Then sings his soul

th-1For many people, he is the voice of their salvation. If you came to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade (more than 3.2 million have), you most likely returned night after night, and the voice, other than Billy’s, that became familiar to you was that velvety baritone voice of soloist George Beverly Shea, and there wasn’t a night that Bev Shea didn’t sing “How Great Thou Art” backed up by hundreds of voices in the Crusade Choir.

Bev Shea, the man with the woman’s nickname, died Tuesday. He was 104.

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made…

It was his signature song, and when I watch the YouTube video of that song from a 1969 New York crusade, and the applause dies down after this song, I’m ready to hear Billy. This was usually the song right before he spoke. Either one of those voices and I’m a dead duck. I want to go forward. Start “Just As I Am” and I’ll start walking.

Yet as warm and inviting as these memories are, my wife reminds me that they are from an era gone by. Chandler, even Christopher and Anne, don’t have the same attraction. Not because they don’t get it, but because it’s not for their generation. I notice that nobody has taken Billy’s place as the premiere world evangelist. I don’t think that’s because God slipped up. I think it’s because He has a different plan now.

Is that sad? Not necessarily. Not if you and I take Billy’s place. Not if we believe that the real evangelical movement is led by Christians walking alongside others. That’s where the gospel gets concrete. It’s Christ through your life and mine, being spilled out as we walk along the way. There’s no signature song for this – there are millions of songs that can work — and the message is always tailored to the times because it is coming through a personal relationship.

Even with a Billy Graham Crusade, there was a good deal of walking alongside going on. Many of those who came forward were brought by someone else, and everyone who went forward talked to someone and were encouraged to find a church and get in relationship with other Christians.

So in a real way, you and I are picking up the mantle. We just might not get a YouTube video of ourselves.

In the meantime, George Beverly Shea has gotten the wish he’s been singing about for 60 years:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

You’re home, Bev. Sing it!

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6 Responses to Then sings his soul

  1. dastick says:

    So you were at the 69 Crusade in NYC. I was going to school in Philly but went one weekend to the crusade with friends. They waited around till everyone had left and then we got to meet George Bev Shay. He was quite tired and especially tired of meeting people. I felt sorry for him having to shake so many hands all the time but he certainly survived well.

  2. TimC says:

    For me it was April 1958 (I think) at the Cow Palace in South San Francisco when I heard him sing and Billy Graham speak and God call to me and I went forward.

    And thank God that there are many gazillions of people who are taking His Gospel to their friends and neighbors every where, no matter how difficult the days may be.

  3. Mark Seguin says:

    Thank-you Pastor John 4 providing the web link to listen to Mr. Bev. Shey sing that song, which always has it did a few minutes ago, very deeply touch my heart and bring a big smile to me face! 🙂

  4. Sue says:

    Thank you for the tribute to Bev Shea, and your perspective on the generations, so true. The need to walk along side has not changed, just the method.

  5. Frank U says:

    Same thing said differently:
    Just came from our 1st of ten “Thirtsty Thursday” men’s group meetings (bout frookin time!:-D) in the glass fronted foyer of our church- w/ open doors to be seen heard by thirsty passers by– where i commented that i’m not muchof a bible thumper- i prefer to just beat folks over the head w/ “frank” in hopes that some Jesus in me might splash out on folks– ..
    odds are good i think w/ all the cracks in me…

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