The year was 1997, and the location was a deep hole in which stood an abandoned restaurant, a fish camp, as it is often called in the South. We had just secured the use of that building to start the Cornerstone Baptist Church.
When I say that it was a deep hole, what I really mean is that it was a deep hole. That particular piece of property, as some of the local old-timers were later on kind enough to inform me, used to be a fishing pond. At some point in the distant past, someone got the bright idea of draining the pond and putting a restaurant at the bottom of it. Compounding that bad idea was the fact that the pond had been fed by five very strong and reliable natural springs. Those springs had been diverted by underground pipes so that the foundation could be laid and the building built.
Because of that entire disastrous arrangement, the septic system was up on a high hill behind the church. But since, ahem, "stuff" does not run uphill, the only way to get it from the hole up to the field lines on top of the hill was a pump in the septic tank.
Mind you, as a green-as-a-gourd, wide-eyed, young and inexperienced pastor, I knew absolutely none of this. At this stage of my life, I have built two 10,000-square-foot buildings for our solidly growing church, plus rebuilt a few houses. At that stage of my life, I could barely drive a nail straight.
After the church had been up and running for a few months, an annoying sound began to intrude on our worship. It was coming from a closet just adjacent to what used to be the main dining room but had become our auditorium. And so it was that I went to investigate, locate and disable the annoying sound; ANNNNT ANNNNT ANNNNT does not go well in the midst of "Amazing Grace."
Entering the closet, I quickly found a box about 8 inches tall and 6 inches wide with a beeping red light on it, making that harsh sound demanding our attention. I quickly grabbed a screwdriver and began to take the front off of it.
The voice was from a wise old man who had slipped up behind me.
"Yes sir, what can I do for you?"
"Well," he responded with a perplexed look on his face, "I just wondered what exactly you are doing."
I smiled with all of the confidence of youth and answered, "I am going to cut the power off to this thing, whatever it is, so that the noise will quit interrupting our worship."
The old man grimaced.
"Preacher, you might not want to do that. That particular box making that annoying noise just so happens to be a tank alarm. It is hooked to the pump in the septic tank out back. The fact that it is buzzing means that the pump has probably quit working."
My eyes grew wide as I realized the ramifications of what he was saying. Needless to say, we did not unhook the pump alarm; we called a septic company to come and fix the pump instead before that which should always be outside and underground could make its way inside and above ground.
That event and the obvious lesson behind it has stuck with me all of these years. How often do people and families and churches and even countries get annoyed by the warnings being sounded out over all of the filth that is about to overwhelm them and, in response, turn their attention toward silencing those who are sounding the alarm?
Elijah sounded the warning and immediately was on the run for his life. Jeremiah sounded the warning and was cast into a pit. Micaiah sounded the warning and was imprisoned. John the Baptist sounded the warning and was beheaded. Jesus sounded the warning and was crucified.
In Matthew 23:34, Jesus said, "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:"
The prophets of old did not hesitate to speak out against any and all filth and wickedness in society. This generally made them exceptionally unpopular. But it also made them the most important people around, men who were willing to sound the alarm while there was still time to set things right.
I think of preachers today, both well-known and unknown, who are often excoriated for sounding the alarm about the sinful filth that is overwhelming our country. They can be silenced, most certainly. But they also most certainly should not be silenced. A much better option would be to heed the warning and deal with the filth before it overwhelms us.
If you still have a pastor with the courage to stand and speak unpopular biblical truth, thank God for him. And if you are that pastor, then please know that I admire you and am for you; keep up the good work.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at [email protected].