#36 Leadership and Control in MCM

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
 by taking the very nature of a servant,
 being made in human likeness.

Paul writing to the church at Phillipi in the mid-first century AD.

In addition to bounding member’s choices and using special language MCM used other methods of reinforcing a member’s commitment to their radical cause.

MLTS (Maranatha Leadership Training School), which I described in a earlier post, was one such tool used to keep the flock in line.

Now, MLTS was very important to MCM for four reasons, only one of which I grasped at the time.

I will speak to three  of these reasons in this post and will address the fourth in a future post.

Readers who were NOT in MCM should keep in mind that something like MLTS is common in most sociological cults  even if the methods described here differ a bit from those in other such groups.

The Importance of MLTS  

Interaction with, and the monitoring of, the members and local ministries

The first reason that MLTS was important to MCM was the opportunity it gave Bob Weiner, Joe Smith and Bob Nolte a chance to interact with local ministries from around the country (and later the world). This would help ensure that the Pastors of these ministries, along with their members, were complying with the will of the leadership.

MLTS also helped the local pastors gauge who was willing to commit the time and funds to attend. Failure to attend MLTS marked a sheep as having problems. Let me make this clear: failing to attend MLTS would get you counseled, possibly booted, marked and shunned.

Furthermore, MLTS attendance by members from the local campus ministries was carefully monitored by MCM HQ.  Local Ministry leaders (pastors) meticulously counted and reported to HQ the attendance at weekly services.  MLTS provided a way for HQ leadership to check that the attendance numbers (“attendance stats”) reported by campus pastor were real. A  difference between reported local site attendance stats and the actual attendance of these members at MLTS would bring the wrath of HQ down upon this Pastor. MCM leadership constantly demanded membership growth from the local sites. A drop in MLTS attendance from a site would result in quick counseling for the poor pastor whose ministry was losing members or even worse, mis-reporting their attendance stats.

Message Bombardment

MLTS allowed the leadership to continue to bombard the MCM flock with urgent prophetic messages supposedly directly from God; and to also set the general direction and vision for the global ministry (which BTW would zig – zag crazily over my five years of membership).

Using these prophetic utterances the leadership could demonstrate that they were in touch with God’s ultimate plan for the earth and for the members. Leadership would also provide specific direction for the local ministries and lay out both the tactics and expected results for the coming quarter at pre-meeting pastor only meetings. These pre-meetings could be brutal for pastors. Those pastors not performing would be targeted for public criticism (humiliation) or even worse for demon exorcism (in front of their peers).

Reinforcement of Leadership’s authority and their hold on MCM

The third reason MLTS was important is that it kept in place the feedback loop from the flock to the leadership which reinforced the charismatic authority of the collective leadership. (Please note: I use the word charismatic here in the sociological, not the Pentecostal, sense).

Studies of sociological cults have shown that the charisma of the leader, or a group of select leaders, does NOT RESIDE IN THE LEADER(S) themselves but in the feedback loop between the leader(s) and the followers.

We tend to think of charismatic leaders as exceptionally good-looking, or being eloquent speakers, or very extroverted, or having some other external quality that attracts people to them.

Frequently charismatic leaders do have these qualities, but these qualities are NOT the source of their standing and power in a sociological cult. [This idea is more fully explored by Janja Lalich in her book Bounded Choice True Believers and Charismatic Cults].

For example, Bob was not particularly good-looking nor was he was physically imposing. There were also better stump speakers in MCM than Bob (although Bob was a particularly good speaker).

The source of Bob’s power, as a charismatic leader, resided in his unflinching (and if you spent any time with him, his irritating) hyperactivity and his seeming ability to deliver the results laid out in MCM’s grand scheme of evangelizing the world by the turn of the century .

We might consider these behavioral traits as the engine that drove Bob’s charismatic authority. The fuel for this engine derived from the affirmation and praise of his Maranatha devotees. This affirmation and praise in turn reinforced Bob’s own feeling of specialness (that he was called for a divine special purpose by God as an apostle for the end times).

Bob’s ability to deliver the results of his plan, plus his publicly proclaimed conviction of his special calling, reinforced members’ feeling that Bob WAS anointed of God and WAS the leader God selected for His special mission.

Compounding and multiplying this reinforcement loop was Bob’s narcissistic personality. He acted like everything, and everyone, revolved around his special mission and were present on the earth to serve him.

