#39 I Hit Bottom

 

I Hit Bottom

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

But that was all that came of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I lost it.

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

I found my voice rising to a shout.

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

That would have ended it.

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

“Midnight,” I answered.

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

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

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

Not a chance on that.

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

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

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

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

Silly me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They proceeded to pepper me with questions:

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

“Was I in the Word enough?”

”How much time was I spending studying?”

“Was I masturbating?”

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

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

He was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That did it.

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

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

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

But at least I was free of demons, right?

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

I can assure you it was typical.

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

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

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

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

#35 Special Language

 

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

The Importance of Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is no small point that I am making:

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

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

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

Bounded Choice and the Special Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that prison resided within my mind.
***************

No doubt group think and group peer pressure set the norms of behavior and set the boundaries for the choices available to MCM True Believers.

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

#32 The Shunning of Peter

One fellow that I really grew to like and admire is a brother I’ll call Peter.

Peter was probably about 27, but he seemed ancient to me at my then 19 years of age. He was a very successful real estate agent in Auburn and a real catch for the ministry. Peter brought a lot of vitality and maturity to the group of single brothers, he was an athlete, good looking and modest.

Peter had been a Christian for a while and I think he liked our (the younger single brothers) enthusiasm, and, probably our naiveté about the whole Christian experience.

He had been a member of the XXX frat and he could relate to my experience. His advice was to stay in the frat. He said that, ” You should be the salt there Tik  and to plough the field that God has put you in.”

I really liked him and found his counsel to be both wise and gentle. He was the only one who did not seem thrilled about me leaving the frat when it was announced in November of the last year.

I later learned that Peter had refused to be re-baptized, or admit that he had not been a Christian, prior to joining MCM. My guess is that this was let slide because of the sizable checks he was probably dropping in the offering plate due his very successful real estate business.

Before long I found myself gravitating to Peter with questions I had and wishing secretly  that he was my shepherd.

He was never dogmatic and encouraged me to seek God or pray about issues. Rather than spouting off quick answers to some of my difficult questions, more than likely than not, my requests for guidance would be met with, “What do you think God is telling you?” or, “What do you think the Bible says?”

Of course he could not be my shepherd because he had not proven himself to the local leadership over time.

From a MCM perspective this prove yourself first mentality before being made a shepherd was a wise policy in Peter’s case.

Peter had a beautiful town house within walking distance of the campus.  He invited us to to use his well-equipped home gym whenever we wanted and also to play basketball in his driveway. He opened his home to us on Sunday afternoons and would feed us pizza and buckets of KFC while we talked about the things of Christ and his thoughts on the Christian walk.

I am not sure that the leadership of Auburn knew about these impromptu sessions.

At least not at first.

Peter would freely admit at these sessions, or in our talks one on one, that to the questions I had posed about some bedrock MCM doctrines there were no right, or wrong, answers. When pressed by me about some of the strange doctrines (for example, water Baptism for cutting away the old man) he would shrug his shoulders and tell me that I should test these in prayer and with scripture.

Another example of his counsel concerned his view of MCM prophetic utterances and words from God. He told us one afternoon that, “We should test any prophetic utterance against what the Word of God says and against our conscience; and if any word from a prophet was contrary to either of these, we should ignore it.”

After the incident with Joe Smith prophesying to that friend Daniel  reconciling with his dead father I asked Peter how Joe could have gotten it so wrong.

Peter sat there for a minute seated on the leather couch in his living room and said, “Well Tik, Paul says we prophesy in part…and well Joe is just human. As I would suggested earlier you should test all prophecy against the conscience God has given you and against the Word. If your conscience tells you no, or if prophecy is contrary to the Word, I would ignore any prophecy no matter what the source, even if it is Joe Smith; even if it is me.”

He also warned me and a couple of other brothers about being overly dependent on advice from elders or anyone else and, “That we should seek multiple counsel about major life decisions.”

He was especially concerned about me withdrawing from the frat.

“Tik I think you should really think long and hard about that one. There are financial practical ramifications, and besides you are a great witness there. Just back off a bit with your MCM work so you can do what you need to do as President.”

Well, you can imagine that this guy rapidly became our hero (that is the four or five single brothers he befriended). He was welcoming, humble, successful and very knowledgeable about scripture and he was great in one-one pickup basketball, elbows, shoving and all.

I grew in five short months to feel like I was Timothy to his Paul.

In March of 1979, about six months after I had joined MCM, I bumped into Peter on the steps of the Maranatha House on a Sunday afternoon.

“Hey bro!” I said with a  smile while lifting my hand for a high-five.

I loved seeing Peter, he always had something positive to say; he always had a word of encouragement. As I told you he was the Christian I wanted to be someday.

He stepped back from me and for once there was no smile on his face and no high-five back.

“Hey Tikie, I am in a bit of a hurry, but can you call me tonight? I want to talk to you about something important.”

“Sure,” I said, and seeing the expression on his face I continued, “is there anything wrong Peter, anything I can do to help you?”

Just then  the front door opened  and out stepped Marty, my shepherd, onto the columned porch.

Peter looked at Marty quizzically and then patted me on the shoulder, “See you around Tikie.” Then he walked up the street.

I looked from him to Marty and then back again to the figure of Peter retreating up the street.

“Anything wrong with Peter?” I asked Marty.

“Tik, he said, “we need to talk.”

We went into the administration office and Marty shut the door.

“Tik, I have something I need to tell you, something of a very serious nature.”

My first thoughts were, “Have I done something, or failed to do something?”

Marty continued, “You need to know that Peter has been asked to leave the congregation, he is in sin.”

I was stunned, my stomach did a flip. Peter was almost a hero to me. I really looked up to him as an older brother in the faith, as I said.

“But how… why?” I stammered.

Marty scratched his head and looked over my head into the air; a sort of detached look on his face.

“You see Tik, God has called the Body to have one mind to display the unity of spirit. In Ephesians, in fact, Paul tells us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. Without unity and without peace we will become just like the world; with arguments and factions and infighting and without any real direction or purpose.”

Well, one of the reasons I had been dissatisfied with the BSU and First Baptist Church was a lack of a clear sense of direction and purpose.  But I was unsure of how all this tied to Peter… Peter of all people leaving God’s chosen group!

My chest tightened.

“But I don’t understand Marty. Peter loved what we were doing. Nobody is more on fire for Jesus than Peter and he was a real encouragement to all of us… remember Joe Smith’s prophecy over Peter, ‘That he would be a rock like his name sake?”

“Yes,” Marty said, “but you see the Devil is seeking to devour and destroy those that he can. And the easiest way to do this is to plant seeds of bitterness and divisiveness in the Body. And Peter started listening to Satan and because of this he started gossiping and slandering the leadership.”

I just sat there. I could not believe what I was hearing.

Peter in league with Satan?

“You see if we have a disagreement with the leadership we should approach them in love and discuss the disagreement. But ultimately we should submit to each other, just like Jesus submitted to the Father. The Church must submit to Jesus and, in turn, the sheep must submit to the shepherd. But Peter could not, or would, not submit his life to being discipled by the elders. He was too proud to admit his own sin.”

Marty’s voice became quiet and he spoke almost in a whisper, “We went to Peter three times to correct him. Paul tells us to be prepared in season and out of season, to correct and rebuke and encourage with great patience and instruction. But Peter was determined to continue in his rebellion just like Korah. He was sinning against the church and against the brothers when he did this.”

Marty opened his Bible and read, “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death

“Allowing Peter to continue in rebellion would have given birth to sin and then to death. The Bible says that we are to allow no one to miss the grace of God and to not allow the root of bitterness to cause trouble and infect the entire congregation.”

I interrupted Marty, “But what was Peter objecting to? He never showed any sign of sin to me; and certainly not bitterness. He is one of the most kind, thoughtful and gentle people I have ever known.”

