Millions of people were probably already in Times Square on New Years Eve when my car wound its way into the parking lot of Beulah Baptist Church. Ringing in the New Year with a Gospel concert has always been a tradition for me, when possible, and I couldn’t of been happier when the winding roads of Bennett, North Carolina led me to the church where the Beyond Amazing Tour would film their DVD taping. With Abraham Productions/Ray Flynn Ministries at the helm and Brian Free & Assurance, Emily Ann Roberts, Karen Peck & New River, Joseph Habedank, the Wilmington Celebration Choir singing and CT Townsend preaching, it was bound to be a great night.
An hour before the concert started, the church was already three-fourths full. Abraham Productions sold a “Premier Admission Pass” that provided early admission at 4:30 PM and a “General Admission Pass” with doors opening at 5:00 PM. Between the two lines, the church filled quickly. A little after five o’clock, the Wilmington Celebration Choir took their positions in the choir loft and sang a few numbers before the concert started. Choir director, Joey Gore led the choir in “Every Praise,” a new song the choir has been singing called “This Is The House” and a good old Gospel tune, “Jesus Saves.” Joey explained that the choir usually doesn’t sing Southern Gospel, but they made an exception for “Jesus Saves.” LOL! Their closing tune was a popular Praise and Worship song that’s one of my favorites, “Total Praise.”
If you’ve been to a DVD taping before, you know that more goes into it than just firing up the cameras and singing. Before everything kicks off, there are some things the video crew likes to do and Greg Cook, the emcee for Abraham Productions, came on stage and directed that for us at the beginning of the evening. The first thing Greg did was ask how many in the crowd had been to a taping before, and surprisingly, most raised their hands. He then led us through the “polite applause,” “I-liked-it-a-little-more applause,” “that-was-really-good applause,” “I-really-liked-that applause” and the “standing ovation” clips. During those bits and pieces, the camera crew swung the jib around getting clips of the crowd and the camera guys on the floor stood and shot into the audience. When the crew was satisfied, Greg welcomed the pastor to the stage, who came up and spoke a few words and then introduced Ray Flynn. Ray also welcomed the crowd and shared how last night the tour kicked off in Yadkinville, North Carolina and over 15 people came to know Christ through the program. (Praise the Lord!) Ray opened the evening in prayer, and then we fixed our eyes on the screens for the moment we had all been waiting for…
The room went completely black as the video intro played, describing God’s awesome power in creation and redemption. Though the production wasn’t long, it did its job – and that was to focus our mind on how big God is and how amazing it is that He uses that power to show love to mankind. When the video ended on a climatic note, the sanctuary briefly went dark again as the track for Karen Peck and New River’s song, “Big Mighty God” began. When the lights came up, all the artists were on stage and took turns singing a line of the song. The tune started the night off with a lot of energy, something that would be fueled throughout the night with the artists’ songs and testimonies.
When the tune ended, the room went dark again as the screens played another video intro, this one reminding the crowd about the achievements of the first group who would perform – Karen Peck & New River. Soon, the lights came back and KPNR kicked off their set with “Gotta Be Saved” and “The Reason.” Their next song featured Karen on the verses and has been a staple in the group’s program since its recording, which was “Pray Now.” After, Karen encouraged the crowd to trust in the Lord for all their needs. “If we could grasp hold of the fact that there is power in Jesus name,” Karen began. “God’s got it. All of us can stand here tonight and say Jesus Christ is Lord and He is our only hope. Can I get an amen?” This led into their ballad, “Hope For All Nations.” I know you shouldn’t stack two ballads back to back, but when Karen shares how Ricky (her husband) has been cancer free for several years and goes on to talk about the hope we have in Christ, the songs have a powerful impact…And with a live choir backing them up towards the end of the ballad. Hmmm-mmm! Is it good! In moments, the atmosphere in the room changed to a sweet, sweet spirit. “How ‘bout it for the Wilmington Celebration Choir?” asked Karen at the end of the song. She went on to tell the crowd that New River was celebrating their group anniversary that evening and how they began on December 31st, 28 years ago, also at a Ray Flynn event. While Karen was talking to the crowd, she introduced all the group members and the next song, one that has quickly become a most requested tune for them – “I Keep On Praying.” The tune featured Kari on the first verse and Grant on the second, and on the last chorus Karen stepped in to complete the harmony as a trio. “Here’s a brand new song,” said Karen. Then their ballad, “I Know I’ll Be There” began. That ballad touched some lives in Bennett, and I can tell you that because everyone was on their feet by the end! What a beautiful promise! Well, you can’t have a concert with KPNR without two particular songs, and they were saved for last! First was “Four Days Late” and the second was “Robe and Crown.” When the track queued for the upbeat tune, all the artists joined KPNR on stage and the crowd loved it so well, they encored it three times!
