Spreading God's Word

Commentary by Ben Bowen King

“Oh What A Morning”
by The Rev. Pearly Brown
from You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion

The Bible says to avoid folks who stand on street corners and make a big, public deal about their spirituality. But it doesn’t say anything about street musicians who get out there with funky blues guitars and spread the gospel to shoppers strolling along the sidewalk.

That’s what The Rev. Pearly Brown did. He was one of the last of a breed of musicians known as “sidewalk saints.” They were musicians who took to the streets during the 1930s and started melding Black gospel music with the blues. Skipping the seminary and formal education in general, “the saints” added “The Reverend” to their names and flooded the streets with gospel music.

By the 1960s, however, up-tight merchants and changing musical tastes wiped out most of “the saints”–except The Rev. Brown. The folk boom of the ‘60s brought him to a national audience that included rapt listeners at Carnegie Hall. Yet up until his death in 1982, Brown would often still feel the call of the street, take time out from a concert tour and find a corner where he could spread the gospel via song.

Though many of his tunes had  a traditional fire and brimstone tinge to them, much of his repertoire included songs about the beauty of God’s creation as we hear on “Oh What A Morning.”

Jesus orders his followers to spread “The Word” to the four corners of the Earth. Think about the ways you spread the gospel in everyday life. Most of us don't go the “TV preacher route,” and that’s probably a good thing. And not all of us can write the “life-changing” inspirational book that lands us a spot on Oprah’s couch. But how much difference does that make in the larger scheme?

Ask yourself the following questions: 


  • What is more important to you, a goodly act that garners lots of attention or offering a quiet, comforting word to someone in distress? Why?
  • How does a “random act of kindness” compare in value to a high-profile charity campaign?
  • Is God’s grin wider when a soul is saved by a song heard on a street corner or at Carnegie Hall?


Help explorefaith. Purchase your copy of YOU'RE GONNA NEED THAT PURE RELIGION through amazon.com.