Published July 13, 2010
"Conversation - Part 2"
Last week in this space we reprinted the first half of an article that appeared in Christian Voice Magazine in May an interview with Shelia and with me prompted by The Gospel Greats program's recent 30th anniversary. Here is the conclusion of that article by Christian Voice editor, John Lanier:
John: Paul, during the span of your broadcasting career, what are some of the most notable changes you've seen in the Southern Gospel music industry?
Paul: One change I have been very happy to see is that I believe there is much more ministry focus in Southern Gospel music today by the major artists, in general, than was once the case. Although it's always been there because of what Gospel music is, today it's more overt, more out-front than in the past. This is a very good thing. "Negative changes" occur when artists (1) forget the ministry foundation of the music or (2) take the music outside those (subjectively defined) parameters of what stylistically can be called Southern Gospel. They can do what they want stylistically, of course, but let's not call it Southern Gospel if it's outside those parameters. Unfortunately, it's hard to define what those "parameters" are, and, like most things, it differs from individual to individual.
John: To the delight of listeners, special editions of "The Gospel Greats" aired during the month of February, commemorating the show's 30th anniversary.
Paul: Yes... on the first weekend, I did something I had never done before. I brought back the "Featured Artist" segments from our very first program thirty years ago. The featured artists were the Happy Goodman Family, and our interview was with Howard Goodman. I have since heard from a lot of people who say how great it was to hear Howard's voice again. I even used the very same "Featured Artists" songs that I did back thirty years ago. I had other guests on the program, too, reminiscing about the past thirty years and about "The Gospel Greats" program. It was fun. A couple of weeks later, Bill Gaither was my special guest throughout the entire two-hour program. It's very rare for me to wander outside my studio to do a program, but this was recorded in his office in Indiana.
John: Having interviewed hundreds of people throughout your career, you have a treasury of memories. Could you share a memorable moment that comes to mind?
Paul: I remember interviewing the late J. D. Sumner one time. We were both sitting in my car at an outdoor event, using a portable recorder. J. D., of course, was known for his gruff persona. But anyone who really knew J. D. knew that he had a heart as big as all outdoors. During that interview I asked J. D. how, in years future, he would like to be remembered. I looked over and saw his eyes watering up. He said, "I'd like people to remember the real J. D. Sumner." So now you know.
John: In your newsletters and correspondence with listeners, you and Shelia always share words of truth from the Bible and offer inspirational thoughts. I want ask each of you to briefly share your heart concerning the current social, political, cultural and spiritual climate in our country. How do we cope with the uncertainties we are facing as a nation today?
Shelia: I believe God is speaking to this generation as we look at the shape of the world. I believe He is saying, "Wake up." I am a firm believer that time on this earth is short. The end for us could come by death, after which we'll be raised from the grave. The end could come by watching Christ come back in the clouds. Either way, I think it is soon. This should fill us with joy. To anyone reading this, who is filled with fear at the thought of your life ending on this earth, I'd invite you to look to Jesus Christ. He is waiting for you to approach Him. He is closer than you can imagine but He won't step in where He isn't welcome. If you reach your hand and heart out to Christ, He'll accept an invitation to come in and cleanse all your sins. Then you can live a life filled with His peace and you can anticipate His soon return to claim you.
Paul: I believe it is absolutely essential that we as Christians hold on to the basics of the Gospel. We must embrace (and live out) the fundamental truths of our faith. There is absolutely no room for compromise or equivocation. We're seeing far too much of that today from people who call themselves Christians, even some in leadership. What's happening to our society is the result of the church's failure, all too often, to abide by the fundamentals. There is a right and there is a wrong, and God's Word is the final arbiter. And I believe there is more need today than ever to share the Gospel boldly with everyone possible. The time is short. Our nation truly is facing many uncertainties, but in such times it's great to know the One about whom we can be absolutely certain the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And our faith in Him can be sure. Keep praying. He is still in control, and we can watch everyday with curiosity and even excitement to see how He's going to get us through this awful mess in which we find ourselves as a nation and as a society.
The above was reprinted, by permission, from the May 2010 issue of Christian Voice Magazine. Article Copyright 2010 Christian Voice Magazine. Information about how you can subscribe can be found on their website, www.christianvoicemagazine.com
NOTE: By special arrangement with Christian Voice magazine, the entire article can be viewed online in PDF format, just as it appeared in the print magazine, at this location: www.thegospelgreats.com/cvm_phsh.pdf.
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