#40 Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation within MCM

 

Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation

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

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

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

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

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

A much better analogy would be that of a plantation.

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

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

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

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

Now there were grades within this lowly single brother hierarchy.

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

Or so they believed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe for good, maybe for bad.

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

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

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

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

Music was very important to MCM, extremely important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that would come much later.

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

In Missy’s words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#27 Robbing the Poor for Jesus

Editor’s Note: In this chapter Tik reveals one source of MCM’s income but not its only, or even its most important, revenue source. In a later post Tik goes into detail on how MCM derived revenue from its operations and describes MCM’s  business model. None the less this chapter demonstrates how destructive sociological groups use member’s money not only to enrich themselves but to also impoverish members which in turn, makes these members even more dependent on the group.

The night, after the uproar at my Frat House, I attended another Maranatha Service hosted by Joe Smith.

Joe had been at Auburn for about three weeks, preaching, prophesying and healing.

At that service that I was hailed like a conquering hero.

I was brought up on stage by Mike Caulk and Joe Smith who announced to the capacity crowd that, “This is what an overcoming Christian looks like. Tik, here, has taken a radical stand in his frat, he has seen many people in his frat saved and brought out of the frat. Because of this he is being persecuted and God has called him to shake the dust from that place off his sandals.”

Maybe I was being persecuted…but I also had stopped doing my work as President.

The fact of the matter was that no one in the frat was suggesting that I leave the frat because I was involved in Maranatha. But they WERE suggesting that if I were going to accept room and board for being President that I should attend to my duties.

It was that simple.

Up on stage Joe got that far away prophet look of his, and with a beaming smile said, “You know Tik I believe that the Lord has a word for you.”

He then placed his hands on my head.

I looked up at him expectantly.

“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts I am well pleased with my servant Tik for he has been obedient to my call and I have given him the first fruits. You have become a mighty warrior for me and yea the enemy is now fleeing from you. And behold, I am calling you as a mighty evangelist and I say that if you are faithful to me, and if you bear fruit, and if you are faithful to my Body, I, the Lord God of Hosts, will use you mightily and thousands will be saved because of your ministry.”

It was a thrilling prophecy.

This was especially so since it was coming from the number two man at Maranatha and it’s chief prophet. Essentially the prophesy said that I was being called to full time ministry.

Being called to full time service was a huge thing in the MCM hierarchy, for it meant that you had God’s anointing, the same anointing that, perhaps, Silas and Paul had possessed.

Of course, as you probably noticed, and I did not at that time, there were a whole bunch of “ifs” tied to being full time: “if” I was faithful to God, “if” I bore fruit, and “if” I was faithful to the Body, then yes, I would be a full time evangelist.

After the service I spoke with Marty about the arrangements for moving into the Maranatha House.

There were about 15 brothers living there in 20 rooms at the House. Five of my frat brothers, following my example were leaving the frat. Three of them would move into the Maranatha House to live. The other two were living off campus. They would not be moving in to the Maranatha House because of lease considerations.

The rent at the Maranatha house was $ 85 per month, about $100 less than the frat house rent for a room/month.

The catch was that the savings were illusory; because I had not had to pay rent since my freshman year because as Rush Chairman last year (a job that actually took more time than being President) and, as President this year, I got a free ride for rent and food.

Now my food at MCM would cost about $ 100/month. The single brothers and sisters pooled their money and took turns cooking and cleaning up. And  single brothers and sisters would eat their meals at the House every evening. Once again this was cheaper than the frat house, but since my meals were part of my free “package” as frat president, it actually cost me money.

Back at the frat house that night I did the calculations. This was going to cost me at least $ 185 per month and I currently had about $ 700 in the bank. Enough for five months- but without ANY spending money left over. No trips home, no phone calls no nothing.

Oh, and there was ONE other thing I have forgotten to mention.

Something that had happened after one of the services that week.

Marty had pulled me aside after a service and said, “Brother, we need to talk about something.”

“Okay,” I said and we went into main office on the first floor.

He shut the door. “You know Tik, everything we have belongs to God.”

Then he pointed out a scripture in James and read loud, “Every good and perfect gift comes from God.”

“All we have comes from God- and God asks that we give a portion of it back to Him.” He pointed to the scripture in Malachi that said bring your tithes to the store house. He also then referenced the scripture that states that if you fail to tithe you are, “…robbing from God.”

I just looked at him.

I believed everything he said, for goodness sake I was raised a Southern Baptist and they preached on tithing and giving like nobody’s business.

“I believe what you are saying is true, Marty.”

“Maybe so Tik, but I have been watching you the last two weeks and I have not seen you put any money into the offering.”

“Marty, there is a simple reason for that, I don’t have any money and I have zero income,” I laughed. It was true- other than selling books door to door in the summer for a Bible publishing company I had zero income.

