#50 I Fall Into A Burning Ring Of Fire Part 2

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.

Much worse.

 

#49 I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 1

“I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns, burns, burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire.”
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash

February 1982
The snow was piling up over the cars in the parking lot while wind gusts rattled both the windows and my apartment front door.

I looked up from my desk to see the kitchen clock reading midnight.

Light jazz from the college FM station played quietly on the radio interrupted by the DJ’s breathless comments about the storm.

“At least 30 inches of snow in the next six hours, 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but with the wind it feels like ten below; stay inside and stay WARM!”

I took another sip of  bitter coffee and looked down at the Safeco check and accounting ledger on the kitchen table in front of me. I could not seem to make it work.

Oh, the accounts balanced alright but the cash flow frightened me.

The wind kicked up outside and once again the front door banged and rattled. I glanced up and then went back to solving the mystery of our account ledger.

“Can we cut anymore expenses?” I asked myself.

But I knew that our local ministry now ran on financial fumes. Unless I  went without food completely no other expenses could be cut. Not that I could see.

“Gotta have more income…that is the only answer,” I muttered.

The door banged again.

“That is some wind!” I thought.

Bang!… Bang! Bang!… Bang! Bang! Bang!…Bang! Bang! Bang!

I suddenly realized that this noise came from the slamming of fists on the front door.

I checked the kitchen clock again.  It now read 12:15 am.

Who in the world would be banging on my front door in the middle of a blizzard at midnight?

I pushed open the door and the sub-zero wind promptly blasted me with whirligigs of snow powdering the apartment walls. A bundled figure  stumbled through the door. It then collapsed on the torn second-hand couch in my sitting room/kitchen.

I heaved the door shut, bolted it and then turned to see who I had let in.

The figured shivered uncontrollably with the full face toboggan, complete with eye and mouth slits, completely covered with snow and ice. In fact the person had white with frost and snow covering their entire body.

The person slid their gloves off, and then pulled the toboggan from off.

His brown hair had frost in it, despite the toboggan, and with a groan he  slumped back on the couch. His bright blue eyes suddenly fluttered open.

Tikietwo, one of our prize catches from the fall crusade, looked up at me.

Tikietwo,” I asked him, “are you trying to commit suicide? Did you actually walk clear across campus in this blizzard?”

His short brown hair was now steaming in the warmth of the apartment and for a moment he said nothing but closed his eyes.

Finally he looked up at me again.

“Tikie, I had to see you tonight. I can’t take it anymore and I think I am about to have a nervous breakdown or something. Satan is after me, or maybe it is God. I really need your help…you seem to have all the answers.”

With that he laid his head back onto my broken down sofa shivering.

“Let’s get some of this rot gut stuff  into you and then we will talk,” I said as I walked over to coffee maker.

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

Tag Teaming with Greg Ball

It had started well enough. In fact, it had completely exceeded any expectations we had about getting the ministry off the ground.

Our MCM kick-off started the last week of August coinciding with the frat rush at the large Midwestern University. I felt really blessed, because despite the fact that almost thirty new MCM churches were starting at the same time, I had been able to snag Greg and Helen Ball to help us.

The days of getting Bob Weiner for three weeks along with the Praise Band and more money than Fort Knox for a new ministry kick-off were over forever.

MCM’s new plan called for starting thirty new ministries in the fall of 1981 and then thirty to forty every year afterwards. The entire Ministry would be strained by this expansion effort.

So we approached this ministry kickoff very differently than MCM had in the past.

Greg and I agreed that if we could hook some leaders, some heavy duty sharps they might bring other sharps into the ministry with them.

We also decided to target some athletes –possibly using FCA as a way to get to them. Our goal was to grab kids who would then do our work for us.

We had no choice because we had limited funds and a few helpers.

We had two door openers: one was a ten minute movie about surfing and Christianity. It used west coast surfing terms and great colorful shots of Christian surfers and gnarly lingo.

It was cool for its time.

The other door opener was the video the Cross and the Switchblade that we would use to fill our auditorium the first Saturday after we opened. We would throw almost all of our initial seed money at this opening gambit; we would either succeed or flame out right at the start.

I figured if I could get Greg in front of four to five hundred kids in the first couple of weeks that we would nail some converts.

Our team was slim, about one fifth the size of the planting team that had arrived to open Auburn up.