It was true. Peter had a real solid quietness about him.

“Tik, I am not going to go into SPECIFIC sins,” he strung out the word specific softly and slowly, “but the sin was real and could affect the ministry and the spiritual growth of others.”

He leaned forward and took my arm.

“In fact Mike [Caulk] and I were especially worried about new brothers like you. We knew that Peter had been cultivating friendships with the younger single brothers. I understand Peter counseled some of you to ignore the advice and guidance of your shepherds. You younger Christians are vulnerable to Satan who roars like a lion.”

I paused and thought about it. Well, it was true that Peter had told us to judge prophecies and teachings of MCM using Scripture and my conscience … but wasn’t I doing that?

“But Marty, I never heard Peter say anything about not listening to the leadership.”

“Maybe not directly”, he said, “but he had a spirit of rebellion. The Bible says that a spirit of rebellion is akin to witchcraft. Peter is against the work we are doing and so we shall give him over to Satan to be sifted.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

”It means what Paul says in Corinthians” and Marty flipped his Bible open and started reading a passage from Corinthians  and I followed along with him.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”

“Are you saying that Peter has been involved in immorality?”

I was incredulous, I knew this could not be true.

“I am not going to go into detail about ALL of his sins; but feel compelled to tell you that among other sins he has been slanderous of the leadership. And this clearly tells us that we are not even to associate with him.”

I must have had an expression of horror on my face. Because this is what I was feeling.

“Now Tik,” he said softly and with compassion, “this is for Peter’s own good. Here is what Paul says about situations like this,” and he pointed to a scripture in Corinthians and then continued, “…hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.’ Unless we give him over to Satan his mortal soul may be in danger.”

I made no response.

What was I supposed to say?Now I was staring off into space.

He put his face into my line of sight.

“Tik, I know this must be a real blow to you, believe me, I felt the same way when I first found out.”

“Yeah Marty, I just don’t get it.”

“God will make it clear to you Tik. Let’s pray now.”

And Marty launched into a sincere prayer for Peter’s soul and a heartfelt plea for Peter’s repentance and he thanked God for my example and walk.

As I left his office he took my shoulder and looked directly into my eyes, “Now remember, no contact with Peter, he is deceived by Satan and has a spirit of witchcraft and rebellion. You are vulnerable to this since you are a new Christian and also because of your friendship with Peter. You must be careful that you do not shipwreck your faith.”

I nodded yes and trudged up the stairs.

Peter had asked me to call him tonight.

But now I had heard he was in deception, that he had a spirit of witchcraft.

If I called him I might not only put my salvation in question, but I would also be violating what the Bible said about “handing him over to Satan” to save Peter’s mortal soul.

And to protect mine.

I shivered.

If I called Peter I could be putting both his and my salvation at risk..

And that was simply a chance I could not and would not take.

For Peter was of Satan and we brothers would now avoid him at all cost.

False Healings

 

Editor’s Note: Tikie shows us another MCM “ritual”, that of the healing ministry. Tikie believes that these public spectacles were performed to demonstrate that the leadership of MCM was anointed with God’s power to heal people; the same power that Christ had. For if the leadership was anointed with God’s power who could stand against them? Tikie tells us that even in his most “addled phase” of being an MCM member that he never really thought that the the healing ministry was real. He thinks that Joe Smith may have convinced himself that he had some bizarre healing gift, or perhaps Joe knew it was all a sham. Tikie is unsure of this. But Tikie is convinced that most, if not all, of the MCM sheep were fervent in their belief in God’s anointing on the MCM leadership to heal the sick. Repeatedly seeing people healed at services reinforced the hold that leadership kept on the flock.

False Healings

At the service that night Joe Smith preached and then spoke about four or five one on one prophesies. How many of these prophecies were correct and how many were false only God knows.

But when he had finished the last prophecy he looked up and said “God is telling me that someone has back trouble and that He wants to heal that person.”

An older woman stood up immediately and walked to the stage.

“God is telling me that your back is hurting here,” and he pointed to her lower back.

“That’s right” she said. “I have had a nagging back problem for years. I have had it x-rayed and checked by doctors but nothing can be found or done about it.”

Joe pulled a chair up on stage. He had her sit down.

“Now put your legs straight out parallel to the ground,” he said.

She did so and he knelt down where her feet were.

“Aha,” he said, “Just like God told me. Your legs are of different lengths.”

“I am going to pray and ask God to lengthen and straighten your shorter leg” he said.

The “beehive” of prayers started in the congregation and I could hear “yes Dear Jesus and “please Dear Lords” being spoken around me.

“I command this leg to grow in the MIGHTY NAME OF JESUS!”

Joe had a hand on each foot and the lady’s legs were sticking straight out. And there seemed to be a movement of one leg.

“Did you feel it?” Joe shouted out.

“I did!!!” She cried.

“Stand up” shouted Joe.

She stood up.

“Run around the stage!”

She took off running little bunny hops around the stage.

“How’s your back feel?” he asked.

“I’m healed, no pain” she screamed, raising her hands. “Praise Jesus!!!!”

Well of course the crowd went nuts as they did about every “miracle, sign and prophecy” that took place at MCM.

We all wanted to believe that God was moving at MCM in a special anointing. But the old Tik, from his now locked closet, was disgusted at the spectacle that night.

What “he” had seen was a cross between a “carnival show” and a poor imitation of Oral Roberts.

And I will let you in on a secret that I now know, and perhaps you know it as well. My company works with orthopedic and spinal surgeons. I have a number of surgeons that I not only know well, but am good friends with.

Here is the secret: There is not a person on earth whose legs are the same length. And the method Joe used to measure the length is so imprecise as to be laughable.

The other fact is that 80% of the adult population in the US over the age of 30 will suffer some back pain this year.

It keeps Tylenol and Advil in business.

I believe that God heals.

I also believe that God has given us the gift of medicine and has given doctors the gift of healing. I will let you draw your own conclusion about Joe Smith and that night. Maranatha was big time into healing, and the  demonstration of that gift, for it was a sign of God’s anointing and power.

But in the five years I that I observed both Joe Smith’s and Maranatha’s healing ministry I never saw the” blind made to see” or, “the lame to walk”.

I saw a lot of “proclaimed healings’ but none that ever convinced me, the “old Tik”,  now relegated to that the closet in my mind.

And I remain convinced that not a single “supernatural” stage show healing ever took place in MCM.

Ever.

It was nothing more, or less, than a spectacle to show that God’s anointing was on the leadership of MCM; plain and simple.

#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.

#22 FALSE PROPHETS

Editor’s note: Tikie now describes another method that MCM employed to control the minds and actions of its followers.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”  The Book of Acts
At the service that night we wondered who Joe Smith, this Prophet that Bob had talked about, was and what he be like ?

I noticed that sitting up front next to Mike and Missy Caulk was a fellow wearing a blue cardigan sweater and a white turtleneck. He looked older than almost anyone in MCM, probably about 45-50 years old, which to my nineteen year old self seemed ancient.

Mike Caulk took that stage and said, “Tonight we have a real blessing from God, we will be hearing from Joe Smith.”

He spoke of Joe as one who had been called out from industry and anointed by God to teach, preach and prophesy.

Joe took the stage and my immediate reaction was one of disappointment. “This is no Bob Weiner,” I remember thinking.

Bob frenetically paced the stage, making karate like chops with his hand, speaking in whispers one moment and shouting in the next.

It was a real circus, in the good show sense of the word, when Bob preached.

Joe began speaking in a very deep Eastern Kentucky twang. Where Bob sparkled when on stage; Joe kept his voice soft and low and moved slowly.

Joe talked softly using a conversational tone. He punctuated his talk with a deep infectious laugh which made me feel warm. In fact in about 10 minutes it seemed we listened to an elder uncle whose warm welcoming tone showed sincere concern about  each person there.

