The Key to the Future of Southern Gospel

Southern Gospel’s potential audience is far greater than its current audience. The key to finding this audience—and thus, the key to the future of Southern Gospel—is two-fold—(a) finding our potential fans, and (b) getting past their misconceptions.

I am a decent case in point. Until 2004, I was a fan of Contemporary Christian Music. My favorite songwriter was Michael Card, my favorite singer Steve Green. But other than Card and Green—who are largely on the sidelines and semi-forgotten in the genre they helped shape—there was very little on the scene that was theologically insightful and sound, and to my liking stylistically. It was at this point that curiosity led me to borrow the Cathedrals’ High and Lifted Up CD from my local library.

Now let me backtrack. At the time, my perception of Southern Gospel, influenced by some tapes I’d heard which I assumed were SG, was that it was old men with heavy, uncontrolled vibratos singing dirges around mournful organs. I’m not kidding.

And then, in 2004, I heard the song “Death Has Died” . . . and here I am today, six years later. For I discovered that Southern Gospel had really been my stylistic and lyric home all along, and I just didn’t know it.

* * *

Therein, I suspect, lies the key to our genre’s future. There are tens if not hundreds of thousands who would point to Southern Gospel groups as their favorites, if we can just find them and get past their misconceptions.

Of course, not everyone fits my exact profile, though I wouldn’t be surprised if thousands of others others who purchased Steve Green and Sandi Patti albums back in the day would become Southern Gospel fans if exposed to High and Lifted Up, the Booth Brothers’ Declaration, or recent mainline releases by the Perrys or the Collingsworth Family. Meanwhile, other artists would appeal to Christian fans of secular country music or people who like ’90s CCM/Adult Contemporary but want richer lyrics. And from a totally different angle, I come from a Christian homeschooling background and will more often than not mention the Collingsworth Family first to someone who shares my background.

Southern Gospel can certainly be stronger than it is and could possibly become the strongest genre in Christian music if we can find the way to connect potential fans with the right groups.


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82 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. Daniel, a key rejoinder is; how do the “thousands of others” out there get to know about SGM?

    Interesting you should mention Sandi Patty and Steve Green – both inspo or CCM artists by def, yet with SGM overlap and both ex or featured Gaither artists!

    My own introduction to proper SGM, from Country Gospel – Jim Reeves, Hal Kennedy, Ernie Ford – came through a loaned copy of “Turn Your Radio On” VHS video. Bill Gaither I knew from song credits, but it suddenly dawned on me that ALL the people featured in the studio taping were, or had been, major gospel singers in their own right!

    A copy of “Can He, Could He, Would He” by the Cathedral’s followed and, providentially, a copy of “Cathedral’s Reunion” VHS next!

    The rest, as they say, is history. The showcasing of two generations worth of SGM to a wider, even global audience, by Gaither music must have introduced many new fans to SGM in the last 20 years.

    Perhaps the goal for the future is, rather than to pull from inspirational and country into SGM, is to draw from CCM, where the large and younger audience now is?

    The question is: Who is able, and willing to risk a foray into either genre from the other – and bring an audience shift along?

    David Phelps? He has forayed INTO CCM, he could bring some back over to CCM? Or perhaps a mainstream CCM ‘name’ could move into SGM territory?

  2. My introduction came from a loaned VHS copy of the Gaither Homecoming ‘Old Friends’. I was about 13 or 14 at the time, I had no clue who any of the people on the video were, but I could tell they were special. Today I own the cd to just about every Gaither Homecoming, pretty much a dork when it comes to Southern Gospel, some 20 years later.

  3. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church where we sang hymns out of the New Songs of Inspiration & Best Loved Songs & Hymns songbooks. I loved those songs that were written by Ira Stanphill and Dottie Rambo and others. I did not really start listening to Southern Gospel music until my little brother’s friend had a grandpa who sang bass in a quartet. My little brother told me that I needed to listen to that quartet (The Singing Ambassadors) because my voice had changed and I was going to have to sing bass or not sing anything at all! LOL! I listened to them and then he had the Dove Brothers “Flyin’ High” CD which debuted “Didn’t It Rain” and I listened to it and fell in love. We then started listening to The Cathedrals and then it has progressed in to where Southern Gospel is the only music that I can just sit and listen to anymore. I love the harmonies and the power of the message in the songs. Southern Gospel has had a reputation in the past as a bunch of old guys getting together and one of the guys sounded like a girl and had a high shrieking voice and then you had a guy that could sound like a bear. LOL! I know because I have several friends who feel that way about Southern Gospel. However, in my opinion, Southern Gospel has some of the most talented singers that could go toe to toe with any main stream artists. I mean look at Scotty Inman and David Phelps. That is just two of the most talented guys in the industry. I love Southern Gospel and I will do all that I can to make sure that it continues. Great post Daniel. I could go on but I have rambled too much. Sorry about that.

    • Nice ramble J. C.! 😀

      For me, there was one singer (Wes Hampton) who provided my introduction to SG and spurred me on to look for more (as well as the song “Mary Did You Know”). Then after Wes, it was Guy Penrod—I didn’t even know fully what he could do, I just loved the clarity of his voice. But you know, when I watched the GVB Reunions (which is where my true initiation into SG fanhood was sealed) there wasn’t really one singer in the GVB Reunions that caught my attention, just the songs, the spirit of the room, and the generally fabulous singing all round. So I guess you could say ultimately it was the songs and the sound that won me over to SG… really, most all the attachments I’ve developed to specific singers came after I was already a bona fide fan of the genre.

