#57 A Siren Song

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

A Siren Call

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

1983

I picked the phone up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah Phil, it’s me…it’s Tikie here…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Guess what Tikie?”

“What Phil?”

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

“Uh huh,” I grunted.

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

Sweat started beading on my forehead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I kept listening.

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

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

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

Quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay Phil, thanks again for calling.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

#53 A Drowning Life Guard

“Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” Mike Caulk, former MCM Pastor in an email to Tikie, dated 2006, comforting him on his guilt in  being unable to get his converts out of MCM when he walked away in 1982.

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

I could see them running down the dark hallway with huge torch-flashlights in their hands. Bob Weiner and Joe Smith were looking for me.

Bob pointed in my direction with his handheld light and called to Joe, “There he goes… that way!”

I took off running to my left, turning onto another darkened hall that ran at right angles to the one that they both hurtled down.

 I passed door after door,  I was out of breath and knew I could not keep running; for my legs ached and my lungs burned. I reached out and turned the knob on one of the doors. It opened and I stepped onto a landing at the top of a dimly lit stair case.

Peering over the side of the stairs I could see, below me, another door marked with a flickering EXIT sign.  

Excellent!  I could still get out. Pounding down the stairs I heard the door at the top of the landing swing open.

“I see him!” shouted Bob as the beam of his flashlight swept the stairs I was hustling down.

“Tik Tok you better stop running, your soul is in mortal danger!” I heard Joe’s bass voice boom above me.

My hand hit the knob on the exit door and I turned it, hard. But it would not budge. I heaved my entire body into the wooden door, banging my forehead against it… the wooden door was hard…very hard and uncomfortable…hard…I had to move…hard…uncomfortable…hard…

My eyes shuttered open, the wooden kitchen table top was about a quarter-inch away, and a pool of drool  seeped onto the open Safeco ledger and accounting book underneath me. I sat up and looked around. Completely quite reigned.  The only sound came from the faint hum of the electric kitchen clock on the window sill beside me.

“No wind, no rattling…the blizzard must have blown through during the night,” I thought.

I walked over to the front door of my apartment and slipped on my over boots. My nose wrinkled at the smell of burnt coffee wafting over from the still hot pot in the kitchen.

I tried to open the front door, but apparently snow jammed against it.

Then putting all my weight and strength into it I managed to wedge the door open about 18 inches. Snow came cascading into the apartment and I stepped through the open door into about 2 feet of drifting snow.

I now stood on the open steps at the front of my one bedroom apartment.

The only sound came from the light whistle of a breeze pushing over the drifts of snow that rolled out over Main Street and onto the campus about a half mile away. Ice glistened from the tops of the gabled slate roofs of the dorms. Not a soul in stirred.

My lungs and nosed crackled as I drew a deep breath of the cold air. For five minutes I stood there watching the sun break over ice  blue horizon. I did not move and don’t remember even a stray thought entering my head for a long while.

Even today, I think, because of that morning, I love brutally cold winters and blizzards. I have taught myself to skate and ski…and to me there is nothing better than skating on a New England Pond in 20 degree F temperatures with the wind at my back and no sound but the scrape, scrape, scrape of my skates and the grunt of my own breathing. That morning the cold air also refreshed me and heightened all my senses.

For I knew what I must do now.

I tell you I did not even understand completely what this action would mean, and what it would do to me, or even what the consequences, good, evil, or indifferent, were.

I simply knew that I could not keep on.

The future be damned. Suddenly I simply did not care.

And I am glad I could not reason through the chain of events I now unleashed on my insignificant life.

Could I, would I, have gone through with my resolution if I had KNOWN what was in store for me?

Now, Dear Reader, if this were a novel or a good screen play, at this point I would turn, around walk back into my apartment, and have leveled with Tikietwo.

I would have told him, “Look my friend, get the heck out of here, don’t even think about dropping out of school and let me tell you in detail why MCM is a sociological cult.”

And I would also write to you, if in a novel, about how I had an epiphany of the nature of MCM that morning and how I was free as the cardinal that I spied flitting from frost covered fir tree to fir tree.

And Tikietwo would then throw his arms around me shouting, “Thank you for saving my life Tik, you are so brave and such an example of a Godly and courageous man.”

Well, this is NOT a novel, and it is NOT a screenplay (at least not YET) and so this is NOT what happened. For life is not that simple.

