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

I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 2

We had converted some campus leaders, including the President of the largest Greek Fraternity on campus. I will call him “Tiketwo” because he reminded me of myself, and people actually thought we looked and acted like brothers. He was a Methodist and dissatisfied with his church. Go back and read Parts 1-5 of this Blog and the same thing happened to him that happened to me; I hate to tell you.

He had a steady girlfriend who I will call “Sheilatwo’, because she looked like my old friend Sheila, only in this case we converted her as well and used her to pop Helen Ball into her sorority and snag about seven of her sorority sisters for MCM.

Tikietwo and Sheilatwo brought in, personally, at least twenty kids.

“Tiketwo” really, really looked up to me as an ideal”Christian, one who could do no wrong and that scared me.

And weighed heavily on my conscience.

So I started the daily Red Book and shepherding sessions, and casting demons out of kids who were just being kids and got them on board and committed, and started witnessing classes. We got a Christian Prof to front a Victory Club which in turn converted two baseball players through a jointly sponsored event with the respected Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Then, with almost no warning things begin to go downhill quickly.

First, Headquarters in Gainesville loaded us up with corporate literature and brochures for the tune of $ 4,000.  This ate big time into the war-chest that I had established on my own. As I mentioned our seed money from corporate had evaporated.

Second, about five thousand Forerunner Magazine Newspapers, at 50 cents a throw, begin to show up every other month. I mean stacks and stacks of these things. These cost us, if my memory is right, about $ 2,500 a whack. And there was no arguing with Gainesville about accepting or paying for these things, as I will show.

The Forerunner was Rose Weiner’s brainchild . Rose wanted to start A Mother Jones newspaper, but instead of being a leftie rag, she wanted a  rightie rag, it was chockfull of articles by Theonomy writers pontificating about the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth etc. etc. etc. Simply put the Forerunner celebrated the Manifest Destiny of America theory but repackaged to highlight the kooky and inane doctrines of MCM.

Well we were supposed to sell these things at best, or at least give them away. Either was very hard to do, it turned out.

So like a good trooper, and to get them out of the meeting hall, I organized work parties to put these things out in stacks on campus. And this was during autumn.

A very windy autumn.

And the wind blew the papers all over campus.

I mean no one was actually picking these things up to read them. At least the campus commie left wing rag had a sense of humor and some funny, if rather strange, cartoons. The Forerunner was about as interesting as the pages of  a dictionary if every page were the same. It was chloroform in print.

Now we had stupidly taken the time, and effort, to stamp our local ministry address and phone number on every paper.

This was infinitely stupid.

Because I got a phone call-from the campus police.

“Hello,” I said as I answered the telephone.

“Yes this is Captain Jim Smith of the campus police. I am trying to reach the person in charge of MCM at Big University.”

“That would be me, Tik Tok.”

“Well Mr. Tok you have managed to cover the university with your papers, they are every where, in the trees, in the fountains and complaints are coming in from all over the place.First you don’t have a permit to distribute papers on campus, second, even if you did, we must have approved paper boxes. Third it is going to cost us at least $ 10,000 to clean up the campus. I am going to give you a break… either you clean these up in the next 24 hours or I am going to bring you in on a misdemeanor charge of littering and creating a public nuisance. Any questions?”

So we went back and for fourteen straight hours we cleaned up papers.

And the Forerunner, literally being all over campus, piqued the interest of the editor of the student newspaper. Who, being a smart kid, called me up to try to find out WHAT we were doing and exactly who we were doing it for.

Our converting over 100 kids, the infiltration of fraternities, conversions of a couple of baseball players, and three sold out Saturday nights at the Maranatha Hall had gotten a lot of attention on campus. And our newspapers being literally everywhere piqued his interest, as I said.

When the phone rang, and it was the editor of the campus newspaper, I was to naïve to give it much thought. He asked questions about me, my background, where I came from, about Greg, what MCM was, who headed it and where we had come from.

