Longer concerts & NQC altar calls

Chris Unthank declares that what’s really ailing southern gospel is not enough “revival”:

I’m not saying that the individuals in Southern Gospel need personal revival in their lives (though that may be the case) - I’m saying that our personal concerts and experiences with the fans are lacking that spiritual punch that was so prevalent in the Golden Age of this genre.

When’s the last time that an altar call was given at the National Quartet Convention? When’s the last time that an artist decided to stop worrying about a time schedule and started worrying about who needed a touch of God in the audience. All of this got me thinking - and then praying for God to move in this industry like he has never done before.

I appreciate the sentiment here, but really. Is this the best we can come up with? Longer concerts and altar calls at NQC?

More generally, this “back to the basics of old time revival” strikes me as wrong for several reasons. One is that it’s historically inaccurate. The heyday of gospel music was many things, but more “spiritual?” Hardly. I hate to poach my own material here, but one of the reasons I want to get to that long-threatened post about Pentecostalism and sg is, among other things, to point out that gospel music has become more - not less - “spiritualized,” so to speak. The influence of the Pentecostal holiness tradition (think Happy Goodmans and their stylistic heirs, which goes way beyond self-identified Pentecostals in sg) has shifted the emphasis in gospel music over the last generation or three. Instead of providing mainstream Christian entertainment to a demographically diverse audience, white gospel music focuses now on ministering in music to an ever-narrower subset of Protestant evangelicals.

If this process of “spiritualization” (or maybe charismaticizing) has seemed to coincide with an inversely proportional decline in music that tapped into what the Puritan divines of old called “the religious affections” (what Unthank calls “spiritual punch,” which I don’t think is meant to refer to a drink), it’s not because gospel music is less spiritual now but because it’s less musically disciplined and perhaps even less talented, on the whole.

And this brings me to my second point: generally, the more “spiritual” music is the more heavily it relies on false (or unconvincing) shows of piety. Southern gospel is an ecumenical genre. This means that even if every display of spirituality or religious enthusiasm from the stage were genuine, such displays always tend to alienate the kinds of denominationally diverse audiences that gospel music wants to attract in order to grow or simply not disappear, because these people are just the sorts of listeners likely to be put off by public expressions of faith that are unfamiliar or incompatible with their own, or simply distastefully exuberant.

To call for revival in southern gospel is at best to encourage even more well-intentioned but inexpert or clumsy musical revivalists to dilute an already weakened brand of music with demonstrations of spirituality at the expense of good music. At worst it’s to sanction more religious charlatans and showboating hucksters who can’t sing well enough to keep your attention and so resort to the melodrama of “revival” gimmickry. If southern gospel has a problem, it’s not a lack of spirituality or revival but an excess of badly staged religiosity. Sing well, be tastefully entertaining, and the rest will take care of itself.

Update: let me be a bit clearer here, since Eddie Crook’s comment suggests I may not have been to begin with. The Pentecostal legacy I’m describing here is not a strictly denominational thing but a broader and more pervasive emphasis on emotionalism that has become steadily more normalized and influential. The McKameys, the Greenes (when they’re in high holiness form), the McGruders, the Crabbs, the Pfieffers, The Ruppes (when Brenda decides to do some cry-singing). You can make your own list, I’m sure (and yes, I know these people aren’t all Pentecostals and that’s the point; Pentecostalism’s emotional influence reaches far beyond self-identified Pentecostals). Obviously emotionalism doesn’t always trump musicality (cf The Ruppes and the Crabbs and the Greenes and, when they were really good, the McGruders). And emotional expressions are often quite clearly a real part of how many artists experience and convey the religious origins of their music. But it seems inarguably true to me that emotionalism and emotionally charged spiritualism are a much larger part of gospel music today than in the mid-century “golden age” that Unthank alludes to as so spirit filled.

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Comments

  1. e.c. wrote:

    How many “pentecostal holiness” (PH) type artists are on the main stage at NQC? Can you name one that fits the profile AVL seems to be referring to? When have you heard of an altar call at any of the largest ticketed events that feature the biggest names in the business?
    It seems that the entertainment aspect is becoming more popular than “spiritual” in current times.
    An analysis might show that the PH artists are at the peripheral of SG rather than at the forefront.
    Perhaps there is a smaller PH audience than anyone knows.
    It is certainly interesting to examine these issues as they pertain to the future of the music.

  2. Charles Brady wrote:

    E.C. said “When have you heard of an altar call at any of the largest ticketed events that feature the biggest names in the business?”

