Michael Booth talks about God’s provision in uncertain times
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – When The Booth Brothers take the stage, you just know there will be countless smiles in the audience.
You know those smooth distinctive harmonies will be presenting the gospel in a way designed to uplift the hurting and challenge the church. And you know that Jesus will be glorified with every note sung.
And you know there will be much laughter. How can anyone not hit the chuckle button with Michael Booth up to his on-stage antics? Predictably, the words “he ain’t right” were uttered from the stage and in the crowd when The Booth Brothers sang to a nearly packed house at Sand Spring Baptist Church on May 26.
But nothing is truly predictable in life. It’s something every person encounters almost every day. And right now, Michael Booth is living a life of unpredictability. He’s experienced a renewed understanding of what living by faith really means.
He’s loving how God’s faithfulness is on display every time The Booth Brothers step to the microphone and sing classics like “Shall We Gather at the River,” and “Rise Again.” The message is there in recent songs like Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Take Another Step.” the title cut on their latest project.
“My philosophy is ‘God calls, He provides,’” Booth smiles with the confidence of someone who has been reminded of God’s provision often over the last 27 months.
First, there was the COVID-19 pandemic. Like every artist, The Booth Brothers experienced a drastic downturn in concerts as they were prohibited in many areas and severely limited in most others. But, like many others, The Booth Brothers endured 2020 and looked to bounce back in 2021.
Not so fast!
Last spring, Michael’s older brother, Ronnie, decided it was time to step away from touring. During the concert, Michael explained that Ronnie just felt he no longer had the fire necessary to continue in the ministry. The announcement was made on social media last June 4.
(Asked how his brother is doing, Michael says, “Ronnie is doing great. He updates us every week. He’s in real estate. I tell everybody I know that I know what he sold his last house for. He’s doing just fine! You can see it on his face. He’s my brother and I can read him like a book. He’s very much at peace, rested and content. And that makes me very happy.”)
Ronnie’s golden voice would no longer be on the road, leaving a huge void in The Booth Brothers. During the concert, Michael admits he didn’t know if he should shut things down but he’s sure that God took care of things. A chance text message brought gospel veteran Buddy Mullins aboard to fill Ronnie’s spot in the lineup.
“Not to sound super-spiritual or anything, but I think God ordained it,” Michael says of the transition. “I think God led that. Buddy sent me a text. We chatted over the years, but never a long conversation to speak of but we had tremendous mutual respect. He sent me a text out of the blue, knowing nothing about the situation and Ronnie leaving. He had a new solo album and he just sent me the latest single and said, ‘I just wanted to let you hear it.’
“When I looked at that and saw that name come up, I thought, ‘My goodness, if we could get a guy of that level to come in here when Ronnie leaves, that would sure help me relax. So I called him and asked him if he would consider taking this gig. I already knew he could sing and was a blending, harmony type guy.”
After some prayer and contemplation, Mullins accepted. You can read his account of how he became a Booth Brother in the next installment of this series.
Michael, Buddy and Paul Lancaster hit the road and found time to head to the studio for the “Take Another Step” CD, but Paul was enduring the passing of his wife, Michelle, along with a brother. On November 17, Lancaster announced “the events of this year have taken a huge toll on my mental, spiritual, and physical well-being and made it difficult to give The Booth Brothers and our audiences my best.”
After eight years, Lancaster would also be leaving The Booth Brothers. Jim Brady, who had been with the group for 12 years before embarking on a ministry endeavor with his wife, Melissa, would be returning to the group in January 2022.
(Michael said he had not talked to Lancaster for a few weeks but Mullins often connects with him. “Paul is hanging in there,” Booth noted. Brady will talk about his return to The Booth Brothers as well as his own ministry, in the third installment of this series.)
But with two major changes in The Booth Brothers’ lineup in a seven-month timeframe, the inevitable comparisons follow, especially in relation to Mullins and Ronnie Booth.
“It’s different,” Michael says. “Someone asked me and I said, ‘It sounds like The Booth Brothers with different singers.’
“It couldn’t be more different in some respects, but blending and harmony, (Buddy and Ronnie) can both lead a very large, full voice thing, very smooth. On solos, it is the difference between night and day. Buddy brings a power and a range that we have never used before and we are using it, I think, very tactfully and with great effectiveness.”
Regardless of who is in The Booth Brothers’ lineup, the focus is always on Christ and ministry. The humor and Michael’s craziness on stage are part of the effort to lift burdens from people navigating the harsh world of 2022. It’s a world that Booth believes needs Jesus more than ever. Before singing Bill and Gloria Gaither’s “I Am Loved” – another cut from the latest CD – Booth says that many of the world’s problems would disappear if people lived the words to the song.
Jesus is the reason The Booth Brothers continue. “You can’t use Jesus as a drawing card and not make much of Him,” Michael says. “That’s what gospel music is ultimately about. It’s what Christ has done for us, what the Father’s plan was, the gift of the Holy Spirit, all of that trumps everything.
“There is a performance and there is entertainment. I know some people are afraid of those words but we are performing songs, we are doing things that are entertaining. I would even use a word that a lot of people don’t like to use, and I don’t like it in certain contexts, but pragmatism. It’s a little bit pragmatic to use these things, to use these skill sets that God has given us for the purpose of presenting the good news of the gospel.
“Bill Gaither answered the question of is it ministry or is it entertainment in this way: You are going to have to ask the people, the ones sitting out in the audience listening. Are they receiving ministry from it? Or are they simply receiving entertainment from it? I like that answer to that.
“I know what our motive is, but I don’t know the motive of the listener.”
There can be no doubt of The Booth Brothers’ motive. It’s simply to glorify the One who saved them and blesses them every day. And Michael lives relying on God’s provision every day.
“I don’t do too many interviews, but I did one earlier this week and the question was ‘What are your long term plans?’
“I want to say this in a positive way, but I am not looking as far out as I used to because it is so uncertain and is changing so rapidly that I am not making long, long term plans. Basically, it’s what I can see that’s coming down the pike. We are booking dates. I try to be careful with routing and what it costs in getting from one town to another. Five-and-a-half miles to the gallon of diesel fuel, that costs a lot of money. The next album is about as far out as I am looking.”
But through it all, God provides. Michael says he doesn’t ask, but simply trusts God’s provision.
“One night, someone gave a $1,000 dollar check. Someone else gave $300 or $400 toward fuel. Thats 1,300 or 1,400 dollars,” Michael says, “and that’s probably about how much more that trip would have cost. I didn’t add it up but that covered it. So God provides!”
Michael can only smile as he relates the story and gives some encouragement to those who would attend Booth Brothers’ concerts. God gives certainty in an unpredictable world.
“Listen, Christians in America, it doesn’t get any easier than that,” he says. “We have had it so easy for so long. All you had to do was work a little harder and you could overcome that problem, for the most part. It’s not that simple any more. For the first time in my career, other than the beginning days when things were getting really tight, let’s just say it’s been a lot of years since I had to walk by faith financially. And I am having to do it.
“But you know what? God is faithful.”