About a week after Greg and Helen had left Jim, my co-pastor, walked in with a paper under his arm.

”See this yet?” he asked.

“Don’t tell me that you found another Forerunner in a bush,” I laughed.

”Tikie this is serious!” and he laid the newspaper out in front of me.

Front and center, the headline on the weekly campus news read “Cult on Campus?”

And below it in a printed frame was a photo of Greg and me on campus with about eight or ten students gathered around us praying.

The story read:

“Maranatha Christian Ministries came to town last month with a splash. Their new meeting Hall is packed out every week and their posters promise, “Real Christian Answer to Life’s Pressing Questions”. But who are they and what do they want? Despite their claims to lead students to an Abundant Christian Life their reputation at other college campuses tells a different story. “I would not recommend this ministry to any student,” said Dr. Herb Butz, Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. “We believe that this group uses cult like tactics to entrap and cut off lonely or idealistic students, interfering with their studies and recruiting them to perpetuate the group and it’s goals.”

It got worse from there and they quoted me as Pastor Tikie and laid into the tactics we used including posing as a campus sponsored club when in fact this was not the case.

It also had interviews with fraternity members, where Greg and I had preached, accusing us of coming into the frat under false pretenses, stealing their members, then effectively cutting them off. The head of one frat said that I had posed as an official university affiliated non-denominational minister, which he said was a lie.

The article also questioned where our finances were coming from and that we expected the students to tithe and support us. It contrasted our taking of offerings from poor students with that of other ministries like Campus Crusade and the Baptist Student Union that asked for no donations.

Although there was much truth to this, there were some differences between what they wrote and what was actually happening. One inaccuracy was that we had not encouraged the fraternity and sorority members to leave their organization. I felt like that they could do more good inside the frats than if they left them.

But of course since we WERE MCM so we ate up all their free time, they began making radical lifestyle changes that we encouraged.  And, as I related, although I never claimed to be an official university sponsored chaplain, I never corrected the wrong assumptions made about me and MCM.

The article was a disaster.

We now had about 120 members, counting the ten that had come for the planting. It was a great start,but only a start. And now with the spate of articles about MCM Jim and I noticed that our first time visitor attendance dropped off dramatically.

Another part of the problem centered on our finances. Jim did not have enough outside support coming in for him and his family. We knew this was a problem upfront but thought it would solve itself once we had the ministry rolling.

So I was subsidizing him out of my $ 1,500 per month in outside contributions I had pledged to me. The rent, because of the wonderful location right next to campus, was about $ 1,800/month. The cost of our initial blitz had taken our seed money to zeros plus my own war-chest balance was now down to about $ 2,000.

Our offerings were only averaging about $ 300/week despite our success in numbers after three months. If I had any sense I would have calculated that at our giving rate we would need well over 1,200 college kids tithing out of their funds just to break even. Could we have gotten more out of them? Probably, but I was reluctant to hit these kids up hard, like Mike did at Auburn, because of the pain it had caused me as a new recruit.

I have mentioned that I paid a MCM tax of about 12% on my monthly $ 1,500 plus I threw 10% of that in the plate. And on top of that 10% of our local ministries gross income for the Ministry went right back to Gainesville.

Could it get any worse for me and our new church plant?

The answer, as you probably guessed, was yes, it could, and did, get worse.

Much worse.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door banged again.

“That is some wind!” I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally he looked up at me again.

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

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

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

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

Tag Teaming with Greg Ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was cool for its time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we would start where we were strong.

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

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

And it worked.

**********

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

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

It was pretty simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#46 Reality Check

Reality Check

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it came at  the cost of many ruined lives.

 

#40 Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation within MCM

 

Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation

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

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

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

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

***********

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

A much better analogy would be that of a plantation.

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

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

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

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

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

Now there were grades within this lowly single brother hierarchy.

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

Or so they believed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe for good, maybe for bad.

