“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.”