Our single full time sister had been deemed too fat by Rose and would not be joining us until she had lost at least twenty five pounds or so.

This hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Jim, my co-pastor, his wife, and two children arrived in mid-August. We also had three working couples and three working single brothers to help us get started.

I did not give much thought to this at the time, but the lack of working brothers and sisters and they cash they could have generated would prevent the ministry from every getting on a solid financial base.

But I knew how the frats worked, I knew the rules and I looked the part and so did Greg and Helen.

So we would start where we were strong.

I knew that there would be a few nominal Christians in the frat, I would locate the best of  them, pitch them on what Greg and I were doing (helping people live a more idealistic true first century Christian life), and then try to snag the leader or leaders. The leaders would then bring a bunch of followers with them.

These would reproduce, and before you knew it we would have a congregation.

And it worked.

**********

I looked through the IFC booklet at the Student Union before getting started.

Size predicts prestige in frats and I honed in on the seven largest ones; especially the ones that highlighted the fact that they had student athletes or student government involvement by their members.

It was pretty simple.

I would head into the frat before rush week wearing my button down shirt with khakis frat boy uniform. I would find the President and/or chaplain tell them we were reaching out to Christians and students in the frat and ask if we could show a cool surfing film.

I acted like we were an officially sponsored university group without coming out and saying we were. We had learned this lesson well at Auburn.

And I snagged us six events at the largest frats on campus during the first two weeks of school. We put posters up for the MCM event just like Randy and Ellen had at Auburn some three years earlier at Auburn.

We had posters printed for our showing of the movie the Cross and the Switchblade and the ten of us spread across campus  putting up at least one thousand posters. The posters were beautiful and they cost us about $ 1,500 to have them reproduced locally.

We also signed a two-year lease on a large hall being vacated by a Jewish Group on the eastern edge of campus and right on the main drag.

It was near off campus housing and the student shopping area. It was a great place, but needed painting and carpets. By the time we had paid the first and last month rent and one month’s security deposit and completed the rehab of the space we had blown through all $ 8,000 left from our seed money from MCM corporate.

But I had built a war chest of $ 15,000 on my own. And we were tearing through that as well at a rapid rate. But I was not worried because I had a lot of confidence in Greg Ball the evangelist sent us by MCM corporate.

Greg Ball, in my opinion, was the best evangelist and preacher in MCM.

Whether in a small group or a large crowd no one could top him. His sermons were effortless, he had a boyishness about him that attracted both men and women, he was good-looking and fearless. He also had a hair-trigger temper and a manic focus on his goals that nothing could stand in the way of. Helen, his side kick and wife, was a sweet, beautiful and gracious southern girl who was an inveterate campaigner with the added benefit of keeping Greg’s testosterone in check. Well as much as that could be done, that is.

Greg, Helen and I quickly learned our roles and how to work as a team.

At our first frat we had about thirty guys and little sisters in the common room. We showed the surfer short movie, Greg did his, “Jesus is looking for real men and women to take over the world,” talk that lasted ten minutes. I would ask for people to bow and close their eyes and commit and then to look me in the eye and then to stand up. Greg, Jim [my co-pastor], Helen, and I would afterwards go immediately after those that committed; we would bee line for the sharpest ones there. Helen being a gorgeous blonde haired sweet talking Ole Miss graduate did nothing to hurt our efforts

The upshot was that at the end of the first week we had snagged about thirty kids including two frat Presidents.

That Saturday, at our first service, we had to turn people away at the door of the Maranatha Hall during the showing of The Cross and the Switchblade and I spent the entire movie out on the front steps witnessing to people who wanted to get inside to see what all the fuss was about.

After the movie, Greg stood up and ripped out a twenty-minute tour-deforce sermon;  the kind that would bring a grown man to his knees about Jesus and his suffering, and his looking for the faithful that would follow him, and, the fate of those that did not.

It was an exhausting night with many, many, prayer and counseling and “hootah” sessions. We were completely understaffed for such a response.

At about one a.m. that morning the hall had cleared out and the ten of us including Greg and Helen sprawled on the stage, exhausted and in awe of what had just happened.

Greg, if my numbers are right, we just topped one hundred commitments and we will be baptizing all week-long.” I said. We high-fived each other and Helen said a beautiful prayer thanking God.

