“Where Lutherans meet, Lutherans eat,” said the Pastor. The audience chuckled as he went on to explain that after the concert with Brian Free and Assurance, they would have a meal for everyone who wanted to stay. Squeezed in a pew just a few rows from the front, I couldn’t help but smile. Brian had went on and on and on and on about the wonderful food Rich makes for them every year they sing at Christ Lutheran Church in Gordonville, Missouri. Though Sharon Hanning (one of my BFA buddies) has hosted this concert for no less than nine years, it usually falls during the Southern Gospel Picnic and we have never had the opportunity to attend. But this year, with the date moved to November we anticipated enjoying the music, fellowship and food in Gordonville! After a prayer, the pastor brought BFA on stage and the concert began.
Brian Free and Assurance opened with What a Beautiful Day (for the Lord to come again), When We All Get to Heaven, Bill’s solo, If It Takes a Valley and I Keep Looking Up. Brian began, “It’s great to be back at Christ Lutheran Church.” The pastor happened to be helping some folks find a seat in the front and so Brian turned to him and said, “I think your jokes are funny. In fact, I might like for you to write a few down for me after so I can use them on stage…” The pastor reached out to say something and Brian gave him his mic. The pastor said, “My 30 year old son said, ‘Dad, you want to see something funny? Go look in the mirror.’” Everyone laughed and Brian added, “Okay, I take that back!” LOL!
Brian went on to introduce the group and began will Bill Shivers. Bill has been singing lead with Brian for 15 years. Brian pointed out how unheard of that is in the industry. Out of 34 years of being on the road, Bill is the only lead singer that has stood next to him on stage that many years in a row. “Folks are already calling us George and Glen,” Brian teased, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that just this year. We haven’t figured out which one is George and which one is Glen though!” Next, he introduced Mike Rogers and teased him about his hairdo. He said, “Mike is the only one in our group with a PhD…Pentecostal hairdo!” The audience chuckled and Brian continued, “He is high and lifted up!” Then he apologized, laughing, “I’m sorry, the smell of smoked BBQ ribs and brisket has us all messed up!” (Whether or not the aroma was truly to blame or not, those guys were quite silly that afternoon!) Bill introduced Brian and then Mike sang their up-beat Tell It Like It Was. As the intro started playing, Mike slicked his hair back with his hand and the audience laughed.
“It is no secret to us that we live in a twisted, mixed up, messed up world,” said Brian, introducing the ballad to follow. “I don’t know about anybody else but it never ceases to disappoint me the things that I see and hear that I never dreamed I’d see and hear in a million years in our country. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country. I’ve been in many other countries and I don’t want to be anywhere else. But America has lost its way. We’ve abandoned the basics and moral principles of the Word of God and that’s why this country is in the shape that it’s in. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, unless America turns its eyes and face back to God. We’re in the last part of the last days. I have no idea when Christ is coming to take us home, not even the angles in heaven know, but I feel with all my heart it’s going to be soon. This world can’t take a whole lot more. Our country can’t take a whole lot more. The most important thing is that you and I are prepared. I realize that we live in a society that is persecuting Christians, and it will get worse. Anything and everything is okay as far as religion and worship, except for Christianity. Now is the time you and I need to stop worrying about being politically correct, stop worrying about telling the truth about what the Word of God says. If the Word of God offends you then you are the one with problem, not the Word of God. It’s time you and I step up boldly without worrying about what the cost is and let the world know in no uncertain terms that you and I, as born-again children of God, are unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Can I get an amen?”
This introduced their song, Unashamed, which features Brian and is the title to BFA’s current CD. When the song following was Bill’s feature, Anything is Possible, I couldn’t help but think how appropriate it was to pair those two songs together in a set like that. Brian interjected afterwards, “No matter what is going on in life, that’s the truth, nothing is impossible with God.” Next, he shared the opportunity they had to represent the Gospel Music Elvis Presley sang as a part of BBC’s tribute to Elvis’ 60th Anniversary at Sun Studios in Memphis. Brian explained that Elvis grew up in a Christian home and loved Gospel Music; he won three Grammy Awards in his lifetime and all three were for his Gospel recordings, never his Rock Music. Brian also challenged those present to watch the old recording of Elvis singing his rock and Gospel songs and to notice how his face would light up when he sang Gospel hymns. The Gospel song they sang for BBC was Elvis’ Peace in the Valley and BFA sang it beautifully for us that afternoon! The first half of the concert finished with Say Amen, which received a standing ovation.
The church took up an offering before BFA came back on stage. While the offering plates were being passed I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful blue and turquoise stain glass window behind the stage. Framed by white brick making up the wall, it gave the church a homey, warm atmosphere.
Beginning the second half, Brian stated, “We had a request for Mike to do this song.” The ballad, One, featured Mike and was followed by Praying Man. (I haven’t heard that one in a while!!!) “Here is a song I’ve loved for many, many years,” said Brian, introducing his solo, Oh, What a Savior. Before the song ended, everyone was on their feet applauding. Brian took that moment to give the invitation and present the Gospel. There was one who gave their life to Christ that night! While Brian prayed, you could feel the presence of God in the sanctuary. I can’t remember his prayer word for word, but it was one of the most sincere, heartfelt prayers I’ve heard an artist pray on stage. It went something like this… “I thank You Father, for every individual who came here tonight, for that one hand who is giving their life to You. We know how much You love us, You prove it daily.” Then he went on to pray for the church, that they would continue to be a beacon in their community and that we as Believers would get ourselves out of the way so people can see Jesus and truly be about our Father’s business. “Let us never back up one solitary inch on Your Word, let us love people to You. We know You are coming again, help us be prepared.” BFA ended the concert with Long as I Got King Jesus.
Conclusion: We had an amazing afternoon and evening at Christ Lutheran Church! The church was packed with chairs down the center aisle, across the back and an extra row of chairs in front of the first row of pews – every seat was taken! With a full house, we had a very lively concert! Brian Free and Assurance sang their hearts out. Brian spoke to us from his heart. It was the perfect concert. We stayed for the meal afterward and the food was DELICIOUS!!! I had the brisket and it was so tender it fell apart – no need for a knife. I can guarantee you haven’t tasted food that good! Sharon and her team of volunteers are amazing and showed everyone such genuine hospitality. Before we left, a couple from St. Louis gave Brian a most unique gift. BFA has posted a video of Brian opening it for the first time – you just have to see it! You can view the video on BFA’s Facebook page here.