  4. Oh by the way, here’s one mother’s perspective on winning new SG fans—a different point from Daniel’s, but I couldn’t resist sharing it:

    I think I’ve discovered the secret to getting my little girl interested in hymns—having her watch good-looking guys sing them! [This after they had discovered groups like Signature Sound…]

    • Whoops, sorry, should have put that in quotes—of course I’m not the mother. LOL. But it was something a mother shared with me, and I think it’s pretty hilarious.

  5. I got hooked on SG music by walking by a music store when they were playing “The Statesmen on Stage” 33rpm record. Have sung it for 25 years and still love it. That said, it seems to me that the closer you get (age wise) to heaven, the more the lyrics and style of SG music makes sense. For one thing you can UNDERSTAND the words, but more so the words take a special meaning. There will always be people getting “older” so I don’t think we need to worry about SG’s demise. Attracting younger people presents a different problem as their interest in modern music from a rhythm standpoint is different than the sound of SG music (hope that makes sense). I have concluded that SG music will always attract older people primarily, and “Southern “bred younger folks secondly. There is little hope for younger folks from the “North”–and I live there.

    • Yeah Blackstone, I think you’ve pegged the problem with getting SG into the hands of young people. They’re too busy rocking out to Toby-Mac and his ilk to pay any attention. It’s like casting pearls before swine.

      However, I do NOT think that the solution is for SG artists to start rapping. 😀

    • I will say this much though—I think that kids would at least be MORE receptive to southern gospel music if they didn’t come under such cultural pressure to despise the things of the past. If kids were raised to enjoy the past, to respect and cherish the past, then they would not be so inclined to turn up their noses at “old guys singing old music” if we offered them a Cathedrals CD. That’s why kids raised in Christian homeschooling families have much more healthy, balanced perspectives on these things than most kids their age—because they understand the value of the past.

      Therefore, I believe that to some extent we are facing problems that can only be overcome from within. Catering to the kids’ desire for “hip” and “cool” is not a remedy—it’s a bribe, if you will. “Oh, you want cool? Sorry. Okay, we made it cool for you. Is that better?” I’m not saying this is morally wrong, I’m just saying that pandering to the whims of the young is not the best way to make them balanced, mature people.

      • Amen, NewSoGoFan!

        We would also like to point out as well that many Christian homeschoolers are either strictly classical or very involved with CCM. But if there are families involved with SGM, they are Christian homeschoolers.

        We need to stop looking at the issue on “individual” basis, and place it on a generational “family” basis.

        -Ben and Taylor

      • Thank you, and blessings to your family! You guys are most definitely on the right track. I didn’t know your parents homeschooled you, but I can’t say I’m very surprised. 😀

        By the way, I trust you are all recovered from the chicken pox now… 😉

      • What a privilege to homeschool! We are so grateful our parents made the decision to bring us home. Yes, homeschooling has instilled an appreciation and love for heritage and the past in our family.

        Yes, we are FINALLY recovered from the chicken pox…though Caleb got it several weeks after the L5 concert, believe it or not. We are glad for one thing: we are done with chicken pox for good! 🙂

        -Taylor for the Garms

      • Garms family – I couldn’t agree more!

        Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule, e.g. I think Jeff & Sheri Easter and the Hoppers both use public school, but many of the families involved in SGM are indeed homeschoolers (which is awesome!)

      • There is a neat quote by a musical singing family that says: “People think we homeschool because we sing, but actually we sing because we homeschool.” So true!

        -Taylor for the Garms

      • I love it!

  6. Our family was just discussing this topic yesterday! This is a deep subject, deeper than what most people would suspect. We could spend hours talking about it!

    Here are a few things we have noticed since our introduction to SGM in 2005…

    Where are the families? We believe this is the pivot point in this issue. Our family was at a quartet convention recently and we were the only family/young people in the audience. We see this SO often. This is a multi-generational issue which goes beyond the scope of music, and that in itself is a long discussion. SGM is lacking the involvement of parents and children in the audience. Though grandparents are at concerts, their sons, daughters, and grandchildren are absent.

    We believe SGM is already the strongest genre, as there is no other music genre that presents the hope of the Gospel message in such a clear and powerful way. It may never become the most popular, as even Christians sometimes want to hear what their “itching ears” (2nd Timothy 4:3) want to hear. We come from a CCM background and have found there is nothing like the relevant lyrics and heart-pleasing music of SGM.

    SGM needs to remain faithful to its roots and message. If it conforms to other music genres, it will lose its “uniqueness”. SGM’s uniqueness is something that drew our family to this amazing genre.

    Blackstone, FYI: You watched the video of the little boy and Legacy Five? That was our little brother Caleb! There is at least one family up “North” who loves SGM! Our story of introduction into SGM would take a long time to tell, but we’ll say Mom’s childhood experience with quartet music influenced our “musical revival.” 🙂

    -Ben and Taylor Garms

    • Garms Family:

      Keep doing what you’re doing. We need more people like you to spread the love for SG music up here in Minnesota. My parents were at that Legacy Five concert. Very cool!

      • Thank you for your encouragement! To God be the Glory. It is our prayer that the Lord will use us for His kingdom and are excited to introduce people to the best music in the world-Southern Gospel Music!

        Tell your parents to say “hi” next year at the L5 concert; we enjoy meeting people who share the same love for SGM.

        -Taylor for the Garms

    • yes we were sitting in the outside just to your left. Are there every year (in Baxter).

      • That is so neat! We have met so many people who were at the concert or who saw the video since the 24th. “It’s a small world after all…” 🙂 Introduce yourself next year; we’d love to meet you!

