#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.”

#45 What It Took To Succeed At MCM

 

Editors: Tikie now introduces us to Phil Bonasso one of his close friends at Auburn. Phil later moved to into the top level of leadership within MCM. After MCM imploded, Phil, Rice Brooks, Steve Murrel along with other MCM pastors founded what is now Every Nation Church (EN).

Tikie and others (including Edward Dalcour) believed that EN has many, but not all, of the same abusive practices of MCM.

In this chapter Tik, using Phil as an example, shows what kind of person it took to climb into the upper level of MCM.

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

How To Succeed at MCM

Auburn, Alabama August 1979

“Eager for action and hot for the game
The coming attraction, the drop of a name
They knew all the right people, they took
all the right pills
They threw outrageous parties, they paid heavenly bills
There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face
She pretended not to notice, she was caught up
in the race

Out every evening, until it was light
He was too tired to make it, she was too tired
to fight about it”

“Life in the Fast Lane”  by the Eagles

***************
By the end of my story you will see that I was a miserable failure as a full-time Pastor and leader at MCM.

But not everyone failed and stumbled the way I did. Some thrived and grew like weeds in a well-watered field. Phil Bonasso was just such a person and had what it took to succeed within MCM and more.

He and a few others engineered the MCM break up (not the public story given about the break-up) overthrew Bob and Joe. They then built what became Every Nation out of the ashes of MCM.

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

I headed to the west side of Campus on a warm sunny afternoon to visit my friends Matt and Annie at campus married student housing

Arriving I saw my friend Matt coming down the ramp of a U-Haul moving van struggling with a piece of furniture. In the background a stereo blared music and I caught myself keeping time with the Eagles song “Life in the Fast Lane”.

I started.  No one in MCM would play rock and roll and certainly not a song by the Eagles.

I dropped my bike and ran up to help Matt. Sweat was pouring down his face.

“Thanks Bro,” he puffed as we manhandled a recliner down the ramp.

Then I heard a shout in a baritone voice: “G-L-O-R-Y !!!! T-O G-O-D!!!!!!!!!! G-L-O-R-Y!!!!!!! H-A-L-L-E-U-J-A-H !!!!

Startled, I looked up and saw a stocky figure with a shock of black bushy hair step out of the apartment door.

PRAISE JESUS- GLORY!” he continued yelling. The guy shouting sounded like one of the old-time tent revivalists that I use to hear at my Grandmother’s country church.

I did not know what to make of it.

Then Matt shouted back to him, “H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H NASSO!”

The stocky guy burst into peals of laughter as we put the recliner down.

I looked the newcomer over as he walked over to me. He stood about 5’ 6″ tall with a huge shock of curly black hair, bushy eyebrows, full lips and large blue eyes.

His face lit up in a broad smile that reached to the corner of his eyes and then baritone voice boomed, full of laughter and good will.  “Mattie, my brother, is this the Tik you’ve been telling me about? The famous Tikie???”

”You got it bro!” shouted Matt.

This new guy put his arms around me in a bear hug and said in a low rumbly voice, “Praise God Brother, Matt has told me so much about you and the great work that God is doing here at Auburn! Glory!”

He said all this with rumbling chuckle and I realized that the “Glories to God” and “Praise Gods” that he and Matt exchanged were half serious and half in jest.

Matt looked to me and said “Tikie this is the brother I have told you about Phil Bonasso, or Nasso as I call him!”

The rock music continued to blare in the background. Phil continued to talk, shout, and sing nonstop the entire three hours we were there. I would learn this was pretty much the way he always was in his waking hours.

It was not the irritating hyperactivity of Bob Weiner; Phil’s constant monologue had a cheerful humor to it.

Later that night we sat on the apartment floor eating pizza and listening to Phil expound on how God was going to use him to bring God’s kingdom back to earth just like the Force had used Luke Skywalker in the recently released second episode of Star Wars.

Little did I know that day that Phil would rise into the top ranks of MCM. There he would be part of the coterie that “overthrew” Bob and Joe, and  would then use some of the disparate ministries that survived the break-up to form what became Every Nation church, which in many ways what I believe to be one of the successors to MCM.

***********

Here are a few vignettes about Phil, not in chronological order by the way, that show the type of person that could rise into the upper-echelons of MCM.

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

Bob had his eye on me in late 1980 and, when the Auburn Music Group went to Georgia Tech to help with the outreach there, he pulled me out front to give a 5 minute testimony before he launched into his sermon. Afterwards, ignoring all the sheep, Bob had approached me saying, “Great work brother, and great message.”

You should understand that those who worked with Bob regularly knew that good work went unnoticed, usually, and any infraction, perceived or real, found his immediate disfavor with rapid punishment following.