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

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

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

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

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

Music was very important to MCM, extremely important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that would come much later.

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

In Missy’s words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#30 MLTS with Larry and CJ

We are taking over
We are moving out in Love
We are lifting up our Savior
In the Power of God.

None shall stand before us
No more shall we be afraid
We are taking over the nations
In His mighty Name.

A Chorus written for MCM by Bin Soto in the late 1970s

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” Colossians 1:26-31

Maranatha Leadership Training School (MLTS)- seven weeks after I joined MCM

A cadre of five single brothers including three who left the frat with me, Robert, Fred, and Ricky, left Auburn around 3:00 am on a cold November morning for the trip to our first MLTS in Cookeville, TN.

The aging and decrepit 1973 Datsun B210 shook our bones as we chugged up the highway (for those of you under thirty years of age Datsun is now Nissan).  Picture a Honda Civic with a 2 feet cut off of it, no suspension, a two stroke motor cycle engine, a cracked windshield with no heat and I think you get the picture.

In order to save money we bought a big jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly and two loaves of bread. We could not afford to eat out; so we were going to live on peanut butter and jelly for three days. We bought the stale white bread at the day old store for half price.

To this day the thought of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes me gag.

We had pooled our money and, after accounting for gas for the round trip and cost of a cheap hotel room for the five of us, we had about $ 30 left over.

We chattered the whole trip about MLTS, what it would be like and the message we would receive from God. We had a flyer that had been distributed about two weeks before at one of the nightly meetings with Joe Smith.

I glanced down at this flyer as the Datsun putt-putted up the US Interstate Highway towards Tennessee from Alabama.

Preparing the Leaders for God’s movement in these latter days

The “Featured Speakers” were Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney a duo who headed a radical Christian group called People of Destiny International (PDI) located in the Washington DC. Area.

Larry and CJ would be tag team speaking for two days at MLTS.

According to the MLTS flyer they would be speaking on Entering the Promised Land.

We had been hearing for weeks about the awesome experience of MLTS and how it would further prepare us  to be over-comers and leaders in God’s new movement. The caravan of clunker cars from Auburn arrived in Cookeville TN about 9:00 am the morning that MLTS began.

Each attendee was given a welcome packet that included a name badge, a map, a list of restaurants and discount coupons (I would eat PBJ sandwiches for three days so it was wasted on me) and motel/hotel locations.

We joined the crowd that pushed into the auditorium of Cookeville high school which MCM had reserved for the weekend. People streamed past tables set up where you could sign up for special early morning deliverance sessions and discipleship classes.

There was also a large tented area selling tapes from the featured speakers, Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, and teaching materials that generated money for MCM. I will address this in a future post about MCM’s business model.

On the stage inside the auditorium was a huge white projector screen along with banners stating Overcoming for Christ and Jesus is Lord of All! and We shall rule and reign with Him that hung from the ceiling.

About twenty minutes before the opening session was to start the Praise Band kicked in and up on the screen went the words to the chorus.

The singing just about knocked me down.

The service was Auburn’s MCM service on steroids.

The music from the band and the vocals from 3,000 people attending singing at the top of their lungs had an affect that I can only describe as mesmerizing. I remember feeling almost transported to heaven by the singing, and the clapping, and the waving of hands.

Promptly at 10:00 am Bob Weiner took the podium and begin shouting things like, “Praise God!” and, “Glory to God! It’s great to be part of God’s end time movement!!!” at the top of his lungs.

The crowd exploded and the band kicked in with another fast paced song which sent people into the aisles dancing and singing and then Bob would get up and repeat his mantra of, “Glory to King Jesus!” and, “Hallelujah!.

This all went on for perhaps a half hour with song after song that riled the crowd up.

Bob finally put his hands up to get the crowd to stop the dancing, clapping, and singing and with that the place went silent.

He shouted, “This day we can expect GREAT THINGS!!! Amen???”