        -Taylor for the Front-Row, Full-Pew Crew

      • Wow… cool… Minnesota… I’m a Minnesota transplant and an ex-sg dj from TN… I occasionally check out this blog just to see what’s happening in the SG world… glad you guys are fans of the genre

  7. Well I’ll play the role of “Grumpy-Old-Guy” nobody so far from reading these posts have said anything about “LIVE” performances! We have a bunch of [EDIT] groups, singing a bunch of [EDIT] songs! Most of them just for a [EDIT] love offering/or flat rate! There needs to be some power in the “Music” when a service/concert is attended. That power is universal, power from the MOST HIGH the Spirit of the Living God! My first memory of SGM was as a fan, I will never forget it! The power the group sang with kept me wanting to come back for more, the sense of excitement in their voices was unforgettable. SGM needs more POWER, and a lot less PRIDE.
    Last year at NQC was the first time I heard “If You Knew Him” The person setting beside me looked at me and said “That song is alive!” I could have cared less about the outfits The Perrys were wearing, or their stacks, or the of pitch singing!! None of that mattered! The POWER of the song was breath-taking, it was ALIVE! Take out your little black book and write this down. You will never be cool enough to reach this generation, you will never be hip enough, or rich enough, you can’t keep up, you can’t be “HOT” enough and the trendsetters have passed you by! The GOSPEL is enough. (PERIOD) If it’s not, then we have a bigger problem on our hands then a decreasing fan base. Just my opinion I think a majority that sings SGM needs to be truly born again! If they knew the one they sang about, I’m sure they would pack more of a punch! Sorry got to go the nurse is coming in to check my vitals! 🙂

    • I don’t think anybody here would deny what you’re saying. However, I would be interested to hear your conclusive proof that the majority of those who sing SG are NOT truly “born again.” 😉

    • Agreed. But there are some who feel that group appearances help draw people in, and then the message of the songs can take over. Especially if we’re trying to reach a new, younger audience.

      Part of the reason SGM gets tagged as “old-people music” is because a majority of artists are older people. Its at the concerts of younger groups like EHSS, L5, Tribute, etc., where you are starting to see an influx of younger audience members.

  8. New SoGo Fan I have no proof, I have no evidence, I have no one in mind but I can tell you that SGM sure has seemed to have lost it’s POWER! It’s life, it’s WOW! It’s Swagger! It’s Energy! Not faked, or put on, but legit life changing POWER sang in a song! I will not use names but I can think of 5 singers that I know of that got saved after they got into the industry. I’m sure there is more, I think it’s foolish to believe everyone we share the stage, bus, pew, with or go see sing SGM is saved. I think its evident by the look in their eyes, the lack of smile on their face and the lack of POWER in their voice. By the way sorry Daniel I didn’t no *C*** got edited! I will use poopy next time! 🙂

    • Apology accepted – just an honest mistake. Thanks!

    • Well… I agree that there’s certainly a lot more CHARM in a raw, unedited performance by the Cathedrals when you compare it with a stacked, auto-tuned, polished performance on a live DVD today. And I would agree that something has been lost there, artistically speaking. Technology has encouraged laziness in our artists, and that’s a sad truth. But it’s just that I think it’s pretty subjective to make a SPIRITUAL conclusion on the basis of things like that.

  9. Probably is subjective.

    • Maybe subjective, maybe a little exaggerated – like “majority” – but we must admit to a root issue if even the perceived %age of Southern GOSPEL Singers who may not be born again is an increasing statistic?

      We cannot truly measure such genuineness, only the Lord “who looks on the heart” can, but it is a shock to the system to hear the testimony of a “name” in SGM who admits to being “born again”, years after coming into the business!

      I read recently of a [local] Christian magazine interview with a well known group leader from SGM. The interviewer asked could each member tell of when they were born again, in a few words? The gruop leader answered, “That’s a loaded question”. My instant response was, WHY? Is he, in fact, covering for a group member of whom he himself is not sure if they are really born again?

      We surely must all admit to wondering, is such a one there for the money or the ministry?

      IF the numbers of artists in SGM who are not truly “born of the Spirit” increases by 0.1% the impact is felt on the whole. How can Gospel music be impactful in it’s power – if the power is purely vocal / electronic and not spiritual?

      Maybe a little more testifying would do no harm to the genre?

      • Ouch… but at the same time, are there not groups who DO testify, frequently? Did not Scott Fowler pointedly turn down an invitation from a church who was prohibiting any kind of personal testimony, reading from the scripture, prayer with Jesus’ name, etc.?

      • NSF, It wasn’t Scotty I had in mind for sure! What you say is true, and the likes of Ronnie Booth has significantly ramped up the “Testifying” element of recent times. I would imagine LF,GV and Booth Bros will be exempted from our mental list…

        And I don’t think we are discussing “cross-over” country artists doing a “gospel” project, nor even a musician moonlighting in another genre, some may need the cash thus generated.

        [I don’t wish the debate to get inflammatory or personal. BUT we are discussing the source and seed of all that is worthy in SGM.]

        What is solemn, is the possiblity of an INCREASE in artists using SGM as a mainstream genre, where they can exist – yet not know the power whereof they sing having worked in their own soul.

        BTW Any church or promoter who refuses a scripture reading / prayer / testimony at a so-called gospel event is not worth the name or audience support. What is anecdotal in defense of Scott & L5, is a gross condemnation of what is and can happen in SG music!!