So being around Bob for extended periods was all downside, no upside.

Of course, we non full-time “sheep” were not aware of this, but the brothers who were at this outreach, including Phil, were very impressed that Bob and I talked frequently.

As I think about it many brothers, including Matt and Miltie, scattered when Bob approached; instinctively they knew that being in his immediate vicinity, especially during a busy and hectic ministry opening, could only bring more work, more exhortation, and perhaps punishment. I think I was to naïve to understand this, and perhaps too cocky to believe that I could get nailed.

But standing right there with me whenever Bob stopped to speak to me that weekend was Phil; and he was both impressed and extremely interested in all of this.

Phil hovered around Bob all weekend.

Afterwards He said “Tikie, I really want to talk to you about something, something I have noticed about you.”

I thought he was going to ask me about my fruit or prayer or something like that. He leaned over and asked, “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Get Bob’s attention, he’s all over you. How did you get him to notice you? I want to get next to him to get to know him. I think Maranatha’s got the right stuff; and if I can show them the latent power of God present in the W-O-R-D,” he drawled this “word” out in his deep baritone voice dripping with drama and intensity, “this thing [meaning MCM] will go places that no other group can go. It will explode in terms of Fruit. G-L-O-R-Y!”

He did not ask me about getting close to Jesus, rather he obsessed about getting close to Bob.

He did not hide this and, in fact, later said “I am going will be Bob’s right hand man, just watch me, Glory to God!”

“I am going to BE someone in MCM, I am Tikie, I promise!”

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

We went in 1980 or 81 (just before going I went full time) to the massive “Washington for Jesus” rally in DC with another brother “Bert”.

Typical Maranatha. None of us, including Phil had any money to speak of.

Together the three of us had pooled about $100 and we caravanned up with about 150 other Auburnites. No hotels for Phil, Bert, or me, we were going to sleep where-ever, as was the rest of our group.

Benches, grates whatever, that is where we would sleep for we were God’s Green Berets right? We could tough it out.

So much for the prosperity message.

Well the “ Washington for Jesus” festival complete with speakers and Bands and such was at JFK stadium in DC. We arrived late that afternoon and attended the first evening opening session and applauded the speakers as the droned on about God’s new kingdom.

At the end of the session Mike Caulk and Mike Godwin told us Auburnites where to gather the next morning at 9:00 am and they split.

Bob had spoken at this huge opening rally and we understood he was staying at the Washington Hilton with the other top leaders.

Afterwards we decided to find a place to bed down and sleep with the rest of the Auburnites, none of whom had hotel reservations, nor could a afford a room, regardless.

Now there was one problem with MCM’s plan, or lack thereof.

Those pesky DC police, for some reason, would not allow anyone to sleep in a public space (you can imagine that if they allowed this DC would be over-run with campers non stop). So there we were, along with 4,000 other MCMers, with our sleeping bags, and blankets, with the DC police chasing us all around the city.

And all the while Bob and Rose Weiner are enjoying the luxury of a suite at the Washington Hilton where I imagine they had room service delivered for breakfast the next morning.

Finally, and it is around 1:00 am, we are punch drunk and dead tired after a 10 hour car ride and attending an exhausting five-hour rally. The police have arrested a few folks who gave up and put their bags down and tried to get a little sleep. Right into the paddy wagon they went along with drunks, crack addicts, and common criminals.

No thanks!

So Bert, Phil, and I sneak into a courtyard with a small garden near the FBI building.

Mind you the city is lousy with police, kicking people out of their sleeping backs and threatening to arrest them if they stop moving, much less if they lay down again.

But Phil stands up and in his best MCM Prophet’s voice shouts out, “I command you demons to leave here so God’s children can get some rest and in the mighty name of Jesus I blind these police, GLORY TO GOD shabalalla ba shallala!!”

Now, I am looking at him like he is crazy.

We had learned the hard way, over the last hour, that sleeping at night in a public place in DC is against the law and that the police were enforcing this law whether we like it or not.

And I didn’t particularly want to spend a night in the DC jail being a “butch” for some ugly six-foot nine criminal named Big Al.

But Phil turns to Bert and me and says, “Okay brothers- its nap time.” He proceeds to unroll his sleeping bag and foam mat, and then, he gets in the bag, and is snoring in about two minutes.

Just like that.

Me, I turn, look at Bert, and say, “You heard him, its nap time”.

And in about a minute we are all laying in our sleeping bags, dead to the world, and not a cop sees us, or notices us, all night. I am pretty sure, from what I heard afterwards, that no one, in the Auburn Ministry, with the exception of Bert, Phil, or me, got any sleep that night.