Rather than looking at my departure from MCM as the Jail break from MCM by one of the gang from the Mission Impossible movie, a better analogy would be of an exhausted guy, neck-deep in muck and quick sand, who has just grabbed a thin, and not so strong, vine. And using that one vine he  has to pull his way, hand over hand, out of the pit, or drown in the gunk that is starting to pour down his nostrils.

To quote Mike Caulk, “Tikie, it is hard for a drowning man to be a life guard.” And that drowning man at this point was me.

So I walked back into the apartment, scrambled some eggs, fried some bacon,roused TikieTwo from his slumber, and fed us both breakfast.

“Look Tikietwo I think we need to give this more prayer; about you going full-time I mean. Let’s plan on talking to your folks about all this, you simply cannot drop out of school.  Your witness is desperately needed there.”

I figured that would hold him in place for a while. In the meantime I had to continue to pull on that vine and get out of the muck of MCM to save my own skin.

Then I could worry about Tikietwo.

But as you will see, I was unable to help Tikietwo.

I should have known that the MCM’s multi-layered defenses would soon kick in and label me as Satanic, a Judas, demon possessed, a liar, and a thief.

So I saw Tickietwo off that morning back to his frat house with a promise from him to make no rash decisions.

Then I  got out my $ 5.00 plastic snow shovel (lesson learned: never skimp on snow shovels) and begin the four-hour job of shoveling my car out of the parking lot.

By 2:00 pm I was ready to go and with the streets now ploughed and salted  I headed over to Jim and Dana’s (my co-pastors) house.

Jim was about half way through shoveling his drive, so I grabbed my $ $5.00 special and spent the next hour shoveling and grunting with him. Finally we were through.

“Jim, can we sit in my car for a minute. I need to talk to you.”

I did not want to go in his house, I wanted to be on my own turf and I did not want Dana involved, I really liked her, and I was afraid she could, and would, sway me from doing what I was now determined to do.

Jim gave me a puzzled look and said, “Sure,” and we got into my car.

“Jim, I can’t keep doing this. I want out, and I am getting out.”

He looked at me and said slowly, “Uh-huuuuh.”

I explained about Tikietwo and my discussion last night.

“Look brother you are just exhausted, and you are too emotionally caught up with your sheep and their traumas. I have seen this happen before. You cannot bear all of their burdens, you have to trust God. He will take care of this flock Tikie …you can’t do it all.”

“Jim, stop it alright with the pat MCM answers? It is not about the work load, it is NOT about Tickietwo, it is about EVERYTHING.”

“That is just plain silly…” Jim started to say.

But I cut right over him saying, “I mean EVERYTHING is wrong…look you are a sweetheart of a guy and you are smart too. You saw what went on when Nick was here. That is just a symptom of all of MCM. But it is even more than that, it is Bob, Joe, the whole she-bang- and what we are putting these kids through. You have been to the same staff meetings I have been to. It is about ego, pride, ambition money, and numbers; it is not about Jesus, and certainly not about God’s love.”

He smiled, “Tikie. Look, you are just worn out and I know the finances are getting to you. Let’s go inside, let Dana fix you some supper. Let’s get on the phone and call Bob. You’ll see… you are just in a funk.” He put his hand on my shoulder with a grin.

Now Jim was smart and good guy. If he had started in on that demon possession stuff I would have driven off with him in the car all the way back to Alabama. Somehow he knew that.

He a fireman trying to talk a jumper down off a ledge. And I was the jumper with no parachute.

“I don’t think so Jim. It’s over for me… really it is.”

“Now Tik, just cut that talk out. You know you will be one of the top guys at MCM. Everyone compares you to Rice or Greg.”

“Don’t you get it Jim????…I don’t WANT to be like those guys. The comparison to them makes me sick to my stomach!”

“Okay Tik, I am going to tell you something. Something Dana and I know that you don’t know. Something that we were not going to tell you for another forty-five days or so.” He cocked his head knowingly.

“We have a word for you from the elders.”

I can tell you that a feeling of doom and dread, a premonition of disaster, came over me. A dark cloud was heading over the horizon right at me and I got a sick feeling in my gut. I could taste acid in my mouth.

He leaned into me.

“Your name was submitted by a sister to the elders,” he said. Then he sat back.

He meant a sister had submitted my name to the elders for an arranged MCM marriage.

I felt like puking as bile gurgled in my throat.

“It was submitted about two months ago, and if you did not get the Word (meaning if God did not tell me) Dana and I were going to talk to you about it in March.”

