#57 A Siren Song

“Square in your ship’s path are Sirens, crying 
beauty to bewitch men coasting by; 
woe to the innocent who hears that sound…
…the Sirens will sing his mind away 
on their sweet meadow lolling. There are bones 
of dead men rotting in a pile beside them 
and flayed skins shrivel around the spot. 
Steer wide; 
keep well to seaward; plug your oarsmen’s ears 
with beeswax kneaded soft; none of the rest 
should ever hear that song.”  Homer, writing of the fabled Sirens in the Odyssey

A Siren Call

[Editor’s Note: Phil  Bonasso went to University of Southern California in MCM’s so called “great send out” and established what became the largest MCM site on the west coast of the US. Later after MCM imploded he, along with Rice Broocks, Steve Murrell, and Greg Ball, founded Morning Star International (MSI) which later became Every Nation Church (EN). Amid allegations of financial misconduct and moral failings in the  churches he oversaw, Phil resigned from EN a short time after Tikie published his original posts. He is now listed as a missionary of Bethel World Outreach (BWO) and is pastor of a church in Los Angeles CA called Story Teller Church.  Although it is not clear from BWO’s website, Rice Broocks, an Ex MCM Pastor, is the Bishop of BWO and is on the board of Every Nation Church. BWO is apparently nested within Every Nation churches.]

1983

I picked the phone up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

B-R-O-T-H-E-R … TICKIE!…ohhhh it is so goooood to hear you s-p-e-a-k,” said a familiar baritone voice.

The unmistakable sound of Phil Bonasso’s voice came rumbling through the telephone handset. Phil had headed to USC in the great send out and was enjoying great success there.

I did not say anything. I had not spoken to a “MCMer” in over twelve months.

“Tikie, b-r-o-t-h-e-r”, he rolled the “r” in an almost Spanish way, “are you there???…is that you…?”

What in the world was Phil calling me for? Well, time to find out, I guessed.

“Yeah Phil, it’s me…it’s Tikie here…”

“Hey Bro…just calling to tell you I miss you…Karen and I have been thinking of you and p-r-a-y-i-n-g for you brother. How A-R-E you doing?”

I clipped my words “Fine, Phil, I am fine.”

“Look Bro, I know that things have been hard, and some unfair things have been said about you Tikie. I don’t believe any of the stuff I heard. I know your heart….,” he paused, “…And I know God’s anointing on you Tikie. I truly do. GLORY!”

I stiffened, all of his MCM jargon was grating on me, but I determined that I would be unfailingly polite, and besides, MCM was still tugging at me, believe it or not. I had gone into a black hole with regards to news of my old friends, and as far as I knew, Bob Weiner and the Pope were getting married next week.

Maybe Phil could give me some news about what was up with everyone.

And it was actually good to hear his voice. It was comforting in an odd sort of way.

“Thanks Phil, it was no big deal actually,” I lied, “I just needed to get out of MCM… to get away. The things I saw, they were just not right and I could no longer support them.”

The memories that I worked daily to keep out of my head were now back with Phil’s call, invading my brain and constricting my breathing. It was funny I would go days without thinking about MCM, then I would see a Bible, or cut on a Christian radio station by mistake, or see something that triggered the memories.

Good or bad memories, it did not matter, they all seem to hurt my head, paralyze me, and bring tears to my eyes.

That was why I liked work…it helped me block out all of that stuff, especially the memories.

“Of course Tikie, of course,” he purred into the phone. “There are some things that ARE bad, that we are working to… well, to change and clear up. I am leading this effort…” his voice dropped to a whisper, “from the inside Tikie…from the inside.”

“Great Phil, that is great,” my voice dead panned.

”I know you are hurt Tikie; sure I do. I feel it. I hurt with you Tikie; but I think about you Tikie. I think about what God will do here on earth. Could do…through you.”

“Guess what Tikie?”

“What Phil?”

“Jesus has appeared to me three straight nights in a dream…really…it is getting where I am afraid to go to sleep, really I am.”

“Uh huh,” I grunted.

“And do you know what He said to me Tikie? Can you guess what Jesus said?”

Sweat started beading on my forehead.

“What Phil, what did Jesus say to you?”

“He told me to call you Tikie. To get on the phone and call you. I have resisted it Tikie, because I KNOW you are hurting…but the L-O-R-D told me to call you.”

I was really sweating now. This stuff still had an effect on me and it surprised me that I was reacting to it.

“Tikie, you know God has his hand on you. You KNOW he does. And the reasons you left, I KNOW about, I know WHY. You saw the bad stuff, I heard about Nick and all that, and I know you burnt out, and I know that Bob had, well, beaten you up. Bob can be unthinking, we all know that. But Tikie, B-R-O-T-H-E-R- we are doing a different thing out here on the West Coast. We are building something new…”

I said nothing but maintained my death grip on the phone.

He continued, “Something that will do away with the BAD things and KEEP the good things. The GOOD things that we both saw, and loved, when we got into MCM and the work of His Kingdom.”

“Look Phil, thanks but no thanks, I am through with MCM.”

“So am I Tikie, so am I. I mean, God is changing MCM, we are doing things differently like I said.”

Phil continued “A few of us have talked, the good guys. You know, Greg, Phil, Jim, Rice and others. You know Roger [my former frat brother], you love him, you guys are buds. Roger is my right hand guy, he is. It is all sweetness here Tikie, no condemnation, we don’t allow those hard-core guys to meddle with us. No Nick out here…. NO Joe Smith, I told Joe and Nick STAY AWAY. And you know when I say things I stand by them…you know that Tikie! You DO know that!”