Was it luck we did not get arrested or were the cops actually blinded to our presence that night?

The plan called for meeting the MCM Auburn team promptly at 9:00am the next morning or we would face the wrath of Marty. But, believe it or not, we did not wake up in our little sleeping garden outside of the FBI until 8:30 am. Unlike everyone else we got about 7 hours of sleep.

Now I was a “do bee” and Phil was a “God is in control not Marty” kind of guy.

I shook Phil and Bert and said, “C’mon guys, we have to meet at the Lincoln Mall in 30 minutes. I don’t want to get grief from Marty.”

It was at least a twenty-minute walk so I was right to tell the guys to get moving. We could not be late or Marty would punish us, I told them.

Phil looked at me from his heavy-lidded eyes and said, “First Tikie we aren’t going anywhere until we grab some breakfast. We gotta have our strength. Second, who made Marty pope? He isn’t anything to me, praise Jesus!!!!!”

By this time he was standing up with a big wide grin on his face.

“You know Tikie your problem is you THINK too much, just go with the flow and look for the opportunity. You put Marty in his place and people will see you have power!” and he laughed with that beautiful deep laughter of his.

“You see Tikie you need to turn THIS OFF,” and he slapped my head and continued, “before God can turn THIS ON” and he slapped my chest..

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

Many a night I spent at the Bonnasso’s with Matt and Allie, or with Phil and Karen at Matt and Allie’s place.

Or perhaps Mitlie, Matt, Phil, and I were hanging out at Chanello’s Pizza playing PacMan and Space Invaders together doing these“guy” kind of things. But Phil was always talking about his destiny regardless of the setting.

One night in his apartment, after Karen had hit the sack, Phil and I talked about my concerns with MCM, Bob Weiner, and how the whole thing operated. Phil listened closely and attentively as I shared my feelings and he never took issue with anything I was saying.

But he said something I thought was strange.

“Tikie,” he said, “I am pretty much convinced that this thing is a cult, but how else are we going to control these people? They are adrift and need direction. It is the only way to bring God’s Kingdom to reality!”

And with that he slapped me on the back and asked, “How about some popcorn bro?”

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

After the great send-out Phil’s ministry grew like a weed and he rapidly moved into the upper-echelons of MCM. Phil hung around Bob at MLTS and outreaches constantly, fetching him water, praising his every word, doing anything he could to get noticed.

He really had no true respect for either Bob or Joe, I think.

Rather he, like some other Pastors, saw MCM as an opportunity to set up his own church and build his power base.

And my understanding is that he, along with some other key pastors, were sick of Bob’s threats and antics. We will see later what they did about this and why… the real secret to MCM’s breakup… not the public pablum that was put out afterwards.

 

#30 MLTS with Larry and CJ

We are taking over
We are moving out in Love
We are lifting up our Savior
In the Power of God.

None shall stand before us
No more shall we be afraid
We are taking over the nations
In His mighty Name.

A Chorus written for MCM by Bin Soto in the late 1970s

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” Colossians 1:26-31

Maranatha Leadership Training School (MLTS)- seven weeks after I joined MCM

A cadre of five single brothers including three who left the frat with me, Robert, Fred, and Ricky, left Auburn around 3:00 am on a cold November morning for the trip to our first MLTS in Cookeville, TN.

The aging and decrepit 1973 Datsun B210 shook our bones as we chugged up the highway (for those of you under thirty years of age Datsun is now Nissan).  Picture a Honda Civic with a 2 feet cut off of it, no suspension, a two stroke motor cycle engine, a cracked windshield with no heat and I think you get the picture.

In order to save money we bought a big jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly and two loaves of bread. We could not afford to eat out; so we were going to live on peanut butter and jelly for three days. We bought the stale white bread at the day old store for half price.

To this day the thought of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes me gag.

We had pooled our money and, after accounting for gas for the round trip and cost of a cheap hotel room for the five of us, we had about $ 30 left over.

We chattered the whole trip about MLTS, what it would be like and the message we would receive from God. We had a flyer that had been distributed about two weeks before at one of the nightly meetings with Joe Smith.

I glanced down at this flyer as the Datsun putt-putted up the US Interstate Highway towards Tennessee from Alabama.

Preparing the Leaders for God’s movement in these latter days

The “Featured Speakers” were Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney a duo who headed a radical Christian group called People of Destiny International (PDI) located in the Washington DC. Area.

Larry and CJ would be tag team speaking for two days at MLTS.

According to the MLTS flyer they would be speaking on Entering the Promised Land.

