Should Gospel Singers Preach at People?

Should Gospel Singers Preach at People? January 25, 2012

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?”

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  • Melissa

    Amen, sister! I wish I could contribute something to the discussion, but you’ve expressed my own thoughts on the subject so well that all I can add is a sincere and enthusiastic “Well said!”

  • Melissa

    Okay, YGG, if you would be so kind, please edit my post so it doesn’t say the same thing twice. Stupid WordPress…

  • steve case

    There is another view.. maybe they were not called to preach but to sing.. maybe they are best to leave the preaching to those that preach and they should sing.. would you want every preacher to also sing at everytime they preached? You sound like you assume that people can only be saved through preaching..
    Although I am not offended by a singer preaching.. i wonder if it is wise? I contend that a person can be saved by a message from a song… and a song with could music and well written lyrics may be remembered long after the sermon is forgotten.
    The largest error I see in SG Singers is that they try to be what they are not called to be.. if they would concentrate on what God has talented them to be.. and what they are called to do I suspect they would be more effective.. but many (as in the ones mentioned who I admire a lot) are all of a sudden feeling like the talent and calling God gave them is “not enough” and so they must do something else.. I say singers SING, Preachers PREACH and Saints be SAINTLY.. grin

  • Lydia

    The thing that induces puzzled head-scratching for me when I hear of people offended by the preaching of the gospel at a SoGo concert is this: It’s a gospel music concert! What do people expect? Okay, I can understand that someone might have a _mild preference_ for more music rather than preaching, just because he feels like he wants to kick back more and be entertained rather than mentally engaged. But offended? That’s extremely weird. And the mild preference would hardly rise to the level of something to talk about. It would be at the most, “Hey, I prefer the entertainment that I get at so-and-so’s concerts.” (And unless the “preaching” singers are taking up some huge proportion of the time preaching, it’s difficult to see how this could be anything other than at least a mild confession of shallowness on the part of the fan anyway. “I want to be so flaky at gospel music concerts that it kind of bugs me to be asked to think at all even for five minutes occasionally between music.”)
    But the idea here seems to be of something far stronger–an unsaved person (let’s say) or a person who is considering wandering from the faith who *deliberately and willingly* attends a gospel music concert but gets positively _annoyed_ and _offended_ if someone preaches about, you know, Jesus and the gospel and such. Huh? It’s just unreasonable on its face, given the music genre. Surely anyone who attends such a concert should understand already that the singers regard what they are doing as ministry. So how could a little preachin’ be offensive?

  • In an opposing view…
    Why is it that we are okay with artists preaching, but do not want them to promote child sponsorship? No, it’s not “preaching the Gospel,” but doesn’t the Gospel say in Romans to “feed the hungry”?

  • Hi Steve, great to see you here. I agree that distribution of spiritual gifts CAN be a factor in such things, and I can understand why somebody who feels timid, awkward or otherwise poorly equipped to “preach” would feel more comfortable with just singing. I also acknowledge that a gospel song can certainly have the power to work a change in the heart.
    But I know that’s not all that’s going on here. There are people who COULD spend more time preaching but deliberately make the choice not to do so as a matter of style and image. And this is a hot topic—just browse around any southern gospel forum where people are allowed to speak their minds. There is a LOT of resentment towards people who “preach.” There are many people, people who even claim to be Christians (which is a wrinkle in this whole thing I didn’t even explore here), who will walk out of a concert if they feel “preached at.” Deliberately not doing so to make a more appealing concert experience for such people is what I am targeting here. It was not meant as an indictment of those who simply don’t have the ability.

  • I’m sorry Melissa… you’re right, WordPress was weird about your comment. I think I’ve finally managed to delete all the extra material. I apologize for the delay.

  • As a preacher that happens to sing as well, I am involved mostly in revival and evangelistic type services most of the time. Folks expect me to preach and want our family to sing before and after the preaching too. That is what we do most every night.
    Even when we are scheduled for the occasional singing they know I am a preacher first and that I am very likely to preach in between songs and even make an altar call at some point. I make a point to be respectful of the time we are allowed and to honor the fact that most people came to hear singing.
    If I was asked at the time of the scheduling by a promoter or organizer NOT to preach I would respect that request if I accepted the booking. if the people putting on the event want singing with little or no spoken word then the singers should have enough respect to honor their wishes.
    But I would also have the option of NOT accepting the invitation under those circumstances as well.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever complained about that.

  • In a webinar last month, Michael Booth said that at a younger age, he might have accepted the invite and then gone ahead and flouted the agreement anyway, but age and wisdom have taught him that you should stick by whatever you agree on. Just don’t accept the invite, as you said.

  • Age is a benefit in a lot of ways… lol

  • Grigsby

    It all depends ….
    If the singers are at an event that has been advertised as a concert and people have paid $20 a pop, then, no they should not preach. Present the Gospel, give words of encouragement for Christians, have personal workers at the product table to deal with lost souls, but 90% of the time should be devoted to what they promised to do…sing. God is not honored by false advertising. Besides that, if a group has to preach a thirty minute message to get the Gospel across in their concert, their song lyrics must be lousy and their communications skills poor.
    On the other hand, I’ve seen where a promoter will have on the advertisement that there will be a message preached and announce the preacher. That’s fine. Just be up front. For one thing, there’s no group in the world worth sitting through a bunch of false doctrine and bad theology for. If it’s somebody I don’t want to listen to or expose friends who are young Christians to, I would like to know so I can stay home. On the other hand, if Mark Trammell is preaching, I’d be interested in hearing him.
    If a group is singing in a church service, somebody should at least preach a short message. At least. I’ve heard of churches having groups in on a Sunday and they basically trade having services for entertainment.
    And just to nit pick, preaching “at” someone is generally a negative term. Better to preach “to” them.

