The first Saturday of November is always blocked off on my calendar. As an avid Southern Gospel Concert goer, I bet you can guess why! (If you guessed a Gospel concert, you were right!) The McCunes, along with Duane Garren have faithfully been bringing SGM to Mountain Grove, Missouri for eight successive years, and not only that! – but the last couple years they have been featuring the best in Gospel Music – 2011’s Group of the Year – The Booth Brothers! Indeed, it is very rare to have artists such as this so close to home, but thanks to our hosts, it has been made possible again!
Walking in to the Mountain Grove High School Gym brought back many memories from last year’s concert with the BB’s…a high energy concert, serious preaching from the Word and lots of laughter! As I settled into my third row seat in section three, I wondered how this night would be different from last year’s concert and waited with anticipation for it to begin. I watched a lady walk in with a “homemade pie” in hand – you know, this is the ONLY concert that I know of where you can buy homemade pies at the concession stand! I also took note that to my right sat a group that you might remember my mentioning when I saw the Booth Brothers in Springfield earlier this year…remember the lady who interpreted the concert into sign language for a group of deaf fans? Well, there they were! – Ready for another great concert from the BB’s!
Soon, our MC for the night, Duane Garren took the stage and directed everyone’s attention to Pastor Scott from the First Baptist Church in Seymour, who was asked to open the night in prayer. After the evening was dedicated to the Lord, Duane lead everyone in singing the old hymn, When We All Get To Heaven, then everyone shook hands with their “neighbors” and sang How Great Thou Art.
“I appreciate the interpreter up here,” said Duane in jest, “I do have to say that it’s been a while since I’ve spoken in tongues!” A round of applause was given to the lady interpreting and the group attending with her.
“This is our 8th year of having a sing in Mountain Grove,” Duane began, “When we began this people said, ‘No one is going to go to Mountain Grove for a gospel sing!’…well, ya’ll have proven them wrong every year!” He said he knew we came to hear singing and not announcements, so they would have to wait until later, and started the show with our host group, The McCunes!
The McCunes began their set with a mellow, well-known classic, We’re Standing On Holy Ground, which was a great choice to set up the evening. “Aren’t you thankful that even in a high school gym we can consider this place Holy Ground?” asked Teresa. “Let’s do this Albert E. Brumly song!” That song was, Just A Few Things This Precious Friend Has Done For Me, featuring Toni. Though most everyone at the sing was familiar with this Trio of sisters, there will always be some newbies in the crowd, so they introduced each other next. The oldest sister is Teresa, the youngest Micki, and then Micki introduced their “middle” sibling, Toni Clark. This made up the McCunes. They said that they always give their children a chance to sing on stage too, and between all three of their families they have 8 kids. Micki and Duane’s three children entertained us with singing I’ll Fly Away. This was such a precious moment! Then, Toni and Teresa’s daughters sang together as a trio, a brand new song called, Love With All Your Heart. Teresa’s six year old sang the first verse and Molly (8) was featured on the second – these youngins have beautiful soprano voices! (They were so young, yet, naturals on stage – good harmony and stage presence!) Teresa told us that at the Brumley sing she bought a Karen Peck &New River Cd and that song was track number three…and the only one she’s heard, because when you like a song, you play it over and over, especially when you have 6 and 8 year olds who like it too! Next, the sisters played a solo as a band, Teresa on piano, Toni on bass guitar and Micki on Saxophone. The crowd really liked that and clapped along. The McCunes continued their set with I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now. Teresa and Toni continued to use their instruments as their only accompaniment. Next, Micki looked down at their paper with the set list on it and said, “I can’t see from that far away!” Toni explained, “Duane wrote everything down and when it comes to this song, there’s just a scribble we can’t read!” LOL The song they were referring to was one they use to sing at funerals, called, It Will Be Heaven. This beautiful ballad featured Toni on the verses. Introducing the next song, Teresa said, “I like this next song a lot, it’s where you get to participate! I’m a school teacher and I like participation! Some of you have been sitting here since five o’clock and need to stretch.” She went on to explain that in certain parts of the song they wanted you to either raise your hand, both hands or even stand when the motion is given for it. The song we were to do this on was called I’m Saved, and the upbeat song had everyone on their feet at the designated moments. One note was hit on the keyboard, and their final song was set in motion, an accapella rendition of O Holy Night. This was their final song and received a thunderous applause.