Bob’s grand scheme, in the late 70s (this would change over time), was to evangelize the world before Christ returned (hence the name Maranatha).

And he continually showed his ability make that evangelization of the world a possibility however distant in time.

From my own personal perspective I can tell you that I was repeatedly blown away when I saw the results of his preaching; especially during my first two years in the movement. The first time I saw him in action at my frat house was but a singular example of the feedback loop required for Bob to wear the mantle of a charismatic leader.

The following paragraphs, with thanks to Dr. Lalich, illustrates how this all worked and  allowed Bob to become the charismatic leader of MCM.

If Bob Weiner, or any charismatic leader, stood in a roomalone he would not be a charismatic leader.

And if Bob was in a room with only four other people he probably  would NOT be seen as a charismatic leader by this group. In fact he would probably just scare the heck out of everyone sitting there.

However, put him in a room with 200 people, 100 of which are telling the other 100 how awesome he is. Let him give a rousing emotional service, with the loud amens,  clapping and shouts of praise from the crowd during his speech; let him evidence success in his cause with 20 or 30 people being brought into MCMC due to his preachin, and suddenly he IS that charismatic leader with power.

Let this happen month after month and year after year and combine this with a narcissistic personality and voila!: a classic authoritarian charismatic leader of a sociological cult now exists.

The same held for Joe Smith one of the other MCM charismatic leaders. Joe  promised miracles and prophesies direct from God and then apparently delivered them to the members of MCM.

Everyone (and by that I mean the members who came to Auburn to plant the ministry) at MCM told me about the signs and wonders that Joe would perform which he then seemed to performed. He directed personal prophecies to almost everyone at Auburn; seemingly saying things that only God could say and knowing only things that God could know.

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But Joe and Bob could not regularly preach at every campus ministry as MCM grew in size. This constraint limited their ability to maintain the reinforcing feedback loop necessary to their maintain standing as charismatic leaders of the group.

MLTS thus allowed Bob (and other high-ranking leaders) to keep the reinforcing charismatic feedback loop going and in the process maintain their influence over MCM members.

Furthermore, MLTS allowed MCM to showcase a steady procession of highly regarded Christian leaders from outside of MCM who provided Bob , Joe  and MCM external validation. This external validation also helped Joe and Bob maintain their status as God’s chosen end time apostles in the minds of MCM members.

These Christian leaders, such as Larry Tomczak, Winkney Pratney, Don Northrup and C.J. Mahaney, would praise Bob and MCM as being blessed and anointed by God Himself.

Later some of these key leaders, when confronted with the terrible reality of Bob and MCM, would repudiate these endorsements.

But that would come later after much damage had been done to MCM’s rank and file membership.

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Don Northrup was one person who became especially angry in the mid 1980s with how Joe and Bob abused his trust. I spoke with Don years afterwards, before he passed away, and he saw his association with MCM as one of the true regrets of his life.

“I wish Tik,” he told me, “that I had stood in front of those cheering crowds [at MLTS] and told them that this entire thing was straight from the pits of hell.”

#33 Fun, Hilarity, and Fellowship in MCM

At this point, Dear Reader, you may be asking yourself, “was there no love, was there no friendship at MCM amongst the members/sheep?”

And I may have, indeed, given you the impression that all was doom and gloom, that all was trial and tribulation; that we members of MCM walked around with glum faces all of the time.

To give this impression would be not only disingenuous of me, but also dangerous. For a member of a sociological cult reading this might respond, “Hey Tik, I hear you about some of this stuff, but it is not all bad where I am. There are many, many great times of fun and fellowship.”

“True enough,” I would reply.

And, of course, the leadership had to ensure that there were good times.

For the leadership understood that these bonds, formed in times of fellowship and fun, would bind the sheep tightly together. It was part of the dilemma that I and many others would have to face when trying to break out of MCM. And that dilemma was this one: When I reached the point where I was completely disillusioned with the leadership and their tactics I was in love with the wonderful family members that I had in MCM.

And I simply could hardly bear the thought of being shunned by the brothers and sisters I loved so dearly and had been through so much with.

For how could I leave this very close family, with whom I had suffered so much, but with whom I had also experienced so many moments of great joy?

