Granger Smith is ready to trade his concert venues for a church podium.
The country musician and Texas A&M University graduate announced via Instagram last month that his “Like a River” tour, which continues Thursday at Elizabeth, Colorado, and comes to a close at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth on Aug. 25-26, will be his last. Those Fort Worth dates mark his only stops in Texas on the farewell tour.
“I just want to glorify God the best way that I can,” he wrote. “I want to learn and grow and serve my local church and allow my pastors to equip and affirm those next steps. Lord willing, I want to be used to help people find their purpose.”
The “Backroad Song” singer, who first attended Texas A&M in 1998 and later returned to get his degree after signing a record deal, is ready to switch gears after 24 years of touring and feels a “strong desire to pursue ministry.” He explained to fans that “this doesn’t mean I’m going to start a church or a crusade or a revival” but that alongside his family, he intends to serve his local church outside of Austin.
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Smith explained that reading Mark 8 from the Bible compelled him to leave country music behind, saying “Jesus says if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
“That form of self-denial is something I’m just not doing,” he continued in a video on Instagram. “And country music, when I get up on a stage and just need glorification and need praise. And if I don’t get it, then that means my career is not doing well. And so I’d work harder for that. I can’t reconcile those two things, y’all. I can’t, I can’t.”
“This is a new passion, a new focus, a new direction that I believe is going to allow me to focus more on individual people and their lives,” he told People magazine. “Which is ultimately why I started music touring in the very beginning. This is an even more micro-focused position in that. I’m not going anywhere.”
Smith, 43, has been studying for a master’s degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and said he hopes to “have the pastors and elders pour into me and disciple me and teach me as I sit under their wise teaching, and then Lord willing, one day they can affirm me into the next steps of what that might look like to glorify God best from my platform.”
The announcement comes nearly four years after Smith’s 3-year-old son, River, died in a drowning accident. The “Like a River” tour was named in his son’s honor.
Smith said in addition to devoting much of his time to his studies since stepping back from the spotlight, he’s been penning a memoir, “Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache,” detailing the emotional journey he’s navigated while grieving his son.
The “Happens Like That” singer told People that when he turned in his manuscript, he called his wife, Amber Bartlett, and said, “‘Well, there’s no stopping it now.'”
“There’s things in here that are extremely vulnerable. It’s very personal. But the overwhelming feeling was that if my story could help others, then it’s worth it, then it matters.”
Smith’s memoir hits shelves Aug. 1.