The crowd responded, “Amen!” and the whole shouting, singing and clapping started up again and went on for another ten minutes until Bob took control of the crowd again.

And what we could expect at MLTS, according to Bob, was, “A mighty and world-changing message from God Almighty Himself speaking to His special Green Berets.”

“Wow,” I thought,”this sure beats the session at the last annual SEC BSU convention I attended entitled  How to cope with stress and temptation.”

How parochial and small-minded the BSU convention seemed in comparison with MLTS.

We were talking about, “changing the world,” and actually, “taking over the world from Satan,” whatever that might mean!

I submit that the various and sundry teachings present in MCM, (and I believe also in Larry’s and C.J.’s ministry PDI) in the 70s on the end times served one purpose: To support the formation of a tightly knit group of over-comers that would serve the purposes of the leadership.

Regardless, Bob said Larry would speak first and told us to, “Ask God to prepare you heart and listen and be ready to respond to God!”

He paused and looked over the crowd.

“Do not blaspheme the Holy Spirit by ignoring God’s message and his anointed,” Bob then shouted as he waved both men up on stage.

This left a lasting impression on me, but it is important to remember every MLTS was designed to:

1. Be “Earth Shattering”,

2. tighten control over the “Green Berets” and to

3. empty our wallets for God’s cause (and put money into the leadership’s pockets).

Anyway, I was not sure what to expect from the exciting anointed men of God Bob was speaking of, but up to the rostrum stepped a guy with dirty blonde hair, while his partner, C.J., took a seat with the MCM elders  to one side.

Larry then exchanged a high-five with Bob Weiner who took a seat besides C.J. clapping him on the back.

In a soft voice Larry asked us to bow our heads and he said a short prayer.

From what I can remember Larry was at first a low-key speaker; neither the hyper excitement of Bob Weiner nor the “Warm but serious Uncle” played by Joe Smith.

Larry seemed a genuine and warm person. Perhaps he was genuinely and warmly deceived by both MCM and his own message.

You must whether that was true judge by what I relate below.

His message was taken from the Exodus 6:1-9 and from Numbers according to my contemporaneous journal.

First he slowly read the text from Exodus.

Then he stopped and said, “Our God is the same today as He was yesterday. So his message for the Israelites and for Moses is the same message today for His Church the grafted on vine.”

We are not victims we are His mighty army!” [“Amen brother!” shouted Bob Weiner and the place erupted in applause and shouts].

“Listen to what God is saying to us his chosen army,” Larry continued.

“First in verse 1 of Exodus 6 we are promised success. And we were promised success, because we can do all things in Christ. If we have faith and discipline we can NEVER FAIL!”

“Second in verse 2 His chosen people were given an anointed leader that set the course for them. God had chosen Moses and this was evident to the Israelites. The same is true today. God has given us anointed leadership. We must not be like the people who grumbled against the leadership. Those who do so will wander in the wilderness for forty years I tell you!”

“Third, we see in Exodus 18:25 that Moses chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Perhaps you in this room, if you can measure up to God’s calling, you can be one of the hundreds, or fifties or tens. But you have to be disciplined in your walk with Jesus!”

“Finally they had the opportunity to go down in history as God’s mighty conquering army. Sadly… this did not happen.”

“Let’s look at Numbers 14. Here we see that with the exception of Joshua and Caleb the Israelites disobeyed their leaders and believed the LIES FROM SATAN that they were destined to be poor and wandering and lost…just like the church today sits around waiting saying ‘poor little ole us, we are just sweet little Christians and will  be run over by that mean old Satan and his world.”

All of the sudden Larry was on fire; matching Bob in his ferocity and enthusiasm.

Larry shouted out, “I tell you this is a lie from Satan, we are over-comers and the gates of hell shall not prevail! Are you going to listen your leaders, and the Word of God, and overcome and rule and reign with Him or are you going to head back into the desert and have your bones buried in the sand?”

