The Power of the Cross

Let’s finish this project by placing the spotlight on what matters most.

To survive and thrive in the future, Southern Gospel needs young talent. We need to encourage talented young singers who love this music, because if there’s going to be a Southern Gospel worth hearing fifty years from now, they will be the ones singing it. But vocal talent alone never saved a single soul. The power of the Cross alone saves souls.

To survive and thrive in the future, Southern Gospel needs live music. Live pianists or full bands formed a key portion of the appeal that created this genre’s glory days. But live music alone never saved a soul. The power of the Cross alone saves souls.

To survive and thrive in the future, Southern Gospel needs well-crafted songs. Our leading groups shouldn’t have to settle for cliché-filled songs. But well-crafted songs alone never saved a soul. The power of the Cross alone saves souls.

Of course, I use “the power of the cross” as a shorthand for the Gospel message. The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God. Ever since, each member of the human race is born a sinner, in a state of rebellion against God.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, KJV).

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, KJV).

Sin is the bad news. Here’s the good news: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18, KJV).

While we were yet His enemies, Jesus came to this earth to live a sinless life and pay for our sins by dying in our place.

How are we to respond? Faith and repentance.

Saving faith in Jesus isn’t just an intellectual acknowledgment that He came; it’s something that changes our lives. It’s not just intellectually acknowledging that the ice over a lake is thick enough to hold our weight; it’s stepping out on that ice.

Repentance includes remorse (feeling sorry for our sins), but it isn’t just remorse. It also means turning away from those sins. It’s not that we become instantly sinless at our conversion. But as sanctification continues, we steadily become more and more like Jesus and less and less like our former sinful self.

We are called to profess our faith (Matthew 10:32-33 and many other verses). Once we have experienced the truth and the power of the Gospel to change our lives, we do those around us an injustice by keeping it to ourselves!

The power of the cross must always remain central.

* * *

And with that, farewell.

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DVD Tapings: “Majestic” (Kim Collingsworth) and “We Will Serve The Lord” (Collingsworth Family)

Last night, the Collingsworth Family recorded two live DVDs, Majestic and We Will Serve The Lord. The taping was at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, SC, a 3,244-seat venue that was at or very near capacity. As Phil Collingsworth Sr. noted in the introductions, it was the first live video they had recorded below the Mason-Dixon line.

First up was a Kim Collingsworth piano solo video, aptly entitled Majestic. The first song began with a grand orchestral flourish as Kim walked out on stage. In fact, the orchestration was so slow and dramatic that it would have taken even discerning listeners a few measures to realize it was “Goodbye, World, Goodbye.” After a verse or so, Kim kicked it into a faster gear and finished the song off in its customary convention style.

Two guest pianists, Tim Parton and Stan Whitmire, were present for the evening, and both joined in the opening medley. After Kim finished “Goodbye, World, Goodbye,” she slid off the piano bench as Tim Parton walked on stage to play “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Stan Whitmire played “When We All Get To Heaven.” Tim returned to the bench for “I’ll Fly Away.” Stan finished with “We Will Rise,” as Kim came over to the piano bench to play a third-hand high part.

For the rest of this part of the program, Kim would play one or two piano solos or medleys between segments that featured special guests. The first special guest was the Collingsworth Family, plus Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair’s husband William and Courtney Collingsworth Metz’s husband Michael; they came out on stage to sing the Maranatha/Promise Keepers oldie “Family Prayer Song,” written by Morris Chapman; Kim introduced it by noting that it was sung at her wedding.

The second special guest was her sixteen-year-old nephew Jesse Keep. After Kim shared the story of how he was diagnosed with eye cancer as an infant, and after seventy operations, lost one eye at age two and the other at age four, Timothy played “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and played and sang “Think About His Love.” It was a deeply moving moment and received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Kim played several more songs (one of which featured Courtney and Brooklyn on violins) before the next special guest, five of Kim’s nieces billed as the Keaton Cousins. These little girls were all between the ages of (approximately) five and nine, and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to another hearty ovation.

