Over the years of my earthly father’s ministry, a variety of observations have been made about his preaching. About thirty years ago, while preaching in a Bible Conference, he poured out his heart as he always did in preaching. After a particular service a young boy came up to him and asked, “Why do you preach so loud?” My father knelt down by him and in a gentle voice stated, “Well, young man, I am a bell, and in my preaching I am ringing out warnings to the people about this world, and sin, and the need of living for God. I preach loud and strong, for this is the purpose of a bell. Do you understand?” The young boy responded that he did. About that time his mother came up, and the boy immediately introduced my father to her by stating, “Mom, this preacher is a bell.” Of course, my father had to explain the situation to the mother. The young boy throughout the rest of the Bible Conference continued to address my father by saying, “Hello, Preacher Bell.”
My father passed away five years ago; his bout with Lou Gehrig’s disease reduced him from 195 pounds to around 90 pounds at his death. He lost his ability to speak in the last year of his life, silencing the voice of a prophet. Nonetheless, I will always remember him as one who rang forth the truth of God amidst the neutrality and compromise increasingly evident among so many of his contemporaries. His voice was strong, his words were clear; he was a bell ringing loud and strong amidst the encroaching darkness and fog of the end-time apostasy. Like others who were strong in their preaching, condemning the subtle changes of their times, he has entered into eternity to be with his Savior. The warning bells are becoming fewer and fewer as the rocky shoals of apostate modern Christianity are claiming church after church and ministry after ministry.
The Bell Silenced
There is a story that dates back to the turn of the twentieth century concerning a ship that was anchored for several days off a terribly rocky seacoast. A buoy was nearby with a bell attached to the top. It had been placed there to warn ships of the imminent dangers of the area. All day and night as the buoy was bobbing up and down in the waves, the bell clanged and clanged. Finally the ship’s captain got so tired of hearing the clanging of the bell that he rode a dinghy over from his ship to the buoy and cut the line that held the bell in place. Down it went, never to ring again.
The captain and the ship left the next day for an appointed destination and some weeks later came back to the same rocky seacoast. This time it was night, and a terrible storm had formed. The mad waves tossed the ship like a little toy. The captain knew he was near the rocks but was unable to see his surroundings. Only now was he regretfully aware he had silenced the bell, the clanging sentinel that had warned of the rocks. Suddenly a rending crash was heard; striking a large rock in the water, the ship was rent in two and all were lost. Having earlier severed the bell, the captain had foolishly destined his ship to destruction.
The last fifty years or more have been marked by a growing apathy and disrespect for the appointed bells of God. Where the once indicted “amen” of the congregation accompanied their preaching, the love for such preaching has grown dim. The ever-increasing cares of life and the subtle proclivity toward lukewarmness in our Laodicean age have all contributed to the growing weariness of the people for the bell warnings and the prophet’s cries against the destructive rocks and sandbars of the apostasy. God has always had a remnant of men in each generation who have sounded forth the clarity of the Scriptures with each movement of the waves of the sea of humanity.
More and more today people want the ropes tying the bell to the Scriptures to be severed in order to silence the bell once and for all. This new church age wants to be refreshed with messages of self-esteem, positivism, and that which builds up the human potential. The church has now found its power in the flesh, and there is no longer the need of the Spirit of Truth. Ministers are feeling the pressures to accommodate the complaints of the people who are fed up with the “old path” preaching. The change is for more “up-beat” services, more programs to meet the demands of the social needs of its parishioners, and plans to expand the boundaries of acceptable music and places of entertainment. There is a subtle movement growing in Fundamentalism to become “like other churches” and have what they have and enjoy what they enjoy. The bells that have rung for years the clear Word of God with insight to the age are now being cut off. Their silence is now being replaced by the clamor and noise of a contemporary Jesus and a contemporary gospel.
Who are the popular ministers of today? They are those with the smile, with a modified psychology message, and a human-interest story that makes the stressed-out churchgoers feel better in their weak, cold, lifeless Christianity. They are those who make the worldling feel at ease and comfortable while attending church services. They proclaim with open arms the “come-as-you-are” philosophy, and labor at presenting a non-offensive message from God.
The theme of Oral Roberts for many years has been “Something good is going to happen to you.” Now this theme has been interwoven within the popular ministries of our contemporary, although each gives a little different twist to its delivery. While the Spirit of Truth has been intentionally alienated from such churches, the people have been convinced that CCM is the manipulative sound that can actually bring God’s presence into the service like some incantation. The Charismatics for years have claimed the moving power of rock music to be the music of the Holy Ghost.