Once again, the room went black as the video played introducing the next artist. Emily Ann Roberts has been a big part of the programs Abraham Productions organizes, and one live concert with her will show you why – she doesn’t just have talent, but a passion for Jesus! The lights came back up as Joey Gore started to play a soft piano intro that was Emily’s first song, the classic, “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.” Immediately, an upbeat tune called “Rich,” followed and then Emily talked about how difficult it can be juggling the trials of life. Through her own experiences, she wrote a song that was dedicated to the tough times – it was called “Diamonds.” Continuing the thought, Emily introduced her next song by reminding the crowd that none of the many voices thrown at them by the world matter, the only thing that matters is what Jesus says about you. “He says you’re chosen,” said Emily, “He says you’re loved!” This led into Hillsong’s ballad, “Who You Say I Am.” This ballad had a great response, and before the end of the song people were on their feet. Emily exclaimed, “I think someone needs to hear that again!” and then went into an encore. Her next song was “Bless This Mess,” a song about surrendering your imperfections to the Lord. Emily closed out her set with “This Blood,” and the move of the spirit was strong in the room. People stood with hands raised and the chorus was encored.
The video played for the next artist, which was actually the preacher! But before CT Townsend came to present the Word, he and his wife, Becky sang “How Great Thou Art” and CT continued with the “praise God, praise God” line to the tune of Amazing Grace. Afterwards, CT announced his text for the evening would come from 2 Kings 6:15. The theme of the sermon was “The King Has One Last Move.” As CT preached, he spoke of a painting called “Checkmate” that was displayed in Louvre art museum in France. In the painting, a man was playing a game of chess with Satan – if Satan won, he got the man’s soul. The story went that a champion chess player visited the museum and observed the painting. Upon looking at the arrangement of the chess pieces, he realized that the man still had one more play, that would win him the game. The “king” had one more move. While CT was preaching this story, he had a table with a chess set up on the stage and a man acted out the scene with another man who was dressed in all black, representing Satan. Those in the audience were captivated by the presentation and weeping could be heard throughout the auditorium – it was a powerful demonstration! Afterwards, the invitation was given and several people gave their lives to Christ. Later, we would find out an exact number.
When the next video finished playing, Joseph Habedank kicked off his set with “Jailbreak” and “Forgiven Again.” “It’s good to be in North Carolina,” said Joseph, after his song. He went on to introduce himself, “I’m Joseph Habedank…and I hope I’m pronouncing that right.” The crowd chuckled. He shared how one time a lady told him that Habedank means “give thanks.” “If there’s one thing I’m not thankful for,” Joseph teased, “it’s not my last name!” He continued with a short example of what it’s like for him to be on the phone with customer service and concluded, “But you know what? You can’t understand what they’re saying and they probably can’t understand you either!” Next, he sang the first song he released to radio as a soloist, “Never No Never” and then went right into “God Is Big Enough.” At this point in Joseph’s set, he shared about his battle with addiction to prescription drugs. He told the audience that he tells his story because no doubt, there’s a grandparent in the crowd whose grandchild is battling some type of addiction. This led into a ballad called “The Beauty Of The Blood.” Afterwards, the lights went down and a spotlight lit Joseph sitting on a stool in the center of stage for a song called, “When The Lights Go Down.” Joseph’s final song was “Here He Comes.”
The last group on stage was Brian Free & Assurance, who began their set with “Beyond Amazed” and “Somebody’s Miracle.” When the last tune ended, Bill encouraged, “Be that somebody. I’m so thankful that somebody has been that to me.” Brian took the next few minutes to introduce the trio. In fact, New Year’s Eve was Bill’s anniversary night with the group – he’s been with BFA for 18 years! “Whatever you’ve been praying about for so long, lifting up your eyes and shedding tears for,” said Brain, “He can take it.” This led intro Brian’s solo ballad, “He Can Take It.” The group sang this one sitting on stools, and the stillness of the moment and lyrics inspired another time of worship. “Voice Of Jesus” and “He Forgot” followed. “What a moment!” said Bill after that last tune. But the real moment of worship came when the trio sang, “Say Amen.” Not one person was still seated by the end of that song – everyone was on their feet praising the Lord! The evening closed with “Long As I Got King Jesus,” with all the artists joining BFA on stage, sharing lines with KPNR and others on the encores. …And there were several encores!
Before the evening officially ended, Ray Flynn came on stage and asked, “Has it been beyond amazing?” The crowd applauded and then added, “These artists have outdone themselves tonight, but there’s One that has done even more than that. Tonight, 12 people have given their lives to Christ!” Again, the crowd applauded and then Ray closed the evening in prayer.
Conclusion: First of all, I’ll just say that I’ve never been to a taping that’s went as smooth as this one! Not once did the program have to stop and restart because something went wrong – it was truly a concert captured on film. (And I can’t wait for it to come out! Hurry Daywind, hurry!) The second thing I’ll mention is the anointing from the songs and artists. It wasn’t odd for there to be folks who randomly stood up in the middle of a song with hands raised in praise to God. There were so many moments like this in the evening I lost count, but it was inspiring. If there’s a Beyond Amazing Tour concert coming to an area near you, I highly recommend you make it out to this concert series!