Country star Granger Smith is revealing more details about his retirement from music and touring, saying he has a heart for defending the Christian faith and wants to help believers in the pews do the same. Smith announced on social media this month that his current tour, the “Like a River” tour, would be his last one and that he had enrolled at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He has been touring for 24 years and has released 10 studio albums, one live album, and two EPs. His 2015 hit Backroad Song peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay list and No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Throughout his career, he had six songs in the Hot Country Top 50. In a follow-up interview, Smith told Christian Headlines that he is working on a master of arts degree in apologetics. His new book, Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache, is scheduled to be released Aug. 1 (W Publishing Group). “I figured that the apologetics [degree] would be the most practical for me to put to use today right now,” Smith said, adding he’s always “wrestling” with questions about the Christian faith. “… I can put it to practice immediately.” Smith’s heart for apologetics, he said, complements his love for history. (He was a history major at Texas A&M.) The subject also is personal. Smith’s 3-year-old son, River, died in a drowning accident in 2019. That tragedy sparked a period of intensive spiritual growth in Smith’s life. Although he grew up in church and considered himself a Christian, he now says he did not have a “saving faith” prior to his son’s death. “God has a way of cultivating soil within hearts, and He does that in all different ways. And there is no doubt, looking back, that losing our son was something that exposed – critically exposed – my cultural Christianity, and my nominal Christianity. I could confess the gospel intellectually, understand what Jesus did, believe that I was saved and going to heaven … [and] could articulate a decent prayer, too. And could even have some memorized Scripture. “And I had done that my whole life, as long as I could remember, until I realized through that tragedy, that I didn’t have a saving faith, I didn’t have the fruits of a mature Christianity, that was actually biblical, that would actually save me, that was actually a true conversion. And that was shocking. … It was shocking to realize I wasn’t saved before that.” He began to “crave” Scripture. “And then I realized how much more I didn’t know,” Smith said. He wants to help individuals in the pew who are in a similar situation. “Because of my background in cultural Christianity, I think there’s a lot of churches that have a lot of people sitting in the pews, in the seats, that think they’re Christians that aren’t. That’s a dangerous thing, and it needs to be addressed. And apologetics is a great way to [do] that with love and patience.” Smith isn’t simply retiring from touring. He’s also retiring from music. “Music is the one thing that I am completely surrendering – and that is starting with the stage and recording and singing,” Smith told Christian Headlines. “I think it would be dangerous for me, considering my temptation of self-idolatry. I think it would be dangerous for me to be a singing pastor. God could redeem that. And He could heal my heart from that. But right now, I think it’s probably best that I stay away from it for a little bit.” There is one caveat: Smith said he would enjoy recording a hymn record in the future. “Outside of that, though, I don’t immediately see myself singing on a stage at all when it comes to ministry, because that would probably lead me down a path of seeking praise for that,” he said. Smith doesn’t know what the future holds. For now, he’s only focusing on finishing his final tour and working toward his degree. “I’m gonna focus on today and try to be as faithful as I can to Him and glorify His name and be faithful to His Word,” he said. “And wherever that leads – if I’m pursuing my responsibility on those two things, then whatever He leads me to do after that, I’ll trust Him.” Photo courtesy: Micah Kandros, Paul De La Cerda-Shauna Dodds, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, theLeaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star andthe Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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