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Gospel music’s Steeles carry family message across U.S.

GALLATIN, Tenn. (BP)–Before they became a household name in gospel music, the Steeles were like many Baptists. Jeff Steele was a pastor in rural Mississippi. He and his wife, Sherry, were raising three children. They sang together as a family.

Then life took a sudden turn.

“We had two No. 1 songs before I ever left the church for full-time gospel music,” Steele recounted. “I had no idea God was calling us to the forefront of a culture war. I had no idea there was a culture war.”

That culture war is what the Steeles’ signature song addresses. “We Want America Back” — named Song of the Year in 1997 in the Singing News — was written to call a nation to repentance.

“The response to that song was so overwhelming,” Steele recalled. “It took us far beyond Southern gospel music to places where Southern gospel is not usually heard. We’ve sung it in Washington, D.C., the Alabama state capitol, college campuses and TV stations. There were some country radio stations that played the song, and it became No. 1 at those stations.”

Daywind Music Group’s president, Ed Leonard, said Steele’s writing talent is one of the most renowned in the industry. “The Steeles have enjoyed tremendous achievements and success as artists, but beyond the awards and honors lies a greater mission,” Leonard said. “They have a heart for today’s family, and they continually go the distance to see that they are obedient in obeying their call to challenge and encourage families.”

The success of “We Want America Back” turned Steele’s head, he now admits. “All the awards, sales — I got my eyes on all that stuff, and lost my focus,” he said. “I promised God, if he gave me another vehicle like this, I’d not lose my focus.”

God did give Steele another song. “For the Sake of My Children” already stands at No. 5 on the Singing News chart. As opposed to the usual question society asks — “What has happened to our children?” — Steele’s song asks, “Where are the parents?”

“I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write ‘For the Sake of My Children’ in response to what I was seeing going on in America,” he said. The song’s message is meant to call parents back to their responsibility in raising their children.

“I don’t blame the kids for what’s happened,” Steele said. “God said for them to obey their parents. Parents have abandoned the guidebook for their homes. We’re not called to be friends, we’re called to be parents.”

The Steeles are taking that message to cities across the nation, leading “We Want America Back for the Sake of the Children” rallies. Unlike regular gospel music concerts, they conduct these without charging admission.

“Since our message is so strong and we do call people to a decision, I got real uncomfortable drawing a rope around the church and saying, ‘If you can buy a ticket, you can come in here and hear the truth,'” Steele said. “God has been faithful to meet our needs. This is ministry only.”

As part of the rallies, Steele conducts private meetings with parents to show them the lyrics to today’s most popular rock songs. He also addresses concerns over country music, video games and movies.

Steele said he was the first one who had to clean house. “I used to like to watch wrestling on TV with my son, but I can’t do that anymore,” he said. “God is not obligated to answer one single prayer offered up from a home … where his name is cursed through the TV set, and we’re paying for it.”

Though he’s calling Christian parents to assume their responsibilities for their homes, Steele insists he’s not a legalist. “If so, I’d be preaching all this holiness as a means to keep salvation,” he said. “But I’m preaching it as a means to keep America together, homes together, kids safe.

“I try not to compromise the truth, but the truth is what’s controversial.”

When the Steele family isn’t on the road, they attend College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn. The couple’s three children — Christy, 15, Kayla, 11, and Bradley, 6 — are homeschooled. Christy sings with the family full-time, and the younger children make special appearances. Another member of the group is Paul Ladd.

For a schedule of the Steeles’ appearances, go to www.steelesministries.com.

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  • Stacey Hamby