Then Greg threw his head back and laughed “Brother God is just getting started.

Well the first month was heaven, Greg and Helen were there the first three weeks of our kick off. We had a church with over 100 converts at the end of that time. It was insane, in so many ways, of course.

One of my best memories is the night we gave it a rest and went over the Jim and Dana’s house (my co-pastor and wife). All of the MCMers who had joined us were there along with a few of our first fruit converts. Jim was cooking on the grill and Dana threw some records on and we were all dancing and singing…and Helen and Greg were jitterbugging like professionals.

Now Greg had a hair-trigger temper.  I interrupted him during one of his frat talks, I don’t remember why, but in the parking lot he dressed me down.

“When I am speaking NEVER interrupt me, because you are interrupting GOD when you do that!’ he shouted.

I was taken aback and had planned on confronting him about it afterwards, but the funny thing was he acted, five minutes later, like it had never happened. Walking into hall with his arm around my shoulder laughing and joking about the night.

I truly believe Greg to have been one the most gifted preachers and evangelists in North America (he still might be). [Editor’s note: After the breakup of MCM Greg founded a ministry focused on pro-sports players called Champions for Christ. After allegations of fraud and other improprieties Greg left CFC  after Tikie’s blog was published in 2006-2007. Greg also served on the board of MSI/Every Nation Churches but left the board. CFC continues to be dogged by controversies and is associated with Every Nation (EN) churches). 

But Greg had a temper and an ego, and his involvement in MCM, his ongoing collaboration with Rice Broocks and Phil Bonnasso and EN, served to warp and twist his personality until, in his mind, the ministry he worked in and his own ego became inseparable. An environment with more restraint, and a more honest assessment of leadership would have served Greg much better.

The first week in October Greg and Helen headed off for their next assignment…and our troubles began shortly  thereafter.

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

#46 Reality Check

Reality Check

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

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

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

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

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

I turned into a mini-me MCM shepherd and  the very thing I despised I now became. Okay not to the extent of Marty; but enough to make me ashamed of how I treated people.
************

By the Numbers
In business today my company takes great pains to understand why people purchase from us and where we get our business from.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it came at  the cost of many ruined lives.

 

#45 What It Took To Succeed At MCM

 

Editors: Tikie now introduces us to Phil Bonasso one of his close friends at Auburn. Phil later moved to into the top level of leadership within MCM. After MCM imploded, Phil, Rice Brooks, Steve Murrel along with other MCM pastors founded what is now Every Nation Church (EN).

Tikie and others (including Edward Dalcour) believed that EN has many, but not all, of the same abusive practices of MCM.

In this chapter Tik, using Phil as an example, shows what kind of person it took to climb into the upper level of MCM.

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

How To Succeed at MCM

Auburn, Alabama August 1979

“Eager for action and hot for the game
The coming attraction, the drop of a name
They knew all the right people, they took
all the right pills
They threw outrageous parties, they paid heavenly bills
There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face
She pretended not to notice, she was caught up
in the race

Out every evening, until it was light
He was too tired to make it, she was too tired
to fight about it”

“Life in the Fast Lane”  by the Eagles

***************
By the end of my story you will see that I was a miserable failure as a full-time Pastor and leader at MCM.

But not everyone failed and stumbled the way I did. Some thrived and grew like weeds in a well-watered field. Phil Bonasso was just such a person and had what it took to succeed within MCM and more.

He and a few others engineered the MCM break up (not the public story given about the break-up) overthrew Bob and Joe. They then built what became Every Nation out of the ashes of MCM.

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

I headed to the west side of Campus on a warm sunny afternoon to visit my friends Matt and Annie at campus married student housing

Arriving I saw my friend Matt coming down the ramp of a U-Haul moving van struggling with a piece of furniture. In the background a stereo blared music and I caught myself keeping time with the Eagles song “Life in the Fast Lane”.

I started.  No one in MCM would play rock and roll and certainly not a song by the Eagles.

I dropped my bike and ran up to help Matt. Sweat was pouring down his face.

“Thanks Bro,” he puffed as we manhandled a recliner down the ramp.

Then I heard a shout in a baritone voice: “G-L-O-R-Y !!!! T-O G-O-D!!!!!!!!!! G-L-O-R-Y!!!!!!! H-A-L-L-E-U-J-A-H !!!!

