#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.

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

#40 Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation within MCM

 

Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation

One of the reasons that I had joined MCM was that I perceived  it as an egalitarian Band of Brothers and Sisters focused on God’s Kingdom. For Paul wrote that no one part of the body was more important than another in his letter to the first century church at Corinth.

But hierarchy and status mattered within MCM and I would soon find out how that status affected me!

Based on interviews with a number of ex-MCM members (including Mike and Missy) I believe this description of the Auburn site applied to other ministry sites as well. Having said that some sites were more lenient than Auburn, and, believe it or not, some were much stricter.

Regardless, all of MCM operated under this system of hierarchy, status and subjugation.

***********

I was, when writing this Part, tempted at first to use the military analogy of soldiers and sergeants. But the idea repels me both because of Bob’s use of the term God’s Green Berets and the dishonor it would do to the men and women in the armed services.

A much better analogy would be that of a plantation.

For each MCM site was like a plantation; complete with slaves, overseers, house servants, production, quotas and the threat of being sold down the river minus your family. Members constantly faced the threat of banishment and being shunned like my mentor, Peter, who after being thrown out of MCM was never heard of or mentioned again.

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

At the lowest level of the MCM plantation hierarchy were the slaves; the single brothers at the bottom of the MCM heap.

These single brothers lived together communally and footed the bill for the meeting-house and for the pastor’s apartment.

They had neither private lives nor any privacy at all. They must be ready at a moment’s notice for action. Additionally they did jobs such as keeping the meeting-house, grounds, and living quarters in order and they acted as gophers for ministry staff. Their personal needs, when they conflicted with those of the ministry, were never considered. [See my description of one of my  hootah sessions for details]. In fact the ministry reveled in this on-call life style and sold it to the brothers as proof being the spear point of God’s Green Berets.

Now there were grades within this lowly single brother hierarchy.

At the bottom of this grade were the grunts that were brand new baby Christians, those that had not born any fruit (brought in converts) or those were not deemed sharp enough to have the potential to go full-time. These low-level grunts condemned to a life of servitude, might, just might, be able to break out of this rank if they worked hard enough and if they brought enough converts in.

Or so they believed.

Next in status within this grade of single brother/slaves were those who were bringing in converts, or, were contributing significant sums of money because of a having a professional job. My friend Peter, due to his lucrative real estate business fell into this latter category prior to being banished.

And at the top of this lowest level were those single brothers that were slotted for full-time service, like yours truly. These brothers MIGHT have a shot at full-time paid ministry if they were diligent enough, if they were submissive enough, if they contributed enough and if they continued to bear fruit (bring in new converts).

That’s a whole lot of ifs and with no promises.

Worse yet, did any of the ones who were striving for full-time ministry really understand what they were signing up for???!

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

Another group inhabited the lowest order of MCM- the single sisters.

It is a coin toss as to who had it worse: the single brothers or sisters; but my money is on the single sisters.

For the single sisters were also called upon at all hours to  work for the ministry just like the single brothers.

And single sisters had an extra burden to bear. That burden required exhibiting the traits of femininity that MCM considered Biblical. Any sister that did not show these traits was in for a rough time.

So, in addition to the burdens of the single brothers  the single sisters had to deal with other requirements imposed on them by MCM.

  • They had to dress in a feminine manner, but they must not show too much leg or cleavage for then they were “tempting the brothers.”
  • They could not be too aggressive or masculine, nor seem too independent. If a brother challenged a teaching precept or an elder/shepherd then he would be chastised; but the thinking was,  “Boys will just be boys,” and, “Potential leaders always test the boundaries”. But any female, who dared challenge or question the leadership, ran the risk of being labeled a Jezebel. And being labeled a Jezebel was being equal to Satan’s bride. Do it more than twice and you got the boot. Because, having a Jezebel among you was worse than a plague carrying rat eating at the communal dinner table.
  • The single sisters had to give money, perform  feminine ministry work, and also bear fruit (bring in converts)…and perhaps, just perhaps, they would get the privilege of marrying a brother whose destiny was  full-time ministry. More than likely a brother that they barely even knew.

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

Ranked above the single brothers and sisters  in the hierarchy were the overseers.

These overseers on the MCM plantation were the older brothers and sisters, many who were single themselves, who acted as shepherds. Now when I say older I don’t think there was a shepherd at MCM north of thirty years old.

These shepherd’s lives were not much easier than the slaves/sheep because they were accountable for all the actions of their sheep. If a sheep acted poorly it reflected poorly on the shepherd and any bad action by their sheep brought into question the shepherd’s spirituality and ability to properly lead and discipline their charges.

Those overseers who were too lenient with their charges would be disciplined for, “Not being a proper role model.”. If they were too easy on their charges they could ruin their chances of making it into full-time service; for wasn’t that the goal?

These shepherds had to lead by example so when their charges found themselves assigned a job, like renovating the back house for the sisters, the shepherds had to be there as well. And they had to set an example in hard work and diligence.

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

Oh, and there was a hierarchy within the ranks of the overseers, or shepherds, as well.

