#57 A Siren Song

“Square in your ship’s path are Sirens, crying 
beauty to bewitch men coasting by; 
woe to the innocent who hears that sound…
…the Sirens will sing his mind away 
on their sweet meadow lolling. There are bones 
of dead men rotting in a pile beside them 
and flayed skins shrivel around the spot. 
Steer wide; 
keep well to seaward; plug your oarsmen’s ears 
with beeswax kneaded soft; none of the rest 
should ever hear that song.”  Homer, writing of the fabled Sirens in the Odyssey

A Siren Call

[Editor’s Note: Phil  Bonasso went to University of Southern California in MCM’s so called “great send out” and established what became the largest MCM site on the west coast of the US. Later after MCM imploded he, along with Rice Broocks, Steve Murrell, and Greg Ball, founded Morning Star International (MSI) which later became Every Nation Church (EN). Amid allegations of financial misconduct and moral failings in the  churches he oversaw, Phil resigned from EN a short time after Tikie published his original posts. He is now listed as a missionary of Bethel World Outreach (BWO) and is pastor of a church in Los Angeles CA called Story Teller Church.  Although it is not clear from BWO’s website, Rice Broocks, an Ex MCM Pastor, is the Bishop of BWO and is on the board of Every Nation Church. BWO is apparently nested within Every Nation churches.]

1983

I picked the phone up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

B-R-O-T-H-E-R … TICKIE!…ohhhh it is so goooood to hear you s-p-e-a-k,” said a familiar baritone voice.

The unmistakable sound of Phil Bonasso’s voice came rumbling through the telephone handset. Phil had headed to USC in the great send out and was enjoying great success there.

I did not say anything. I had not spoken to a “MCMer” in over twelve months.

“Tikie, b-r-o-t-h-e-r”, he rolled the “r” in an almost Spanish way, “are you there???…is that you…?”

What in the world was Phil calling me for? Well, time to find out, I guessed.

“Yeah Phil, it’s me…it’s Tikie here…”

“Hey Bro…just calling to tell you I miss you…Karen and I have been thinking of you and p-r-a-y-i-n-g for you brother. How A-R-E you doing?”

I clipped my words “Fine, Phil, I am fine.”

“Look Bro, I know that things have been hard, and some unfair things have been said about you Tikie. I don’t believe any of the stuff I heard. I know your heart….,” he paused, “…And I know God’s anointing on you Tikie. I truly do. GLORY!”

I stiffened, all of his MCM jargon was grating on me, but I determined that I would be unfailingly polite, and besides, MCM was still tugging at me, believe it or not. I had gone into a black hole with regards to news of my old friends, and as far as I knew, Bob Weiner and the Pope were getting married next week.

Maybe Phil could give me some news about what was up with everyone.

And it was actually good to hear his voice. It was comforting in an odd sort of way.

“Thanks Phil, it was no big deal actually,” I lied, “I just needed to get out of MCM… to get away. The things I saw, they were just not right and I could no longer support them.”

The memories that I worked daily to keep out of my head were now back with Phil’s call, invading my brain and constricting my breathing. It was funny I would go days without thinking about MCM, then I would see a Bible, or cut on a Christian radio station by mistake, or see something that triggered the memories.

Good or bad memories, it did not matter, they all seem to hurt my head, paralyze me, and bring tears to my eyes.

That was why I liked work…it helped me block out all of that stuff, especially the memories.

“Of course Tikie, of course,” he purred into the phone. “There are some things that ARE bad, that we are working to… well, to change and clear up. I am leading this effort…” his voice dropped to a whisper, “from the inside Tikie…from the inside.”

“Great Phil, that is great,” my voice dead panned.

”I know you are hurt Tikie; sure I do. I feel it. I hurt with you Tikie; but I think about you Tikie. I think about what God will do here on earth. Could do…through you.”

“Guess what Tikie?”

“What Phil?”

“Jesus has appeared to me three straight nights in a dream…really…it is getting where I am afraid to go to sleep, really I am.”

“Uh huh,” I grunted.

“And do you know what He said to me Tikie? Can you guess what Jesus said?”

Sweat started beading on my forehead.

“What Phil, what did Jesus say to you?”

“He told me to call you Tikie. To get on the phone and call you. I have resisted it Tikie, because I KNOW you are hurting…but the L-O-R-D told me to call you.”

I was really sweating now. This stuff still had an effect on me and it surprised me that I was reacting to it.

“Tikie, you know God has his hand on you. You KNOW he does. And the reasons you left, I KNOW about, I know WHY. You saw the bad stuff, I heard about Nick and all that, and I know you burnt out, and I know that Bob had, well, beaten you up. Bob can be unthinking, we all know that. But Tikie, B-R-O-T-H-E-R- we are doing a different thing out here on the West Coast. We are building something new…”

I said nothing but maintained my death grip on the phone.

He continued, “Something that will do away with the BAD things and KEEP the good things. The GOOD things that we both saw, and loved, when we got into MCM and the work of His Kingdom.”

“Look Phil, thanks but no thanks, I am through with MCM.”

“So am I Tikie, so am I. I mean, God is changing MCM, we are doing things differently like I said.”

Phil continued “A few of us have talked, the good guys. You know, Greg, Phil, Jim, Rice and others. You know Roger [my former frat brother], you love him, you guys are buds. Roger is my right hand guy, he is. It is all sweetness here Tikie, no condemnation, we don’t allow those hard-core guys to meddle with us. No Nick out here…. NO Joe Smith, I told Joe and Nick STAY AWAY. And you know when I say things I stand by them…you know that Tikie! You DO know that!”

I kept listening.

”And Greg, why he was out here last month, he and Helen; well we were talking about you… we ALL were…the fact that none of us reached out to you…well shame on us is what I say. Shame on us! Shame on me!…Shame on everyone!…we should all repent and I am repenting now…it was a b-a-d thing, it was, but we will make it right, we can, you know Tikie, you and me, we can make it right B-R-O-T-H-E-R!”

Phil, thanks for the apology and it is great talking to you.”

This was starting to scare the hell out of me and my hand holding the telephone was now shaking. I had to get off this call.

Quickly.

“Hold on Tikie hold on for just another minute my friend. LISTEN TO ME and see if you bear witness, to that small still voice, no pressure on you…none W-H-A-T-S-O-E-V-E-R.”

“Look…you come out here, I’ll front the airline ticket, no obligation. None. You move in with me and Karen– we have a nice place with a pool. You will love it. We will study the word, just me and you…no Bob, no Joe, no Nick. I don’t like that guy. Never had. He is a bully. It is sunny out here Tik. Southern California. Beautiful. I have this place on auto pilot Tik. I do. God does ALL the work. And we will get into the WORD and God will start his work in both of us…just me and you …and Jesus… we can do anything with Him…we can build it our way…the way God intended it. We will learn from each other we will. None of this MCM junk…Tik…you can just preach the word, no counseling, no discipling…Roger and me…we are doing a different thing here with Jesus and we are going to change all of MCM. God is going to do it through us!”

Well I listened to this stuff for about ten minutes. And it almost gave me flashbacks… and there was a small part of me that was saying “hmmm… just preaching…just the word… just me and Phil, hmmm.”

But I sissy slapped that thought down after about ten seconds.

“No thanks Phil. I do want you to know that it was nice of you to call and please tell Karen and Roger hello for me.”

“Don’t say no Tikie…pray about it first. Okay, you pray about it and call me back, promise?”

“Okay Phil, thanks again for calling.”

That was the first and only time I spoke with Phil post MCM.

*****************
You can draw your own conclusions about why Phil called and his motives for doing so.

The conversation unsettled me that is for sure. My clothes had soaked through with sweat during that fifteen minute call.

Unsettling for me because for a minute or two it sounded good…everything once again wrapped up in a pretty bow, neat and settled, good vs. evil, working for the kingdom, a purpose for my life that involved a higher calling. And for that reason Phil’s call probably scared me more than the call I had with Joe Smith when I had tried to reach Matt and Allie.

For it made me realize just how weak and pathetic I was some twelve months after leaving MCM.

 

 

#54 No Where To Turn

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Lutheran Pastor and Nazi resistor, who perished in a concentration camp.

For two days I sat in my room. I did drink some water. But I went another two days without eating a thing. The thought of eating made me sick.

Then I had a good thought. I knew someone who could help me.

Matt and Allie.

They protected me in the early days of MCM. Matt had set me free, without meaning to, by his lack of hootahing craziness and by taking me into the Auburn band. They were my best friends in the world.

Possibly the only friends I had.

