#39 I Hit Bottom

 

I Hit Bottom

You may recall that my missing a shepherding meeting early in my experience with MCM had earned a rebuke from Marty, MCM Auburn administrator and my shepherd.

But that was all that came of it.

However, later on whilst I was still slinging pizzas 25 hours/week and with a full-time school load, I was thirty minutes late to set chairs up for a midweek evening service.

The rule was that the chairs must be set up by 6:00 pm in order to not interfere with the music group’s 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm pre-meeting rehearsal.

Well I did not get there until 6:00 and I proceeded to set up chairs during the music group’s warmup. Matt (the leader) did not say one word to me as I humped it to complete the chair set up in record time.

Well I get through with the set-up at about 6:45 pm, in time for the 7:00pm service. I am sweating like a pig by this time when suddenly Marty grabs me by the arm and pulls me into his office.

“Brother, you are have lax in your duties; you just completely disrupted the Music Group’s rehearsal and you are setting a poor example for the younger brothers. You need to learn to manage your time more wisely.”

I will tell you that I was dog tired, I was averaging not more than 5 hours of sleep a night, my Tuesday structures lab had run late because of equipment problems and I knew that after this service I would head to the pizza joint for a four hour shift while Marty was doing God knows what.

So I lost it.

“Look Marty, I just finished nine hours of class and study, my lab ran late and after the service, while you are fellowshipping, I will be slinging pizza and will be lucky to get to bed by 1:00 am. How dare you confront me on time management!”

I found my voice rising to a shout.

Which was utterly and completely stupid of me. I had just trashed the ministry administrator and my shepherd. Looking back on it I should have simply said, “Yes brother I was lax and I promise it will never happen again.”

That would have ended it.

In response to my outburst Marty raised his arm and then stabbed a finger into my chest, and with each jab of his finger emphasizing his points saying, “Brother, you have a bad attitude and I sense bitterness toward the ministry and what is God is doing here… What time will you get back tonight? [he meant from my pizza job]”

“Midnight,” I answered.

And thus was birthed my first “hootah session*” …to cast out demons of rebellion out of me.

For those of you who did not endure one or for those who are clueless about this MCM ritual, I will inflict this description of my hootah session on you.

First rest assured that Marty was not going to risk taking on these demons alone.

Not a chance on that.

For indeed, unbeknownst to me  but knownst to Marty, I had seeds of bitterness and a spirit of rebellion. If left unchecked, these demons would lead to my utter doom, and even worse I was contagious and thus could infect the weaker brothers. For demons it seems are much like the common cold  they can leap from brother to brother and perhaps from brother to sister.

So Marty recruited Joe, a morose frat boy convert that I knew and disliked in my earlier life, and Paul a red-haired well-meaning guy who seemed to permanently live in another dimension with angels, visions of God and apparently audible voices from unseen beings.

In other words Paul was a well-meaning, sweet spirited, kook.

Well, I left the service that night feeling pretty upbeat, Mike Caulk’s sermon was a good one. I had calmed down from one of my very rare blow ups. I thought that I should apologize to Marty while explaining that my blow up was caused by a lack of sleep and the pressure I was feeling from my heavy class load.

Silly me.

For when I returned at 1:00 am from my 4 hour pizza shift, smelling like a 160 pound garlic clove, there was Joe, Pat and Marty waiting on me in the entrance way.

Marty stood up when I walked into the floral wall papered entry way.

“Tik, I have been praying about you and have discerned that you are having some real struggles.”

I looked at Mike and then to Joe and Paul. “What in the heck was going on here?” I thought.

“Tik lets step into my office.  We are going to pray for you and help you get your life back on track,” Marty continued as he waved us all into his office.

I did not move but instead suggested, “Hey Marty, why don’t Paul and Joe hit the sack? I have thought about what happened earlier and would like to talk to you about it privately.”

Marty pushed his glasses up onto his nose. “Brother I spoke with Mike Caulk about this and we are in agreement that we need to pray over you and break this demonic strong hold over you, for you are in rebellion.”

So we stepped into the office and I sat down in a chair, and the others pulled their chairs up around me.

“Brother,” Marty intoned “You were in rebellion tonight and also exhibited the roots of bitterness. The old man was cut away and you are a new man for certain, but I have discerned demons in your attitude, demons that we must destroy or it will bring death.”

