Published 2/3/2009

Paul's Epistle...
"Rings and Crowns"

George Beverly Shea has just always been there. I can't remember a time when he wasn't THE VOICE of the Billy Graham crusades. Perhaps that's because he started singing at the Graham crusades the year I was born. I remember him vividly on black-and-white TV when I was a kid, as well as in person when we attended Billy Graham Crusades.

Sunday, Bev Shea (as he prefers to be called) marked his 100th birthday. He told one interviewer, "On the ladder of life, I have reached rung 100, and I can see the scenery a little better than those who are still climbing."

The years certainly have not diminished his sense of humor. Nor have they silenced his song. He still loves to sing. And he recently told an interviewer that he loves taking his speed boat for a run whenever possible. This centenarian enjoys working on his computer, too.

I met Bev Shea only once several years ago in Nashville. He had just exited a hotel and was waiting for a cab. I was leaving, too, for the short walk to my own hotel. Even in the very brief and casual conversation that ensued, he was most gracious.

Last week, Neil Enloe, well known from his years with the Couriers (and still singing with his long-time partners, Duane Nicholson and Dave Kyllonen) wrote the following, which I think is a most fitting tribute to the man who rightfully has often been called "America's Beloved Gospel Singer."

"While the whole nation clamors for the Super Bowl this Sunday, I would just like to remind you that a real Super Hero is celebrating his 100th birthday on the same day. George Beverly Shea becomes a centenarian with Heaven's distinguished service award as a Gospel singer. We all should be so fortunate, huh?

"What's a Super Bowl game that took only a year to ripen and could go either direction, compared to the well-seasoned, committed career of a humble servant of Jesus Christ who never lowered his standard of excellence or his integrity?

"I'm certainly not trying to dampen the excitement of the big game, but for my part I would rather receive the "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" Award, than to have Super Bowl rings on all eight fingers. And while Mr. Shea's big milestone will doubtless be overshadowed by the game, the triumph of his lifetime accomplishments for Christ will most certainly be the object of the party of Heavenly hosts, where the real score is kept. One party will hand out rings; the other, crowns."

Well said! May God grant Bev Shea many more years of song.


PS: If you haven't seen Bill Gaither's tribute to George Beverly Shea, which includes many songs by, and comments from, Mr. Shea, you would thoroughly enjoy it. Here's the link to this DVD in our webstore:

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