MUSIC & Jesus, Country Music, and the Spiritual Classics.

by Tom Crenshaw, Presbyterian & Vineyard pastor, Certified Missional Coach, 1/25/22.

What am I going to write about? Each morning I wake up early with the goal of writing something worth reading, something that will encourage you, challenge you, and hopefully point you to Jesus. Sometimes words come easy, and I know right off what I want to say. Sometimes, however, I struggle, and I am not sure what to write or where to begin.

This morning was one of those days. I lay in bed wondering what to share and the thought of music came to mind. Not just any music, but country music and specifically the spiritual side of country music.
Those who know me, are aware that I am passionate enthusiast of classic country music. I’ve attended concerts of Reba McEntire, Don Williams, Randy Travis, Merle Haggard, Travis Tritt, Brooks and Dunn, and my favorite concert of all, George Strait’s Farewell Tour. There is something about country music that speaks to me. I suspect it’s the stories in the music that moves my heart.

I have been rewatching Ken Burns 8 part documentary on Country Music, and if you haven’t seen it, it is must watching. I promise you that whether you enjoy country music or not, watching this documentary will give you a new appreciation for this music genre. I bet by the time you finish watching it, some of you will be up and dancing to Boot ‘Scootin’ Boogie by Brooks and Dunn.

But as I lay awake this morning, I started reflecting on country songs that carry a spiritual message, ones that have drawn people closer to Jesus. I scrolled through a number of songs, listened to a few of them- and while I knew most of them, there were a few that were new to me. Having done so, I came up with “Crenshaw’s Country Spiritual Classics,” songs that I thought you would enjoy, but more importantly that would point you to Jesus.

They include Carrie Underwood’s, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” recently voted the 4th best country song of the decade and the song that kicked off her career as a country music super star. Also on the list is one of my favorites, “Three Wooden Crosses” by Randy Travis whose music career was sadly cut short by a stroke. Included on my list is Brooks and Dunn’s , powerful rendition of “Believe,” and Alabama’s “Angels Among Us.” On that list is Steve Wariner’s “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” one of my all-time favorites. And who could forget the gospel classics, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “The Family Bible” by two of country’s greatest singers, the late Johnny Cash and George Jones?

I can guarantee listening to Vince Gill sing “Go Rest High on That Mountain” will bring tears to your eyes. It was written for the funeral of the late Keith Whitely who died far too young, and it was sung at the funeral of George Jones by Vince and Patty Loveless (bring the tissues). Josh Turner, a strong believer, has two of my favorites on the list, “The Long Black Train” and “Me and God.” George Strait has a powerful rendition of “I Saw God Today,” and included on my list is “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts
I listened to a few songs that I had never heard before that are worth listening to: Brad Paisley’s “When I Get Where I’m Going,” John Michael Montgomery’s “The Little Girl,” “New Again” by Sara Evans and Brad Paisely, “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott and the Scott family, “Something in the Water by Carrie Underwood and one I especially loved, “When I Get Where I am Going,” by Brad Paisely and Dolly Parton.

And when you have listened to all of them, I suggest the following: Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayer,” Merle Haggard, “Pray”, Tammy Wynette, “Precious Memories,” Willie Nelson, “Uncloudy Days,” The Carter Family, “Can the Circle be Unbroken,” Dolly Parton, “He’s Alive,” Kris Kristofferson, “Why Me Lord,” Hank Williams, “I Saw the Light,” and the all-time country classic, “The Great Speckled Bird” by Roy Acuff.

That’s enough to get your day started with a little “singspiration.” Let me know what you think about my choices, and be sure and include your all time spiritual country classics.