Although it’s unfortunately out of print, you’ll be blessed if you can find and read a copy of George Beverly Shea’s little autobiography Then Sings My Soul. (There is a movie version of sorts, hosted by Bill Gaither and covering much of Shea’s ministry through the years.)
It’s really something of a coincidence that I stumbled across this book somewhere–I believe in the giveaway pile in the Music Department at my college. I say a ‘coincidence’ because in the last few weeks following a fairly intense Sunday School discussion I’ve been thinking more about Christian music. What should we be singing in our churches? Are praise bands useful, or hindrances? Etc. While Shea’s autobiography doesn’t speak to any of those questions specifically, it is a useful addendum to think about music from the perspective of a Christian who dedicated his life to singing.
If you’ve not heard the name, George Beverly Shea was the primary singer at Billy Graham’s crusades. More than that, he was a decent and humane brother who clearly desire to serve God using his talents to the best of his ability. If nothing else, this book is worth reading to see a good example of a humble saint walking faithfully through life.One sign of this humility that in a sense might work against the value of Then Sings My Soul is the exclusion of basically all discussion of the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I suspect that if Shea had talked more about his experiences personally in the Depression or WWII (he received ministerial deferment, against his wishes), or on Crusade in Korea or Vietnam, this book would still be in print. As it is, these major events slide quietly by in favor of stories about Shea’s entrance into the music industry, his service in Billy Graham’s ministry, and his personal foibles. The result, I think is a much more attractive book in that we get a picture of someone deep into sanctification.
As a fun aside, we also get to learn the backstory of “How Great Thou Art” and its entrance into American culture. (Sweden, the Ukraine, and Russia are all invovled…)
You can find Billy Graham’s sermons here, but to hear an example of Shea singing at these events go to this site. The audio quality isn’t always great, but the content is. You can of course also find him numerous places on Youtube…
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO. He is not nearly as sanctified as GBS.