    Answer: Ray Flynn Promotions Alternative to Halloween Event, Abraham Productions Singing in the Sun and The Gatlinburg Gathering. (Always a great number of conversions at these major ticketed events.)

    And I bet you’ll see the same thing at the new Panama City, Fla event that takes place this year in June as well.

    Just this weekend we saw 31 people accept Christ during a ticketed event that included artists like Gold City, The Primitives, Mark Bishop & Michael Combs, The Whisnants & Ricky Atkinson & Compassion.

    Zig Ziglar is a good example of a wise man that had major corporations paying him large sums of money and in every motivational speech he ever made he shared with those in attendance the source of his motivation. Jesus Christ.

    “Gospel” Music, southern or otherwise is supposed to be more than entertainment. By its very title “Gospel” music it denotes that there is a spiritual connection because the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ is shared in the song.

    What I fail to understand is how major events like the NQC fail to understand the great harvest that they leave in the field each year. I compare it to someone who sets a wonderful table of food and invites hungry & starving folks in to look at the food on the table. But then never invites them to eat.

    I thank God everyday for men like promoter Ray Flynn who not only invite people to come and see the food but gives the invitation to come and dine!

    And feeding people the bread of life is not a denominational thing. It’s the command of God to all saved men to go and make disciples.

  3. Mister Spelling wrote:

    It’s spelled McGruders, not Magruders………

  4. RF wrote:

    I can remember, way back about 1958 or thereabouts, the same discussion being held in my home where I lived with my parents. It seems that one member of their group was concerned about the entertainment factor the Statesmen brought to sg and thought the group should have altar calls every time they sang.

    A wise old pastor was at the practice and I still can remember what he said (even though I had not reached the age of 10). He advised that altar calls in churches where folks weren’t being charged for a “program” were fine. He said when you charged someone for entertainment they expected entertainment and not church. Dad’s quartet followed that rule through their amateur careers.

    Remember, this was 1958–near 50 years ago. It always seems that this subject comes up whenever things look gloomy. it seems to me the secret to more popularity for sg is better singing and playing. If that is done, as AVFL is so apt to point out, the rest will take care of itself.

  5. smells wrote:

    “strikes me as wrong for several reasons.”
    Of course it does. If I may be blunt, I don’t think you would recognize anything spiritual if it slapped you upside the head and knocked you down or out.

  6. CG wrote:

    RF wrote:

    “A wise old pastor was at the practice and I still can remember what he said (even though I had not reached the age of 10). He advised that altar calls in churches where folks weren’t being charged for a “program” were fine. He said when you charged someone for entertainment they expected entertainment and not church.”

    That’s still, after 50 years, wise advice.

    As a Pentecostal, as well as a lifelong (45 years) follower of SG music (including close ties to the industry) one of my concerns is that the industry has shifted, in some instances, to a (almost) look-how-spiritual-we-are approach very reminiscent of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

  7. Jim2 wrote:

    very spiritual and compassionate comment there.

  8. Charles Brady wrote:

    RF Said: He advised that altar calls in churches where folks weren’t being charged for a “program” were fine.

    Response: And what church was that? I have been to hundreds of churches and never been to one yet that didn’t lift an offering at least once during the program…… so does printing a ticket vs. passing a plate dictate rather we share the gift of the Gospel of Christ and invite men & women to partake of the gift?

    Sorry but your man of wisdom wasn’t very wise when it comes to things of a spiritual nature…

    The logic in that is very flawed… money paid is money paid no matter how the church, group or promoter collects it. And it has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of sharing the “Gospel” at a “Gospel” music event and giving people a chance to respond.

  9. jb wrote:

    A lot of good comments and I tend to agree with what the “wise pastor” said, however, there are a lot of unsaved people in those concerts being entertained. In my small mind I thought that most everyone that went to NQC were saved until about 3 yrs. ago when a gentlemen told my husband that he thought they sold beer in the concession stands. We need to be reaching the lost no matter when or what or if it’s a paid concert or not. It may be the only time someone hears the gospel.

  10. LSJ wrote:

    My understanding of a free-will offering is just that: an offering given of free-will. The money is being requested from those who enjoyed the group and want to help their expenses, more of a fund-raiser than being “charged for a program.” Sure, there may be a slight social push for people in the church to give money.
    But in my experience singing for free-will offerings, if they don’t want to give you money (or if they didn’t like the singing), they won’t give you money. (This comes from several times singing for what seemed like a huge church with a big crowd 150 miles from home and getting $50 for our troubles in the fw-offering).

    Anyway, I agree with AVFL and CG about the over-played religiosity that seems so forced sometimes by some groups; but, then, isn’t that maybe their part of their entertainment factor?

