#46 Reality Check

Reality Check

By late 1980 I had worked my way into the top echelons of the Auburn MCM ministry. I had a lot to be proud of or so I thought. I personally brought about thirty people into the ministry and only eight or nine had washed out.

In turn, over a four year period all of these people recruited at least fifteen people into MCM, not counting washouts.

My elevation into Music Group, considered the heart of the MCM Auburn Ministry, demonstrated my progress within MCM. I led the weekly newbies class teaching the Red Book every Sunday morning in the most pedantic way imaginable.

I shepherded ten brothers holding thrice weekly early morning meetings with them.

I wish I could tell you I took a Matt or Miltie approach to shepherding, but my do-be nature had me complying with MCM’s rote scheme of shepherding. I led my share of ridiculous and humiliating hootah sessions for silly infractions. I held the required  mandatory thrice weekly 6:00 am single brother prayer and discipleship sessions as well.

I turned into a mini-me MCM shepherd and  the very thing I despised I now became. Okay not to the extent of Marty; but enough to make me ashamed of how I treated people.
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By the Numbers
In business today my company takes great pains to understand why people purchase from us and where we get our business from.

If I had taken some time to carefully examine where my converts were coming from and if I had then asked about the who I was converting, it would have given me and MCM a reason for pause.

For although forty people had come on board through my effort almost every one of these converts had known me from my pre MCM days.

Only three or four converts had NOT known me from my prior life. Not only that, but had I examined the timing of these conversions  I would have seen the following trend (that I have reconstructed some twenty years later):

Tik’s converts into the Auburn Ministry
1978 (four months): 17 converts
1979 (twelve months): 8 converts
1980 (twelve months): 6 converts
1981 (6 months): 1 convert

You can probably spot the problem with these conversion results immediately.

My sales, or converts per month, started declining at a dramatic rate beginning in late 1979. A close examination of the source of my converts would have been equally disturbing.

For as I mentioned almost EVERY one of my converts to MCM had been friends or acquaintances from pre- MCM.

I traded on my old reputation as a very good friend to people, a leader who attracted folks (I know this probably sounds self-aggrandizing but I do expect to be held fully accountable for this in the next life ) and as someone people considered an all-around nice guy.

Despite the push back and anger of some of my very good friends, like Sheila or “Mom”, there was another set of friends who literally followed me into MCM. They did this because of their own needs and their trust their apparent belief that, “If Tikie were doing it, it must be okay.”

I am sure that I will pay a price on the Day of Reckoning for this as well.

So I was like a brand new life insurance salesman who racks up great results during the first year of his career and then quickly runs out of steam because he has sold policies to all his family, neighbors and brothers in law. I never considered this aspect of my bearing fruit of course. But it made sense if one gave it any thought.

First, anyone who knew the new Tik, and the new Tik alone, would probably not have wanted what he had.

I was dogmatic and caught up in my MCM world of black and white, Jesus and demons, working my ass off for no pay and little reward with the added benefit of all the abuse I could tolerate.

Plus I really did not, nor could not, socialize and make real friends outside of MCM. Socializing  outside of MCM was  frowned upon.  And even if it were not frowned upon, when in the world would I find the time to do so?

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What was true for my own experience in bringing in converts was also true for the Auburn MCM site.

After the initial success of the Auburn ministry in 1978 the new member growth slowed dramatically mirroring my personal statistics. These are my own estimates of what happened at Auburn.  However, I also reviewed these numbers with Mike and Missy in preparing this post, so although they are not exact, they are in the ballpark.

The following numbers reflect the net membership (including the washout rate; which Mike Caulk estimated at about 20-30% per year) from 1978 (start) to 1981 (the great “send out”).

Auburn Ministry Estimates
1978 September: 30 members (transfers in from other sites)
1978 December: 150 members
1979 December: 200 members
1980 December: 220 members

Keep in mind that we probably had churned through another 200 people, at least, who became  serious members and then left because they had the good sense to do so.

The decrease in the rate of increase in growth was caused, on a larger scale, by the same set of problems that caused my fruit bearing production to decline.