I kept listening.

”And Greg, why he was out here last month, he and Helen; well we were talking about you… we ALL were…the fact that none of us reached out to you…well shame on us is what I say. Shame on us! Shame on me!…Shame on everyone!…we should all repent and I am repenting now…it was a b-a-d thing, it was, but we will make it right, we can, you know Tikie, you and me, we can make it right B-R-O-T-H-E-R!”

Phil, thanks for the apology and it is great talking to you.”

This was starting to scare the hell out of me and my hand holding the telephone was now shaking. I had to get off this call.

Quickly.

“Hold on Tikie hold on for just another minute my friend. LISTEN TO ME and see if you bear witness, to that small still voice, no pressure on you…none W-H-A-T-S-O-E-V-E-R.”

“Look…you come out here, I’ll front the airline ticket, no obligation. None. You move in with me and Karen– we have a nice place with a pool. You will love it. We will study the word, just me and you…no Bob, no Joe, no Nick. I don’t like that guy. Never had. He is a bully. It is sunny out here Tik. Southern California. Beautiful. I have this place on auto pilot Tik. I do. God does ALL the work. And we will get into the WORD and God will start his work in both of us…just me and you …and Jesus… we can do anything with Him…we can build it our way…the way God intended it. We will learn from each other we will. None of this MCM junk…Tik…you can just preach the word, no counseling, no discipling…Roger and me…we are doing a different thing here with Jesus and we are going to change all of MCM. God is going to do it through us!”

Well I listened to this stuff for about ten minutes. And it almost gave me flashbacks… and there was a small part of me that was saying “hmmm… just preaching…just the word… just me and Phil, hmmm.”

But I sissy slapped that thought down after about ten seconds.

“No thanks Phil. I do want you to know that it was nice of you to call and please tell Karen and Roger hello for me.”

“Don’t say no Tikie…pray about it first. Okay, you pray about it and call me back, promise?”

“Okay Phil, thanks again for calling.”

That was the first and only time I spoke with Phil post MCM.

*****************
You can draw your own conclusions about why Phil called and his motives for doing so.

The conversation unsettled me that is for sure. My clothes had soaked through with sweat during that fifteen minute call.

Unsettling for me because for a minute or two it sounded good…everything once again wrapped up in a pretty bow, neat and settled, good vs. evil, working for the kingdom, a purpose for my life that involved a higher calling. And for that reason Phil’s call probably scared me more than the call I had with Joe Smith when I had tried to reach Matt and Allie.

For it made me realize just how weak and pathetic I was some twelve months after leaving MCM.

 

 

#54 No Where To Turn

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Lutheran Pastor and Nazi resistor, who perished in a concentration camp.

For two days I sat in my room. I did drink some water. But I went another two days without eating a thing. The thought of eating made me sick.

Then I had a good thought. I knew someone who could help me.

Matt and Allie.

They protected me in the early days of MCM. Matt had set me free, without meaning to, by his lack of hootahing craziness and by taking me into the Auburn band. They were my best friends in the world.

Possibly the only friends I had.

So I picked up the phone and dialed their apartment in the Maranatha House at Auburn where they served as full time pastors.

“Please Dear God, let Matt or Allie answer.”

“Hello?”

Matt’s soft Alabama accented voice came on the line.

“Matt, it’s me Tikie.”

“Tikie, what in the world is going on with you? I heard from Jim that you bolted. They called here wanting to see if you were going to show up. Where are you?’

”I am home, with my folks Matt, I can’t take it…and of all people I am sure you know why.”

A pause and then a  subtle change came into in Matt’s tone. I could not pinpoint what was going on but his voice sounded strained.

”I am concerned about you big time brother. About your salvation and your soul.”

”What????” I thought, “This does not sound like Matt, not the Matt I know.”

He used MCM goobeldy gook, and, unlike me, Matt had never used that language. In fact, he and Miltie had running joke about it and would imitate Marty’s use of that double speak.

My radar went up immediately.

Perhaps I had upset Matt by my snub of him at the recent leadership conferences and MLTS.

“C’mon Matt, don’t give me that junk. You and I both know that this thing is rancid. It’s wrong. You and Allie of all people; why you knew it before I did, and I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT! So don’t give me that MCM official jive!”

“You are wrong Tikie… you need to come down here to Auburn or get to Gainesville…brother you need help…,”he paused.

Strange… it seemed someone was talking in his ear.Telling him what to say. Surely Allie was not feeding this junk. Other than Mitlie, Matt was the one guy I could be real with.  I always felt could take off the MCM mask, with no fear, in front of him.

“Matt, I am not getting anywhere near those people. Sure I’ll come see you, but we have to talk now Matt. What I have seen over the last ten months has sickened me. I should have seen it sooner or recognized it sooner, or admitted I was a stupid dupe.  I know you guys can help me… maybe we can help each other!”

Nothing on the other end…then this, “Tikie, you need to know that Joe Smith is here at Auburn, in fact he is standing beside me and wants to talk to you.”

My heart dropped and my knees buckled. This was unbelievable.

I called my best, and possibly only, friend in the world to honestly talk things over, and I get a one on one counseling session with Joe Smith instead.

The other guy with the flashlight in my nightmare was now going to counsel me.

“Tikie, what’s gotten into you son?” It was Joe Smith, Kentucky twang and all.

