Archives For George Beverly Shea

Famed musician George Beverly Shea passed away April 16.

Famed musician George Beverly Shea passed away April 16.


There’s an ancient treasure housed in our sanctuary. It’s a Hammond organ with its Leslie speaker, a gift to the church from George Beverly Shea.

Hearing that “Bev” had died April 16, I immediately thought of the old Hammond. Long-timers at the church remember how Shea, who lived nearby, sometimes sang concerts there. On one annual visit, he noted that the church’s electronic organ had seen better days, and since he was getting a new instrument for his home, he would give them his trusty Hammond. Only half as old as 104-year-old Shea, it served faithfully him, then us for half a century. How many times must that squat brown machine with its wonderful tremolo have accompanied Billy Graham’s famed soloist.

When I first heard the organ’s history, I sat on the bench and tried to pick my way through “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” When Shea was a young man still living at home in Canada, he was facing a particular spiritual struggle. His mother sensed her son’s trouble and left a copy of the poem by Rhea Miller on their piano.

“I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,” young Shea read when he saw it. “I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.”

Shea at 20 made his choice and soon set the tune to music. He eventually gained fame not because he sought it, but because he turned to Christ. He could have been a star opera singer, but he chose the ministry instead.

Joining the Graham team in his 40s, Shea was Graham’s featured singer for more than 60 years. He produced 70 gospel albums, won a host of awards, and always sang about Jesus just before the evangelist preached. In Los Angeles and New York and Moscow and London, no matter how famous or contemporary the night’s musical guest, Shea always sang pure gospel in simple bass clef before Graham delivered the message of salvation.

I saw this in person at one of the last crusades. I crashed the choir loft. It was an accident. Arriving at the stadium early, I found myself in a line at the only open door. It was the entrance for the choir. So, intentionally, I went with the crowd.

Wedged between tenors and basses, I watched all the backstage happenings. A few moments before Dr. Graham was to preach, a golf cart brought a spry white-haired man to a special entrance. He climbed up to the pulpit and in an instant, I was singing back-up for George Beverly Shea – me and 2,000 of my closest friends.

“We should sing ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus,’” I said to our worship leader just after the old saint’s passing.

And we did.

Grateful for his musical gifts and for his enduring legacy, we could say from Shea’s example, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything 
this world affords today.”

Eric Reed is a pastor and journalist in Wheaton, Illinois. He is serving Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Shortly after his son Matthew’s suicide April 5, Rick Warren posted a petition on his church’s website to help raise awareness about mental illness. The petition “urges educators, lawmakers, healthcare, and congregations to raise the awareness and lower the stigma of mental illness, and also to support families that are dealing with mental illness on a daily basis,” according to

His son was one of more than 11 million Americans suffering from severe mental illness, Warren wrote in the petition. He and his wife Kay also have established The Matthew Warren Fund for Mental Health. Read more at Saddleback’s website, or read Christian Post’s full story here.

Other News

Scouts will vote on allowing gay members, but not leaders
At the Boy Scouts national convention in May, members will vote on whether to allow gay-identifying youth to join the organization, while keeping a ban on homosexual leaders. Earlier this year, Boy Scouts discussed allowing both gay members and leaders, but as a “local option” for sponsoring organizations to decide. The policy up for review in May sets a national standard with no local option, Baptist Press reported.

“Though this resolution is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality than what was being considered before, we would still prefer no change in the policy,” said Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Frank Page. “A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support.”

Read the full story at

George Beverly Shea dies at age 104
The world mourned one of Gospel music’s most beloved and memorable voices last week, when famed soloist and composer George Beverly Shea passed away after a brief illness. Shea was best known for his performances during Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades, and for songs like “I’d Rather Have Jesus” and “The Wonder of it All.” Read more at

Movie-making pastors to start new production company
The creators of movies “Courageous,” “Fireproof,” and “Facing the Giants” have announced they will start an independent production company focused on faith-based films. Alex and Stephen Kendrick will remain on staff at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., and use aspiring Christian filmmakers and students to help make their next film, Baptist Press reported. The brothers’ previous movie-making efforts relied largely on actors and volunteer crew members from their church.

“We have such a burden to help the next generation do this from a biblical perspective,” Alex Kendrick told Baptist Press. “We’ve got to reproduce ourselves and duplicate ourselves, and we think this is the way to do it.” Read the full story at