conversation at the same time- cracking each other up…but not today.

And I knew why that was.

Because today I was doing something I had never thought about doing with Sheila: weighing what to talk about… and what not to talk about.

For example:

My almost flunking Dr.Carl’s test was at the top of my mind.  Now if I mentioned that I would have to tell her the reason I had flunked the test and all that had happened that had kept me from mastering the material. That is that I had spent 30+ hours in five days on Maranatha related stuff instead of  using that time to study like I normally would have.

Could I tell her about Rick and Rhonda and their “conversion”?

Maybe… in Sheila’s opinion Rhonda was a “slut” for practically living in the house. But if I went into the change that had taken place with Ronda then I would have to talk about Maranatha and all of that had happened since the previous week.

And I knew she did not like or approve of what she had seen of Bob Weiner and Maranatha.

Of course the same would happen if I discussed Fred’s, Ricky’s and Roger’s conversions.

So WHAT could we talk about?

Not the frat. I had been missing in action so to speak for the last three weeks. I had missed two chapter meetings and business review for goodness sake. Did I really want to go into that with her? Perhaps she knew about it from Mom and would bring it up on her own.

As we walked to the lawn in front of Haley Center I suddenly realized, that for the first time in two years, I might have NOTHING to talk about to the person who had probably been my best friend at Auburn.

And I remember breaking out in a cold sweat at that thought.

She launched into a funny story about two of her sorority sisters mixing up their contact lenses on Sunday morning and that got me laughing as she went into the hilarious details about what transpired.

But after 10 minutes, like I had feared, we ran out of conversational steam.

What was there left to talk about, the weather?

The Kingdom and the work of Maranatha were on my mind first and foremost- that is what I was excited about: the ETERNAL things.

I knew that this would go nowhere with Sheila. She was stuck in the  world of “temporary” things.

For a minute we sat there in silence.

Not the, “Isn’t this a great day kind and lets enjoy it,” silence but more like the, “I am on an elevator with a complete stranger and can’t wait to get off,” silence.

I hope you know what I mean.

Then I realized Sheila was staring at me.

“Tik, is everything okay?”

“Sure, why?”

“I am not sure what is going on, but I am sure that something is not right. Anything on your mind? You seem a thousand miles away.”

More like a dimension or a couple of light years away.

But what was I supposed to say?

“Hey Sheila, you will never guess what happened two nights ago we cast demons out of this guy who was on the verge of suicide!!”

I sort of knew that that line of conversation was not a wise one with her… or was it?

Did I miss a chance to let my guard down to tell her EVERYTHING about MCM?  The good plus my doubts and some of the things that did not seem right to me?

What would have happened that day if I had let my guard down and really confided in her?

What if I had really trusted her?

I actually briefly considered doing this but did not.

I’m not sure why I did not act on this impulse. It was another lost opportunity to get off the track I was headed down.

I was rapidly narrowing my mind and my options.

Anyway I glanced at my watch- it was 12:25 pm.

Usually when I was having lunch with Sheila a glance at my watch would spark the reaction, “Yikes- late again!” But today I was hoping my watch WOULD read 1:00 pm instead of reading 12:25 pm, as it actually did.

“Hey Sheila, sorry to eat and run but I promised Dr. Carl that I would stop by his class before lab to discuss my exam results.”

I was lying.

Dr. Carl would not be back in his office until 4:00 pm. He had a level 1 lab from 12-3 pm today.

I stood up and she was watching me very closely, her eyes narrowing as I gathered my books and gave her a quick wave.

“Uh, okay Tik. See you…well…see you soon.”

“Sure Sheila, see you soon.”

I turned and walked away.

What was wrong with Sheila?

What in the world was wrong with me?

#19 The Dating Revelation: We Say Adios To Dating !

Editors Note: Here Tikie discusses the Dating Revelation. Tikie believes that this revelation, as practiced by MCM, was used as a way to maintain control of members. He views it as just one the many controls that MCM put into place to ensure its members stayed in line.

It was the same order of service recipe as usual at Maranatha that night. I was getting used to it and liked it: the catchy songs, and  usually some dramatic story or a testimony from a good-looking campus leader.

After the music, prophecies, testimonies and the offering Bob got up to speak.

I was very anxious to hear what Bob was going tonight. That morning he had said his message tonight would be about about dating, sex  and marriage entitled “God’s perfect choice for your life”.

