Conversation: Mark Trammell
Trading religion for relationship
Mark Trammell is an evangelist and singer. He has won
multiple awards as a singer and producer, and has been a member of five of
gospel music’s most acclaimed groups — The Kingsmen, The Cathedrals,
Greater Vision, Gold City and now The Mark Trammell Trio. Editor Ken Horn
visited with Mark at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.
tpe: You talk about accepting Christ as your Savior on a
golf course. How did that happen?
TRAMMELL: I’m the youngest of four Baptist preacher’s kids.
I grew up knowing what religion was all about, but I didn’t understand the
difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus Christ. It didn’t
matter that I was already singing gospel music.
In April 1988, evangelist Bailey Smith preached in a
Starlight Crusade in Spartanburg, S.C., during the time I was with the
Cathedrals. We were singing for one night of the crusade, and Dr. Smith
preached a message called, “What Happens When God Says ‘Enough’?”
I remember getting on our bus and pondering in my heart, OK,
Lord, there’s something that’s stirring inside of me. I don’t know what it is,
and I don’t know why it is. For months I thought about that.
In July, we sang at another Starlight Crusade at First
Southern Baptist Church in Dell City, Okla. Dr. Tom Elliff, Dr. Smith’s
brother-in-law, is the pastor. My friend Jim Murray, an Assemblies of God
brother with the Imperials, gave me another cassette with a message from Dr.
Smith called, “Wheat or Tares?” Dr. Smith compared saved and lost church
members and how they can look identical seated in the pew in the church.
I was absolutely miserable. I was with the No. 1 quartet in
America. My family was growing. Everything was good on the outside, but on the
inside I was miserable. And the Lord spoke to my heart through the Holy Spirit: You know all about Me, but you don’t know Me. There’s a difference.
There was a golf outing for 16 people from First Southern
Baptist during that crusade. I told the Lord that morning, “God, if I am lost,
let me play golf with Pastor Elliff today.”
Dr. Elliff was the last one there, and the game’s organizer
paired the two of us. At the third tee box when I got out of the cart, I just
grabbed Dr. Elliff’s hand and put it on my chest. My heart felt like it was
going to beat out of my chest.
ÒMark,Ó Dr. Elliff said, ÒwhatÕs wrong with you? YouÕre not
having a sunstroke?Ó
ÒIÕm not having a sunstroke,Ó I said. ÒThereÕs something you
donÕt know about me. IÕm lost. I know about Jesus, but I donÕt know Him.Ó
ÒWell,Ó he said, Òright here is a great place to find out
So he got on his knees, and I got on my knees right there at
the third tee box of the Willow Creek Golf Course. I asked the Lord to save me
that day, and He did. I know the difference now between knowing about Jesus and
knowing Him as Savior.
tpe: How did that change your life?
TRAMMELL: That night when we got to the church, the choir
was singing, “So I’ll cherish the Old Rugged Cross.” For the first time, I
really heard that song. It broke me right where I stood. I’d sung it a million
times, and it had never had the effect on me that it had that night.
tpe: You’ve been with the Kingsmen, the Cathedrals, Greater
Vision and Gold City. What is one of your most memorable experiences from those
years of ministry?
TRAMMELL: I think one of the milestones for me was when the
Cathedrals recorded in London with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. We began
to sing, “For what earthly reason would the Father send down His Son,” and the
orchestra began to play. The concertmaster, who’s the first-chair violinist as
well, had tears rolling down his cheeks. I don’t think any of us were the same
after we got back from that trip. I saw the power of God at work through this music,
through this medium of music I’ve been a part of now for 34 years. It can
change a man’s life.
tpe: How did the Mark Trammell Trio come about?
TRAMMELL: I surrendered to God’s call to evangelism in 1990,
but was still singing in quartets through the next decade. God reminded me of
His calling. In 2002 I left Gold City with their blessing and their help. God
has opened doors for evangelism, and as He has, we’ve seen hundreds of people
come to the saving knowledge of Jesus in the last six years. I thank God for
every one of them. With the trio, I’m preaching more than I ever have.
tpe: What does the Lord lead you to speak about?
TRAMMELL: I tell people that being involved in religion
isn’t enough. You may be on your way to hell and you don’t even realize it
because what you have is religion instead of Jesus. You don’t have a
relationship with the One who died for you; you just know about Him.
When we have a longer engagement, I like to minister on the
family, particularly to husbands. I want a husband to understand how God sees
him and views him and where God would have him to be in the life of the family,
in the life of the home. I’m convinced in my heart, if a dad or husband will
return to that responsibility role, the rest of the family will come into
alignment as far as where we are in light of where God wants us and who He
wants us to be.
tpe: You’re involved with Silver Dollar City in Branson,
Mo., and their Southern Gospel Picnic.
TRAMMELL: My hat’s off to Silver Dollar City for one big
reason: Every year they devote a number of days in a row to gospel music. I
think God has honored the Southern Gospel Picnic in that it’s the largest
attended event they have all year long. I think I know why Silver Dollar City
is more popular across this nation than it has ever been in its history. It’s
because someone was willing to step out of the box and say, “You know what,
let’s just honor God and allow His music to come into this park.” One of the
smartest things they’ve done is bring Christian music to this venue. It is
actually a secular-oriented event that lets us take what we do and do it the
way we do it, and people who may never go to a church can embrace it and enjoy
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