By Mark Perko
Christian Action League
January 10, 2020
My story isn’t unfamiliar in Christian circles. The lost guy gets saved, yada, yada, yada. After all, we shouldn’t be surprised when God saves and changes a life. But as I look back thirty-nine years ago to when I made my “salvation decision,” I realize it probably not only saved my physical life, it probably also saved the lives of many others whom I would have wrongly influenced.
To tell this story is to go back even further than thirty-nine years.
I was born into a home with a loving father, mother, and two brothers. Mom and Dad both instilled a good work ethic in their two boys. Dad was a telephone company lineman, and Mom was a school teacher. We attended a Methodist church in Miami, Florida, on occasion. After Dad was relocated to central Florida, we started attending a small church in our community. But to be honest, I attended only because of the active youth group. Now that I was in Junior High School, I had discovered girls! And this youth group had plenty of them!
During my formative years, my best friend one night talked me into drinking an alcoholic beverage. It was something that would lead to seven years of alcohol addiction, cost me a baseball scholarship, and perhaps even a career in professional sports.
The church we attended was not evangelical. I never heard terms like “lost” and “saved.” After High School, I drifted away from church altogether and began working for the Walt Disney World Company, which was less than ten miles from my home. I eventually began bartending there. After all, I thought if I was drinking the stuff, I might as well pour it for others and get paid doing it (and I was paid quite well for the early 1980s). The job was great. Years later, I would say that my pastoral counseling skills were honed during my bartending years.
After meeting a young lady at a New Year’s Eve drinking party, I was interested in taking her out on a date. But to do so, I had to first meet her mother and get permission (the old-fashioned way). So one night I made my way to her home to meet her Mom. At this point, I didn’t even know the young lady’s last name. While waiting in the living room for her mother, I went through their mail to find out what her last name was and thankfully, it wasn’t “occupant.”
Her mother seemed courteous but cautious. She then said, “You guys can go out, but you must come to church with our family this Sunday.”
Wow. Church? Really? Now that was something I didn’t have any interest in doing. Still, I figured I could endure some boring bloviating preacher for an hour if it meant a date with this pretty girl. So the following Sunday, I found my way to this country Baptist church and “served my time,” so to speak. I have no idea what the sermon was about that day. I just wanted to fulfill my end of the bargain and get on with our date plans.
The following Tuesday night, three people, including the pastor, were knocking on my front door. They were out on “visitation” as the door knocker exclaimed. I invited them in. We shared some small talk. Then, one of them asked me something that rocked my world. I had never even heard anything like it before. He asked: “Mark, if you were to die today, do you know for certain whether you would go to heaven?”
I sheepishly looked down and said, “No.” Over the next ninety minutes, he and the others would lead me to faith in Jesus Christ. I was later baptized by this same church, and the following year that pretty girl became my bride.
But something was different in my life after that day. When I went back to work as a bartender nothing was the same. The job I had loved so much lost all of its appeal. God would soon send someone to rescue me from that position and I started a new career in restaurant management. Later, I would surrender to a call from the Lord to become a preacher.
I am now thirty-nine years clean and completely free from alcohol addiction. I am not an alcoholic because the Bible says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If I were an alcoholic as some people might say (“once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic”) that would make this Bible verse a lie. Instead, I am now a new creation in Jesus Christ.
After graduating from Bible College and Seminary, I’ve served as a pastor for 29 years. I probably drink entirely too much coffee these days. But I will never forget nor get over the day when I took my first drink of “Living Water,” which took away my thirst for alcohol.
Mark Perko has pastored churches in Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina. He is currently senior pastor of Deep Creek Baptist Church in Wadesboro, NC. He is the chaplain for the local Fire Department. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, as well as the BSCNC’s Christian Life and Public Affairs. He is the newest member on the Board of Directors of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.