“You know better than just to run off without telling anyone what you are doing and where you are going. Satan is after you son…you just get in that car and drive on down to Auburn. You are in serious trouble and you need help NOW!”

I could sense the tension in Joe’s voice and the anger.

“But Joe…” I started.

“Tik, Tik… Tik- now you listen to me- Satan is grabbing you- I want you to down here now.”

I crouched down on my knees, the phone cradled against my ear, straining the cord and almost pulling it out of the wall. Tears streamed down my face and my stomach felt like someone was kicking me there, hard.

The voice on the other continued in that deep baritone twang, “Tik, I am very, very fearful for your eternal salvation and for your soul,” he said.

He was speaking as the official prophet and second in command of MCM.

“If you leave the ministry I will tell you that there is almost a 100% chance that you will backslide into sin, but there is an even more serious matter that concerns me.”

I grunted, and had now fallen almost face down into the shag carpet in my parents’ family room.

“The Bible,” Joe continued with his deep voice now taking on the tone of Gospel preaching, “says that it is better to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the sea than to lead the little ones astray. When you moved into full-time ministry, Tik, you became a leader with great responsibility. If you leave Maranatha it could cause those you are shepherding to lose their faith and then their blood will be on your hands! And you will be cut off from the both the vine and your spiritual family and in turn be thrown onto the fires of hell!”

“Tik you not only will damn yourself but you could put other souls in jeopardy. A dog returns to its vomit; just remember what I am telling you and don’t say you have not been warned. I am giving you one last chance here and then I am turning you over to Satan.”

That was code for telling everyone to turn their backs on me at MCM, and believe it or not I knew that it meant that many in the ministry would pray against me, pray that God would break me, show me the evil of my ways, literally pray for my failure so that I would return beaten and defeated back to MCM.

But at least in that case I would have my mortal soul back, if nothing else.

“I have made my mind up Joe. I cannot be part of MCM any longer not as a brother, a member, certainly not as a pastor. It may have started with good intentions…but MCM has gone bad.”

“Fine Tik. Fine. You have made your bed, now sleep in it.”

And this time I got hung up on.

I was doomed.

I could not get up. My Mom found me laying on their carpet still crying about an hour later. She called my Dad and they were making noises about taking me to the hospital, but I managed to get myself back together enough to talk them out of that.

Nothing mattered to me, my life’s purpose was not only over, but my purpose had been an evil thing.

But at least I wasn’t part of hurting anyone anymore. I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling.

I had said a simple sincere prayer the night of the blizzard.

But had Christ answered my prayer that night, or had Satan?

Or had I just been talking to myself?

**********

[Note the following is based on e-mail exchanges between Matt and Tik in 2006]

Auburn- at the same time- in Matt and Allie’s Pastor’s apartment in the Maranatha House: Auburn Alabama

Tikie, on a personal note, it was one of the lowest days in my history with MCM. Joe Smith had been ‘counseling’ with us all that day–delving into areas that he really had no business, like a physic does, suggesting things as to why Auburn was failing. What was wrong with us and our faith. He had been there for three days and I was whipped.

And then you called.

Oh, and another thing…my tone ‘might’ have been simply to try and prove myself in front of him, but I can’t honestly say I would have changed my response had Joe Smith not been there. I was in, as you said, hook, line and sinker.

So we sit there listening to Joe talking to you- really coming down on you hard. Allie and I vividly remember is him interrupting you every time you started to talk with …..”TIK..TIK……TIK!…TIK!…. he simply wouldn’t let you talk. I remember us cutting our eyes at one another, just silent, listening to our friend get chewed up.

Finally Joe hangs up the telephone, turns to us, and says about our best friend, Tikie, a guy who has given five years  to MCM, “Well, we now wash our hands of him and give him over to Satan. I don’t want you two having any contact with Tik. He is cut off from us now. He has made his choice… Now, Allie why don’t we go out and get a bite to eat and save you some work in the kitchen?”

The whole incident shows the pure intimidation factor of Joe Smith, he had us both by the throat and knew it.

That was the turning point for us, for late that night Allie said to me “Matt this thing is wrong and we have to get out.”

Well, Bill McCaig was a visiting speaker and ‘felt the call’ to take over. The Auburn ministry chewed him up and spit him out in a matter of weeks. Allie and I packed all our belongings and headed to Ann Arbor to be part of Mike and Missy’s fellowship. Little did I know, it would be the long journey that would eventually settle us back in Alabama, 50 miles from Auburn, but one million miles from MCM.

#53 A Drowning Life Guard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For I knew what I must do now.

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

I simply knew that I could not keep on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I could worry about Tikietwo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I explained about Tikietwo and my discussion last night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He leaned into me.

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

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

I felt like puking as bile gurgled in my throat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He told me her name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we were both crying.

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

I started the car.

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

He opened the door and got out.

“Tikie, let me pray for you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I picked it up.

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

Bob Weiner.

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

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

“Yeah Bob, I am doing fine. “

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had to end this thing now.

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

And I put the receiver down.

I had hung up on Bob Weiner.

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

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

My mother answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To TikieTwo’s frat house.

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

It opened.

It was him.

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

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

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

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

He did not move.

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

The door shut.

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

What would become of me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I was.

I knew that my life was over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No marriage or marriage partner.

No heaven.

No nothing.

Only darkness

#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.”

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

Burning Ring Of Fire part 3

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

Nick was a second generation Greek.

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

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

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

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

“What conditions?” I asked him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not flinch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He handed me the receiver.