Paul opened his Bible and read a verse, I am too weary to look it up, but it was about the seeds of bitterness leading to death.

I said, “Look guys, I was not planning on getting into this in a group setting but I was simply worn out and tired… and I snapped at Marty. I am sorry, alright? I should not have snapped at you Marty, it was wrong.”

I continued, “But Marty, you might have asked me WHY I was late and maybe shown a little mercy, and maybe have even offered to help me set up the chairs.”

I said this in a reasonable tone, I had long since calmed down. But it was an idiotic thing to say.

Marty, Joe and Pat looked at one another then back at me.

Marty said, “This is EXACTLY what I am talking about Tik. You have a spirit of rebellion. Now you are blaming your sin on others. Your blaming YOUR temper tantrum on me failing to offer help shows that the seeds of bitterness are bearing fruit in your heart. You have obviously been mulling over some perceived  slights and it [the demon] is feeding on these thoughts.”

They proceeded to pepper me with questions:

“How was my prayer life, was I praying in the spirit?”

“Was I in the Word enough?”

”How much time was I spending studying?”

“Was I masturbating?”

I had to answer among other things that I  was, “Not praying as much when I first joined MCM. That I was to0 busy to pray as much as I wanted to. Blah blah blah!”

Joe chimed in, “But not too busy to play a game of football on Sunday afternoon.”

He was right.

Sunday afternoon I joined the brothers in playing in a football game organized by Miltie Toast and Mike Caulk during the fall and spring.  We went out to the drill field and proceeded to try break each other’s legs and collar bones while we slung a football around. This three to four hours after the church service on Sunday morning were the only relaxation I ever took.

They also discerned that I had a spirit of intellectualism because I countered their accusations with facts and made the mistake of mentioning that I was studying twenty-five to thirty hours a week in addition to my classroom time of seventeen hours a week.

“Guys,” I said, ”if you add it up that is 45 hours a week on school, twenty-five to thirty hours a week at Domino’s Pizza and another thirty hours at MCM not counting services. That does not include things like cooking dinner, cleaning up dishes at the communal dinner, or any other thing that pops up in the week that the ministry needs help with.

“That proves it Tik. You are not a good time manager. Why I have As and Bs and only study ten or twelve hours a week,” Joe said.

“But Joe, for goodness sake you are a business major and are taking 10 hours a term. No offense but my course load is a lot harder, I am taking 17 hours and engineering is a lot more strenuous than business.”

You might think that I would have learned to put a sock in it by now.

“Maybe you need to give it up for the Lord Brother and drop out of engineering school. I see a spirit of intellectualism in you as well,” Mike said in a threatening tone.

That did it.

I had to stop this madness or I would end up dropping out of engineering school and majoring in, say, basket weaving.

So I did the smart thing. I surrendered and confessed to the sins of rebellion, idleness, bitterness and mind worship and whatever else they forced me to confess. It was late, I was tired and in the back of my mind the threat of dropping out of engineering school pushed me into submission. I probably would have confessed to making love to the devil’s sister that evening if it would have gotten me out of Marty’s office and into my bed.

So they cast at least three demons out of me. When we finished it was 3:00 am just in time to get three hours of sleep and be up for a shepherding session with Marty’s sheep at 6:00 am.

But at least I was free of demons, right?

And lest you think I am exaggerating; what I just described was not unusual at MCM.

I can assure you it was typical.

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

*It is my understanding that these demon exorcising sessions became known as “hootah” sessions because when Bob Weiner started speaking in tongues, many times the first words out of his mouth was “Hootah… followed by some nonsensical chant, as in “hootah ala shaba randosomo.”

When Bob was casting demons out of brothers in the early days of MCM he would pray in tongues whilst casting out said demons with an utterance that began with “Hootah…”

Thus was born the name “Hootah session” or so the MCM legend had it.

#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.

#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.

#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.

 

 

#28 Confronting My Parents

Confrontation

The next day was Thursday and that afternoon I headed to the frat house to start packing.

I planned on moving my stuff from the frat house to the MCM House with the help of one of the single brothers I had struck a friendship with, Miltie, that afternoon.

On my way back from class I noticed a white Mercury with Birmingham plates parked out back of the frat house. My heart jumped and I bounded over to the car.

On the bumper was a sticker reading Auburn Engineers Build Dreams.

It was my parent’s car.

