I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 2
We had converted some campus leaders, including the President of the largest Greek Fraternity on campus. I will call him “Tiketwo” because he reminded me of myself, and people actually thought we looked and acted like brothers. He was a Methodist and dissatisfied with his church. Go back and read Parts 1-5 of this Blog and the same thing happened to him that happened to me; I hate to tell you.
He had a steady girlfriend who I will call “Sheilatwo’, because she looked like my old friend Sheila, only in this case we converted her as well and used her to pop Helen Ball into her sorority and snag about seven of her sorority sisters for MCM.
Tikietwo and Sheilatwo brought in, personally, at least twenty kids.
“Tiketwo” really, really looked up to me as an ideal”Christian, one who could do no wrong and that scared me.
And weighed heavily on my conscience.
So I started the daily Red Book and shepherding sessions, and casting demons out of kids who were just being kids and got them on board and committed, and started witnessing classes. We got a Christian Prof to front a Victory Club which in turn converted two baseball players through a jointly sponsored event with the respected Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Then, with almost no warning things begin to go downhill quickly.
First, Headquarters in Gainesville loaded us up with corporate literature and brochures for the tune of $ 4,000. This ate big time into the war-chest that I had established on my own. As I mentioned our seed money from corporate had evaporated.
Second, about five thousand Forerunner Magazine Newspapers, at 50 cents a throw, begin to show up every other month. I mean stacks and stacks of these things. These cost us, if my memory is right, about $ 2,500 a whack. And there was no arguing with Gainesville about accepting or paying for these things, as I will show.
The Forerunner was Rose Weiner’s brainchild . Rose wanted to start A Mother Jones newspaper, but instead of being a leftie rag, she wanted a rightie rag, it was chockfull of articles by Theonomy writers pontificating about the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth etc. etc. etc. Simply put the Forerunner celebrated the Manifest Destiny of America theory but repackaged to highlight the kooky and inane doctrines of MCM.
Well we were supposed to sell these things at best, or at least give them away. Either was very hard to do, it turned out.
So like a good trooper, and to get them out of the meeting hall, I organized work parties to put these things out in stacks on campus. And this was during autumn.
A very windy autumn.
And the wind blew the papers all over campus.
I mean no one was actually picking these things up to read them. At least the campus commie left wing rag had a sense of humor and some funny, if rather strange, cartoons. The Forerunner was about as interesting as the pages of a dictionary if every page were the same. It was chloroform in print.
Now we had stupidly taken the time, and effort, to stamp our local ministry address and phone number on every paper.
This was infinitely stupid.
Because I got a phone call-from the campus police.
“Hello,” I said as I answered the telephone.
“Yes this is Captain Jim Smith of the campus police. I am trying to reach the person in charge of MCM at Big University.”
“That would be me, Tik Tok.”
“Well Mr. Tok you have managed to cover the university with your papers, they are every where, in the trees, in the fountains and complaints are coming in from all over the place.First you don’t have a permit to distribute papers on campus, second, even if you did, we must have approved paper boxes. Third it is going to cost us at least $ 10,000 to clean up the campus. I am going to give you a break… either you clean these up in the next 24 hours or I am going to bring you in on a misdemeanor charge of littering and creating a public nuisance. Any questions?”
So we went back and for fourteen straight hours we cleaned up papers.
And the Forerunner, literally being all over campus, piqued the interest of the editor of the student newspaper. Who, being a smart kid, called me up to try to find out WHAT we were doing and exactly who we were doing it for.
Our converting over 100 kids, the infiltration of fraternities, conversions of a couple of baseball players, and three sold out Saturday nights at the Maranatha Hall had gotten a lot of attention on campus. And our newspapers being literally everywhere piqued his interest, as I said.
When the phone rang, and it was the editor of the campus newspaper, I was to naïve to give it much thought. He asked questions about me, my background, where I came from, about Greg, what MCM was, who headed it and where we had come from.
About a week after Greg and Helen had left Jim, my co-pastor, walked in with a paper under his arm.
”See this yet?” he asked.
“Don’t tell me that you found another Forerunner in a bush,” I laughed.
”Tikie this is serious!” and he laid the newspaper out in front of me.
Front and center, the headline on the weekly campus news read “Cult on Campus?”
And below it in a printed frame was a photo of Greg and me on campus with about eight or ten students gathered around us praying.
The story read:
“Maranatha Christian Ministries came to town last month with a splash. Their new meeting Hall is packed out every week and their posters promise, “Real Christian Answer to Life’s Pressing Questions”. But who are they and what do they want? Despite their claims to lead students to an Abundant Christian Life their reputation at other college campuses tells a different story. “I would not recommend this ministry to any student,” said Dr. Herb Butz, Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. “We believe that this group uses cult like tactics to entrap and cut off lonely or idealistic students, interfering with their studies and recruiting them to perpetuate the group and it’s goals.”
It got worse from there and they quoted me as Pastor Tikie and laid into the tactics we used including posing as a campus sponsored club when in fact this was not the case.
It also had interviews with fraternity members, where Greg and I had preached, accusing us of coming into the frat under false pretenses, stealing their members, then effectively cutting them off. The head of one frat said that I had posed as an official university affiliated non-denominational minister, which he said was a lie.
The article also questioned where our finances were coming from and that we expected the students to tithe and support us. It contrasted our taking of offerings from poor students with that of other ministries like Campus Crusade and the Baptist Student Union that asked for no donations.
Although there was much truth to this, there were some differences between what they wrote and what was actually happening. One inaccuracy was that we had not encouraged the fraternity and sorority members to leave their organization. I felt like that they could do more good inside the frats than if they left them.
But of course since we WERE MCM so we ate up all their free time, they began making radical lifestyle changes that we encouraged. And, as I related, although I never claimed to be an official university sponsored chaplain, I never corrected the wrong assumptions made about me and MCM.
The article was a disaster.
We now had about 120 members, counting the ten that had come for the planting. It was a great start,but only a start. And now with the spate of articles about MCM Jim and I noticed that our first time visitor attendance dropped off dramatically.
Another part of the problem centered on our finances. Jim did not have enough outside support coming in for him and his family. We knew this was a problem upfront but thought it would solve itself once we had the ministry rolling.
So I was subsidizing him out of my $ 1,500 per month in outside contributions I had pledged to me. The rent, because of the wonderful location right next to campus, was about $ 1,800/month. The cost of our initial blitz had taken our seed money to zeros plus my own war-chest balance was now down to about $ 2,000.
Our offerings were only averaging about $ 300/week despite our success in numbers after three months. If I had any sense I would have calculated that at our giving rate we would need well over 1,200 college kids tithing out of their funds just to break even. Could we have gotten more out of them? Probably, but I was reluctant to hit these kids up hard, like Mike did at Auburn, because of the pain it had caused me as a new recruit.
I have mentioned that I paid a MCM tax of about 12% on my monthly $ 1,500 plus I threw 10% of that in the plate. And on top of that 10% of our local ministries gross income for the Ministry went right back to Gainesville.
Could it get any worse for me and our new church plant?
The answer, as you probably guessed, was yes, it could, and did, get worse.