Mission trip brings bluegrass music to Canada

Communications Staff — October 28, 2008

While bluegrass music may seem like a logical tool to use for introducing people to the Gospel in the American south, it doesn’t seem quite as useful in the Canadian northeast.

But don’t tell that to a mission team from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary that recently traveled to Newfoundland.

The team used a bluegrass band to gather crowds at venues throughout the province and saw some Canadians express openness to the Gospel. While the band played, other team members walked through the crowds starting conversations and eventually turning them to the Gospel. The team conducted their ministry in cooperation with a church-planting ministry called New Life Newfoundland.

“We did have opportunity to share the gospel with a number of people,” George Martin, trip leader and M. Theron Rankin Professor of Christian Missions, said. “We were also able to put people in touch with New Life Newfoundland when they expressed interest in finding an evangelical ministry or church.”

The mission team of 19 Southern students and faculty included Southern Seminary professor William Cutrer and his wife Jane, who led a marriage enrichment seminar for Canadians in the city of St. John’s.

Martin said the Canadians he encountered often were hardened to the gospel. Though people acted friendly and talked willingly, they frequently walked away as soon as the conversation turned to Christianity.

He talked to one woman for some time at a concert, who proved to be typical of what the team encountered.

“As soon as I turned to a Gospel witness, she literally walked away—with a smile on her face; she was very gracious—walked away with her hands out and said, ‘I don’t believe any of that stuff! I don’t believe any of that stuff!’

“And that was a fairly typical response that we received there,” Martin said.

Some people did seem to be more fertile ground for the Gospel, however. At an outside concert, the team talked with a group of bikers passing through the area. After distributing Gospel tracts, he noticed one biker standing off to the side with his tract.

“I was amazed as I watched him. He had pulled aside, and it looked to me as if he was reading very carefully this tract. He was standing there reading it page by page very carefully and slowly,” Martin said.

“I pray from him. And, I wonder what that planted seed will do in that man’s life. Clearly he was paying attention to the material we put in his hand.”

Jeffrey Gayhart, a master of divinity student from Bedford, Ky., played guitar and sang in the bluegrass band. He said the trip taught him how unconventional methods can often help communicate the Gospel more effectively.

“One thing the trip definitely showed me was that there are different ways to preach the Gospel and to reach people outside the old tried and true,” Gayhart said. “Sometimes you can take something that seems incongruent, like bluegrass and Canada, and those two actually have a common denominator in that they can tie together to get a hearing for the Gospel.”

For Paul Hudson, a master of divinity student from Norfolk, Va., the trip confirmed a call to return to New England or Atlantic Canada for pastoral ministry.

“I believe I’m called to be a pastor,” Hudson said. “And I’m currently sending out applications to churches in New England and Atlantic Canada.

“And I know that region is particularly hard with respect to the Gospel and so being in St. John’s just kind of confirmed that for me and gave me more conviction that that’s where we should be going.”

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

Apply now for summer or fall studies

Classes begin in June & Aug.