We had been hearing for weeks about the awesome experience of MLTS and how it would further prepare us  to be over-comers and leaders in God’s new movement. The caravan of clunker cars from Auburn arrived in Cookeville TN about 9:00 am the morning that MLTS began.

Each attendee was given a welcome packet that included a name badge, a map, a list of restaurants and discount coupons (I would eat PBJ sandwiches for three days so it was wasted on me) and motel/hotel locations.

We joined the crowd that pushed into the auditorium of Cookeville high school which MCM had reserved for the weekend. People streamed past tables set up where you could sign up for special early morning deliverance sessions and discipleship classes.

There was also a large tented area selling tapes from the featured speakers, Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, and teaching materials that generated money for MCM. I will address this in a future post about MCM’s business model.

On the stage inside the auditorium was a huge white projector screen along with banners stating Overcoming for Christ and Jesus is Lord of All! and We shall rule and reign with Him that hung from the ceiling.

About twenty minutes before the opening session was to start the Praise Band kicked in and up on the screen went the words to the chorus.

The singing just about knocked me down.

The service was Auburn’s MCM service on steroids.

The music from the band and the vocals from 3,000 people attending singing at the top of their lungs had an affect that I can only describe as mesmerizing. I remember feeling almost transported to heaven by the singing, and the clapping, and the waving of hands.

Promptly at 10:00 am Bob Weiner took the podium and begin shouting things like, “Praise God!” and, “Glory to God! It’s great to be part of God’s end time movement!!!” at the top of his lungs.

The crowd exploded and the band kicked in with another fast paced song which sent people into the aisles dancing and singing and then Bob would get up and repeat his mantra of, “Glory to King Jesus!” and, “Hallelujah!.

This all went on for perhaps a half hour with song after song that riled the crowd up.

Bob finally put his hands up to get the crowd to stop the dancing, clapping, and singing and with that the place went silent.

He shouted, “This day we can expect GREAT THINGS!!! Amen???”

The crowd responded, “Amen!” and the whole shouting, singing and clapping started up again and went on for another ten minutes until Bob took control of the crowd again.

And what we could expect at MLTS, according to Bob, was, “A mighty and world-changing message from God Almighty Himself speaking to His special Green Berets.”

“Wow,” I thought,”this sure beats the session at the last annual SEC BSU convention I attended entitled  How to cope with stress and temptation.”

How parochial and small-minded the BSU convention seemed in comparison with MLTS.

We were talking about, “changing the world,” and actually, “taking over the world from Satan,” whatever that might mean!

I submit that the various and sundry teachings present in MCM, (and I believe also in Larry’s and C.J.’s ministry PDI) in the 70s on the end times served one purpose: To support the formation of a tightly knit group of over-comers that would serve the purposes of the leadership.

Regardless, Bob said Larry would speak first and told us to, “Ask God to prepare you heart and listen and be ready to respond to God!”

He paused and looked over the crowd.

“Do not blaspheme the Holy Spirit by ignoring God’s message and his anointed,” Bob then shouted as he waved both men up on stage.

This left a lasting impression on me, but it is important to remember every MLTS was designed to:

1. Be “Earth Shattering”,

2. tighten control over the “Green Berets” and to

3. empty our wallets for God’s cause (and put money into the leadership’s pockets).

Anyway, I was not sure what to expect from the exciting anointed men of God Bob was speaking of, but up to the rostrum stepped a guy with dirty blonde hair, while his partner, C.J., took a seat with the MCM elders  to one side.

Larry then exchanged a high-five with Bob Weiner who took a seat besides C.J. clapping him on the back.

In a soft voice Larry asked us to bow our heads and he said a short prayer.

From what I can remember Larry was at first a low-key speaker; neither the hyper excitement of Bob Weiner nor the “Warm but serious Uncle” played by Joe Smith.

Larry seemed a genuine and warm person. Perhaps he was genuinely and warmly deceived by both MCM and his own message.

You must whether that was true judge by what I relate below.

His message was taken from the Exodus 6:1-9 and from Numbers according to my contemporaneous journal.

First he slowly read the text from Exodus.

Then he stopped and said, “Our God is the same today as He was yesterday. So his message for the Israelites and for Moses is the same message today for His Church the grafted on vine.”

We are not victims we are His mighty army!” [“Amen brother!” shouted Bob Weiner and the place erupted in applause and shouts].

“Listen to what God is saying to us his chosen army,” Larry continued.

“First in verse 1 of Exodus 6 we are promised success. And we were promised success, because we can do all things in Christ. If we have faith and discipline we can NEVER FAIL!”

“Second in verse 2 His chosen people were given an anointed leader that set the course for them. God had chosen Moses and this was evident to the Israelites. The same is true today. God has given us anointed leadership. We must not be like the people who grumbled against the leadership. Those who do so will wander in the wilderness for forty years I tell you!”