“Tonight,” Bob intoned, “I will be giving a message for believers only. If you are not a believer, if you are not a truly committed Christian, then this message will NOT make sense to you.”

He pointed us to the scripture that said the gospel can appear as foolishness to the Godless. He launched into the story of Isaac and Rebecca in Genesis.

After reading the story he asked, “So who chose the wife for Isaac?”

Well that seemed pretty straight forward to me. Abraham’s servant had done this. Bob had just read the scripture describing this event.

But apparently I was wrong.

“If you think it was Abraham’s servant, then you are wrong and not allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret the scripture.”

“Huh?” I thought.

I mean, sure you needed the Holy Spirit to act as a guide, but I did not need to Holy Spirit to tell me that the scripture says something other than what it actually says.

I mean I was a fan of Occam’s razor when it comes to scripture; the simplest explanation is probably the correct one.

“You see Abraham is a type for us of God. You see in Galatians 4:28 we read ‘And you brethren, like Isaac are his children of promise,” Bob told us.

“Wait a minute,” I thought. “I mean I could really stretch here, maybe. I can almost understand MCM’s Baptism doctrine as a sort of circumcision in the way MCM teaches it, even if it is not EXPLICITLY spelled out. But the use of this particular scripture, why, I could not make heads or tails of it.

The story in the Bible simply said that Abraham sent his servant out to get Rebecca as a wife.

How could Bob jump from the servant choosing Isaacs’s wife to  God choosing Rebecca?  And then use that scripture to say that  God should choose our wives?

Not that I was opposed to God choosing, or telling us, who our mates were going to be.  But that is not the point here.

My point, rather, is that the scripture Bob used had no bearing on God choosing our mate.

Bob then went through the reasons that we should be spirit led  in our relationships with the opposite sex. He started by citing 1 Thessalonians that, “We are to walk holy and blameless before Him”.

“Okay,” I thought, “sure we are to be sexually pure before marriage… but is Thess. 4:1-6 talking about how to approach marriage?”

Not anymore that it was talking about a recipe for baking bread, as far as I could see.

Maybe it was my training from engineering school but I simply expect there to be Aristotelian Logic in an argument. The Bible to me was very logical. Things had to be accepted on Faith, but that once it was entered into the equation then logic ruled, or so thought Augustine of Hippo and other theologians. Otherwise, why write the Bible when a particular scripture can mean anything at all?

For example the teaching of sin atonement is logical and supported by plenty of scriptures as well:

1.God has no sin and cannot tolerate sin.
2.Sin requires a sacrifice acceptable to God.
3.Man is sinful.
4.God cannot tolerate man’s presence because of sin.
5. Jesus the perfect man the very God of God was made the perfect sacrifice for us.
6. Those that are atoned by faith in Jesus’s sacrifice desire God and are allowed in his presence.

Or 1+1+1 = 3.

But Bob’s teaching seemed to say that Red + Green =154.7

There seemed to at this point to be no Aristotelian logic to his teaching to in this study.

And this lack of logic in Bob Weiner (and Rose’s as well) was an issue that would eat at me for five years. And the reason there was a lack of logic to their teachings is that these teachings had no basis in scripture at all.

Now Bob pointed us to Psalm 37:4 that, “God will give us the desires of our heart.”

“This means that God will give us our husbands and wives. We do not have to go looking for them.”

“This was a good sentiment,” I thought, “but it is not supported by THIS scripture.”  My head was hurting. What Bob was saying was good.  But the scripture he was using  had no bearing on this teaching.

Then he quoted 2 Timothy: “I know whom I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard that which I have committed to Him until that Day.”

“Now wait a minute,” I thought, “this scripture forms the basis for my Mother’s favorite Hymn. This is not talking about dating and marriage…this is talking about our ultimate destination, our salvation.”

I was completely confused. What came next really threw me for a loop.

“So we believe that there should be NO dating, no going steady, no hand holding, none of that, until God has spoken to you about your mate and that has been confirmed by the elders and you are engaged to be married.”

Bob continued: “And how is this confirmed in Acts 14.” Then Bob  cited the verse calling for the oversight of the flock by the elders and shepherds in the early church.

“So God will reveal your mate to you and you to your mate through prayer. But you are not to speak to the person that is revealed to you for He will also speak to the elders and you shepherds at the same time. They will then pray and confirm His word to each of you.”