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

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

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

I did understand.

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

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

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

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

Well, it continued to go downhill at our ministry.

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

There was A BIG problem that night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was appalled and disgusted by the whole thing.

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

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

“Like what?” he said.

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

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

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

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

Nick was lying.

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

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

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

I could not believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gulped and we did it.

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

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

 

 

#49 I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 1

“I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns, burns, burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire.”
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash

February 1982
The snow was piling up over the cars in the parking lot while wind gusts rattled both the windows and my apartment front door.

I looked up from my desk to see the kitchen clock reading midnight.

Light jazz from the college FM station played quietly on the radio interrupted by the DJ’s breathless comments about the storm.

“At least 30 inches of snow in the next six hours, 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but with the wind it feels like ten below; stay inside and stay WARM!”

I took another sip of  bitter coffee and looked down at the Safeco check and accounting ledger on the kitchen table in front of me. I could not seem to make it work.

Oh, the accounts balanced alright but the cash flow frightened me.

The wind kicked up outside and once again the front door banged and rattled. I glanced up and then went back to solving the mystery of our account ledger.

“Can we cut anymore expenses?” I asked myself.

But I knew that our local ministry now ran on financial fumes. Unless I  went without food completely no other expenses could be cut. Not that I could see.

“Gotta have more income…that is the only answer,” I muttered.

The door banged again.

“That is some wind!” I thought.

Bang!… Bang! Bang!… Bang! Bang! Bang!…Bang! Bang! Bang!

I suddenly realized that this noise came from the slamming of fists on the front door.

I checked the kitchen clock again.  It now read 12:15 am.

Who in the world would be banging on my front door in the middle of a blizzard at midnight?

I pushed open the door and the sub-zero wind promptly blasted me with whirligigs of snow powdering the apartment walls. A bundled figure  stumbled through the door. It then collapsed on the torn second-hand couch in my sitting room/kitchen.

I heaved the door shut, bolted it and then turned to see who I had let in.

The figured shivered uncontrollably with the full face toboggan, complete with eye and mouth slits, completely covered with snow and ice. In fact the person had white with frost and snow covering their entire body.

The person slid their gloves off, and then pulled the toboggan from off.

His brown hair had frost in it, despite the toboggan, and with a groan he  slumped back on the couch. His bright blue eyes suddenly fluttered open.

Tikietwo, one of our prize catches from the fall crusade, looked up at me.

Tikietwo,” I asked him, “are you trying to commit suicide? Did you actually walk clear across campus in this blizzard?”

His short brown hair was now steaming in the warmth of the apartment and for a moment he said nothing but closed his eyes.

Finally he looked up at me again.

“Tikie, I had to see you tonight. I can’t take it anymore and I think I am about to have a nervous breakdown or something. Satan is after me, or maybe it is God. I really need your help…you seem to have all the answers.”

With that he laid his head back onto my broken down sofa shivering.

“Let’s get some of this rot gut stuff  into you and then we will talk,” I said as I walked over to coffee maker.

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

Tag Teaming with Greg Ball

It had started well enough. In fact, it had completely exceeded any expectations we had about getting the ministry off the ground.

Our MCM kick-off started the last week of August coinciding with the frat rush at the large Midwestern University. I felt really blessed, because despite the fact that almost thirty new MCM churches were starting at the same time, I had been able to snag Greg and Helen Ball to help us.

The days of getting Bob Weiner for three weeks along with the Praise Band and more money than Fort Knox for a new ministry kick-off were over forever.

MCM’s new plan called for starting thirty new ministries in the fall of 1981 and then thirty to forty every year afterwards. The entire Ministry would be strained by this expansion effort.

So we approached this ministry kickoff very differently than MCM had in the past.

Greg and I agreed that if we could hook some leaders, some heavy duty sharps they might bring other sharps into the ministry with them.

We also decided to target some athletes –possibly using FCA as a way to get to them. Our goal was to grab kids who would then do our work for us.

We had no choice because we had limited funds and a few helpers.

We had two door openers: one was a ten minute movie about surfing and Christianity. It used west coast surfing terms and great colorful shots of Christian surfers and gnarly lingo.

It was cool for its time.

The other door opener was the video the Cross and the Switchblade that we would use to fill our auditorium the first Saturday after we opened. We would throw almost all of our initial seed money at this opening gambit; we would either succeed or flame out right at the start.

I figured if I could get Greg in front of four to five hundred kids in the first couple of weeks that we would nail some converts.

Our team was slim, about one fifth the size of the planting team that had arrived to open Auburn up.

Our single full time sister had been deemed too fat by Rose and would not be joining us until she had lost at least twenty five pounds or so.

This hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Jim, my co-pastor, his wife, and two children arrived in mid-August. We also had three working couples and three working single brothers to help us get started.

I did not give much thought to this at the time, but the lack of working brothers and sisters and they cash they could have generated would prevent the ministry from every getting on a solid financial base.

But I knew how the frats worked, I knew the rules and I looked the part and so did Greg and Helen.

So we would start where we were strong.

I knew that there would be a few nominal Christians in the frat, I would locate the best of  them, pitch them on what Greg and I were doing (helping people live a more idealistic true first century Christian life), and then try to snag the leader or leaders. The leaders would then bring a bunch of followers with them.

These would reproduce, and before you knew it we would have a congregation.

And it worked.

**********

I looked through the IFC booklet at the Student Union before getting started.

Size predicts prestige in frats and I honed in on the seven largest ones; especially the ones that highlighted the fact that they had student athletes or student government involvement by their members.