He spoke of his love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for each one of us

He paused, sometimes, at the end of a sentence for a count of one…two… three…then slowly his face would break into a warm smile. His manner invited everyone to relax and hear the good news, at least that night it did.

His talk was on Jesus and who Jesus was.

Joe used as his text the story of the shepherd who looked at the 100 sheep; tenderly caring for them all night. Then the shepherd realized that one sheep had gone missing. He spent hours looking for this one lost sheep. Joe described how when the shepherd found the lost sheep, “He kissed it, calmed it, and petted it and removed the briars and thorns from its coat”.

“You see, Church, you are that one sheep, that lost sheep that means more to Him than anything. And, of course, Jesus is that shepherd, and you, all of you here, are that one sheep that He wants to love, to kiss, to pet and to remove the thorns and briars from your lives. To keep you safe.”

The contrast between Joe Smith’s slow build deep baritone voice and his kind and loving demeanor and Bob Weiner’s electric and dynamic presence could not have been more dramatic.

This contrast had incredible affect on me making me think,“Wow! This church, these leaders and shepherds are incredible, but so so different from each other.”

It reinforced the specialness of the group.

Joe stated, “Now I feel that God has some specific prophecies that He wants to speak to people tonight, about His plans for people, and about answers to prayers.”

I sat up.

Until this point all the prophesies had been pretty generic, like the ones I had described in the services earlier in the blog.

Now Joe stood with his eyes closed up at the podium.

The room silent now seemed tense with anticipation.

“God,” he intoned in his Kentucky accent, “is telling me that someone here is worrying about the health of their mother. Their mother has a diagnosis of cancer. ”

He opened his eyes.

“Now who is that, Church?”

He scanned the room.

Now my radar was going crazy.

This reminded me of the time that Sheila and I, on a dare, had visited a fortune-teller in Phenix City, an army base town about two hours from Auburn.

A young girl in front of me raised her hand in response to Joe’s question.

“Come up here sister.”

The girl walked up her mouth drawn tight and her eyes watering.

“God is speaking to me that you have prayed for your Mom’s condition. Is this correct?”

The girl nodded yes with tears starting to stream down her face.

“And you have prayed for your Mom’s spiritual walk as well haven’t you?”

The girl started crying aloud and Joe put his arm around her; giving her a warm tender smile.

“God will answer your prayers tonight,”Joe said. “First saith God I am healing your mother even as we speak. Second, I tell you My daughter that your witness shall result in the salvation not only of your mother but of your entire family. Glory to God…Let’s give God the glory…”

The girl stepped off the stage her face lit with a smile and her arms raised in a victory salute.

The place went ballistic. I even found myself clapping.

I had seen the gift of prophecy exercised, not some general statement of prophecy, but a very specific one. The smiling girl sat down with tears streaming from her eyes amid shouts of amens, hallelujahs, and calls of, “Thank YOU JESUS!

Was it real?

I had seen almost the same ritual last year at the fortune teller that Sheila and I had visited. The fortune-teller puts a thought into the head of the seeker. Then rapid questions confirming these thoughts are asked. If Joe had fore-knowledge of a mother with cancer then why did he have to ask the person involved to raise their hand? Wouldn’t God have given him the name identity of the girl? If Joe had just pointed to her and told her to come up on stage, it seemed to me, that this would have been much more effective in showing that the prophecy was indeed real.

I brushed this aside as a spirit of intellectualism trying to take reign in my brain. For everyone in the meeting room seemed excited and overjoyed at what they had just seen and heard. And they were sure that they were hearing prophetic utterance straight from God.

It is of God, I thought. “It must be of God, because if it is not…” and my thoughts trailed away to nothing.

Now it is clear that from the Paul’s letters that the gift of Prophecy is given to the church. I happen to follow baseball and a hitter who bats .350 would be considered one of the greats of all time. And a quarterback with a season completion average of 70% would be considered phenomenal.

But what standard does God have for His prophets?

And by inference what standard should we, as Christians, have for those utter prophetic utterances from God?

The standard, of course, is 100% accuracy. All of God’s prophets were correct 100% of the time in the proclamations. .

So the standard that we must demand is 100% accuracy from God’s prophets.

Think about it, if God KNOWS everything and is NEVER wrong then how can any prophetic utterance attributed to Him be incorrect? The answer is that  none of these utterances can miss the mark. Not one.

Not if God is perfect, and He is.

If the prophecies are false are then the person is a false prophet; the kind Paul warned against over and over.

Prophecy is a powerful thing. It can cause people to change the course of their lives. I liken it to nuclear fission. It has tremendous power and the potential for tremendous good and tremendous destruction.

I believe, and I will show, that many of the prophetic utterances by Maranatha leaders about the future were wrong many times.

Dead wrong and inaccurate.

And by God’s standards these leaders are false prophets.

That includes Joe Smith.

I promised you that I would show that Joe Smith (and other Maranatha “prophets”) were FALSE Prophets for the simple reason that their prophecies were dead wrong.

End of story.

Let me relate two such specific false prophecies given by Joe Smith that come to mind readily because of the damage they did.

Now that night Joe reeled off one thrilling prophecy after another  (and I use the  term thrilling purposely) using his marvelous gift of MCM’s chief prophet.

He mesmerized the room with his confident prophecies and after about thirty minutes of seeing Joe call people up and prophesy over them, I must admit that, “I was in the groove”.

Joe continued to reassure us that God continued to heal, the gifts were for today, and He still had His Prophets.

Finally Joe paused and closed his eyes and this time he looked at young bearded man in the congregation, Daniel, and said, “Young man come up here God has a word for you.”

This was the first time Joe had pointed to someone and called them up to the stage rather than asking them to raise their hand AFTER his prophetic question.

The guy he pointed to, Daniel, was a very soft spoken person, a very talented musician and had just joined the Auburn Ministry. I was drawn to him because of his kind demeanor and his obvious love of Jesus. So Daniel walks up onto the stage with Joe giving him that warm, slow spreading smile of his.

“God has a word for you,” Joe said in a sweet gentle tone.

“God is telling me that you have hurts, deep, deep hurts and He wants to heal them.”

Daniel nodded at Joe and his eyes widened in anticipation of what God, through Joe Smith would say to him that night.

“Thus saith the Lord,” Joe’s voice took on a more commanding, deeper tone, “I have seen your hurt and am sending my healing powers to your heart. You and your father have had a bitter relationship and I the Lord will heal this relationship and bring you back together and indeed I will make sure that your father will be saved and will know Me.”

The place went nuts with shouts of  “Hallelujah, amen and praise You Jesus'”.

Now Daniel had a strange look on his face as he sat down amid the shouts and clapping. Sitting, as had become my habit, next to my married friends Matt and Allie, I noticed that the two of them exchanged worried and knowing looks.

And then Matt, my new friend, leaned over and whispered, “You should know Daniel’s father has been dead for a year. ”

My head started spinning as I considered what Matt had told me.

I was not privy to the counseling that took place later between Daniel and his shepherd but at this point I would donate heavily to Bob Weiner to hear a replay of that conversation.

Did anyone confront Joe on this false prophesy?

I doubt it because there was a rule modeled after a scripture from the old testament, “Don’t touch God’s anointed.”

Let me share one more example of Joe’s false prophecies which had to do with a word for Peter and his wife Rita.

Rita and Peter had a boy who was a toddler at the time.

Peter had graduated from Auburn with a degree in Building Science and had gone to work for a large building construction firm in Opelika, a large town about 20 miles east of Auburn. Peter was making, for a recent college graduate, a pretty decent living and would, as a hard-working and diligent employee, expect to have a decent career in the trade. Keep in mind that very few of us had decent jobs. Most of us Maranatha members were either students, worked part time as part time students earning just at minimum wage. The few that had full time paying jobs were working at minimum wage or slightly better.