And, if you have been reading the comments posted on this blog [Editors: Tik is referencing his now shuttered blog; unfortunately those comments have been lost because of the vagaries of blogger.com] pertaining to some of my prior posts, there are a number that say something like this: “ Tik, you knucklehead, sure there was bad in MCM, there is bad in everything; but the good outweighed the bad and we accomplished a lot for the Kingdom. We brought so many to Jesus!”

Or you might have seen comments reading along these lines, “But Tikie we had some great times and great fellowship and that made it okay; we were part of a special group with a unique bond,” to which I answer this comment with the response,  “True but those good times do not justify the end product that emerged.”

For good times, and good fellowship, could have been had a far less cost in the suffering of the people who were hurt and left behind. Heck, we had equally good fellowship, I can see in retrospect, at my frat.

As to the former comments that, “The good outweighs the bad and we accomplished a lot for the Kingdom and saved a bunch of souls for Jesus,” I will simply quote the cynic leader Vladimir Lenin, “To make omelets one must break a few eggs.

Christ, or His true followers, would never condone a policy of the ends justifying the means. In fact a Christ-like walk follows the mantra that the means are as important as the ends.

I will be bold enough to say that if any ministry puts its goals of Kingdom building, or the needs of the elders, above the needs of the flock that are entrusted to their care, I submit that this group is not Christian and, in fact, that the elders of such a group are the anti-Christs that Paul warned us about.

I could frankly give a crap about the theology of an authoritarian cult. For these groups theology is but another tool to keep the sheep in line.

Such a group’s theology could be Arminian, Calvinistic or Pelagic in nature.  The theology  could be pristine and pure, directly from the actual mouth of Paul himself, but if one sheep, the very sheep Christ suffered and died for, is trampled in the process of building God’s Kingdom then I declare that group anathema!

There, who was it who said I was not judgmental?

With that mouthful said (or typed) I must confess that I have never again experienced the type of comradely joy like that which the brothers and sisters of MCM had. It was special and intense bond that bears no description.

And I would never want to experience that intense camaraderie again.

For this intense camaraderie came at a terrific financial and psychic cost which, at the time, was not yet apparent to our “Band of Brothers and Sisters”.

I liken the friendship and camaraderie within MCM to that of soldiers fighting in the front line trenches who would go through hell on earth together. Actually a better analogy might be that of being slaves on a plantation. I will explore that analogy later in a post discussing both  hierarchy and the subjugation that took place in MCM.

The happy truth was that we would go to almost any length to help one of our brothers and sisters.

It was comforting, and eventually comfortable, to know that you could count on a brother or sister for anything; for the insanity and viciousness of MCM only became gradually apparent to many of us.

Any shortcomings, any failures, any weaknesses or doubting of the ministry, at least for the first two or three years, I put down to my own sinful nature or my inability to measure up. When these thoughts happened, when the Old Tik started stirring, I would think, “I must try harder and work harder! Certainly the problems are not the fault of the leaders or the ministry but within me, and due to my own weakness.”

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One example of being part of a special Band of Brothers/Sisters was a mission trip I went on, I think,  to open up the Columbia, South Carolina ministry founded by Mark Caulk the brother of our pastor, Mike.

A group of nine of us were chugging along to South Carolina for an evangelization blitz early on a Saturday morning in Matt’s infamous “Love Bug” VW Van. The Van was straight from 1967, the type of VW Van with the four-stroke two-cylinder and “putt- putt” air cooled engine in the back.

We were about one hour out of Auburn when the engine started missing and then died. And it would not start, or even turn over, once we pulled it off to the side of the road.

Matt and I hitched a ride up the interstate highway to a service station (this was pre-cell phone) and called the MCM House at Auburn using nickels and dimes we scrounged together.

We got Marty, the administrator, on the phone and within one hour a caravan of three cars with Marty and three brothers showed up. We were planning on loading up into cars and driving on while Marty and the three brothers took care of getting the van repaired.

One phone call and up showed help. No questions asked, and no thanks given, or expected. We knew that had we been asked to do the same we would have done it before you could say,”special needs offering.”

Lord knows what we interrupted the brothers doing…but since we were on Kingdom Business they showed up as requested.

Whilst we were waiting on the cavalry to show up from Auburn, Jenny, one of the sisters in the band, decided that we should pray over the engine. So we went back to back of the Van and she laid her hands on the engine and prayed some “shabalas ba las” over it.

