…You are probably wondering, “What works?” Well, my answer is simple, the Gospel – no matter what format it’s in, it works. That idea formed the theme for the Greater Vision concert I attended the night before Veterans Day in Steeleville, Missouri at the Meramec Theater. As Gerald reminded us many, many times, “You don’t have to be famous to be effective, all you have to be, is faithful.”
Excitement and sadness welled up inside of me as I walked through the warm breeze to the entrance of the theater. Sadness to know that night would be the last concert I’d attend at the Meramec Theater this year, excited to be able to see Greater Vision in FULL concert for the very first time. Yep, you read that right! For all the times you’ve read about GV on this site, they have all been at sings. So I slipped into the second row that we’ve sat in for the four times we’ve been at the theater this year and took my seat, waiting for the evening to begin.
“You’ve seen these folks on TV and you’ve heard them on the radio – let’s give a big Steelville welcome to Greater Vision!” announced our emcee, Wayne.
Thirty-six American flags outlined the stage as Greater Vision appeared and kicked off the night with He Didn’t Pass By. Gerald and Chris were featured on the verses as the crowd clapped along. Some of their hymn arrangements, Tell Me The Story Of Jesus and the Redeemed Medley, followed. “Thank you! I kind of knew you would like that medley of old songs, I still like old songs,” Gerald said placing his hand over his heart, “old people like old songs,” he added with a chuckle. He assured us that they would sing some old ones, new ones, and everything in between. The next number fell in the “new” category, and was called No Longer Chained, featuring Rodney Griffin. A clear, sharp whistle overpowered the applause as the number ended and When They Ring The Bells Of Heaven came back to back. Nevertheless, the crowd was clapping off beat to the old song. Gerald laughed and called out, “Two and four!” As the number progressed, I had to laugh to myself realizing the crowd still couldn’t get the beat right! LOL Scooting over to his keyboard, Gerald mentioned the beautiful weather they had that day. He added further that he had heard that a bunch of men came together and held a prayer meeting for a nice day in Steeleville…for the opening day of deer season. LOL Resting his gaze on the front row, he grinned, “There is a little girl on the front row who is loving her bag of popcorn! How old is she?” A voice replied, “Two.” Gerald went on telling the audience how cute she was…but, she wasn’t clapping! “We’re gonna’ have to do something about that,” he teased. He went on to introduce their tenor, Chris Allman, and his solo, I Know A Man Who Can. The crowd loved this song and applauded during various parts in the verses and chorus. Gerald let out a whoop, and then asked Chris, “Are you hot?” Chris agreed, “Yeah, it’s hot.” Well, it was pretty warm in there! Gerald explained to the crowd that there is a myth in singing that says when it’s hot, tenor’s vocal chords swell! So, Chris doesn’t like to sing a lot of features if a room’s hot, and how his voice prefers a cooler setting. He also mentioned that he tries to take that into consideration when picking songs, but since Chris did so well on the previous ballad – he was going to break a Nashville rule that says don’t feature the same singer, in the same key, in the same time signature back to back. Besides, as Gerald noted, we were a long way from Nashville! Chris sang the next song Hallelujah Square. When he came to the line that said “we’ll all live together in hallelujah square,” Chris asked the crowd, “Amen?” The audience applauded and Gerald jumped up from the piano bench as the intro for the next tune began, He’d Still Been God. “We’ve been singing that song for a long time, since…” pausing to think for a moment, Gerald concluded, “1997, I think. Of course the fella standing next to me wrote that song.” This year was Rodney’s 14th year to consecutively win the Songwriter of the Year Award and Gerald shared that he and Gordon Mote had the honor of hosting the award show this year at Dollywood. He couldn’t resist telling a little story about what went on after the show too. When the induction ceremony and award show ended, a “Baptist” woman waited for Gerald outside and asked if it bothered him that Rodney won the award every year – implying that she thought he was upset because he didn’t win! (Never mind you have to be a songwriter to win! LOL) While Gerald was telling us that story, Chris stopped him and asked, “A Baptist woman?” Gerald answered, “Yeah, a Baptist woman.” Chris wrinkled his brow, “How do you know it was a Baptist woman?” Gerald replied, “Cause I’ve been a Baptist all my life and I can spot a mad Baptist woman a quarter of a mile away!” LOL Switching to a serious topic, which happened to be the introduction for the next song, Gerald mused, “We’re not standing here tonight because some famous person told us to do this. We’re here because common everyday people invested their lives in us – moms and dads, grandparents, Sunday School teachers. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it for the Lord.” Though I was expecting to hear Rodney sing Faces, I was pleasantly surprised when he stepped up and began singing Common Garments! The popular My Name Is Lazarus came back to back. “We’ve been doing that song, well,” paused Gerald to think, “That’s been our most requested song since ‘99.” Changing the topic, he explained what they were going to sing next by sharing the challenge he received by setting up their product table…the challenge was to sing a Christmas song! For Gerald, that wasn’t a challenge at all! “For me it’s Christmas year round,” he said smiling, “cause I know what Christmas is about – this is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, you’ll know it from the first line.” The trio gathered around in a circle and began God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Just as they finished the song, a stream of Christmas lights popped on, outlining the curtain on stage. Gerald exclaimed, “One more!” – and then began singing O Holy Night. He didn’t get to sing the first line before stopping and admonishing the front row, “Oh, don’t look at me like that! It’s snowing somewhere…” I don’t know what it is about this song, but when he sings it, chills roll down your spine every time!!! The audience must have thought so too, because they rose up in ovation at the end. “That makes you want to go home and put your Christmas tree up early!”