But this weekend was an “away” game for Auburn and they had made no mention of coming to see me.

I shot up the steps through the back door to my room. There was a hand written note taped to my door: “You have visitors in the living room”.

It was in Mom’s handwriting.

I ran down the hall to the living room. This was the show piece of the house and no frat members were allowed in the living room without a date or unless they were with their parents.

It was essentially unused, and pristine, sort of like your grandmother’s living room with the plastic on the furniture waiting for the Pope to visit her.

Through the crack in half-open French doors I caught sight of my parents sitting on a couch, and beside them, in one of the leather chairs, was Chris, the head of BSU.

My blood boiled, I concluded that Mom had called my parents and had them drive to Auburn to try to talk me out of leaving the frat.

I raced back down the hall to Moms’ room and barged in without knocking. Mom looked up from his desk where he was writing in an engineering note-book.

“What do you mean calling my parents and bringing them down here?” I shouted.

“Hold your horses, Tonto.”

Mom pushed back from his desk and in a low steady voice said, “Like I told you Tik on Wednesday,  you are a big boy, and if you don’t want to listen to reason and want to screw your life up, well, that is your business. You are what, almost 20 years old? Go for it. I am done with you. As to who got your parents down here I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. But I would suspect Chris (the head of BSU) is the culprit. Now, could you please go see what your Mommy and Daddy want with you and let me have some peace?”

With that I backed out His room and headed back down the hall towards the living room of the frat house.

My mother and father had a struggling business and for both of them to head down here during a work week was very unusual.

I walked into the living room and my father and Chris both stood.

“What in the world are you guys doing here? “I asked, looking back and forth from my mother to my father.

“Well honey,” my mother drawled in her thick Alabama accent, “ when we heard that you were leaving the fraternity and that you were involved in this, this… this…fanatical religious group, why we wanted to come and talk to you about it.”

My father looked me over with a frown on his face and said, in his gravelly voice, “Tik, we are concerned about you. We are very concerned, especially after talking to Chris about this group you are in. He tells us that a number of parents have contacted him about their kids and some strange things this group is doing to them.

I looked at Chris, “Why didn’t you talk to me first before you called my parents? Why bring them all the way down here without even asking me about it Chris?”

My father motioned me to take a seat with the admonition, ”Now Tik just calm down and take a seat, you are not on trial here, we just want to understand what is going on with you. We have heard some disturbing things about how you are behaving and just want to talk things over with you.”

They both took a seat while I took a deep breath and then sat in one of the leather wing chairs just across from the frat’s huge brick fronted fire-place.

Chris sat up in his chair and cleared his throat saying, “First Tik I did not call your parents, they called me. Second, I can’t ever find you to talk to begin with. You dropped out of BSU after the start of term,  you stopped coming to First Baptist Church and you are never here at the frat house. I left numerous notes for you to call me. I have been by here,” and he waved his arms in a sweeping gesture, “at least a dozen times in the last month, but you are never here.”

It was true; I had ignored Chris’ notes and, frankly, I was simply to busy to bother with him.

Besides, he was part of the traditional church that was stuck in the past and why would I ever attend one of his social events that focused on silly games like a Bible scavenger hunt and then watch the group spend most of their time gossiping amongst themselves?

Chris slowly opened a folder he had in his lap.

“I showed your parents these articles when we met this morning.”

The folder was full of newspaper clippings.

I could see one entitled Aggressive Recruiting Tactics Worry Campus Administrators and another spilled out the headline: Cult or Campus Ministry? A Question Hangs Over Maranatha Christian Ministries. There appeared to be a half dozen, maybe more, clippings in the folder. The articles appeared to be from campus newspapers of around the southeast including the Universities of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State.

“Not only do I have concern about Maranatha,” Chris said as he leafed through the clippings, “but so does Auburn’s Administration and other campus administrations as well. I spoke to BSU directors at Florida , Ole Miss, Georgia, and Miss State. They all say the same thing. This group is very aggressive and they draw idealistic young people in, change them, and then cut them off from friends and parents. Many drop out of school after joining the group and then, in a year or two, they packed them off to start Maranatha sites at some other campuses. Many parents, whose children join Maranatha, have no idea what their kids even are anymore.”

My Mom had tears in her eyes and my Dad had a very grim expression on his craggy face.