Peter was brought up by Joe for a word of prophecy in the same way as Daniel was.

It was a very solemn and serious affair.

He was by Joe told, “Thus saith the Lord, I am going to raise you up as a mighty business man who will run companies who will prosper and in that prosperity you will give back to my work and I will increase your prosperity ten fold…etc… etc…etc and you will start your own business and I will bless you and your household. ”

So Peter mortgages his house, based on this word from God and starts his own construction business in the midst of one of the toughest recessions of the century (thank you Jimmy Carter) and proceeds to lose everything he has and declares bankruptcy and before it was over could barely take care of his family.

All because of a prophetic utterance from God’s anointed prophet Joe Smith.

Were any of these prophets held accountable by the elders or pastors?

You can guess that the answer is NO!

They were NOT held accountable and the fact is, as far as I know, not a single person who provided such false prophecy in MCM was ever confronted. False prophecy abounded in MCM because, and I will be clear on this, none of the prophecies were either verifiable, or if they were verifiable, they never came to pass.

Ever.

But MCM prophets seemed untouchable because the only people who could have confronted them were the Pastors; who were appointed and given their positions by the very false prophets they should have confronted.

They were the anti-Christs Paul warned the early church about.

If a sheep had spoken up about this abuse they would have been labeled as “bitter” and/or divisive and before you could shout out, “ Shaballaba,” they would have been subject to having a spirit cast out of them and told to repent.

And if that did not work they would have been declared apostate and thrown out of Maranatha and suffer the loss of both participating in God’s end time mission and what, for all purposes, was their family.

I saw this happen a couple of times at least during my time in MCM.

We must be wise like the foxes because as Jesus warns us, “There are ravenous wolves who seek to devour.”

Paul also warns us over and over again to beware false prophets and those that would teach strange doctrines even if they seem as an angel of light.

We should demand that those claiming to have the gift of prophecy should be held to the standard given in the Bible: 100% accuracy.

And for those who are not 100% accurate, for those who would lead the little ones astray Jesus has a harsh warning, “It would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their necks.”

Of course I did not realize the tough standard that should be applied to Prophets, nor did I realize the likely consequences of one ever confronting any of the top leaders in God’s movement”.

I tucked my concerns about MCM Prophets and Prophecies away with all the others in that dark crowded closet in the back of my head.

#21 Cutting Myself Off

 

Editors Note: Here Tikie shows us how members of sociological cults begin cutting themselves off from their friends; the very people that might help keep them from ensnaring themselves further in the cult.

“I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me:
It makes the lame to walk
and the blind to see,
Opens prison doors sets the captives free,
I have got a river of life flowing out of me.”
From a favorite chorus of MCM in the 1970s

 

I had now been a member of MCM for just about three weeks and had seen over ten of my friends join MCM and at least four of them had  brought other people into the Ministry. I had participated in at least 15 discipleship sessions with Marty and attended at least eighteen two hour MCM services. I was babbling on and on, to anyone who would listen, about God’s Kingdom, the need to leave everything for Jesus and be totally committed to Him and the Body.

But the  “old Tik” was still able to take control at this point in my journey.

It was as if he, the “old Tik”, was banished to the small closet in the back of my mind. The same closet containing the four or five weird Maranatha doctrines as well as my unanswered questions about its unceasing demands on me.

I am not into the pyscho-babble, Freud, and all that stuff.

In fact, I fully expect to get e-mails from outraged psychiatrists telling me that this stuff about the “old Tik” being shunted aside and locked in a closet is a bunch of junk.

Maybe it is.

All I can tell you, my friend, is that throughout my time in MCM the “old Tik” was always inside my head somewhere.  Or perhaps I was simply insane the entire time I was a member of MCM. I sometimes believe that-  looking back on this experience.

Sometimes “the Old Tik” would yell and scream from inside the closet, “ARE YOU CRAZY? HAVE YOU LOST ALL YOUR SENSE OF HUMANITY”????

At other times he would merely whisper, or sit staring at the wall and brood. The “Old Tik” would especially get upset when I put the Kingdom ahead of everything else especially people, their lives and their feelings.

Which, after a while, I did routinely.

At this point in my MCM journey the “old Tik” [the Tik, by the way, that is typing this on a laptop as I watch my twin seven year olds at a gymnastics session] was still occasionally let out of the closet and allowed to takeover.

To run things as he saw fit.

But gradually the “old Tik” [me!, that is!] was banished to this closet, then eventually the closet was locked, and finally the “new Tik” and my overseers, with help from the head honchos at MCM, tried to wall the door to the closet up with the bricks and mortar made of twisted scripture, all night counseling (shepherding) “hootah sessions”, discipleship classes, deliverance sessions, Bible Studies, endless work on behalf of MCM and conferences like Maranatha Leadership Training School (MLTS) where we would hear sermon after sermon from top leaders in the shepherding movement.

This was done so that the “old Tik” would never emerge again…ever… and so all of us would comply willingly with the will of the elders of MCM.

However the “old Tik” took control immediately after the service on this night, however.

For once, post- service, no one was taking the slightest notice of me.

Good. Time to make my get-away.

I hurried out of the front door.

It was 8:15 pm; the earliest I had ever left the MCM House after a night service.

Once at the frat house I picked up my telephone and called Sheila’s dorm room. I was determined to talk to her before the weekend was out. I was using the excuse of confirming our lunch appointment on Monday to do so.

I mean I couldn’t just call to talk to her without an excuse could I?

“Hello.”

It was Jane, her roommate.

“Hi Jane, it is me, Tik.”

“Hi Tikie.”

“Is Sheila there?”

“Just a minute”

I could hear her hand covering the speaker on the handset, but I could not hear what was being said. I could, however, make out a muffled exchange of voices.

“She is not here.”

“C’mon Jane, cut the baloney. I know she is there I just heard you talk to her.”

Jane was a sweet heart but she had the mentality of a, well, a parakeet and the voice to match.

She also had the emotional maturity of a five year old. This was her third year of rooming with Sheila. Honestly I don’t see how Sheila stood it.

“I was talking to myself,” Jane said.

Great.

“Jane, tell Sheila to grow up and stop acting like a kindergartener.”

Another muffled exchange.

“She’s busy.”

This time I heard Sheila break into that husky laugh of hers. Then she picked up the phone.

“What.”

It was a flat, hard, statement, not a question, from Sheila.

“What do you mean ‘What’?” I asked,

“I mean WHAT. That’s what.”

Then she and Jane started laughing.

That’s one of the things I liked about Sheila- she could “fire and forget.”

Sure, she was going to give me a hard time, she was going to jerk me around a little, but she was not going to pout and stay mad.

Not Sheila.

“Look I wanted to talk about Saturday and missing our date at the game. It was a jerky thing to do- but I got tied up and ran about an hour and a half late. I tried calling your dorm, the sorority, and then the frat house. I got JD on the phone and asked him to find you… but we got cut off. Please forgive me, it was unintentional, I promise.”

“Don’t sweat it Tik. It is just not that big of a deal. I am a big girl. Besides we are just friends, right?”

Emphasis on the “are”.

I hated that term “just friends” and Sheila knew it. But I let it slide. I was being an “oh so humble Tik” tonight.

“Right,” I answered.

“So are we on for tomorrow?” I asked.

“Sounds great,” she said. “See you at noon at the Calf.”

That next morning in class Dr. Carl’s face was frozen in a frown as he handed me the graded structures exam.  The exam that I had taken and sweated over on Friday morning.

“Very disappointing, Mr. Tok, very disappointing. And you failed to come by my office Friday afternoon like I requested.”

The tests had been stacked on his desk.

It was a ritual flagellation for those who did not measure up, at least, to retrieve your graded test.