So I picked up the phone and dialed their apartment in the Maranatha House at Auburn where they served as full time pastors.

“Please Dear God, let Matt or Allie answer.”

“Hello?”

Matt’s soft Alabama accented voice came on the line.

“Matt, it’s me Tikie.”

“Tikie, what in the world is going on with you? I heard from Jim that you bolted. They called here wanting to see if you were going to show up. Where are you?’

”I am home, with my folks Matt, I can’t take it…and of all people I am sure you know why.”

A pause and then a  subtle change came into in Matt’s tone. I could not pinpoint what was going on but his voice sounded strained.

”I am concerned about you big time brother. About your salvation and your soul.”

”What????” I thought, “This does not sound like Matt, not the Matt I know.”

He used MCM goobeldy gook, and, unlike me, Matt had never used that language. In fact, he and Miltie had running joke about it and would imitate Marty’s use of that double speak.

My radar went up immediately.

Perhaps I had upset Matt by my snub of him at the recent leadership conferences and MLTS.

“C’mon Matt, don’t give me that junk. You and I both know that this thing is rancid. It’s wrong. You and Allie of all people; why you knew it before I did, and I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT! So don’t give me that MCM official jive!”

“You are wrong Tikie… you need to come down here to Auburn or get to Gainesville…brother you need help…,”he paused.

Strange… it seemed someone was talking in his ear.Telling him what to say. Surely Allie was not feeding this junk. Other than Mitlie, Matt was the one guy I could be real with.  I always felt could take off the MCM mask, with no fear, in front of him.

“Matt, I am not getting anywhere near those people. Sure I’ll come see you, but we have to talk now Matt. What I have seen over the last ten months has sickened me. I should have seen it sooner or recognized it sooner, or admitted I was a stupid dupe.  I know you guys can help me… maybe we can help each other!”

Nothing on the other end…then this, “Tikie, you need to know that Joe Smith is here at Auburn, in fact he is standing beside me and wants to talk to you.”

My heart dropped and my knees buckled. This was unbelievable.

I called my best, and possibly only, friend in the world to honestly talk things over, and I get a one on one counseling session with Joe Smith instead.

The other guy with the flashlight in my nightmare was now going to counsel me.

“Tikie, what’s gotten into you son?” It was Joe Smith, Kentucky twang and all.

“You know better than just to run off without telling anyone what you are doing and where you are going. Satan is after you son…you just get in that car and drive on down to Auburn. You are in serious trouble and you need help NOW!”

I could sense the tension in Joe’s voice and the anger.

“But Joe…” I started.

“Tik, Tik… Tik- now you listen to me- Satan is grabbing you- I want you to down here now.”

I crouched down on my knees, the phone cradled against my ear, straining the cord and almost pulling it out of the wall. Tears streamed down my face and my stomach felt like someone was kicking me there, hard.

The voice on the other continued in that deep baritone twang, “Tik, I am very, very fearful for your eternal salvation and for your soul,” he said.

He was speaking as the official prophet and second in command of MCM.

“If you leave the ministry I will tell you that there is almost a 100% chance that you will backslide into sin, but there is an even more serious matter that concerns me.”

I grunted, and had now fallen almost face down into the shag carpet in my parents’ family room.

“The Bible,” Joe continued with his deep voice now taking on the tone of Gospel preaching, “says that it is better to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the sea than to lead the little ones astray. When you moved into full-time ministry, Tik, you became a leader with great responsibility. If you leave Maranatha it could cause those you are shepherding to lose their faith and then their blood will be on your hands! And you will be cut off from the both the vine and your spiritual family and in turn be thrown onto the fires of hell!”

“Tik you not only will damn yourself but you could put other souls in jeopardy. A dog returns to its vomit; just remember what I am telling you and don’t say you have not been warned. I am giving you one last chance here and then I am turning you over to Satan.”

That was code for telling everyone to turn their backs on me at MCM, and believe it or not I knew that it meant that many in the ministry would pray against me, pray that God would break me, show me the evil of my ways, literally pray for my failure so that I would return beaten and defeated back to MCM.

But at least in that case I would have my mortal soul back, if nothing else.

“I have made my mind up Joe. I cannot be part of MCM any longer not as a brother, a member, certainly not as a pastor. It may have started with good intentions…but MCM has gone bad.”

“Fine Tik. Fine. You have made your bed, now sleep in it.”

And this time I got hung up on.

I was doomed.

I could not get up. My Mom found me laying on their carpet still crying about an hour later. She called my Dad and they were making noises about taking me to the hospital, but I managed to get myself back together enough to talk them out of that.

Nothing mattered to me, my life’s purpose was not only over, but my purpose had been an evil thing.

But at least I wasn’t part of hurting anyone anymore. I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling.

I had said a simple sincere prayer the night of the blizzard.

But had Christ answered my prayer that night, or had Satan?

Or had I just been talking to myself?

**********

[Note the following is based on e-mail exchanges between Matt and Tik in 2006]

Auburn- at the same time- in Matt and Allie’s Pastor’s apartment in the Maranatha House: Auburn Alabama

Tikie, on a personal note, it was one of the lowest days in my history with MCM. Joe Smith had been ‘counseling’ with us all that day–delving into areas that he really had no business, like a physic does, suggesting things as to why Auburn was failing. What was wrong with us and our faith. He had been there for three days and I was whipped.

And then you called.

Oh, and another thing…my tone ‘might’ have been simply to try and prove myself in front of him, but I can’t honestly say I would have changed my response had Joe Smith not been there. I was in, as you said, hook, line and sinker.

So we sit there listening to Joe talking to you- really coming down on you hard. Allie and I vividly remember is him interrupting you every time you started to talk with …..”TIK..TIK……TIK!…TIK!…. he simply wouldn’t let you talk. I remember us cutting our eyes at one another, just silent, listening to our friend get chewed up.

Finally Joe hangs up the telephone, turns to us, and says about our best friend, Tikie, a guy who has given five years  to MCM, “Well, we now wash our hands of him and give him over to Satan. I don’t want you two having any contact with Tik. He is cut off from us now. He has made his choice… Now, Allie why don’t we go out and get a bite to eat and save you some work in the kitchen?”

The whole incident shows the pure intimidation factor of Joe Smith, he had us both by the throat and knew it.

That was the turning point for us, for late that night Allie said to me “Matt this thing is wrong and we have to get out.”

Well, Bill McCaig was a visiting speaker and ‘felt the call’ to take over. The Auburn ministry chewed him up and spit him out in a matter of weeks. Allie and I packed all our belongings and headed to Ann Arbor to be part of Mike and Missy’s fellowship. Little did I know, it would be the long journey that would eventually settle us back in Alabama, 50 miles from Auburn, but one million miles from MCM.

#51 I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 3

Burning Ring Of Fire part 3

 Nick P,  the Lead Evangelist and winner of souls for MCM came to town the week after the article appeared.

Nick was a second generation Greek.

He was a shouting hell and brimstone type preacher. He was gruff and rough but he could preach for two hours straight and could quote scripture after scripture from memory.

Bob Weiner thought he was MCM’s best evangelist. Maybe he was.

Well he arrives and we put him up in Jim and Dana’s (our pastor’s) dilapidated rental house. Nick shows up after one night at Jim and Dana’s House and confronts me.

”Look brother I can’t stay in that house under those conditions.”

“What conditions?” I asked him.

“The kids [Jim and Dana’s children], they are too noisy, I need time alone with God, quiet time, I can’t concentrate on my preparation and prayer time. Besides, their place is a dump.”

“Okay, Nick, you can bunk in with me if you would like.”

He stepped back and gave me a look of disdain and sputtered, “Brother, I am God’s anointed, and I need to separate myself. I want you to book me into University Hotel.”

I groaned inwardly. Our cash situation was not desperate; but it would become desperate in a matter of weeks.

“Nick, we simply don’t have the funds to do that, we are counting every penny.”

”Your problem brother, is that you have no FAITH and your people ARE NOT Giving. You are too easy on them, and because you are NOT challenging them to give you are ROBBING them and GOD of a huge blessing. Jim showed me your cont list (this was a list kept of the weekly contributions by each member with names, dates and amounts shown) and the amount being given by your converts is pitiful, terrible.”

He had stepped up and pushed his chest into mine. He was about an inch taller then me.

I did not flinch.

I won a high school state championship wrestling trophy and I knew could take this bully down in about two seconds and have him begging for mercy from a full nelson hold.

Those thoughts actually ran through my mind. I kind of wish I had acted on them… it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble and anguish.

