I debated with myself quite a while about posting this story. I’ve told it to very few people. I figure it’s time I shared it. Some of you will think I’ve lost it. That’s okay. I’m past being concerned about that. It’s an occurrence that Danice Sweet and I will never forget.
Before the story can be told, a little background is necessary. Early on in my Acappella career (circa early ‘89), we had a concert in northern Alabama. I think it was Florence, but it might have been Huntsville. Wayburn, George and I were still pretty new to the whole Acappella experience. Rodney was the old pro and we were learning fast.
Our concert that evening had been a great success. The house was packed and the crowd was very responsive. We finished our last song and left stage. The crowd was having none of that and called us back for an encore, which we didn’t expect in the least. What artist does? Sorry, I digress.
Just as the four of us reached stage and started setting up our mic stands for the last song, we heard Rodney over on the far left of the stage saying something like, “Please, don’t do this…” As we looked over, we saw a man, about our age, forcing his way to the microphone. It turned out that this was an old acquaintance of Rodney and he had a bone to pick with us.
He spent the next 5 minutes berating us in front of the packed crowd for our unscriptural approach to gospel music. I won’t go into the theology of it all at this point. Suffice it to say, he was greatly convicted and felt compelled to show us the error of our ways in front of everyone.
Looking back, it was pretty humorous. As soon as he started talking, our sound engineer promptly reached up and turned off the mains, leaving the monitors on. This fellow could hear himself very well (as could we), but the crowd had trouble making out what he said. Good move.
Anyway, it was like a bucket of cold water had been poured over everyone’s head. Talk about quenching the Spirit, this guy had grabbed him by the collar and slapped hard several times.
When he had said his piece and left stage, Rodney called him by name and quoted Matthew 18:15 – “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” He countered this guy’s near-rage with the Word of God. The crowd became re-energized, we sang Well on My Way and the evening ended on a somewhat somber up-note. We spent the next 90 minutes speaking with audience members and encouraging one another.
And thus the story begins. Since we we’re in northern Alabama and only a few hours from our home in Tennessee, we opted to drive home after the concert. That was unusual in itself. Our norm was to spend the night and move on the next day.
As we boarded the bus, everyone was in a reflective mood. We all knew that what this guy had said was a load of hog-hooey. Still, it had effected us greatly. I believe it was the first time we, as a new formation, had dealt with strong objection to our ministry… especially so publicly. We had been greatly encouraged by the audience, but Satan was still working on us, creating doubt and fear.
After a few minutes of driving, everyone retired to their bunks with the exception of Danice and I. The two of us and the driver were left in the front room and we continued the conversation. We spoke of many things. The topic moved from our feelings of sorrow for the mic-grabbing fellow, to how wonderful it was to be encouraged by brothers and sisters, to the strength freely given by the Holy Spirit and eventually to how nice it would be to hear trumpets and just go on home.
At this point, I must explain how we were sitting. Danice was sitting on the couch with her back to the wall, facing forward as the driver was. I, on the other hand, was sitting in a swiveling chair up front, near the shotgun seat. I had the chair turned back so I could speak to Danice. My view was directly down the hall where the bunks were located. In that old bus – Big Red – we had two sections of bunks that were stacked three high. Danice could look at me and see me looking at her or down the hallway.
As we were speaking about these spiritual matters, there was a palpable feeling of the Spirit present among us. It was then that I noticed George was crawling out of his bunk, the middle bunk of the front section. I wondered why he was getting up? He was easy to see, dressed in his white satin jogging suit. He stood out well against the dark hallway.
It was then I remembered that George had been wearing his black satin jogging suit when he retired. When had he changed? As soon as this realization hit me, George proceeded to rise into the air and float out of the bus at a 45 degree angle.
To this day, I don’t know what I did or how I responded. All I know is Danice immediately and insistently started loudly asking me if I was okay. She tells me that my eyes got about as big as a silver dollar and I turned white as George’s jogging suit… which he wasn’t wearing. But something standing in that hallway WAS wearing white. All the way through the roof.
I can’t tell you for certain that I was looking at an angel. It may have been a combination of exhaustion, nerves and passing headlights playing tricks on me. I don’t know. It looked real enough to me. Angel or not, God used this to put a punctuation mark on our conversation. He was present and actively working in our lives. We we’re not alone and there was no need to try and face the enemy with our own strength.
It was one of many events in the coming years that irreversibly changed me. I’ll never forget it.
Neither will Neecy. I think I scared her to death.