  11. bc wrote:

    I think there is a big difference in “passing the plate” and “printing the tickets”. When the plate or the chicken bucket passes by and you don’t feel like dropping anything in, then don’t.
    I was at the Friday night Ray Flynn event. The promotional poster says nothing about a complete hault in the program to be preached to by a fire-and-brimstoner-jacket-slinger for 35 minutes. If I want a sermon, I’ll go to church. If I want a concert, I’ll pay $15 for a ticket. If there’s going to be both, than print it on the poster.
    http://www.rayflynnpromotions.com/valentine.html
    By the way, Jonathan Wilburn quietly walked out on stage and retrieved the thrown jacket, and presumably provided a hanger for it backstage….

  12. Chuck Sims wrote:

    I guess the first thing one needs to do is decide if they are singing SG to encourage believers, or to evangellize unbelievers. Our group decided from the start that we were “encouragers,” not evangelists. And, I don’t think that this diminishes our “ministry.”

    Recently, following our concert, the Pastor of the church came to me and said how appreciative he was that our program shared the “good news of Christ” from the first song to the last. That was a great critique of what we were doing, and how we did it. That is our plan, but we don’t do it with “alter calls” or “spiritual huckster-ism.”

    In my estimation, this is what Southern Gospel “needs.” Be real, and realize that people come to the event to be entertained and encouraged. and, most importantly, let God do the rest.

  13. shanjenkins wrote:

    So jb, you assume that because a man at NQC wanted a beer or thought the concession stand sold alcohol, that he’s not a Christian? Hmmm. I will quote CG here…”very reminiscint of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.”

  14. MoCoo wrote:

    “I was at the Friday night Ray Flynn event. The promotional poster says nothing about a complete hault in the program to be preached to by a fire-and-brimstoner-jacket-slinger for 35 minutes. If I want a sermon, I’ll go to church. If I want a concert, I’ll pay $15 for a ticket. If there’s going to be both, than print it on the poster.”

    I was all set to go to Praise By The Bay in Panama City just to see BF&A and The Talleys alone. Until I saw..”The speaker for the night” note. I’m always leary of being preached to by someone other than my pastor and my church. I know we are all Children of God and Brothers and Sisters in Christ however spirituality is a very personal thing to me at least. I know my pastor and congregation are of like mind as me and thats what gives me comfort. Fire and Brimstone never has done anything for me but give me nightmares growing up. I know some will say I’m not secure in my beliefs if I cant take fire and brimstone preaching. So sue me.

  15. SL wrote:

    ‘Pentecostal’ holiness…I didn’t know there were brands of holiness. Ummm…… Anyway, you gotta be careful when you go requesting ‘revival’. It appears there are many kinds! (just like that holiness stuff, isn’t that something?!) I would imagine the Unthank guy would probably pass on someone grabbing onto his forehead and rattling his brains for a while. But, hey - that’s what some altar calls are like. Maybe he’s more suited for the “I see that hand” kind of revival. He can decide. Lots of options it seems…like a buffet. Boys, that God - He is just SO……accommodating.

  16. Dean Adkins wrote:

    “Sing well, be tastefully entertaining, and the rest will take care of itself.”

    Amen!

  17. jb wrote:

    Shane: Sorry if I offended you. We all have our own convictions. Nuf said!!

  18. Big MO wrote:

    Charles Brady said it well! I am coming to the conclusion that we are more interested in performance than power. It’s an age old problem, and nothing has changed. I am proud to be on the Praise by the Bay concert for the simple reason that Ray Flynn is involved. He has a heart after God. I really worry about “gospel music fans” that don’t appreciate the word of God being preached, and the numerous souls that respond when it’s over. Ever been to a Ray Flynn concert? It’s the presentation of the gospel message in the middle of the concert that makes it so awesome.
    I don’t think we have to worry about a big revival coming to SG or anywhere else. According to what I read in the Bible, it’s all about over anyway. Jesus is coming soon! As far as popularity and acceptance by the mainstream, You must remember, the true message of Jesus includes commitment and holiness. Two subjects that are unpopular with most christrians, much less the lost.

  19. idn wrote:

    People get tired of preaching, altar calls, and people who run over their time limit. Maybe that’s why our crowds are down. The ministry of southern gospel is in the songs, let it be that way. Give them a good show and put enough trust in God to move His spirit through the people without having to force it on them. If we step aside and watch God move, then not only amazing things will happen, but the group will probably get off stage in time as well and allow somebody else to get that same opportunity.

  20. Charles Brady wrote:

    bc wrote:
    I was at the Friday night Ray Flynn event. The promotional poster says nothing about a complete hault in the program to be preached to by a fire-and-brimstoner-jacket-slinger for 35 minutes.