One might easily get the impression that the single sister shepherds had no power within MCM.

I would argue that this was not the case, and that, in many ways, some of these sisters who were shepherds had as much, or more power, than the single or married brothers who were overseers/shepherds.

Within the group of sisters who acted as shepherds there were those deemed prophetesses. These prophetesses  were deemed to have special insight or intuition from God.

This elevation of some of the sisters, who supposedly possessed this special gift prophetic gift, derived from Rose Weiner.

Many of Bob’s goofball proclamations originated in the nonlinear, non-logical, and nonsensical mind of his wife Rose. Anyone who got on Rose’s bad side was dead on arrival in the ministry. Most of the full-timers were scared stiff of her and for good reason. Those that crossed her might find themselves a deacon in Iowa City, or worse, thrown out of the ministry altogether. And likewise, anyone that she deemed of God or Chosen of God was considered anointed and untouchable.

There is no doubt in my mind that the power behind the throne of MCM, and behind the elevation in power of certain full timers, was Rose Weiner.

Now at the local level, at Auburn  this small coterie of prophetic single sisters, in the Rose Weiner mold, also held sway. For indeed, all the prophetic sisters in MCM descended from either Rose Weiner or her sister-in-law Mildred Russell.

It worked like this: anyone that Rose or Mildred shepherded and deemed having the prophetic gift became a MCM prophetess. And anyone that these prophetesses shepherded, who supposedly had this anointing, was also deemed a prophetess.

For example Missy Caulk was once Mildred Russell’s hand-maiden (translation full-time servant). She was marked as prophetic by Mildred. Any sister that Missy shepherded at Auburn, and she marked prophetic, now also became a prophetess. And so forth.

These prophetess sisters, because of their descent from Rose and Mildred, had a lot of power within MCM.

In fact it was almost a requirement for a full-time staffer to marry a prophetess. For this meant that each pastor’s wife could mark a line of succession back to Rose and Mildred. This was yet another way for these women, and the elders of MCM, to control the pastors and local sites. In a future post I will share how I narrowly escaped just such an arranged marriage.

Now Auburn mirrored what happened at MCM corporate with Rose and her insights..

These prophetic single sisters influenced things behind the scenes and could either mark a brother or sister [meaning discern and proclaim that the sheep’s problems were of Satan] or they could receive a word from God which could alter a person’s life radically.

Maybe for good, maybe for bad.

Marty, my shepherd and site administrator, aside from Mike and Missy, was the other fulltime employee at Auburn, and, because of this, he wielded great influence at Auburn. My portrait of him is correct; he was a true believer, dry, dogmatic and fanatical.

There was only one other person, aside from Mike and Missy Caulk, who rivaled my shepherd, Marty, in influence and power within MCM, and she a single sister prophetess.

In a later post I will show how a word from this sister, and a clash between this prophetess and Marty, changed my life radically while I was at the MCM Auburn ministry.

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

Now one group that I did not mention, thus far, in my discussion of the hierarchy of the MSM, was the band, or as we called it at Auburn, the music group.

Music was very important to MCM, extremely important.

In my plantation analogy the house servants were the members of the music group. These were the privileged few who did not have to chop cotton, tote water, and act as slaves, and sometimes enjoyed a few of the  benefits of the plantation setting.

In MCM music set the tone for each service, allowed us to worship God, and showed everyone that God was in control and blessing us. Our internal and external services centered on the Auburn music group who provided this musical sound track.

The music group set the pace for all the meetings and ensured that the sheep were prepared for the message from God by plowing their hearts  with inspiring music.

And if you were kind enough to read the earlier parts in my story you can see that the national music group for MCM, the Praise Band, made a huge impression on me. They were a primary mover in all outreaches, second, only to Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, in influencing the crowds.

The music group was so important to MCM that members of the group at Auburn were exempted from the normal routine and mundane duties that I have listed like setting up for meetings, cleaning and maintaining the house, cooking, and most importantly the spur of the moment requests that chewed up so much of the member’s time.

Now Matt, the band leader, who I have already introduced you to, had a level head, played a mean guitar player and was also spiritually mature.  He became the music group leader early on after the Praise Band left Auburn in 1978.

It was important to have an accomplished actor as leader of the music group because the leader must be perceived by the flock as in tune with God and the Spirit, really experiencing the worship of God, and catapulting the crowd at the service, if you will, before the very throne of God.

A service was solemn, worshipful, introspective, joyous, or militant, or maybe all these in one service, based on the music chosen and the attitude of Matt, our music group leader.

But the music group leader also must be a thinker who, although appearing to be swept away by holy worship, or raucous celebration, had to continually think about the next song and the agreed upon (from preparation in the staff meeting and rehearsal) direction.  Was he to hype the crowd up and then bring them down into slow soft worship? Or would it be all joy and celebration and militancy?

It all needed to appear spontaneous (to be of the Spirit’s leading- there was nothing worse in MCM’s eyes than an order of service) but it was also carefully rehearsed.

