Inside the Miner Civic Center fans were seated in a room with a high resemblance of the afternoon showcase rooms at NQC. LOL (Literally, the chairs and stage were an exact match!) I settled into a seat on the far right and waited for the concert to begin. Soon, a gentleman by the name of Mitch Pullen stepped on stage and began singing the hymn Farther Along and asked the crowd to sing along with him. After that, a medium tempo song in a minor key followed called Gloryland. “Thank you for coming tonight,” Mitch addressed the audience. “Ya’llcame here to see Ivan, didn’t you? Well, he ain’t here!” he teased. LOL Turning the atmosphere from silly to serious for the next song, Mitch asked, “Have you really thought about what Jesus Christ has done for you? The song, Let The Blood Speak, meditated on that subject. The writer of the same song, Sandy B., was in the audience, and Mitch acknowledged her by walking off stage and giving her a hug while introducing the next song, which was also written by her – Daddy Was A Jesus Man. When the crowd heard the title, they sighed in response. Before bringing Ivan on, Mitch picked up a pan of brownies that were sitting on the edge of the stage and told us about a local gentleman who can put any woman to shame with his brownies – he’s that good! Well, he brought Ivan brownies and Mitch was giving him a hard time about it. He asked, “Do see how skinny Ivan is? He doesn’t need any brownies!” LOL
When Mitch introduced Ivan, he was still back at his product table talking with fans – it was funny to see him peek his head into the door only to realize that no one told him it was his turn to sing! After getting his mic he came up on the stage and gave Mitch a hard time, then turning to the crowd began singing a fast number called There’sGonna Be A Big Change. “Oh my, we’re gonna have a great time!” Ivan exclaimed after his first song, “Did ya’ll enjoy Mitch?” Before going on, he also asked how many were seeing him for the very first time. As hands went up he asked, “Where have ya’ll been? I already sang one song!” LOL “Let’s start this thing off right, let’s give Jesus a hand clap of praise.” Everyone applauded, including Ivan, and then he sang a song called Hallelujah Shore. During the last chorus he asked the audience to stand and clap along and most did. A ballad, I Am Whatever You Need, followed. “I feel like a little church is going to break out,” Ivan said, “As I look out into the audience, I see everyone smiling. It’s not like that everywhere I go – and I assume if you’re not smiling, it’s because you left your teeth at home.” That last comment prompted a story, which Ivan couldn’t resist telling us, “The first time I said that a lady came up to me at intermission and was holding her hand over her mouth and talking really fast – she said, ‘I have to go because I didn’t realize until you said something that I left something at home’.” After everyone laughed at his joke he admitted that it didn’t happen, he just made it up! “Hey, let me do this old song. It has a new arrangement and folks come up to me and request it all the time,” Ivan explained, “I’m sure many of you sing this in church.” It was Amazing Grace. Before going into another set of verses, he whispered that the following lyrics are the testimony of everyone in the room. The next song was the complete opposite of the hymn; in fact, Ivan even said that he was going to need some help on it. “Someone say ‘yeah’!” he instructed as the intro played. After the crowd yelled, “Yeah,” back to him, he began singing Best Hallelujah In The House. As he sang, the audience filled in the song with “hallelujahs” when needed. (Fun song!) “I love to see the joy in your faces tonight. There’s enough depressing stuff in the world,” Ivan said afterwards, “If you’re here and say, ‘I don’t know about all this joy stuff,’ just go home and turn on CNN and in five minutes you’ll be passed out from depression. But I have good news – Jesus Christ is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Stepping over to the left side of the stage, Ivan picked up his product bag and began telling us what he’s been up to lately. His current project, Joy Ride, was one of those things. He recounted the first time he heard the title song, Joy Ride, and when the photos were taken for the CD the photographer pulled out a pair of sunglasses. “A spirit of ‘cool’ came over me,” Ivan chuckled, “There’s something about sunglasses that just brings it out – I’m done with dignity – I’m just joy ride crazy this year.” Getting us to clap for the tune, Ivan exclaimed, “This is the joy ride song! Here we go! Ready?” And as everyone clapped, he sang the song that has been defining his ministry for the last year. When the applause died down, Ivan pulled up a stool and began telling us about the greatest thing that ever happened to him – asking Jesus into his life. Below is what Ivan shared as encouragement to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ…
“My whole Christian walk has not always been a piece of cake. There have been those storms,there have been those valleys that I’ve had to go through. I would venture to say that if we were to take testimonies here tonight – there’s a lot of you that know what a storm is like. You know what it means to go through one of those tough times in life, and I want you to understand tonight, that this God that we serve is so wonderful – He is so magnificent. And just whenever you think there is no hope for you; God just ushers in His Spirit, and the next thing you know, you’re on top of the world. You’ve realized that there is hope in Jesus Christ. There are times where you can’t always be positive, we try our best, but there are those times when we can’t stay 100% positive all the time. Tonight, there are probably those of you who are sitting here, and you may be right in the middle of one of those storms that have just knocked the breath out of you. And there may be someone here that is so discouraged, you’re trying to find that step up, to where you can be encouraged again, where that sun is going to shine in your life once again. There are those who may be here tonight who are going through some form of sickness. Folks, I want you to know tonight, that the God that we serve is still the Healer. And this God that we serve is still the most positive message that there is in the world that we live in today. If for no other reason to trust Him, there is nothing else out there to give you eternity for life. There is eternity in heaven when you know Jesus. So, you see, God loves you. The greatest love story that has ever been told, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son Jesus, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ So you see, He loves you and cares for you tonight. He also said in His Word, ‘I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.’ So no matter how tough the storm may be I want you to remember this. If you forget everything else, okay, but remember this – folks, I’ve read the end of the book…and we win.”