  • Yes, I agree that singers should not spend an inordinate amount of time with spoken preaching when people came to hear a concert. However, the examples I was using were not inordinate. Michael Booth probably does some of the most “preaching” of anyone, and he keeps his gospel presentation to ten minutes or so. That was the type of thing I was praising. However, there are people who would STILL be offended, not so much because of length as because of subject matter. Michael is very direct about things like examining your heart for signs of grace and the importance of repentance for sin. Yes, overly long preaching will irritate anyone, but people can be offended by WHAT is said regardless of how LONG it takes to say it.
    I’m aware that “preached at” has negative connotations, which is why I used it when describing the reaction of people who dislike preaching. E.g. “I’m so glad you didn’t preach at me!”

  • Lydia

    Both length and content seem relevant to situations where the hosts of the show say, “Oh, by the way, no preaching,” and the singer agrees. If the singer was only planning on “preaching” for something on the order of ten minutes at most anyway, between songs, isn’t there a risk that if he agrees to a “no preaching” request the hosts are going to take a micro-managing approach about what is said in the normal course of the concert? There isn’t a gigantic difference between the little devotionals I’ve heard Michael do at a concert and just talking for a few minutes about the words of the previous song or the next song. Yes, it’s different, but if the hosts are so sensitive as to say, “No preaching” in advance, I would worry that this is a demand that all remarks between songs, even if brief, be jokes or cotton candy in nature–in other words, that it is a request regarding content of the spoken word as well as length. At a minimum, before a singer agrees in advance to a “no preaching” request, he should get some clarification as to what is meant, especially if he wants to be able to say a few heartfelt, non-humorous words about Jesus now and then.

  • lee65

    I love to hear singers exhort and talk about God’s love and what Christ did for us and how to accept the gift of salvation , i say more of it!!! If someone wants to fuss and meddle and say you have to do everything i say and believe everything i believe or you’re hell bound ,i say none of it!!! In my experience at concerts it’s the latter scenario that causes the Holy Spirit to cringe along with most of the audience.

  • But where exactly do you draw the line? Don’t you think you’re going to draw it someplace different from a person who’s just come to hear chicken soup and cotton candy? I mean you wouldn’t be offended by Michael Booth, right? My point is there are people who would be, because he DARES to talk about “sin” and “self-examination.” The horror!

  • What I’m trying to get at here is that you’re talking on one level, but a liberal Christian or somebody unsaved has got a whole different set of standards. What you might consider to be simply preaching the gospel and not Pharisaical nit-picking could well appear to somebody on another plane as exactly that. The reason is that the cultural standard for what’s considered Pharisaical has shifted. Now, we need only open our mouths and utter the words “sin,” “judgment” and “wrath of God” and all hell breaks loose.

  • Really? I seem to remember you were one of them during NQC week. Maybe not, though…

  • I can tell you now that I am not called to preach by any means; that doesn’t mean that I can’t tell someone how I feel about Jesus. Just means I’m not gonna give a mini-sermon.
    I do not object to preaching during a gospel concert. What bothers me is when a group who is having trouble keeping an audience’s attention with their music turns to preaching to grab them. I have seen it plenty of times; a group does 4-5 songs, and response is lukewarm at best, so they start preaching (and in some cases, flat out yelling) at people to wake them up.
    I guess my question is, is it preaching for the message or preaching for the show?

  • Norm

    Charlie Waller’s letter to the fans (on the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion website) says in promoting his 25th anniversary 3-day event in 2012: “No politicians. No preaching. It’s a Sangin.”

  • Good question! Once again, sticking to my examples, I’d say it’s the message. Totally believe you that there are plenty of examples of the wrong kind too. God looks on the heart.

  • Patricia

    Thank You Yankee Gospel Girl…All Christians should present the Gospel and give a clear message of Jesus Christ .Like Brian Free said it’s called Gospel music for a reason to present the Gospel why call it gospel music if you don’t present the Gospel …The gospel groups God has given them the opportunity to reach lost people in their concerts …My friend and I did a concert and we presented the gospel you have no idea who is saved in the concert and we as Christians should alway’s use the opportunity to tell people about Our Lord .So how I look at it I have great respect for the Booth Brothers,Legacy Five ,Greater Vision,Brian Free & Assurance for presenting the gospel and yes for Preaching !!!!

  • Thanks Patricia. I think sometimes what can happen is that the gospel IS presented on some level, but it’s only PART of the gospel—the part everyone wants to hear. The people who inspire my deepest admiration are the ones willing to take it all the way and risk offending people with the whole gospel truth.

  • Dear commentator who tried to leave a remark by the name of “Jennifer”: Your comment was ill-informed, insulting and unacceptable and has been sent on its way to the trash compactor where it belongs. If you would like further comments to be published, do an attitude check first. Sarcastic remarks about not getting published in the first place don’t count. Have a nice Sunday.