Another purpose of the music group and leader was in providing the sound track for the Movie of the MCM service. Try watching a horror movie without a soundtrack. A movie sound track  may evoke fear, or for  a love story dreamy music may play when the lovers reconcile. Without an appropriate sound track the emotion induced by a movie becomes less palpable.

So it was at MCM, for music both set, and manipulated, the emotional tone of those participating in the service.

For Bob Weiner  learned from Hollywood that music could capture, and would channel, the emotions of people in just the direction he wanted.

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

Now the plantation was always facing requests for more money, special offerings, help for other campus plantings, and the occasional quack-pot schemes like preparing for food and water shortages that would come at the end times.

The people who dealt with all these requests and oversaw the plantation’s day-to-day activities were our senior pastors Mike and Missy Caulk.

Now, although Mike and Missy Caulk were at the top of the MCM Auburn heap it would be wrong to think of them as the plantation owners. They were more like share croppers who got a very small cut of what the ministry produced. They had all the responsibility, but none of the bennies.

They served totally at the mercy of the elders including  Bob and Rose Weiner and Joe Smith.

Mike and Missy had absolutely no job security, and, if they did not produce and/or if they did not submit to the HQ requests they could be taken out on a moment’s notice.

In fact they had a double dilemma: if they grew too quickly and the ministry grew very large they could attract the big fish that might come in and steal it from them; relegating Mike and Missy to mere bystanders or worse.

This happened in Gainesville when that ministry took off and grew rapidly.

Of course if Mike and Missy did not grow the ministry (grow in the sense of increased attendance and contributions) they might be dismissed and sent away for help and counseling into one of the smaller ministries.

As I mentioned Missy Caulk was one of MCM’s prophetesses  because she had been personally discipled by Mildred Russell, Rose Weiner’s sister-in-law, who was one of the top women leaders within MCM. I eventually met Mildred, at the University of Georgia and I will tell you she was one scary sister.

Missy had also worked as Bob’s personal assistant for two years in Paducah and was thus doubly trusted.

Mike and Missy’s marriage was a MCM arranged marriage. I am not sure how they fared in their early days of marriage when the Ole Miss ministry started but by the time they got to Auburn they seemed to have ironed things out.

Any idea that Mike and Missy had it made as pastors at Auburn, or that they were living the life of luxury, would be fallacious.

Their entire lives were subject to the wishes and whims of the elders meaning, at this time, Bob Weiner, Joe Smith, and Bob Nolte

Here is how Missy described their experience in working with Bob and the rest of the  leadership (keep in mind that they pastored, at that time, one of the most successful sites at MCM).

“I never felt like I was “given” Auburn. WHO wasn’t somewhat intimidated by Bob ?? I think that is part of the whole manipulation thing that occurred in MCM. Some men control like being Santa Claus, other out of fear and intimidation. “

But eventually they would overcome their intimidation and fear and set an example of how Bob and his reign of terror could successfully be challenged.

But that would come much later.

One example of how Mike and Missy’s lives were subject to the whims of the elders had to do with a VERY personal issue: children. Missy and Mike wanted to start a family. And they had to submit desire this to the elders.

In Missy’s words:

The worst thing to happen to me was that I was 27, Mike was 30 and we wanted to have a baby.”

Bob said, “NO, you have enough babies to take care of ……..spiritual babies.”

However, God intervened and we got pregnant with Christa at Steve and Beth McDowell’s wedding in Memphis. As it turned out 4 other couples in leadership at new churches did as well……….so he really didn’t say anything after that… But, I did cry my eyes out for weeks……….surprised you didn’t hear me Tikie!”

Bob could not, thankfully, control biology and ultimately he could not subvert, as much as he might unknowingly try, the will of God.

For God’s sake the man was abusing a newly married twenty-seven year old girl, for Missy was no more than a girl at the time!

This example alone should suffice to show how the pastors and the full timers were both victims and victimizers. Mike and Missy desperately wanted to serve God, but were caught in a system that they both intuitively knew was wrong.

And they were being abused and abusing…it was a terrifically bad system that Bob and others bear responsibility for.

But Mike and Missy tried to make the best of it.

#30 MLTS with Larry and CJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The singing just about knocked me down.

The service was Auburn’s MCM service on steroids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He paused and looked over the crowd.

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

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

1. Be “Earth Shattering”,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First he slowly read the text from Exodus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larry paused and let the crowd get quiet.

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

The place went crazy,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rinse and repeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

or

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers and clapping erupted

He paused and the place when silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#28 Confronting My Parents

Confrontation

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

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

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

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

It was my parent’s car.

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

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

It was in Mom’s handwriting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hold your horses, Tonto.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris slowly opened a folder he had in his lap.

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

The folder was full of newspaper clippings.

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

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

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

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

Chris paused.

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

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

My face turned red.

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

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

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

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

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

He waited a good minute before speaking.

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

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

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

But My father cut Chris off before he could finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that was it, heh?

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

Did she not have any decency left  in her?

My parents left after about an hour of fruitless talk.

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

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

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

I was fuming.

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

 

#26 Walking Away

November 1978

On all my mid-term I scored grades of Cs and Ds. Mathematically I knew that pulling my grades up to a B average for this term was impossible.