Chris leaned forward with his hands folded on his knees and said in a low voice, “Martin  [the frat RA we called “Mom”] says that you quit coming to all frat functions last month and then you showed up at this week’s chapter meeting and resigned as President and as a member. You know I am no fan of fraternities Tik, but you love this place and you were a great influence here. I am afraid these guys from Maranatha are playing on your idealism, naiveté and your desire to make something out of yourself.”

Chris paused.

All I could hear was the ticking of the grandfather clock across the room.

“Do you really know what Maranatha is ?” Chris asked after a moment.

My face turned red.

“Yeah, actually I do Chris. They are the over comers the Bible talks about in Acts. That are the first century church I heard about in high school. They are living, or trying to live, the real Christian life, they are totally committed to Jesus, that is who they are.”

I looked at my mother. “Mama, do you remember how I became a Christian when I was twelve?”

Of course she did, she had wept with joy that night. My mother was, and is, a very gentle kindly and Godly woman.

“Well, for the next seven years I did not bring one person, not one person to Jesus. If fact I never even witnessed. And in the last four weeks fifteen people, FIFTEEN, have become Christians because of my witness. I am talking about some hard-core partiers. So, Chris, I know this: that the brothers and sisters of MCM are making a real stand for Christ.  They are not PRETEND Christians I see all around me.”

This was a real slap at Chris and the BSU but he showed no reaction. He simply took his glasses off and polished them with the edge of the cardigan sweater he was wearing.

He waited a good minute before speaking.

“Tik” he said, “We are not here to minister to those that are well, but to the sick. To those who need a place to come for fellowship in college. We take kids as they are, not as we WANT them to be. The kids at BSU are here to get an education first and foremost. I would be careful about deciding who is a real Christian and who is, as you put it, a PRETEND Christian. Ultimately, the Bible tells us that only God knows the heart. And we can only look at the fruit of a person’s life but we CANNOT know their hearts.”

“Exactly Chris. But as you say we can look at the fruit. How many of the BSU Kids are witnessing and converting people, like the first century Christians did? NONE OF THEM!, that is how many. And the reason what I am doing looks so different to you is that I am actually living the Christian life of the first century. Every… single…day.”

Chris shook his head and said “Tikie who told you bearing fruit had anything to do with converting people? I…”

But My father cut Chris off before he could finish.

“Son, I am concerned that you are letting your schoolwork go. Martin [that is, Mom, our frat RA] told Chris you are missing classes and that your grades are down. Your scholarship is very important. Your classwork has to come first. It’s your future.”

“You are wrong Dad, the Bible says ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you.”

“Are you sure,” asked Chris,” that you what are seeking IS the Kingdom of God? Is Maranatha the Kingdom of God?”

“Well,” I said, “it is a lot closer to the kingdom than First Baptist or the BSU where everyone sits around talking about who is dating whom, who kissed who, and the latest football score.”

My father, stood up and crossed his arms over his chest and glared at me.

Then in his Korean War commander’s voice he spoke, “Now I think you ought to drop this crazy thing right now and get back to real life. You have a lot of great things going for you. Don’t throw your life and your future away.”

I knew I was about to get the, “How hard it was in the depression talk and how I had the opportunity that he never had,” lecture from my father. I was not going to listen to any lecture from father right now. And, I thought, I don’t have to.

So I took an unfair shot at my kind, loving and caring parents; I am ashamed to say.

“Dad, guess what? I pay my own way in this world and have for the last two and a half years. I love you and Mom but this is what I am doing and that is that …and frankly I am my own person. I don’t need your advice and I don’t want it.”

My Mom started crying, the tears running down her cheeks, and through her tears she said, “But Honey, we are so concerned about you. And what about Sheila? She was so upset last night when she called us. She begged us to come down to see you. She thinks you are in real trouble. She is so worried about what you are doing and this group you are in. She says that they have brainwashed you, she thinks this group is a cult like those moon heads selling flowers on the road. And that poor girl was sobbing so hard on the phone last night she could hardly get her breath to speak. It almost broke my heart.”

So that was it, heh?

Sheila was nosing into my business; calling and upsetting my parents; meddling in my life. She had rejected the gospel and what I was doing and now she was trying to get in the way of God’s calling on me.

Did she not have any decency left  in her?

My parents left after about an hour of fruitless talk.