      • Perhaps then your point is that since the church obviously assumed there would be no problem (and got a shock), then this is indicative of the state of SG as a whole.

        Yet, could we not say that this is more indicative of the state of the church than it is of the state of SG?

  10. David! Good stuff! “That’s a loaded question” YIKES! Not good, not good at all!

  11. Both I would say.It is a major problem in the church! The greatest mission field in the world today is the LOCAL CHURCH! Good people sitting in church, working in church, singing in church, preaching in church, teaching sunday school in church, good moral people… just lost. thats all.

    • I guess nobody was more surprised than Nicodemus [a member of the Jewish ruling Sanhedrin] to be told, “You must be born again” (John 3:7!

      The Divine condition still applies – church deacon, gospel singer, gospel promoter or man in the pew…

      ALL either LOST of SAVED, and on the same grounds, through faith in the blood of Christ.

  12. Daniel –

    Here’s a little different perspective. You and I both discovered Gospel music at about the same time. I started singing lead in a part-time quartet six years ago, and was carried away and inspired by the music.

    This past summer I stepped down from the quartet, cancelled my XM radio subscription (I had it simply to get EnLighten) and haven’t gone to any local concerts.

    It didn’t happen overnight, but I got tired of singing and hearing the same old songs (or at least songs that sounded the same).

    But at the same time I’ve been singing almost every Sunday in the praise and worship band at our medium-sized church (about 300 families). We have a passionate worship leader who is a talented singer and acoustic player, and a regular lineup of lead guitar players who could easily play professionally, bass, keyboards and drums all sensitively and expertly blended together to make an amazing and creative sound each and every Sunday. I look forward to 3 hours of rehearsal every week.

    I’d place the lyrics of songwriters like Chris Tomlin or Lincoln Brewster songs next to some of the more recent Southern Gospel songs anytime.

    If you have a passionate and talented group playing worshipful praise music in a live setting every Sunday, it will be difficult if not impossible to get that audience excited about a group of tired singers in matching outfits singing to recorded tracks. I know there are exceptions, but this is my opinion.

    • Bob,

      But here’s the thing: There is room for creativity in any genre – and plenty of room for laziness, too. And the fact of the matter is, many amateurs / semi-amateurs incline toward laziness (and some pros in each genre, too).

      But there’s plenty of creativity going on in SG, if you listen to the right groups.

      Daniel

    • I think I agree with what Daniel is trying to say. The thing is, just because you can pull out an example of musically interesting CCM and an example of lazy, bland SG doesn’t mean that they are accurately representing the genres as a whole. You are obviously blessed to work with some gifted folks, but not all CCM rises to a high standard of musical and lyrical quality. In fact, much of it does not.

      Similarly, one could no doubt find some examples of mediocre singing and uninspiring songs within the realm of SG, but this does not mean that all or even most of SG is mediocre.

      I’ll add one extra interesting thought: A lot of people have said that SG is in danger of “dying” because it appeals to a largely elderly demographic. Has it ever occurred to these people that the population of America as a whole is graying? From a purely business angle, SG is if anything better ensured of future success than genres catering to the young.

    • I would also like to question what would happen if the local SG quartet put that level of effort into its performances. Sounds like an apples-to-oranges comparison; pardon the cliché.

  13. Then again, I suppose some people will never get over their misconceptions. Case in point, a relative of mine who absolutely cannot stand southern gospel music. Basically, he thinks all SG songs fall into one of three categories:

    1. Annoying, uptempo ditties

    2. Schmaltzy treacle-fests

    3. Overblown big ballads

    (Note: He did not come up with these categories himself. I came up with them for him, and he said, “Okay… you’ve got me pegged!” Some people just are hopeless. :-D)

    • Tell him to listen to the Collingsworths’ “Fear Not Tomorrow” and “Oh the Thought that Jesus Loves Me.”

      • Actually, he did like their rendition of “I Want a Principle Within,” but only because he likes obscure hymns. Although he did say that they have “great folk harmonies.” However, I suspect their style overall would disagree with him, since he dislikes that kind of inspirational feel, e.g. “I Want Jesus More Than Anything.”

        He also detested the Booth Brothers’ Declaration, although he said “Before the Cross” was “tolerable.” You have to understand that he’s an incurable snob. And I hate to break it to him, but incurable snobs aren’t inheriting the earth anytime soon. 😆

      • I don’t think any snob is so far incurable that there is zero hope that they will ever come to their senses . . . but maybe. 🙂

      • If “coming to his senses” in this case is being defined as “loving Southern Gospel music…” then there is no hope. Say a prayer for him tonight… 😆 😆

        Actually, in all seriousness, I might be able to find a few songs in SG that he would like. “Who Is This Man?” is one example of something that doesn’t really fit into any of those three categories.

  14. Well thought points in the OP article. I agree. Good quality art will always have it’s supporters, even it might not be selfsustaining, like classical music, for example. Philarmonic orchestra in Chicago or NY can survive on its own, in a small city it has to be subsidized.

    Those white gospel groups that are only capable of producing so-so (or sheer dreck) have to go, or should do it on a low , hobbylike scale, but decent quality music needs be promoted heavily. Artists should refrain from edgy right wing political statements, thats for sure,not to alienate democratic public.

    About misconceptions- another issue, as i see here in the midwest. Everything that has “made in or by southern religion” sticker attached to it, scares people away. After i explained that “no, those people are not sexist, racist ungodly hateful ignoramuses,i talked to them, those days are gone” – then people like the music :)when the stigma “its comes from the devil down south” is removed

    • It’s always intriguing to hear a perspective from another culture!