“Look Nick, these are poor college kids, we only have a handful of people with full time jobs. We can’t beat these kids over the head; they are getting their money from their parents or from  scholarships,” I replied stone faced.

My mind shot back to my first few months in MCM. I wanted to protect my sheep from what happened to me.

I had not yet realize that I could NOT do this.  That I was at the mercy of the leadership of MCM and people like Nick.

“B-r-o-t-h-e-r.” he slurred the words out slowly. “You are doomed to failure with this type of faith and belief. You are the leader here and your demonic attitude about faith and money will infect your flock. I am going to have to straighten you and your flock out. You guys are a terrible mess.”

This went on for about twenty minutes. With me being under the mistaken impression that this was my church and that I actually had a say in what Nick could do or say.

Then all of the sudden Nick had the phone in his hand and he was calling Gainesville.

”Hey Charlene, is Bob in?…. yeah its Nick…okay I’ll hold.”

He cupped the receiver with his hand, “We are going to straighten this right now so that there is no question about who is in control here, do you understand?’

He straightened up. “Hey Bob, it is Nick. Yeah the flight was fine. I am up here at XXXX University with Tik Tok. This place is a complete mess; just like I thought it would be. Greg did his usual schtick, got a bunch of people coming to the service but no real commitment, no passion as usual. Tik and Jim are not showing any courage or backbone. Their finances are a mess because they are not believing God to provide.”

He listened and nodded. In the meantime I was seeing red stars. No passion? No commitment?  Did this idiot think that all this just happened by accident?

Greg and Helen had busted their rear-ends with never a complaint. Did he know that all of us had been working fifteen and twenty hours a day for the last three months? Where did he think the 120 kids came from???

When he got off the phone I was going to tear into him.

He kept up the, “Uh huhs and the hmm- hmm,” for about a minute, then he looked up and winked at me and spoke into the phone and said, “He’s right here.”

Nick looked up at me,“Its Bob Weiner, he wants to speak to you.”

He handed me the receiver.

“Hey Tik, what in the world is going on up there? We set you guys up there, give you $ 10,000 and now you are stumbling. You have to be strong brother, buck up. I don’t like what I am hearing.”

“But Bob, things are going great, Greg did a great job, it just that we have a bunch of kids with no money, and Nick is making a wholesale judgment about this ministry and he has not even been here for 24 hours.”

“Listen Tik- Nick is my man. And I sent him up there because I figured you were too new and inexperienced to handle this stage of the ministry. He has my blessing… you get out of his way and he will straighten the finances out-he is a man of real faith… so you had better support him. Do you understand?”

I did understand.

I understood that no matter what the reality of the situation, no matter the fact that I had worked harder and smarter than I ever had in my life, that Bob was basically saying, “I can take you out… and I will… unless you let Nick have his way.”

So I caved in. What would you have done? I make no excuses but I will point out that I was only 21 years old.

I learned a lesson that day I have kept with me, and it has played a very real role in whatever little success I have enjoyed in life. And that lesson is this:

“Anyone who mistreats someone with less power than themselves, whether they are talking to an employee or a waiter, is a bad person and should be avoided at all costs.”

Well, it continued to go downhill at our ministry.

At our Saturday night service we had about 130 people there, our 120 members plus 10 visitors. And Nick launched into a sermon about Esther, and God planting her among the enemies and God being faithful.

There was A BIG problem that night.

Nick was quoting and preaching, almost verbatim, one of Greg Ball’s standard stump speech sermons. I had heard Greg give this sermon three times, twice at outreaches that I had worked on and at our second Saturday service here. It was a magnificent sermon, really a huge story woven with the passion and word pictures, that Greg was so good at painting.

I had no problem with Greg re-preaching his sermons- to different crowds. He had perfected it and it was every effective.

But now Nick was preaching Greg’s EXACT sermon, not nearly as effectively, and I caught the eye of my star convert, Tikietwo, who gave me a weird look and a shrug of his shoulders.

The other thing that caught my ear was that in his sermon Nick again made reference to the fact that he had dropped out of medical school to pursue full time ministry.

I knew for a fact that this was a bald faced lie and not true.  So in the midst of plagiarizing a sermon that most of the people here had heard only two weeks before he was also lying.

At the end of the service Nick spent ten minutes talking about giving, and robbing God of his tithes, and how they were letting the ministry and God down, and how if giving did not increase that, “Tik’s job was on the line,”or something to that affect.

I was appalled and disgusted by the whole thing.

Afterwards, when the place was almost cleared out, I asked Nick to come back to the office.

“Look Nick I have some real problems with what went on tonight.”

“Like what?” he said.

”Well first, your sermon. That was Greg’s sermon, I have heard him preach it three times. You stole it.”

He was out of his chair and on top of me in a flash, he bared his teeth.

“Don’t every accuse me of stealing, do you understand me? You are nothing here. NOTHING! I am in charge; didn’t you hear Bob this morning? I’ll have you sent packing in one minute. Secondly I did not steal the sermon; I actually wrote it and gave it to Greg and gave him permission to use it. He is a good preacher; but he has trouble coming up with material.”

Nick towered over me. What could I say? I knew Greg wrote his own material.

Nick was lying.

“Well maybe so Nick, but I plan on asking Greg about it.”

I continued, “And not only that but you are telling my people that you went to medical school. This is not true and I will not have you telling lies!”

He put his fist in my face and muttered, “Look my uncle was a doctor and I was in pre-med [Tik’s note: this was also not true]. I am doing what Paul did, being all things to all men. Brother, I would suggest that you worry about your own problems here, or life could get tough for you, understand?”

I could not believe it.

Who did this guy think he was, Marlon Brando in the God Father? He was threatening me, and unfortunately I was pretty sure that he was not bluffing…and his threat was real.

So I wimped out and let Nick run roughshod over me and the ministry for the next three weeks.

He insulted me in front of my congregation and he suggested that I should let my hair grow out [it was to short and I looked like a marine]. He suggested, and I am not kidding, that I needed to buy some expensive watches and jewelry so I could demonstrate my prosperity to the brothers. This in a ministry that was so cash negative that I could hear the sucking sound in the bank account.

My co-pastor Jim was so intimidated by Nick that he actually got physically sick and was incapacitated for about half the time Nick was here with shingles.

Finally Nick was there when the next set of Forerunners were delivered.

”What is the plan with these Tik? We got to get these out to campus ASAP.”

I explained what had happened and how I had narrowly avoided being taken to court and being fined for placing the Forerunner all over campus.

He snorted at me and said, “What a wimp, no wonder this place is such a mess. You are afraid of a little persecution. Do you think Peter and Paul would have worried about a fine? Get some back bone. I want the brothers here this afternoon and we are going to get these things all over campus- and I want you to personally deliver a stack to the student affairs building. And I mean it.”

I gulped and we did it.

Nick left three days later, and it was one of the highlights of my life to see him get on the airplane.
**********

Seventy two hours later I found myself answering a summons and standing in front of a judge and explaining why we did not have or need a permit and being fined $ 1,500 and being told I was lucky that I was not going in the slammer for a day or so.

 

 

#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.

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#38 The Secret of Money and MCM

“Follow the money.” Deep Throat, a source quoted by the reporters who broke the Nixon White House Watergate scandal in the 1970s

The MCM Business Model

As I worked up the courage to start this blog one of the questions that I kept asking myself included this one: “What was behind MCM’s finances?”

I now believe that MCM had stumbled onto, probably by accident, a business model that generated cash for the ministry. Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think Joe, Bob or Bob Nolte (who never came to Auburn and who I never spent more than a few minutes with in five years) were NOT in it for money.

Oh, they loved the nice cars, and fine clothes and the private plane that flew them around the country. But I do not believe that money was the primary motivator for them.

Now, you might think that the tithes from the local churches or the special needs offerings that continually disrupted the local ministries, and the lives of the sheep, would be their main source of income.

But this was not the case. The special needs offerings were inevitably for capital expenses; a new meeting-house purchase, a plane purchase, a car purchased for some elder. But I do not believe that these offerings, as hard as they were on the sheep, went for operating expenses like the elder’s salaries.

I mentioned in a earlier post that there were four reasons that MLTS was so important to MCM, and, in that post, I covered three of those reasons.

The fourth and most important reason that MLTS was so critical to MCM was that it was a primary source of income for the elders.

Let’s take a moment at look at MTLS strictly as a business venture.

Registration at MLTS cost about $ 50/person. That would be the equal in 2006 dollars to roughly $ 150. MTLS at that point was held every four months during the late 70s and early 80s.