“How are you going to school then? How are you paying your way?” he asked.

I explained to him my free ride at the Frat and told about my engineering scholarship money and the fact that I worked a job in the summer to save enough for spending money during the year.

Marty said, “God is not going to bless you unless you return a portion of your money to him. You should plan on giving at least 10% every week of what you have every week- and then also give money above this- this additional giving is called an offering. He read the scripture to me out of Malachi that described tithes and offerings.

“Otherwise you are not being obedient to God.”

Marty was dead serious.

He meant that if I did not give money to Maranatha I was robbing from God and was being disobedient.

I said, “Marty I am not sure how I am going to pull this off.”

“Brother lets pray that God will work this out.”

And we prayed. But my mind continued to worry this like a dog picking at a bone.

On the way home I continued to recite the scripture that, “God will take of my needs according to His riches in glory.”

#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.

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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.

#17 A Completely New Family

Saturday October 1978

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

But at that moment my mind was on other matters.

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

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

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

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

A new comer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about Sheila?

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

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

Where did any of my old friends fit in?

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

New brothers and sisters in Jesus they were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He smiled, “Worried about Sheila, hey?”

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

I hoped it had not been stolen.

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

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

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

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

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

At least for now.

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

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

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

No answer.

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

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

Oh Well.

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

Then I scrawled at the bottom of the note.

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

I slid the note under the door to her room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was clapping and shouting.

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

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

Bob waited until the noise subsided.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Amen!” we all shouted back in unison.

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

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

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

“This is my husband Matt.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karen and Phil Bonasso.

But all of this would come much later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he laughed.

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

He paused.

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

Then he looked at Mike and Missy Caulk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#15 First Chastisement

 

Maranatha House, Auburn University, circa 1979

Friday night-Saturday morning- MCM House

My new “brothers and sisters” in Christ gave me hugs as they left that night. I stood in the cool October air on the columned porch of the Maranatha House and watched them walk up the street arm in arm.

Some 25 years later I still cannot forget the expressions on their faces of hope, joy, and love. And it was because of my witness for Jesus and my new radical stand.

It had to be that, right?

In seven years as a Christian I had not seen ONE soul saved and in the space of six days, BAMO!, six hard-core non-religious types saved, baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues; the whole shooting match.

An, “Ahem” woke me from my reverie. Marty stood by my side. He pushed his glasses up on his nose.

“Tik,” Marty said, “lets go inside and talk.”

It was after 1:00 am on Saturday morning and I had  a grand total of 6 hours sleep in the last three days.

I was starting to see double.

The House had mostly cleared out.  Small clusters of people huddled in corners of the meeting room; some doing many praying it appeared. But other than that the two hundred or so people who had been there for the service were gone.

Marty led me into the office and took a seat in one of the expensive and beautiful wing backed chairs that flanked the mahogany desk.

“So, Tik, how are you doing?” he said.

“Marty, I couldn’t be doing better. I mean what Jesus is doing here is incredible and to see Ricky, Rhonda, Fred, and Roger all becoming overcoming sold out to Jesus Christians …well I am speechless!” I exclaimed.

“It is wonderful, isn’t it?” he commented, in a voice of excitement. “Tik, God is going to use you, but I think it is important to understand HOW he uses us. You are bearing fruit but it is important to understand why.”

My mind was muddy from lack of sleep. Maybe that was why I was not following his line of questioning and did not understand where he was leading this conversation.

“Well, I think the explanation is the Holy Spirit and my prayers,” I said.

“I actually asked God to let me bear fruit Thursday morning. And it happened. I asked in Faith believing, just like Bob told us to, and then it happened.”

“Faith and the Holy Spirit and your prayers were certainly part of it,” he emphasized the word “part” slowly and carefully.

“But the real reason you are bearing fruit is because of your radical commitment to being a disciple and commitment to Jesus and His Body.

Well, what he said was true I supposed.

I invited Robert, Ricky, and Rhonda strictly because I knew that was what a totally committed person would do. Fred had approached me because of my total commitment to Christ.

“Yeah” I said, “I can see what you mean.”

“Tik, we talked about counting the costs, the night we met, right?” asked Marty.

“What in the world is he driving at,” I thought, “he certainly will get no disagreement from me on being sold out.”

“Right,” I replied to his question.

“That means not forsaking each other, keeping our commitments to our fellow brothers and sisters, being faithful to do what we say we are going to do each and every time… you do understand this concept, right? This is the REAL difference in who we are and what separates us from the world and fake watered down Christians we see everywhere.”

“Right,” I said again; nodding my head.

“That means that when you or I don’t keep our commitments we let the entire Body down. This is especially true for the gift of leadership like you . God is already demonstrating that he has called you out to lead.” Marty continued.

I still had no idea what in the world he was talking about. I was so tired my head was starting to nod downwards; but I did my best to concentrate on the conversation.