To get our graded tests we had to walk up to his desk, sign a book, and then he would pull the graded test out of a folding file. Those who measured up to his expectations got a comment of “Okay”, or “All right”. Those who did not measure up were beneficiaries of a more personalized comment on their performance in front of everyone.

Like the comment he had just given me.

I peeked at the top of the page. My stomach turned: the score was a 68, a “D,” and it was the lowest exam score I had gotten in two years.

Dr. Carl did not believe in curves. “Who knows,” he said, “there is a small chance that one day I will have a class the superior of Einstein and if I grade on the curve I could really screw things up.”

I already knew where I had goofed up. I had  spent three hours last night in the library mastering ‘inderminate structures”.

That was not the problem. The problem was that I should have mastered them before Friday’s test.

Oh, and there was another problem.

I had a thermo-dynamics test tomorrow that I should have been prepping for last night rather than catching up on indeterminate structures theory. My plan the night prior was, well, to pull another “all-nighter” Monday night, after the Maranatha service.

That plan had been put on hold because of my “all- nighter” casting demons out of a brother with Sam and Marty that evening. I was exhausted once again and I knew I did not have the physical or mental stamina to go seventy two hours without sleep.

So I prayed, “God you know my heart, Your Word says to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added to me.”

Marty had shared that with our group on Saturday morning.

“I am trusting you to do that God,” I added.

Maybe a miracle would occur and I could get through my thermo test intact. But it looked like my new Maranatha activities were quickly getting me into academic trouble.

At noon I headed up to the War Eagle to meet Sheila.

I was anxious to catch up with her and to see what was going on. Meeting Sheila for lunch was a hobby of mine- she was interesting and smart and had a very dry cynical sense of humor. She was also a straight arrow and a devoted Christian. At least I used to think she was before that day I met Bob Weiner.

At lunch we would get in our spot and talk about anything and everything. Sometimes it was the latest gossip- who was dating whom- who was dropping whom- who had flunked out. Sometimes it was a deep discussion of our Christian faith and what it meant to be a Christian.

Sometimes it was about our two childhoods, which could not have been more different. She was fascinated by my upbringing. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Birmingham, one of eight kids; my parents had a struggling business and there was never enough money to go around.

I had saved enough money, by the time I had graduated high school, to pay for about a year of college.  By combining that money with my “free ride’ at the frat with room and board, and a “books and tuition” scholarship awarded at the end of my freshman year by Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society) I had cobbled together a way to get through school.

This set up also gave me a reasonably decent social life.

It was a shoestring existence all the way around, however.

And it was dependent on me maintaining a “B” average in my core engineering studies and my “free ride” at the frat as President and maybe next year as Steward.

Sheila, on the other hand had grown up as an only child of a prominent wealthy family in Selma, Alabama.

She had a brand new car. I had a bike.

She always had the latest clothes and she had all the things materially I never had. In fact she said her parents would pretty much give her whatever she wanted and needed. She found the contrast in the way we were making it through school fascinating.

And I liked the fact, that despite the piles of money and material possessions, she was as down to earth and as nice as anyone I had ever met.

Funny to boot.

In some ways it was hard for me to figure out why we had become friends. I met her at Freshmen Forum and then again at a IFC/Panhellenic Pledge social our freshman year.

We had ended up at both functions talking to each other almost exclusively; with me spending most of the time laughing at her cynical humor. Over the next two years our paths had taken a similar trajectory- we were both Rush Chairmen and we were both elected President of our Greek chapters for our junior years. And, because she detested the “nose in the air” attitude of the frat that her sorority normally associated with, we had schemed to bring her sorority and my fraternity together for fundraising and social events last year.

We grabbed our sandwiches and went to our normal hangout spot to watch the world go by on the lawn in front of Haley Center.

But, something was different today.

With Sheila I never had to think about conversation. It just happened. It was a stream of consciousness.

But today the conversation was… and I am trying to recreate the scene in my mind right now… it was… stilted.

I mean usually I had something on my mind and just blurted it out. Or she had something to say and she did the same.  Many times we would each launch into a machine gun burst of conversation at the same time- cracking each other up…but not today.

And I knew why that was.

Because today I was doing something I had never thought about doing with Sheila: weighing what to talk about… and what not to talk about.

For example:

My almost flunking Dr.Carl’s test was at the top of my mind.  Now if I mentioned that I would have to tell her the reason I had flunked the test and all that had happened that had kept me from mastering the material. That is that I had spent 30+ hours in five days on Maranatha related stuff instead of  using that time to study like I normally would have.

Could I tell her about Rick and Rhonda and their “conversion”?

Maybe… in Sheila’s opinion Rhonda was a “slut” for practically living in the house. But if I went into the change that had taken place with Ronda then I would have to talk about Maranatha and all of that had happened since the previous week.

And I knew she did not like or approve of what she had seen of Bob Weiner and Maranatha.

Of course the same would happen if I discussed Fred’s, Ricky’s and Roger’s conversions.

So WHAT could we talk about?

Not the frat. I had been missing in action so to speak for the last three weeks. I had missed two chapter meetings and business review for goodness sake. Did I really want to go into that with her? Perhaps she knew about it from Mom and would bring it up on her own.

As we walked to the lawn in front of Haley Center I suddenly realized, that for the first time in two years, I might have NOTHING to talk about to the person who had probably been my best friend at Auburn.

And I remember breaking out in a cold sweat at that thought.

She launched into a funny story about two of her sorority sisters mixing up their contact lenses on Sunday morning and that got me laughing as she went into the hilarious details about what transpired.

But after 10 minutes, like I had feared, we ran out of conversational steam.

What was there left to talk about, the weather?

The Kingdom and the work of Maranatha were on my mind first and foremost- that is what I was excited about: the ETERNAL things.

I knew that this would go nowhere with Sheila. She was stuck in the  world of “temporary” things.

For a minute we sat there in silence.

Not the, “Isn’t this a great day kind and lets enjoy it,” silence but more like the, “I am on an elevator with a complete stranger and can’t wait to get off,” silence.

I hope you know what I mean.

Then I realized Sheila was staring at me.

“Tik, is everything okay?”

“Sure, why?”

“I am not sure what is going on, but I am sure that something is not right. Anything on your mind? You seem a thousand miles away.”

More like a dimension or a couple of light years away.

But what was I supposed to say?

“Hey Sheila, you will never guess what happened two nights ago we cast demons out of this guy who was on the verge of suicide!!”

I sort of knew that that line of conversation was not a wise one with her… or was it?

Did I miss a chance to let my guard down to tell her EVERYTHING about MCM?  The good plus my doubts and some of the things that did not seem right to me?

What would have happened that day if I had let my guard down and really confided in her?

What if I had really trusted her?

I actually briefly considered doing this but did not.

I’m not sure why I did not act on this impulse. It was another lost opportunity to get off the track I was headed down.

I was rapidly narrowing my mind and my options.

Anyway I glanced at my watch- it was 12:25 pm.

Usually when I was having lunch with Sheila a glance at my watch would spark the reaction, “Yikes- late again!” But today I was hoping my watch WOULD read 1:00 pm instead of reading 12:25 pm, as it actually did.

“Hey Sheila, sorry to eat and run but I promised Dr. Carl that I would stop by his class before lab to discuss my exam results.”

I was lying.

Dr. Carl would not be back in his office until 4:00 pm. He had a level 1 lab from 12-3 pm today.

I stood up and she was watching me very closely, her eyes narrowing as I gathered my books and gave her a quick wave.

“Uh, okay Tik. See you…well…see you soon.”

“Sure Sheila, see you soon.”

I turned and walked away.

What was wrong with Sheila?

What in the world was wrong with me?

#14 ON FIRE

Perspiration dropped on the paper in front of me. I was sweating like a pig.