And Sheila?

Well, other than one or two lunch meetings, and a note or two for her and from her, we were incommunicado.

In fact I pretty much had cut myself off from my former friends and they had cut themselves off from me.

Other than my Christian clan  all of the frat members avoided me. And JD was leading the charge to have me thrown out as President.

I spoke to Marty, my shepherd in Maranatha, about JD’s plan to impeach me; but he showed me numerous scriptures that demonstrated that, “We overcoming Christians will be persecuted and scorned for our Kingdom work.”

Furthermore, he said that I should rejoice in what was happening and, besides, at least fifteen people had come to Jesus because of me and my stand.

Marty said, “Those souls you have played a part in bringing to Jesus are eternal stuff, Kingdom stuff, and the very proof that God is leading you in His powerful work.” He then quoted the scripture about the flowers not having to toil and work.

The day before the monthly Frat business meeting I told Marty, “I have to miss the Maranatha service tonight.”

He did not like it, but when  I told him I had to be there and that it would be a chance for me to witness to 120 frat members he smiled and said, “God’s blessing on it, I bear witness to this decision, Tik.”

That was MCM speak for, “Okay you can do it.”

And, as it turned out, this was to be my last frat chapter meeting.

As I walked into the chapter room I saw JD sitting at the ornate desk used by the frat President and about 120 brothers, lined up in in row upon row of folding chairs, facing the small raised speaker’s platform.

“Oh,” JD said as he stood up from the ceremonial president’s chair, “I was getting used to sitting here. This certainly is a surprise seeing you here Tik and it is not even dinner time!”

Laughter reverberated throughout the room.

The meeting moved along in a boring fashion just like every other chapter meeting I had attended since being initiated as a frosh.

I called the members to order and the treasurer and members of the house corporation made their presentation. Usual stuff: money in, expenses out, we were going to have to replace the roof next year, and eventually the air conditioning system, which was on its last leg.

Then the new business session started as I slammed down the gavel on the small table to my right .

JD immediately stood up from his front row officer’s seat walked to the speaker’s platform and, like an attorney making a plea before a jury thundered, “Brothers I have a serious charge to make and I want to bring a motion to the floor.”

He stood for a moment looking around the room and tucked his thumbs into his belt loop before going on, “Our President, Tik Tok, has been derelict in his duties, he has been absent from almost all activities over the last month, he would hardly qualify as an active member much less as a President. I would like to move that we bring a vote of impeachment against him and then vote to remove him from office.”

Well the place went crazy, with a small group of my pledge brothers defending me; but none of my Christian frat clan because they were all at the Maranatha Service that was now underway.

I looked over at Mom and, as usual during a chapter meeting, he was saying nothing, just stroking his red mustache, seated in a stuffed wing back chair just to my right.

It went back and forth, and I, in my Maranatha arrogance, thought of Jesus being,“Silent before his accusers”.

It is embarrassing for me now that I was comparing myself to Jesus and the martyrs for the faith; but there you have it. They were innocent of the charges against them, but I was guilty as charged that night.

For the truth I had been given a job for which I was paid in free room and board, and had, for all intents and purposes, walked away from this job.

JD was rallying his forces and everyone was jabbering and interrupting each other and it looked like they could get a vote for a move to start impeachment proceedings when Mom stood up and then walked next to where I was seated.

Mom rarely spoke at these meetings, other than to occasionally pull two quarreling members apart before they came to blows.

He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Hold it brothers. Tik here has not said a word. Brothers, if Tik will commit to doing his duties, to making all our events, to attending all chapter and business meetings, can we just drop this garbage.? This is going to tear our frat in half.”

The place went silent. And everyone looked at me.

What was I could I say?

I hardly had time to breathe with the 40 hours plus of MCM activities, and I was falling further and further behind in my studies. I knew that it truly was either Maranatha or the fraternity. There was hardly time for my studies; much less my job as Frat President, that was apparent.

I needed to take a stand here in front of my accusers, it seemed to me. Isn’t that what Bob had said the first day I met him, “To be either hot or cold but not lukewarm?”

The reality was that the frat held no appeal for me anymore.

Maranatha was the eternal stuff, the real stuff, the Kingdom, and Jesus, and changing the world. Saving souls, right?????

And I made what I confess to be a snap decision.

In the world I was now inhabiting, the world of radical overcoming Christianity, the World of Seeking First the Kingdom, the World of God supplying everything I needed, the world of making Jesus Lord of All, why, my decision made perfect sense.

But to all my frat friends, to “Mom”, to everyone who knew me before MCM entered my life, it was an insane decision.

It seems insane to me now- looking back at that night.

I swallowed and looked up at the 120 faces staring at me.

“Fellows,” I said softly from my seat, “JD is right. I have been neglecting my duties. ”

“I have been neglecting them because I have a new life  for I am a now radical follower of Jesus. And that new faith makes it impossible for me to act as President. So I resign effective immediately.”

No one said a thing. Not a person moved or seemed to breath. I could  feel Mom’s hand on my shoulder; his grip tightening there.

