Losing an hours sleep combined with a dreary, rainy night, and yet again – biting cold weather, didn’t stop Southern Gospel Music fans from flocking to the First Baptist Church in West Plains, MO to see Brian Free and Assurance on Sunday night. The sanctuary was packed and if our Baptist friends wouldn’t have filled in from the back of the church to the front, I know I woudn’t have had the nice second row seat that I occupied that night! (It’s just too bad they didn’t do the same thing in the parking lot! LOL!)
BFA opened the night with a stirring rendition of Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee sung acapella. Lining the first few songs up back to back, the second number of the evening was the snappy tune, Go Tell The World. They performed a couple songs from their new Cd, Never Walk Alone, and the next one happened to be among them, it’s called Anything Is Possible With You, and features lead singer Bill Shivers – it has an awesome message and a great up-beat tempo. I Believe God, their popular radio single from a few years ago was next, then they did a fun quartet style song called When We All Get To Heaven, twisting some modern lyrics to the old hymn, yet, masterly bringing back the original words on the bridge. In between those two songs, the stage lights suddenly shut off! (They didn’t come back on either!) To which the guys gave a funny glace upward. At that time, Brian stepped forward and asked the audience, “How many of you are glad to be in the house of the Lord tonight? – Say praise the Lord!” The response was fair. Brian continued, “We like to do some old songs and some new songs and this here is an old one that features the skinny guy on the end!” Jeremy Lile was featured on Just A Little Talk With Jesus, and when he hit the first low note on the chorus, shouts were heard all over the audience! At that time, Brian introduced the group beginning with lead singer Bill Shivers, on to baritone Derrick Selph, bass Jeremy Lile, and Bill introduced Brian. Brian teased each guy a little while introducing them. For example, Derrick came and stood next to him while being introduced and Brian said, (in reference to his height), “If we ever have any trouble while we’re on the bus, I let Derrick step off first and the trouble usually goes away!” He also explained how Jeremy gives him a hard time about being a tenor singer, he said, “He use to tell me that I sang like a girl and now he tells me that I sing like a woman!” Announcing that Jeremy and his wife are expecting a baby, he went on, “So when I found out that they were expecting I prayed for two things. Number one, that they would have a boy, and two, that he would be a tenor singer!” After that, Bill introduced Brian, commending him on being a part of Southern Gospel Music for 30 years, and so on … “The first time I saw him sing was on the Jubilee show”, turning to Brian he commented, “You had a really nice perm back then!” Speaking to the audience again, “Yep, that was the first time…my mom took me out of my play pen and we would go watch the show…” Brian laughed and playfully whacked Bill with his mic.
“We choose our songs carefully,” began Brian, “we choose songs number one, that are Scripturally sound. We choose songs number two, that bless us – because if they bless us they’ll bless you. We as Christians are not promised that all our problems will go away, that we’ll never have a valley to go through, as a matter of fact the Word tells us to stand strong, it also tells us to prepare. I think about some of the things that we go through on this earth and nothing compares to what Christ went through for you and for me. Think about this, we hear many songs and sermons about it, but truly think about it, the Creator of the universe sent His only Son Jesus and watched Him die a cruel death on Calvary to atone for your sin and my sins, so you and I can have the opportunity to be saved. But when Christ was hanging on the cross He knew you by name, He knew me by name, it wasn’t the nails that were placed in our Saviours hands and feet that held Him to the cross that day, it was His love for us. He could’ve called legions of angels to put a stop to it, but He didn’t, for you and me. That’s love. No matter what you’re facing tonight if you are a child of God, He loves you and will take care of you. No matter what you go through you will never, ever walk alone…” The music began playing and Brian put his all into the beautiful ballad, Never Walk Alone. Many “amens” followed! Another moving song about Calvary came next, Remind Me Of The Cross, which featured Jeremy on the verses. (When these two songs, Never Walk Alone and Remind Me Of The Cross, are done back to back like BFA did them that night, it was very powerful! The message of the first flows right into the second!)