I was going down in flames on Dr. Carl’s structures examination.

Crashing and burning with no parachute.

I was 40 minutes into a 60 minute test and I only had four of the problems completed. The first four were not the problem; it was the final two. They were centered on indeterminate structures and I was having a rough go of it. I did not know jack about indeterminates.

I had pulled an all-nighter with Ricky, a chain-smoking frat brother of mine, last night. We had crammed in traditional fashion. But I knew I was doomed.

Cramming did not work for Dr. Carl’s tests. Sure, for some Profs all you had to do was memorize some formulas and look at old tests.

But not for Dr. Carl.

He put a lot of thought into his tests and unless you knew the material inside and out, and were mentally prepared for the stress of his tests, he would crush you.

I poked my pencil onto the exam problem and thought, “Let’s see- the sum of the square of the distance over the area multiplied by the radius, or was it the diameter, yes that its twice the radius…”

“arrrgghhhh!”

“Okay people five minutes left,” came Dr. Carl’s bark from behind me as I heard him pacing up and down the aisles of the classroom.

I was halfway through the fifth of six problems at this point. There was no way I was going to complete the test and, even worse, no time to go back through the problems I had completed to check for errors.

“Head’em up and move’em out! Rawhide!”  Dr. Carl  laughed as he sang the tune to the old TV Western.

“Ha…ha.” A real comedian. Funny.

Then a hand on my back.

“Okay Mr. Tok,” twanged Dr. Carl in his flat nasal Kansas accent, “You are the only one standing between me and my next cup of coffee and I don’t think that is fair!”

I handed him my test paper. He flipped through it.

“This is not like you Mr. Tok. You didn’t even complete the test.”

“Yeah,” I answered, “I had trouble with the last two problems on indeterminate structures.”

“Stop by and see me this afternoon. Let’s see where you are getting stuck,” he said.

Dr. Carl had taken a liking to me last year, my first year of engineering school . I had been accepted into the engineering program with the equivalent of a 3.8/4.0 GPA at the end of my freshman year. Dr. Carl had encouraged me to pursue nuclear structures, which I did, ending my sophomore year (first year in engineering school) with a 3.9/4.0 average.

And this test was the first  academic butt kicking that had been administered to me since my freshman year. That time I had scraped by with my one and only “C”  in a nuclear physics course. That course had nearly killed me because despite the amount of time I put into the course I never really got it.

I had no such excuse for this course and the ass kicking this test had just given me. There was only one reason I got “smacked” on this test: I had failed to study methodically enough, or long enough, to master the material.

Now I felt woozy from lack of sleep as I walked out of the classroom. My head swam due to my “all-nighter” last night (Thursday) and getting less than four hours sleep the night prior.

Of course getting up at 5:30 am for Marty’s discipleship group at 6:00 am had not helped.

I stopped dead in my tracks in the hall.

“Gripes!” I exclaimed. I had forgotten about the discipleship group meeting this morning. Actually I had slept through it.

I had told Ricky, my chain-smoking frat study buddy, around 5:00 am that morning that I was going to close my eyes for a minute and take a fifteen minute snooze.

But instead I slept for the next two hours wakening with a start when Ricky yelled at me to, “Wake my sorry ass up!”

At that point it was after 7:00 am.

“Oh well, God knows my heart,” I thought.

Even though I thought the MCM discipleship session sort of weird; I was impressed by the commitment and the camaraderie that I had experienced. I also was impressed that Maranatha was walking the talk. They not only talked about total commitment but we were actually holding each other accountable to MCM’s Christ like commitment  God.

Of course, I was not sure what to make of some of their strange discipleship doctrines at this point. Just let it pass I thought. No big deal.

I saw Ricky getting a coke out of vending machine in the stairwell of the engineering building, Ramsey Hall.

Ricky was a year older than me, a member of my frat, and was also engineering major. He did not always put the required effort into his studies. Because of that he had gone on academic probation last year and had temporarily dropped out of college. Now he had re-enrolled and was in my cohort. We spent the prior night together cramming for Dr. Carl’s test as I had mentioned.

“Hey Ricky- thanks for working with me through last night,” I said.

“No prob at all Tik.”

Marty, my shepherd, had challenged us to be bold with with our faith. I had already done so earlier in the week… why not one more time?

“Hey Ricky, I have been going to this really cool Christian group that meets off campus. It is unlike anything I have been involved with before. Tonight they are going to be talking about the future and how we can all prosper in the coming hard times. Do you have any plans tonight; would you join me?”

Ricky lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. “Hmmm,” he said. “Interesting you should mention it because Rhonda’s sorority chaplain has started a Bible study, or some such stuff, and Rhonda is all jazzed up about it.”

“Rhonda and I were thinking about going to the free movie; but we caught “The Sting” last year so no point in it.”

Rhonda was Ricky’s live in girlfriend.

By that I mean she had moved into his room contrary to our rules. He and his roommate had actually subdivided their 10 X 12 room into two compartments using 2” by 4” stud and sheet rock adding a small door to finish it off. So Rick and Rhonda now lived in a 5’X 12’ 1/2 bedroom in the frat house. Half the mornings she would shower in the second floor bath with Ricky standing guard to keep the frat brothers out.

Note to self: Don’t let my daughter near a frat boy in college when she goes to school.

So we agreed that I would meet both of them at the frat house at 6:30 pm that night.

I did not mention that Fred was coming as well.

I slogged my way through the rest of my classes. The lectures had about as much effect on my brain as a rubber ball thrown at a brick wall. I don’t need much sleep; but I DO need it at least 5 hours per night.

I was feeling giddy.

At lunch I went to the War Eagle Cafeteria searching for Sheila, but she was nowhere to be seen. So I laid back on the grass and watched people passing back and forth in front of the Haley Center.

I started to praying for each person I would see; asking Jesus to open up their hearts and rebuking the demons that were around them.

I then took out my Bible and started to read the book of First John. Marty and Sam had suggested I read this NT book. Every word seemed to jump off of the page with new meaning; reinforcing all that I had heard since this past Tuesday. The words  overcoming, the powers of the age, not living in sin or making excuses seemed to come alive in the scriptures as I read.

Finally the Bible seemed to have real and powerful application to my life!

I heard the bell in the tower of  Samford Hall peeling. Had it really already been an hour since I had sat down on the wall? My hour- long impromptu reading of First John had passed by in what seem like minutes.

I trotted off on my way to my next class. I hummed one of the new songs I had heard at Maranatha the night before as I went.

That evening Ricky and his girlfriend, Rhonda, met me in the common room of the frat house.  Fred came walking in as well. Ricky and Ronda were surprised to see Fred coming. Finally Robert, my frat brother who had converted to Jesus the other night, ambled into the room to make the walk to the MCM House with us.

For my first night trip to MCM from the frat house it had been just Sheila and me. Now I was going with four people, two of whom were brand new Christians, thanks to me, and two whom I had invited to the MCM House that morning.

Robert and I chatted about the latest Red Book study and how he had told his parents he was a brand new Christian. Apparently they were baffled since Robert had been raised a devout Greek Orthodox member and his family attended Mass every Sunday.

The others strolled in front of us and I could see Ricky’s cigarette glowing and then dimming as he took deep drags on it.

Once again it was a beautiful cool autumn night. The MCM House gleamed at the foot of the hill from the glow of the front yard spotlights. Through the windows streamed golden light onto the front lawn.

The latest Christian rock music blared from giant loudspeakers in the windows as we walked to the open front door and made our way through the chattering crowd.

Randy and Marty greeted the five of us in the entry way. Randy took Fred by the arm and started engaging him in conversation. Robert and I hung back from them talking among ourselves about the exciting message from God that Bob had promised us would be delivered tonight.