I was clueless, there was not a sister that I was now attracted to anywhere in MCM, or that I had even flirted with since my infatuation with Ellen.

“I think that this whole thing is God showing you that you can’t make it without a helpmate. I certainly could not make it without Dana. You need to get married,” Jim continued.

It was true. Dana took care of everything for Jim so he could concentrate on the ministry, plus, along with our single staff sister, she handled counseling the sisters.

I shook my head. “I can tell you Jim that this is not of God, that I do not bear witness and that I am out of here… Gone!”

“The elders DO think it is God, and I think what you are going through is simply God speaking to you about your need for a helpmate. We all agree it would be a perfect fit, this sister has the gift of prophecy and she will complement your warm approach. You are simply too nice Tik, you take too much of the brother’s and the ministry’s burdens on yourself. She can help you with that and balance your personality.”

He told me her name.

I was aghast. And a light clicked on for me.

I was going to be stuck with one of the single prophetic sisters who would, “Kick me in the ass”, keep me from, Being “too nice and not tough enough,” and help hold me on the MCM reservation.

That did it. Whatever bond that held me in placed snapped. I swear I heard the thing pop in that car.

“Jim, I’m out of here…you are either coming with me or you can step out of this car. This whole thing is no good, I can’t keep inflicting this MCM crap on people. I have tried to do it differently up here… to protect the brothers from the bad stuff, but it is of no use… the whole thing is rotten. No one can fix it.”

Jim, a really nice and soft-spoken guy, a guy I liked a whole lot, and now he had a look of terror on his face.

“Don’t do it Tikie, I beg you. You will be walking out on God, walking out on the brothers that you have brought in, you will be walking out on Dana and me. Look I am a good pastor, but well, we both know that you are the guy that makes this thing spark. What about my family? This whole thing could come apart on us. You are deserting us… your family…my family…you just can’t do that.”

I was crying now, he was right, everything he said was on the money.

Jim was a great guy, his kids, seven and five years of age, called me Uncle Tikie and Dana was like an older sister. And I knew this place might flounder without me.

“Look Jim, you know MCM is rotten, I know your heart, why don’t you get out too? Let’s get the brothers and sisters at our ministry together and tell them that we are out, why we are out, and let’s go back to real-life.”

Now we were both crying.

Jim said through his tears, “God is in this Tikie, sure there are problems, but this is God’s movement and this is my family. And I will live or die with it. Don’t Tikie, please don’t… come inside, let’s talk this over, you know Dana has a great heart and head, let’s spend some time in prayer. Okay?”

I started the car.

“Jim I am loading up tonight then I am out of here as soon as possible. And that is that. Maybe I am deserting you and God, I just know I have to go, I must go, no matter what. Now get out of the car or you are coming with me, I MEAN IT!”

He opened the door and got out.

“Tikie, let me pray for you.”

“Sorry Jim, I am past being prayed for. You are a good guy…God bless you.”

I pulled out of his drive way and turned the corner and drove about a half mile and pulled the car off to the side of the road. I had to. I find it impossible to drive when crying.

I finally got control of myself. “Okay, I gotta get moving, I gotta get the hell out of here.”

It did not seem real, and I felt like I was watching a movie of myself loading my suitcases in my apartment.

I really did not have a clue about what I was going to do and where I was going. I had about $ 200 in my checking account. And because of the snow storms the banks were not shut, and I had neither a credit card or ATM.

That realization set me back. I could not leave until in the morning. I had to have some cash. I went and fueled my car with the money I had on me. When I walked back into my apartment the telephone was ringing.

I picked it up.

It was the guy with the flashlight from my dream last night.

Bob Weiner.

With a really cheery happy sounding, “Hi Tikie, brother are you doing okay?”

He sounded so NICE that he scared me. In fact I had heard Bob passionate, angry, I had heard him plead, cajole and beg. But I had never heard him sound chirpy and light hearted.

“Yeah Bob, I am doing fine. “

“Look Tik, I spoke with uh…(two second pause: was he looking at his notes?)…uh…Jim, and he tells me that you are well, thinking about leaving the ministry? Is that right?”

“That pretty much sums it up Bob, I can’t take it anymore, I don’t feel right about what we are doing…I mean what is really in this for the kids we are bringing in? I think we have lost our way somehow.”

