McALISTERVILLE - Music ministry was not a choice at first for local gospel singer Jeremy Goodling.
At age 14, a youth leader pushed the shy young man into singing bass with a church quartet. When family and friends heard the group, the quartet soon received invitations to perform at other churches and local events, Goodling remembered.
But it wasn't until the young man accepted the Lord as his savior in 1991 that his desire to sing for God really began.
Since that first performance, Goodling has been singing gospel music across Central Pennsylvania. This year marks his 20th anniversary in the music ministry.
Describing her husband as shy, Tabitha Goodling said she smiles to think that the Lord decided to use Jeremy as a solo musician.
"- and that was the main reason I didn't want to" sing with the first quartet, her husband interjected.
But as he looks back, Goodling said those first five years with the quartet prepared him for his solo ministry.
It didn't take long for his ministry to grow.
"Once you sing, people start talking and you get invitations from friends, relatives," Goodling said.
As requests continued to arrive, Goodling realized that he needed sound equipment. His grandmother, he remembered, sold pies door to door to help pay for his first sound system.
In 1996, he officially started to book concerts, usually one or two every month, he said.
Between his solo engagements, Goodling also performed with several other musical groups. Most influential to him were The Kerstetters, a Shamokin family who toured around the state and opened for big-name gospel musicians like The Dove Brothers and Brian Free.
The Kerstetters encouraged the young Goodling by giving him the chance to perform on the drums and piano as well as vocals. Goodling said he also learned to play bass with the band.
In 2001, not long before he and Tabitha married, Goodling returned his focus to his solo ministry. His music repertoire also grew to include praise and worship, light contemporary and hymns.
"There was a time when I booked about anything," Goodling said. "I went everywhere."
It was not until after he married Tabitha and they began having children that Goodling decided to limit the number of concerts he performed to two weekends a month.
"I wasn't used to it, but things started to compact into those two weeks," Goodling said.
While he performs less concerts, Goodling still has his hands in other music ministries, including concert promotion and sound technology for other bands. He also serves as the sound director at their church, Niemond's Independent Church in Richfield, and records some of his own music at home.
To Goodling, his music ministry never was about performance or entertainment - he admitted that he still gets nervous, even after more than 20 years on stage.
Every concert includes encouragement and an invitation of salvation, he said. Sometimes, Goodling said he will share his testimony. He said he chooses songs to perform based on their message and clarity.
"Recently, the Lord ... has been kicking me to (read) more out of the Bible," he said. "I don't want to just be entertainment. I want to be a ministry."
When their four daughters get older, Goodling said he hopes to give them the same push that he had as a young man.
"Maybe we'll let them get their feet wet, like that youth leader did with me," Goodling said. "I hope someday the girls will want to step into the water."
"Already, they sing and sing all around the house," his wife added.
Throughout his two decades, Goodling said one of his favorite Scripture verses has been Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your path."
It not only tells of need for initial salvation, but the verse also reminds Christians that they still need to trust in the Lord, too, he said.
Goodling plans to hold a 20th anniversary concert at Niemond's in the fall. He currently is booking concerts for 2011. He can be reached at 463-2063 or email@example.com. Information about his ministry also is available online at www.jeremygoodling.com and on his facebook.com fan page.