Worship & a Word: According to Your Faith

by: Smokie Norful

Gospel singer and Baptist minister Smokie Norful's Worship & a Word series of CDs ($5.98 list) combines a full-length sermon with one song reflective of the sermon's theme. Unlike the other initial discs in the series, Matters of the Heart (which addresses the role of God in emotional relationships) and The Myth of Unmet Needs (which is about God and material success), According to Your Faith deals with an esoteric subject, if one that is fundamental in terms of church dogma: the dichotomy between faith and good works as means of salvation. This is, of course, one of the 95 theses that Martin Luther nailed on the church door in Wittenberg, leading to the start of the Protestant Reformation. But that might not be fully appreciated by Norful's congregation, and he doesn't mention it. He does, of course, take the Protestant point of view, that faith alone is required. Perhaps realizing that his basic theme is not exactly a grabber (or even necessarily comprehensible) to his listeners, he frequently asks if he's being understood and quickly adds such remarks as "Let me break it down for you," "Let me help you out," and "Let me make it plain." This he does through common examples, including Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé, as well as by using anecdotes referring to his wife, his children, and his parents and grandparents. In fact, at times he gets so far along into these stories that he seems to have lost the thread of the sermon. But the next in a list of scriptural references always brings him back to the point. He also uses his style of presentation to keep his listeners engaged, frequently working himself up to shouting at the top of his lungs, though what he's shouting about doesn't always seem to justify his fervor. Still, he gets his point across: to the Protestant believer, even if faith may be assumed naturally to lead to good works, it is only faith, not works, that matters. Martin Luther is smiling somewhere, even if his ears are ringing. (Some relief is provided by the closing song, "Run Til I Finish," a gospel ballad.) ~ William Ruhlmann

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