The Auburn ministry increasingly isolated itself, its membership appeared for the most part extreme, with the added bonus of a spate of articles in the student and local newspapers revealing all the issues that I have discussed thus far.

None of the local student religious organization would recommend, nor associate, with MCM. The Auburn MCM ministry had a bad rap throughout the student body, whether they be secular or religious.

I don’t think anyone in the Auburn Ministry was conscious of this or would admit it.   In fact Miltie’s speech on this very topic was dismissed by the local leadership who had their heads in the sand. But this did not make his points any less true.

The pattern seen at the Auburn ministry would play itself out at almost every MCM location; one year of brilliant and rapid growth followed by a year or two of decent growth followed by stagnation and decline.

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The national ministry, then, traveled in a long term downward death spiral that would result in its eventual collapse.  But Bob and Joe, convinced that God was moving in a great way through them and their ministry, would now triple down on the bet that they had placed on MCM.

For God, apparently, had spoken audibly to Bob about a great leap the ministry needed to  make that would increase its size ten-fold in the next five years.

From this audible message came the effort known within MCM as the Great Send-Out.  This new effort arrested and covered over, for about ten years, the  inevitable stagnation and decline of MCM.

But it came at  the cost of many ruined lives.

 

#37 Abuse: Being Drained By The Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was early June 1979.

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

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

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

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

I remembered that fundraising effort clearly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was.

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

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

Did MCM REALLY need a plane?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My arm really hurt now and I was chilling.

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

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

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

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

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

This part always hurt.

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

But Patrick and I were gaming the system.

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

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

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

But there was a drawback.

I started getting sick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Caulk seemed very pleased and relieved

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

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

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

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

Lost.

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

I was sick and tired all the time.

#35 Special Language

 

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James writing in his letter to the churches of Asia Minor.

The Importance of Language

Maranatha, and similar groups authoritarian & sociological groups like the ICC, have a special language that may seem intelligible to non-members at first glance but which have a special and/or different meaning to the True Believer.

This special language of MCM allowed me, as a new member, to explain not only what was happening now (when I was deciding to join), but it also let me describe what had happened to me in the four or five years BEFORE I met Randy, Ellen, Marty and Bob Weiner.

Dr. Lalich shows that this special language of sociological cults, unintelligible to the non-believers, is a common trait share by these groups.

When I read her treatise about special languages I realized that indeed, MCM had its own special language which served the purposes laid out in her books.

For example, radical commitment, totally committed, over-comers, first century Christian or Church, Sons (Daughters) of God, Reigning and Ruling with Him, I bear witness to it, Bearing Fruit, and Resisting Satan represent just a few of the special  words used by MCM members. Usually these words had meanings that were different for members of MCM than for non-members (even those who were devout mainline Christians).

MCM’s special language, just like those of other sociological cults, served three purposes. These purposes included (with credit to Dr. Lalich):

1) Explaining the movement, it goals and means in simple terms to members while marking those who used it as being an  élite class.
2) Providing a common language for those True Believers so that they could share unique spiritual and emotional experiences with each other; while
3) insulating the committed True Believe from external influences; most especially in the early days of commitment. Think about this: it is pretty hard to talk a German speaker out of something if your only language is French!

During the MCM initiation process of  Study-> Baptism-> Discipleship Group-> Prophesying->Isolation- the new member found themselves immersed in and then taught this language. Learning, and then using this language, makes the member feel part of something special and also begins the process of isolating them from external influences.

The very fact that these words have new  transcendent meanings for the member reinforced the process of isolating the True Believer from their old pre-cult friends.

One example of this took place when I spoke to Sheila, during my early involvement with MCM, using terms like the first century church, over-coming or ruling and reigning.

The fact that the  words I used were familiar to both of us but, at the same time had  differing meanings for each of us, ensured that our conversations went right past each other. This mis-match of word meanings acted to further antagonize the hurt we both experienced drove us further apart.

And in the end it worked. For this special MCM language prevented the one person, who could have perhaps saved me from the MCM calamity, from doing so. For since we no longer spoke a common language Sheila could be of no help to me, despite her efforts.

