CD Reviews, and Giving Account for Idle Words

Recently, popular Christian blogger Tim Challies posted a scathing review of Ann Voskamp’s popular book One Thousand Gifts. Voskamp responded with an invitation over for dinner. After the invitation, Challies posted a public apology. In the apology, he several things that are incredibly easy to forget when writing reviews: Authors (and artists), who often read the reviews, are real people, and in the genres he and I cover (Christian books and Christian music, respectively), typically fellow believers in Christ.  He said:

As I read back over my review of One Thousand Gifts I could see that I had neglected to remind myself while writing it that Voskamp is a real person and, not only that, but a sister in Christ. As a writer myself, I ought to remember that words are meaningful and revealing and in some way a part of the person who writes them. Every word comes from somewhere deep inside. Every word of One Thousand Gifts is a part of Voskamp just like every word I write is a part of me. There are no idle words in her book, no words that aren’t felt and meant. Yet in my review I had treated her as if her words mean less than mine, as if I was free to criticize her in a way I would not want to be criticized. …

There is value in engaging the ideas in any book, and especially a book about this Christian life, but the desire to uphold truth has no business coming into conflict with love for another person. Truth and love are to be held together as friends, not separated as if they are enemies. In my desire to say what was true, I failed to love. I ask Ann’s forgiveness for this.

It can be sobering to realize that real people are on the other end of the reviews we write and comments we post on blogs and social media. This is not, however, the most sobering part of the discussion. Jesus said:

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:35-36)

He didn’t say “every particularly egregious idle word.” He said “every idle word.”

This is not to say, however, that every comment we make needs to be glowing and positive. Christians have an obligation to speak the truth. But we also have an obligation to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

This even applies in the extreme cases. Suppose a book or song expresses a heretical view, antithetical to the Gospel of Christ. We need to remember that God has saved many a heretic, and that we do not want to be the one to drive them farther from the faith. Suppose an author or artist is living a lifestyle completely inconsistent with the Bible’s guidelines for how a Christian should live. We need to remember that God has called many of the reprobate and backslidden to repentance.

I can’t say that there are no posts and comments that, in retrospect, I wish I could take back. But for several years, I have tried to write every review in such a way that I tell the truth, but tell it in a way that would not leave me ashamed to discuss the review with the artist.

Yet it is an even more sobering reality that we are called to write and speak in such a way that we need not be ashamed to discuss our words with God.

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Mike Jennings leaves Dixie Echoes

Dixie Echoes bass singer Mike Jennings just announced on Facebook that he is leaving the group:

I would like to let everyone know that my time with the Dixie Echoes has come to an end. The Lord is blessing our family with another little one and I’ll be heading home to take care of them. I have met many wonderful people across the country this year, fans and fellow singers alike. I hope to see many of you again. I would like to thank my family for their love, support and selflessness this past year. Please keep our family in your prayers as we make this transition. God Bless.

This leaves the Dixie Echoes without a tenor, bass, and pianist.

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Michael Helwig leaves Dixie Echoes

Michael Helwig announced his departure from the Dixie Echoes on Facebook (login required):

I would like to announce that my tenure with the dixie echoes has come to an end. I would like to thank Stewart Varnado for the leadership he showed in the group and the element of professionalism he brought to the stage and to the business end of things.

His future plans will be announced soon.

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Saturday News Roundup #123

Worth Reading

  • Here’s the official press release on Gordon Mote’s departure from the Gaither Homecoming Tour.
  • Check out Brian Crout’s in-depth review of the Talleys’ album Love Won; he calls it “a must-have recording.”
  • Steve Eaton has been running a fascinating SWOT Analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) column for the last several weeks. This week, he took a look at the Mark Trammell Quartet.

Worth Watching

In a recent discussion in the comments, commenter Abe mentioned the Garment of Praise Quartet. This acapella Mennonite quartet’s lead singer, Daryl Petersheim, wrote the Kingdom Heirs song “The Empty Tomb Says it All.” Here’s a video of the group singing “Heaven’s Joy Awaits”:

Bonus: Here’s their take on the Kingdom Heirs’ song Going On with the Song.

Also, SGConcerts’ Diana Brantley has posted the first concert footage of the new Rebels Quartet. Here’s a video of lead singer Alan Kendall being featured on “He’ll Understand and Say Well Done”:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Butch Owens joins Blackwood Brothers

The Blackwood Brothers announced the hire of Butch Owens as their new bass singer. [EDIT, 6/18/12: Broken link removed.] Owens commented:

I am excited to be a part of The Blackwood Brothers Quartet. It is a dream come true for me. The Blackwood Brothers Quartet is the most well-known name in gospel music with a great history of pioneering and influence in this industry. I am so proud to be able to help continue that great tradition. I look forward to meeting many new friends as we travel around the country and around the world.

