This half of the week is going to be very busy for me this semester, so I’ve decided to write something today that will hopefully generate good discussion for a little while. The topic is preaching from the stage. Is it a good thing or not?
Well, certain churches amazingly take the latter view. As most southern gospel fans are aware of by now, Scott Fowler can tell you from personal experience that he’s been forbidden even to speak the name of Jesus from a church platform. On one occasion, the Booth Brothers were told not to sing the song “Under God,” because the unapologetic message of our country’s disregard for the very thing it needs most (God’s providence), might be offensive.
Also, one can observe different philosophies among the Southern Gospel artist community about what approach to take. Some, like Fowler or Booth, or Gerald Wolfe for that matter, are strident and unapologetic about presenting a comprehensive gospel message night after night. Others choose to stick with the gospel in the music in order to be less polarizing. They avoid “preaching.”
By now you may have guessed that I’m a firm believer in “preaching.” I understand the considerations that may lead certain gospel singers to be be less in-depth and specific about the gospel than, say, Michael Booth. At the same time, I find Booth’s approach (and the approach of others like him), to be incredibly appealing, and in fact necessary in today’s culture.
Let me explain why I say this: Either a concert-goer is saved or unsaved. If he is saved, his heart will rejoice to hear the gospel stridently proclaimed. If he is unsaved, he will or will not encounter the gospel at some point in his life. If he does not encounter the gospel in the course of his life, he will die in his sins without knowing the grace of Jesus. If he does encounter the gospel in the course of his life, he will either embrace it or reject it. If he rejects it, he will die in his sins without knowing the grace of Jesus. If he embraces it, he will know the grace of Jesus and live forever with Him.
Following that logic, it becomes apparent that gospel singers have nothing to lose by preaching gospel truth from the stage. In fact, they have everything to gain—souls for Christ. Consider this: The logic behind the “don’t preach” approach is that people will be offended and pushed away from Christianity. I offer this question in response: If they are repulsed by the gospel as preached at a Booth Brothers concert or a Legacy Five concert, but later they find a way to “become Christians” without accepting what they found repulsive there, what exactly have they become? What Jesus have they found? What gospel have they accepted? I tell you now that it is not that same Jesus whom we read of in the pages of Holy Scripture, and it is not that same gospel that was delivered to the apostles and has been passed down through generations of saints. Mankind, through the fall, through his fundamentally sinful human nature, IS offended by the gospel. It is only the very simple or the very young who hear it and accept it immediately with no hint of pride or discomfort.
So I say the response of the gospel singer when they encounter people who have been offended by their presentation of the gospel should be “Good! That means you were listening.” And their reaction to those who express satisfaction that they weren’t preached at should be, “What are we doing wrong?”