“Now Tik, we all get in the dumps, why even I do on occasion [big laugh]. But Rose, well, she has a way of snapping me out of it. Everyone needs a break and rest…you have done great work, super work I say, why I think you have the potential to be one of our top evangelists. Joe and I both think so. Look, I want to get you out of that depressing snow for a couple of weeks. You have been working non-stop for six months. We’ll get you down to Gainesville, you know, let you kick back a little while…let you unwind and we’ll give you some good one on one ministry with Joe Smith and me. Okay? I have already ordered a first class airline ticket for you, you can fly out in the morning. It’s done, it is on HQ… okay?”

Wow, it sounded great, first class tickets, Bob himself wanting to minister to me…he sounded so warm and reassuring. And it would be good to get back to some warm weather…then I snapped to.

Bob– I appreciate the offer. Overwork is not the problem; the problems are…well the whole thing is not right. What we are doing is wrong.”

“Look Tikie,  sure the ministry needs some course corrections.  That is why we need guys like you. God has given you so much talent, don’t waste it… honor the talents He has given you.”

I would have much preferred a screaming match with Bob; this was NOT what I had expected.

He was so pleasant.  Somehow he KNEW where to go with the conversation and he was starting to reel me in. But I kept hold of the vine I was clinging to; and no matter what he said he could not convince me that the cold, muck filled, quicksand pit I was in was a nice warm swimming pool. I had seen too much, done too much, done too many bad things to others.

I had looked into the heart of the ministry and it repelled me.

Bob, sorry, I am checking out.  Call it quitting. Call it whatever you want but I am through with this thing.”

“Tikie I am really concerned about you; about…your walk… your soul…don’t walk out on God. Please…”

I had to end this thing now.

Bob, I gotta go. I’ll think about what you said but I am hanging up now.”

And I put the receiver down.

I had hung up on Bob Weiner.

I had to. I thought if I kept listening to him I would wind up on that airplane and then I would end up in Gainesville and never leave.

I slept fitfully that night. The phone rang about four times but I did not answer it. Early the next morning I called my parents.

My mother answered.

“Mama, I am calling it quits… I am coming home, is that okay?’

“Are you sure honey? You seemed so happy when we came to see you in October.”

They came just as Greg and Helen were on their way out and they had been both dazzled, and taken in, by what was going on; they were especially taken with Greg and Helen.

“Mama, I just can’t keep this up; not sure what I am going to do. Can I bunk in with you guys for a while?”

She laughed, “What a silly question, honey you have always bedroom here, now don’t ever forget that. Why don’t you come to work for Daddy?’

“No way,” I thought. But I said, “We’ll see.”

I headed across campus. I stopped by the Maranatha Hall and laid the operating manual and the Safeco Ledger and Accounting Book on the desk. Then I headed to frat row.

To TikieTwo’s frat house.

I pounded up the stairs and rapped on the door to his room.

It opened.

It was him.

“Oh, uh, hi Tik.” His normal ear to ear grin was gone.

“Hey Tikietwo, I need to talk to you. About me. I’m leaving.”

“I know, Jim and Janet (our single sister) were here last night. They told me not to talk to you; that you were in trouble… that they were trying to get you into counseling down in Gainesville. That you had fallen in sin.”

“No…that is not the case at all Tikietwo. Not at all. I should have leveled with you the other night. But I had to straighten my thinking out. C’mon, I’ll buy you breakfast. I need to help you see what is going on with me and to help you with your thinking.”

He did not move.

“I can’t talk to you Tik…not until I talk to Jim or Janet. Jim told me you might come by here and that I should have you call him if you did. Look I have to take a shower. I have an early morning lab… so… well… I’ll call you later.”

The door shut.

I walked out and sat on the steps in front of the frat house. I could make him understand I was sure…but that would have to wait. I could feel the ministry pulling at me; my own prize, Tickietwo, had literally slammed the door in my face.

What would become of me?

If I stayed and tried to reason with him I would end up talking to Jim , Dana, and Janet and I might get sucked back into MCM. Perhaps Bob was flying up here even now to meet me in person.

I did not trust myself. I had to go and go NOW.

So I headed out-of-town with my car crammed with my clothes, stuff, and every nickel of cash I had. It was eighteen hours of driving to Alabama and it seemed like it was eighteen days.

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

I pulled up to my parents’ home and before I opened the car door my mom was out of the front door and at the car. She gave me a hug.

But I didn’t hug back. It was like I was dead.

And I was.

I knew that my life was over.

I had jettisoned all my college friends pre-MCM. My high school friends were scattered all over the southeast. Everything I had given myself to over the last four and half years was in vain.