Wouldn’t you know it? Matt goes back to the driver’s seat, puts the key in the ignition and chug- chug- chug the engine starts-up. We all began whooping it up and screaming, “Praise Jesus!” and the story grew until it became equal to that of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Jenny being Jesus and the VW love bug van being Lazarus.

Of course what had really happened was that the distributor cap had pulled loose from the starter and when Jenny laid hands on the engine she managed to re-seat the cap and the connection was made and the engine could now start.

For some reason that detail never made it into the story.

This is an example of how, if you were working on Kingdom business, you could count on the brothers and the sisters. They would NOT let you down.

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And we had great fun, fellowship and the typical hi-jinx that went along with being twenty somethings, or almost twenty somethings.

We also had church picnics and love feasts where testimonies and funny stories were told.  We would laugh and sing and have great fun. Occasionally we would poke fun at the upper leadership, but never in public.

On Sunday after church service, once we had cleaned up the house, many times a large group of us, sometimes numbering twenty brothers and sisters, crammed into three or four small sedans for the trip to Chewacla State Park, just outside of Auburn.

There the brothers would show off to the sisters by swinging off a cliff on a Tarzan- like vine and let go just at the right moment to plunge into the deep spring waters to avoid the jagged boulders to each side. I can remember our Pastor, Mike Caulk, making Tarzan noises on the cliff and pounding his chest and pointing at his wife Missy, “Me Tarzan- you Missy,” and then swinging on that vine over the rock filled water yodeling just like Tarzan to the claps and hoots of all of us.

We would sun ourselves, have a picnic lunch, and then splash around in the cool water of the large spring fed pool during the hot summer days of Alabama.

Our friend Miltie (who will be introduced later) could do a cracker jack imitation of Joe Smith.

He would stand there, his face lighting up with this demonic like, goofy smile and then utter in an exaggerated hill- billy deep base twang, that sounded exactly like Joe’s Kentucky drawl, “Brother, God has a word for you. And that word is cumquats.”

With that we would literally roll on the ground laughing and crying. The first time Miltie did his imitation of Joe  I thought we were going to have to take our friend Matt to the hospital. And Miltie would stand there with laughing along with us at his own joke.

I remember another time when Mike Caulk, our pastor, in a fair imitation of a MCM Prophets, “This saith the Lord” voice, demanded the waters to part at Chewacla, and declared that they had parted, and nonchalantly walked into the water with his clothes and shoes on until his head disappeared under the water. How he kept from floating I have no idea. Missy had a fit whilst the fifteen or twenty of watching there hooted, hollered and laughed until we were sick.

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But underneath all this hilarity, this sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, however, there lurked an oppressive system, the structure of which I will explore in a future post

#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!

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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.

 

# 3 Forward to Tikie’s Story: 1975-1978


Thanks for taking time visit this site. I hope my story will serve as a warning to those tempted to join a group that professes a singular and special relationship with God, or one that claims to be a chosen élite.

I also hope to show how a  normal and well-educated person can entrap themselves in a sociological cult.

One common misconception about cult members is that they are  uneducated or unsophisticated.   The truth is just the opposite. For a cult member has a higher IQ and higher socio-economic status than the average American according to experts.

Some may read this because they were in Maranatha Christian Ministries and are affected by those experiences even after so many years.

Others might be curious to understand how sociological cults snare members and, more importantly, how they keep people in the group; despite the abuse heaped every day onto these very members.

I would invite all of readers to consider my experience and, perhaps, I pray, learn from my very human mistakes.

For years I considered my experience wasted, but now I pray that God turn what was evil for His good and gracious purposes.

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This blog recounts of my personal experiences in MCM and conclusions about such.

One may legitimately question my recollections and conclusions since I was emotionally involved in each situation with this account penned some twenty years afterwards. Having said this I invite the reader to carefully consider what I have written.

If you are up for it please join me for a journey back in time almost 30 years ago to a group called Maranatha Christian Ministries.

Please note that most names are changed unless they are in “bold” in which case they are the true names of the people (almost always the well-known or public leaders of Maranatha or unless I obtained written permission from those so named). In addition, as is my habit, I used prayer and devotional journals to help me with my recollections as well as interviews with former members of MCM. However every human effort is prone to error and these writings are certainly no different; despite my efforts to tell the truth as I experienced it.