We, by this time were all standing and shouting, “We will follow God! We will rule and reign we will overcome! We will overcome!” or something like this.

Larry paused and let the crowd get quiet.

You see it is a LIE!… from Satan…. that the church should sit around and wait on the persecution for we will Rule and Reign with Jesus for 1,000 years. This generation must make the same decision as faced the Israelites: are you a loser or are you a Caleb and a Joshua?”

The place went crazy,

It was a pavlovian response that I would grow use to at MLTS; the main speaker would make some over the top world ending point and the entire place would go ballistic.

I believe this message was given because Bob and the leadership wanted a dedicated group of radical leaders that would do their bidding in building the kingdom.

I think, nay I know, that they made the theology fit the mission; not the other way around!

And I am confident, in a quid pro quo arrangement, that Bob went to PDI and delivered much the same message to Larry and CJ’s. I don’t know this for certain, I will admit, but I would take even odds this happened .

For both C.J. and Larry were frequent guest speakers at MLTS and MCM events. And the same was true of Bob at PDI.

This was how it worked: bring an anointed outside leader and expert in to reinforce the leadership’s message and methods.

Rinse and repeat.

That afternoon at the Bookstore Tent in our enthusiasm our group purchased a 10 tape set series (cassette tape) for $ 25 entitled The Overcoming Life by Bob and Rose Weiner.

We now had about $ 5 in cash between the five of us; not counting the $ 20 left for gas to get us back to Auburn

After an early evening service replete with singing and baptisms we headed for our motel and dinner.

The next morning C.J went first preaching; this time from Revelation 20 on how the kingdom of God would come on earth during the thousand-year reign prior of Christ.

It was a passionate sermon that played right into what I had heard Bob and Joe preach the month before at Auburn:

1. Were God’s Green Berets going to be sent on a suicide mission by God into the world fight the battle  they could never win?

or

2. Will we “take over” and prepare to rule and reign in the thousand year millennium?

CJ said, “The word of God is true and we can see in Revelation 20 verses 4- 6 that ‘They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

He shouted, “Not only shall the over-comers rule and reign but they shall NOT Taste death! We shall not die! We will rule and reign as His Princes and subjugate the earth!!!!.

This was exactly what Joe had told us last month. And we would triumph and rule with him, and, in my heart I prayed right there, according to my scribbling in my journal that day that “I would have the strength to increase my efforts to make this a reality.”

C.J. continued saying “We must be like Joshua and Caleb, we must be fearless in believing God’s promises and understanding what he wants and in following His anointed leaders!”

Cheers and clapping erupted

He paused and the place when silent.

“God will carry out His plan… the question is who will He use? Will you be God’s instruments…it is up to you and what you decide to do EVERY DAY!”

The place went crazy and the band kicked in for more singing, dancing and clapping.

Bob stood up and summarized Larry and C.J.s message to waves of applause and cheers,

“Brethren, this is why MCM focuses on leaders. If we convert future leaders who are faithful to Jesus and the Body and, who in turn later move into leadership positions in governments, business and universities the Body of Christ will LITERALLY establish the rule of God on Earth and bring the millennium to heaven and fulfill the Lord’s prayer on earth as it is in heaven.”

 I determined to be a dedicated member of God’s Green Berets no matter what the cost!

And I would be a prince and people would bow before me during the reign of Jesus!

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

That evening the five of us single brothers from Auburn camped out in a run-down, freezing motel room on the outskirts of Cookeville, Tennessee and, while we feasted on a dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we spoke until the early hours of the morning about how we would fulfill Larry and C.J.’s charge to us from God of bringing heaven to earth.

#4 The Bait- October 1978

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

Saturday October 1978: Ellen

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOW!

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

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

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

It’s just the way most people are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I finally managed to turn the conversation back to them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that assumption was dead wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

What a loaded and carefully aimed question she asked!

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

I still grapple with that question today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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