It was pretty simple.

I would head into the frat before rush week wearing my button down shirt with khakis frat boy uniform. I would find the President and/or chaplain tell them we were reaching out to Christians and students in the frat and ask if we could show a cool surfing film.

I acted like we were an officially sponsored university group without coming out and saying we were. We had learned this lesson well at Auburn.

And I snagged us six events at the largest frats on campus during the first two weeks of school. We put posters up for the MCM event just like Randy and Ellen had at Auburn some three years earlier at Auburn.

We had posters printed for our showing of the movie the Cross and the Switchblade and the ten of us spread across campus  putting up at least one thousand posters. The posters were beautiful and they cost us about $ 1,500 to have them reproduced locally.

We also signed a two-year lease on a large hall being vacated by a Jewish Group on the eastern edge of campus and right on the main drag.

It was near off campus housing and the student shopping area. It was a great place, but needed painting and carpets. By the time we had paid the first and last month rent and one month’s security deposit and completed the rehab of the space we had blown through all $ 8,000 left from our seed money from MCM corporate.

But I had built a war chest of $ 15,000 on my own. And we were tearing through that as well at a rapid rate. But I was not worried because I had a lot of confidence in Greg Ball the evangelist sent us by MCM corporate.

Greg Ball, in my opinion, was the best evangelist and preacher in MCM.

Whether in a small group or a large crowd no one could top him. His sermons were effortless, he had a boyishness about him that attracted both men and women, he was good-looking and fearless. He also had a hair-trigger temper and a manic focus on his goals that nothing could stand in the way of. Helen, his side kick and wife, was a sweet, beautiful and gracious southern girl who was an inveterate campaigner with the added benefit of keeping Greg’s testosterone in check. Well as much as that could be done, that is.

Greg, Helen and I quickly learned our roles and how to work as a team.

At our first frat we had about thirty guys and little sisters in the common room. We showed the surfer short movie, Greg did his, “Jesus is looking for real men and women to take over the world,” talk that lasted ten minutes. I would ask for people to bow and close their eyes and commit and then to look me in the eye and then to stand up. Greg, Jim [my co-pastor], Helen, and I would afterwards go immediately after those that committed; we would bee line for the sharpest ones there. Helen being a gorgeous blonde haired sweet talking Ole Miss graduate did nothing to hurt our efforts

The upshot was that at the end of the first week we had snagged about thirty kids including two frat Presidents.

That Saturday, at our first service, we had to turn people away at the door of the Maranatha Hall during the showing of The Cross and the Switchblade and I spent the entire movie out on the front steps witnessing to people who wanted to get inside to see what all the fuss was about.

After the movie, Greg stood up and ripped out a twenty-minute tour-deforce sermon;  the kind that would bring a grown man to his knees about Jesus and his suffering, and his looking for the faithful that would follow him, and, the fate of those that did not.

It was an exhausting night with many, many, prayer and counseling and “hootah” sessions. We were completely understaffed for such a response.

At about one a.m. that morning the hall had cleared out and the ten of us including Greg and Helen sprawled on the stage, exhausted and in awe of what had just happened.

Greg, if my numbers are right, we just topped one hundred commitments and we will be baptizing all week-long.” I said. We high-fived each other and Helen said a beautiful prayer thanking God.

Then Greg threw his head back and laughed “Brother God is just getting started.

Well the first month was heaven, Greg and Helen were there the first three weeks of our kick off. We had a church with over 100 converts at the end of that time. It was insane, in so many ways, of course.

One of my best memories is the night we gave it a rest and went over the Jim and Dana’s house (my co-pastor and wife). All of the MCMers who had joined us were there along with a few of our first fruit converts. Jim was cooking on the grill and Dana threw some records on and we were all dancing and singing…and Helen and Greg were jitterbugging like professionals.

Now Greg had a hair-trigger temper.  I interrupted him during one of his frat talks, I don’t remember why, but in the parking lot he dressed me down.

“When I am speaking NEVER interrupt me, because you are interrupting GOD when you do that!’ he shouted.

I was taken aback and had planned on confronting him about it afterwards, but the funny thing was he acted, five minutes later, like it had never happened. Walking into hall with his arm around my shoulder laughing and joking about the night.

I truly believe Greg to have been one the most gifted preachers and evangelists in North America (he still might be). [Editor’s note: After the breakup of MCM Greg founded a ministry focused on pro-sports players called Champions for Christ. After allegations of fraud and other improprieties Greg left CFC  after Tikie’s blog was published in 2006-2007. Greg also served on the board of MSI/Every Nation Churches but left the board. CFC continues to be dogged by controversies and is associated with Every Nation (EN) churches). 

But Greg had a temper and an ego, and his involvement in MCM, his ongoing collaboration with Rice Broocks and Phil Bonnasso and EN, served to warp and twist his personality until, in his mind, the ministry he worked in and his own ego became inseparable. An environment with more restraint, and a more honest assessment of leadership would have served Greg much better.

The first week in October Greg and Helen headed off for their next assignment…and our troubles began shortly  thereafter.

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

#47 The Great Send Out

Editor: Tikie’s story now continues in chronological fashion. In 1981 the elders of MCM decided to take a great leap forward and double the number of MCM ministries in one year. Tikie was part of that expansion.

The Great Send Out- June 1981

Well, in 1980 all the shepherds who were labeled as having full-time potential gathered in Mike Caulk’s office.