    Response: So it’s not worth 35 minutes of your time for 6 people on that Friday night to get their lives right with God and have the promise of eternal life?

    Sir I think you just made my case stronger than I ever could and I hope that one day it will be you that takes that step of faith. Because sir, when you have accepted Christ and been forgiven of your sins you will take this as a serious matter. Because one day when you take your last breath it will be a very serious matter. A very serious one.

  21. bh wrote:

    J.D. once said, “We don’t act like we have God on our side all the time, but when he really is part of the event, it sure is better”. I agree with Dean above, learn music, do good arrangements designed to capture the imagination of the audience, live good Christian lives and let God take care of the rest. I am not big on “working the spirit up” like some pep rally before a ball game. I would prefer to leave the door open and let God visit as He sees fit. When SG begins to be better music, the seats will be filled. Guaranteed!

  22. CVH wrote:

    I think we should adjourn to small groups to discuss all the nuances that have been brought up in the thread so far.

    All styles of religious music suffer from an innate contradiction between definition and purpose that make dialogues like this almost impossible to dissect. Other than a few broad, underlying objective premises nearly every aspect of the conversation is subjective, based on a variety of factors: the music itself, the people performing it and the audiences listening to it.

    Intent and context come into play on every level; from the cultural background of the writers and performers to the purpose of the songs and how they are both influenced by a myriad of factors over the years.

    Can a song minister AND entertain? Does there have to be a distinction between the two or is that merely a cultural assumption we overlay on the music (or the group performing it)?

    There are religious and cultural influences on all music. But how do they translate into what we experience (or hope to experience) in a concert?

    Some songs are just written from the heart and they find their own path; as Henry Slaughter used to say, “sometimes the songs find us.”
    Others, probably the majority these days, are written ‘to the market’. Is either way better? I don’t think so because each is a writer’s response to God’s giftedness. And since most groups try to create a balanced program for their concerts, you should expect to have musical and emotional peaks and valleys. That necessitates songs that move people in those directions. Manipulative? Sure. Wrong? Not at all. It’s just a part of the craft of songwriting and producing.

    Groups? Some start off with a more ’spiritual’ intent, especially those who start as regional groups in churches. Others are designed purely for entertainment value. And given the recent thread on salaries in SG, the bottom line is it’s a business. (Don’t think so? You try filling the tanks on a Prevost and meeting payroll every week.)

    Is one ‘better’ than the other? No, as long as everyone understands what the purpose is…AND as long as audiences don’t put a level of expectation on a group that they have no intention of fulfilling. Should altar calls be given? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the context of the concert and the venue. Should the group veer off into a fit of perspired holiness worship? Doubtful in most cases. But regardless of their style of delivery, hopefully every group presents a mix of lyrics in their tunes that will both expose a non-believer to the claims of Christ and present themes of encouragement and hope to believers. As others have wisely said, just do it well and leave the rest up to God. But that’s too simple, isn’t it?

    There’s more, so much more.

  23. Tom wrote:

    Too bad Chris Unthank won’t have the pleasure of reading all this debate that his comments inspired, as he has piously proclaimed that he keeps his blinders on (see his comment at http://www.southerngospelblog.com/archives/151).

  24. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Summed up:
    “WE like it THIS way and everyone ELSE who doesn’t like it to be exactly the way WE like it MUST be wrong.”

  25. Catoe wrote:

    I’ve often thought “What would Jesus think of a good time in His name?” You know Jesus, the one who was beaten beyond recognition, hung on a cross naked, and shed His blood as an atonement for our sins. It’s, dare I say, near heresy to use Jesus Christ to just entertain people.

  26. Damon from KY wrote:

    It seems like a lot of people are painting with broad brushes here, but one of the broadest above raises a question for me, particularly in light of those in this thread that believe preaching the gospel and giving invitations are important parts of a SG concert: Why doesn’t Freedom Hall sell beer at the NQC? Obviously no one has to buy it and many of the attendees would think nothing of those same stands selling alcohol at a U of L Cards game. If the NQC’s attendance would be helped by beer sales, wouldn’t that be a bonus? If the concessions are run by the arena (and I don’t know if they are), then the rental fee for the whole place may be lower if concessions were higher.

    And don’t come back with, “if we’re going to do that, then why don’t we just have beer in church?” because the NQC and/or Freedom Hall are not church; the NQC is a private event held at a secular arena.

    I obviously don’t expect this to happen soon with the current leadership and audience of the NQC, but it is a step that could widen the overall audience, increase evangelism opportunities (the extent of which may depend on your theological views of beer consumption), and increase revenue.

