Under the same roof that once sheltered a bar and a dance club, Pastor Fred Martie asks for a witness. He receives a rousing “Amen” from a congregation of about 40 people, and he tells them they have an opportunity to be blessed this night.
Then the music begins.
Feet tap on the wooden floor and hands clap to the beat as Southern gospel music fills Living Faith Center in Ashland. It’s monthly music night, and the small country church in the Fowler Creek valley is just warming up.
Living Faith is set up for a night like this. The altar at the front extends the width of the building and is lighted from above. And the ceiling is low there — about 7 feet — leaving little room for sound to go but out over the pews.
After a brief performance by Martie’s group, Out of the Valley Quartet, New Horizons takes the stage. They open with “Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies,” and the voices of the Rhoades family from Lebanon, Mo., blend in rich harmony.
Max Rhoades looms large on stage and sings lead soprano. Brother Danny Rhoades adds the tenor, and sister Becky Rhoades Buttrey fills in with alto. They joke that their voices may be better suited for bluegrass, but their passion for the Lord seems to suggest otherwise.
The church shakes with conviction as men, women and children sing along with the group. Although the family’s songs cover topics as varied as love, home, the devil and food, their emotion remains constant.
“This music causes people to drop their defenses and open up their hearts,” Martie says during a break in singing.
The Rhoadeses celebrated their 36th year of music ministry this summer. “It’s what God wants us to do,” Danny says.
They spend more than 50 weekends a year traveling the Midwest and singing the word of God. Their large red tour bus and extensive collection of professional sound equipment hint at the success they have had on the road.
But group members know they are just messengers. “Jesus is the main attraction,” Danny and his siblings say in song.
Later, Martie agrees. “Music is a doorway to preach the gospel.” He says the music nights at his church are a great way to reach people and let them experience the Lord firsthand.
As the night draws to a close, Glenn Sherrick of Sturgeon rejoices in the pews with his daughter and granddaughter while the Rhoadeses sing his favorite song, “Blessed Assurance.” Raising his hands in praise and tilting his head toward the heavens, he sings with the group.
“It gets into your soul,” Sherrick says.