    • Beg pardon, but what’s wrong with being “sexist” or “racist” if all these labels mean is thoughtful discrimination based on gender or race? People, discrimination is not a dirty word! Let’s get over this idea that we somehow have to bow low and burn incense before the politically correct altar. If they’re going to pigeon-hole us, pigeon-holed let us be, and proud of it.

      Let me share a little secret with all you PC-ers out there: By the time we’ve finished committing national suicide by nurturing Islam in our breast, our hope will not lie with the left-wing intellectuals in California or New York. It’s going to be up to the red-necked Texan boys with rifles, and thank God for them. And in case you were wondering, no, I’m not from Texas, and I’m not from the South, but I know God-fearing, salt of the earth people when I see them.

      Yeah, I’m a rabid right-winger. So sue me. 😉

      • Friend, thats preaching to the choir, i am with you on Islamists. Actually where i am from the issue is million times more serious then in USA.
        I agree with you, I wish you guys could get your red-necked boys from Texas and go protect the border, for starters, so you dont have american border city mayors and policemen beheaded by drug cartel lords, for one..

        But Islam is religion. Most arabs I personally know and friends with, including my own pastor, are christians. Religion has nothing to do with race and racism.

        Racism in the South is a well documented, dirty stain on their history, something SB convention wholeheartedly admitted profoundly apologized for in its 1995 Resoluion and hopefully, almost totally eradicated.That was what i reffered to.

        Cordially
        Odel

      • Sorry, but I just wanted to mention that I believe there have been no cases of American officials being beheaded by immigrants, illegal or otherwise. (Forgive me if I’ve missed one, but I think it would have been pretty well publicized.)
        The problem is drug smuggling, and it’s my opinion that if we focused our efforts on that and made some policy changes (forgive me; I’m trying to avoid sticking my neck out too far), we’d be a lot more effective.

        But as long as our politicians want to use this whole thing as a smoke screen, I don’t see it happening. Has anybody noticed when the agenda on immigration gets screamed about the loudest? (From either side, I mean now.) It’s when there are less emotional issues being pushed, like health care or climate change. I struggle to find suitable answers myself, but the mindset that tells folks all across the US about drug violence in Mexico and then follows up with a sinister, “And those same people are in your backyard” – that mindset really gets under my skin.

        Just let me say it – Hispanics are not on my list of this country’s greatest dangers today. Those would be, in no particular order, an out-of-control government, a rejection of Christianity’s role in our country, and the deterioration of morality in our voting public (drugs, entitlement attitudes, abortion, promiscuity, etc.) Doubtless there’s more I’m not thinking of. And if you look at the way the average Hispanic family reacts to those issues, you might see them as more of an asset to the country than a detriment. You’re left with the economic effect, but this comment is long enough without going there yet!

        Sorry for a longer than necessary rant; it just kept growing on me. It would have been more appropriate under Election Day. I just can’t delete it after I spent that long typing it out!

      • And before someone asks, or doesn’t ask for fear of offending – No, my last name doesn’t have much to do with my opinions, but Yes, my opinions have a lot to do with my last name! (And that was a really long comment. I apologize.)

      • I agree with your list of the country’s greatest dangers.

      • I would agree as well, but I would add Muslims to that list.

        The border problem is a real one that needs to be dealt with, but Lord knows we have many, many problems!

      • Thanks for being polite and tactful. 😉 🙂

      • Ha! Thanks Amy. You understand. 🙂 🙂

      • Yes, we might be “pigeon-holed”, but a little tact goes a long way. As a long time reader (albeit silent) reader of this blog I had hoped for a more balanced response from someone who has been deemed worthy to be a co-contributor to this great blog.

        Attitude issues aside, we agree on the issues at hand.

      • I apologize, Jason, if you were offended. I acknowledge that I do tend to be outspoken, sometimes perhaps more than is necessary. (However in this case, I know Odeliya loves a good tussle, so I had no fears that she would be offended. ;-))

        The problem is that I feel there comes a time where “balance” comes dangerously close to “compromise.” One can either take the route of saying, essentially, nothing, or one can cut straight to the point. In my judgment, there really isn’t a middle ground. And actually, I suppose you could say that part of my response wasn’t directed so much towards Odeliya, more to my Christian brothers who fail to understand how dangerously the ship is listing port—that is, left.

      • Dear Amy Herrera,
        dont know how my comment about music turned into politiks, but ok:)

        Correct,reported beheadings are so far limited to drug smugglers-i meant to say that “at the rate things are developing,it might become just as bad as in Mexico”

        Dont apologize! most of my cowokers are very leftist so i often hear your opinion expressed, “illegal immigration and its consequences are not pressing issues in USA”. You guys are americans and i trust your view to be more valuable and knowledgeable then mine :)Gladly agree, if its not important, good, less work for government.
        ****
        I mentioned border, to be honest, to make NSoGoFan look better, as a sisterly courtesy. He meant well, i am sure, but , as Jason ( thank you) righfully noted, his post came out a bit off.
        There is no definiton of “sexist” and “racist” that a christian should be proud of, as he suggested, and well as talk of “redneck Texans, rifles, CA intellectuals, Islam”( huh? what in the world… gunowning texans should start shoot californians and mosques?) so i figured, it would sound a bit more reasonable if wellregulated militia patrols border.
        I tried to help 😉

      • I should have kept my mouth shut … Once I opened it I couldn’t stop. It’s just one of my hobby horses. Thanks to y’all for understanding. 🙂
        (BTW, I think that the people who “know” me a little bit can vouch for the fact that this is about the only place I stray into … leftism?)