It was not a conversation; we just talked at each other. I would not listen to them. And although they listened carefully to what I had to say they simply could not understand what was going on with me. All they could see was that their son, who seemed to have everything going for him, was heading down a completely different, and, to them, a bizarre path, throwing away what they called, “An opportunity of a lifetime.”

I did not even wave goodbye to them when they left or even shake Chris’s pro-offered hand.

I stalked out of the frat house and headed for “the hill”.

I was fuming.

I was planning on giving Sheila a piece of my mind.

 

#23 False Teaching

Editors note: Tikie now discusses some of the false teachings given by MCM leadership. The larger point is not the teachings themselves, but rather how these teachings were used to reinforce the power of the leadership and to extend that power down through the MCM hierarchy of elders, pastors and sheep. These tactics are common amongst sociological cults: set the leadership up as infallible; ensure that their directives are seen as coming straight from an unimpeachable source, and then make it impossible for their followers to confront, or even question, the leadership’s actions or motives.

The False Teachings of Joe Smith 

Prophets and Apostles

At the rest of the Maranatha services that week Joe Smith cited the fact that MCM, just like the first century church, had apostles and prophets anointed by God and filled with the Spirit.

And, he stated, there was a clear reason for this.

“My brothers and sisters the Bible says that God’s church is ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone,” said Joe, quoting Paul in the book of Ephesians.

“And any true church, any overcoming church, any church that is the real Body of Christ therefore must have apostles and prophets or it has no solid  foundation. So these fake, watered down, Christian have no real foundation; for without leaders anointed with His Spirit they cannot demonstrate God’s power and His Word.”

Joe frowned, and then paused, and then looked up at us for at least a minute, his head turning slowly back and forth as he gazed out at the congregation from the stage.

In response to this the whole congregation seemed to lean up, on the very edge of their seats, to see what Joe would say next.

Then suddenly Joe’s face broke into a broad smile and his eyes lit up like a kid seeing a birthday cake with candles and he shouted, “But praise God His Spirit has given His church, His new work on earth elders, apostles, and prophets to provide a firm foundation! AMEN AND AMEN!!”

The congregation then broke into loud applause with shouts of, “Praise God and Hallelujah,” while Joe stepped back and took a long drink of water from a glass on the podium.

Then he leaned back over the podium and raised his hand palm up  and just as suddenly as the crowd had erupted with their approval- it once again became silent.

“Therefore my brothers and sisters you can take comfort that God is directing His work through His anointed elders, not those appointed by man’s power, and that, because of this, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of God that is doing his work today!” As he finished a slow smile, and a look of satisfaction, spread across his face while the music kicked in and the ushers began collecting the offering.

******

Only true Christians will rule and reign with Jesus

Joe Smith, that week, also taught us that how we, God’s Green Berets, would, “Literally rule the Nations as Princes,” since we were now, “The Sons and Daughters of God”. We would literally (and he meant physically) make, “The wicked bow before us after His return,” Joe told us.

“So church you see that the old dead mainline churches’  idea of namby pamby Christians sitting round on clouds, strumming little golden harps, and singing their little sweet songs for eternity is a lie from hell! But, my brothers and sisters, it is clear that if you want to rule and reign with Jesus then you have to be an overcomer in today’s world!”

Joe quoted First John, “Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous.”

And then he combined it with this admonition from Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

“Note brothers and sisters the phrase ‘parents in the Lord,” said Joe.

“Who are your parents in the lord?” he asked us .

Then quickly answering his on question he stated, “Well Jesus clearly tells us that we must be willing to leave our father and mothers… so the apostle Paul cannot be referring to your earthly parents.”

“No it is very clear from the Word that your parents in the Lord are your shepherds who provide for your spiritual safety,”  Joe continued.

“So flock you see that if we practice that Christian righteousness and if we obey our parents in the Lord then we will rule and reign with Jesus as the Sons and Daughters of God when He returns.”

“Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Can you say AMEN CHURCH?… WE WILL RULE AND REIGN WITH HIM AND THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HIM IF WE SIMPLY KEEP HIS COMMANDMENT!”

And the place went berserk as music kicked in and we all joined in singing John Saw the Multitude of the Overcomers and soon the crowd spilled out into the aisles dancing that MCM Hebrew jig in their excitement of learning that they would rule and reign with Christ.

But despite my addled state much I had heard that night concerned me. And even as I was dancing in the aisle with my new found Christian brothers and sisters I was troubled by Joe’s pronouncements.