    The only reason not to do it is because of a belief that a Christian event must be completely and uncompromisingly separated from alcohol (though obviously not separated from the money changers in the East or West Hall). Many people who may otherwise choose to attend the 6-hour nightly events may feel differently, either from within or without the body of Christ.

  27. RF wrote:

    Charles Brady Wrote:

    “Response: So it’s not worth 35 minutes of your time for 6 people on that Friday night to get their lives right with God and have the promise of eternal life?”

    I should have explained it better. The pastor’s thinking was that you would turn twice as many off to the gospel as you would turn on if you had preaching and an altar call at a paid event.

    A case in point…or two. Twice in the last few years, I have attended events that were supposed to be “sings” that turned into a sermon. Once the pastor went into a tirade about gays and Democrats (not necessarily in that order) and the other one was the same pastor going into a shouting sermon about talking in tongues. On both occasions, the crowd filtered out pretty quickly *during* the “sermon.” At one of those events, I had invited a non-Christian who had recently lost his wife to a suicide. He may never attend church again anywhere.

    It’s certainly not good form to be arguing with Charles Brady (and I’m really not, Charles), but there is such a thing as overkill. Sing to them, give them something to remember and let the Lord do the rest.

    I did notice this weekend on a Christian talent show that Jason Crabb was hosting that I thought was a good idea. Amid all the singing, Jason stops to say something like, “if you’d like to know about this Jesus we sing about, we have a pamphlet…” I thought it was a great idea. No preaching, but if you want to know more…

  28. Concerned wrote:

    i have to say this…and i have never been one to just put my opinion out there like this. But as a pastor’s son, a singer, a fan of sg and most importantly a child of our King, someone HAS to get to Jesus. My heart just aches at the responses i see on here. We are so divided as the people of God. We are so in the flesh it’s not even funny and the rest of us just flat need to get saved. But if we’re (Christians that is) divided, then all the homosexuals, adulterers, drunkards, blasphemers won’t see the need in getting saved because we let em keep singin the songs, writing the lyrics and producing the albums that go into our churches…. They don’t care they’re getting paid just the same, right? WE let them in, we’ve let them enjoy the goodness without the Godliness..it’s our own fault. That’s where revival comes in…and it won’t matter where it is. God will come when and where He chooses all it takes is one willing heart..who will it be..you?

    Divided and we’ll fall guys. If you can’t stand preaching then chances are you don’t like the gospel in any form anyway, thus a need for old time, sin killing salvation.

    oh yeah, avery i like you and all and i believe you have a good, solid, discerning blog. You’re right sg needs vast change, improvement and a good overhaul, we HAVE to push ourselves to get better and better. But please, i mean this in all sincerity, you need Jesus in your heart. He’s willing if you are.
    ( off the soap box now)

  29. Jim E. Davis wrote:

    Beer at NQC? Now that would get the Spirit moving!

    Wood shomebody shing Amazhing grashe one more time?

  30. MoCoo wrote:

    “Sir I think you just made my case stronger than I ever could and I hope that one day it will be you that takes that step of faith. Because sir, when you have accepted Christ and been forgiven of your sins you will take this as a serious matter. Because one day when you take your last breath it will be a very serious matter. A very serious one.”

    I’m glad to know that disagreeing with alter calls at sg concerts means you havent accepted Christ as your personal saviour.

  31. JW wrote:

    “Sing well, be tastefully entertaining, and the rest will take care of itself.”

    Add me to the Amen chorus for that statement.

    I’m a very conservative Christian, but I just don’t go to a singing for a sermon. Yes, I want to see souls saved, but I hope it’s not a bad thing to actually want to hear some singing, too.

    Can’t the groups mention how Jesus loves us, and if you don’t know about that, we have pastors on hand who will talk to you out back or to the side?

    Just me, but isn’t it reasonable to assume most people who attend gospel singing are already Christians and that encouragement through song is more appropriate?

    I just think there is a middle ground. I don’t want to see Southern gospel as just “entertainment” with no gospel content, but then again I want to hear singing at a singing, especially if I buy a ticket for a singing.

    Let’s put our swords away for a minute and be loving and respectful to each other. This seems like an issue that reasonable people can find some common ground on.