Or three times per year.

Eventually MLTS would move to an every six month schedule, but fees would go up.

With 3000 members paying $ 150 (in 2006 dollars)  every MLTs kicked out $ 450,000 (2006 equivalents) every four months or about $ 1,350,000/year in 2006 dollars.

This represented a HUGE cash and profit generator for MCM.

At each MLTS was a tape and book store hawking tapes of the speakers at MLTS and also of sermons from Bob, Joe and other MCM elders.

You may recall my destitute band, at our first MLTS, blew almost all of our money (pooled ) on a tape set containing teachings from Bob and Rose Weiner. At each MLTS the ministry sold hundreds of such boxed set teachings to the faithful.

S0 if we add-on the cut from the sales of books and tapes and other “impulse purchases” that occurred and Maranatha was generating, in 2006 dollars, in excess of $ 1,500,000/year from MLTS each year.

Using very high estimate for expenses, including speaking fees paid to  both MCM leaders and outside speakers,  I would submit the ministry brought in over$ 1,000,000 of net, tax-free (church, remember?) per year in 2006 dollars. Remember that $ 1,000,000 is free and clear and net of all expenses! And that does not include the $ 20,000- $ 30,000 in speakers honoraria paid each year to Joe and Bob from MLTS.

At the end of this post I have generated a pro-forma P/L for MLTS in 2006 dollars along with my estimates of cash flow and profits for the average ministry using my own estimates

So if we looked at MCM’s finances it was MLTS that made the profits and paid the way for Bob and Joe and their vision of taking over the world.

To reiterate, in terms of a business model, MCM hosted and made money from Christian Seminars.

Now the big risk, in holding concerts and seminars, or running a utility or airline for that matter, are the high fixed costs involved. If I rent an auditorium including the people to keep it open etc. I have essentially the same cost whether ten people attend or one hundred do. So I might spend $ 10,000 to rent a hall for a night and only have 20 people paying $ 100 each to attend. In this case I lose $ 8,000.

But once I go beyond this fixed cost I make tons of money. Let’s say I rent a hall for $10,000 and I have 1,000 people show up and pay $ 20/head. Now my revenue is $ 20,000 but my fixed costs of $ 10,000 have not changed one bit.

But MCM had none of the “fill the seminar” risks that I just outlined. Every member HAD to attend MLTS. So MCM knew exactly how big (and how much to spend) on an auditorium and bam- they made money every time.

If you throw the tape and book profits on top of this you can see why MLTS was a money machine!

MCM had a cannot lose money-maker in MLTS as long as they could keep the number of members up and control the flock so that they wanted, or had to, attend.

For the profits for MCM were certainly not with the struggling campus ministries that depended on the tithes and offerings of poor students like me and a few others with full-time jobs.

This MCM was dependent on MLTS for funding and any disruption to MLTS would quickly crater their cash starved enterprise.

Don’t get the idea though the MCM did not squeeze every nickel beyond MLTS from these poor students.

The tithes and offerings covered staff overhead and such.

The campus ministries themselves barely broke even with tithes just covering pastor’s salaries and the “houses and meeting places” being funded by rents charged to the single brothers.

Please see addendum number two for a pro-forma P/L for an “average” campus ministry using what I believe very reasonable and conservative estimates.

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

It is not an exaggeration to say that all the sufferings of the sheep happened so a group that hosted Christian Seminars could have guaranteed profits and cash flows.

***************
Addendum # 1
A Financial Analysis of MLTS- Pro-forma Profit and Loss for 1978

I will use 2006 equivalent dollars in this analysis, these are “ball park estimates” for one MLTS are based on my recollections and estimates. Please note that from 1978-1982 three seminars were held per year according to my notes.

Revenue from registration fees (3000 X $ 150) $ 450,000
Revenue from purchases (estimates) $ 25,000
Rebate from travel agents (3000X $ 20) $ 60,000

Total Revenue /MLTS $ 535,000 or $ 1,605,000/annually

Expenses
Speakers Fees (4 X $ 12,500) $ 50,000
Auditorium Rental $ 50,000
Audio/Stage Personnel Expenses $ 10,000
Travel Expense for Staff and Speakers $ 15,000
Flowers, banners etc etc $ 15,000
Miscellaneous $ 10,000

Total Expenses/MLTS $ 150,000

Net Profit $ 385,000 or $ 1,115,000
Or 71% net profit as a % of revenue

Note: Joe Smith and Bob Weiner would be paid $ 12,500 in speaker’s fee according to these estimates.

All travel reimbursed for speakers and MCM corporate staff I believe .

These expense estimates are based on my work in the medical industry in setting up conference and seminars.

At this time MCM was hosting three MLTS per year so the net profit in 2006 dollars would have been about $ 1,155,000.

Note that Joe Smith and Bob Weiner, using these assumptions, would have netted $ 37,500 each in personal income from speaking fees in 2006 dollars.

Addendum # 2
Estimated P/L for the Auburn Ministry for 1979

For comparative purposes I will use 2006 dollar equivalents. This analysis is based on my best estimates for the ministry which I believe to be conservative. It must be also taken into consideration that the Auburn Ministry was one of the more “well off” ministries in MCM.

Assumptions:
130 members
Average income per member in FY 2006 $ 20,000/year
Tithes per member: $ 2,000/year
Total of tithes: $ 260,000/year
Special Offerings per member: $ 200/year
Total Special Offerings: $ 26,000/year
Rent per single brother: $ 2,550/year
Total Rent from 20 brothers: $ 51,000/year

1979 Proforma Profit and Loss Estimates Auburn MCM using 2006 Dollars

Total Tithes and Special offerings $ 325,000
Rent from brothers $ 51,000

Total Income: $ 376,000

Mortgage $ 46,000
Utilities $ 14,000
Repair Reserve $ 8,000
Salaries/benefits $ 170,000
Payback of startup costs $ 10,000
Promotional Outreach Effort $ 20,000
Misc. $ 10,000
Benevolence $ 5,000
Tithe to HQ $ 26,000
Special Offering Repatriation $ 26,000

Total Expenses $ 374,000

Net Profit $ 2,000

Notes:
The cash flow back to HQ is the sum of:
A. Payback of startup costs: $ 10,000
B. Tithes to HQ $ 26,000
C. Special offerings $ 26,000

Total cash to HQ $ 62,000

Discussion

Cash Flow from the Ministry sites
If Auburn represented a “typical ministry” then the total cash flow in 1978 from 26 sites back to MCM from the sites would have been:

26 X $ 62,000= $ 1,612,000 = cash flow back to MCM from the individual ministries in 2006 dollars/ year

This cash flow was used to pay all overhead costs, salaries, travel, fundraising, publicity, startup funding etc. and my estimates are that this overhead burden was equal to at least 51%.

Net “profit from Ministry sites would equal $ 789,000 in 1006 dollars

Cash Flows from MLTS in 1979

$ 1,605,000/year
Profit for 1979 MLTS:
$ 1,115,000 profit for MLTS in 1978

Conclusions:

MLTS contributed 60% of “net” profits to MCM in the late 1970s
The campus ministries provided the ready-made and must attend  audience for MLTS the money seminars put on by MCM.

Additionally the Campus Ministries provided cash flows to cover corporate overhead etc. and to bail out Corporate MCM in time of crisis.

Finally the Campus Ministries provided a “farm league” for future evangelists and pastors who would be sent out to recruit and provide yet more “must attend” people for MLTS.

#36 Leadership and Control in MCM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of MLTS  

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

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

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

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

Message Bombardment

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

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

Reinforcement of Leadership’s authority and their hold on MCM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#32 The Shunning of Peter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least not at first.

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

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

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

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

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

He was especially concerned about me withdrawing from the frat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Anything wrong with Peter?” I asked Marty.

“Tik, he said, “we need to talk.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But how… why?” I stammered.

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

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

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

My chest tightened.

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

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

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

Peter in league with Satan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He leaned forward and took my arm.

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I made no response.

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

He put his face into my line of sight.

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

“Yeah Marty, I just don’t get it.”

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

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

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

I nodded yes and trudged up the stairs.

Peter had asked me to call him tonight.

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

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

And to protect mine.

I shivered.

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

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

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

#31 Kindness Is Shown Me

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

The large brown envelope addressed to me arrived in the mail at the Maranatha House on December 20th, 1978 during Christmas Break.

It lay there with its University of Auburn postal markings in the mail bin.

I was a nightmare come true for me.

And it would take me ten minutes to work up the courage to open it.