For Joe made had it clear that those who were, “Not in right standing with Christ  could not, and would not, be Sons and Daughters of God”.

And who, or what, determined if a person was or was not in right standing with Christ?

It seemed clear as to who determined a sheep’s standing with Christ; Their shepherd and the elders that were over the shepherd…right on up the line to Joe Smith, Bob Weiner and Bob Nolte: the Apostles and Prophets of MCM.

And the what that a sheep did to keep their standing with Christ  seemed to mean obeying God’s word as given by the elders of MCM.

Those were serious long term issues that I should have been worried about at a that point.

But there were actually more pressing issues that evening I had not considered yet; my job as President of my frat.

Because things were heating up at the frat.

And I would soon learn that I could ignore my duties as frat president for only so long.

#19 The Dating Revelation: We Say Adios To Dating !

Editors Note: Here Tikie discusses the Dating Revelation. Tikie believes that this revelation, as practiced by MCM, was used as a way to maintain control of members. He views it as just one the many controls that MCM put into place to ensure its members stayed in line.

It was the same order of service recipe as usual at Maranatha that night. I was getting used to it and liked it: the catchy songs, and  usually some dramatic story or a testimony from a good-looking campus leader.

After the music, prophecies, testimonies and the offering Bob got up to speak.

I was very anxious to hear what Bob was going tonight. That morning he had said his message tonight would be about about dating, sex  and marriage entitled “God’s perfect choice for your life”.

“Tonight,” Bob intoned, “I will be giving a message for believers only. If you are not a believer, if you are not a truly committed Christian, then this message will NOT make sense to you.”

He pointed us to the scripture that said the gospel can appear as foolishness to the Godless. He launched into the story of Isaac and Rebecca in Genesis.

After reading the story he asked, “So who chose the wife for Isaac?”

Well that seemed pretty straight forward to me. Abraham’s servant had done this. Bob had just read the scripture describing this event.

But apparently I was wrong.

“If you think it was Abraham’s servant, then you are wrong and not allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret the scripture.”

“Huh?” I thought.

I mean, sure you needed the Holy Spirit to act as a guide, but I did not need to Holy Spirit to tell me that the scripture says something other than what it actually says.

I mean I was a fan of Occam’s razor when it comes to scripture; the simplest explanation is probably the correct one.

“You see Abraham is a type for us of God. You see in Galatians 4:28 we read ‘And you brethren, like Isaac are his children of promise,” Bob told us.

“Wait a minute,” I thought. “I mean I could really stretch here, maybe. I can almost understand MCM’s Baptism doctrine as a sort of circumcision in the way MCM teaches it, even if it is not EXPLICITLY spelled out. But the use of this particular scripture, why, I could not make heads or tails of it.

The story in the Bible simply said that Abraham sent his servant out to get Rebecca as a wife.

How could Bob jump from the servant choosing Isaacs’s wife to  God choosing Rebecca?  And then use that scripture to say that  God should choose our wives?

Not that I was opposed to God choosing, or telling us, who our mates were going to be.  But that is not the point here.

My point, rather, is that the scripture Bob used had no bearing on God choosing our mate.

Bob then went through the reasons that we should be spirit led  in our relationships with the opposite sex. He started by citing 1 Thessalonians that, “We are to walk holy and blameless before Him”.

“Okay,” I thought, “sure we are to be sexually pure before marriage… but is Thess. 4:1-6 talking about how to approach marriage?”

Not anymore that it was talking about a recipe for baking bread, as far as I could see.

Maybe it was my training from engineering school but I simply expect there to be Aristotelian Logic in an argument. The Bible to me was very logical. Things had to be accepted on Faith, but that once it was entered into the equation then logic ruled, or so thought Augustine of Hippo and other theologians. Otherwise, why write the Bible when a particular scripture can mean anything at all?

For example the teaching of sin atonement is logical and supported by plenty of scriptures as well:

1.God has no sin and cannot tolerate sin.
2.Sin requires a sacrifice acceptable to God.
3.Man is sinful.
4.God cannot tolerate man’s presence because of sin.
5. Jesus the perfect man the very God of God was made the perfect sacrifice for us.
6. Those that are atoned by faith in Jesus’s sacrifice desire God and are allowed in his presence.

Or 1+1+1 = 3.

But Bob’s teaching seemed to say that Red + Green =154.7

There seemed to at this point to be no Aristotelian logic to his teaching to in this study.