“Not only that I have come to realize over the last four weeks that this fraternity is no place for me to be. It has no appeal to me. I am seeking the things of God, and again, I invite you all to seek Him with me. Because of my commitment to Jesus I am also resigning my membership in the fraternity immediately.”

Bedlam broke loose.

JD let out a loud laugh and three of my friends, members of BSU, walked over and tried to speak with me.

But I pushed past them, ignoring Mom’s plea of, “Tik hold your G*d d*amned horses” and walked over to where JD stood.

I handed the ceremonial gavel to JD.

“It’s your’s now JD,” I whispered and then walked out of the chapter room and down the hall to my sleeping room.

I locked the door, took my phone off the hook, and knelt to pray, ignoring four or five knocks that pounded on my door for the next hour or so.

I was relieved that I confronted the issue of ignoring my duties head on.

And I would talk to Marty about moving into the Maranatha House in the morning.

But I had a nagging fear as I stood up from an hour of prayer to crawl into bed.  How in the world would I come up with the money for room and board now?

As I went to sleep that night I recited the scripture, “He will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory.”

I was leaving the fraternity and walking away from the world.

#23 False Teaching

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

The False Teachings of Joe Smith 

Prophets and Apostles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

******

Only true Christians will rule and reign with Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because things were heating up at the frat.

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

#20 Tug of War

Tug of war

I was walking down the stairs with Marty after one of our morning shepherding group meetings. Marty put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Tik, I am looking forward to seeing you tonight at the service. IT will be Bob’s last you know.”

I stopped on the stairs.

Tonight our night was our frat chapter meeting.

And tonight was my first monthly business meeting as Frat. President. In this meeting we would review the finances: cash in- vs. expenses vs. surplus and also vote on any issues that the frat members brought up.

In fact tonight, because of our excellent rush results (thanks to Sheila’s help from the party with her very large and old line sorority) we would propose a reduction in dues for the frat brothers.

I needed to be there, and in fact, was obligated to be there. I was elected President, it was my responsibility, and they paid me for it in free room and board.

Seemed pretty easy and simple to me.

I explained to Marty why I would need to miss the MCM meeting tonight.

Not only that but after the chapter meeting I simply HAD to hit the books- I missed a study group last night and that spelled danger.

Going to engineering school, at least for me, was like riding a bike at 20 mph just in front of a giant steam roller moving at the same speed. Everything was fine as long as you pedaled like mad. But slow down or stop and you would be run over and crushed. And I could feel the steam roller gaining ground on me. For I had studied little in the last two weeks due to all of my MCM activities.

A new look appeared on Marty’s face that I had not seen yet.

I am struggling now to describe it, so here goes: it was irritation combined with an attempt to soften it into compassion.

I mean, his face said, “You are irritating me,” but the tone of his voice was all compassion, sugar and honey.

“Well Tik, I understand what you have in front of you tonight, but this is a really critical time for your Christian growth and walk with the Lord. You are a baby Christian and babies need lots of feeding. It would be a real mistake for you not come to the service tonight. Besides there are at least seven sheep now from your frat, if you don’t come they probably will not come either.”

I really did want to be at MCM tonight and to hear what this new Prophet was going to say to us on behalf of God.

I wanted to this more than anything.

But there were lots of things that I wanted to do in my life, but did not do them, because of other things I was committed to; things I was both ethically and morally committed to do.

But Maranatha did have one thing right.

I was a man-pleaser and did not like to let people down. Now I was torn, do I let my new Shepherd down or my frat?

But what about my studies?. I simply had to study at least three hours or so tonight, say from 8-11 pm…and then I remembered that I was committed to Mike’s prayer group the next morning at 6am.

My heart sank.

“Look Tik, God looks at our heart and our actions. If you are truly committed to him then His things must come first. That is the difference between overcomers and watered down make believe Christians,” Mike intoned.

That decided it for me.

I would see if JD our frat VP would cover for me this one night. Then I would leave as soon as the service was over at 8:30 pm for the engineering library to crack the books.

“Don’t worry about me, ” I told Marty. “I’ll be there tonight.”

At the frat house I looked for J.D. our Vice President.

As I have told you we were NOT friends. He had run for President against me last spring.

I won becoming the first junior President of the frat. As a consolation prize he  was elected Vice President. He continually second guessed me at the frat, I understood why, it must have been hard to have someone with less experience running “his” fraternity.

Now I would have to tell him I would miss my first business meeting which only occurred once per month.

As luck would have it JD was in Mom’s room. Mom was also graduate instructor for Dr. Carl. And Dr. Carl, who you have already met, if you have made it this far, was a not only a prof. for two of my classes this quarter, but was also my student advisor.

Small world, huh?

Looking back on it Mom did a good job of looking out for us and trying his best to keep a bunch of 20 year old males in line and from burning the house down.

Last year one of our guys had gotten some bad grades and decided to drop out and go to work for the Power Company. Mom had escorted him down to the Dean’s office and “un-dropped him out”.

The kid was still in school.

Mom and J.D looked up as I walked into Mom’s room.

“What’s up Tikie?” Mom yelled.