The Auburn MCM leadership, since I was such a “new baby” Christian, thought that it would be best if I stayed at Auburn during Christmas break. This rather than going home to work at my normal United Parcel Service (UPS) Christmas job in Birmingham.

This was the Christmas UPS student work program that paired students with regular UPS deliverymen to get all the Christmas packages and goodies out on time. It was an 80/hours per week job for three weeks in between fall and winter term.

The $ 8.00/hour pay was equal to $ 20/hour in 2006 dollars which was good money for a college kid in the US. I had gotten the UPS Christmas job two years ago after my Big Brother in the frat, Bill, with UPS connections, had recommended me and you might imagine that these Christmas jobs were coveted by students. I could clear almost $ 1,200 or about the equivalent of $ 3,600 in 2006  during the break.

It was a nice way to replenish my usually depleted bank account.

But, nonetheless, I walked away from that lucrative UPS job during the 1978 Christmas break to stay at MCM in Auburn in order, in the words of Marty, my shepherd, “To strengthen my faith.”

My shepherd, Marty, had then prayed with me about finding work to pay my way at Auburn.

You may remember that I had lost, or left (depending on your view of things), my frat job in early November. It had provided me with free room and board and was worth about $ 2,400/year in 1978 or about $ 8,000 a year in 2006.

It had been decided by my shepherd, and two of the older single brothers, that one of the jobs I had applied for in early December, slinging pizza, was a good once since I could work all day Saturday and every weekday night.

This work schedule meant that I could make all the MCM meetings and services (which occurred on Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, and Sunday morning and Sunday night) with little outside interference.

The pizza job hours were from 9:30 pm- 12:30 am five nights, from Monday to Friday, each week. I would get home about 1:00 am each weekday night.

On Saturdays I would work eleven hours from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Sundays I would have off.

I would work about 25 hours per week.

I could study early in the afternoon and Saturday morning, or so this theory went. I would go to school during the day as usual.

The pizza job paid $ 2.25/hour (minimum wage in 1978) or about $ 5.75/hour in 2006 terms. Plus all the pizza I could eat and a red doughboy hat.

It meant that I was pulling down about $55 a week in wages.

With all that on my mind, there I was after “mail call” looking at a brown envelope with my name on it from my scholarship source “Tau Beta Pi”. My chest felt heavy. I already knew what it contained.

And this took no gift of prophecy on my part.

I opened the large brown envelope and looked at the letter inside it.

It was the kind that got blown out by the old fashioned “clackety clack” main frame teletypes of the 70s.

It read:

Dear Scholarship Recipient:

We regret to inform you that the Grade Point Average (GPA) you earned in the core engineering courses taken during the FALL QUARTER 1978 fell below the minimum 3.0 GPA requirements for scholarship maintenance.

Because of your failure to meet this GPA minimum requirement your scholarship has been temporarily revoked for Winter Quarter 1978 and your scholarship is now placed on probationary status.

In order for your scholarship to be reinstated you must achieve a GPA of 3.0 greater during Winter Quarter 1979.

If a GPA of 3.0 in core engineering courses is not achieved in Winter Quarter 1979 your scholarship will be permanently revoked.

Please be advised that a minimum core course load of 15 hours, excluding laboratory work, must be maintained each quarter for scholarship eligibility.

Please contact the office of admission and scholarships at the School of Engineering if you have any questions or if you think that this notice has been sent in error.”

I sat down in a chair with my head in my hands.

That scholarship paid tuition and books and was worth about $ 2,400 per term or $ 4,800/year in 1978. That would equal about $ 15,000 per year in 2006 dollars.

This was not an insignificant sum for a poor college student like me.

Not only had I lost my free room and board job at the Frat, now I had also managed to lose the other hidden part of my income at Auburn: my scholarship.

I was being bankrupted and my grade point average was being destroyed as an added bonus.

I am not ashamed to admit, that although I knew that this letter was on its way to me, I started crying.

I could not see my way clear. My finances and grades were both disasters now. There had never been room for much error in either; my shoe string finances, and the heavy course load required in engineering school, made my scholastic existence problematic at best.

On the financial side my new pizza job would clear about $ 200/month after taxes. The rent and food at the Maranatha House cost me about $ 180/month and I would tithe another $ 20/month.

Just enough money would come in to get by if I worked a double job in the summer, and, rebuilt my savings during that period.

Of course I could only make it if I contributed nothing to the routine and ongoing Maranatha special offerings (more about that later) that were above, and beyond, the required 10% income tithe that I was expected, and required, to contribute to the ministry.

Fortunately, I still had about $ 400 in the bank despite the fact that I had blown about $ 125 at MLTS last month. I had also thrown another $ 100 into the offering plate of the Auburn Ministry during November for some special request from MCM HQ; what it was now eludes me.

Perhaps I could land yet another job, a second job, to pay tuition. But then when would I study if I did this?

Oh, and apart from the time required for my pizza job, there was the time required for all of my assigned duties MCM and the official MCM meetings. [Please see the appendix at the end of this Part for my “official” MCM schedule for the first week of January 1978].

The total hours of official MCM meetings and duties ate up about 18 hours of my time per week.

My assigned duties would rotate weekly; perhaps I would have to clean all of the bathrooms, or perhaps I had to do the lawn and rake the leaves, perhaps I had to clean all of the common areas, or, perhaps it was my turn to set up and take down for the meetings. It was all the same: about 18-20 hours of labor for MCM per week as a single brother.

But just looking at this schedule of “official MCM duties and meetings” did not really tell the whole tale.

Why? Because it excluded the following types of requests which happened weekly, and even daily:

Brother we have two sisters moving in can you help load and unload the truck?”
or
Brother I sense you are having a tough time and need some deliverance- let’s get together” [Get ready for a two hour deliverance session” hootah”-the thought of these deliverance sessions alone would keep us “on the reservation”, so to speak]
or
Tik, This brother needs some deliverance are you available?” [this meant two hours of praying and casting out demons but at least some other poor sucker was on the hootah session hot seat and not me]
or
The Band is going on a gig can you load the van up?”
or
This week we are going to do the service on the front lawn of the student center lets load all of the chairs and equipment, oh and could you run back to the house we forgot the programs and flyers?”
or
We need these posters put up in all of the male dorms and frat houses, can you do it?”
or
We are sending a SWAT team in to help open up the South Carolina/Florida State/GA Tech ministry- can you miss a weekend of work and drive back all night Sunday so you can start the week with no sleep?”
or
“As a gift to the leadership lets imitate Jesus and wash and wax all their cars or give them a special gift to honor them”

It was almost impossible to say no to these requests without being labeled as “selfish”, “world centered”, “putting yourself above others”, “not having a servants spirit”,  or being labeled has having a “spirit of laziness”, or being infected with “worldly concerns”, or the other phrases in MCM’s special language.

Not doing this stuff would retard whatever chance you might have of going into the ministry full time, or at the very least, of being seen as an over-comer’ by the leadership.

Well I’ll stop this line of writing before I start retching up my lunch.

Okay, I am back and feeling a bit better now.

Yikes…I now see that I was in such a hurry writing the last paragraph that I forgot to include other optional things like the campus blitz days on Saturdays where we would go two by two witnessing, handing out tracts on campus for a couple of hours;

or
standing outside the arena before, during, and after basketball games handing out tracts;

or
starting front clubs at the university such as the Fellowship of Christian Students that was really a bait and switch scheme to get students into MCM;

or

the one thousand and one other things that helped market and sell MCM to the unsuspecting and ensnare fellow students; things which I have, thankfully, blanked out of my mind.

When you add in all of this busy work  the time commitment for MCM was  50 hours/week.

All right; enough already. I am about to start going crazy again.

As I said, the work at the pizza shop would consume 25 hours per week of my time.

And, of course, lest I forget, there was that little bitty thing we called engineering school.

I was scheduled to take 17 hours of class next quarter in engineering school.

As I have told you, the rule of thumb was about 1.5 hours of studying for each hour of class work. Total time for school and study should have been about 45 hours a week if there was any hope of making my grades.

So if one was brave enough to add it up the time required for school, work, and MCM activities totaled close to 125 hours per week.

For those of you still with me that is about 18 hours a day. Was sleep required?

I hoped not because this schedule showed I was running out of time to do even that.

And like I said I was running out of money too.

So I went to see the Marty, my shepherd.

He was my spiritual guardian, right?

The person who was my overseer, my big brother in the Lord, the one who would supply me advice and prayer and counsel and hold me accountable for the things of God and my  Christian walk  in this world.