Within MCM the use of these words in conversation also served to strengthen bonds of the  brothers and sisters

This is no small point that I am making:

The new special MCM language I acquired, both bonded me to fellow members of MCM, and, served to alienate me from my friends and my family.

I noticed as I matured within MCM that the use of special language was reserved for current members [generally in meetings or discipleship groups] and for potential converts and even then, in the case of new prospects or converts, this introduction happened gradually.

But for the public, especially for those considered hostile, or of Satan, the more mature members would revert to normal language in order to portray MCM as a normal Christian church.

Bounded Choice and the Special Language

I have tried to show the following in my story thus far:

1) How MCM set the bait that drew me into the group.

2) How my background and predispositions made the MCM bait seem very attractive. MCM presented a total and radical solution to the problem posed by the dichotomy between what I saw in the Baptist churches and what I read (or thought I knew) of  first century Christian life. This MCM solution (to allow me to live the powerful life I thought first century Christians lived) appeared both logical and sensible when viewed from the perspective (however wrong) I had when entering Auburn as a freshman.

3) How MCM’s total and radical solution to living the Christian life hooked me. MCM members and leaders made me feel part of something very special and unique that had not occurred since the first century. It excited me that this supposed unique and special movement of God would bring in the physical thousand year reign of Christ described in the book of Revelation; with me being one of those who physically, “Ruled and reigned under Christ..

4) How my indoctrination into MCM beliefs involved a special language that both alienated me from my friends and family and, at the same time, bonded me to MCM.

5.How I was a willing and active participant in trapping myself in MCM. That is, with much help from my shepherd and the elders, I allowed MCM to convince me to convince myself that their goals were worthy of the total commitment of almost all of my time and energy.

In summary how I, with help from MCM, constructed my own prison.

And that prison resided within my mind.
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No doubt group think and group peer pressure set the norms of behavior and set the boundaries for the choices available to MCM True Believers.

But the fact was that the True Believers in MCM committed and ensnared themselves; convincing themselves of the rightness of the cause that kept them in MCM, despite the abuse that followed.

#5 The Hook- October 17, 1978

Tuesday October 17, 1978 Bob Weiner and the Praise Band

Ellen and Randy (not their real names), before they left the frat house that Saturday morning, asked if they could pray with me.

I remember Ellen and Randy’s prayer session clearly.

Of course I had plenty of experience praying in groups. The Baptists, at least at that time, had their famous “hour of power” prayer meeting every Wednesday evening and I also participated in public prayer sessions at the Baptist Student Union.

So when they said, “Can we pray with you?” I said, “Sure,” expecting a prayer some thing like this, “Dear God thank you for our time and thank you for your son and bless this man and keep him safe and so on.”

I dutifully bowed my head and was promptly blown away and taken on  what seemed a religious mind trip (I imagine a small shot of LSD would have the same effect on me that this prayer did!).

For no sooner had I said yes to their request than they both hunched forward and laid their hands on my head and shoulders.

Okay, I was not so thrilled with Randy’s hands on my head, but with Ellen laying her long slender hands on my shoulders I thought I could put up with this for a bit.

Then Ellen cut loose with (and I am transliterating) the following incantation:

“Shabalaa lla la shaball la la oja balla Dear Jesus, oh sweet Jesus!, we thank you for you saving power ohsballalalaa la and for leading us Dear Jesus here today oshaballa bal lala la. We thank you for you salvation and mercy and for the power you have given us and we pray for your child Tik ooshabalala ba labsha halas and we ask for your spirit to touch him and to convict him and to heal him and to open his eyes; for he surely is seeking you oshabalabala and we thank you Dear God that you said that he that seeks shall find and  that if anyone knocks at the door you shall open it and guard his heart and open his eyes and keep him safe and I command the demons to leave him alone AMEN and AMEN!

And along in the background Randy, like a bass guitar playing accompaniment, is murmuring the entire time in a deep voice, “Thank you God, thank you Lord, Yes Dear Jesus, Thank You God, Yes Dear Lord.”