“Third, we see in Exodus 18:25 that Moses chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Perhaps you in this room, if you can measure up to God’s calling, you can be one of the hundreds, or fifties or tens. But you have to be disciplined in your walk with Jesus!”

“Finally they had the opportunity to go down in history as God’s mighty conquering army. Sadly… this did not happen.”

“Let’s look at Numbers 14. Here we see that with the exception of Joshua and Caleb the Israelites disobeyed their leaders and believed the LIES FROM SATAN that they were destined to be poor and wandering and lost…just like the church today sits around waiting saying ‘poor little ole us, we are just sweet little Christians and will  be run over by that mean old Satan and his world.”

All of the sudden Larry was on fire; matching Bob in his ferocity and enthusiasm.

Larry shouted out, “I tell you this is a lie from Satan, we are over-comers and the gates of hell shall not prevail! Are you going to listen your leaders, and the Word of God, and overcome and rule and reign with Him or are you going to head back into the desert and have your bones buried in the sand?”

We, by this time were all standing and shouting, “We will follow God! We will rule and reign we will overcome! We will overcome!” or something like this.

Larry paused and let the crowd get quiet.

You see it is a LIE!… from Satan…. that the church should sit around and wait on the persecution for we will Rule and Reign with Jesus for 1,000 years. This generation must make the same decision as faced the Israelites: are you a loser or are you a Caleb and a Joshua?”

The place went crazy,

It was a pavlovian response that I would grow use to at MLTS; the main speaker would make some over the top world ending point and the entire place would go ballistic.

I believe this message was given because Bob and the leadership wanted a dedicated group of radical leaders that would do their bidding in building the kingdom.

I think, nay I know, that they made the theology fit the mission; not the other way around!

And I am confident, in a quid pro quo arrangement, that Bob went to PDI and delivered much the same message to Larry and CJ’s. I don’t know this for certain, I will admit, but I would take even odds this happened .

For both C.J. and Larry were frequent guest speakers at MLTS and MCM events. And the same was true of Bob at PDI.

This was how it worked: bring an anointed outside leader and expert in to reinforce the leadership’s message and methods.

Rinse and repeat.

That afternoon at the Bookstore Tent in our enthusiasm our group purchased a 10 tape set series (cassette tape) for $ 25 entitled The Overcoming Life by Bob and Rose Weiner.

We now had about $ 5 in cash between the five of us; not counting the $ 20 left for gas to get us back to Auburn

After an early evening service replete with singing and baptisms we headed for our motel and dinner.

The next morning C.J went first preaching; this time from Revelation 20 on how the kingdom of God would come on earth during the thousand-year reign prior of Christ.

It was a passionate sermon that played right into what I had heard Bob and Joe preach the month before at Auburn:

1. Were God’s Green Berets going to be sent on a suicide mission by God into the world fight the battle  they could never win?

or

2. Will we “take over” and prepare to rule and reign in the thousand year millennium?

CJ said, “The word of God is true and we can see in Revelation 20 verses 4- 6 that ‘They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

He shouted, “Not only shall the over-comers rule and reign but they shall NOT Taste death! We shall not die! We will rule and reign as His Princes and subjugate the earth!!!!.

This was exactly what Joe had told us last month. And we would triumph and rule with him, and, in my heart I prayed right there, according to my scribbling in my journal that day that “I would have the strength to increase my efforts to make this a reality.”

C.J. continued saying “We must be like Joshua and Caleb, we must be fearless in believing God’s promises and understanding what he wants and in following His anointed leaders!”

Cheers and clapping erupted

He paused and the place when silent.

“God will carry out His plan… the question is who will He use? Will you be God’s instruments…it is up to you and what you decide to do EVERY DAY!”

The place went crazy and the band kicked in for more singing, dancing and clapping.

Bob stood up and summarized Larry and C.J.s message to waves of applause and cheers,

“Brethren, this is why MCM focuses on leaders. If we convert future leaders who are faithful to Jesus and the Body and, who in turn later move into leadership positions in governments, business and universities the Body of Christ will LITERALLY establish the rule of God on Earth and bring the millennium to heaven and fulfill the Lord’s prayer on earth as it is in heaven.”

 I determined to be a dedicated member of God’s Green Berets no matter what the cost!

And I would be a prince and people would bow before me during the reign of Jesus!

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

That evening the five of us single brothers from Auburn camped out in a run-down, freezing motel room on the outskirts of Cookeville, Tennessee and, while we feasted on a dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we spoke until the early hours of the morning about how we would fulfill Larry and C.J.’s charge to us from God of bringing heaven to earth.