And finally Bob finished with these sentences, “This is God’s plan for his perfect choice for your life. It is a revelation for these end times. It allows us to focus on the things of God and not the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.”

Some twenty-five years afterwards there is a fairly simple question that should have been asked:  Why did Bob use scripture that failed to support his thesis?

The answer, I believe is two-fold.

The first answer is simple. There WERE no scriptures to support the Dating Revelation. His use of scripture to support this revelation involved an incredible twisting of scriptures by Bob.

The second answer is that these  revelations had to be supported with scriptures, even if those scripture had not the slightest bearing on the doctrine,

That was because if the doctrine was just a “nice idea” it would not have the force of law within MCM.

But if the doctrine and the teaching came from the”Word of God” and if if came from an MCM Apostle then it would have the force of law. And then the  flock had to obey them or risk losing their place in MCM.

Think about it which “Overcoming sold out MCM Christians” were going to disobey the Word of God and a doctrine sprouted from the mouth of a MCM Apostle?”

And this particular doctrine/revelation (and many other MCM teachings based on the twisting scriptural ) was put into place for one reason, and one reason alone: it  allowed the elders of MCM to have a powerful tool over which to control the actions and thoughts of the flock.

For, if you were a member of MCM, the elders wielded one of the most powerful biological forces in God’s creation: SEX!

And us unmarried people, why we were enuchs for Jesus until we showed ourselves to the elders of being worthy of a mate, marriage, and a marriage bed.

And yet another strange MCM doctrine was being stuffed into that already crowded closet in my mind.

 

#17 A Completely New Family

Saturday October 1978

The crowd in the stadium rose as one and cheered, “Waaarr EEAAAGLE!” as Auburn scored a touchdown.

But at that moment my mind was on other matters.

First, there was my problem with Sheila. She had called me to make peace after our blow up about who was, and was not, a Christian… and to talk about my involvement in Maranatha.

To seal that peace, and because, well, I missed seeing her, I had made a non-date  date with her to go to the football game. Now I had done something really rude to a very good friend. I stood her up and left her hanging at the frat house for at least an hour by herself.

I felt bad about this, well, at least part of me did.

But that part of me that felt bad, the part that was ruminating on how in the world I could have done such a thing to a good friend, was being challenged by someone else.

A new comer.

The new comer that had been forming in me over the last seven days. A soon to be tyranical new comer that I gladly welcomed in to my head, my heart and my soul; that I happily fed, watered and eventually, as you will see, let take over every aspect of my life.

The new comer, the other part of me, that was saying, “The Kingdom must come first” and the one reciting Marty and Bob’s words about being an, “Over-coming Christian and setting an example for the Body.”

I thought, “All this-worldly stuff, ALL of it is of no consequence. My luke warm Christian and heathen friends in the fraternity are not of God. The dead Christian groups like CCC and BSU that never bore fruit are nothing but fronted social clubs.”

I glanced around at the screaming football fans and the revelry taking place in the stadium; all of this was temporal, I thought, while the Kingdom was permanent.

These eternal things were what the only  important things, or so I told myself.

Or was it this “newcomer”, the “new” Tik, that was thinking this?

“I should get away from this debauchery ….especially since God has picked me out for leadership,” I thought.

Isn’t that what Jesus would do, separate himself from the sinful stuff and the drunken harlots and whore-mongers?

And that new  part of me, the part that was on fire for Jesus, the part that was totally committed, the part that saw problems with watered down Christianity; well, this new part of me was shoving the old Tik into the same small closet that held some of the weird doctrines and practices that I had seen so far during my involvement in Maranatha.

Now to be fair I was NOT thinking in those terms.

Well, not exactly.

But I certainly was experiencing what sociologists, including cult experts like Janha Lalich, term cognitive dissonance, which apparently all sociological cult members seem to experience to some degree. Cognitive dissonance seems to occur frequently with those who are just moving into such a sociological cult (I will speak to cognitive dissonance and how individuals are assimilated into such groups later on).

But now my thoughts now focused on what MCM termed the old man versus the new man I was becoming; as I sat silent among the throngs cheering and screaming fans around me.

In fact Maranatha (Marty, Bob, Randy and Sam, thus far) had actually told me that the old man might try to come back. For sure Baptism in Faith and the  Baptism of Fire in the Holy Spirit would help prevent that the return of that dead old man.

