Published May 24, 2016

Paul's Epistle
"Southern Gospel: Impacting Lives"

Last week in this space I asked you to share your thoughts about what Southern Gospel music has meant to you over the years. This concise response is typical:

"I grew up listening to the Gospel Singing Jubilee on Sunday mornings while getting ready for church. I have been going through a rather rough few years. Singing Southern Gospel music and traditional hymns are my ‘go-to therapy' when I feel like giving up..." - Cynthia M.

There's no doubt that good Southern Gospel music encourages and lifts the spirits. But there's more. Here's a testimony from someone about how he "discovered" Southern Gospel music — and how it's changed his life:

"In 1994 my wife and I and our daughters visited Dollywood for the first time. Being from northeastern Indiana, we didn't know Southern Gospel from Southern fried chicken. As we walked past an open-air theater in Dollywood, a woman we did not know stepped in front of us and, pointing into the theater where four guys were singing, asked, ‘Have you heard these guys?' She said, ‘You need to go hear these guys.'

"So we went in, found seats near the front and, for the first time, heard the Kingdom Heirs. The music blew me away. I had never heard four-part Gospel music like this. I bought one of their cassettes (this was a long time ago) and listened to it for the rest of our trip.

"When I got home, I joined the church choir and began to be featured on solos. I still do special music at church and have sung at other churches and a community choir... The point here is not my singing ability, which is limited at best. The point is that God used Southern Gospel music and specifically the Kingdom Heirs to change my life. Since then He has used me and this music to bless, encourage, challenge and comfort others.

"So, what does Southern Gospel music mean to me? It provides a way for me to glorify the Father, and I find no higher purpose in life." – Joe Gottschalk, Columbia City, IN

Here's another testimony about what Southern Gospel music has meant as the writer went through potentially fatal health issues. (This was edited together and abbreviated from two separate emails from the writer.)

"It means everything to me. It is the very best music in the world. I do believe it is God-given. I have had cancer twice over the past eight years and, beside the Lord, it is one of the best things that kept me going. I truly believe the Lord spoke to me many ways during the cancer but one of the coolest ways He spoke to me was through Southern Gospel music. I can't really remember any sermons during that time but I remember every song the Lord gave during that time. The songs I would hear on the radio driving to the clinic or the two main songs the Lord gave me every time I went in for radiation...

"[Those two songs were] ‘His Name Is Wonderful' and ‘Only Believe.' Both songs I knew from the church as well as my love for Southern Gospel music. But just before my treatment was finished, the last verse of ‘Only Believe' was changed to, ‘Lord, I Believe.' Those two songs gave me such peace going through radiation. As you can only imagine, I was so scared when I was starting radiation, but the Lord used those two songs to give me peace that passes all understanding...

"I had the most radiation a man is allowed to have. You know, Paul, I was not sick even once thanks to the Lord. They called me a miracle there and I was able to say that I totally agree. And it was all thanks to the Lord. It's been a long eight years in some ways but it was only because of the Lord that I am here today — and the Southern Gospel music that kept me going and positive and sane throughout this whole trial, plus the many people praying.

"By the way, the Lord has healed me both times, even though [the doctors told me] there is no cure for my type of cancer. Praise the Lord!

"I owe my love of Southern Gospel music to my father. It was the only music we ever listened to. He has since passed on, but one of his highlights of the week was to listen to your radio program. He never missed it. All the way from Canada. Thank you for being faithful to the Lord..." - Bruce Stelter

I hope these testimonies are as inspiring and encouraging to you as they are to me. Southern Gospel music is the form of ministry that the Lord has opened for us – and for countless singers and others who work diligently behind the scenes to create and disseminate this great music. And there's no question that the Lord uses this music to touch lives — encouraging, healing and, yes, saving.

Southern Gospel music certainly does, as I always say, incorporate "the Greatest Songs about the Greatest Message, the Gospel!"

- Paul

PS:  Please help support the future of Southern Gospel music's ministry by partnering with the Southern Gospel Music Association and its work.   Please see my special letter here, which includes information about the easy but important ways you can help.

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