J.D said nothing to me. He seemed to concentrating on blowing smoke rings with a lit cigar that was hanging from his mouth.

“Well I was actually looking for JD to see if he could cover for me in the chapter meeting tonight.”

Mom’s red eyebrows cocked up and JD momentarily forgot about the smoke signals he was trying to send.

“Got an emergency Tik?” Mom asked.

It was unusual for the president to miss a chapter meeting much less the monthly business meeting. I had missed last week’s chapter meeting and had gotten a little grief from the frat members because of this.

And now I stood there telling them I was going to miss two in a row including tonight’s business meeting.

I stood there trying to figure out what to tell them…then Bob’s admonition came to my mind that, “Jesus said don’t hide your light under a bushel,” sounded in my head.

So I said, “I promised some guys I would attend a church service tonight.”

“But I was sure that Chris’ study (Chris head of BSU) did not start until 8:00 pm on tonight,” “Mom” said. “Our business meeting starts at 7:00 pm and we will be finished by at least 8:00 pm.”

Chris of BSU and “Mom” were allies but not friends.

Neither really approved of the other, but “Mom” saw Chris as a restraining influence on us and Chris appreciated the fact that “Mom” really tried to look out for our welfare, well at least as he saw fit to.

JD was silent; watching me as he puffed his cigar. Had he spoken to Sheila about what and who I was involved with? I knew they were friends.

“No,” I said, “it is not a BSU function; it is a new ministry called Maranatha.”

“You mean that guy that was here with the band a while ago  who was yelling and screaming like some two-bit carney?” JD asked.

I nodded.

Mom laughed, “You are a grown man Tik, at least you ought to be one. You really have an obligation to be here at this chapter meeting, for God’s sake you are the guy in charge here.”

“Sorry guys, I made a promise.”

“Bullshit Tik!” said JD. “You made a promise first to the frat.”

“I know JD,” I said, “but that was before I made a commitment to put Jesus above everything else; to commit myself to him like the early Christians did.”

Mom twisted his red mustache.

“Tik everyone knows you are a straight arrow religious guy.”

Mom continued, “You know I don’t go for that crap; but I have never given you a hard time about it! You go to Rat’s and Chris’s studies almost every week and are at Sunday School every Sunday morning. For Pete’s sake what is so special and urgent about tonight’s church meeting?’

“Look,” I said standing up,”I realized I was a lukewarm Christian and have to take a radical stand for Jesus. He died for me so the least I can do is to put Him first.”

JD waved his hand at me.

“Cut the preaching Tik, alright? I don’t need it and I am not going to listen to it. So stop it. I am going to cover for you, okay? But what do you want me to tell the brothers? Huh? ”

“Tell them truth,” I said.

“You really want me to tell them that you have cracked up?” snorted JD. He walked out of the room in disgust.

I started to leave.

“Wait a minute Tik, have a seat,” said “Mom.

“What in the hell’s gotten into you Tik?,”  asked Mom. “I can’t remember you missing more than one or two chapter meetings since you were initiated as a frosh over two years ago. Now you have missed two straight. What is going on with you?”

“Don’t push me Mom I made a commitment to go!”

I caught myself, I was almost yelling. Mom continued to stroke his mustache.

“Tik- who is this group that you have gotten yourself involved with?”

“They are committed Christians, that’s all .”

I turned and walked out of Mom’s room and went down the hall to the door to my room.

As I put the key in the lock I looked down the hall and there was Mom, standing in his doorway, stroking his mustache and looking at me.

That evening was Bob’s last night to preach, at least for a while.

The Band was in great form and I ended up talking to Becky, the little sister who had broken down at the frat house. She was on fire for Jesus!

The service broke up around 8:45 pm and I reached for my backpack. I was planning on heading to the engineering lab to try to catch up on my studies.

All of the sudden Sam and Marty were by my side.

“Brother, we were so glad to see you here. I know that God will really bless you for your commitment tonight. We are going to be doing a study with a young man who is on the verge of making Jesus Lord and we would like you to sit with us, to give him your testimony and perspective on the study.’

“Will you help us Bro?”

What could I say? They had sacrificed last evening for me, so I would do the same for this new kid. Isn’t that what Jesus would have wanted?

I stuffed my back pack under my chair and went upstairs with Sam and a blond-haired kid who looked like he was 12 years old.

I was excited. I was going to help Marty and Sam bear fruit for the Lord.

My engineering studies would have to wait yet one more night.

#17 A Completely New Family

Saturday October 1978

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

But at that moment my mind was on other matters.

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

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

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

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

A new comer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about Sheila?

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

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

Where did any of my old friends fit in?

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

New brothers and sisters in Jesus they were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He smiled, “Worried about Sheila, hey?”

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

I hoped it had not been stolen.

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

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

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

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

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

At least for now.

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

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

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

No answer.

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

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

Oh Well.

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

Then I scrawled at the bottom of the note.

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

I slid the note under the door to her room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was clapping and shouting.

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

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

Bob waited until the noise subsided.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Amen!” we all shouted back in unison.

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

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

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

“This is my husband Matt.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karen and Phil Bonasso.