Startled, I looked up and saw a stocky figure with a shock of black bushy hair step out of the apartment door.

PRAISE JESUS- GLORY!” he continued yelling. The guy shouting sounded like one of the old-time tent revivalists that I use to hear at my Grandmother’s country church.

I did not know what to make of it.

Then Matt shouted back to him, “H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H NASSO!”

The stocky guy burst into peals of laughter as we put the recliner down.

I looked the newcomer over as he walked over to me. He stood about 5’ 6″ tall with a huge shock of curly black hair, bushy eyebrows, full lips and large blue eyes.

His face lit up in a broad smile that reached to the corner of his eyes and then baritone voice boomed, full of laughter and good will.  “Mattie, my brother, is this the Tik you’ve been telling me about? The famous Tikie???”

”You got it bro!” shouted Matt.

This new guy put his arms around me in a bear hug and said in a low rumbly voice, “Praise God Brother, Matt has told me so much about you and the great work that God is doing here at Auburn! Glory!”

He said all this with rumbling chuckle and I realized that the “Glories to God” and “Praise Gods” that he and Matt exchanged were half serious and half in jest.

Matt looked to me and said “Tikie this is the brother I have told you about Phil Bonasso, or Nasso as I call him!”

The rock music continued to blare in the background. Phil continued to talk, shout, and sing nonstop the entire three hours we were there. I would learn this was pretty much the way he always was in his waking hours.

It was not the irritating hyperactivity of Bob Weiner; Phil’s constant monologue had a cheerful humor to it.

Later that night we sat on the apartment floor eating pizza and listening to Phil expound on how God was going to use him to bring God’s kingdom back to earth just like the Force had used Luke Skywalker in the recently released second episode of Star Wars.

Little did I know that day that Phil would rise into the top ranks of MCM. There he would be part of the coterie that “overthrew” Bob and Joe, and  would then use some of the disparate ministries that survived the break-up to form what became Every Nation church, which in many ways what I believe to be one of the successors to MCM.

***********

Here are a few vignettes about Phil, not in chronological order by the way, that show the type of person that could rise into the upper-echelons of MCM.

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

Bob had his eye on me in late 1980 and, when the Auburn Music Group went to Georgia Tech to help with the outreach there, he pulled me out front to give a 5 minute testimony before he launched into his sermon. Afterwards, ignoring all the sheep, Bob had approached me saying, “Great work brother, and great message.”

You should understand that those who worked with Bob regularly knew that good work went unnoticed, usually, and any infraction, perceived or real, found his immediate disfavor with rapid punishment following.

So being around Bob for extended periods was all downside, no upside.

Of course, we non full-time “sheep” were not aware of this, but the brothers who were at this outreach, including Phil, were very impressed that Bob and I talked frequently.

As I think about it many brothers, including Matt and Miltie, scattered when Bob approached; instinctively they knew that being in his immediate vicinity, especially during a busy and hectic ministry opening, could only bring more work, more exhortation, and perhaps punishment. I think I was to naïve to understand this, and perhaps too cocky to believe that I could get nailed.

But standing right there with me whenever Bob stopped to speak to me that weekend was Phil; and he was both impressed and extremely interested in all of this.

Phil hovered around Bob all weekend.

Afterwards He said “Tikie, I really want to talk to you about something, something I have noticed about you.”

I thought he was going to ask me about my fruit or prayer or something like that. He leaned over and asked, “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Get Bob’s attention, he’s all over you. How did you get him to notice you? I want to get next to him to get to know him. I think Maranatha’s got the right stuff; and if I can show them the latent power of God present in the W-O-R-D,” he drawled this “word” out in his deep baritone voice dripping with drama and intensity, “this thing [meaning MCM] will go places that no other group can go. It will explode in terms of Fruit. G-L-O-R-Y!”

He did not ask me about getting close to Jesus, rather he obsessed about getting close to Bob.

He did not hide this and, in fact, later said “I am going will be Bob’s right hand man, just watch me, Glory to God!”

“I am going to BE someone in MCM, I am Tikie, I promise!”

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

We went in 1980 or 81 (just before going I went full time) to the massive “Washington for Jesus” rally in DC with another brother “Bert”.

Typical Maranatha. None of us, including Phil had any money to speak of.