Owens has performed with the Stamps Quartet, Anchormen, and Florida Boys, and is the father of Signature Sound bass singer Ian Owens. He has already spent two days in the studio, recording vocals for the group’s upcoming release. His first live concert with the group will be next Saturday, June 9.

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Union Street hits Kickstarter Goal

Union Street, the new quartet from Ryan Seaton, Aaron McCune, Toby Hitchcock, and Andrew Goldman, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their debut album. (We covered it here and here.) They are six days away from the end of the fundraising drive. They hit their goal yesterday; they are at over $19,000 raised, 128% of their $15,000 goal. Notably, there have only been two large donors (one at the $1,000 tier and another at the $5,000 tier); most of the other contributors gave $25, $50, or $100.

This is already one of the most successful (if not the most successful) Southern Gospel-related Kickstarter to date, and there is a week to go. Congratulations, Union Street!

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Saturday News Roundup #122

Worth Knowing

  • Jeff Steele’s family is requesting prayer for his health. Jeff, who led The Steeles until their retirement several years ago, fell down a concrete wall and down brick steps. He has been admitted to the hospital to determine if the fall was caused by a stroke. (Via Libbi Stuffle on Facebook.) (UPDATE, 2:04 P.M.) Jeff Steele is doing better enough that he posted this update on Facebook: “I have been in an information ‘black hole’ since Thursday evening when my incident took place. Doc said I could have this one chance. Thank you to Wesley and Trevor and Brad. You guys saved my life! I was talking to my friend Ashley Franks when she says my speech got slurred and I became incoherent! Ash I love you sweetie just DON’T tell em what I said!! LOL. Thanks to all of u who are praying for me. This is a lot more serious than I thought and I FEEL your prayers. Thank you so, so much. I love, love, love you all!! I am overwhelmed!”
  • Aaron Swain recently went to see Promise in concert, recording quite a few videos, posted here.

Worth Reading

  • Southern Gospel Critique terms the new Barry Rowland & Deliverance project as the best of the year, so far. Check out the review. (My review is scheduled for early next month, but this review touches on several areas mine doesn’t.)
  • Whether you agree or disagree, Friday Night Revival’s case for a one-hour Compassion pitch at NQC is a must-read.
  • Somewhat off-topic, but relevant to today’s culture: Randy Alcorn’s column on why we should not become desensitized to profanity in the entertainment we consume.

Worth Watching

Here’s a video of the new Kingsmen lineup, with tenor Chris Jenkins and lead singer Bob Sellers:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Saturday News Roundup #121

Worth Knowing

  • Tim Duncan’s son Breck, who was injured in a head-on collision last week, continues to recover. Tim posted a surgery update on Facebook yesterday evening: “Brecks surgery went well. He had broken every bone in is face plus his eye orbits. They were able to repair everything. The surgeons said everything fit back perfectly and they even took pictures of what they are calling thier masterpiece! They said they were shocked at how easy the surgery was! He does have his jaws wired shut. He isn’t happy but he said he is trying to keep a good attitude! I know it is God hearing all the prayers on his behalf! We can’t say thank you enough!!”
  • Former Melody Boys baritone Steven Hickinbotham has joined Spoken 4 Quartet. Former baritone Jeremy Wilkerson, a founding member of Spoken 4, left at the end of 2011. J.D. Miller had filled in in the interim. (Hat tip, Lauren.)
  • Blackwood Legacy has hired Paul Secord as their new tenor.
  • Departing Dixie Echoes pianist Stewart Varnado is doing a clearance sale on his instrumental CDs at his website. [EDIT, 2/22/13: Broken link removed.] He is also selling quite a few Southern Gospel CDs and LPs he’s collected through the years (though you would have to contact him through Facebook or his website’s contact form for details.)

Worth Reading

Worth Watching

Here’s a video of the Collingsworth Family singing “That’s the Place I’m Longing to Go” last weekend:

(Here’s a video from the same event, “At Calvary.”)

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Kyle Boreing’s father passes away

Southern Gospel blogger Kyle Boreing’s father James passed away suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this week. [EDIT, 3/16/13: Broken link removed.] Keep the Boreing family in your prayers! Kyle is a regular contributor to David Bruce Murray’s Musicscribe blog.

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