But all of this would come much later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he laughed.

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

He paused.

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

Then he looked at Mike and Missy Caulk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 The Line- October 17, 1978

Bob and Randy drove off and I walked back into the fraternity house.

Becky, the girl who had stood up with me during Bob’s service, sat in the corner of the dining room talking to Ellen and Vicky from the Praise Band. I started to walk over to speak to them but I could see they were deep in prayer or something. Both Vicky and Ellen had their eyes closed as they murmured softly. So I made a U-turn and headed up stairs.

I had finally seen someone take a radical stand for Christ. I realized that was a phrase I had heard Randy ask me about the past Saturday at the frat house, “Tik, are you willing to take a radical stand for Christ Tik? Are you?”

They were not kidding about radical stands, I thought.  I had never met anyone like Bob; he seemed to know exactly the right words to say to a person. He was unlike anyone I had met in church work with beautiful clothes… and he drove a Mercedes, to boot.

What’s more the four or five people I met thus far from MCM could have stepped out of modeling ads.  They all looked like presidents of Frats, jocks, cheerleaders or homecoming queens. The MCM team  seemed so different from members of the  staid Christian groups I knew.

In fact that was exactly what the evangelizing teams, the out front people, almost always were at MCM.

In MCM terms they were the “sharps” as in, “He is a really sharp one.” The plain-looking or normal people found themselves in the role of backstage servants.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

A couple of my frat brothers asked me why I had let Bob pray over me.

“You are a religious guy Tik, now ole Darrell,” they were speaking of our resident party animal, “now he could have done with a good dose of that hell fire salvation!”

With that comment they all broke into laughter.

I started to explain to them what happened but then decided not to.

Now every Tuesday evening our Fraternity hosted a date dinner night for the brothers and their girl friends. My date that night (and almost every date night over the last two years it turned out) was my “almost” girlfriend, Sheila, whom I had met two years before at a freshman Student Government meeting called Freshman Forum.

Her role as President of one the oldest, and most prestigious, sororities on campus, along with our friendship, had helped bring our two organizations together this past year for a campus wide fund-raiser. Although my Frat was a big one and considered good it could not compete with the older more established fraternities in terms of prestige.

But our joint party with Sheila’s sorority had raised our status on campus and that had shown at this fall’s rush when a record number of pledges signed up to join our fraternity.

Sheila and I hit it off when we met had became fast friends  over the last two years. As a member of CCC (now know as CRU) she shared my Christian values and usually, after the date night dinner at the frat, we attended “Rat” Riley’s massive Bible Study~ cum social affair. Sheila and I sort of dated but had always been friends. We were never boy/girlfriend in the “love” sense.

At least as far as I was concerned.

I walked to the Hill, where the sororities were, to pick Sheila up. A pretty and petite girl with short blond hair her south Alabama accent would melt sugar. I was not in love with her, but I sure was in “like” with her because she was funny, smart and modest  with a straight “A” pharm school major.

On our walk back to the frat house for dinner I told her what had happened in the Frat house at lunch with Bob and the Praise Band.

Her reaction caught me off guard when she said, “Tik it sounds really interesting; I’ve seen their posters all over campus and saw them playing on the quad last week. I know that my friends at CCC are not sure what to make of them.”

And lowering her southern drawl  to a whisper, “They say they are pretty sure that they are Pentecostal, ya know, speaking in tongues and shouting and all that.”

She got that cute grin that I really liked.

After dinner that I sprung the news to her.

“Sheila I know we were going to Rats’ tonight but I promised Bob and Randy that I would check out their service at the Maranatha House. They have a great band and Bob is preaching on the Great Commission.”

Sheila paused, grinned and said, “Okay, let’s go give it a try.”

So we walked down West Magnolia Street to the MCM House just about a mile away.

The sun was going down and at the bottom of the hill, just across from Ross Engineering Hall (both are now gone), stood the lit up MCM House. The house, bathed by spotlights, had its front doors open wide allowing golden light to spill out onto the lawn from the interior. A fair-sized crowd milled around outside; probably about 100 people or so mingled on the lawn. As we got closer we heard up tempo music playing and the buzz of conversation and laughter.

I briefly looked around the front yard for someone I knew, but recognized no one, so I took Sheila by the hand and led her into the house.

The bright floral wall paper in the entry hall struck me immediately as being out-of-place in a church as we entered into what looked like the sitting room of a Frat House.

High backed wing chairs, brass lamps and an overstuffed couch filled the room. Water color paintings and prints lined the walls of the entry way. I learned that Rose Weiner, Bob’s wife, had chosen all the decor. Later people told me this in hushed and awed tones. This all before the MCM asset lite era that began in the early 1980s.

I looked up and saw Randy waving to me. To his side stood a girl with high cheek bones, almost white blonde hair pulled back in one of those sorority like head bands, with long slender legs that seemed to reach her armpits. Yet another Maranatha beauty! It turned out the blonde girl was a former U of F Cheerleader who had joined the MCM Florida ministry last spring. This Gainesville ministry was the newest planting by MCM and had opened about a year earlier. Randy engaged me in conversation about the rest of my day and Bob’s sermon at the frat house that afternoon. He told me that, “The amazing response we are getting on campus is proof that the Holy Spirit is moving through MCM.”