“I want to sing to you one of the greatest messages of a song that I’ve ever been able to sing.” The ballad was none other than I Choose. “I want you to sing this with me,” Ivan encouraged, “I know you know it.” – Then began directing the crowd in singing God Is So Good with a question. “How many has God been good to?” Hands rose all over the room. After leading the audience in singing two more songs, he came off the stage with these words, “He’s here – He wants to touch you, your mind, your family, everything in your life – but you have to choose.” He had us sing the chorus of He Touched Me one more time then exclaimed, “That’s the best singing I heard all night!” Back on stage, he closed the first half of the concert with Midnight Cry…can anyone say, “Standing ovation?”
After a brief intermission Mitch Pullen came back on stage and sang two songs before bringing Ivan back on. The first was He Keeps Blessing Me and the second, I’ll Pray For You. “I’ll ask you one thing tonight,” Mitch inquired, “this song says I’ll pray for you, how many will pray for someone tonight?” Many raised their hands in response.
Once again, Ivan took the stage and a loud applause followed as another upbeat song met our hearts and ears. This one was called I’m Going Home, and is also off of the Joy Ride project. He then took it upon himself to promo some events like Singing in the Sun and the Gatlinburg Gathering. “Anyone want to go to Myrtle Beach?” he asked. No response. “How about Gatlinburg?”Still no response. Ivan pouted, “You’re just a bunch of fuddy-duds!” LOL As he was telling us about his new Facebook account, he shared how funny it is to “be traveling around the world and asking people to “like” me! – That’s the oddest thing I’ve ever done.” LOL The next song he sang was a quartet song that was made popular on the Homecoming videos called Jesus Loves Me. (It wasn’t the children’s song!) Then he told about another new song that has ministered to him off of the Joy Ride project. “How many are thankful for the blood of Jesus Christ?” Ivan asked, “It doesn’t matter how you shake it – we are all different because of Jesus.” The song Who I Am Ain’t Who I Was speaks of the change that the blood of Christ makes in us. “I wanna do one more song for you tonight,” Ivan said, “a few came up to me and asked for this song. I haven’t done it in a while…if I can remember the words, that’s always a plus!” LOL The song was a ballad titled Temporary Goodbye, and Ivan sang it after he shared how he misses his Dad (who is now in heaven) and said, “Those who have loved ones already gone ahead, this one’s for you.” After this song Ivan asked the crowd if it was okay if he closed in prayer, and at one point he prayed that God’s children, “Don’t ever turn loose from His hand, we need to hold tighter than we’ve ever held before.” A resounding “AMEN!” followed, and Ivan was tempted to sing just a little bit of When I Get Carried Away before closing the evening – and boy he did!
Conclusion: Though I’ve seen Ivan sing before, this was the first time for me to see him in concert by himself (all other times have been at “Sings” shared with other artists).I enjoyed every minute of it! Laughing at his jokes, listening intently when he spoke of the Lord and Christian life and humming along with the songs – the evening couldn’t have been better. If Ivan is in your area, be sure to get out to see him! You will receive a blessing. Thanks Ivan, for reminding us of the Joy Ride we have in Christ Jesus our Lord!!!