And this lack of logic in Bob Weiner (and Rose’s as well) was an issue that would eat at me for five years. And the reason there was a lack of logic to their teachings is that these teachings had no basis in scripture at all.

Now Bob pointed us to Psalm 37:4 that, “God will give us the desires of our heart.”

“This means that God will give us our husbands and wives. We do not have to go looking for them.”

“This was a good sentiment,” I thought, “but it is not supported by THIS scripture.”  My head was hurting. What Bob was saying was good.  But the scripture he was using  had no bearing on this teaching.

Then he quoted 2 Timothy: “I know whom I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard that which I have committed to Him until that Day.”

“Now wait a minute,” I thought, “this scripture forms the basis for my Mother’s favorite Hymn. This is not talking about dating and marriage…this is talking about our ultimate destination, our salvation.”

I was completely confused. What came next really threw me for a loop.

“So we believe that there should be NO dating, no going steady, no hand holding, none of that, until God has spoken to you about your mate and that has been confirmed by the elders and you are engaged to be married.”

Bob continued: “And how is this confirmed in Acts 14.” Then Bob  cited the verse calling for the oversight of the flock by the elders and shepherds in the early church.

“So God will reveal your mate to you and you to your mate through prayer. But you are not to speak to the person that is revealed to you for He will also speak to the elders and you shepherds at the same time. They will then pray and confirm His word to each of you.”

And finally Bob finished with these sentences, “This is God’s plan for his perfect choice for your life. It is a revelation for these end times. It allows us to focus on the things of God and not the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.”

Some twenty-five years afterwards there is a fairly simple question that should have been asked:  Why did Bob use scripture that failed to support his thesis?

The answer, I believe is two-fold.

The first answer is simple. There WERE no scriptures to support the Dating Revelation. His use of scripture to support this revelation involved an incredible twisting of scriptures by Bob.

The second answer is that these  revelations had to be supported with scriptures, even if those scripture had not the slightest bearing on the doctrine,

That was because if the doctrine was just a “nice idea” it would not have the force of law within MCM.

But if the doctrine and the teaching came from the”Word of God” and if if came from an MCM Apostle then it would have the force of law. And then the  flock had to obey them or risk losing their place in MCM.

Think about it which “Overcoming sold out MCM Christians” were going to disobey the Word of God and a doctrine sprouted from the mouth of a MCM Apostle?”

And this particular doctrine/revelation (and many other MCM teachings based on the twisting scriptural ) was put into place for one reason, and one reason alone: it  allowed the elders of MCM to have a powerful tool over which to control the actions and thoughts of the flock.

For, if you were a member of MCM, the elders wielded one of the most powerful biological forces in God’s creation: SEX!

And us unmarried people, why we were enuchs for Jesus until we showed ourselves to the elders of being worthy of a mate, marriage, and a marriage bed.

And yet another strange MCM doctrine was being stuffed into that already crowded closet in my mind.

 

#17 A Completely New Family

Saturday October 1978

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

But at that moment my mind was on other matters.

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

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

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

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

A new comer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about Sheila?

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

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

Where did any of my old friends fit in?

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

New brothers and sisters in Jesus they were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He smiled, “Worried about Sheila, hey?”

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

I hoped it had not been stolen.

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

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

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

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

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

At least for now.

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

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

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

No answer.

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

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

Oh Well.

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

Then I scrawled at the bottom of the note.

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

I slid the note under the door to her room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was clapping and shouting.

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

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

Bob waited until the noise subsided.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Amen!” we all shouted back in unison.

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

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

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

“This is my husband Matt.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karen and Phil Bonasso.

But all of this would come much later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he laughed.

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

He paused.

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

Then he looked at Mike and Missy Caulk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#15 First Chastisement

 

Maranatha House, Auburn University, circa 1979

Friday night-Saturday morning- MCM House

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

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

It had to be that, right?

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

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

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

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

I was starting to see double.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, what he said was true I supposed.

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

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

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

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

“Right,” I replied to his question.

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

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

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

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

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

I said nothing. I was in a daze.

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

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

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

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

But it was not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Amen?”

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

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

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

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

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

#11 Discipleship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I found out soon enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I wondered about that notation.

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

But I knew nothing of that process at this point.

Finally, the session seemed over.

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

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

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

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

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

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