The southern gospel singer sat somewhere near the top row of bleachers at the Lapel High School gym near Anderson, intensely shouting encouragement during volleyball matches, sometimes getting a bit worked up.

Doug Anderson openly acknowledged it hardly looked like Christian ministry.

“Occasionally, I might have to say, ‘Forgive me, Jesus,'” he said, laughing and joking by phone about staying sportsmanlike while he cheers on his two teen daughter competitors against their adversaries. “But I realize that my biggest ministry always is to my family first.”

A heady statement coming from an internationally touring singer who will soon minister in such far-slung locales as South Africa and Australia. Anderson, 41, best known for his baritone vocals for 14 years with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, is among big-name headliners for the second Indiana Gospel Music Association Fanfest June 8 to 10 at Westside Community Church, 124 Tipton Lakes Blvd., Columbus.

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“I love crowds,” he said, adding that he sees such events growing across the Midwest and elsewhere. “I love being in the middle of things and I love all the interaction with people.”

He grew accustomed to such during his basketball stardom at Lapel High School, where he earned All-State honors and still engages in pickup games a couple times per week when he is home. Then, crowds again were the norm during his time in the mid-1990s at Purdue University, where the men’s basketball team was a regular in the NCAA Tournament and Anderson was a member of the team’s Gold practice squad.

These days, music fans know the Dove Award winner for songs such as “I’ll Take What’s Left” and “Dreaming Wide Awake,” a tune about his Lapel hometown.

Anderson theorizes that the upcoming Columbus event should continue to grow, given that the annual National Quartet Convention draws some 24,000 fans annually to nearby Louisville, Kentucky. Plus, he thinks gospel gatherings offer something special beyond entertainment.

“Our (musical) message is everlasting,” Anderson said. “And the emails I get from people all over still say that it’s changing lives.”

That’s why Anderson said he’s willing to be away from home for extended periods of travel.

“I want people who attend my concerts to take away a sense of hope — and to possibly forget every trouble they have for maybe two hours,” he said. “If they can do that, then I have done my job.”

Jim Hutson, morning on-air personality with southern gospel WYGS Radio (91.1 FM) in Columbus, said he considers Anderson a substantial draw for the statewide gospel concerts slated locally.

“He’s a longtime household name in gospel music,” Hutson said, mentioning that Anderson’s tunes are popular with local radio listeners.

Anderson mentioned that he sees his role as one granted by God.

“My platform is something I certainly don’t take for granted,” he said. “I prayed for that for a long time. I pride myself on being a down-to-earth, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy.”

Not to mention an unabashed family cheerleader.

A look at Doug Anderson

Age: 41.

Hometown: Lapel.

Family: Teen daughters Isabel and Emma, and wife Michelle.

Before his solo career: Sang and toured with Lighthouse and then was a founding member of Ernie Haase and Signature Sound.

Columbus performance: Closing headlining performance June 9 at the Second Annual Indiana Gospel Music Fanfest at Westside Columbus.

If you go

What: Second Annual Indiana Gospel Music Fanfest

When: June 8-10

Where: Westside Community Church, 124 Tipton Lakes Blvd., Columbus.

Tickets: $5 per person, available at Westside Community Church, the Ark Book & Gift Christian bookstore, both in Columbus, and elsewhere.

Information: ingma.com.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.