      • Odeliya, I believe you meant to post in a different spot so your comment would appear under Amy’s. But no matter. 😉

        I actually feel that the border issue is perhaps more critical than Amy realizes, and I’m an American. 🙂

        Here’s what I meant about “sexist” and “racist,” to clarify. I did not say that one should be proud of being a “racist,” if racist is being defined as thinking it is okay to enslave black people. Clearly, I believe this is wrong. Similarly, I do not think husbands should be allowed to beat their wives, so I am certainly not a “sexist” in that sense.

        What I did mean was that people should have some freedom to make thoughtful choices. For example, suppose you’re a mother looking for a baby-sitter. Would you be more inclined to choose a woman or a man? If you’re a careful mother, you would most likely choose a woman. This means that you’re making a thoughtful discrimination based on gender, but it doesn’t mean anything more insidious than that. On the flip side, suppose you’re running a fire department, and you decide not to hire a woman. Are you being unfairly bigoted there? No, you just don’t think the woman is qualified for the job. Maybe she didn’t pass the requirements.

        My point is that when many people use the words “sexist” and “racist,” they apply them even in cases where no REAL “sexism” or “racism” is going on. If several people are applying for a university job, and one is black, and he happens not to get it, these people would cry “racist,” even if he really just wasn’t the best fit for the job.

        So that was what I meant. If other people are mis-using these terms to apply to us when we are just living our lives normally and making normal decisions, then we shouldn’t feel like we have to do something different.

        And as for my little scenario, it was metaphorical. My point is that the liberal left in America (the hypothetical CA intellectual) is trying to work with and accommodate Islam. But they’re like the appeaser hoping the crocodile will eat him last (hat tip, Winston Churchill). I was trying to say that if we have a realistic chance of not being overcome by Islam, it’s not because of these people. It’s because of strong conservatives (Texan boys with rifles), who aren’t willing to compromise. And if some time in the future, it should come down to war, we would certainly be grateful for their rifles, but that’s thinking way ahead now.

        So there you go Odeliya, and I hope this clears things up. I understand my response may have seemed confusing to you, since for you English is a second language. Hopefully this helps, and hopefully it takes care of any misunderstandings.

  15. Interesting comments. I tended the Gaither tour tonight and saw many of the artists you all are mentioning. I have been to three homecoming tours over the last 10 years. This one was by far the smallest crowd and the oldest. I see others are noticing. Now, I do not consider myself an avid fan of Southern gospel. I grew up listening to CCM groups like DC Talk and Petra. I also listened to SGospel with my grandfather. I appreciate the old. I am a full time worship pastor and lead many Chris Tomlin, Fee, Tommy Walker, and David Crowder Band songs. I appreciate new. I also listen to a lot of secular music (Classic/Modern rock, Onerepublic, Seal, Michael Buble, Alicia Keys, Brian Culbertson, Chris Isaak, etc…). I appreciate the talents of many secular artists as well. So, what’s my point? I feel like an outsider looking in on this conversation. I like good music and can care less about labels. I think if southern gospel or even CCM is going to survive their rapidly declining sales, they need to be about Christians making music and not artists attached to a declining Genre. Perhaps they could reach more non Christians with truth by shedding the label. Homecoming tours promote old. Just look at the name! Do I enjoy them? Yes. But the name implies old folks getting together. Groups like Signature Sound are smart to break away from that model. Southern Gospel is like the word Baptist (which I am). People have too many negative misconceptions built over the years. To many barriers before they can even get to the music. To me, the answer is more groups expressing their faith amongst a secular world through their musical gifts. Forget the term Southern Gospel. The Genre is dying. The artists though, are still very much needed.

    Last night felt like a time warp. Like artists holding onto some great moment in the past. Even the Collinsworth Family came across this way. I am sorry but, in my opinion, if Southern Gospel is to move on, they need to embrace today (lyrically and musically), stand firm in their faith as Christians singing about God’s truth and life, and shed the association with a once successful, now declining Genre called Southern Gospel. The world needs to hear the message. Let’s remove the barriers.

    • Matt,

      I think I would disagree. The Collingsworth family preserves the past, true – but they are phenomenal in the present, and they and a few others like them are the future of Southern Gospel, too.

    • All right Matt. In your opinion, what would it mean for SG artists to “embrace today?” Particularly, what would it mean for them to “embrace today lyrically?” I thought God’s truth was timeless…?

      I’m also curious as to exactly what is wrong with holding onto “some great moment in the past.” Sounds good to me!

      (And by the way, I’m not a gray-haired grandma, in case you were wondering. ;-))

  16. Daniel: I agree they are the future. They are VERY talented. I just don’t see them connecting as well with the younger folks, in my opinion, as say Signature Sound (The future of SG as well). They are very good though. Enjoyed them last night.

    New SoGo Fan: hmm I Can only give an example. I think the GVB releases as of late really embrace today. Their music has a younger sound than Karen Peck for instance. Even a younger sound than Signature Sound at times. I like the new GVB stuff. Most of it is fresh. When I say lyrically, I am not referring to the message as a whole. I am refering to the Christianese language. The use of words such as campmeeting and talk of things that are not relevant to today is what I am refering to. Most groups avoid those kinds of things though.

    I love SG music. I re-read my post and it comes across a little harsher than what I feel. Some of it stemmed from my disappointment in my experience the other night. I remember when things were better at previous concerts. I want the groups to be more accepted. CCM artists face the same challenge in a Worship Music saturated market. What are your ideas for making SG great again in the eyes many? How do they reach the young fans?

