Every radio single will be someone’s first exposure to that artist. It doesn’t matter if it’s an artist’s first single or if the artist has had thirty years of hits; it will still be someone’s first impression.

It was 2004 when I first tuned into my local Southern Gospel radio station. This is not the time or place to name names, but three particular singles in rotation then struck me as highly repetitive and lyrically unremarkable. For a while, I just assumed that all three were representative of the normal fare those artists offered. One of the three artists disbanded before they could prove me wrong, but the other two both eventually changed my mind. In fact, today, I think of one of those three artists as typically offering some of the most lyrically powerful material on Southern Gospel radio today. That was their only weak single in the last decade. But it took several years before I had fully shed the impact of that first impression.

But Southern Gospel radio in 2004 as a whole certainly left a strongly positive first impression. Hit songs around the time I started listening were the Talley Trio’s “Jesus Saves,” the Perrys’ “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” the Hoppers’ “Jerusalem,” and the Kingdom Heirs’ “I Know I’m Going There.” To this day, I still consider those four as among the strongest songs those groups ever sent to radio. I became a fan of those four groups almost immediately. Good first impressions matter, too.

Of course, the same thing applies to many other aspects of what we do. Many blog posts here are someone’s first exposure to a Southern Gospel news website. Many comments you all leave are someone’s initial impression of how friendly and welcoming our genre is. And that’s not even to mention the first impressions we leave on people near and far—from drivers in rush hour to customer service agents in India—of how Christians should speak and act.

First impressions matter.