Together the three of us had pooled about $100 and we caravanned up with about 150 other Auburnites. No hotels for Phil, Bert, or me, we were going to sleep where-ever, as was the rest of our group.

Benches, grates whatever, that is where we would sleep for we were God’s Green Berets right? We could tough it out.

So much for the prosperity message.

Well the “ Washington for Jesus” festival complete with speakers and Bands and such was at JFK stadium in DC. We arrived late that afternoon and attended the first evening opening session and applauded the speakers as the droned on about God’s new kingdom.

At the end of the session Mike Caulk and Mike Godwin told us Auburnites where to gather the next morning at 9:00 am and they split.

Bob had spoken at this huge opening rally and we understood he was staying at the Washington Hilton with the other top leaders.

Afterwards we decided to find a place to bed down and sleep with the rest of the Auburnites, none of whom had hotel reservations, nor could a afford a room, regardless.

Now there was one problem with MCM’s plan, or lack thereof.

Those pesky DC police, for some reason, would not allow anyone to sleep in a public space (you can imagine that if they allowed this DC would be over-run with campers non stop). So there we were, along with 4,000 other MCMers, with our sleeping bags, and blankets, with the DC police chasing us all around the city.

And all the while Bob and Rose Weiner are enjoying the luxury of a suite at the Washington Hilton where I imagine they had room service delivered for breakfast the next morning.

Finally, and it is around 1:00 am, we are punch drunk and dead tired after a 10 hour car ride and attending an exhausting five-hour rally. The police have arrested a few folks who gave up and put their bags down and tried to get a little sleep. Right into the paddy wagon they went along with drunks, crack addicts, and common criminals.

No thanks!

So Bert, Phil, and I sneak into a courtyard with a small garden near the FBI building.

Mind you the city is lousy with police, kicking people out of their sleeping backs and threatening to arrest them if they stop moving, much less if they lay down again.

But Phil stands up and in his best MCM Prophet’s voice shouts out, “I command you demons to leave here so God’s children can get some rest and in the mighty name of Jesus I blind these police, GLORY TO GOD shabalalla ba shallala!!”

Now, I am looking at him like he is crazy.

We had learned the hard way, over the last hour, that sleeping at night in a public place in DC is against the law and that the police were enforcing this law whether we like it or not.

And I didn’t particularly want to spend a night in the DC jail being a “butch” for some ugly six-foot nine criminal named Big Al.

But Phil turns to Bert and me and says, “Okay brothers- its nap time.” He proceeds to unroll his sleeping bag and foam mat, and then, he gets in the bag, and is snoring in about two minutes.

Just like that.

Me, I turn, look at Bert, and say, “You heard him, its nap time”.

And in about a minute we are all laying in our sleeping bags, dead to the world, and not a cop sees us, or notices us, all night. I am pretty sure, from what I heard afterwards, that no one, in the Auburn Ministry, with the exception of Bert, Phil, or me, got any sleep that night.

Was it luck we did not get arrested or were the cops actually blinded to our presence that night?

The plan called for meeting the MCM Auburn team promptly at 9:00am the next morning or we would face the wrath of Marty. But, believe it or not, we did not wake up in our little sleeping garden outside of the FBI until 8:30 am. Unlike everyone else we got about 7 hours of sleep.

Now I was a “do bee” and Phil was a “God is in control not Marty” kind of guy.

I shook Phil and Bert and said, “C’mon guys, we have to meet at the Lincoln Mall in 30 minutes. I don’t want to get grief from Marty.”

It was at least a twenty-minute walk so I was right to tell the guys to get moving. We could not be late or Marty would punish us, I told them.

Phil looked at me from his heavy-lidded eyes and said, “First Tikie we aren’t going anywhere until we grab some breakfast. We gotta have our strength. Second, who made Marty pope? He isn’t anything to me, praise Jesus!!!!!”

By this time he was standing up with a big wide grin on his face.

“You know Tikie your problem is you THINK too much, just go with the flow and look for the opportunity. You put Marty in his place and people will see you have power!” and he laughed with that beautiful deep laughter of his.

“You see Tikie you need to turn THIS OFF,” and he slapped my head and continued, “before God can turn THIS ON” and he slapped my chest..

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

Many a night I spent at the Bonnasso’s with Matt and Allie, or with Phil and Karen at Matt and Allie’s place.