This was a called Monday afternoon meeting and we did not know what to expect.

Matt and I thought that perhaps Mike and Missy were going to plant a new ministry, or God forbid,  an announcement  on some new crazy venture was going to be made.

Mike waited until we were all in his office and he looked around. “As you folks know I just returned from Gainesville yesterday. God has shown the elders that it is time for us to break out and to  get ready to build the Kingdom and to start moving quickly to set up the His true church.”

I glanced around; everyone listened intently to Mike’s words.

He continued, “There is an immediate need for pastors and evangelists and full-time sisters, and we have to find these at each ministry.”

Everyone started murmuring and talking: my heart leapt with anticipation.

This was it.

We had talked for three years about His kingdom coming and the great explosion of converts, and now it was actually happening.

“Well we are going to photograph all you high potential brothers and sisters (all of us gathered there). You will need to write a two page essay on your walk with Jesus, your conversion experience and what you have accomplished in the Kingdom. Also we are going to contract with the University to video tape a five-minute session of the brothers preaching on a topic of their choice. Here is the schedule, we start next Thursday and we will be filming at the campus a/v studio.”

And he handed out a schedule to the ten brothers standing there. The sisters would not audition, but would send their photos and essays to HQ.

Matt, Phil Bonasso and I were hugging and slapping each other on the backs; with Phil jabbering about the, “Great commission and the fields being white with the harvest,”…actually all three of us were doing this non-stop.

I was so excited that I could hardly sleep.

I asked myself what was Bob Weiner looking for in the video tape? He was NOT looking for a sermon on the “power of the word”.

He WAS looking for an energetic preacher who could snag a couple of hundred souls. Someone who would stand out on campus. He was looking for  the total package.

Now Marty had already cautioned me, “Don’t get your hopes up Tikie, we don’t think you are ready to be a Pastor, maybe not even an evangelist, perhaps you need to go out as a lay helper.”

Well this time Mary was correct, and I wish I had followed his lead here.

So I went to work. I picked my five-minute sermon – one that I thought that would stand out from what I figured the pack of 100 sermons on the power of the Word that would be filmed all over MCM that week.

Later in life I read where Winston Churchill used this same over-prepare and appear spontaneous approach.

In fact I have now to spoken publicly in front of hundreds of people many many times. I am not ashamed to say that I used the approach that I learned while with MCM.

We all met at the video recording studio, and unlike the other Auburn brothers, I was rehearsed. During my sermon used the same arm and hand gestures that I had seen Bob use. In fact I tried to imitate Bob’s sense of urgency as well as his intonation and it seemed to work; during my five minute sermon (MCM pablum) the other brothers and Mike Caulk were actually taking notes.

And it is the same approach I used in planting the church for MCM later on. I can assure you that some part of me was sincere about whatever message I delivered; but the overriding goal was simple: be named a Pastor and not an evangelist.

And it worked. It was canned, it appeared natural, but was unnatural, and the message tailored to create and effect that said “WOW” by those who listened. Later Bob told me that my five-minute sermonette had been among the best.

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

Six weeks later at a concave at MCM Auburn the great assignments were announced and  a huge map showing where we would be going pinned up to a wall.

Now it turned out that Mike and Missy would be leaving for Ann Arbor to plant a church.

Matt and Allie  would be heading up the Auburn Ministry after Mike and Missy left.

Phil and Karen Bonnasso and my former frat brother Roger would be going to USC in Southern California.

The Auburn ministry sent about 80% of their  brothers and sisters out to other ministries.

I would be going, as a Head Pastor, to a large midwestern university along with a couple I had never met and a single sister I knew slightly from another ministry.

Well it was a huge night for the Auburn Ministry and a festive night when the appointments and maps were put up in the main meeting room. In about 8 weeks most of us would all be heading out to our new jobs as full timers, or to temporary jobs that we would take until we went full time.

Mike Caulk announced that there would be a boot camp in Gainesville for all new pastors in about seven weeks and I would be attending that class.

***********

The afternoon our assignments were announced I stopped by to visit with Dr. Carl, my advisor and professor in engineering school, and to show him the latest iteration on the senior design project I had slaved over.

“Well Mr. Tok, you must be pretty happy about this- you pulled yourself out of your slump and you are going to finish up with just above a B average. I think you were capable of better…but not bad, not bad after the slump you went into.”

I grinned, a not bad from Dr. Carl was like anyone else doing cartwheels in front of me.

“How did your interviews go?” he asked.

I had snagged six interviews for jobs: one with a major oil company (this at the height of the energy crisis of the early 1980s) two with Gulf explorations companies, and one with a huge multi-national company as part of their nuclear power development program.

It was pretty exciting and thanks to Dr. Carl’s prep for the interviews and his rigorous instruction over the last three years I had landed four offers for more money than I could imagine.

I paused…,”Well Dr. Carl I have four offers…”

“Very good Mr. Tok- who are you going with? Wow- to be twenty one again and have the world by the tail!”

His face framed by his long hair broke into a broad grin.

“…but…” I continued, “…I have decided to turn them all down…”

Before I could finish he broke in and his face widened to a true smile, “Great! That’s great; so are you going to take Dr. Jenkins and me up on the masters offer?’

They had approached me a month ago about a teaching assistant job, it paid a pittance but it came complete with free tuition and fees for a master’s degree in engineering at Auburn.

I am sure if the MCM “Great Send Out” had not occurred I would have stayed in Auburn with MCM and done this two-year gig, gotten my masters and my life now would now be completely different.