But I was warned to stay away from that old man- the old Tik. The old Tik had been cut away and buried in Baptism. I must not, “Let him drag himself out of the grave” (an actual quote and teaching of MCM).

Isn’t that what Bob and Marty had told me to do?

That I was to, “Mortify the flesh, to kill the old man daily and let the new man come to life?”

Isn’t that that was what discipleship and total commitment to Jesus and His Body required?

The shepherds over us, I had been told, were to help discipline us in our walk with Jesus. They held us accountable for staying close to God, for watching over our spiritual well being, and, to help us keep the old man, and our former life, in the grave where Water Baptism had put him.

Friday night (the night prior) during my brief chastisement session Marty read the following verse to me: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly.”

I looked around me at the hundred fifty plus frat brothers, dates and little sisters of the frat. Some were drunk, most were yelling and cheering. Thousands of people moved their shakers in clockwork rhythm as they yelled, screamed and hugged each other. It seemed to me, at least, that I was the only one in the whole crowd not in this worldly groove, if you will.

Despite this was I like the dog Marty had spoken of last night that was returning to it’s vomit?

Were the frat activities and all of this worldly stuff going on at the game the vomit that Marty and the Bible spoke about?

How about Sheila?

I knew in my heart that Sheila had rejected Maranatha, despite our effort to patch things up on the phone.

We were good friends. I did not like the term just friends because it implied a diminution of our relationship. But where did Sheila, my friend, fit in with God’s plan if she were not going to be an over comer?

Where did any of my old friends fit in?

A mere seven days into Maranatha and I had already categorized people as either old friends or my new friends; actually these new friends were my  new family to quote Marty, Randy, and Bob.

New brothers and sisters in Jesus they were.

An eternal family of God, for me, it seemed.

In my mind I was also starting to categorize activities as either eternal and of the “kingdom or of the world; that is temporary, fleeting and sinful.

Reality broke in as Auburn intercepted a pass sending the crowd into more fits of  screaming and cheering.

I thought, “Why can’t these people scream and yell about the miracles and  the goodness of God who gives them their very breath? Sheila said she thought the Maranatha service was strange the other night, but no stranger than what is going on here with 80,000 people yelling and screaming about a zipped up ball of air.”

Then Jenny leaned over and put her head in my lap; her strawberry blonde hair now hanging down to my shins.  And then she passed out with a small sigh.

“Sorry Tik,” laughed Mom. “I think the excitement was too much for her today!”

I stood up, cradling Jenny’s head and then laid her gently down onto the vacant stadium bench seat.

“Hey Mom I just can’t get into this game.  I think I am going to head back to the frat house.”

He smiled, “Worried about Sheila, hey?”

I just nodded and headed out of the stadium to find my bike. I had dropped it in the grass outside the stadium.

I hoped it had not been stolen.

It was there where I left it, thank goodness. I got on it and started pedaling aimlessly up campus.

About five minutes later I found myself sitting on the same brick steps near the Haley Center where Sheila and I had spent many an hour talking. I just looked across the empty green common while the roar from  loudspeakers and the crowd in the stadium washed over me.

I was tossing all of the thoughts I had about God, Jesus, the world, the Kingdom, my old life. my old friends and new-found family around and around in my head.

Suddenly something snapped inside of me. I jumped on my bike and sped to the Hill, and Sheila’s dorm, pumping my legs as hard as I could.

With a force of will the old Tik had broken his out of that partially closed closet in my mind and had taken control again.

At least for now.

Now men were not allowed into the women’s dorms with few exceptions.

But I knew that the side door by one of the patios at Sheila’s dorm was always open and it would allow me to bypass the Pinkie on guard (these were the security guards employed by Pinkerton; we called them pinkies).

I made my way up to Sheila’s room and knocked.

No answer.

I went down to the social room on that floor and got a pen and paper and then scrounged for scotch tape with no luck.

Just to think, I was on the verge of discovering post-it notes in 1978!

Oh Well.

I scribbled the following: “Sorry I was so late, I tried to find you at the frat house and the game. Please forgive me & call me! Your Friend, Tik”.

Then I scrawled at the bottom of the note.

“PS: Your are the ever BEST friend ever!”

I slid the note under the door to her room.

Back at the frat house I scrounged for some food in the walk in freezer. There was some frozen fried chicken that Annie, our cook, had put in baggies; so I threw it in the oven and watched the band for the post game frat party set up in our social room whilst I listened to the game on the radio and chugged a coke.