  32. John wrote:

    Concerned,
    Your post simply amazes me. I can’t believe you actually said that we are keeping people from being saved because “we let them enjoy the goodness without the Godliness”. I don’t know the entire bible by heart, but I can’t recall anywhere in scripture that commands Christians to disassociate from anyone unsaved and generally treat them as outcasts until they’ve learned their lesson and accepted Christ. In fact, Jesus went about his ministry in quite the opposite way. Also, please let me know where you acquired the ability to determine someone’s salvation by reading their blog because I’m definitely interested in obtaining it myself. That falls right behind x-ray vision and the ability to fly on the list of super-powers I could really have some fun with.

  33. jb wrote:

    Damon: Why would “NQC attendance be helped” with beer sales?? I think we all know the difference in selling beer at a ballgame vs. selling it at NQC or any other venue where they are “spreading the gospel”. Why do Christians think we have to conform to the ways of the world?

  34. thom wrote:

    God is the Lord of the Harvest. We, as his people, are to be sowers of the seed. The seed is the Word of God. Songs that proclaim the Gospel message of: “Jesus, born of a virgin, God’s only son became flesh, lived a perfect sinless life, became the sacrifice for my sins and yours, died on a cross, was buried, and resurrected on the 3rd day, and now sits at the right hand of God to intercede for you and I”- will not return void. You may not ever see the harvest, but keep sowing. Like Rodney Griffin wrote, “singers keep on singing, preachers keep on preaching…and if one more soul were to walk down the aisle it will be worth every minute, it will be worth every mile.” (forgive me Rodney if I didn’t get it exactly right) That is the attitude we must have - Keep sowing the seed, and trust God to bring the harvest. Just because there is not an altar call at every concert or event does not mean the Gospel message was not declared and seed was not sown. Some seed will be devoured by the enemy, some seed will fall on stoney ground, but some seed will fall on fertile ground, ground that was plowed by many, many procalimers of the Gospel before you. Sometimes we get to pick up a little fruit and those are the times that keep you going on. Sing songs that have some meat in them - a good message about the power of God’s grace, love, and redemption; and then trust God to apply it to people’s hearts.
    And remember, they came to hear you sing.

  35. thom wrote:

    p.s. - having an altar call at NQC would be tough now anyway since “Granny” went on the Heaven. It used to bless me to see that old lady stand up and lift her hands and start waving her Bible around. Granny had church whether anybody else did or not.

  36. Concerned wrote:

    John,
    Unsaved people have no place IN ministry because: a. they’ve never been saved b. they’ve never been called to minister (see a.) c. the Holy Spirit will only bless what God has ordained. And despite America’s shift in it’s latest mood swing, God hasn’t ordained, sanctioned, allowed and never will change HIS mind, not mine, on sin.

  37. jb wrote:

    THOM: THAT IS A REVIVAL MESSAGE RIGHT THERE…….

  38. CG wrote:

    Amen! Hallelujah! Preach on. Thom gets it.

    If we truly believe, as most seem to, that these songs (that are sung at concerts) were Divinely inspired and are annointed, why do we second guess the Holy Spirit’s ability to water that planted seed to grow at anytime? I don’t believe anyone here at AFL is opposed to salvation for all?

    The first job I ever had (almost 30 years ago) was in a Christian “night club” in Atlanta (The Joyful Noise). Approximately 4 nights a week I would hear live music from the likes of the Speers, Inspirations, Kingsmen, Cathedrals, Happy Goodmans, Stamps, Masters Five, and a lot more.

    Seldom was there ever an invitation. However, I can’t begin to tell you all the times that I personally know of when souls were saved, (one particular time) a marriage restored, and people being uplifted as a result of the ministry that Bill and Marilyn Flurry had by opening a Christian “night club” and sowing seed that the Holy Spirit (most often) later cultivated.

  39. CG wrote:

    Concerned wrote:

    “…We are so in the flesh it’s not even funny and the rest of us just flat need to get saved. But if we’re (Christians that is) divided, then all the homosexuals, adulterers, drunkards, blasphemers won’t see the need in getting saved because we let em keep singin the songs, writing the lyrics and producing the albums that go into our churches…. They don’t care they’re getting paid just the same, right? WE let them in, we’ve let them enjoy the goodness without the Godliness..it’s our own fault…”

    Now, tell me, Concerned, are these the same folks that you’re suggesting should be giving the altar calls?

    BTW, your comment (at the end of that same post) that seemed to be questioning Avery’s spiritual condition evoked an emotion in me similar to what we saw from Jesus when he expressed his opinion of the money changers in the Temple. While Jesus’ many Biblical examples show patience and compassion to the unbeliever, He has very little tolerance for those who claim to do good in His name (read Matthew 7: 20-23) . Your closing remarks seemed very judgemental and were uncalled for.