“I have never, never worked with a group that is as much fun and honoring to God than these guys,” Duane said in introduction… “They’ve won more awards that you can count on your hands and toes – make welcome from Bristol, Tennessee! The Booth Brothers!”
The Booth Brothers kicked off their set with the up-beat He’s So Good To Me, I See Grace immediately followed. Jim was featured on this one and executed it perfectly! At the end, Michael walked across the stage to where the sing language interpreter was standing and waved to her, she waved back to him. After singing on hundreds of stages throughout the year, I was very impressed that he remembered her from the concert in Springfield earlier this year! “We’ve been looking forward to coming out here!” said Ronnie before he began his solo, Masterpiece of mercy. Michael was featured next on an oldie the audience applauded immediately for after hearing the first few words – Look For Me At Jesus Feet. Every time I see Michael sing this song, he keeps putting more and more emotion into it. The count off began and Welcome To The Family met our listening ears! The guys really had fun with this one! On the line about “sweet tea,” Jim and Michael let out a mild “whooh,” then they improvised and changed the lyrics to on the second verse to “we all feel like napping on a Saturday afternoon” on the second verse! They were in a mood that night! “Ya’ll spoil us when we come here!” Michael said afterwards, “And I’m not just saying that, I didn’t say it yesterday, and I’m not going to say it tomorrow!” He illustrated how much he meant that by saying when the dictionary says the “joy of the Lord,” you need to come here and experience it! Ronnie, eager to prove the point further, said that last night they were with Bill Gaither, and tomorrow they were going to be with Bill, AND Gaither wanted them to be there tonight in Tulsa, but they said, “No, we’re going to Missouri!” Michael told a little of what it’s like to be an artist at a Gaither arena after sound check…everyone just hangs out with each other. Then, he made a joke about how Bill feeds everyone, and they don’t want to miss out on that! Getting ready to set up their next song, Michael mentioned how they were a part of a Gaither video that paid tribute to the hymns. He told why they still love the hymns… because of their message, based on the Word of God, Michael said, “they are worth continuing to sing.” He went on to say that they have nothing against new songs; naturally, they sing a lot of them! Jim, Rodney Griffin and all our great songwriters pour out great lyrics too. But the test to a great song is this: does it point you to Scripture? Michael said that if you listen to a Gospel song and it doesn’t point you to the Word, it’s either a bad song or you don’t read your bible enough! LOL! Jim began their hymn medley with Peace, Peace Wonderful Peace and progressed into Old Rugged Cross, and How Great Thou Art. On these last two the crowd joined them in singing, and at the end, as we applauded them, they clapped for us too! LOL. Michael introduced their “Southern Gospel Samba,” a far cry from those good ole hymns, but hilarious none the less – especially when Michael is dancing to the beat! He pretended to play guitar, drums, danced a jig and sang all in one song. Talented guy, eh? “That’s one of our favorite songs,” said Michael, “and that beat is not the easiest thing to clap too. You should see the things we see sometimes!” The crowd chuckled in agreement. “I’m not making fun of you,” Michael continued in regards to the many beats clapped during the song, “We’re just laughing at you!” Jim added, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Michael pointed to the bleacher seating and said the back row was awesome too. How did the back row respond? – with a great big squeal! After talking about committees in the Baptist Church, Michael said, “I’m sorry…I didn’t take my pill today – it’s much funner without it!” (That just made the crowd explode with laughter all the more!) Then he introduced their song about Alzheimer’s. “The choruses of this song have a lot of hope to offer.” – said Michael. They assumed this song may be hard for some to get through in spots, and though not everyone can relate to it, they included it on their new cd because of what they went through with their Grandma, who battled with the same disease. This ballad featured Ronnie, and is called She Still Remember Jesus Name. Next on the set was one that Michael explained as extra special in a way. There are so many songs about heaven out there, but this song is the reason why they sing so many songs about heaven. The song was There Is A Higher Throne. When they finished singing it, Michael asked, “Can you imagine being at the throne of our Savior in His unbridled glory?” He went on to explain what “unbridled glory” meant. “What I mean by that is, that if He came as He is into this room, we could not sustain it, because His glory is so perfect and so mighty and so powerful. We would melt like tiny wax figurines before a furnace in His righteousness. But praise be to Jesus that He loved us so much that He imputed His righteousness into us, so when the day comes that when we pass from this life, and stand before His throne in a new body, we can experience all that He has and all that He is. Can you imagine? – No fear!” How awesome that will be indeed!