With such bold teachings by the modern mega church, the bells of biblical preaching have been severed and silenced. According to the Scriptures, the next two God-appointed international preachers will be hated rather than accepted. The two prophets of Revelation 11 (Elijah and Enoch or Moses) will come with judgmental preaching, fire proceeding out of their mouth and devouring their enemies (11:5). The powers of nature will be under their authority to bring judgment upon the people of the earth. They will be so hated that they will be killed and their bodies left in the streets of Jerusalem:
Perhaps this is the way Christmas will end: the rejoicing over the death of the prophets, the silencing of the bells.
We are now witnessing the silencing of godly bells that have been warning us of the falling away within God’s camp. “Silence the bell! We are tired of hearing his clanging noise about the dangers of our time, the falling away of the churches, the dress standards, and the living standards, and the Neo movements. Let us silence the bell!”
The Hearing of the Word
Amos 8 warns, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” What is this famine of hearing? Is it a famine of people not wanting to hear the Word of God? Although, this certainly is true in our times, this verse is from another perspective.
The absence of the true Word of God being preached is the burden of Amos. A time will come when one will not be able to hear the plain Word of God. For the prophet Amos goes on to state, “And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” It is becoming more difficult to find a pulpit now that is preaching the Word with insight of the times. The remnant that is longing for the pure Word of God is going from church to church, town to town, seeking such a pulpit. A city could have two hundred churches, but are any of them sounding the bell? Yes, “they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (emphasis added). Even in Fundamentalism churches that give a clear sound of the Word to the times in which we live have become scarce.
A Recent Storm
Our beloved nation was hit in recent days with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated an area almost as large as Great Britain. Levees broke; waters rose to overwhelming flood proportions and inundated miles of land, homes, businesses, and properties. Oilrigs and seaports were destroyed. Our heart truly goes out to the victims of such a tragedy and the bereaved families of some estimated ten thousand who may have died. It will take years to recover, and perhaps we will never recover from the financial cost to our country.
We must remember that God is in control of the powers of nature. Will this latest disaster be viewed by anyone in the light of God? Hurricanes Fran and Floyd hit our own state of North Carolina several years ago; we must understand it the same way. Anytime such a tragedy hits a city or nation it is a judgment from God. God does not send nations to hell; He judges them in their lifetime either by using other nations to conquer them or by tragedies such as storms, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Our nation is now witnessing almost constant attacks by the providences of God; what is yet ahead of us? God-fearing men have been warning us for years of the judgment of God being “overdue” because of our ever-growing national sins. We are now witnessing increasing natural catastrophes throughout the world; they may be preludes of more to come.
One only needs to read the historical account of the deep sins of Pompey to get the greater meaning to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Many of Pompey’s citizens were solidified by molten lava in the very acts of sin, testifying for posterity their deep wickedness.
Christ prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem accomplished in a.d. 70 by the army of Titus. Christ declared the following:
This principle is given time and time again in the Scriptures beginning with the universal Flood in the days of Noah and the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sometimes God’s remnant is spared or kept (as was Noah and later Lot). But there are times God’s people, though innocent of the wrong, suffer in the judgment of a nation or city (such as Jeremiah and Daniel, and no doubt millions of babies that died in the Flood and were the innocent victims in the burning of Sodom).
Certain cities hit in this recent storm were given over to festivities of open sin, such as Mardi Gras, and to the powers of witchcraft, voodoo, all forms of occult, gambling, drugs, alcohol, and the dark life accompanying the Jazz world of music. The city of New Orleans was to once again witness the gathering of well over 100,000 sodomites over the Labor Day Weekend. In spite of the flooding, there still were a few sodomites that met for their annual “Decadence Parade” Labor Day weekend.
Many buses were sent to evacuate the people before the hurricane, but residents refused to leave. How like the people in the days of Noah and the building of the ark—no one wanted to enter that ark of salvation before the Flood came.
As to when the cup of iniquity of a city or nation is full, God is the only one who knows. However, there is another principle that must be viewed: God never sends a judgment without warning. What remnant of voices, of bells, has rung over the years warning these communities of God’s concern? The question may be asked why God chooses one city in judgment and not another which seems to be worse. But we must believe “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). We are in the prelude of such disasters hitting this planet; more are yet to come. Yea, the whole earth in the Tribulation Period will groan against man and nations because of their sins against the Almighty and Eternal God.
The Bell of Preaching
One of the final spiritual commands of the Apostle Paul to Timothy was to “Preach the Word!” (II Timothy 4:1). In Isaiah 58:1 God commanded Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” These are the words of a true preacher for his times! He was a bell ringing clear the warnings; as the sea waves roar even louder, God’s bells will get louder.
