Saturday night marked the end of the Gatlinburg Gathering. Peeking out from behind the clouds, the sun finally decided to show itself for the first time that weekend, as if its presence was required to give the Abraham Productions sing a proper farewell for the year of 2013. After a parade, four days of Southern Gospel Music and a view of the Great Smoky Mountains, the last night of the sing blew us away with the Whisnants, Karen Peck and New River, The Hoppers, some preaching and Brian Free and Assurance.
“This is one of the Abraham Productions board members,” our emcee, Greg said, “I love this family; I love their heart for God and their heart for ministry, would you please make welcome the Whisnants?” That was the first group I saw cross the stage that night and they kicked off with the Gloryland Way. After their popular ballad Be Not Afraid, Jeff expressed, “I like that…be not afraid, no matter what you’re facing.” He went on to introduce the group and then Susan told the audience that they were going to do something they’ve never done before. “Would you like to hear Jeff sing something with these two boys?” Jeff, Austin and Ethan stepped up and sang On The Road To Emmaus. Before the next song, Susan said a word about the meaning of the ballad, “The truth is we are all broken, can I tell you tonight that God specializes in brokenness?” Then she sang I’ll Trust The Potters Hands. New Day Dawning followed with a standing ovation and then Susan explained how they usually end with that song but not that night. “God did such a marvelous job last night,” said Susan, “The Devil is bound.” Their number one song All Is Well closed their time on stage and many people stood in honor of the message and the power behind it.
“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piecing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” Greg read, “Put your hands together and welcome Karen Peck and New River!” The choir climbed up on stage as KPNR kicked off with Robe and Crown. Not only did the trio start their set with a barn burner, they surprised the crowd by bringing up bass singer Pat Barker (of the Mark Trammell Quartet) to sing the encore with them. Now, that had the crowd all riled up! Taking advantage of their time with the choir, the Mighty High came next. Jeff’s solo, Look What The Lord Has Done followed. “Has He been good to you tonight?” He asked. After introductions Susan sang Sustaining Grace and Karen explained why they sing, “They are songs of faith but they are also songs that build your faith.” She quoted two Bible verses and then they sang On The Banks Of The Promised Land. They slid into an acapella chorus of I’m Bound For The Promised Land, then back into the chorus of the other song and then finished their set with Four Days Late.
The preaching was next and then the choir came back on stage and Greg introduced the Hoppers. They began with Jerusalem. After Claude spoke a word or two, he sang If I Can Help Somebody and Yes I Am, He Carried Me and I’ve Come Too Far To Look Back. Connie wanted to sing I’d Rather Have Jesus (which she said was her testimony song.) The crowd sang along after a while and then they encored I’ve Come To Far To Look Back again. After Kim held a strong note Connie laughed and said, “Show off!” LOL They closed with Something’s Happening and received a standing ovation. Something’s Happening is one of my favorites from the Hoppers! I love how the verses progress and build.
“They’ve been over here patiently waiting and I know you have been waiting to hear them,” said Greg, “Brian Free and Assurance!” BFA kicked off with When We All Get To Heaven and If The Lord Says Do It. “As the preacher was saying earlier,” Brian said, “this is what we need in our land, true revival.” Mike Rogers sang that song, Revival, and then their bass singer was featured on Just A Little Talk With Jesus. “How many are glad to be here tonight yell, ‘Praise the Lord!’” Brian exclaimed, and then asked the crowd to give the other artists a hand. Applause followed. After introducing the group they featured lead singer, Bill Shivers, on I Will Be Praying. Their #1 song, I Want To Be That Man, and a little commentary on what the song means to Brian, followed. “We have to understand that we have to keep God first in our life no matter what we say or do,” he said. Long As I got King Jesus closed the program and once again, the Celebration Choir joined them on stage.
Conclusion: What a great way to end a great week! Every day I couldn’t wait to get to the Convention Center and hear the singing because the line-up featured such great artists, but with the Whisnants, Karen Peck and New River, Brian Free and Assurance and the Hoppers all on the same night, I can easily say that Saturday was one of the best nights at the Gatlinburg Gathering! The events that Abraham Productions organize are some of the best that I’ve had the privilege of attending in Gospel Music. Every night (and afternoon) is focused on the Lord and you won’t find an evening starting without the president, Ray Flynn, on stage praying, asking the Lord to change lives and save souls. Seeing that always touches me because as I’m out and about at events like this, sadly, I hardly see promoters taking the responsibility of opening their event in prayer themselves. The folks at Abraham Productions love the Lord with all their hearts and it shows by the way they handle even the little details of their events like the Gatlinburg Gathering. Thank you Ray, Karen, Jeff, Roger, Ivan and Dean for making the Gatlinburg Gathering so special!