Yeah, him. That one. As you can see Christ is still working on my attitude towards him.

I don’t claim to be perfect.

So I got with Marty that afternoon and laid out my time and finance problems. I showed him the letter from Tau Beta Pi putting me on probation, taking away my winter quarter scholarship, and threatening to permanently cancel my scholarship if my grades did not get back on track.

I also explained the time problem of 19 hours a day in a 24 hour day, the 19 hours to keep up with work, MCM requirements and school.

“Marty, I can’t see how this is going to work I am just overloaded,” I said, sniffling back tears.

“Brother, you are caught up in the concerns of the world, God will supply everything if you will lay it all before him, lay down your cares.”

He continued, giving me his over the glasses quizzical, “I know best, just relax,” look that came naturally to him.

“Perhaps, Tik, God is speaking to you. I think that maybe He is telling you that you need to lay down your ambition to be an engineer. And we (who was the “we” he was speaking of????) think that you have a ‘spirit of ambition’. This spirit needs to be broken. One way to break it would be to take a couple of quarters off from school, spend time building your faith, perhaps get a second job to get on your feet financially. You are being burdened by this worldly spirit of ambition. You may need to lay it aside for God.”

“Besides, we know that God has you destined for full time ministry,” he said as he sat back and waited for my reaction.

His tone of voice was very warm as he put his arm around my shoulder.

He continued to look over his glasses as we sat there for a minute in dead silence, side by side.

Truthfully at that point Marty’s suggestion of dropping out sounded appealing.

The money was not there to go back to school; at least not right now.

And the time was not there to go to school AND hold down two jobs. Not with my commitment to the activities and kingdom work for MCM.

And there was that issue of the worldly spirit of ambition.

I really did want to be successful in all that I did. I was always stretching myself and overreaching- or so it seemed. Maybe I did need to, “Lay down,” this, “worldly ambition,” this desire to succeed.

BTW: “Lay it down translates” into give it up as a show of submission to MCM. [More on MCM’s special language and the purpose of such a language in sociological cults will be written about in a future post by Tikie: the Editors]

Besides, hadn’t I heard a prophetic utterance from the head prophet Joe Smith, the main prophet of MCM himself, that I WOULD go into full time ministry and lead many thousands into the kingdom just last month?

God Himself had spoken directly through Joe Smith that I would be one of the mighty men of God, right?

If that meant laying down the spirit of ambition, in order to achieve this worthy goal of being God’s man, shouldn’t I do what Marty was suggesting and drop out of school for a while?

All of the pressure I was feeling would go away if I dropped out of school.

Juggling the studying, the working, the keeping up with my MCM duties and my study of the faith would all become easier if I did this.

If I dropped out of school I could concentrate on nothing but the kingdom and earning money. It would almost be a “spiritual sabbatical; giving it all over to God and the leaders of MCM, wouldn’t it?

But the old Tik, the Tik that is writing this blog, that old Tik, was stirring.

Well guess what?

Despite everything that had happened over the last three months he was still struggling to keep me, the New MCM Tik, from completely destroying my life and my future.

Oh the Old Tik was hardly conscious at this point, bound and gagged in that little closet in the back of my mind. He, the Old Tik, the real Tik, was surrounded  and tied up and gagged by a bunch goofy doctrines, weird sights, and strange utterances I had heard, and seen, over the last three months.

So far I had been able to almost completely ignore him and my doubts.

But somehow that rotten old Tik, that sinning worldly Tik, that Tik that had begged me not to walk away from Sheila,  on that bitterly cold December afternoon, shook off the bonds that had him tied and gagged in that closet in my mind.

And that rotten old Tik through a gargantuan effort of will, managed to get his hands, temporarily, back onto the controls of my life that day.

And I thank God Almighty that somehow that rotten old worldly ambitious Tik got loose and ran amok that afternoon.

Now, I had already learned already that it was not wise to disagree straight away with any recommendations of the leadership, especially those of your personal shepherd.

Despite Marty’s concerned manner and warm tone that afternoon, I knew that if I disagreed with him openly, or challenged him at all, he would immediately harden his positions and could make me do whatever he was suggesting.

But I also knew that the particular MCM phrase Mike had used that,  “Perhaps God is telling you,” meant that Marty, at least for the time being, had not decided on the final course I should take.

Not yet anyway.

It was a small opening and I had to act quickly to take advantage of it.

Now to be sure if he had uttered the phrase, “God is speaking to me,” or , “God has given us/you/me a word,” then any argument to the contrary, no matter how rational, was useless.

For then I would risk being labeled rebellious and seen as  possibly being influenced by some sort of spirit or demon if I challenged him on this word or direction for my life.

And if I continued in my resistance to this word then I would be hauled before Mike and Missy Caulk our pastors for the MCM crime of  rebellion against God. It was clear that those sheep who engaged in such arguments with their shepherds, or who exhibited any signs of independent thinking, apart from the advice of the leadership, would be hampered in their spiritual growth.

It would signal that they were not ready move up in God’s Green Berets and take on more responsibility. This, by the way, was especially true for women. [Editor’s note: We have a post coming up where Tikie writes about the hierarchy and the treatment of women in MCM]

Any challenge or resistance to the leadership could even lead to expulsion, apostasy, shunning, and being given over to Satan.

Looking back on this twenty plus years later it is really hard to believe that this is how things worked at MCM- but it is the truth!

So, knowing that any DIRECT disagreement with Marty would be counterproductive, I said the magic words, in MCM’s  special language that I was mastering.

The words used by sheep at MCM when they were cornered, “Brother let me pray about it.”

This phrase was the equivalent of saying, “Abracadabra ala kazam,” because it was like a special spell that would temporarily halt a MCM shepherd, or elder, in their tracks.”

But it only would engender a temporary halt.

Now I knew that he would not, and could NOT, come after me after I uttered those words. Nor could he force a decision on me, well, not immediately, anyway. Because I  had said I was seeking God’s will for my life. No one could argue with that. At least not right away.

After our counseling session I walked outside into the cold windy December afternoon.

The sun was setting in the cobalt blue winter sky as I plopped down on a bench across the street from the Maranatha House on East Magnolia Avenue.

Now the old Tik,  reveling in his temporary freedom, was thinking, “Now let’s see…exactly WHY are you here at Auburn? And what is the PRIMARY purpose that brought you here?’

Well the answer was pretty obvious to the old Tik :

I was not at Auburn to work in a pizza joint.

I was not at Auburn to be in a frat.

I was not at Auburn to socialize.

My primary purpose at Auburn was NOT to proselytize for MCM and build Bob Weiner’s Kingdom.

I was PRIMARILY here at Auburn for ONE thing:

I was at Auburn University to get an education and my degree and improve my situation so I could provide a good living and home for my future wife (whom I had not met) and my, as yet, unborn children.

Makes me a genius, huh?

Well I can tell you that many MCMer’s never figured that out. They did not graduate from college, and post MCM blow up, or after they crawled away from MCM, or were given the boot for some sin, they had nothing to fall back on.

Well that day the Old Tik was thinking  through all of this very carefully.  I knew very well what had happened to my friends and frat brothers who had gotten in trouble and dropped out for a quarter or two.

Vic, one of my good friends had done so last year. He had gotten a job with AlaGasCo as a utility man making $ 15,000 a year ($ 40,000 in today’s dollars) for just a term or two.

But once a person got used to that kind of money it was hard to go back to being a poor student. Vic never returned to school.

In fact, with the exception of Ricky, one of my converts to MCM (and a former frat brother), I had never known anyone to come back to school and complete their education once they bailed out…. even if they thought they would leave for a short time  to get their head back together.

Sp there I sat on the bench, shivering in the December cold wind, thinking this all through.

I had no one to talk to about this my financial and academic problems, not anyone who could offer me advice, other than Marty; or the leadership of MCM at Auburn.

And I, the Old Tik did not like the line of MCM thinking regarding my schooling if you haven’t figured that out yet.

But who else could I turn to?

I had pretty much told my parents to shove off. There was no way I was going to reach out to them. I would not have them see me crawling back to them.

Mom [my Frat RA] and I had parted ways… Sheila… nah, I had destroyed that relationship…my Big Brother in the frat, a graduate student in chemistry, Bill, would have been a good choice; but I had sissy slapped him and called him hell bound… Chris at the BSU- no way could I talk to him…not after calling him a “pretend” Christian and basically telling him to stick it. Going to him would be as bad as crawling back to my parents. Maybe worse.

Except for the brothers and elders at MCM I had no one to turn to, it seemed.

Then who else could help me?