“Uh …no…,” I answered.

He sat up and peered at me through his long bangs.

“Then what are you doing?”

“Well, you know this group I am with?”

“Look Mr. Tok, this group, I know all about it because Mr. XXXX (he meant “Mom” our frat RA and the engineering graduate assistant who had left last year with his masters) was aghast at your involvement with it. Although I never mentioned it I was pretty sure that these people were responsible for both your financial and academic problems three years ago. So what are you going to be doing with them?”

“Well, I am going to be a full time worker for them.”

He looked at me for a full minute.

“Well, if you were my son I would give you an old-fashioned whooping right now. What a complete and utter waste of talent! Look, Mr. Tok, we all know you are a religious fanatic, it’s a free country right, but do you have to throw away all of your talent and hard work to boot?”

I looked out of the window for a moment.

The old Tik was rattling around again; making noises and whispering in my ear. What about my education, and what about the money I could earn; could I really walk away from these job offers? And what about the problems  in MCM that Miltie had spoken of and that I knew were real?

But I shook off those growing concerns.

“Dr. Carl you have been a great friend and mentor to me. But I have to do what God is telling me to do.”

”And are you SURE this is God?” he asked.

“I am sure it IS God, I am sure of it!’ I said.

But I wasn’t at all.

#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.

 

#44 Whacky Revelations

The ministries at MCM found themselves under constant assault from International Office HQ in Gainesville (IO) with seeming crazy and whacky revelations and schemes from God.

These schemes were able to take hold with Bob, Joe and Rose because, even though their work aimed directly at colleges and universities they eschewed what they called, “The spirit of intellectualism of this age.”

In other words any rational objection to a scheme that popped into their minds irritated and upset them.

But despite how crazy these schemes and revelations sometimes appeared they actually served some practical purposes.

I will admit, most probably, that Rose and Bob really believed these crazy ideas were from God and would aid the ministry in the same way my Uncle thought that the box he bought from guy on a street corner for $10 contained a working stereo.

The box contained four bricks.

First these schemes served to keep the sheep busy with kingdom work. The elders knew that a person busy, busy, busy on Kingdom business could not spend much time pondering the real mess MCM was. “Idle hands are the devils workshop,” as my Grandma Reese used to say.

It also helped show which MCM member might harbor doubts; for failure to take part in what seemed like crazy and lunatic schemes demonstrated a sheep might be wandering, or even worse, displaying a spirit of intellectualism.

Finally these projects and ideas that came (apparently) directly from God served to show that the leadership still received revelations from on high; they demonstrated that God still moved through the MCM leadership in the end times.

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

Rose Weiner (Bob’s wife) had a revelation about groaning…and one morning, at MLTS, she read from Romans the following passage:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Now this was the sort of quack pot stuff Rose was famous for and she took this passage to mean that if we were really in tune with the Holy Spirit that we would start groaning during our public prayers.

The fact that MCM members were NOT groaning during our public prayers was proof that the sheep were NOT praying seriously  hard enough and that was why the ministry was not growing FAST enough (well, not fast enough to suit Bob and Rose).

So at one MLTS Rose announces all from the front stage in the main tent session that we are all going to dedicate ourselves to praying; and that and that we will pray, “In the Spirit with groans as Paul directed us.”

Out loud during MLTS… for one hour.

All of us.

Together.

The implication, of course was that if your out loud praying did not elicit the groans Paul mentioned then you were one of the problem children who were not praying according to the spirit; nor dedicated enough to the kingdom.

“We will intercede out loud together in a mighty way and the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] Himself will begin interceding with groans expressing things we do not and cannot understand,” she shouted, her long blond hair swinging about her shoulders as she jumped up and down making her point.

Someone should have shown Rose the scripture in Matthew which reads: “But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to you Father in secret.”

Matt, Allie, and I are sitting apart from our flocks (we are all in full-time ministry by this point) in the far back of the auditorium. And like everyone else at this MLTS session we knelt in front of our seats on Rose’s orders.

And the place begins buzzing like a giant beehive with people praying in their shabalas or kolachackas or whatevers. After about a minute Rose lets out one long grunting groan and sure enough a chorus of unbelievably strange groans and grunts start being issued by about 4,500 participants all around us.

No one at this MLTS session would be a non-groaner, because being a non-groaner meant that you were a non-spirit led person.

Being a non-spirit led person was a bad thing. Bad… bad… bad….

Okay one more time:

Groaning =good.
Not groaning =bad.

Let’s try it again:

Being open to Rose’s revelation no matter how silly it was = good. Rejecting Rose’s revelation no matter how silly it was = bad.

So 100% of the people around us there are groaning and grunting.

Actually some people started wailing. I cannot describe how weird the thing was.

Really weird.

It was doubling unnerving with the chief groaners Bob and Rose on stage groaning and grunting into their microphones and with the sound system amplifying their groaning volume ten or twenty times.

I occasionally have nightmares about the ability of the leadership to have their charges initiate bizarre behavior at the snap of a finger. If I had not witnessed this repeatedly myself during my MCM time I would not think it possible.

Now that morning  I’m still sitting in seats up with Matt and Allie, not with my sheep.

I am trying to get into this praying and groaning revelation of Rose’s, but even in my anesthetized MCM state I am thinking, “Man, this is really bizarre.”

Holding my, breath I am waiting on this to pass and for Rose to go on to the next nutty and weird thing.

I am just hoping that her next revelation does not involve Saran Wrap and cooking oil.