  40. fan of EHSSQ wrote:

    I agree with Big Mo… most groups today wouldn’t know the real spirt if it hit them in the top of the head… most groups today are so worried about making a name for themselves that they have forgotten what they are singing about.. Oh they will say we are trusting in the lord, we are sacrificing so much.. I don’t call asking for 1,500-8,000 a night trusting the lord… and when you have a booking agency calling and begging people to let you come and sing… and you are not sacrificing much riding on buses that are nicer than most of the homes the groups live in. Don’t get me wrong I think GODs people should have the best. However, alot of groups are using Gods name for personal gain… The people that paved the way for gospel music (such as The happy Goodmans and so many others) they knew what they were doing …The MINISTRY has become a JOB for most of these groups… IF we can sing will start a group and we want have to WORK. I agree we need more altar calls and spirt filled concerts… But, its hard to be spirt filled when your not walking the walk and talking the talk… alot of our groups today… walk the walk and talk the talk on stage..but, when they are not in front of the people they are not what they say they are… And if you are a spirtual person, you will know the real thing from the fake… some people can be easily fooled….OTHERS CAN’T…

  41. concerned wrote:

    i’m suggesting these are some of the people that ARE giving alter calls.

    My personal opinion is that avery has not expressed in his blogs that shows any spiritual discernment about the matters he brings to light. And granted not everything calls for a spiritual take on things, if you stink well, you stink…
    There’s just not one mention of just how good God really is to well,anyone. That said, i apoligize to you Avery, John,cg and everyone who has read my comments. i never meant to be judgemental or “offend” anyone. I’ll let
    God be true in this. God calls us to be tender hearted and to Not offend our bretheren in the Lord. But we have to wake up to what’s happening to us as a whole.

  42. CVH wrote:

    I’m not sure how much weirder this can all get, but at the risk of stirring up the pot even more, let me add this thought: from its inception, gospel music groups (SG, CCM, and everything stylistically in-between) have knowingly or unknowingly employed people who were not Christians. The word ‘employed’ is key; it’s a business. A singer or player is hired to perform a task for an agreed-to rate of pay. Period.

    Some groups only hire people they know are believers (verified from references, testimony, etc.). Others through the years (and probably today as well, although I don’t know of any personally) have hired people for their talent, their
    ability to communicate and ’sell’ the product; whether that’s Jesus or the group’s latest 3′fer CD package is debatable. The ‘belief factor’ was secondary or in some cases unnecessary, as long as they didn’t cross the line and damage the group’s reputation or sales. That’s the reality of it.

    There were then and probably are today a lot of people who were hired who may have thought they were believers (basically good people, went to church…
    sometimes, knew how to act in front of the crowd, etc.) But were they the blood-washed, spirit-filled, sanctified, Holy-Ghost empowered people that many on this blog are suggesting they should have been? Of course not.
    Don’t be naive.

    Were the owners of the groups wrong for hiring them? Did God not bless the work of the groups because there were non-believers in the group? Who knows? Most measures of ‘rewards’ in SG have been in terms of awards, record sales, media spotlights and crowd size.

    People can fuss and moan all they want about what a group SHOULD BE, and what the people IN A GROUP should be, but the fact I keep going back to is that for any commercial group, it’s a business first; the business of Christian entertainment. The lyrics are about Jesus, heaven and the cross just as a country group’s lyrics are about their ex, their dog, their pickup and their beer. In a perfect world you could always expect more than that of the people performing it, but sometimes the minimum requirements for being in a group don’t include an impeccable testimony and an MDiv from Yale Divinity School.

    Having employees who actually believe what they sing about is a nice assumption for fans to make (and more often than not the case) but you know what they say about people who assume things. I just don’t understand why that’s so surprising to so many people.

  43. John wrote:

    I’m obviously in the boat with CG in thinking that Concerned’s comments about Avery’s salvation were uncalled for. In regards to the follow up post, even if you were speaking strictly of people involved in the ministry when you referenced “letting the unsaved in” (which is not necessarily the gist I got from your original post) I’d like to know how you propose we determine exactly who does or does not have Jesus in their heart. I suppose we could seek your guidance since you are apparently an expert on the topic, but I’d personally prefer to let God work it out. Until then, I’ll continue supporting artists based on the quality of their work and whether I believe it aligns with the scriptures rather than my personal opinion on their salvation (which I have very little or no right to have in the first place).

    Does that machine we’re building to spiritually certify people have a Pharisee filter on it?