For about ten minutes I sat there in the whistling December wind, and despite what I had told Marty earlier, you can see that not much praying happened.

Only hard thinking, problem solving thinking, if you will, on my part.

Then I had a thought.

It was one that both scared me and also gave me hope.

I thought of the one person I could seek out for advice and help.

Dr. Carl.

My engineering professor and advisor.

Remember him?

Sure, he was a real hard ass, and pretty much an all-around jackass (what you saw was what you got) but he was a straight shooter, and, I knew in my heart, despite all of his efforts to appear hard and gruff, that inside he really cared deeply about his students and graduate assistants.

He had talked me into coming into the particular major I had chosen two years ago. He had helped me get that scholarship that kept me in school.

And I knew he cared about me.

School was out, but Dr. Carl had a couple of grant programs ongoing, and I was pretty sure that he and his grad students would probably be working on these projects during the break.

Life takes many turns and twists as you know.

There is a great book  called the Tipping Point which discusses how the big things in our lives, and in our society, many times hinge on what, at the time, appear to be small and insignificant decisions.

One example of a small decision that changed the course of my life, and the lives of at least one hundred and fifty other people, was my decision to spend time with Ellen and Randy and to invite the Praise Band and Bob Weiner to my frat House in October 1978.

And another example of this was  the decision I made, on that cold December afternoon in 1978, to seek out Dr. Carl for advice.

It was a decision that reverberates in my life even today as I type this on my Dell laptop, sitting in an American Airlines Boeing 737, winging my way cross country on this warm sunny May afternoon in 2006.

Consciously or not I (the “old Tik”, that is) was seeking guidance from someone who had nothing to gain or lose  from the decision I was facing.

I was looking for someone who would counsel me impartially; someone who I knew would try to give me advice that they believed would best for me and my future.

I should mention, by the way, that Dr. Carl was, and is (for we still talk on occasion), a self- proclaimed agnostic.

Not quite an atheist, but almost one.

As I headed up the steps of Ramsey Hall I knew I was in luck. Because I could see the cheap florescent lights on in Dr. Carl’s office. It  told me he was working that afternoon.

Dr. Carl was a genius and had been one of the lead engineers, right out of grad school, on the US Apollo Lunar Program in the late 1960s. When that had dried up he had gotten his PhD from Purdue University and had now been at Auburn about ten years.

His specialty was now nuclear structures.

He was at his desk wearing his favorite green cardigan sweater. Yes, the kind with leather patches on the elbows that you see profs wear in the movies.

He looked up at me as I walked in.

“Mr. Tok, what are you doing here? I thought you would be in Birmingham helping Santa and his elves deliver Christmas goodies (he knew about my usual Christmas gig with UPS).

“Dr. Carl. I have a serious problem.”

“I should say so after your surprisingly abysmal academic performance this past quarter. Pull up a chair Mr. Tok.”

He said this while brushing his long hair out of his face. He closed the book he was taking notes in and his pony tail swung behind him as he turned to face me.

“Well, I am not here to talk about the problem with my grades last quarter… but another problem,” I said.

He put folded his arms into a prayer position and cradled his chin in his hands.

“Okay- shoot… tell me what’s the matter?”

“I have a sudden money problem. I left the frat and lost my free room and board that went with it.”

“Good decision,” he said, “nothing but a nest of rats in that frat house anyway. Terrible place to live and too many distractions for a good student like you. Well done.”

“And now I got this.” I pushed the letter about the scholarship loss across his desk.

He looked at it for a moment.

“Hmmmmmmmm,” he murmured.

”You have to get your grades up…and you can…if you apply yourself.” he said looking up at me, his bangs hanging down just over his eyebrows.

He pushed his hair back over his forehead ; crossing his arms behind his neck and cradling his head with his hands.

“I know, and I am going to do better next quarter, but… well, I am out of money… and I can’t pay tuition in January. It’s that simple.”

“I see, let me think about this for a second Mr. Tok.”

He sat there for a moment and leaned back. He then turned in his chair and stared out of the second floor window to the street below where the last leaves of autumn whirled down Magnolia Street like dervishes.

After a moment he turned, picked up his telephone, and dialed a number.

“Bertha, hey it’s me Dick down here in Nukes. Hey, I have a good student of mine, a good kid, who is in a bit of trouble and can’t pay tuition, scholarship trouble, you know what I am talking about… eh?”

He paused listening into the handset.

“Okay, how do we look on those DOT grants that came through last week?”

“No, he is here, yep, uh huh…Tik Tok is his name…no I have a couple of forms here…uh huh… yep… okay then… what time?…okay, thanks Bertha.”

He hung up.

“Okay Mr. Tok, it’s your lucky day. That was Bertha in the bursar’s office. We have three DOT engineering grants that just came through last week. Two are already spoken for but one is still available for any student that we choose to recommend.”

“What is a DOT grant?” I asked.

“Free government money… courtesy of the Department of Transportation and Uncle Sam,” he said as he laughed. “Graft, handouts, hell; call it want you want… I call it tuition money for the needy!”

“Now these grants don’t have the cache of a Tau Beta Pi scholarship, nor are they guaranteed (my scholarship was backed by the Tau Beta Pi Endowment and as long as I made my grades I got the money). They just come in over the transom, so to speak, usually at the end of the term, if they come at all.”

He reached into his drawer and pulled out a triplicate form.

“We just got three grants each for the winter and spring terms and one has not been spoken for. Like I said I don’t know when and if we will get any more… and in fact we may never get another one!”

He continued, “It works like this. You have to get two faculty members in your college to recommend you. I have a form here and Ralph (he meant Dr. Jenkins in Hydraulics, another one of my profs) will sign this with me. Our signatures on the form will approve you for the DOT grant. You get your transcripts from the registrar’s office and take them with this signed completed grant application to the bursar’s office to Bertha Jones. And, voila, you get your tuition paid, courtesy of Uncle Sam.”

He paused, “As long as you maintain a “C” average your tuition is at least covered for the next two terms.”

I could not believe it.

This hard ass of a guy, and one of the toughest profs in the school of engineering, was doing me the favor of a life time.

And he wasn’t even a Christian. Note my thinking with the word: even.

UGH!

“Dr. Carl, I don’t even know what to say… thanks, thank you, THANK YOU!”

I stood up and walked over to give him a hug I was so overcome with emotion.

“That’s Okay, Mr. Tok.” He waved me off. “Just consider it a Christmas present.”

Merry Christmas Mr. Tok!”

Merry Christmas Dr. Carl.”

Appendix:

Tik”s Schedule for the first week of January 1979 with regards to MCM “official meetings” and duties assigned by Marty his shepherd and administrator of the Auburn Church:

Sunday
am- Meeting set up
am-single brothers Bible Study
am- morning worship service
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Monday
am- Dicipleship group
pm- kitchen cleanup

Tuesday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Wednesday
am- Discipleship group/victory group on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

Thursday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Friday
am- Discipleship group/victory group
pm- kitchen cleanup/witnessing on campus

Saturday
am- Discipleship group/witnessing on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

#29 Heart of Stone

Editors Note: Tikie considered this the most difficult chapter to write in his original blog, and, came near to asking us to excise it . This because it recaps one of the most painful episodes in his life. He allowed us to include it here because he believes it illustrates how authoritarian sociological groups (like MCM), and their members, professing to be on a mission to save humanity, have no compunction about using, or abusing, those who get in their way. Professing his total love of Christ, and his determination to build God’s Kingdom on earth, Tikie callously hurt many of the people who cared most for him. This included, of course, his best friend at Auburn, Sheila.

HEART OF STONE 

“What is moral is that which helps the revolution. What is immoral is that which hinders the revolution.”
Vladimir Lenin

I was almost trotting up to the Hill to get to  Sheila’s dorm.

How dare she phone my parents and get Chris involved in what I was doing with my life.

“Who gave her that right?” I fumed.

I headed through main doors to the women’s dorm and picked up the phone at the reception desk and dialed Sheila’s room.

“Hello?”

It was Sheila.

“Hey, it’s me. I am downstairs, we gotta talk.”

“Oh, hi, Tikie- give me a minute and I’ll be down.”

I looked around the lobby of the dorm. To the left of the main desk were the study carousels. These were private rooms with two chairs and a desk for studying. They were called necking pits because occasionally couples would head there for some serious talking, if you know what I mean. Sheila and I had disturbed a couple half naked in one last spring, and the girl in the carousel was one of her sorority sisters!

We thought it hilarious.

A few minutes after my call Sheila walked out of the elevator door.