    I am 26 by the way and ocassionslly sing with a mixed quartet at the church where I serve as worship pastor. I am not a gray-haired grandma either 🙂

    • Matt, I appreciate your opinions on the subject. I’m a younger guy too, and I also tend to see a bit of a trend of declining and aging southern gospel fans, however, I’m confident that it is not dying.

      I found your comment on the Collingsworths “not connecting as well with the younger folks” interesting. What exactly is your definition of younger folks? Personally, I think the Collingsworths have/could have (never been to a concert to find out) a audience niche of young(er) families. They seem like a group that parents would be able to get their kids to come to the concerts. Maybe not stylistically young, but there’s something to be said about kids being able to connect with certain group members, especially if they are the same age.

      Me personally, I seem to have made a connection to Phillip, even though we’ve never met. In other groups as well, many times I’ve become a fan because of a certain group member I can relate to, and then I fall in love with the music. Another example for me is Tribute Quartet’s Riley Harrison Clark. I had barely heard of him before he joined, and now they are my second favorite quartet.

      As long as there is fresh, young blood singing in this style of music, I don’t think we have to worry about writing the genre’s obituary.

    • I think they connect well with young folks from conservative backgrounds (whether homeschooling or otherwise) – you might be right in that, say, a kid who’s part of an inner-city gang and listens to metal, rap, or whatever gangs listen to these days might not relate as well.

    • I find this phrase very interesting: “The use of words such as campmeeting and talk of things that are not relevant to today is what I am refering to.”

      Maybe you can give another example. But what about the lyrics in SG music is no longer relevant today? Campmeeting is absolutely still relevant, or at least it should be. We still have one at our church once a year.

      • I wonder if by saying relevant he means more old-fashioned words. To me, its like how the King James Version Bible is not as common as it was 20-30 years ago, because it is more difficult to read the older language style.

        There are quite a few older songs with that type of language, but lately songs have been written in a fresher language that a wider audience can relate to.

      • Frankly, I’m not super thrilled about all the “new” translations of the Bible either. The King James isn’t as difficult as some people make it out to be. If people were more literate and well-read it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

        The trouble with new Bible translations, even with relatively good ones like the NIV, is that the language gets mauled, sometimes past recognition. The sheer clunkiness of phrase is just agonizing in places. People don’t seem to be able to HEAR the difference any more. But the grace and beauty of the King James is just beyond compare. And then where you really get a problem is with the TNIV and all the gender-neutral language. Ugh. And as for The Message, don’t even get me started…

        So yeah, all of which is to say… stick with the old. Most of the time, it really is just better than the new, and if people don’t like it, it’s their problem.

      • “stick with the old. Most of the time, it really is just better than the new, and if people don’t like it, it’s their problem.”

        While I understand and respect your opinion, is that really the right way to go about getting people to read their Bible, go to church, attend concerts, etc.? I think one of the biggest reasons SG struggles to attract new fans is because it seems the genre is stuck in its way, and too stubborn to change. Thats why some of the younger groups are like such a breath of fresh air.

        I think Tribute Quartet’s vision of “preserving the heritage and promoting the future of Southern Gospel music” says it perfectly. I definitely think theres still a place for the old-fashionedness of the music, but the genre can’t be so stuck in its ways that the future gets ignored.

      • Well… let me put it this way: I think that in any scenario, whether it be church, Bible translation, or southern gospel music, there needs to be a recognition of the possible dangers inherent in making “the new” the ultimate. When the Church decided to become more “cool,” it cheapened the image and the message. Fundamental doctrines have been eroded, and the gospel has been watered down to make it more palatable. Worship services have become less “worshipful” and more “showy.” Church buildings themselves have undergone drastic transformations—there are literally churches out there now with a gym, swimming pool, coffee bar, etc. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions, I’m just saying these are real, observable trends, and I’m pointing out that they all started with that desire to “appeal to a wider audience.” Something similar could happen with music.

        Is it possible to strike a balance? Yes, particularly with music. But you need a really skilled artist to pull that off just right. And you also need to not just cut yourself off from your roots. If you asked Tribute and Signature Sound, they would tell you that they have by no means abandoned the old. They started with the old as a foundation and then built on top of it, but the foundation is there, holding them up. And that’s why I think they’ve succeeded.

    • I guess one thing I could say would be that the sort of thing you’re talking about—the “let’s become ‘cool’ and ‘relevant’ so that we will attract the youth” game—is a harder one to play than you might think. Signature Sound has accomplished the unbelievable by managing to walk that tightrope without completely falling off and ruining their sound. Not everybody can do that.

      I think people need to stop and think a moment about where that sort of thinking has taken other forms of music, and even the Church itself. After all, didn’t the whole Emergentist movement begin because people wanted the Church to become more “accessible” or “relatable?” And where has the Church come since then?

      • I understand this. But at the same time, you cannot completely ignore the youth and only market towards the current audience of 65-85 yr olds. If that happens, eventually the fan base dies, and what happens to the genre?

      • I actually addressed this in a different comment—if anything, SG’s future is more secure than other genres, because America’s population as a whole is graying. To put it differently, we won’t be “running out of old people” any time soon! 😉

  17. I know this topic is a few days old, but I want to add something to it that I feel as though is a vital to the key future success (or possibly lack thereof) of SG.

    This genre – the artists, the labels, and everyone in between – has got to keep up with the times.

    Case in point, Gold City (arguably one of the most popular groups in the format over the last 20+ years) has just release two new albums. Clips and puchaseable MP3s of those are not available anywhere.