#29 Heart of Stone

Editors Note: Tikie considered this the most difficult chapter to write in his original blog, and, came near to asking us to excise it . This because it recaps one of the most painful episodes in his life. He allowed us to include it here because he believes it illustrates how authoritarian sociological groups (like MCM), and their members, professing to be on a mission to save humanity, have no compunction about using, or abusing, those who get in their way. Professing his total love of Christ, and his determination to build God’s Kingdom on earth, Tikie callously hurt many of the people who cared most for him. This included, of course, his best friend at Auburn, Sheila.

HEART OF STONE 

“What is moral is that which helps the revolution. What is immoral is that which hinders the revolution.”
Vladimir Lenin

I was almost trotting up to the Hill to get to  Sheila’s dorm.

How dare she phone my parents and get Chris involved in what I was doing with my life.

“Who gave her that right?” I fumed.

I headed through main doors to the women’s dorm and picked up the phone at the reception desk and dialed Sheila’s room.

“Hello?”

It was Sheila.

“Hey, it’s me. I am downstairs, we gotta talk.”

“Oh, hi, Tikie- give me a minute and I’ll be down.”

I looked around the lobby of the dorm. To the left of the main desk were the study carousels. These were private rooms with two chairs and a desk for studying. They were called necking pits because occasionally couples would head there for some serious talking, if you know what I mean. Sheila and I had disturbed a couple half naked in one last spring, and the girl in the carousel was one of her sorority sisters!

We thought it hilarious.

A few minutes after my call Sheila walked out of the elevator door.

“Hi Tik, I was pretty sure you were going to look me up this evening.”

“Let’s get some privacy,” I said, and motioned towards one of the study carousels.

We set down and I looked at her.

There was something different about her that night.

I had never seen this demeanor in Sheila, a sort of timidity, but I brushed that aside as I launched into what I am afraid was an old fashioned tirade.

“Sheila, I just came from seeing my parents; and I am really ticked off at you. What right do you have to call my parents up, get them upset and then have them drive three hours to Auburn just because of some stuff you made up? What in the world were you thinking?”

She paused a moment and said, “Tik, I am really worried about you…we all are.”

“What does ‘we all are’ mean? Are you spokesman for some ‘save Tik’ group? Who is we?” I intoned.

“Tik, relax okay? I mean Mom, your frat brothers, Bill, your big brother [in the frat] and Chris from BSU, why, we are all concerned about you. All of us.”

She took a deep breath and sighed before continuing, “The way you are acting, the way you are talking, the fact that no one ever sees you any more…that’s what concerns us. You have dropped out of sight completely. You never see the people who are your friends, who care the most about you.”

“Look Sheila, thanks for the concern, but you had NO RIGHT to call my poor mother. I left her in tears thanks to you. Now she thinks I am throwing my life away because of the crazy ideas you put in her head.”

She looked down at her lap for just a moment, then she looked back at me with a strained expression.

I noticed that her hands were gripping her armchair so tight I could see the whites of her knuckles.  And when she let go of the arms of the chair her hands were shaking.

“Tik, your mother was not crying because of my phone call. Sure I told her what was going on…but is it possible she was crying because of what is actually happening to you and the way YOU are acting?….and because of what Chris told her? Do you think that might be why she was crying?”

“What did Chris tell my mother that would be so upsetting?” I asked.

“You know what… oh don’t play stupid. He showed her the same thing he  showed me… the newspaper articles about this group. He told me what he heard from other BSU leaders across the SEC.”

She sat back and caught her breath, “Tikie, please for the love of God listen to me. This group, they are not right. There is something wrong there. Of all the people in your life, you can trust me, you know that.  I told you the first night I went to Maranatha that something was not right, remember?”

She reached in her pocket and pulled out a news clipping.

She thrust it in my face.

“Here, read this – it is an article from last week’s University of Florida Student Paper about Maranatha and this Bob Weiner their leader.”

I took it and threw it on the ground.

“What do you expect Sheila? That paper is edited by a bunch of non- believers who hate the things of God. I am not even going to waste my time looking at it. Here is the bottom line Sheila…stay out of my business and  I mean it.

She stiffened.

I softened my tone and spoke gently, “Sheila, listen, these people are true followers of Jesus, I know some of it does not make sense to you right now, at first it did not to me. But we are putting Jesus and the Kingdom ahead of everything.

I reached out for her hand and took it.

Then looking straight in her eyes I said, “Sheila, we are building a real first century church- there has been nothing like what we are doing for the last 19 centuries. Please open your heart and mind to what God is doing. I want you to be part of what God is doing in these end times. I want you and I to be brothers and sisters in the new work that Jesus is doing here on earth in these end times.”