And when Ellen finishes we, all three of us, just sit there for a minute or so.

Me in this stunned, “What in God’s earth just happened to me?” fog and Ellen and Randy smiling like they had just prayed, “God is great God is good let us thank him for our food, amen.”

And then they stood up and Randy puts his arm around me and says, “Tik – please come tonight for what could be a tremendous service; the House is just down the road on East Magnolia…and  remember: we don’t bite!”

With that they strolled to the front door and headed down the street. I watched them walk down West Magnolia  thinking to myself, “Wow now THAT was different from anything I had ever seen!”

But on Saturday night USC was playing someone, Notre Dame, I think. This game, headlined by the networks as a season maker for either team, was a high scoring thriller. Earlier that day Auburn had their brains beaten out by Bill Battle’s Tennessee Volunteers, and I briefly considered heading down to the Maranatha House to take a break from football and studying.  In the end the prayer, or whatever it was they had done, scared me off so I decided to continue to study and watch football in the deserted frat house.

Sometime that evening, however, I took a break and went to look at the poster that Ellen had placed on the bulletin board in the dining room.  There it hung, alright, with blazing purple writing showing the dates for Bob Weiner’s preaching and the performances of the Praise Band for the next two weeks on campus.

Then I noticed another poster that had the headline “Presenting the Praise Band with Bob Weiner”  hanging on the opposite wall. Someone had handwritten the name of my fraternity into the blank where and time space in a blue marker. It announced  a concert by the Praise Band at noon on Tuesday at the Frat House.

Funny thing was I could not remember either one of them writing on the second poster or hanging it up.

Had the couple returned after our meeting this morning? I looked closely at the poster and saw that the smiling female lead singer in the photo of the band, with her dark hair and beautiful dark eyes, was none other than my new friend “Ellen”.

Now, this was getting interesting!

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The next morning I hitched a ride to First Baptist Opelika church service. During the the Sunday school that morning the talk of our college aged group centered on Coach Barfield [Auburn’s beleaguered head coach] and the “butt whooping” that Tennessee had administered his team in a driving rain storm yesterday, the latest dating gossip, what people thought of their chances of making the Dean’s list that semester, and, “Where we in the world would we have lunch after church?” and, “All of the little things,” as Samuel Johnson, noted some three hundred years ago, “that make up the fabric of what we call life.”

And throughout that morning I contrasted this seemingly trite buzz with  Ellen and Randy’s proclamation about the overcoming life, the first century church, and the power of Jesus to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

Ellen and Randy showed no shyness in their faith and although the “sha balaing”  puzzled me, their prayers seemed to have both power and conviction in them. They had clearly stated that Christians must be sold out like the idealistic first century Christ.  The phrases “sold-out” and “over-coming” they had mentioned over and over again  kept flashing in my mind like neon sign boards the entire morning during Sunday school and the later church service .

I had, earlier in September, noticed work going on at the defunct and derelict CHI PHI house on West Magnolia. Swarms of people worked feverishly on the old house; painting it a gleaming white and planting fresh, beautiful, flowers and shrubs around the old house.  Now the house looked brand new and constructed to the right of this columned house sparkled a beautiful  fish pond. The refurbished Maranatha House, standing at the northern edge of campus, seemed to gleam like a miniature version of the Parthenon in Athens.

Well, my friend and I drove by the Maranatha house that Sunday and I noted a black and white sign out front. “Maranatha House” the sign read …and below this marquis in removable letters (like you see under a McDonald’s sign) appeared the words “Jesus is God”.

That message struck me as stark and unusual. I thought of Jesus as God’s Son and the Trinity as some vague concept.

Was Jesus God?

I found the question provoking and made a note to ask our pastor Chris, at BSU, about it.

I turned and asked my friend, and frat brother, “Know anything about that group?” as we drove up Magnolia Street.

Kent shook his head “Not sure what they are,” he said, “I hear that they are an offshoot of a Methodist Group and that there are about 10 guys living in the house and that it is a church, not just a youth study group. Whoever they are they are sure spending a LOT of money on that house and on advertising.”