    It’s not just Gold City… Legacy Five, Triumphant Quartet and others all have new albums that you cannot find on iTunes, Napster, etc.

    This is a common problem in the genre that certainly has to be addressed sooner than later. If Southern Gospel music wants to keep growing and attracting new, youthful fans… the genre has to keep up with the needs and wants of the 20-somethings of the world.

    • But I think there’s a difference between something that’s a “table project” and something that’s a “mainstream” project. Like L5’s new album, for example, is a table project, so they’re deliberately only offering it from their own website and at their table. But Just Stand is on iTunes.

      • What about GC’s “Somebody’s Coming” and TQ’s “Love Came Calling”?

        I think we all understand that there’s a difference, but why? Table projects should really be a thing of the past. For those of us who simply may not be able to get out and see a live show, it leaves us at a huge disadvantage and really doesn’t help the genre grow.

        If you make an album available to everyone, nobody can complain. If you only make it available to some, the others will have a legitimate reason to be upset.

      • It doesn’t look like you’ll be finding that Gold City album anywhere any time soon. It’s been shelved for now.

  18. Hello, ya’all! So Daniel, this is an interesting post. Why can’t you do some kind of clip somewhere of the “High and Lifted Up” CD so that those of us who can listen to it might be around those who’ve never heard Southern Gospel. Then if some of those folks get a whiff of this wonderful music, they may switch over. Also, there may be some hardened hearts that may be won to the Lord in this manner. I know Buddy Greene credits the music in bringing him back to the church. Maybe some wandering prodigal out there will return because of a song planted at the right time in the right place. Who knows?

    • Copyright issues prohibit me from posting clips without permission. Sorry!

  19. My wife and I have sang southern gospel since before we were married back in 1969. The music is upbeat and positive and that is what people want to hear. I have noticed a decline in concert attendance unless you are a big name. Today it is easier to go to youtube or google a song to listen to and see the lyrics. I think the future of souther gospel is strong but the delivery may change. It may come to the day when we have a virtual concert.

  20. You know this is one interesting topic, but there is one thing in particular that stands out to me. We keep talking about CCM versus Southern Gospel, and this makes no sense to me! This is like trying to get a Jon Bon Jovi fan to start listening to George Jones! People prefer certain types of music and that makes them no less a Christian or doesn’t mean that they have poor taste. Rather than looking for people we can “steal” from CCM we should look for people that may prefer a more country or harmony driven music and have not yet been exposed to Southern Gospel. Further, the idea of trying to change our music to “appeal” to a younger generation is very self-defeating. I also thoroughly disagree with the person on here that said we need to let go of the past and embrace “today”. Try telling a country music fan they need to let go of Hank Williams, Charley Pride, and Loretta Lynn and you’ll have a fight on your hands! We need to honor those that have brought this music to what it is, sing the songs that have timeless truth, and continue to write and develop music that preserves and promotes all that Southern Gospel is!

  21. I also wanted to state that I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what needs to be done for the future of Southern Gospel. My situation may be a little unique in that I am 29 years old, own a local Southern Gospel group, and also pastor a Church full time. I can way in on behalf of the younger generation, the pastor, and the laboring local SG singer!

    I think the key problem to the promotion and growth of the Southern Gospel as whole is in the lack of carry over from small churches booking local groups and the major concerts bringing national artists. Let me explain. Those that have the power to promote and thrust into the limelight are seldom willing to take a serious look at a group that is not a national recording artist with a full time schedule. This puts a very limited number of artists in the “big” spotlight and causes there to be a major quality drop from the big sings to the local small churches’ love offering concerts with local groups. The local groups that have true talent and offer good quality music have a seemingly eternal battle to rise above the label of a “local” group, and there are so many local groups that are not doing quality material that the term “local group” is becoming more and more a word that strikes musical terror at its very mention!

    I guess to try to sum up my rambling, in most other genres of music you have the superstars that play the civic centers and auditoriums, then you have the up and coming artists or has beens playing the state fairs and festivals, and then there are the struggling groups that play county fairs and high school gyms, and then at the bottom are the wanna be’s that play the bars, restaurants, and family reunions. However, in Southern Gospel there are not such clearly defined borders. There is simply three categories, Gaithers, the “big groups”, and everyone else! You may be able to make a distinction between groups that are fulltime but not considered a big group, but most of those groups are fighting for the same bookings the local groups are.

    The reason I think this is such a key issue is because the local groups tend to sing to more audiences that are new to SG than the big groups do. For example, aside from the Gaithers crowd, I would venture to say that the vast majority of people that were introduced to SG heard a group at a local church somewhere, and chances are it was a local or regional group. When Churches do not exercise a quality standard when they book these groups, than many new potential SG fans are given the misconceptions mentioned earlier in this thread.

    So here’s my solution: Promoters and recording companies need to do better at looking for quality talent and embrace it in every way possible – even if that artist is currently a local artist. Those artists on the “inside” of the industry need to come down of their pedistools and realize that the more artists that are in the spotlight, the more people there are watching the spotlights. Churches and people that book local groups need to become educated and not afraid to be gate keepers against those artists too lazy to work to deliver quality music. Local groups need to work hard to make their music worthy of carrying the SG torch in local communities. There needs to be a renewed focus, industry wide, to put quality SG in small local churches. That is where the people are that will most quickly become SG fans. And above all – let the focus be on the GOSPEL!! Remember God promised that He would not let His word return void – it is simply our job to make certain that our music is carrying His Word!