But where are such men today? Most ministers have become sedatives crying, “peace, peace,” even when there is no peace. It is evident they lack the anointing of the Holy Spirit; they are given to lightness, levity, and frivolity. When they gather for fellowship, it is not for prayer and serious conversations around the Word, but for golf or to talk of cars, sports, and the World Series. Biblical words are rare. The bell heart and life are not evident.
God’s man must be consumed with his calling. The preacher must preach the Word of God. It is the greater, God-appointed method. It is higher than theatrical drama, dialogue, puppets, concerts, so-called “Christian psychology,” and other forms of human methodology that the modern church now believes is needed to “reach this generation for Christ.” It is still true, in this day when the church is given to carnality and endeavoring to live the Christian life through the power of the flesh, that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). Christian schools and Bible colleges are leaving off the spiritual training of their students preparing for the ministry. They substitute for Bible preaching the art of a non-offensive message and manner.
The bell heard in the crying and weeping of the prophets of old . . . heard in the clear, loud voice dealing with sin, as John the Baptist and Jesus Christ Himself . . . heard in the unapologetic proclamation of “Thus saith the Lord”. . . and heard in the Pentecost preaching that heralds with power, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” . . . all these bells have been cut off, severed from the present concept of preaching. John Knox, the great preacher of Scotland declared, “When I preach I am not master of myself, but I must obey Him who has commanded me to speak plain, and to flatter no flesh on the face of the earth.”
One of the great reasons we are losing our way as a professing people of God is that we have allowed certain men to tamper with the chart and compass that God has appointed to get us through this sin-laden, end-time, falling-away time in history. It is important that every preacher keep ringing the bell! We must not allow the shifting tides of personal opinion to dominate or the howling winds of false doctrine to manipulate our thinking. We must remain true to the Word of God for our moral standards and not allow the subtle belief, “if it feels good, do it,” or “nobody is going to tell me what to do,” cause the voice of Scripture to be silenced.
Though the world is against the Word of God and the men who represent that Word, the sad reality of our times is that the professing people of God, the congregations themselves, are cutting the bells from the buoys that God has established for His people. It is a gift from God when a congregation is given a bell in the pulpit; it is a judgment from God when He takes such a bell away. If providence gives you such a man, respect him, encourage him to preach the unadulterated Word, praying that God will keep him from the powers that are out to sever his appointed burden of warning and guidance.
Preacher, Preacher! Ring the bell!
You must be God’s sentinel!
Lift your voice: a bell to toll!
Warn the apathetic soul!
Churches sleep with lifeless creed!
They believe they have no need!
You must sound the truth of God,
Seeking not the world’s applaud!
Preacher, Preacher! Ring the bell!
Enemies now rise from hell!
Churches love carnality!
End Time brings apostasy!
The Cutting of the Bell
–H. T. Spence–
On rocky shore, near Fundy Bay
A bell did toll on buoy grey.
The buoy tossed with ringing bell
To warn the ships of rock and swell.
The buoy rocked from side to side;
As bell did toll from tide to tide.
It rang and clanged its warning sound
For ships to keep from rocks renown.
One evening found a ship near coast;
Its anchor fast, asleep its host.
Yet one, its captain, was in plight,
For sound of bell caused sleepless night.
He soon arose, and dinghy found,
And rowed to tossing buoy’s sound.
Disgusted with the clang it wailed,
He cut the rope that held its bell.
Returning to his ship to sleep,
And next day sailed to waters deep.
When voyage took him weeks away,
He then returned to Fundy Bay.
He entered bay in thunderstorm
With winds and waves in divers form.
He could not see the rocks and reef;
Relentless squall gave no relief.
He strained his ear to hear the bell
That sounded forth where rocks do dwell.
But there was no bell to be found
To give him needed warning sound.
The captain knew he cut the rope!
The bell was gone; there was no hope!
His ship then struck the rocks with force,
He lost the ship with deep remorse.
The bell that rang, and rang, and rang,
He hated once in sleepless pang.
Yet now the silent, warning hope
Was down in sea—he cut the rope!
Oh, how the world and church despise
When preacher’s voice and words arise
To warn of compromise and sin!
He rings the bell of truth for men!
The cry is heard, “O Bell, give way!
Your peal for truth, we’ll not obey!
We’ll cut the rope; we’ll let it fall:
We want no Word that’s biblical!
At end of life when God will say,
“I judge you now a castaway,”
You’ll long to hear the preacher’s bell;
But it’s too late! Your verdict: hell!