Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing ’til you leave it for awhile…
My good friend and mentor, Ron Ritchie, sent me a picture yesterday of the Christian rock group, Love Song, and Phil Keaggy, taken at an awards event a few years ago in Nashville. They’re all looking pretty good for their age, albeit a little paunchy here and there. Ron must have been thinking about the first time we heard Love Song when we “auditioned” them before letting them sing at our Sunday night Body Life service at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California in 1970. They sang “Welcome Back,” for us that Sunday afternoon, crammed into Ron’s back office, and when they finished, we were all literally weeping due to the sweetness of this song, the unique blend of their voices and the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. At a time when many of the gospel songs were rock and roll screamers about avoiding hell and getting right with God, here was something sweet, warm and inviting. This song was clearly penned by the Lord. These guys were brand new Christians with no training. They just wrote what they heard, and they heard the Spirit calling. It’s for this reason that I’ve always believed that this is the way the Spirit of God does evangelism. No scare tactics. No head thumping. No Bible bashing. No end of the world proclamations. Just the invitation of the gospel of welcome: God’s welcome home to the prodigal.
God used this song to welcome back a generation of wanderers, most of whom had grown up with some kind of religious background be it Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, but left it feeling the irrelevance of the message that somehow didn’t connect to a deep inner need. And here was a rock and roll group welcoming them back to Jesus. Yes, Jesus. It was a generation closed to institutional religion, but open to Jesus. The song still has its power. This was the song that brought our friend Arnold around shortly before his passing last year.
I know you thought you could turn your back
And no one could see in your mind
But I can see that you know better now
You never were the untruthful kind
And I’m so happy now to welcome you back
“You know better now … You never were the untruthful kind.” These are bold, positive statements indicating someone is already on the right path home. You have to go back as far as “Just As I Am,” an invitation hymn for another generation, to find a similar sensitivity to what the Holy Spirit is already doing in someone’s life.
It takes a lot of trust in the Spirit to operate this way. But Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:44). We always try to control too much of this. God is doing the drawing; we are the welcoming party. We’re not in charge of who responds; we don’t have to check everyone’s evangelical credentials; we offer grace turned outward to everyone and care for all who cross our path.
This was the message then and it is the message now, as we ready ourselves for a new frontier. We and the millennials with us welcome anyone going anywhere near our direction. We gather together and walk alongside, just like Jesus and His disciples, and look for the Spirit of God to draw us to Him and to each other.
Welcome back to what you knew was right from the start.
First, I want to thank the Catch Prayer warriors. This concerning the request I left late Sunday afternoon. In 2 days my leg has healed faster than I thought it would. My walking is getting way better and I now feel I will be 100% in the near future.
Regarding today’s Catch, thank God it is He and not us who draws people to Christ. If we did it ourselves we would want all the credit for it. And then we would decide who we want in and who we want to keep out. YIKES! What a mess that would be! None of us would stand a chance at being saved. No wonder the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. The salvation of a human soul is in every way a miracle only God can perform.
Glad your leg is better, brother John!
Loved the sensitiveness in Today’s Catch! And this touched my heart: “… we offer grace turned outward to everyone and care for all who cross our path. “
There are so many good songs from then that still withstand the test of time.
Three in particular that struck a critical chord for me back when I was exploring, discovering, and accepting the welcoming embrace of Jesus were “Old Man’s Rubble”, “Praise the Lord”, and “We Will Stand”.
Incidentally, the specific versions of these songs that impacted me were all performed by The Imperials (two of them from their classic album “Heed The Call”, and all of them sung by the incomparable voice of Russ Taff), but other notable artists sang their own wonderful renditions of these timeless tunes too.
– OLD MAN’S RUBBLE (written by Brown bannister)-
Are you living in an old man’s rubble
Are you listenin’ to the father of lies
Are you walking’ with unnecessary burdens
Are you trying to take them upon yourself
If you are then you’re living in bondage
And you know that’s bad for your spiritual health
And are you trying to live by your emotions
Are you puttin’ your faith in what you feel and see
Then you’re living just to satisfy your passions
And you better be careful, ’cause you’re being deceived…
– PRAISE THE LORD (written by Brown Bannister & Michael Hudson) –
When you’re up against a struggle that shatters all your dreams
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes
And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fears
Now Satan is a liar and he wants to make us think
That we are paupers when he knows himself we’re children of the King
So lift up the mighty shield of faith for the battle must be won
We know that Jesus Christ has risen so the work’s already done
Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seems to bind you
Serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you
When you praise Him…
– WE WILL STAND (written by James Hollihan, Russ and Victoria Taff)) –
Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand
Why we pull away from each other so easily
Even though we’re all walking the same road
Yet we build dividing walls between our brothers and ourselves
But I, I don’t care what label you may wear
If you believe in Jesus you belong with me
The bond we share is all I care to see
And we’ll change this world forever
If you will join with me, join and sing
You’re my brother, you’re my sister
So take me by the hand
Together we will work until He comes…
By the way, a documentary film about Russ Taff and his wife Tori was released last fall entitled “Russ Taff: I Still Believe”.
It details their personal struggles – addictions, trauma, abuse – that too often occur with celebrities (Christian and otherwise) outside the limelight of fame, and threaten to undo the very fabric of both faith and marriage.
Were it not for “tough love, fervent prayers and unfailing devotion”, Russ Taff might not even be with us today – or else he might have become remembered as one of the many failed and fallen icons of contemporary Christianity.
The movie includes appearances from Amy Grant, Mercy Me’s Bart Millard, Michael W. Smith, Newsboys’ Michael Tait, Bill Gaither, and comedians Mark Lowry and Chonda Pierce.
The film had a limited release so you may want to Google the title to see if’s playing where you live or if it’s available through your library and/or on-line.
This is great, Bob. I’m going to have these songs added to our playlist on Music that Matters. And I’ll definitely be looking for that movie.
PRAISE THE LORD (written by Brown Bannister & Michael Hudson)
OLD MAN’S RUBBLE (written by Brown Bannister)
Thanks for sharing these, James!!
I also really like Amy Grants rendition of “Old Man’s Rubble”.
Boy, these songs tug at my old heartstrings and bring back memories of challenging, exciting, and hope-filled times!!