Meanwhile Marty spoke in low tones with Ricky, who flicked his still glowing cigarette into a flower-pot on the porch. A tall girl, good-looking with black hair who I later learned was “Julie” (in time later married a full-time Maranatha Evangelist in an arranged MCM marriage) pulled Rhonda to the side and introduced her to a group of girls.

“This place will get wild in a hurry,” I said to Fred as Randy walked away from him.

That was an understatement.

The Praise Band kicked in with three songs including one sung by my fantasy sister Ellen, she with the beautiful dark hair and eyes. Funny after that first encounter I could never seem to get close enough to speak with her for more than a minute or two. I thought, “Oh well there is still time!”

After her solo we all stood for about 20 minutes of animated chorus singing as a group and finally ended signing a very slow melodic tune.

Bob Weiner took the stage during final choruses and, in a whisper-like voice said, “I feel like God is going to speak to us tonight.”

None of this was a big deal to me. I mean I had grown up in the Baptist Church and had heard evangelists during the old Baptist Weeklong revival meetings stand up and shout, “God is going to speak to us tonight.”

Bob  had done this at my fraternity house he said, “And God is speaking to a girl today…”

So I thought nothing of when he said on stage that night. I did not think he meant that God was going to literally speak.

But I was wrong.

The singing had stopped but the music continued playing in the background when from behind me, in a deep baritone voice, came the words:

“Thus saith the Lord!”

“Uh oh,” I thought, “some crazy has shown up at the service.”

It did happen occasionally. Two years ago at Rat’s Bible study some kid had jumped up on stage and proclaimed himself the new messiah. I had not seen it but the whole campus had been buzzing about it. Seemed the kid had gotten into some really bad drugs and had gone schizo or something.

That sort of thing flashed in my mind.

The voice continued, “I have begun a new work on this campus…”

“Okay,” I thought, “the ushers stationed at the doors and aisles are going to haul this nut hatch out quickly, and quietly, I hope.”

“And I say to my sons and daughters that I will bless you as you continue to seek me. And I will make you rulers over principalities and you shall crush my foes beneath your feet. For behold…”

Funny thing was, other than Fred, who caught my eye with a, “What in the heck is going on?” shrug, no one else seemed to think this strange.

In fact a whole section of the audience had started murmuring in tongues, with the whole place sounded like a giant bee hive at this point. Me? I simply hoped the Queen Bee was not about to gyrate down the main aisle- stinger and all.

“… I will make my enemies your footstool and with the power of my spirit you will conquer for I have given you the power to cast out demons, to heal the sick, to restore the blind. And Lo!” the voice was almost shouting and I turned to try to see who was speaking”…the devil himself will flee and my kingdom will come upon this earth…”

The place started erupting in cheers and shouts of, “Praise Jesus and Glory to God,” sounded out along with the sing song of members  tongue languages in the background.

“… and the gate of hell shall NOT PREVAIL! Thus saith the LORD OF HOSTS!!!” and with that shout prophecy ended.

Then the whole place went nuts and the band started cranking out a fast paced praise song and Bob started doing that funny Hebrew jig/dance and soon the entire place was dancing in the aisles.

I admit I was stunned and stood there unable to move.

Finally I turned my head straining to see Ricky and Rhonda but could not find them in the crowd. To my left Fred stood stock still his eyes fixed on Bob.

Finally the room quieted down and Bob shouted out: “Praise God…brothers and sisters we just heard a mighty prophetic utterance from God Himself and I bear witness to it.”

“Whoa,” I thought, ” you mean someone was actually literally speaking for God himself?”

This seemed blasphemous to me; despite all the good I had seen thus far at MCM.

But Bob did not miss a beat and launched into his sermon on what it really meant to be a Christian in the end times: a riff on his sermon last night from the Book of Revelation.

“The traditional church has misled you…and you will be caught unawares!’

And he referred us to the parable of the bridesmaids with the lamps in one of the Gospel books.

“The believers will NOT be raptured away before the anti-Christ comes, in fact the church will go THROUGH the tribulation and ONLY the over comers, those who persevere to the end who DO NOT ACCEPT the mark will be spared. “

He painted a vivid picture of the end times comparing it to the first century church and laid a vision of the future for both Christians and non believers.

“Last night I told you about the Beast and the evil he will do and how you can be saved from his wrath, that you must be totally committed to Jesus and to the Body. But now see we will see what happens after the tribulation.”

“Then!” Bob was shouting, “the over comers will rule and reign for 1000 years and they  will represent Jesus on earth and will be his rulers. And after that 1000 year reign the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and we will be enthroned with Him in glory.”

Around me people were now shouting and raising their hands. He showed us scripture after scripture that showed we would physically rule and reign over kingdoms after Christ returned.

“We will NOT be sitting on clouds playing harps but we will be Ruling and Reigning with Him.”

“Wow!” I thought. I mean he must have used 30-40 proof texts and  had us flipping back and forth through the Bible during the whole sermon.

“I never knew we would actually rule with Christ after he returns,” I thought.

In fact I had never considered what in the heck we would be doing once Christ returned, one way or another. Bob had rearranged my whole outlook because he was not pointing me to things I had considered and discarded; he was pointing to an outlook I had never even considered!

“This is why we must be disciplined; this why is Paul speaks of … the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word in Ephesians. We are in a war and the war will come upon all mankind. ”

Then almost shouting he said, “I tell you that only those who are grounded in the word, that have girded themselves for battle, who are prepared and radically sold out will stand at the end with Jesus! ”

The crowd erupted standing and clapping and this time I was not watching from the sidelines I was yelling and shouting also something like, “I will stand with Jesus! I will overcome,” with the rest of the MCM members.

The Praise Band had made their way up, possibly seeing some signal from Bob, and they kicked in one of their fast paced rock songs and suddenly we started singing and clapping along with the music. When they wound the song up Bob started pacing back and forth on the stage again throwing the microphone around in his hand, back and forth.

“If you have not made a radical stand for Jesus, if you are in sin, no matter whether you have said a prayer, been baptized, tried to be good, NONE of that matters. For Jesus will say to you in that Day of Judgment ‘Depart from me I KNOW YOU NOT! ‘ You will be cast into the lake of fire with the demons from hell. But for those that persevere they will rule and reign as His sons and daughters of Zion!”

Then he challenged all their who were not sold out, no matter their background, to step up front to make a commitment.

The words were barely out of his mouth when Fred almost knocked me out of my chair to get up front. I saw ten or more other people getting up and heading to the front of the stage.

And then I caught sight of my chain-smoking frat study buddy Ricky and his live in girlfriend Rhonda heading up to the stage.

Rhonda was shaking and crying and fell into the arms of one of the MCM sisters while Ricky, her boyfriend, was taken aside by Sam, the associate minister.

And Bob begin praying on stage waving his arms over all of them whilst Mike Caulk, the Auburn Pastor, along with some older brothers and sisters knelt and spoke in whispers with the fifteen or twenty people who had responded to Bob’s call for total commitment.

Afterwards I spent an hour with Marty and Fred in a hootah (counseling) session. Then later I saw Fred, Ricky and Rhonda baptized.

I remember dancing with my new brothers and sisters in Jesus.  All five of us: Ricky, Rhonda, Robert, Fred and I were crying and hugging each other  whilst intoning fervent prayers in English and our heavenly tongues language.

Just a mere six days after committing myself totally to Jesus I had seen six people from my fraternity make a commitment; and they were not saying just some simple prayer that brought little change to  their lives; but all of them made a true and radical commitment to Jesus that seem to immediately change their behavior and thinking.

Truly I had found the overcoming Church Body described in Acts.

And I was on FIRE.

#10 Washing My Own Brain: Shepherding

I had promised Randy and Marty that I would come by the Maranatha house that afternoon after my physics lab.