I was not required to come to the frat parties, the social chairman was, but it was expected that I would be there as the President.

And sure enough I was almost always was at the post game frat parties, but never took part in the hard-drinking and carousing. I just hung around and talked and occasionally got talked into a dance by one of the little sisters or Sheila.

Funny, Sheila was not a frat little sister, heck she was not even officially associated with the frat, but she usually came to our post game parties and hung out with me. We would laugh at the antics of our friends, occasionally dance and jitter-bug if we liked the song being played. By 11:30 pm, just prior to the party closing down, we would usually find ourselves sitting on the six-foot high retaining wall, at the back of the Frat parking lot, kicking our legs and talking about life.

But I could not attend the frat party tonight. Tonight was the love feast being put on for all the new brothers and sisters.

So I ambled down Magnolia Street to the Maranatha House with my potluck contribution under my arm. As I walked up the street I could see people streaming into the front door.

The stage was still in the meeting room but that morning we had put up about 20 tables seating 10 per table that morning.

The  head table on the stage where the Praise Band Equipment usually played had Bob Weiner, some visiting pastors and Mike and Missy Caulk, the Auburn Pastors seated at it, in places of honor.

Two members of the Praise Band were strumming on acoustic guitars and as I walked in  they broke into song. I saw Bob with a microphone,seated at the front table, holding it to his mouth, singing loudly into it.

That seemed quirky to me, but I shook it off and plopped down at a table where a couple had just taken a seat.

They wore the same preppy clothing, popular at that time, as I did, he with parted short hair, and she with dimples, dark hair in braids and blue sparking blue eyes that seemed to flare brightly when she smiled at me. I smiled back and before I could speak we all joined in singing with the band.

After a couple of these songs Bob Weiner stood up and said, “Praise God- this is our third week at Auburn and we are seeing a mighty revival here. It is part of the new thing that God is doing on His earth. Tonight for the first time the new Body here at Auburn will break bread together like the early Christians always did.”

He pointed us to the scripture in Acts on how the new church broke bread and fellow-shipped together routinely and weekly.

He continued “This is our new family our brothers and sisters in Christ, our adopted family because we are adopted sons of God and heirs to His Kingdom. Amen????”

There was clapping and shouting.

“Tonight we are going to enjoy some Godly music, some food and we will have about ten baptisms tonight!!! PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY! JESUS REIGNS!,shouted Bob.

“AMEN BROTHER!!!”came a shout from the crowd and there were cheers,  applause, and stomping of feet.

Bob waited until the noise subsided.

It was a dramatic pause. Bob had/has an unbelievable sense of timing; of how to build a story; of how to build drama when he spoke…even into the announcements like this. During this pause, and as the room grew silent, his face showed keen anticipation.

I found that the anticipation of what he was about so say growing in me as well.

“… and on Sunday night, after our blow out Sunday Morning Worship Service tomorrow morning, I will be speaking on an extremely important topic, a true revelation from God, that will prevent the hurt and injury that we see today in the world. You see God’s church, the Body of Christ, is called to be different in every way from the world. For those of you who have made a commitment to Jesus, that are committed to being radical over-comers,  you simply will not want to miss this session on Sunday night.”

“What is he going to be speaking about? What could be so revolutionary?” I wondered.

“…tomorrow night I will be speaking on God’s perfect choice and his plan for your life and you life-mate. It is an exciting topic and a plan that God has given to us, His Church and His Apostles in this end time. I will show you how God intends to bring brothers and sister together into holy and noble marriage with none of the hurts and the scars that the world leaves people in the sinful and lustful dating game that the world plays!”

“Amen?” he shouted and cupped his hand to his ear.

“Amen!” we all shouted back in unison.

“Wonder what in the world all that stuff was about?” I thought.

After getting through the pot luck line with a plate of food I sat back down at the table next to the young couple.

“We have been watching you at the services since last Sunday night,” said the girl. She introduced herself as Allie.

“This is my husband Matt.”

“You seem so on fire so alive to Jesus,” she said as she tore off  a piece of bread from her plate and popped it into her mouth.

It was a very nice compliment she gave me, I thought, and I liked hearing it.

It turned out that Allie was in nursing school and Matt was completing his master’s degree in sociology, or something like that. Although Allie was only one year older than me, and Matt four years older; their maturity levels, both as people, and as Christians, were much, much higher than mine.