Or perhaps Mitlie, Matt, Phil, and I were hanging out at Chanello’s Pizza playing PacMan and Space Invaders together doing these“guy” kind of things. But Phil was always talking about his destiny regardless of the setting.

One night in his apartment, after Karen had hit the sack, Phil and I talked about my concerns with MCM, Bob Weiner, and how the whole thing operated. Phil listened closely and attentively as I shared my feelings and he never took issue with anything I was saying.

But he said something I thought was strange.

“Tikie,” he said, “I am pretty much convinced that this thing is a cult, but how else are we going to control these people? They are adrift and need direction. It is the only way to bring God’s Kingdom to reality!”

And with that he slapped me on the back and asked, “How about some popcorn bro?”

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

After the great send-out Phil’s ministry grew like a weed and he rapidly moved into the upper-echelons of MCM. Phil hung around Bob at MLTS and outreaches constantly, fetching him water, praising his every word, doing anything he could to get noticed.

He really had no true respect for either Bob or Joe, I think.

Rather he, like some other Pastors, saw MCM as an opportunity to set up his own church and build his power base.

And my understanding is that he, along with some other key pastors, were sick of Bob’s threats and antics. We will see later what they did about this and why… the real secret to MCM’s breakup… not the public pablum that was put out afterwards.

 

#6 The Line- October 17, 1978

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am getting ahead of myself.

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

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

With that comment they all broke into laughter.

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

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

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

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

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

At least as far as I was concerned.

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

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

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

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

She got that cute grin that I really liked.

After dinner that I sprung the news to her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This place is really hopping,” I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was.

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

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

And with that the three of us headed upstairs.

#4 The Bait- October 1978

Editor’s note: Soon after this was published on Tik’s original blog he was contacted by Ellen (not her real name) who immediately apologized for being the bait that helped draw him into the group. Of course Ellen, according to Tikie, was just as much, if not more, of a victim than he was. Ellen was not to blame for Tikie’s involvement and he asked us to make this certain point. Tikie’s theory about how people ensnare themselves in sociological cults, which he discusses later in this blog, makes this perfectly clear. In short Ellen was a victim of MCM, no more, no less.

Saturday October 1978: Ellen

The rain pelted hard against the window panes as I walked down the winding stairs.  Reaching the first floor landing I could hear the blaring television from the empty TV room of the fraternity house.

Auburn had a game scheduled that afternoon with the University Tennessee in Knoxville some six hours away. The social chairman of our fraternity had organized a bus trip that would drive members to the game for the weekend. About half of our fraternity and their dates left for the all night bus trip (translation: a drunken all night brawl) around midnight the night before. From my perspective it did not seem like the trip there and back would be much fun unless your idea of entertainment involved a shower in Miller Beer and having someone vomit all over you and with no way to get cleaned up. The rest of my fraternity brothers had either headed home for the weekend or were perhaps holed up somewhere studying or sleeping off the previous night’s fun.

For once the house was as quiet as Auburn’s Draughn Library. So rather than heading there I settled down for a study session in the deserted social room. No sooner had I opened my books than there came a loud knock from the front of the house; which I found both startling and strange.

Startling, because apparently the knock came from a metal door knocker on the front door of our Greek columned Frat House. Until that point I did not know that such a door knocker even existed. Strange because no one, at least not during in my two years of living at the house, had EVER used the elaborately carved front door. Ever!

I opened the door and there, framed by that door, stood a gorgeous black-haired, dark-eyed girl. Next to her, ramrod straight, stood a tall blond guy. Both had their arms full of colorful flyers and posters. Each wore  the preppy style clothing that had swept the campus this fall ( for you youngsters we were just moving out of the John Travolta/ polyester suit phase!).  He with penny loafers, khakis and a buttoned down shirt; she wearing tight pants and a form-fitting black sweater.

And me being 19 years old, well, I am not ashamed to admit that her figure and looks had me nailed!

WOW!

She smiled, he smiled, [rows of white teeth!] and she said, “We are  with a new group of kids from UT Martinsville who are establishing a college outreach at Auburn and wondered if we could put a couple of posters up?”

The blond guy reached out to shake my hand and soon we were sitting in the social area  with the pair peppering me with questions.

I guess I grew up early but even as a nine or ten-year old I noticed that people’s conversations tend to center on themselves, their experiences, their feelings and interests.

It’s just the way most people are.