Tim Parton and Stan Whitmire returned to the stage for the grand finale, a half-dozen or so songs that featured the three piano masters at three Yamaha Grand pianos—Kim at her personal Yamaha Grand and Tim and Stan at two more that had been rented for the occasion. After a Christmas medley (“Ring Christmas Bells” with “What Child is This”), they finished with several patriotic songs (“God Bless America,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”) Kim dedicated them to her brother, who spent many years in the Armed Forces, and whom longtime fans will remember from the Christmas in Kosovo video.

After a half-hour intermission, they shifted gears to record a full-family DVD, We Will Serve The Lord. Most of the set list was pulled from their 2013 CD release The Lord is Good; they staged ten of the twelve songs. (The two they didn’t stage were “My Debt Was Paid” and “I Could Never Outlove The Lord.”)

The pacing of the set list was particularly interesting; based on audience response, it seems as though they saved all their strongest material of this second taping for its second half. The first half featured several fast, mid-tempo, and slow but subdued songs from The Lord is Good, along with two Kim Collingsworth piano solos, “He Set Me Free” and “His Hand in Mine.” There was a live band with Stan Whitmire on keyboard (and sliding over to the piano whenever Kim stood to sing), and noted studio musicians Jeremy Medkiff on bass guitar and John Hammond on drums.

At about the midway point, they featured Phil Jr. on the project’s lone big ballad, “How Great His Love For Me (with ‘Love Found a Pardon.’)” The next song, the old Frederick Lehman hymn “The Love of God,” was the vocal highlight of the night. It was a simple piano-and-voice arrangement; Brooklyn sang the first verse, with Kim playing piano and adding harmonies on a few lines. Phil Jr. sang the second, with Brooklyn and Kim singing power harmonies. It was both spectacular and exquisite, the sort of moment that transcends genre.

They introduced a new arrangement of “Be Thou My Vision,” featuring (in what I believe is a first for the family) all four of the family’s instrumentalists at once—Kim on piano, Phil Sr. on trumpet, and Courtney and Brooklyn on violins.

Kim introduced “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness” by playing a few measures in the “windshield-wiper” style in which she first learned the song as a child. Then Stan Whitmire slid over to the piano bench, as she stood to sing the song with her family. This song received the most enthusiastic audience response in the second half.

The final two songs were a new song, “God is Moving,” and the longtime Collingsworth classic “The Healer is Here.” The program concluded with a few more encores of “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness.”

The Collingsworth Family does a masterful job of mixing heartfelt performances with the utmost professionalism in their stage presentation. For as long as Southern Gospel has groups of this caliber, its future is in good hands.

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Friday News Roundup #225

Worth Knowing

  • Wilma Shaw, wife of former Blackwood Brothers tenor Bill Shaw, has passed away (link requires Facebook login).
  • Ellen Gerig’s Bass Singers Quartet video has passed 1,000,000 views on YouTube. That’s a milestone that very few Southern Gospel videos—and even fewer non-early-Gaither-Homecoming videos—have ever passed.
  • Chris Conover, an Assistant Professor of Theology at Campbellsville University-Louisville, is conducting a survey on the demographics of Southern Gospel, here.
  • Worth Reading: Tim Challies on why good doctrine leads to good songs.

One more thing, for those who have asked: I plan to post announcements of any new books or other writing projects at danielmount.com.

Worth Watching

To come full circle: Here is the group and the song that made me a Southern Gospel fan:

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The Encouragers

Southern Gospel is filled with people who have made an incredible impact through their music. But there are quite a few people involved in this genre whose on-stage product is only a small portion of their legacy. I like to call them “The Encouragers.”

Neil Enloe is an excellent example of this. The impact of his singing and his songwriting is vast; as long as there is a Southern Gospel, there will be singers singing “Statue of Liberty.” But I suspect that the secondary impact he has had is even more vast. I could not count the stories I have heard from singers—and perhaps a journalist or two—whom he has found a way to encourage.

There are others: Michael Booth, Kenna Turner West, Dianne Wilkinson, Pat Barker, and the list goes on. Concerts, recordings, and songs contribute to a legacy, but ultimately, the people you touch are your legacy. And the legacy these writers and singers are leaving is massive.

Who are some of the people in Southern Gospel who have encouraged you?

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