When I looked up from our conversation I saw that the blond MCM girl had whisked my date Sheila away. I could now see them across the crowded room surrounded by a group of girls. Then the music cranked up and Randy ushered me to a seat. I looked around and could barely see Sheila through the standing crowd; she gave me grin and a wave from across the room.

The Praise Band kicked in and sang a beautiful song about the harvest of souls and (this was pre-power point, but high-tech at the time) someone cut on an overhead projector and words to a praise and worship song shown on a screen. The song being belted out was a new one to me: “Jesus, Name Above All Names.” Then the band leader yelled out, “Everyone stand up!” and we stood in unison and sang one song after another.

Boy, this was not the old “three hymns and a sermon” Baptist service!

Suddenly Bob jumped (and I mean jumped!) onto the stage and said, “Now we want to bring some folks up here and tell you about the great things that God is doing on this University. AMEN!!?

And the crowd shouted back ,”AMEN!!!!” amidst clapping and laughter.

This place is really hopping,” I thought.

People laughed and shouted back at Bob and then a girl stepped up onto stage. Depressed and contemplating suicide she met a MCM girl who shared the gospel of the  total lordship of Jesus with her. She said that she really had not understood who Jesus was but, “Now He was not just her Savior but Lord of ALL.”

Bob grabbed the microphone from her and shouted into it, “That’s right my sister if He is not Lord of ALL He is not LORD AT ALL!” and handed the microphone back to her.

“And tonight,” she continued, ” I will have the burden of sin cut away from me’ [shouts of, “That’s right sister” and “Praise God”’] and I will become a true Daughter of Zion one of the chosen ones of God!”

She was beaming and everyone broke into wild applause; in fact I found myself applauding even though I did not understand much of the stuff she was talking about.

And I thought I knew my Bible, at least the NT, pretty well.

It sounded something like the revival services I went to as a kid but the terminology was all new to me such as, “Cutting my burden of sin away,” and being a “True daughter of Zion” and “He is Lord of all or not Lord at all.” I did not know it at the time but my first dose of Latter Day Rain theology was administered that night !

Then came another upbeat song when suddenly Bob Winer again literally leapt onto the stage and launched into a sermon.

His sermon that night has merged into the many, many sermons I heard him give in the next few years at new church plantings. But the outline I just about have memorized!

However, Bob’s preaching a sermon is like calling the movie “The Lord of the Rings” a documentary I can tell you.

He started by telling how he started seeking for life’s answers  as a washed up Hippie and converted during the Jesus movement of the late 60s. That he was a full-blooded Jew and thus called to preach to the Jews and the Gentiles… like Paul. He and his new wife started a Youth Group in a Methodist Church and that group fell away from Jesus and the Faith when he left for a trip.

That he and Rose (his wife) prayed and fasted for a week  and they cried out to God to show them what was wrong with the church and Christianity today and why their converts had fallen away.

And he told how God begin showing him through the scriptures that a real New Testament church was sold-out and fully committed to Jesus. God told him that today’s churches were the white washed tombs Jesus spoke of with disdain.

He quoted Jesus who said, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head,” and said that the parable of bride-maids who waited on the bride reflects the posture of His true church  and that, “The young man who wanted to go back to bury his father reflected mainline Christianity’s view of life.”

AND“, shouted Bob, “do you know what Jesus told that religious young man? LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD.”

As he wove this story his voice would peak up and down; pulling you hard one way, and then gently another; inviting you too,”Understand that God is calling you… you… and YOU.

I looked at my watch; he had preached for one hour; but it seemed to me like five minutes had passed.

Everything Bob said appealed to what I knew, or thought I knew, of how a New Testament church should operate. He drew a stark comparison between a true New Testament church and the watered down Christianity I  was seeing around me.

Finally Bob spoke a brief prayer and then issued a summons, saying to the crowd, “Don’t be a member of the wicked and perverse generation. But I warn you it is better to be ice cold towards Jesus than to be luke warm because He said, “I will spew the luke warm out of my mouth!

This all rang true to me and as the service ended with a rousing song Randy put his arm around my shoulder and leaned over and said, “Tik, we both know God is speaking to you.”

“He has presented you with a choice tonight. The Bible says that God orders your steps. I would like to share with you what it really means to be a sold out Christian, a true first century overcomer. Everything I will show you will come strictly from the Bible. No opinion… it will scripture strictly relating what God says about being a follower of Jesus and what  God is saying to YOU tonight.”

I scanned the room for Sheila and did not see her.

“But I have a date here…,” I started to say.

“I understand and if you want to find her and leave that is fine,” he murmured. But there was a question in his voice… as if this were a test.

It was.

“Well,” I said, “I would love to hear more about it.”

“Let’s go upstairs,” and he motioned towards the stairwell and, as he did, another guy walked to my side. This person was Sam who I later found out was one of the associate pastors.

And with that the three of us headed upstairs.