The only thing I left in my life was my kid brother, who was still at home, and my Mom and Dad.

I wasn’t hungry even though the last meal I had eaten was breakfast some forty-eight hours earlier with Tikietwo.

There was nothing to say to my parents and no answers to their questions.

For my parents did not even know what questions to ask; for they could not possibly understand what was happening to me and had happened to me.

To them it seemed that I had simply decided church work was not for me and I was going to go into engineering.

But from my view I was cast adrift and, for the first time in almost five years, I had no one telling me where to go, what to do, no mandatory prayer sessions, no calls to Gainesville, no witnessing plans, no special offerings and fundraisers, no clubs to organize, no tracts to hand out, no posters to put up all over campus, no “hootah” and counseling sessions with the brothers, no all-night prayer meetings, no sermons to be listened to or prepared; no Red, Green,Blue, Brown or Pink books to work through, no satellite MLTS meetings, no MLTS conferences, no upcoming road trips to other ministries, no earth shattering revelations or prophecies to look forward to, no certainty about life and my purpose.

No marriage or marriage partner.

No heaven.

No nothing.

Only darkness

#52 A Simple Prayer

Sometimes the simplest prayers are the best” 

Johannes Oecolampadius, the reformer of Basil, 1526

MLTS: Tulsa, Oklahoma 1982

Just after my appearance before the magistrate, we took our 120 plus kids down to MLTS, my notes are sketchy, but I think it was in Tulsa.

On the second afternoon at MLTS I was on my way to one of the workshops when I spied Nick P, Leo Lawson, and Bob Weiner heading down the hall towards me.

Bob looked up and said, “Tik come with us,” and he motioned with his arm. We sat down on some couches in an alcove. Leo, by this time, stuck to Bob like a scab on a wound. It actually reminded me of some mob figure with a body-guard.

He glared at me through slitted eyes, while Nick P leaned back with his arm draped behind Bob’s shoulder.

Nick began, “Tik, although your ministry has shown great growth in numbers we wonder about your ability to lead the ministry and to grow it financially. You have got to really develop your style and your leadership image. It is important that your flock see you in the correct light. You see you need to…”

Bob cut Nick off with his usual brashness, “Tik, you’ve got to set the pace, the brothers and sisters will only follow Jesus, the Word, and  the Ministry to the degree that you do. Let me tell you when I look around MLTS I can spot the real leaders…do you know how?”

“How”? I asked.

“Well leaders and winners congregate together; they hang out together. I mean  who is Greg Ball  hanging around with? Why with Rice [Broocks] and Dennis [Darville] that’s who… and Leo, here,” he elbowed Leo Lawson, “Leo here hangs out with Nick and with Joe [Smith] every chance he gets.”

“Okay,” I said.

I was hoping against hope Bob was not suggesting I start hanging out with Nick.

Leo looked up at me and said, “I noticed you spending time around some brothers that are struggling.”

“That guy,” Leo looked over at Bob, “you know Bob, the guy at Auburn, what’s his name?  Tik is spending a lot of time with him, what’s his name?”

“Max,” said Nick, “His name is Max Hatter.”

“Matt,” I corrected him.

“Regardless,” said Nick, “that ministry is on the skids, after being one of the strongest in the country. Even your ministry, Tik, is bringing at least 75 more people to MLTS than that one and Auburn has been around for five plus years.”

“Winners hang around winners Tik. The guys who are struggling will sow doubt in your mind, and will bring you down. You need to polish your image, okay?” and with that Bob dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

I got the message. And I turned my back on my best friends.

I am ashamed that when Matt and Allie asked if I wanted to join them for dinner that night I said, “I have plans”.

And I conveniently forgot about our usual breakfast at MLTS where we caught up and gossiped and laughed at Phil Bonasso’s latest antics to get noticed.

And at the leadership conference in Dallas two months later I walked right by an open seat next to Matt and Allie, my “old” best friends, the couple who had been my refuge at Auburn and who had made my life livable there, to take a seat next to Helen Ball while Greg opened up the session.

It was as if Matt and Allie no longer existed for me.

I knew, that Matt knew, by this time, that I was avoiding and ignoring him.

I did it so I would not be, “Brought down,” as Nick put it. So I would be seen as a winner by the MCM leadership. I closed my heart to Matt and Allie and set my face towards the leadership with my ambition to secure a place in the top ranks of MCM.