“When we leaders don’t keep our commitments it can cause weaker brothers to stumble, to lose confidence in what we are doing, and they miss out on our encouragement.”

I said nothing. I was in a daze.

Then as Marty continued it became crystal clear what this conversation was about.

“The Bible says we should encourage and admonish people especially those under our care. We missed you this morning Brother.”

He was talking about the 6:00 am discipleship meeting this morning (Friday) that I had missed. I had missed it, of course, because of the all-nighter I had pulled. And I was forced into this all-nighter because of my three consecutive nights of Maranatha activities into the wee hours of the morning.

I wish I could tell you that this is what went through my head at the time.

But it was not.

Instead my thought was, “Rats, I knew I should not have put my head on the desk at 5:00 am this morning to catch a few winks. I let Marty and my brothers in Christ down.”

“Sorry Marty, I said, “I got caught up in an all-night study session and fell asleep by accident.”

“Look, Tik, we all make mistakes, these things happen, but as God’s Green Berets we must set a higher standard than anyone. Your first priority is to the Kingdom and what God is doing. For one simple reason this is so: it is the only ETERNAL thing in your life, the rest is temporary, it will pass away;  it will not matter in the end. But your work for the Kingdom will endure forever.”

This was all said in a very kind and gentle tone.

Please, Dear Reader, don’t mistake me, Marty said this in complete sincerity with an air of concern and belief that he was helping me. He was utterly and completely convinced of the truth and goodness of what he spoke.

“Look at what you are producing for God. But remember, He can only use tools that are molded for his purposes.” he continued.

“Let’s covenant with one another that we will put the things of God first; that we will be the point of God’s spear, the over-comers that Bob preached about tonight.”

“Amen?”

“Amen” I answered. This is what I wanted. He was right, it seemed, the results were coming and I told him that he could count on me. That when all others fell I would still be standing.

We hugged and Marty mentioned that the discipleship group would be meeting a little later on Saturday.

“It has been a long week. Go get some sleep Tik.  We will start at 9:30 am tomorrow to move the chairs and tables we are borrowing from the Jewish Community Center in Opelika. I will see you then.”

That was great, for if it took us two hours to do this I would have plenty of time to head back up the frat house and meet Sheila for the pre-game cookout at 12:30 pm. Then we could head to the game at 1:30 pm. I was looking forward to catching up with her.

For the truth was I was missing Sheila’s company.

#11 Discipleship

The cool morning wind tousled my hair as I laughed hysterically. My fraternity brother and new Christian brother, Robert, sped past me and cut me off waving and laughing as he did so. I put it into high gear, pumping the pedals for all I was worth, with the tires of my Schwinn humming underneath me. But there was no way to win this race, at least not this morning, that took us from the frat house to the MCM house.

Robert sped into the graveled parking lot behind the MCM House just as the bell tower at Sanford Hall, the huge Victorian pile about a mile away from us, struck the hour of 6:00 am. We slung our bikes onto the ground, hoisting our backpacks onto our shoulders and ran, out of breath, towards the back door.

Our thrice weekly shepherding meeting with Marty started at 6:00 am and we were late!

Peering around the dark meeting room of the house we slowly opened the door that led up the narrow stairs. The house was dark and quiet… not a sound could be heard.

We looked at each other, shrugged and then stealthily made our way up the stairs stopping at the landing on the second floor. A light gleamed from down the hall  through a half closed door and we could hear someone brushing their teeth.  Otherwise not a sound could be heard in the hallway.

We walked down the hall and saw a narrow door with a sign taped to it. It read “Marty’s discipleship group 6:00 am SHARP on third floor- THIS WAY.”

So up this final (we hoped) set of stairs we trod. At the top landing the door opened into a gabled long room where we saw six other young men seated on the floor in a semi- circle. In the middle of the group sat Marty, our shepherd, on a hard folding chair.

Marty turned and with stone faced stare motioned us to take a seat at one end of the semi-circle of brothers.

“Brothers these are the newest sheep of the Body: Tik Tok and Robert Smith.”

As if on que each guy introduced himself and uttered a brief testimony that went something like this: “Marty/Steven/Miltie/Fred (one of the brothers) shared the true Gospel with me and God showed me his grace and His Spirit touched me and I have committed everything to the Lord Jesus and He is Lord of All.”

Not everyone said this exactly but that was the gist of it.

Marty then asked Robert and I to share our testimonies which we did, however briefly.

Then he stood up, pushing his chair back, and faced us.

“Brothers you are part of God’s movement on Earth today. He has called you and blessed you with that calling. He is calling us to a life of denial and service in His Name.”

He flipped open a well-worn and heavily marked Bible and read “…and he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

“Brothers we must deny ourselves so we can live for Jesus who said ‘he who tries to save his own life shall lose it but he who loses his life should gain it.”