Bill introduced the next song by asking, “How many of you believe that when someone gets saved, a miracle takes place? I’m so glad to have that miracle in my life.” He told the audience about his two daughters and how a couple years ago he and his wife had the opportunity to lead one of their daughters to Christ, then sang another up beat song from their new Cd called The Part Where You Come In. O What A Savior followed, and when Brian went into the falsetto part on the second verse, shouts and applause burst from the crowd in delight, ending in a standing ovation. BFA’s “signature song” Long As I Got King Jesus closed the first half of the concert. On the encore the whole sacnutary rose in a standing ovation and many shouts, whistles, applause and even a little dancing accompanied it! A ten to twenty minute intermission began and we all stretched our legs before the final half of the evening.
First Day In Heaven kicked off the second segment, and I believe everyone enjoyed hearing an “oldie by goodie!” Bill was featured on the next song, an up beat tune called You Must Have Met Him. I believe the ballad that followed was a request, titled Healed, wherein Derrick had the solo on the verses. The audience was moved by the lyrics and gave another standing ovation. While the guys took a step back on the stage, Brian moved up and began giving the Salvation message and touched on some controversial issues in Christianity today…and did a very good job I might add! He began by saying, “This night has not been about us up on stage, it’s not been about you, it’s been about the Lord. That’s why we were created – to give praise to the Lord.” On a different line of thought, he said, “In today’s society what use to be wrong is now right and what use to be right is now wrong. No one wants accountability. If the Word of God tells me that something I’m doing is wrong…it’s wrong. It’s not up for disscussion, it doesn’t need my opinion, it doesn’t need a committee to get together to decided if it’s truth” (the audience chuckled out loud on that one!) To which Brian asked, “Amen?” – and the whole auditorium answered, “AMEN!” Continuing on, “The Word of God is truth. Whenever we get to the point that our opinions and our “whatever” are more important than the Word of God, we’ve messed up big time. The Word of God doesn’t need help, it just needs us to follow it.” Beginning the gospel message he said, “Hell is real, and Heaven is real. And every human being on the face of this earth chooses where they will spend eternity. Now a days when you go to give the gospel one of the first things a person says is, “well, I know brother so and so and I know sister so and so and they go to this church down the road and they act this way and I’ve seen them do this and I’ve seen them do that” … let me tell you something, if you’re looking for a perfect human being, you won’t find one. None of us are perfect. Far from it – I’m a work in progress and will be as far as I am on this earth. The only person that ever walked this earth that was perfect was Jesus Christ.” Brian then asked if anyone still believed that the Word of God is impeccable and true, to raise their hand. “If the Word of God offends me when someone says something to me about something I’m doing wrong and shows me in Scripture, guess what? – I’m the one with the problem! Not that person and not the Word. You choose whether you sin or not, it doesn’t jump on you, you choose whether to do it or not. What happened to the days when guys are like guys and girls are like girls?” (Instead of the approval the audience was giving him after each comment, it suddenly became silent.) “It got quiet in here didn’t it?” Brian asked. “The Word of God is still true. We are either prepared for His coming or not. Churches are full of people who claim to be Christians and know nothing about what it’s like to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.” He then went into the salvation message, and had everyone stand while they sang What Will You Do With Jesus Today as an invitation song, which Bill sang. The evening ended with a request called Jesus Will Pick You Up (if He has to reach way down.) When Jeremy sang the first line, shouts and applause filled the air, and you could tell that he really enjoyed singing this jazzy tune! On the end when they repeat the lyrics “way down” a couple of times, Derrick, Bill and Brian were on one side of the stage and Brain and Bill were taking turns standing on their tip toes trying to reach Derricks height…it didn’t work! LOL! Brian hit a very high note at the end, even so, that Bill (who was on the opposite side of the stage) leaned over to gaze in his direction. The audience stood in ovation one last time then the concert was dismissed.
Conclusion: This was the very first time I’ve seen BFA live in concert and I was very impressed with everything they did. Their songs had great lyrics and the tracks were very tasteful musically. I mentioned above that the order in which their current single, Never Walk Alone and the song Remind Me Of The Cross, done back to back had a very powerful effect. It drove the point home! It was very nice to see Brian speak about the Word with “holy boldness” and not be afraid to proclaim the truth. The concert was a blessing and I hope they come back to the area again soon! … Thanks for reminding us that we’ll never walk alone!!!