It was a terrific betrayal of their friendship and I feel my face burning as I write this.

As Matt later told me, “Allie and I thought we had lost you forever Tikie.”

*************
Blizzard- Midwest 1983
Well, all of this, that I have shared with you, was flashing through my mind as I poured a cup of coffee for “Tikietwo”, my sharpest convert, the night of that terrible blizzard in 1983.

Tiketwo cupped his hands around the steaming coffee and blew into it.

“So what made you risk your life tonight? You really have me worried traipsing over here in a blizzard,” I asked.

“I just can’t take it any more Tik,” he said. The the snow from his pants and shoes was melting, puddling on the carpet.

”The school load, the work load at my frat, the Bible Studies and witnessing. My parents were here yesterday and they have become convinced that I am in a cult and are threatening to cut me off financially.”

I continued to listen, not saying anything, stock still in my chair.

He smiled and said, “I want to be like you Tik. Nick prophesied over me that I would be a warrior and full-time for the ministry. I want to quit school. I think God is telling me to quit. I will get  a job and study full-time under you and help you with the ministry. I want to work full-time in God’s Kingdom. I am totally and radically committed to Jesus, just like you Tikie.”

I stared at him.

Did he really want to be like me?

Did he really understand what I did and went through?

I glanced over at the Safeco ledger book on my small kitchen table.

We were about two weeks away from running out of cash. Supposedly we were to pay MCM corporate back $ 800/month for the $ 10,000 seed money, but after a shouting match with Bob Weiner, Bob Nolte, and the finance guys I had gotten us a 90 day reprieve.

And here was this sharp, brilliant, good-looking guy in the palm of my hand.

He would do whatever I wanted him to do. I could probably get him to hock his late model car and throw the proceeds into our offering plate on Sunday to buy us another month of operating cash.

But unknown to him the old Tik was running amok; yelling and shouting in my head. That Tik would not go back into the closet. Not anymore. And the old Tik was asking some pretty tough questions:

“Do you want this kid dropping out of college on your conscience?’

“And if he drops out does he REALLY know what he is doing?”

“Does he REALLY WANT TO BE THE TORMENTED PERSON YOU ARE?”

And even worse were the questions like:

“Can you live with yourself if you keep sucking people into this …thing… whatever it was… whatever it has become?”

I looked at Tikietwo.

Then I said softly, “Look its late and you are exhausted. Why don’t you rack out in my bed. I have a little work to do and I’ll get some sleep on the couch. Let’s talk about all this in the morning.”

Reluctantly he agreed and thirty minutes later he was snoozing in my bed.

I sat back down at the kitchen table.

What was I doing with my life?

Was God in this? Had He ever been?

Could I continue doing what I suspected, no what I now knew, was wrong?

Could I perpetuate the lie of God’s Green Berets?

And what about this young man who trusted me…and the forty other young brothers who were looking to me for answers? What of them?

But this ministry was my life, my family, my home, MCM was everything I had.

Without MCM I was nothing.

I bowed my head.

Dear Jesus, please help me, please.”

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

Burning Ring Of Fire part 3

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

Nick was a second generation Greek.

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

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

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

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

“What conditions?” I asked him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not flinch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He handed me the receiver.

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

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

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

I did understand.

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

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

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

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

Well, it continued to go downhill at our ministry.

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

There was A BIG problem that night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was appalled and disgusted by the whole thing.

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

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

“Like what?” he said.

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

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

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

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

Nick was lying.

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

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

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

I could not believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gulped and we did it.

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

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

 

 

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

I Fall Into A Burning Ring of Fire Part 2

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

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

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

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

And weighed heavily on my conscience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A very windy autumn.

And the wind blew the papers all over campus.

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

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

This was infinitely stupid.

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

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

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

“That would be me, Tik Tok.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

”See this yet?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

The story read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article was a disaster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much worse.

 

#38 The Secret of Money and MCM

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

The MCM Business Model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or three times per year.

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

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

This represented a HUGE cash and profit generator for MCM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tithes and offerings covered staff overhead and such.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total Expenses/MLTS $ 150,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1979 Proforma Profit and Loss Estimates Auburn MCM using 2006 Dollars

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

Total Income: $ 376,000

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

Total Expenses $ 374,000

Net Profit $ 2,000

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

Total cash to HQ $ 62,000

Discussion

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

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

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

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

Cash Flows from MLTS in 1979

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

Conclusions:

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

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

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

#37 Abuse: Being Drained By The Ministry

“Truth is the daughter of time, not of power.”
Sir Francis Bacon

“Now make your fist into a ball, there you go, okay, I can see that vein now…very good Mr. Tok.”