“Jim Brady wrote a song that will really be helpful to a lot of folks,” Michael began, “Again, the Gospel is good news and it’s about grace and mercy that has set us free, and while we are here we are to live an abundant life…abundant life – the doubts and fears that wake you up at two o’clock in the morning, you are able to realize that God is on His throne and that He is more qualified to deal with it, so you just leave it there and go back to sleep, knowing that He has everything in control. But there may be some folks who’ve walked with the Lord, you know – you’re saved, but you’re still carrying the weight of guilt or shame from past sins…that’s not abundant life, to be carrying that around. I’m going to share something that I believe will help you, and I’m going to use a Bible here.” Here, he goes and picks his up off the stool and begins to flip through its pages while continuing, “You want to know why I’m using this?” Michael said, concerning the Bible in his hand. “I want you to see that this is not a pep talk from a Gospel singer, this is straight from the Word of God, which you, if you need some more encouragement, you can go back yourself, pick this thing up, read it anytime you want and let it help you….Jesus said, ‘From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ Two times, audibly, God the Father looked at His Son and said, ‘This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.’ So the Father was so pleased with His Son that He told the world and wrote it down, that He is pleased with His Son. Now follow me with that thought! Galatians says, “…” – Can I encourage you to stop making a little list of things that you think are going to make God more happy with you? I appreciate you doing those things and I’m sure God appreciates it, but you cannot be loved and you cannot be more righteous than you are, because it’s the righteousness of Christ IN you that has saved you, and pleases the Father at the very moment your sins were paid for at the cross of Calvary. Listen, He knew before you did them, that He had to leave His throne to come down and pay for them, and willingly, He still came!” Quoting Romans 5:1, Michael said, “Therefore… Everything’s okay! Should we serve the Lord and do our best? – Absolutely. Should we feel conviction of sin, and guilt of it? – Only to the point of repentance. Once we’ve confessed it, meaning, call it what it is, and repent of it…as Jim says in this song, lay it at the cross and walk away.” Adding one last thought, Michael added, “He also says that you are no longer defined by your past, but you are defined by the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
This introduced Jim’s solo, When You Bow At Jesus’ Feet. “That’s why it’s call the good news!” exclaimed Michael as the track for See What a Morning began, “If you listen to these words closely, you’ll know why we have so much to hope for.” This song closed their first set and received a standing ovation. Nothing but pure power filled the air!
Duane came up and announced intermission, giving everyone a chance to get up and walk around a bit. He made sure that everyone knew that there was still plenty of pie out there to purchase and enjoy. To which, Michael comes up and stuck his “belly” out and said, “Yep! I’’ve already had three slices!” The crowd bursted out with laughter on that one! Before the second half began, Duane acknowledged a couple sitting on the front row. He said that this couple attends more concerts than any other, and that night, Vince and Joyce were celebrating their 45th Wedding Anniversary! The audience gave them a big round of applause.
