Michael and Jan Gott have always believed that their marriage has been a gift from God to each of them; truly a marriage made in Heaven. They have traveled the globe preaching the Gospel of Christ and witnessing God’s great blessing and His confirmation and victory in their ministry as they have followed and trusted Him at every turn.
Then in 2007 the Singing Men of Texas – North Central became a ministry partner with Michael Gott International. Don Blackley, who has been the Director of this group for over 25 years, provides his perspective of this powerful partnership:
“In 2005 my Singing Men of Texas – North Central officers and I met to lay plans for the year ahead. Our choir had been all over the world singing and testifying for Christ. But we had never given a full gospel message and called people to follow Christ with an invitation after one of our concerts. I challenged the men to kneel that day and ask God to give us an anointed evangelist who could help us draw our audiences to Christ. As soon as we stood up from that prayer, John Bell, who had served with Michael in Poland, said, ‘I think we need to talk to Michael Gott.’
“We talked with him, and in 2007 we went on our first mission trip to Czech Republic and Austria with Michael. The first time he heard one of our full concerts, he grabbed me and said, ‘You’ve got to go to Ukraine with me!’ And God answered our prayer and gave us His anointed evangelist, his incredibly talented family, and a hard-working team in Ukraine Michael had developed over the years. And God has used us together to draw tens of thousands to make positive written responses to follow Jesus Christ. We’re so grateful for Michael and Jan!”
When Don approached Michael after he attended a Singing Men of Texas concert it was the fulfillment of a vision for Michael Gott. He remembers that Don asked him how he saw his ministry, and would he consider moving forward in a relationship with the choir. Michael replied, “Don, I can tell you immediately that this is exactly what I think God had in mind from the very beginning for our ministry in evangelism. This perfectly fits with my own vision of what I was supposed to do.”
Michael explained to me, “So, if anybody can use the term ‘a marriage made in Heaven,’ not only my marriage to Jan, but also our relationship with the Singing Men of North Central Texas is also.”
Michael and the Singing Men of Texas – North Central have experienced a tremendous harvest together since 2007. That year was their first in joint ministry in Austria and Czech Republic. Since then, numerous mission efforts have been made to Ukraine and they are scheduled to travel to Hungary and Romania in 2019. Michael is convinced that this continues to be the hand of God leading, “Long before The Singing Men invited me to partner with them, God had spiritually, and in other ways, prepared me with a vision for the kind of ministry that we’re involved in right now.”
The Singing Men of Texas has six chapters across the state and is associated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. They are composed of men who are associated with Baptist music, most of whom are ministers of music in Baptist churches across Texas. The largest group is the North Central group.
The men that traveled on that first mission trip to Europe with Michael were thrilled that they witnessed 77 people accept Christ from their 6 concerts on that trip. That number was more than the number of baptisms in all of Austria in 2006. Then…Ukraine was experienced by these dedicated Christian ministers. The energy and ministry success began to take on new levels of excitement for the message they proclaim and for what they do, as hundreds at each concert began indicating decisions for Christ.
The first two trips to Ukraine in 2010 and 2012 were aboard river boat cruise ships. The first began at Kiev and proceeded down the Dnieper River, stopping at various ports to present their concerts and back on the ship to the next port. The second took them across the Black Sea into Crimea. These were comfortable, accommodating and somewhat luxurious mission trips.
But, obviously, God was at work through Michael Gott and the Singing Men as they sang in large concert halls and approximately 50% of the people attending the concerts were making decisions to accept Christ. During the trip in 2010 they sang to over 10,000 people in 11 concerts with 4,567 indicated decisions for Christ. In 2012 over 8,800 attended 7 concerts with 3,998 positive decisions.
After the first two concerts that first year the men of the choir were stunned because so many positive decisions were being made. All of these men and their wives minister in the “Buckle of the Bible Belt” in Texas. Folks that come to their churches each Sunday can be “Gospel hardened” and get in a spiritual rut and simply “go to church” each week. So, these large numbers of decisions in Ukraine were shocking to these ministers of music who struggle each Sunday to keep their worship services alive and relevant and pray hard for their congregations, desiring to see God’s power among them. Now, they were witnessing hundreds each night gladly receiving their message of hope. The confusion among the group was, “What is happening here? Is this emotional hype or is this real?”
But Michael Gott, the seasoned veteran of ministry in Ukraine, brought it all into perspective for them. During these trips, Michael brings a “morning after” devotional time with the group. The concert from the previous evening has left the men tired, excited and very anxious to sing again. Michael’s message brings their feet back to the solid ground and prepares them spiritually for that day’s ministry.
After the second concert on the first trip, and around 1,000 decisions recorded, Michael understood the choir’s concern. He explained that they all must realize who these people are that are sitting in these congregations each night. They come from Russian Communist backgrounds. In that environment they would never align themselves with Christian groups for fear of their very lives. And they certainly would not hand a form, which they filled out themselves indicating their decision, along with their contact information over to a stranger, who was a member of a Christian organization. He explained that these decisions are taken very seriously because of this fact.
