Salvation after joining a Southern Gospel Group

From time to time, there are interesting discussions about the testimonies of Southern Gospel performers who share from the stage that they had recently been saved. Singers such as Mark Trammell, Brian Free, Tim Riley, David Hill, and Mike LeFevre have all shared as part of their testimonies from the stage about how they were saved after already singing in a Southern Gospel Quartet.

This got me to thinking. Which Southern Gospel groups require that their members be born-again Christians?

Undoubtedly there are unsaved singers in Southern Gospel groups today. Don’t post any names in the comments; those comments will be immediately removed. But feel free to post the names of groups you know require that their members have made a public profession of faith.

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5 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I really doubt that the groups of which they were a member knew that they were not already saved. A more likely scenerio is that they either professed to be saved but later figured out they were not TRULY saved, or the other group members simply never asked them on way or the other. Perhaps it was just assumed he/she was saved by virtue of the fact that they wanted to be in a Christian music group.

    You asked which groups require members to be born again Christians……well, I think pretty much all of them implicitly do…even if they don’t spell it out for everybody. I seriously doubt that the vast majority of SGM groups out there would knowingly allow an unbeliever to become part of the group.

  2. Let’s put it this way.
    Most groups either requires or assumes a member is saved.
    Some members thinks they are saved.
    Holy Spirit comes along and convicts a member of their need by say yes for a direct relationship to Jesus Christ.
    The rest of the story is eternity.

  3. I think much of the problem is the overemphasis much of the hyper-evangelical world puts on “getting saved” as some sort of earth-shattering religious experience, and the assumption that someone who does have some intensely personal religious experience must apparently have NOT been saved prior to that time. A lot of times followers of Christ (1) keep doing the same routines over and over (church, small groups, Bible reading, prayer, etc.) and suddenly find that (or decide based on how they “feel”) that perhaps they’ve just been going through the motions; or (2) they start to feel bad about the lack of “baby Christian joy and excitement” in their lives; or (3) they hear a compelling sermon or read a compelling book that seems to “convict” them of their status before God, that perhaps they aren’t sufficiently committed; or (4) they discover that they keep on doing the sin that they do not want to do and don’t seem to be able to get “victory” over it (I think this is a common phenomenon among teens in evangelical churches, who often get saved 15 or 20 times between age 12 and age 18). So such people often decide that they need to renew their commitment to Christ. And maybe some of those kinds of things do happen to people from time to time–maybe that’s why weeklong renewal services or revivals seem to help so many Christians. But the result sometimes is that you end up with people who have earth-shattering religious experiences, or who determine to renew their relationship with Christ, who interpret this turning point in their spiritual lives as “getting saved” and assume that they really weren’t Christians at all beforehand (and you can add many other people, including John Wesley, to the list you mentioned). I would take a lot of those testimonies with a grain of salt.

    And, of course, a lot of this question may arise from conflicting theologies of conversion. (1) A hard Calvinist (I don’t know how many of these there are in southern gospel, but I assume a few) would insist that one’s salvation was pre-determined by God before the foundations of the world–and there isn’t any “decision” involved, since either you are already among the elect or you’re not, and you cannot lose your salvation. (2) An Arminian would say that you can choose to fall away from a relationship with God (or, in common evangelical language, “backslide”)–and, of course, that kind of insidious thing could presumably happen to a good gospel singer who was right with God when they joined the group but somehow fell away from God. (3) The “holiness” traditions–those that believe in “entire sanctification” as a second religious experience after conversion–believe that a person who is “saved” eventually comes to a point where they realize that they haven’t truly given up everything in their relationship with God, but have been holding something back. They believe that the Holy Spirit will eventually convict a person of these things that they’ve been holding back on, and that surrendering oneself fully to God, giving up everything they’ve been hanging on to selfishly–often in an emotionally-laden experience much like what one felt at conversion–is the doorway to entire sanctification. So these folks might be more likely to interpret testimonies like the ones you’ve cited as people who were already Christians but came to the point where they felt they needed to go deeper or give themselves completely to God. They might interpret these testimonies as actually being about “entire sanctification,” even if those who actually had those experiences don’t interpret it that way themselves.

    But I seriously doubt that the problem is southern gospel groups that don’t require their members to be “saved” Christians.

  4. Daniel, I really enjoy reading your blog so I’ve gone back in the archives to see what all I’ve missed and can learn. I know that you aren’t asking for names of other singers who have similar testimonies but one did come to mind – Rex Nelon. I seem to remember reading somewhere years ago that he got saved one night in the 70s after years of singing. I’ve always admired the work Rex did and making it public after over twenty years of gospel singing must have taken courage. Have you heard this story? If so, could you shed some light on it? That’s about all of the details that I remember.

    • Believe it or not, I don’t particularly recall having heard that story. Perhaps other readers have and could shed more light.