Marty cleared his throat, pushed his glasses up his nose, and continued, “Those who are following Christ in Maranatha are God’s Green Beret’s and you, the single brothers, are the elite force within the Body. As Paul said it is better to be single… and why? So that we can focus all our energy on bringing about the Kingdom of Christ on earth as it is in heaven.”

So far what Marty said sounded right…we did have to deny ourselves and take up our cross and focus on the work of God… but I just was not sure where this was going.

But I found out soon enough.

“But, you see brothers, we cannot be the point of God’s spear if there is sin in our life and if we do not hold each other accountable. You see unconfessed sin will hold you back, it will keep the work of God that each of us must do from going forward.”

Marty flipped through his Bible and read from Hebrews reading, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress”

“We are running a race and if we are burdened with unconfessed sin it will slow us down. So each time we meet we are going to confess our sins to each and then repent. That way we keep the sin from weighing us down.”

Now frankly my internal radar went up with a “Bing Bing Bing.”

All my life I had been taught, that as Christians, we were high priests described in Hebrews and need not confess our sins to anyone but Christ. My grandmother was a rabid anti-Catholic and at Sunday lunch she would scold the Catholics saying ‘I feel sorry that they don’t know that they can confess their sins to Christ directly instead of through a priests.” I had been repeatedly taught this at the Baptist Sunday Schools and Training Union classes I had attended since being a small child.

So I was pretty sure that the admonition in the Bible about confessing our sins to one another meant confessing transgressions we had committed against another Christian; not confessing all of our sins to someone else.

But I said nothing about my doubts and once again stuffed another strange MCM scriptural interpretation into the “closet in my mind.” I mean who was I to question a guy like Marty who had given up everything to follow Christ?

Marty asked a guy at the other end of the circle to begin the session by confessing his sins from this week.

He hesitated, turned red and said “I lusted after a sister all week…and then… uh… I masturbated in the shower.”

I looked at Marty, but his expression did not change, he was stone faced.

“Okay everyone look at me- who else has this problem and wants to confess it?”

The other guys looked at the floor and then one by one the arms went up. Marty then let loose a prayer binding the “demons of lust and commanding Satan to flee.” He then told us the story of Joseph and said “if you have that urge you should come tell me about it immediately.”

I was pretty sure that was one edict I was going to disobey, but I said nothing and kept my gaze straight ahead.

Mike then went around the circle and had each guy confess at least one sin he had. Some seemed anxious to spill as many sins as they could, other thought for a moment and  would state a problem with sin they were having. After each brother spoke Mike would lay a hand on them and pray over them. The he would make a notation in a small leather bound notebook laying within his Bible.

My turn to confess was getting closer and my heart was pounding. I was racking my brain for a sin that would measure up to the ones I was hearing (none of them earthshattering; but to my naïve 19 year ears hearing a young man confess to lusting after another male seemed incredible).

Suddenly I saw Marty staring at me for… one… two… three seconds…and my heart thudded as I considered all of my many sins.

Finally, I stammered, “My sin is my huge ego which has driven me to try overachieve in my Christian walk this past week in the hopes of getting praise from you Randy, Sam and Bob.”  This was a true statement, because I wanted their approval more than anything, and it seemed to me a sin of pride and arrogance.

Marty rebuked the demon of pride and ego and spoke a prayer over me asking God to guard my heart against selfishness and made a notation in his notebook.

And I wondered about that notation.

I would soon learn that there was actually no Roman Catholic like confidentiality within MCM. At the shepherds meeting with the Pastors at MCM the sheep’s sin, how their Christian walk was progressing, any backsliding and required remedial action, were all openly discussed. This was the essence of MCM’s accountable discipleship.

But I knew nothing of that process at this point.

Finally, the session seemed over.

Marty crossed his arms and with a smile that did not reach his eye said in a low tone,“Let’s hold each other accountable each day and hour, if we feel we are going to fall, or are being tempted, we should reach out to another brother. We should hold each other accountable for bearing fruit, for completing our Red Book studies and for serving the Body. Remember Satan is seeking to devour those who are in God’s service.”

Then Marty paused, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, “Okay, it has not been announced yet but we are having a love feast at the House Saturday night. I will need all of you to be here at 8:00 am on Saturday morning. We are going to pile into cars, head to the Jewish Community Center in Opelika and pick up tables and chairs that they are lending us. So be sharp and be on time.”

With that everyone started gathering their things to leave to head to work or school.

As Robert and I were headed towards the stairs when Marty gestured to us; motioning us both to come over to see him with a flick of his hand.

He frowned said to us, “Brothers, you are the spear point of God’s army. You were late this morning to the disciplining meeting. That shows a lack of discipline and caring for the other brothers. I expect you to be on time and, in fact, to be early. We are overcomers and the Body is depending on us to set the example.”

He turned to get his things and I could see we had been dismissed.