The nurse in the white coat swabbed my arm with alcohol and then massaged my bulging forearm vein with her gloved finger.

She pulled a very long sharp, hollow needle out of a sterile pouch and quickly stuck it into my bulging vein. The clear plastic tube fitted onto the needle was attached to a clear plastic bag.

And that clear bag started quickly filling with my warm crimson blood.

The needle and the catheter tugged on my arm, stinging me with cold while my chest ached in rhythm with the beat of my heart beat.

Turning my head to the right I saw another fifteen donors laying on tables row on row. Most of them, with the exception of Patrick a brother from MCM, were in their early sixties and had the washed out look of winos or derelicts.

It was early June 1979.

I had gotten the idea of selling my plasma from Patrick in early March 1979. That night Mike Caulk, our pastor, walked up to the podium during one of our week night fellowship meetings with a grim expression on his face

“Brothers and sisters the Devil is attacking the Ministry,” he said slowly.

A low murmur ran through the crowd. I wondered what this attack was, was someone ill?  Had there been a fire at one of the ministries? We, all 150 brothers and sisters, waited expectantly and anxiously as Mike looked us over stone faced.

“God, as you all know, told the elders in January that the Ministry needed to replace the old single engine ministry airplane.” [This was a single engine Cessna 210 that flew Bob, the top elders and the Praise Band from used to fly from  site to site].

I remembered that fundraising effort clearly.

There had been innumerable bake sales, car washes and door to door knockings where we carried buckets labeled MCM Christian Relief Fund to try to get people to throw money at MCM in the near freezing February weather for the new plane.

We had also staged a walkathon entitled Evangelistic Explosion 1978 to raise money for this new twin-engine airplane, a Piper Aerostar (new to MCM but purchased used).

I actually kicked in about $150 from my stash of $400 from my savings. At this point my savings were down to $ 250. This after entering MCM with almost $ 900 in the bank in November (that is about $ 2,700 in 2006 dollars).

I was barely holding my own with expenses; even  working 25 hours in the Pizza joint/week and even with the DOT grant that Dr. Carl had made magically appear.

All of this ran through my mind as the congregation waited for Mike Caulk to continue. He slowly shuffled through a stapled stack of printed papers that lay on the podium.

Then, looking up, Mike cleared his throat and said, “We found out yesterday that a piston cracked on one of the engines in the new plane. And the ministry plane is now grounded.”

He paused and said, raising his baritone voice to an almost shout, “Satan is attacking us in the midst of our success. But God will triumph here and we, his Green Berets, will answer His call.  The Ministry as a whole must raise $ 75,000 to cover the costs of replacing the engine by mid April. I am counting on the Auburn ministry to come through in a strong way, as usual.”

I sat with my mouth hanging open in disbelief as Mike outlined a series of fundraising efforts including a special offering and urged us all to give sacrificially that night.

I remembered the all-out effort to raise money for the new twin-engine plane in February; how almost every waking hour, not devoted to school, work, or the normal frenetic MCM activities had been devoted to getting money out of the community and out of our own pockets no matter what.

At that time Mike explained to us how this new larger and faster plane would enable the leadership to spend more time ministering. It would speed the work of evangelizing the world; it would carry more people and more equipment for the Lord. That the plane was a critical part of the plan to bring God’s Kingdom on earth in our lifetime.

But the cost of this new plane had never been mentioned.

I had never considered what this cost meant to all of us and the drain it imposed on our finances. And now this newly purchased ( apparently with no warranty) plane needed $ 75,000 of work to keep it flying.

Even now $ 75,000 to repair an engine is a large chunk of money and equal to  $175,000 in 2006 dollars. This seemed a huge sum to all of us in the Auburn ministry.

And it was.

And this amount, mind you, was on top of the money MCM had raised to buy this  two-engined plane just four weeks ago to tune of $ 300,000 (or almost a million dollars in 2006).

I remember thinking all of this but the thought went nowhere as I swatted it down.

Did MCM REALLY need a plane?

At the time MCM had about ~30 ministry sites and ~4,000 members. Campus Crusade dwarfed MCM in size yet CCC has never had a corporate plane much less a two engine twelve seater. But no one, including me, thought to ask that question, or maybe dared to ask it.

