Faith Matters

Humming a hymn is just as satisfying as singing for tenor Earl Taylor.

"There's something about moaning," said Taylor, a retired Southern University professor and former longtime member of the musical staff at Mount Zion Baptist Church of Baton Rouge. "There's something about humming.

"There's something about what it makes you feel like when you allow your soul, when you allow your emotions to be expressed in music," he said. "No greater feeling has no man than when he could sing if there's no one else listening."

Many are sure to be listening as Taylor, 77, will be among the featured singers at a free program focusing on hymns. "An Evening of Sacred and Gospel Music" is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 28 at University Baptist Church, 5775 Highland Road, Baton Rouge.

Joining Taylor and the various choirs and ensembles of University Baptist will be pianist Benji Harlan, of New Orleans, who is a professor at the New Baptist Theological Seminary and Louisiana College, said Randy Gurie, one of the event's organizers.

Taylor, who has performed for the Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus, said music, including the sacred hymns, are a vital part of the worship experience.

"Removing the hymns from church is like removing prayer," said Taylor, still a part of the choir at Mount Zion, where he has been a member for 60 years.

Hymns transcend denominations, Taylor added. "They're drawn from Scripture. They're drawn for experiences that are personal in nature, and they are written to express worshipful desires of the parishioners. Without music in worship, there's a lot that is missing. Music isn't just there to fill up a space or to be entertaining. It's part of worship."

Taylor, who has sung at various venues throughout the country over the years and has been a regular at University Baptist, said music is the universal language.

"It doesn't matter what the language is," he said. "Whether you're in Switzerland or Swaziland, whether it is done by a German group or a Spanish group or an American group, it doesn't matter. It has the same statement. It has the same fervor. It has the same expression."

Hymns at the concert will include "There's Room at the Cross for You" by Taylor as well as "Blessed Assurance," "At the Cross," "Rock of Ages" and "Swing Low." There will be an intermission and reception.

Reaching all generations

A heart for young people and the later generation has been one of the hallmarks of the Rev. Ricardo Handy's 16-year ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church No. 2 in Plaquemine.

Handy, 38, will mostly focus on youth as the guest speaker at a youth pew rally at 11 a.m. Sunday at Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1204 St. Joseph St. in Baton Rouge.

The theme for the event to support the church's youth ministry is "Standing Strong for the Lord" taken from Ephesians 6:10-13. It will include special music and dance.

Handy said a key to a successful ministry is presenting the gospel in a way that each generation can understand.

"The Bible talks about there's every kind in the net, and I believe that you have to be able to present the gospel to every kind," he said.

The message doesn't change, but the method can, Handy said.

"Jesus is the only way to God, but there's many ways to come to Christ," he said. "We have to be able to present the gospel, bringing people to Christ in many different fashions so that we reach a variety of people."

Handy has followed that example at Mount Zion No. 2, 24400 Eleanor Drive. The church offers a nursery and variety of ministries, including youth church.

"They go to a separate place where they can minister to them on their level," he said.

One of Handy's frequent encouragement to youth people is they are not exempt from the outpouring of God's spirit.

"Even if you're young, God can pour out his spirt on you, and God can still use you to do things for him and be a blessing to others," he said. "(Mount Zion) might be in the country, but (God) said ‘I'll pour out my spirit in the utmost parts,' and we're included in the outpouring."

‘Fake Christianity'

The fake Christianity evidence in so many of America's churches is "sickening" and disgusting, says author C.B. Matthews.

And Matthews is a Christian himself.

In his book "Fake Christianity" (WestBow Press), Matthews challenges Christians not to be superficial and instead to be better witnesses for Christ.

"It sickens me to see people who call themselves Christians blatantly go against God's Word, claiming it is because they are enlightened, and tell everyone how happy God is with them because of their level of understanding," Matthews writes.

It is also disheartening to see how the devil's lies "are being followed and swallowed in the church today," he said.

He writes, "Whether they come from our culture, beliefs, sinful nature or Satan himself, I don't know, and I really couldn't care less. All I know is these lies are being consumed by the church, by whole denominations, and by unsuspecting Christians who should know better."

Matthews, a missionary who resides in Colorado, goes on to detail some of those lies in the 141-page book.

Matthews admonishes church leaders for not having the courage to speak the whole truth of God's word. He reminds readers that teachers and others in positions of leadership will be judged more strictly.

"God's Word is not limited to grace, love, mercy and forgiveness," Matthews writes. "You are committing a spiritual crime if you are a messenger of God in any capacity and you do not include topics such as God's wrath, justice, judgment and holiness in your teaching. If you never challenge people to pursue righteousness, to live holy lives, to be concerned about sin or to fear God, I wonder what Bible you are reading."

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.