“I want a Sunday kind of love
A love to last more than one day
I’m hoping to discover a certain kind of lover
Who will show me the way.”
The greatest love songs ever written are gospel songs. In our hearts, we are all searching for a “certain kind of lover,” who will show us the way. For me, Jesus is that certain kind of lover. And if you love him with all of your heart, he will indeed show you the way.
“All of me, why not take all of me?
Can’t you see, I’m no good without you?”
When I sing gospel songs I strive to give all of me to Jesus. That’s the hardest thing that any of us can do. “All” doesn’t leave anything left over. But, it is only by giving all of ourselves to God, that we can truly become all of who we were created to be.
Singing gospel music is like everything else in life. There is a time of preparation and a time of submission. Submission is not a particularly popular word these days. Dogs are submissive and so are people who are powerless. We are all “control freaks.” Me as much as anyone. What could be more frightening than being out of control? And yet, control is often a delusion. No matter how much we prepare for something, we are always at the mercy of powers greater than us. But, God is always in control. What could be more reassuring than being submissive to someone who loves you with all His heart, and is always in control?
When I learn, or write a gospel song, the message has to become a part of who I am. Or, at least who I am trying to become. Dan Williams, the Director of the Men’s Chorus at Union Baptist Church where I sing will often ask us to first read the words out loud to a new song that we are learning. Before we become distracted with learning the melody and our harmony lines, it is important to understand what we are singing. Otherwise, we’re just singing words and making musical harmony. The beauty of singing gospel music is that the messages permeate your soul. They rise to your rescue like old friends, during times of distress.
“The battle is not yours, but mine, said the Lord”
“I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me”
“I lay awake at night, but that’s alright, Jesus will fix it after awhile.”
Many years ago, I wrote a song titled “I Like To Sing Those Gospel Songs.” A couple of the lines speak to the power of gospel music:
“There is a comfort in those songs, that still is there today
A wisdom in the words we sing, to guide us on our way
And friendships formed in harmony will last forever more
Until we’re reunited upon that golden shore”
Preparation is as much prayer as practice. We are as much in danger of forgetting what the words mean as we are to simply forgetting the words when we sing them.
When I prepare to sing for others, I pray that I may be obedient to God’s will. Ultimately, I sing for God. No matter the setting, or who may be listening to me, everything goes out of focus for me when I reach that prayed-for state of giving myself completely to God. I can’t always do that. Too often, I am focused on the audience or congregation, or worried about remembering the words. Or, I may bring my burdens with me when I sing. I find it impossible to sing without a clear mind and spirit. That’s why, in order to truly sing gospel, I believe that you have to pray to God to release you from every human concern so that you can completely submit yourself to His will, and to sing only for His glory. When that happens, God takes over. What a beautiful, and humbling experience that is! You are no longer self-conscious. You are purely God-conscious. When that happens, the power of the words overwhelms me. When I am singing
“They led my Savior up that hill
They whipped him all night long”
I am there on Calvary, and my heart is filled with grief. I try to catch my breath so that I can continue singing. And I am all alone, with Christ. When I sing, “Without that night, tell me what would life be?” I am transported back to the nightmare I had that led me to write the song, when I dreamt that I was at the stable in Bethlehem and found it empty. When that happens I want to cry out! There is no audience, no other singers, no room. Just the anguish of seeing what my life would be without Jesus.
Sometimes the lines become so real that my heart overflows with love. When I sing with my group, The Gospel Messengers, I see that in my brother Franklin when he sings the lines “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs” and he raises his arms in adoration to God. Tears stream down his face and I know that he is alone with Jesus. And it is all that our bass singer Joe Evans and I can do to keep singing, because we feel the presence of Christ and our hearts pour out in loving gratitude for all that he has done for us.
Yes, gospel songs are love songs. And we are all lovers of the Lord.