This certainly seemed true because their colorful posters had shown up all over campus and the house was truly beautiful and immaculate.

On Tuesday morning I woke up and headed to class making a mental note to be back to the frat house by 11:30. During morning classes my head swirled with thoughts of Ellen (lovely Ellen) and Randy, and their prayer, and the mysterious, and dynamic Bob they had spoken of, and the dull First Baptist Church of Opelika I had attended  Sunday, and my seemingly staid Baptist “home” church in Birmingham.

I could not wait to see what Bob would say today.

On Sunday night the Social Chairman and the VP of the frat had accepted my explanation of the Praise Band; especially after I pointed to Ellen and said, “She had this big smile on her face and asked me if they could play here… pretty please???”

Jack, our social chairman, said, “Well if she is as pretty as her picture I could care less if she can sing!”

So that morning I walk into the frat house’s parking lot to a trailer blocking the back door where about six guys were loading equipment into the large dining room. There I saw Randy talking to a short guy, almost overweight, with a sport-jacket (expensively cut) and a tie, wearing a gold bracelet and what seemed beautiful Italian leather loafers.

I walked up to Randy and he gave me a big smile and a clap on the back and said, “Hey Tik- thanks for setting this up!”

Then he looked to the short guy, who had jet black hair with combed over bangs and amazingly blue piercing eyes, and said, “Bob this is the guy I told you about, Tik.”

The short guy, Bob stared at me with those amazing blue eyes.

Albert Spear, the young architect, and later Nazi wartime armaments Minister, described his first meeting with Hitler in his book “Inside the Third Reich” like this: “I don’t remember exactly what he [Hitler] said to me but I do remember the eyes; staring, cold blue, sizing me up, looking into my soul, captivating me, and freeing me at the same time.”

I will not try to improve on Spear’s prose; but I will tell you that I had a similar reaction to this meeting and, like Spear, recalled it afterwards as a very important event in my life [I still do]. Years later when I read  Spear’s description of meeting Hitler for the first time it rang true to me because I had the exact same reaction that day meeting Bob Weiner for the first time.

I felt a primal powerful presence and the sense of standing in front of  a very special person. This visceral reaction to Bob occurred in split seconds and I reacted immediately to the force I felt coming from him. I imagine that a rat must feel this way when confronted by a cobra: fascinated and frightened at the same time.

Bob looked at me for three to four seconds, his face expressionless, and then suddenly he broke into a big smile and shouted, “Praise God!”

I looked around and a couple of my frat brothers turned our way with frozen expressions on their faces.

“God is doing great things here in Auburn and we are at the center of it my brother!”

He shook my hand and then said “I hear you are president of the fraternity here. God needs leaders like you; He has given you talent: are you giving it back to Him?”

The guy nailed me, right in my sweet, weak, spot, for I do have a talent with people. I don’t like bragging, nor do I believe in false modesty, at least not any more. People seem to immediately like me and trust me, I try focus on their needs, and am genuinely interested their stories; I am reasonably attractive and confident.

BUT I always feel like I am not doing enough, not achieving enough, not giving enough.

And 30 seconds after meeting me Bob probed deep into my psyche; pushing those hot buttons of mine and asking deeply personal and meaningful questions of me.

Oddly enough, or maybe not so oddly in retrospect, I found myself wanting to please him and to be with him and his cause.

Well I introduced Bob and Randy to the 70-80 frat brothers, pledges, and little sisters that had gathered for the concert and, with a wave to my friend Ellen, I sat down.

Then the drummer Carl started in with a Led Zeppelin beat and the lead guitarist starting making his guitar sing like Lynyrd Skynyrd playing “Free Bird” [the long version] and the Praise Band started cranking out their hit song “the Race” with two beautiful female singers, Ellen with her dark hair, and a gorgeous blonde, Vicki (none of the names are real other than Bob’s) lit out with a fast paced beautiful two-part harmony duet.

The band proceeded to crank out three hard-core rock and roll songs that had the crowd clapping and stomping their feet. I had never heard Christian Rock, this being 1978, and I am guessing that none others in the audience had either. The band was talented and the music was fantastic that was for sure.