“Hi Tik, I was pretty sure you were going to look me up this evening.”

“Let’s get some privacy,” I said, and motioned towards one of the study carousels.

We set down and I looked at her.

There was something different about her that night.

I had never seen this demeanor in Sheila, a sort of timidity, but I brushed that aside as I launched into what I am afraid was an old fashioned tirade.

“Sheila, I just came from seeing my parents; and I am really ticked off at you. What right do you have to call my parents up, get them upset and then have them drive three hours to Auburn just because of some stuff you made up? What in the world were you thinking?”

She paused a moment and said, “Tik, I am really worried about you…we all are.”

“What does ‘we all are’ mean? Are you spokesman for some ‘save Tik’ group? Who is we?” I intoned.

“Tik, relax okay? I mean Mom, your frat brothers, Bill, your big brother [in the frat] and Chris from BSU, why, we are all concerned about you. All of us.”

She took a deep breath and sighed before continuing, “The way you are acting, the way you are talking, the fact that no one ever sees you any more…that’s what concerns us. You have dropped out of sight completely. You never see the people who are your friends, who care the most about you.”

“Look Sheila, thanks for the concern, but you had NO RIGHT to call my poor mother. I left her in tears thanks to you. Now she thinks I am throwing my life away because of the crazy ideas you put in her head.”

She looked down at her lap for just a moment, then she looked back at me with a strained expression.

I noticed that her hands were gripping her armchair so tight I could see the whites of her knuckles.  And when she let go of the arms of the chair her hands were shaking.

“Tik, your mother was not crying because of my phone call. Sure I told her what was going on…but is it possible she was crying because of what is actually happening to you and the way YOU are acting?….and because of what Chris told her? Do you think that might be why she was crying?”

“What did Chris tell my mother that would be so upsetting?” I asked.

“You know what… oh don’t play stupid. He showed her the same thing he  showed me… the newspaper articles about this group. He told me what he heard from other BSU leaders across the SEC.”

She sat back and caught her breath, “Tikie, please for the love of God listen to me. This group, they are not right. There is something wrong there. Of all the people in your life, you can trust me, you know that.  I told you the first night I went to Maranatha that something was not right, remember?”

She reached in her pocket and pulled out a news clipping.

She thrust it in my face.

“Here, read this – it is an article from last week’s University of Florida Student Paper about Maranatha and this Bob Weiner their leader.”

I took it and threw it on the ground.

“What do you expect Sheila? That paper is edited by a bunch of non- believers who hate the things of God. I am not even going to waste my time looking at it. Here is the bottom line Sheila…stay out of my business and  I mean it.

She stiffened.

I softened my tone and spoke gently, “Sheila, listen, these people are true followers of Jesus, I know some of it does not make sense to you right now, at first it did not to me. But we are putting Jesus and the Kingdom ahead of everything.

I reached out for her hand and took it.

Then looking straight in her eyes I said, “Sheila, we are building a real first century church- there has been nothing like what we are doing for the last 19 centuries. Please open your heart and mind to what God is doing. I want you to be part of what God is doing in these end times. I want you and I to be brothers and sisters in the new work that Jesus is doing here on earth in these end times.”

Shelia sighed and leaned forward towards me and put her other hand on my shoulder.

“Tik, I promise you I have prayed about it, and my gut, which never fails me, tells me that this group is bad news. Tik, I believe you are in a cult. I am pleading with you to sit down with Chris (BSU) and Rat(CCC) together. They have agreed to meet with you together to talk you through this. Rat has said that if you are that fired up about Christ that he will see about getting you into one of the Baptist seminaries on a full scholarship when you graduate.”

“I am not going to meet with them. I have made my choice- it is either being hot or cold, I am not going to be lukewarm.”

We pulled away from each other.

I paused and then spoke again, “You have made your choice as well, it seems.”

Then the both of sat there, our eyes locked for a minute, maybe two.

I thought about what Marty had said to me, “You either are for Jesus or against Him.”

It seemed to me that Sheila had made her decision, she was against Him.

Then something astounding happened.

The hard-nosed, funny, cynical, blonde haired, iron women that I knew changed before my eyes.

She dissolved into a little girl.

And the little girl started weeping.

Not crying, not sobbing, but weeping.

I have only seen someone actually weep one other time and that was my mother at my grandmother’s funeral.

Sheila’s sob was a moaning tearful sound that came from deep in her chest. She buried her face in her arms as tears flowed down her cheeks.

I could take yelling, screaming, even a good cry, but this, this was torture.

“Hey Sheila, c’mon,” I started to say.

But before I could begin she looked up at me with tears streaming down her face.

“You know Tikie, I could take it if you were leaving Auburn to go somewhere else, or if you found a girl you were madly in love with and you thought were going to marry. Because at least I would know that Tik was somewhere and that he was being Tik. But I can’t take this anymore, I just can’t take it.”

She was racked with sobs again.

“Take what Sheila, what are you talking about?” I said in a gentle tone.

“This,” she sniffed and she paused for about a minute before she started sobbing again.

Then through those sobs came these words, “You… or not you… but what you have become. The Tik I knew is being erased, there is someone who looks like him, the guy sitting here, but they have changed you Tik, you have become a different person. I don’t know what is happening and worse… I don’t know why it is happening…”

“Sheila I told you that I made a radical commitment to Jesus. Of course I am different, I am a new man, the old has passed away.”

She almost screamed at me between sobs and ran her hands through her hair in a frenzy, “This is EXACTLY what I am talking about damn it! You have become a parrot, spouting off scriptures left and right, correcting everybody, too busy to listen to anyone to have a normal conversation. Too busy saving the world to care about your true friends.”

She started sobbing again and then looked up.

“It’s like they have changed you… changed everything about you.”

“No Sheila, it is Jesus that has changed me.”

“I don’t believe it Tik, they have brainwashed you or something- it’s like they have given you a drug. I could face it if I was losing you to another girl, but this, this…it’s like you have died!”

“What do you mean,” I asked, “you could face losing me to another girl?”

She sat up and looked at me incredulously.

“What’s wrong with you Tik, are you THAT dumb? Do you think I came to your frat house every Saturday night to hear the music? Do you think I asked if we could go to the football game every week because your frat had better seats at the game than my sorority? Do you think I Actually LIKE the food at the War Eagle Cafeteria?”

I just stared at her.

“Are you that STUPID??? Mom and Jenny told me you were but I am just now realizing that they were right. Do I have to spell it out for you in skywriting or something?”

She was almost screaming.

She pulled her arms up and balled her hands into a fist. I was pretty sure she was actually going to throw a haymaker at me.

But then she collapsed again, and put her head into her lap, and murmured, in a soft voice, just barely audible, “Tikie don’t you know that I am in love with you?”

For a moment, just a moment, I almost reached down to hug her and to tell her that there was nothing to worry about, that it was just me here, her old friend Tikie, sitting beside her. That everything would be alright, that we were best friends and nothing could come between us.

I almost did this… I swear I did.

You see the Old Tik was still locked in the little closet but he was jumping up and down and raising Cain about what I was saying just now. What I was doing.

But once again I did not obey that impulse to let my guard down with my best friend, and open up to her about everything, everything, about the good… and the bad things about MCM… and about us.

I did not do this, I regret to say.

I looked at her and simply said in an even tone, “Sheila, my first love is Jesus, and it will never work for us…I cannot be yoked unevenly.”

She gazed up at me and said in a low tone, “Get out Tik, quit torturing me. Just leave me alone… for the love of God… just… get… out.”

I sat there unmoving, staring at her.

Then with her voice rising she pointed her arm at the door and shouted, “I SAID GET OUT!”

And to my shame, I turned around, opened the door, and walked out of Sheila’s life.

I did not exchange a word with Sheila again for over twenty years.

**********
I have contrasted often what I did that afternoon to Christ’s story of the Good Samaritan who saw the bleeding Jew who lay helpless in the road. The Samaritan helped out this wounded fellow human being because the agape love of God filled his heart. But that day, with a heart of stone, I walked right over my hurting, bleeding, best friend, in the name of God’s Kingdom .

You see, I have come to the realization that almost everything I did in MCM was for selfish and ungodly reasons, but done in the name of The Kingdom of God.

 

 

False Healings

 

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

False Healings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you feel it?” Joe shouted out.

“I did!!!” She cried.

“Stand up” shouted Joe.

She stood up.

“Run around the stage!”

She took off running little bunny hops around the stage.

“How’s your back feel?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It keeps Tylenol and Advil in business.

I believe that God heals.

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

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

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

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

Ever.

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