Gerald stayed on stage and told about their product while Chris and Rodney walked back to the lobby anticipating intermission. We had a short break and then found our seats to wait for the second half to begin. During intermission, I used the time to do two very important things – buy CD’s and fudge!
I was still nibbling my fudge when GV came back on stage. Sitting down at his keyboard and placing a piece of paper on it, Gerald said, “Well, I have two pages of requests – so I hope ya’ll aren’t in a hurry.” The first of which was You Were Faithful Yesterday. Afterwards, Gerald got a kick out of the little girl with her “new” bag of popcorn! *smile* Still Waiting By The Well came back to back. “Seriously, thank you so much for all the requests,” said Gerald, “especially the ones we don’t know.” LOL The next one though, was a Greater Vision song…though a very old one. According to Gerald, it was on GV’s very first CD – they haven’t sung it in years! Randomly, he asked the audience where they had heard it, in anticipation that the person who requested it would answer. Well, she did! Gerald answered as follows, “YOUTUBE?…Well, isn’t that great!” Adding a little humor he said, “We didn’t get paid for that – I’m just kidding.” After this exchange I was very curious as to what song they were going to sing! It ended up being one called Treasures Unseen – the lady who requested it loved it so much she exclaimed, “Put it on a CD!” GV’s next request fell under the category of one that they had never sung before as a trio – Little Is Much (when God is in it.) Gerald looked at Chris and asked him about a key to sing it. Chris replied, “I’m more worried about the words.” Gerald launched into a quick rendition of the first verse and its tune. As Chris joined in, the two together sounded like chipmunks on fast-forward!!! LOL Chris turned to the crowd and asked, “You enjoy that?” And so they ventured to sing with Gerald feeding Chris the words as he played the keyboard and Rodney accompanied with bass guitar. You would never have known it was their first time to sing it! “That was great wasn’t it? Did anyone get that on video?” Gerald asked, then pointing to my sister, inquired, “Did you get it? Good!” Picking up the paper with the requests on it with one hand and stroking his chin with the other, he pondered, “I ought to let ya’ll pick the songs.” Then he briefly told a story of the time he heard New Wine – the next request they sang. After that one, Gerald thanked everyone who came by their product table and talked with them – he also mentioned that he met some characters that night! – Which led into childhood stories of Jess Hopkins and Merl Haun. Jess owned ONE blue suit that he wore to church every Sunday, while Merl wore bib-overalls every week. Once a year, Mr. Hopkins would sing the same song accapella every year (Brethren We Have Met To Worship) and Merl always had a piece of Brocks peppermint candy in his left pocket that he would give to Gerald every Sunday with the same benediction, “Jesus loves you this morning – and so do I.” These memories were the platform that he used to introduce Rodney’s solo, Faces. Rodney led us singing in a simple chorus of “Thank You Lord” when Faces came to a close. After that, it was time for Rodney to share his childhood hero – a man by the name of Bill West. Bill was a man whom Rodney’s father worked alongside every day at his job, though Rodney’s father wasn’t a Christian, Bill was, and he developed a relationship and respect for his friend. One day, Bill invited Rodney’s dad to church – and for the first time, the Griffin family went to church. This simple, faithful testimony brought Rodney’s family to the Lord. So Rodney asked the audience, “Do you want to be a Bill West? It works…” He asked us to stand, bow our heads and close our eyes. If we wanted to be a “Bill West” to someone, he asked us to raise our hand quickly and put it back down – he assured us no one was looking. Then he gave the Gospel and repeated the same procedure with the invitation. After he prayed, GV closed the night with God Wants To Hear You Sing.
Conclusion: The amount of ministry that went into this night can’t be stressed enough. From the moment they stepped on stage and began with “He Didn’t Pass By” to the last ballad “God Wants To Hear You Sing” you can’t deny the theme the evening wove into our hearts and souls. It works…was a line that I quoted Rodney saying in the paragraph above, but it’s more than just a phrase – it’s a living testimony that has shaped the lives of Gerald Wolfe, Rodney Griffin and Chris Allman. The Gospel worked in their lives, and they came to Steeleville to tell us that “it” would “work” in ours too. Yes, we laughed at the jokes and smiled at the stories – but GV made it clear what their mission was to tell us…
…“That without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”