Published March 15, 2011

Paul's Epistle...
"Great?"

I closely monitor the use of the term "Gospel Greats" on the web, and I find that writers — usually secular writers — almost invariably use the term referring to various Gospel artists. Not songs, not lyrics. They are referring to the artists themselves as "great."

I never have and never will use it primarily in that way.

Since the very beginning of The Gospel Greats program, I have used the term to describe the songs and, increasingly over the years, their message. In fact, that's why a year or so ago I started using the slogan, "The Gospel Greats — the Greatest Songs about the Greatest Message — the Gospel." It's my intention to direct the listener's attention toward the Gospel, because that's what's great about all this.

This is certainly not to say that many Gospel artists don't have great ministries. But anyone who is sincere in their ministry probably feels at least a bit uncomfortable about being lauded as "great."

I remember sitting in a meeting years ago discussing the creation of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, now operating at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There was quite a bit of discussion about the terminology. Was "fame" a proper word to use for Gospel artists? If memory serves, George Younce was in the room, and expressed considerable sensitivity toward this matter. One suggestion put forth was to make it a "hall of honor" rather than a "hall of fame." In the end, of course, the word "fame" was used, simply because "hall of fame" is such a common term and, as proponents successfully argued, everyone knows what it means.

Having said all this, I quickly admit that part of what makes our broadcast unique is the attention we give to artists individually. We do this through the interviews which, yes, do talk about the group, their recordings, what they're doing, etc. But frequently their comments could be considered — and are — testimonies. They talk about why particular songs that they sing speak to their hearts personally or speak to the hearts of listeners. They talk about the encouragement these songs have for Christians, how they edify the saints. In choosing interview excerpts to use on the air, I try to minimize the "industry talk" that, although interesting to listeners who enjoy particular artists (and, to some extent, forms the context of what we do), is really not what we are primarily about.

Why all of this sensitivity to the term "great?"  It's because the Lord clearly taught that our emphasis in this life should be on humility, not greatness. It should be on serving others, not on being served. This was the role He exemplified (Luke 22:26, 27). To be great, He told his disciples, one must "humble oneself as this little child" (Matt. 18:4). "Whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister" (Matt. 20:26) or "servant" (23:11).

"Big I's and little you's" is clearly not a Kingdom principle.

The irony in all this is that the Lord promises that those who humbly serve in this life will be the very ones who will be most honored in heaven. Look at these verses:

Lord, grant us humble, servant hearts to serve You better. Help us, everyday and in all things, to see our ministry as Your ministry, and to act accordingly.

- Paul

Comments on this? paulheil@thegospelgreats.com

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