Preach the Word
A columnist I highly respect, John Crenshaw, recently posted a column that has been sparking quite a bit of discussion around the web: Fifteen Things I Don’t Like about Gospel Music.
On some of his points, I find myself nodding in agreement. If his numbers are correct, the National Quartet Convention really ought to be more than 28% male quartets. I don’t care for patriotic songs, either—unless the lyric uses the patriotism to set up the Gospel message. “Statue of Liberty” and “Let Freedom Ring” are two of the best songs our genre has introduced in the last half-century.
But several of his fifteen points are things I do like about Gospel Music. I love children singing on stage. I love encores. And I do love versions of “Oh What a Savior” besides Rosie Rozell’s; in particular, I’m a fan of Larry Ford’s, Dallas Rogers’, and, yes, Ernie Haase’s versions of the song.
And I agree with Michael Booth.
In an acceptance speech at the 2009 Singing News Fan Awards, Michael Booth challenged his peers, sitting in the artist circle around the stage, to spend fifteen minutes in each concert sharing the Gospel message with their audiences.
Perhaps there are a few groups out there whose sole desire is to entertain. And so I’ll just leave them out of this discussion. But for the rest—and that’s probably most, since the sacrifices of eking out a living barely above minimum wage (if that) and putting up with the hassles of the road quickly weed out anyone who expected to get rich and famous, and live an easy life—Booth’s message couldn’t be any more timely.
In a world where moral relativism is the flavor of the day (the view that truth is not absolute), the absolute truth of the Gospel has never been more needed. It’s not like Gospel songs are palettes into which audiences can inject their favored form of spirituality. The Gospel is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either Jesus is God, or one of the most misguided lunatics that ever lived. Either He died for our sins, or He didn’t. And we’re either heading to Heaven or hell.
Probably 95% or better of the audiences at Gospel concerts are there because they agree with the message and like the music. But there are often people in the pews or theater seats who are just there because they like the harmonies or because they were invited by a friend. And since they (almost always) come into the concert knowing it’s a Gospel concert, there may never be a better time to share the Gospel message.
Now should the songs share that message? Of course. But that’s not enough. Whether or not an “altar call” is performed, it is quite appropriate for groups to slow down the program and take several minutes to urge their audiences to consider the message in the songs and apply it to their lives. And it’s not just about salvation, either; some in church pews have drifted far from their first love, and there is always room for growth for those who are on the right path.
It is far better that we muster up the patience to hear five, ten, or fifteen minutes of preaching than that a single soul that could have responded to the Gospel message would walk away unsaved.