My mind reeled from my confrontation with Sheila as I made my way across campus to the MCM House. Although the trees shown with brilliant orange colors while scads of students lolled on the quad, or played frisbee, I did not register any of it. Not really.

My mind focused on Sheila. For I really like people to like me and I especially want those I am close to to be pleased by what I am doing. And I really did not want to disappoint my good friend.

For even a goof like me could figure out that Sheila violently opposed my supposed conversion and new-found faith.

As I walked into the MCM House that afternoon I noticed fresh flowers on the mantle of the fireplace and to my left I could see the large meeting room set up with about 200 chairs with a stage, band equipment, and audio speakers.

At this point in my life, some thirty years later I would ask, “Where is the money coming for all these nice things?” But the only impression it made on me then was, “Wow, this is a very, very nice place, much nicer than the house I grew up in.”

Sam, the associate pastor, and Marty, the MCM administrator, stood waiting on me in the meeting room area. As they stood up to shake my hands Bob Weiner came walking out of the office to my left with another man, a tall, muscular guy with almost jet black long hair parted down the middle in the style of the time. Bob slapped me on the back and asked me how things were going.

“Now I know what it means to be a true follower of Jesus and I can feel the power of the Spirit,” I said seeking his approval.

“Remember”, Bob said “It’s not how high you jump but how you long run. We are running a race for God. And it is a marathon.”

I thought this an odd comment at the time but, as time passed, I slowly understood that running a marathon was an apt description of what would take place. But forget any stands along the way with water to quench your thirst.

The dark-haired fellow gave me a quick crooked smile, said nothing, and kept walking with Bob. The two of them opened a door at the back of the meeting room that I had not noticed last night and disappeared. The tall guy with Bob was Mike Caulk, I later learned, who had just been appointed head pastor of the Auburn Ministry.

Sam, Marty and I continued upstairs to the same room we were in last night.

This room was Marty’s study/bedroom. Marty pulled out a large soft bound book that had a bright red color.

“This is a Bible study for new Christians,” Marty said. “It is called Bible Studies for A FIRM Foundation“. I looked at the cover; the authors were Bob and Rose Weiner.

“Who is Rose Weiner?” I asked.

“Rose is Bob’s wife,” Sam said in a reverential tone. He continued, “She has a true heart and understanding of God’s plan and is a real prophet.”

“Prophet????” I thought. I had never heard the word prophet used except in the past tense when referring to Nehemiah or Jonah, but never in the present tense.

“It is essential Tik,” said Marty, “That you really get a firm understanding of the faith and so we will work you through the basics in these 26 studies.”

He continued, “But we will not begin at the first lesson but rather start today at discipleship: how being a disciple and becoming a disciple is the key to being an overcomer and a first century Christian.”

So I began my first structured Bible Study in Maranatha Christian Ministries. (I obtained a copy of this from Alibris.com. What follows is based on the contents of this study and my recollections of that afternoon.)

The Firm Foundations Study (or the Red Book, as it was called, by MCM) consisted of a list of verses to be read were then followed by fill in the blank statements with a few open-ended questions scattered in.

One verse that we looked at in the study was from Luke.

“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” Marty read.

“You see Tik,” said Marty, “without a shepherd the lost sheep would never find his way to the fold. So all sheep need a shepherd.”

I filled in the study statement.

But if I had been truthful I was having a hard time connecting the scripture to what Mike said.

More importantly what did he mean by, “All sheep need a shepherd”?

He then referred to another scripture out of Mark: “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

“This means that without a shepherd the crowd could not learn the things of God. That is why Jesus felt sorry for them because they did not have a shepherd. His Church is his bride; in fact, we will become like Jesus in time. But in order to do so God will give us shepherds to hold us accountable and to help us grow in our walk just like Jesus acted as a shepherd for his disciples.”

I wrote this down dutifully in the blank spot on the page.

We looked at another scripture from John: “The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.”

Sam said, “This scripture is key to understanding why the traditional churches are dead, and why we Christians who make a commitment to Jesus fall away and get involved in immorality and other sin. You see unless we have a shepherd who is truly committed to our walk with Jesus we will be scattered when the wolf comes. This is why you have been dissatisfied with your walk and with the watered down old line churches and the ministries like Campus Crusade for Christ.”

Now this made sense to me- because this is exactly what I had seen at Auburn and in my own life.

But there was a lingering doubt.

You see I agreed with what they were saying about being held accountable but was this what this scripture actually meant? It did not seem to me to have this meaning this so I stuck this teaching in the closet in the back of my mind along with the Maranatha theory of water baptism.

And finally we reviewed this verse: “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.”

“You see Tik that was the charge that Jesus gave to Peter. Feed his sheep. Jesus was the great shepherd and was the overseer of the disciples and provided them a covering. They in turn were shepherds and covered their sheep. In turn these sheep also covered their sheep and so on. This ensured that the entire Body of Christ would be provided a covering so that all could be disciples.”

“In order to be a Christian you must be a true disciple. In fact, the followers of Jesus in the first century were called disciples long before they were called Christians,” said Sam. “So we can safely say that if you are not a disciple with a shepherd you cannot be a Christian.”

He pointed to the scripture in Acts, “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.”

“To sum it up: to be a Christian you must be a disciple of Jesus. Disciple has the same root as discipline. It means that we must have someone who disciplines us, that holds us accountable, that counsels. Since we cannot be a Christian without being a disciplined disciple, and since we will be scattered without a shepherd watching for us and being accountable for our souls, we must all have a shepherd or we will fall and lose our faith,” Sam intoned.

“Tik, this is why we see so many fake, watered down Christians and dead churches. They have no shepherds, they are not disciples, they are scattered in the wind and are therefore not Christians.”

I followed the line of reasoning. It made sense to me.

No different than what happened in engineering school. I had an advisor and professors that held me accountable, that ensured I was making progress in my studies, that ensured I had the discipline needed to complete my studies. My father had instilled the white Anglo-Saxon work ethic and discipline in me when I was a young boy. And it seemed true: this lack of discipline in Bible Study, in actions, in spiritual growth, was the very weakness I saw in the current Christian organizations I was part of.

But, although I very much liked what they were saying, and it was apparent that the lack of oversight and discipline crippled other campus ministries, I could not connect the scriptures they were using to the points that they were making.

The very points I agreed with.

So I made a critical mistake.

I ignored what my “gut” was telling me, that if the scriptures did not line up then question  the teaching. Rather my reaction was, “What they are saying is correct, and probably true, s0 I’ll over-look the discrepancy.”

Then they got to the main point, the place that we were heading to since we started the study over an hour ago.

“We have been praying about it (‘who was the “we” he was referring to?” I wondered) and it has been decided (“by whom?” I wondered) that Marty will be your shepherd ”

Marty reached over and gave me an awkward hug.

“Tik it will be great growing together in our work with the Lord.”

Then he pushed his glasses up on his nose and cleared his throat. “Tik I will be meeting with my new disciples tomorrow morning in the meeting room at 6:00 am for an hour of prayer and study. I look forward to seeing you there.”

I gulped. I barely had free time as it was with my frat duties, 17 hours of class and labs and at least 20 hours of study along with it plus any attendance at church or bible studies.

I smiled weakly.

“I can’t wait,” I said.

If this is what one must do to be a true disciple, to bear fruit, to be part of what God end movement then why not? It seemed to me to be the only way: to commit to Jesus as much or more than what I was giving to my studies, the frat or my social life. Nothing else seemed to work from what I had seen.

But what I did not understand was that in Maranatha there were no distinct sphere of life- school, social, private- all of my life was considered fair game.

All of it.

So it was I became a sheep and my first shepherd, the person who would gradually and inexorably take control of my life was Marty, a person I barely knew…a person I was giving the keys of my entire life to, although I did not exactly realize this at that time.

For now I was a sheep complete with my own personal shepherd.