Michael began the second set by announcing that they needed to form a committee to swop out a song for a Christmas number. So he pointed to the first row and announced them as the committee to vote on this “issue.” He said, “All in favor, raise their hand!” A few did, so he added, “Can I get a second?” A few more hands went up and he announced to the sound man that it’s unanimous. Then, while scrunching his face as if perplexed, Michael continued, “Hey…um, do that Christmas song about God, okay?” Jim sang the lucky Christmas number, Come On Ring Those Bells. Everyone clapped along in the Christmas mood! Ronnie introduced the next song, He Saw It All, which received a lot of applause before it even got started! “You guys are a blast,” Michael reiterated, “we’ve had some requests, and if we hurry, we can get them in.” The first of which was Secret Place, a song that featured Michael. He said they haven’t done that ballad in a while, but you couldn’t tell, Michael sang it perfectly! During the orchestrated part, Michael reminded us that the Word says, “He didn’t come to condemn, but that the world through Him might be saved…when we repent, He will pick us up…” On another request, a fellow came up to Michael, and Michael said that since this guy was bigger than him, he wanted to be sure to do this one! (Everyone laughs) Turning to Jim he said, “He wants one of those cowboy songs, you remember Up the Winding Trail?” Turning back to the audience, Michael said, “Jim has to sing it, so I don’t care if I remember the words or not!” Poor Jim! He was trying so hard to sing … and Michael was making him laugh so much during the song! – Especially on one part when Michael decided to “Mooo” into his mic like a cow! LOL – it was hilarious! They decided that the old western style was fun and wanted to do another one. (Oh boy) Michael saif, “This is a Buck Rogers songs…” Ronnie interrupted and corrected him saying, “It’s Roy Rogers!” This one was called Don’t Fence Me In, and featured Ronnie. When Ronnie asked the crowd if they liked it, everyone clapped their approval. During the rest, on the turn-around, the guys were just standing there and Ronnie asked, “What do we do now?” Michael replied in a completely defeated tone, “I’ve got nothing!” On the chorus the guys had the audience sing the “don’t fence me in” parts. What a hoot!!! (They were sure having FUN!) At the end of the song, Jim pointed to the second row and said, “I was watching them for the words!” Then, just as Michael was getting ready to get serious, a teen from the concession stand CAME UP ON STAGE and announced that they were selling full pies for $5. (That made no sense to me: these guys were in the middle of a concert! Who was going to get up to go buy a pie?) Jim played into the interruption and said, “They must be Baptist, we use to sing, ‘God be with you ‘til we eat again.’” After the distraction went away, Michael talked about a song Jim wrote for them and how the style resembled that of the old Mills Brothers. He asked, “How many knew of them?” Applause followed and Michael replied, “Our parents told us about them!” and laughed hard at the implied joke. “It’s late,” Michael said apologetically, “You just get the leftovers now…or the pie!!!” (he he he ) Anyway, he went back to the Mills Brothers and told about a song they had called the Glowworm – and since they couldn’t sing a song like that… Michael stopped and said, “Well, we just sang Don’t Fence Me In, maybe we could’ve done it!” Rather, he shared how that song was a favorite and because they couldn’t sing it, he had Jim write something similar to the Mills Brothers style, only with spiritual lyrics. They eagerly sang what Jim came up with, a song called Since Jesus Came. For this song, they set up two mics and sang real soft and easy… they sure had fun with too! There were a few parts where they were very close to losing their composure to complete laughter!