Then I look over and catch Matt’s eye.

He gets this grin on his face and leans over and whispers, “Sounds like 4,500 constipated people sitting on the big white thrown, if you know what I mean Tik.”

And he winks.

And the three of us, Matt, Allie and I, get the giggles right there, chortling and trying to hold back the laughter; I swear I thought I was going to have internal injuries I was laughing so hard.

And all the while the place is groaning and grunting in the spirit.

But all I could think of is, “Get these people some ExLax!”

To this day I am not sure how we did not get thrown out of the place by the Maranatha Usher Gestapo; probably because they were too busy with the grunting and groaning revelation.

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

Now whatever the latest Word, or revelation, was from MCM IO in Gainesville, Marty, my then shepherd, would go at it implementing the latest Word whole hog.

For he was a True Believer in every sense, he was Lenin’s Trotsky or Stalin’s Beria.

As an example of this occurred one Saturday morning.

I was on my way out to my pizza job when Marty (my shepherd) stopped me in the back parking lot asking if I would give him a hand.

I said, “Sure”.

He opened his car’s trunk lid and there must have been 100 plastic gallon containers stacked inside and also in his back seat; the kind that distilled water comes in.

“Tik, can you help me unload these into the parking lot please?” he asked.

“Marty, what in the world are you doing with these things?” I asked holding up one of the empty gallon jugs. I noticed that he had rigged a garden hose up and had a bench with a bottle of bleach laying on it along an eye dropper next to this bottle.

“At the ministry retreat last week [for full timers help in Gainesville] we heard a Word from God that we must do practical things to get the church ready for the coming end times; just like Joseph did for Pharaoh. We were told to start storing food and water in preparation for these bad times.”

“But why the water and bottles and bleach?” I asked.

“Well,” said Marty, “the most vital element we need is water, and in the coming troubles if our water supply goes out we will need to store enough water to get the ministry through this time of trouble. I am going to fill each bottle with tap water from the hose and put a drop of bleach in it to keep it fresh.”

Marty might just have said, “Little Green Men have moved into my office” from my viewpoint .

I had just completed a course on water management and hydrology. One of the modern miracles we take for granted is pure potable water. With clean running water diseases like typhus, cholera and diphtheria quit making routine appearances in the USA. And the death rate for infants and children plummeted by over 50%.

“Marty,” I continued, “where are you going to store the water for these times of trouble?”

He pointed to the back house, a two-story structure, yet to be renovated.

“In there, I figure I can stack these bottles four or five deep on the second and third floors.”

I shook my head.

Should I let him continue this insanity or bring him a dose of reality?

This was not just a rhetorical question for me. For if I did not stop this nonsense I would be filling and toting water bottles for eternity.

Or until some other quack-pot scheme from MCM came along.

But if I challenged him then I could be seen as being in rebellion and questioning a Word from the Lord. The risk of rebellion seemed to outweigh the work of toting water bottles for eternity into the back house.

I could already feel my arms aching.

“Marty, I just completed a course on water and hydrology and I would like to point a few things out.”

He sat down.

“First, the average human needs, at the very least, 4 gallons of water a day. I can get out the text-book that shows this for you if you would like.”

He stared at me. I could not tell if I was going to get whacked or thanked at this point; because I was pretty certain I was exhibiting a spirit of intellectualism.

So I took a deep breath and said, “So if we take 180 people [the number in our ministry at this point] times 4 gallons of water per person per day we will need to store up 720 gallons or 720 of your jugs of water per day for each day in this upcoming time of trouble. That equals about 5000 gallons per week for the people here now. Or 20,000 gallons per month.”

“And there is one other problem.  My guess is that the back house has about 12,000 cubic feet of storage space and that would only hold about 6,000 gallons of water. So you only have space for one week’s worth of water, or so, for everyone here. But even if we decided to store 6,000 gallons in the back house we would still have a serious problem.”

Marty cocked his head, “What problem would that be, Tik?”

“Well, it is a wood frame structure, and I am sure that if you stored, or tried to store, 6,000 gallons of water the building would collapse like a house of cards. Water is VERY Heavy. Maybe God will just make a miracle happen like the manna from heaven that fell on Moses when these troubles come.”

What I said was true.

A quick look in around your town would show standpipes or water tanks made of steel or concrete. They are very strong for water is HEAVY. And these standpipes usually hold about 500,000 gallons of water or about one week’s worth of water for the area they serve. Electric pumps bring the water up and gravity brings it down. Kind of scary thinking about it, that we are exactly one week away from dying of thirst or dying of cholera.

At this point I shut up and waited to see what would happen.

Thank goodness, he actually looked relieved.

“Thank you Brother for a sharing, let me pray about this.”

And that was the end of our preparation for the times of trouble and my toting 6,000 gallons of water up three flights of stairs and having the back house collapse on me and kill me.

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

But the whacky revelations continued unabated and MCM latched onto them as if they were actually written in the Bible and thus created more work for the plantation slaves.

#39 I Hit Bottom

 

I Hit Bottom

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

But that was all that came of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I lost it.

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

I found my voice rising to a shout.

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

That would have ended it.

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

“Midnight,” I answered.

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

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

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

Not a chance on that.

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

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

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

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

Silly me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They proceeded to pepper me with questions:

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

“Was I in the Word enough?”

”How much time was I spending studying?”

“Was I masturbating?”

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

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

He was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That did it.

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

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

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

But at least I was free of demons, right?

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

I can assure you it was typical.

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

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

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

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