They had both come from a charismatic Christian church in Montgomery and were dissatisfied with their walk and what they saw in the commitment to Jesus by other members in that church.

We spent the entire dinner talking about Jesus and what He was doing and the gifts of the Spirit and our mutual radical commitment to Him.

It was evident that they were far better versed in scripture and had a much deeper walk with the Lord than I did; this despite my constant attendance at the Baptist church and Bible studies on Campus over the past two years.

I did not know it then but Matt and Allie were to become my surrogate parents, at least that is the way I saw them, over the next three years while I was at Auburn.

They were  to become refuge for me at Maranatha when my “shepherds’ started whacking out and going nuts. Which happened often I would soon find out.

Matt and Allie were sincere and humble with a true desire to know God. Like others, including me, they were being sucked into a machine that did not reward humbleness, piety, or a servant’s spirit.

Ultimately, like almost all of us, who found their way to MCM, they ended up paying the price in hurts and scars and torments. Those who were the most sincere, the most devout, and humble ultimately paid a greater price in the arrogant and controlling atmosphere that Maranatha became, or actually, I think, already was.

It was also Matt and Allie who introduced me to a couple that would also have an affect on my life:

Karen and Phil Bonasso.

But all of this would come much later.

But tonight was simply was a night of fellowship and fun all centered on the Bible, and Jesus and Maranatha.

Matt introduced me to Mike and Missy Caulk (their real names are used with their permission) the new pastors at Auburn. I did not mention to Mike Caulk that I had met him earlier that week. I did not think he would remember that encounter.

During my conversation with Mike Caulk I learned he was an ex-Marine and had been quarterback for the Marine Corps football team. He seemed like a very personable and genuinely funny guy.

I immediately liked him. I was glad he was going to be our Pastor.

Throughout our conversation, however, which lasted about ten minutes, I noticed that Mike Caulk’s eyes would periodically follow Bob around the room. I could not put my finger on it, but it seemed that Mike Caulk, a big striking muscular guy, a handsome looking guy with a face a sculptor would love, was in awe of, and, it seemed to me, intimidated by, Bob Weiner. Mike watched Bob like a dog would watch a harsh master intent on the master’s every move and awaiting the inevitable punishment.

At the end of the service Bob called Mike and Missy Caulk up to the stage.

“Now,” Bob said, “I am going to be here preaching at Auburn only two more nights more, at least for right now”

There was a groan from the crowd and shouts of “stay longer and don’t leave.”

“Now, now,” said Bob, “it is God that is doing the things here..I am just sowing the seeds. Trust me I will be back and keep tabs on things here!”

And he laughed.

“Next week you are going to have a real treat in store. You see I am the evangelist that lays the ground work that gets the Ministry going; the one ploughs up the earth and plants the seeds. But starting Monday the person who will water and tend the soil is coming.  A person who will help build up this work into the mighty fortress of God.”

He paused.

“The man who is coming has a deep and passionate understanding of God. He is a true and real prophet of God in these last days: his name is Joe Smith. He is anointed by God and will be a true blessing to all of you. He will prophesy over you and change your lives.”

Then he looked at Mike and Missy Caulk.

“Now of course,” he continued,” these are your pastors Mike and Missy Caulk who are coming from Oxford, MS to lead this ministry. Praise God!”

And with that he waved Mike and Missy to stand up.

There was shouting and whooping like at the football game this afternoon. Then Bob said something really odd, something I thought strange at the time; something that has stuck with me verbatim some thirty years later.

He said, “We are counting on Mike and Missy Caulk to make this place grow, we have invested a lot of time and money in this ministry…. and they had better not mess it up!

I may be disremembering (is that a word??? If not it should be!) some twenty-seven years later, but the entire place seemed to let out an audible gasp, at least I am sure that I did.

Both Mike and Missy had a stunned expression on their face.

Bob seemed oblivious to all of this and yelled out: “Let’s close with the song ‘what a mighty God we serve’! And tomorrow morning invite all of your friends for I will be preaching on the mighty blood of Jesus!”

I stayed for another hour talking with Matt and Allie and visiting with Mike Caulk.

As I walked back up “mag” towards my frat house I thought, “What a great family I have become part of.”

Maranatha would become my complete and total “family”, in almost every sense, over the next five years.

And I would come to learn, in time, that this “family” was also completely and totally dysfunctional.