Following that new song, Michael began to introduce another that Jim penned, entitled What About Now. Michael approached Jim with a couple pages of notes from James and First John and explained the thoughts he wished to be expressed. He explained the reason why to the audience, “Let me talk to my people here, we need to be very careful in taking two separate doctrines that are deserving of equal time of explanation, and putting them together, because we are beginning to lose sight of the meaning of both. My point is this: someone comes forward and they make a profession of faith and we are quick to have them sign the card, write a date in their Bible and say, ‘Never doubt this again, and if you do, look back to this date.’ Beautiful thought, but you know what would be so much more beneficial? – If we took a Bible and said, ‘Now, if this profession of faith is true, let me show you in Scripture what changes are going to happen in your life to prove that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.’ I believe if we taught that more, we would almost do away with the discrepancy of those who believe and don’t believe the doctrine of which I just explained. If you’re always focusing on Scripture and what Scripture says a Christian is, it just keeps you on the narrow way. One of the greatest assurances of salvation is that you are convicted over sin. If you have a new relationship with Jesus Christ, you have a new relationship with sin. And though you do things, you feel a tug, a conviction, a guilt over it, and what that is, is grace (the power of the Spirit) saying, ‘No, we don’t do that anymore.’ Praise God He loves us enough, not just to save us, but to help us walk this narrow way that He is asking us to walk.” He used this to lead into What About Now, the song that asks the question we all need to ask ourselves. With tender conviction Michael delivered this song with the passion that we see resembled in his words, life and care for the people who listen every night. At the close of that stirring ballad, Michael quoted Ephesians 2:8-9 and was just getting ready to go into the Gospel presentation a little deeper, when, a guy from the concession stand comes UP ON STAGE (again??) with a hotdog and gives it to Jim! This totally perplexed me. Singers can’t eat before the sing, yet alone, while they are singing! What did that guy really expect Jim to do with it? Michael had to turn his back to the audience and take a moment to gather his thoughts before proceeding with the Gospel. (as seen by the photo above) He went on to explain the Gospel – that it is good news about something that’s bad – and though people don’t like to talk about hell, it’s the result of the offence of sin against a Holy God. Though terrible the cross was, Jesus loved us enough to take it for us. Here, he reached back to pick up his Bible from the stool, and that hotdog was sitting right next to it, which he almost grabbed instead! He encouraged us to listen to the closing song for the fundamentals that we believe from the Word of God “and not from a hotdog!” Their final song was We Believe. At the last chorus, the section where the hearing impaired was sitting were the first ones to stand, and soon, everyone else followed. All the guys invited the crowd to sing the chorus of How Great Thou Art with them, and the evening concluded. While the guys were coming off stage, I couldn’t help but notice that the very first thing Michael did was go up to the young man who couldn’t hear and gave him a great big hug! He even signed the word for applause in sign language to them! How sweet!
Conclusion: The reason that I named this concert review Ministry That Makes A Difference is for more than one reason. Let me explain. When Michael came off the stage at the end of the concert, the first thing that he did was go and hug the young deaf man. As I mentioned in the introduction, this group of deaf youth attended a Booth Brother concert in February that I was able to attend also. I was reminded that at that particular concert, at the end of a song, everyone gave a standing ovation, but while all the people took their seats again, there was this one young man sitting on the front row who was deaf…he kept standing and applauding. Michael came off the stage and gave that guy a hug right then and there…(to read that review, click here) and here we are, almost a year later, and this same young man comes to see the BB’s 60 miles away from that previous concert, and Michael remembered him! Think about that, a MUSIC group impacted someone who’s DEAF so much that they would travel 60 miles to see the same artists again! I know where Springfield is, and I know the distance between it and Mountain Grove, and they are not that close together! Now there is a ministry that’s making a difference in lives! Another way that I see these guys making a difference is through their presentation of the Gospel and other doctrine truths. You’ve probably noticed that there was a lot of “preaching” (for lack of better words!) – from Michael. I appreciate that he takes the time to tell the reason why their songs are important, and explain the eternal truths behind them, so we can meditate further on the themes. Though some may disapprove of the time spent on “preaching” – I admire those who take the time to do it. Anyone can get on stage and sing a Gospel song; it takes someone in tune with their walk with God to point out the doctrine woven in its lines and apply it to our daily lives. And let’s face, whether people want to admit it or not, this is what we NEED to hear. Thanks guys, for encouraging and reminding us of all of the wonderful eternal truths that we believe!
“Take a deep breath and relax – look at what Scripture says we are to be. Take some time to examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith. The good news is, if you’re not, the reason we have come tonight is to tell you that there is hope, it’s in One Person and One Person alone and that is in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when we are born again, He is too big to take residence in us and not produce results. There again, in those results of a changed life – ‘old things passed away, all things become new’ – that is where we may all find the assurance of our salvation.” – Michael Booth