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High School Late 1970s
I played football as an All-State football player and was selected as a national honor society member and served as vice president of my student body during high school. My parents raised me as a Southern Baptist. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve our local church.  Our family almost lived in this church including attending Sunday morning and night services, Wednesday prayer night services and Thursday night new member visitation. At the age of twelve I professed faith in Jesus Christ using the Baptist tradition of walking down the aisle and standing in front of the congregation as a show of faith. Afterwards, as Baptists do, I found myself being dunked in the water filled baptistery in front of the entire congregation.

I guess my faith was typical for a Baptist boy raised in the South. I tried to live my faith; reading the Bible daily and trying to practice Christ’s teachings every day.

However, by my senior year of high school the dichotomy between what the members of my church professed and how they actually lived everyday life  weighed on me.

Now some thirty years later I understand that these church members were just being people with all the foibles, problems, self centeredness and sin of, you guessed it, church members.

in 1975 my Baptist church seemed blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a very idealistic and good-looking youth pastor. He sharing the gospel while walking the halls of our high school. He managing to convert a number of kids, including athletes and student government leaders, to Christ.

The youth pastor appeared a devout Christian; both sincere and humble. But during my last two years in high school I saw my church in Alabama refuse to allow African-Americans to attend worship services; much less allow them to become members. This even though they numbered among the converts of our youth pastor. The deacons, who enforced church segregation, smoked cigarettes in the parking lot and huddled to laugh at dirty jokes after church services. My father, a super role model and a straight as an arrow business person, would talk to my mother during dinner about the crooked dealings of the chairman of the board of deacons. Late one night I overheard them whispering about an affair between the Minister of Music and the church organist.

But the youth pastor, with idealistic zeal, continued to encourage the members of our church youth group to, “Live like the first century Christians.”

And all the while he taught us I attended a church whose only purpose seemed to be socializing, gossip and business.

For what I saw, in the only church I knew, contrasted sharply with the vision our youth pastor gave us. In my youthful zeal I saw my home church as being full of nothing but hypocrites; none of whom seemed  to give one thought to living the teachings of Christ. To top it off the church deacons banned integrated Bible studies causing our  youth pastor to quit at the end of my senior year in high school; just as I was leaving to attend Auburn University in 1976.

All of this helped set the stage for what was to come at the beginning of my junior year in college in 1978.

Only in retrospect I did understand Paul’s admonition that God used the weak and the foolish to show His glory. Now I understand youthful arrogance and my know it all, but understand nothing, attitude.

You can see, then, that I was no different from 90% of all American teenagers!

Auburn University 1978

Acceptance into engineering school came in 1976 and once again my habit of over achieving kicked in. I approached every activity not only to do my best but to do it better than others; whether it was in sports, socially or academically. I have thought often about what drives me to try to out do others and myself. Part of this is my wiring  but also I think it was the only way to get my very busy father’s attention.

Regardless, I made the dean’s list my first two years in engineering school, I became part of the student government, joined a fraternity, and in September of my junior year, won the presidency of my large social [Greek] fraternity.

With my parents’ encouragement I became active in the Baptist Student Union and attended the local Baptist Church when possible. Still despite, or perhaps because of, my accomplishments I felt a calling to make a real difference in the world.

But at Auburn I saw kids who professed Christianity, attend  Rat Riley’s Bible Study (a large Cru study) and then get drunk and stoned and/or have sex on Saturday and Friday nights. The idealism of my former youth pastor and the Christian revival I experienced in high school continued to affect my perception of these Christian groups.

And it also continued to affect the way I viewed my own life.

If I really was a Christian, like the idealistic first century church members I dreamed about, then why did I not lead people to Christ ? Why did I not stand in the market corner and preach like Peter and Paul did almost two thousand years ago? Why did I not seem to have the power of the Holy Spirit that fueled these early Christians?

It seemed obvious that my Baptist Church back home had little of the things I read about in the book of Acts and in Paul’s letters. They had no on fire passion for preaching to non Christians nor any evidence of the spiritual unity, or life style, of those first century Christians that I longed to emulate. Neither, it seemed to me, did any of the Christian groups I hung around at Auburn University.

Could anyone possibly live the Spirit Filled life of the early first century Christians?