Shelia sighed and leaned forward towards me and put her other hand on my shoulder.

“Tik, I promise you I have prayed about it, and my gut, which never fails me, tells me that this group is bad news. Tik, I believe you are in a cult. I am pleading with you to sit down with Chris (BSU) and Rat(CCC) together. They have agreed to meet with you together to talk you through this. Rat has said that if you are that fired up about Christ that he will see about getting you into one of the Baptist seminaries on a full scholarship when you graduate.”

“I am not going to meet with them. I have made my choice- it is either being hot or cold, I am not going to be lukewarm.”

We pulled away from each other.

I paused and then spoke again, “You have made your choice as well, it seems.”

Then the both of sat there, our eyes locked for a minute, maybe two.

I thought about what Marty had said to me, “You either are for Jesus or against Him.”

It seemed to me that Sheila had made her decision, she was against Him.

Then something astounding happened.

The hard-nosed, funny, cynical, blonde haired, iron women that I knew changed before my eyes.

She dissolved into a little girl.

And the little girl started weeping.

Not crying, not sobbing, but weeping.

I have only seen someone actually weep one other time and that was my mother at my grandmother’s funeral.

Sheila’s sob was a moaning tearful sound that came from deep in her chest. She buried her face in her arms as tears flowed down her cheeks.

I could take yelling, screaming, even a good cry, but this, this was torture.

“Hey Sheila, c’mon,” I started to say.

But before I could begin she looked up at me with tears streaming down her face.

“You know Tikie, I could take it if you were leaving Auburn to go somewhere else, or if you found a girl you were madly in love with and you thought were going to marry. Because at least I would know that Tik was somewhere and that he was being Tik. But I can’t take this anymore, I just can’t take it.”

She was racked with sobs again.

“Take what Sheila, what are you talking about?” I said in a gentle tone.

“This,” she sniffed and she paused for about a minute before she started sobbing again.

Then through those sobs came these words, “You… or not you… but what you have become. The Tik I knew is being erased, there is someone who looks like him, the guy sitting here, but they have changed you Tik, you have become a different person. I don’t know what is happening and worse… I don’t know why it is happening…”

“Sheila I told you that I made a radical commitment to Jesus. Of course I am different, I am a new man, the old has passed away.”

She almost screamed at me between sobs and ran her hands through her hair in a frenzy, “This is EXACTLY what I am talking about damn it! You have become a parrot, spouting off scriptures left and right, correcting everybody, too busy to listen to anyone to have a normal conversation. Too busy saving the world to care about your true friends.”

She started sobbing again and then looked up.

“It’s like they have changed you… changed everything about you.”

“No Sheila, it is Jesus that has changed me.”

“I don’t believe it Tik, they have brainwashed you or something- it’s like they have given you a drug. I could face it if I was losing you to another girl, but this, this…it’s like you have died!”

“What do you mean,” I asked, “you could face losing me to another girl?”

She sat up and looked at me incredulously.

“What’s wrong with you Tik, are you THAT dumb? Do you think I came to your frat house every Saturday night to hear the music? Do you think I asked if we could go to the football game every week because your frat had better seats at the game than my sorority? Do you think I Actually LIKE the food at the War Eagle Cafeteria?”

I just stared at her.

“Are you that STUPID??? Mom and Jenny told me you were but I am just now realizing that they were right. Do I have to spell it out for you in skywriting or something?”

She was almost screaming.

She pulled her arms up and balled her hands into a fist. I was pretty sure she was actually going to throw a haymaker at me.

But then she collapsed again, and put her head into her lap, and murmured, in a soft voice, just barely audible, “Tikie don’t you know that I am in love with you?”

For a moment, just a moment, I almost reached down to hug her and to tell her that there was nothing to worry about, that it was just me here, her old friend Tikie, sitting beside her. That everything would be alright, that we were best friends and nothing could come between us.

I almost did this… I swear I did.

You see the Old Tik was still locked in the little closet but he was jumping up and down and raising Cain about what I was saying just now. What I was doing.

But once again I did not obey that impulse to let my guard down with my best friend, and open up to her about everything, everything, about the good… and the bad things about MCM… and about us.

I did not do this, I regret to say.

I looked at her and simply said in an even tone, “Sheila, my first love is Jesus, and it will never work for us…I cannot be yoked unevenly.”

She gazed up at me and said in a low tone, “Get out Tik, quit torturing me. Just leave me alone… for the love of God… just… get… out.”

I sat there unmoving, staring at her.

Then with her voice rising she pointed her arm at the door and shouted, “I SAID GET OUT!”