Michael also explained that the legalistic religious structures that these people have experienced through the generations have not emphasized the pure, simple Gospel of Jesus Christ. They even feel unworthy to open a Bible and read it for themselves. They feel that only a priest is qualified to do that. So, when they hear the good news of freedom in Christ by placing their faith in Him alone, they welcome that Truth with open and grateful hearts.
During these concerts the choir provides the music, then retires backstage and prays while Michael preaches with an interpreter. He walks the congregation through the Scripture passage, explaining the simple Gospel Truth. Then he guides them through the concert brochure, which they received when they entered. There are four questions on the brochure:
- Did you enjoy the Singing Men of Texas concert?
- Would you like to see them come back to Ukraine?
- Did you pray in your heart to receive Christ as I explained tonight?
- Will you allow us to contact you and follow up with your decision?
Michael explained that when questions 3 and 4 are answered and handed to the team, they are well thought out and serious answers. He gave a poignant example. In his hand was a brochure from the previous night’s concert. The lady had filled out questions 1,2 and 4, with her contact information. But then she wrote, “Didn’t have enough time to complete number 3.” A strange comment indeed, but Michael knew that her decision was being carefully considered and she needed someone to guide her personally and help her understand further.
In 2015, all river traffic was stopped because of the war that had begun with Russia, and the mission team was unable to go into Eastern Ukraine. This tour was much more physically demanding because the group was on and off tour busses, hotel to churches to concerts and into the western interior of Ukraine, to cities such as L’viv, Lutsk, Zhitomir and Rivne. These are cities that would not have been reached if they had still been on the riverboat. Physically demanding and greatly rewarding was the trip of 11 concerts in 8 cities. There were over 14,000 attending the concerts with 7,793 positive decisions for Christ.
This trip was extremely important to the people of Ukraine who were reached by this team. With the war in the East, daily uncertainty and families being torn apart, a message of hope was desperately needed. After a concert, a young mother with her small children approached Michael and said, “You were here for us tonight. I just lost my husband on the front.” Michael and these ministers knew that God had them there for His purposes.
2015 was a very significant year for the Gott’s. Michael had come through an ordeal with cancer and the question was whether he could stand the pace of the trip or not. But, not only did God take the cancer from him, He provided strength and energy and his strong voice to preach. He wore a toupee that trip, not out of vanity, but rather as to not to be a distraction from the message. He said that since he had been preaching in Ukraine for so many years, they all knew him with hair and that it may be a distraction from what he was preaching if he preached bald.
It was witnessed at the end of the trip what a servant of Christ Michael Gott truly is. One of the men in the choir had developed a foot problem and was not able to sing the final concert. The team had to get up around 3:00 am to catch the busses that would carry them to the airport. Michael was not flying out for several days and could have been sleeping. In the lobby of the Radisson Blue in Kiev at 3:00 am, while everyone was clamoring around with luggage Michael Gott appeared. He did not have a plane to catch, but he was concerned that Bob would have difficulty getting to his connection and he came down to help him. He had to be exhausted from the past week and a half’s grueling pace, but others’ needs would come first before his rest could be enjoyed.
The April 2017 mission tour took the choir into Eastern Ukraine, to within a few miles of the Chernobyl disaster site and within 20 miles of the Russian border. These were areas that the choir had never gone before, to such cities as Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Krapivnitsky, Kryvyi Rih and Poltava. Over 12,000 attended the concerts and there were 6,511 decisions recorded.
The largest venue on the trip in 2017 was in the Ukrainian Palace of Culture in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. This large facility was dubbed the “House of Lies” by the Christians during the Communist days because the Communist leaders Brezhnev, Stalin and the others would hold their Communist rallies here. The building seats approximately 3,700. That evening it would be the “House of Truth” as 3,000 people heard the music and Gospel presentation, resulting in 1301 indicating their decisions for Jesus Christ.
The numbers are huge, and Michael’s organization is extremely careful to keep the integrity of the group and the truth about the results that are recorded. The contact cards are counted 3 times the night of each concert and then 10% is taken off the final count, just to make sure nothing is overstated. All of these contacts are distributed among the Baptist churches in each area that help sponsor the concerts.
The concerts are all free to those attending and each member of the team pays their own way for the privilege of sharing their message of hope. Michael’s message to the full concert hall is, “These men are not here to get something from you, but to give something to you. They have all experienced the life changing power of Jesus Christ and they want to share that with you.” All that attend the concert receive a Singing Men of Texas CD and pen and a New Testament.
As we have looked at the special ministry times and successes enjoyed by this team, it is quite evident that this marriage in ministry between Michael Gott International and the Singing Men of Texas – North Central has truly been made in Heaven. They have been part of a movement of God that is unprecedented.
What’s up next? They have their sights on Hungary and Romania in April of 2019. May they go with God and continue their powerful ministry.