The streets of Gatlinburg were abuzz with life…heavy traffic, crowded streets, yep, it was a holiday weekend. On the other hand, just inside the convention center fans were eagerly awaiting the afternoon matinee at the Gatlinburg Gathering. Starting at one o’clock, artists such as Soul’d Out Quartet, the Browns, the Bowlings, Karen Peck and speaker, Michael Booth would cross the stage; singing encouraging words to the Believer and bringing a message of hope to the lost.
These showcases were all general admission seating and I found myself a good seat in the front left. A few minutes before the singing began the Whisnants song “Nail It To The Cross” softly played in the background and the lights dimmed. Soon, Ray Flynn walked on stage and asked, “Alright, are ya’ll charged up and ready to roll?” He proceeded to open the afternoon in prayer.
“Put your hands together and welcome to the stage in Gatlinburg, the Soul’d Out Quartet,” Ray announced. Soul’d Out Quartet kicked off their program with a song called Who Is This Man. It had a feel that reminded me of the Hoppers “Yahweh” and a few lines of All Hail The Power found themselves in the bridge. “Aw! Here’s an old quartet song,” Bryan exclaimed. Though I’m not certain of the title, something like “Over On the Beautiful Shore” was the main thought of the chorus. Bryan introduced the following tune like this, “Here’s our ‘purrty’ song.” It was a slower number called Say A Prayer, the Old Gospel Ship followed and then they closed with a powerful ballad called Worthy The Lamb Is He. (That last one received a standing O.)
“Incredible song,” Ray mused, “He alone is worthy.” Taking a few moments to talk about the talent that would cross the stage in the next group, he introduced the Browns. Both Now and Forevermore opened their set and Adam introduced the group. I liked the way he presented the last member of the family, “Our sound man, our bus driver and our dad.” The Browns recently celebrated their first Top 10 single in a tune that Andrew (the groups youngest) and Nick Trammell wrote together, What A Beautiful Day. They went on to sing that one as a trio and I wish you could see the grin on Andrew’s face as he sang the verses. “I hope your day has been beautiful,” Shelly expressed, “I love this next song, it helps remind me to keep my mind on Jesus.” With a Celtic kick to the track, Be Thou My Vision began and not only did they sing the hymn, they picked up their violins and played as well. (This was my favorite song they did!) What a powerful arrangement. I’ll Fly Away followed and we witnessed some “fiddling” too! Not only did Adam slip his instrument behind his back and play, they lined up and played each other’s violin too! Impressed, the crowd gave them a standing ovation. “We would like to leave you with my favorite,” said Shelly, “I Sing the Mighty Power with Canon in D.” If you’re familiar with the Browns, you’ll recognize this as what I’m going to call their signature instrumental. It is a very moving piece! (Another standing O!)
“Man, that was amazing!” Ray said as he came on stage to bring on the next group, the Bowlings. The first song they sang on stage was The Lighthouse. Yet, when they came to the end the mood in the room needed it to go on a little longer and Mike asked the audience to sing the chorus with him one more time. He said that they weren’t going to do a lot of talking, so after a brief introduction of the group, Troy asked, “Is it okay if we went back and did one of the “Crabby” songs today?” The up-beat “Crabby” song that followed was Don’t You Wanna Go. Kelly took a moment and expressed how honored they were to be at the Gatlinburg Gathering and spoke of the bus crash they were in three years ago. Their final song was How Blessed; and the crowd didn’t stay in their seats for long! Kelly was on to something when she said, “I do feel God in this house today.”
As the Bowlings were stepping off stage Karen (Peck Gooch) asked them to stay for a moment and sing a song with her – Jesus Loves Me. Karen went on to say that Abraham Productions has been coming to Gatlinburg with the Gatlinburg Gathering for 11 years and that 21 people have committed their lives to Christ already that week. She told a little story about her first meeting with the board when she joined the team at Abraham…she said she expected a “regular” board meeting, ya’ know, one that would last an hour or two. Well, that meeting lasted ten hours and Karen knew then how special the work with Abraham Productions is. After they took up an offering Karen sang two songs, God Lives There and My God Will Always Be Enough. She came off the stage and walked the isles singing that last ballad, taking people by the hand while singing those incredible lyrics.
Just as the evening concerts featured a speaker each night, the afternoon showcases did as well. On Friday afternoon, that speaker was Michael Booth. One of Michael’s “speaking” passions is something we call “assurance of salvation.” He uses a little “test” (which we’ll get to in a minute) to determine this. On Friday, Michael set off into his message by using Karen’s ministry and walk with the Lord as an example of what he was going to talk about. He said, “Karen is a special gift to us, isn’t she? Are you moved by Karen’s Jesus…or yours? It was her effort of getting in the Word and experience for herself who God is that gives her that spirit and strength. That same Jesus that gives that to Karen is willing to guide you and help you on Monday morning when nobody else is around.” He went on to explain that sometimes when Monday morning comes you don’t feel as “filled” as you were in church, or down at the altar. “Feelings are real, but not always true,” Michael reminded us. What set him free was a verse in 2 Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…” (2 Cor 13:5) The “test” that he talked about had three questions that can help determine whether or not you’re truly born again and your growth. They are: 1. Are you drawn to the Word of God ?(reading, studying, etc.) 2. Do you desire fellowship with God’s people? (going to church, being involved with other Christians) 3. Does sin bother you? He also used this illustration about a father and son that I found helpful to picture our walk with God. He asked us to picture a father who puts on his snow-boots and walks to the barn in a couple inches of snow. The little boy also has a pair of snow-boots and he laces them up and heads outside to follow his dad. When he gets in the snow, he sees his dad’s footprints and hops in the first track…but he misses the second step and instead of landing in place his dad’s foot fell, he lands a few inches behind that, not quite making it. On and on the little boy goes, matching some steps and falling short on others. See, he’s not as big as his dad and that’s why he doesn’t get every step perfectly in sync with the boot prints in front of him…though he tries hard too. That’s how our spiritual walk is. As we try to follow the footprints of Jesus there will be times that we miss and fall short, but what matters is that we get up and try again, until we succeed.
Conclusion: What a great way to spend an afternoon! The last time I had seen Soul’d Out was last August/September at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri and they still had Matt singing bass with them then, so I was interested in seeing them with their new member, Ian Owens. The Browns have a new hymns project with them (it was released in April of this year) and I fell in love with their arrangement of Be Thou My Vision! (The other hymns on the project are super too!) If you enjoy hearing the old hymns I highly recommend this project! It’s called Heritage Hymn Collection Volume 2. It was nice to see the Bowlings again too – this is one group I’ve yet to see in “full concert” and I enjoyed their set in the showcase, though they didn’t have a lot of time. And Karen! Even when she just sings two songs as a “surprise” the Spirit just rains down from heaven! That’s one anointed lady! This was also the first time that I heard Michael as a “speaker.” Honestly, I was surprised that he took up the topic of Assurance of Salvation again because he seems to talk about that subject in the BB’s evening concerts (at least when I’ve seen them!). Not saying that’s a disappointment, I just thought that he may preach about something different. J Are you ready for the evening concert? Well, you won’t have long to wait!