And to my shame, I turned around, opened the door, and walked out of Sheila’s life.

I did not exchange a word with Sheila again for over twenty years.

**********
I have contrasted often what I did that afternoon to Christ’s story of the Good Samaritan who saw the bleeding Jew who lay helpless in the road. The Samaritan helped out this wounded fellow human being because the agape love of God filled his heart. But that day, with a heart of stone, I walked right over my hurting, bleeding, best friend, in the name of God’s Kingdom .

You see, I have come to the realization that almost everything I did in MCM was for selfish and ungodly reasons, but done in the name of The Kingdom of God.

 

 

False Healings

 

Editor’s Note: Tikie shows us another MCM “ritual”, that of the healing ministry. Tikie believes that these public spectacles were performed to demonstrate that the leadership of MCM was anointed with God’s power to heal people; the same power that Christ had. For if the leadership was anointed with God’s power who could stand against them? Tikie tells us that even in his most “addled phase” of being an MCM member that he never really thought that the the healing ministry was real. He thinks that Joe Smith may have convinced himself that he had some bizarre healing gift, or perhaps Joe knew it was all a sham. Tikie is unsure of this. But Tikie is convinced that most, if not all, of the MCM sheep were fervent in their belief in God’s anointing on the MCM leadership to heal the sick. Repeatedly seeing people healed at services reinforced the hold that leadership kept on the flock.

False Healings

At the service that night Joe Smith preached and then spoke about four or five one on one prophesies. How many of these prophecies were correct and how many were false only God knows.

But when he had finished the last prophecy he looked up and said “God is telling me that someone has back trouble and that He wants to heal that person.”

An older woman stood up immediately and walked to the stage.

“God is telling me that your back is hurting here,” and he pointed to her lower back.

“That’s right” she said. “I have had a nagging back problem for years. I have had it x-rayed and checked by doctors but nothing can be found or done about it.”

Joe pulled a chair up on stage. He had her sit down.

“Now put your legs straight out parallel to the ground,” he said.

She did so and he knelt down where her feet were.

“Aha,” he said, “Just like God told me. Your legs are of different lengths.”

“I am going to pray and ask God to lengthen and straighten your shorter leg” he said.

The “beehive” of prayers started in the congregation and I could hear “yes Dear Jesus and “please Dear Lords” being spoken around me.

“I command this leg to grow in the MIGHTY NAME OF JESUS!”

Joe had a hand on each foot and the lady’s legs were sticking straight out. And there seemed to be a movement of one leg.

“Did you feel it?” Joe shouted out.

“I did!!!” She cried.

“Stand up” shouted Joe.

She stood up.

“Run around the stage!”

She took off running little bunny hops around the stage.

“How’s your back feel?” he asked.

“I’m healed, no pain” she screamed, raising her hands. “Praise Jesus!!!!”

Well of course the crowd went nuts as they did about every “miracle, sign and prophecy” that took place at MCM.

We all wanted to believe that God was moving at MCM in a special anointing. But the old Tik, from his now locked closet, was disgusted at the spectacle that night.

What “he” had seen was a cross between a “carnival show” and a poor imitation of Oral Roberts.

And I will let you in on a secret that I now know, and perhaps you know it as well. My company works with orthopedic and spinal surgeons. I have a number of surgeons that I not only know well, but am good friends with.

Here is the secret: There is not a person on earth whose legs are the same length. And the method Joe used to measure the length is so imprecise as to be laughable.

The other fact is that 80% of the adult population in the US over the age of 30 will suffer some back pain this year.

It keeps Tylenol and Advil in business.

I believe that God heals.

I also believe that God has given us the gift of medicine and has given doctors the gift of healing. I will let you draw your own conclusion about Joe Smith and that night. Maranatha was big time into healing, and the  demonstration of that gift, for it was a sign of God’s anointing and power.

But in the five years I that I observed both Joe Smith’s and Maranatha’s healing ministry I never saw the” blind made to see” or, “the lame to walk”.

I saw a lot of “proclaimed healings’ but none that ever convinced me, the “old Tik”,  now relegated to that the closet in my mind.

And I remain convinced that not a single “supernatural” stage show healing ever took place in MCM.

Ever.

It was nothing more, or less, than a spectacle to show that God’s anointing was on the leadership of MCM; plain and simple.

#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.

#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.

 

#10 Washing My Own Brain: Shepherding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is Rose Weiner?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I filled in the study statement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was a lingering doubt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The very points I agreed with.

So I made a critical mistake.

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

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

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

Marty reached over and gave me an awkward hug.

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

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

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

I smiled weakly.

“I can’t wait,” I said.

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

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

All of it.

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

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