My early social success, and many of my later ones even today as  President of a large company, center on the fact that if you focus on what interests people, and on what they have accomplished, you can get them to do almost anything for you and they will think you are a WONDERFUL conversationalist to boot.

Now these two very good-looking people caught me way off guard for they kept pushing the conversation towards me, my interests, my experiences and what motivated me in school and in life. I found this both disconcerting and exhilarating at the same time.

The whole conversation stuck me as an unusual  one and this should have been a warning for me.

Well with this very pretty girl showing a great deal of interest in me I stayed engaged in the conversation. Her beauty, warm smile and charm lowered my guard. Her handsome side kick showed a great deal of interest in everything I said as well.

Looking back on it I should have asked myself, “Why are two perfect strangers so immersed and mesmerized by my story?”

Over the following years I came to stark conclusions about their attitude towards me that day; but I’ll save them until later-on.

I finally managed to turn the conversation back to them.

“What kind of outreach brings you to Auburn?” I asked them.

“And who is this Bob Weiner and the Praise Band that your poster is advertising? ”

“And why set up yet ANOTHER campus ministry at Auburn?”

This last question was an important one because  Rat Riley and Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) had a huge following at Auburn. In addition the Navigators met each week in differing locations on campus, Intervarsity had a thriving group and the Wesley Foundation, with its massive near campus center, attracted a large assembly of kids every Saturday and Wednesday night.  The BSU (Baptist Student Union), one of the groups I hung out with, had a huge membership.  And the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (the FCA) had a number of high-profile varsity jocks attending their twice weekly meetings.

Good Lord Auburn served as the brass plate of the Bible Belt and yet these guys were building a new church here?

Both of them, it turned out had come from Martinsville TN and had spent two years there with Maranatha Ministries building out that campus ministry. Before that they worked with the same Maranatha Ministries in Paducah, Kentucky.

They told me that they followed Jesus (I thought it odd that they always used the name Jesus, never Christ or Jesus Christ the way I had learned to do as a kid) and that they had sold out to Jesus. When they spoke of Bob, their leader, they became animated and excited.

“He is really something else, a dynamo,  and he leads people who really want to follow Jesus… just the way the original disciples did two thousand years ago. You will love Bob!”

For some reason, and I don’t think that either of them intimated this, I came away from this conversation thinking  that Maranatha Campus Ministries  and Maranatha Music (the newly minted Christian Music Company that produced songs that I loved)  were one and the same thing.

But that assumption was dead wrong.

They found out that I served in the student government and that I also served as the newly elected president of my social fraternity. They acted impressed and excited about this. I did not consider the implications of this strange enthusiasm about my  leadership position in the frat. In contrast, the Baptist Student Union leader, Chris, actually counseled me against taking on this new role as President.

“Too much risk and time involved,” he had counseled.

After talking awhile they told me God had given me strong leadership gifts. They said that I should see my leadership ability as a gift (which I believed and still do believe).

But later that night it struck me as odd that they would say all of this without really knowing anything about me.

Then Ellen (not her real name), asked me, “Are you really using all of your potential in the way that God would have you use it?”

What a loaded and carefully aimed question she asked!

I had to answer that I probably had not done so. Her question went right to my soul because I had  grappled with this since high school.

I still grapple with that question today.

They asked if I would come to a service that evening at the Maranatha House: an old fraternity house the group refurbished over the summer. In addition they mentioned that the Maranatha sponsored rock group, the Praise Band, continued to play ‘gigs’ all over campus.

“Could the Praise Band perform this Tuesday during lunch at the Fraternity House and could our leader, Bob Weiner, speak afterwards?”

Again I made the mistake of thinking that this was a band sponsored by Maranatha Music and that thought really jazzed me up.

Now technically the social chairman and social committee of the frat had to approve such a request from an outside group. But I thought, “This fraternity could use a dose of Christian music and if Bob Weiner is anything like these two I am it sure could do this Fraternity some good.”

Over the next few years I would see this decision to allow the Praise Band  to play, and Bob Weiner to preach, at my fraternity as the best decision I had ever made and one clearly inspired by God.

But now I see the decision that day as a very sad one, and one that would bring heartache to many, including myself.

But I have long since realized that we make our decisions and mistakes and live with them ourselves.

However, I often wonder what would have happened if I had given Ellen and Randy the boot that day.