At the end of the third song Randy stands up and brings Bob up who grabs a microphone which he did not need given the size of the room.

Bob starts off like this: “I am here today to tell you about Jesus. Not the namby -pampy Jesus you hear about in nursery school, not the meek and mild Jesus who hopes you will ‘pretty please say a prayer’. I am here today to talk to you about a real he man, a man who came here to earth and battled all the forces of evil and all of the sin that is destroying mankind; the very sin that has many of you in bondage. ”

He looked directly at one of our little sisters, sitting at a table, and pointing at her with the mike in his hand Bob shouted, “I know that some of you, probably most of you, have said a sinner’s prayer and go to church on Sunday. But God is speaking to me right now that there is a girl here who is involved in sexual immorality; who has this secret sex life that she thinks she can hide from God, who has sacrificed her virginity to a guy who could care less about her, who pretends to be a Christian but who acts like a harlot.”

She will cry out “LORD LORD!”

Bob opens his bible and points to a scripture and says in a low voice, “and Jesus speaks to just such a one like her, ‘and I will say to them DEPART from me you evil doers.”

With his voice rising Bob continued in a sing-song voice, “For anyone who acts like a Christian and professes to be a Christian, but lives in the sin of lust and idolatry blasphemes the name of Jesus who SUFFERED for us.”

I kid you not the girl at the table starts crying openly.

Sobbing like a baby.

My mouth dropped open in amazement.

“WOW,” I thought “this guy sounds just like an Old Testament Prophet like Nehemiah or Jonah- unbelievable this guy minces no words. He is power personified and somehow he knows just what to say.”

And then his tone changed and his voice then became soft and gentle again. “You see he loved you, you, you, you…” and as he said this Bob turned to look people in the eye and pointed at them. Finally he slowly turned to the sobbing girl and, in a barely audible voice, he whispered “….and you.”

“My sister he cared enough about your sins to die a vicious death, He who could have summoned an army of angels ….he died… because of your sin … your sin…”

He then turned and now looked squarely at me.

“Some of you have been given gifts and you are not using them to God’s Glory. You are like the servant who hid the gold coin instead of using it for good. And I tell you YOUR sin is as great as the one who commits a sexual sin of immorality…in fact it is far greater. ”

And with that the Praise Band broke into soft music and Bob shouted “I Know that God has brought people here that He has spoken to, a direct message He has given you. Don’t ignore God. ”

“The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit…and that means ignoring what the Spirit is saying to you now.”

Then he asked everyone to close their eyes and that if God was speaking to them they should raise their hands.

My hand shot up involuntarily.

Next he asked everyone who had raised their hands to open their eyes, look up, and look him in the eyes.

I did so and I found myself locked in the grip of those piercing blue eyes for ten… twenty… thirty seconds… maybe for an hour, I am not sure.

He then broke the spell and said, “Jesus said that ‘if you deny me before men I will deny you before God in Heaven.’ If you are willing to make a stand for Jesus, to be a real follower of Jesus, not a Sunday only Christian, I want you to stand now. Everyone, if you want to answer God’s call stand up. If you don’t stand up you are denying the Lord God Almighty.”

With that I stood up and I saw that Becky, the little sister at the table, was also standing with her body racking with sobs.

“Come up here,” Bob said to both of us.

I walked up front and Bob and Randy put their hands on my head and shoulders while Ellen and the other female singer put their hands on Becky, the sobbing little sister. The band played soft music in the background, and Bob ripped out a prayer about salvation, demons and the power of God.

Afterwards while the band members stowed their equipment Randy, Bob and I went out and sat in Bob’s Mercedes. We talked about my experience and my feelings about my Baptist Church and Christian life and everything that had been swirling in my head the past week since meting Ellen and Randy.

Bob locked eyes with me and said, “Brother God has big plans for you, big plans.  It is NO accident we met today. I want you to come to the service tonight because I will be preaching on the Great Commission tonight and how we are going to evangelize the world with this generation.”

I promised both Randy and Bob I would be there.