So the elders cracked the whip and we went into high gear fundraising mode.

I did not really have time to take part in the fundraisers; I never had any time but I was going to have to make time it seemed.

Marty told the sight single brothers in our shepherding group, “I expect the single brothers to lead the way here, the Auburn Ministry has committed to send in $ 5,000 (the equivalent of  15,000 in 2006) for this need.” He looked over the glasses that had dropped down his nose, sighed and continued, “And I am counting on each of you to bring in at least $200; we single brothers are the spear point of God’s Army.”

And this money had to be raised by by mid-April; a date that was less than four weeks away.

Now with my savings down to just $ 250, and my time, as I have already told you, stretched to the breaking point, I did not see how I could make this happen.

I had already crimped my studies for the marathon of fundraisers to buy the plane in February and my grades showed it. And to make my quota ($ 300) for the special needs offering for the  plane  I had thrown in $100 from my dwindling bank account.

I would flunk out of school if I was not careful, or be unable to pay my bills, or both.

But one night, just after this fundraising pep talk , Patrick, my roommate, let me in on his secret and it seemed like an answer to my prayers.

And that is why I was laying on a clinic table watching two pints of my blood drain into the bag. The bag was full now.

My arm really hurt now and I was chilling.

“Okay honey,” said the nurse who walked up and fingered the two pint bag of my warm blood,“I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

She unhooked the bag from the catheter but left the needle and the tube hanging from my arm.

She put the bag containing my blood in a centrifuge that sat on a counter a couple of feet from the table I lay on. Soon it started whirling around with the sound of a rusty mixer. In about two minutes the red corpuscles of my blood had been separated from the yellow/clear plasma in the bag.

She drained the yellow plasma out of the bag into a clear bottle, wrote on a label attached to it, and then brought the bag containing my red blood cells back to the chair. Then she re-attached this blood filled bag to the catheter still hanging from my arm.  She lifted the bag onto a pole and the blood, minus the removed plasma, starting draining back into my arm.

The cold blood hurt my arm as it streamed back in my body. It continued to hurt.

This part always hurt.

The rules of the plasma bank were that you could give plasma once per week. It paid $ 25 per drain. That was equal to $75 in 2006 money.

But Patrick and I were gaming the system.

For there was one blood/plasma center in Auburn and another one in Opelika, a town about 15 miles away. Patrick had a beat up Chevy and on Monday we would hop in his car and donate plasma in Opelika and then, on Thursday, we would walk to the center in Auburn to donate plasma.

So we doubled the amount we could earn despite the prohibition on more than one plasma donation per week.

In two hours total I could earn $ 50 per week ($150 in 2006 dollars).

But there was a drawback.

I started getting sick.

I could not recall having been sick enough to take to my bed since I was a little kid. I had begun doing this in March (three months) and ago I started being sick a lot.

First it was a bad cold, which I could not shake; that turned into bronchitis, then it was the flu. Then there were the headaches and I also found myself tired all the time.

But my plasma brought in about $ 200/month; the equivalent of $ 600/month in 2006 dollars.

This was equal to what I earned in slinging pizza in a month so it doubled my income. I banked some of this extra money replenishing my savings account; but about half of it went into the ministry offering plate or for the special needs offering that popped up regularly.

Like the plea to fund the repair to MCM’s twin-engine plane in April described above.

Or the plea the next month (May) to purchase a $ 200,000 meeting house for the new MCM planting in Argentina where apparently God had James Thomas speaking fluent Spanish after one week on site.

Well, we found out in April of 1979 that Auburn had once again exceeded its special needs offering goal by a huge margin and that MCM had been able to replace the blown aircraft engine.

Mike Caulk seemed very pleased and relieved

For my part I had thrown about $ 300 into the special offering for the plane, easily exceeding my required fund-raising quota of $ 200; most of this coming from my plasma money.

The entire ministry had been flogged for cash so that Bob and Joe would not have to fly commercial. I had literally been drained for some of this money.

Well, my grades and finances reached their nadir during  Spring term 1979 as I barely eked out a “2.0” C grade average. But that was enough, at least, to hold my term to term tuition DOT grant in place.

My engineering scholarship was gone forever with two consecutive terms of  grades below the required B average .

Lost.

With my work schedule, my rigorous engineering course of studies and my ministry efforts I also found myself permanently exhausted. And donating four pints of plasma a week was not helping me either.

I was sick and tired all the time.

#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.