  44. Montana Man wrote:

    Maybe I’m straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel… But I thought I read somewhere that not one good thing came come of having ungodly or unsaved singers singing the gospel. Ahhh, I may beg to differ. God said… that’s GOD … that his word would not return to him void. Is it TOO pentecostal to think that perhaps one of those unwashed unrepentants who used God’s word in a program might in fact be planting a seed that would yield a harvest? OK, I never said round up a bunch of the unrepentants and turn ‘em into quartets… just that one thing, that God’s word does not return to him void.

  45. Geno wrote:

    Obviously, I can’t respond to all of the comments even though I strongly disagree with some. Let’s face it folks. There is most likely not one person sitting in the audience at a SG concert who woke up that morning, realized that he had been a heathen all of his life, and then felt the need to go see Gold City. I would also say that the number of people at a concert who regularly attend church would be in the high ninetieth percentile. I don’t remember if I have ever attended a SG music concert that I wasn’t spiritually moved solely by the music, at time even to tears. I don’t think there is anything more spiritual than hearing Gerald Wolfe sing “There is a River” or “Til the Storm Passes By”. However, when it comes time for Rodney to do his 10 minute prayer/sermon/raise your hand if you love the Lord performance, it is time for me to leave. Luckily, I only miss part of one song. On the other hand, I heard a sermon by Dr. Stanley at the Greater Vision Praisefest that really helped me with a relationship that was very important to me. The difference is that I knew Dr. Stanley was there and chose to attend. Even though I could sit and listen to John Pfeiffer play the trumpet all night long, the only time I see groups like them is when they are on the same card with someone who realizes their ministry is their music and that is what I came for. Avery, I think you on the mark with this post and that Mr. Unthank is out of touch, which is a shame for someone whose organization is devoted to SG. Also, shanjenkins, as usual, I loved your response.

  46. smells wrote:

    Oh my goodness. Those of you who are critcising avery’s critics crack me up. Evidently you haven’t been reading this blog very long. If you ask him, I’m pretty sure that he himself will tell you that he’s not a very spiritual person. I believe his words to describe himself were “recovering baptist”. He seems to have a heart of stone, I doubt any words will hurt him. :)

  47. CG wrote:

    John is right: God’s word will not return void. Sing the song, let the Holy Spirit do His work. If that means an altar call, so be it, however, you might not want to have that altar call listed as #11 on your song list for the evenings concert.

    Incidentally, on a side note, anyone familiar with the history of religion should be able to recall that the altar call, as we know it today, is a fairly recent “phenomenon” (past 100 years or so). Most Biblical examples we find of salvation are of one-on-one “soul-winning”. This is definitely not an indictment aginst altar calls. I’m certainly in favor of an altar call (when appropriate). Just wanted to point out that historical (tid-bit) fact.

    Also, let’s not forget: Noah was a drunkard, Rahab was a prostitute, David was a murderer and adulterer, Jonah was rebellious, and Peter even publicly denied Christ. Yet, just as God used them, in more recent times He has used other flawed individuals like J.D. and Jake, George and Glen, Howard and Vestal, Hovie and Chief to bring us this music we discuss here.

    May we always remember, God doesn’t require perfection, but willingness.

    BTW, Concerned, thank you for your apology.

  48. DM wrote:

    There are too many different opinions at NQC for there to be much of a revival. Some think that they are more rightous then someone else. Notice difference in dress. Who would want to take credit for the revival? Over heard in the balcony at NQC “We are praying for him to get a haircut.” If that is all they worry about, then they don’t have mmany problems.

  49. Rod wrote:

    fan of EHSSQ wrote:

    I agree with Big Mo… most groups today wouldn’t know the real spirt if it hit them in the top of the head… most groups today are so worried about making a name for themselves that they have forgotten what they are singing about.

    As a former lead singer for a fairly popular quartet (debatable) I will again put my two cents in since I am bored and singing at a revival in Va at this moment.

    I would say most groups are not worried about making a name for themselves as they are making enough money to support their families, Again I am amazed at the ignorance of some of you guys on this site.

    First of all I am not sure who made the comment about the “nice prevost better than most houses”, but try traveling in a 30 year old bus that breaks down every other week and it sort of evens out. You can make a larger bus payment and actually get to where you’re going…Common sense people.

    The fact is people we need balance…If the church/congregation wouldn’t be so cheap and pay these artists what they are worth or better yet meet their needs then we could be as spiritual as you want. However we have to sell product and put people in the seats and you do that by SINGING. If the truth be told not many of these “singers” are very spiritual in the first place (I know many personally) so why would I want them to preach to me. I have a pastor for that, I can watch john hagee or Joel osteen (oops he’s not spiritual enough). The point is enjoy the music and let the words (inspired but the bible) prick your hearts and allow the Holy spirit to deal with the lost…He will much better than a gospel singer I assure you.

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