While not officially a stop on his current sell-out tour, Michael W. Smith will headline the 2018 Kansas City Royals Faith and Family event July 7 at Kauffman stadium. Smith will be joined by popular Christian rapper KJ-52 at the annual event that is sponsored in part by Metro Voice. Game time for the Royals vs. Red Sox is 6:15 and Faith and Family takes place immediately after. In addition to the concert, the evening includes player and staff testimonies, Scott Dawson of Safe at Home Ministries and lots of fun.
When the selection of Smith as the musical act was announced, some raised their eyebrows. Wasn’t this the Michael W. Smith who got his start writing songs for Amy Grant and Sandi Patty? Like, in the early 80s? After a successful career as one of Christian music’s biggest artists, Smith admits he’s had doubts about his own relevancy in recent years.
For a writer and performer whose songs have provided inspiration for millions of Christians, Michael W. Smith found himself at a strange place more than a year ago: creatively blocked and several years past his last album, released in 2014.
Through 2017, a heaviness on his heart increased with news of other social ills, such as teen suicide, school bullying and an epidemic of opioid drug addiction. “What’s going on? I wondered,” he said in a recent phone interview. Still nothing, until a small idea: The country was in need of a revolution — a revolution of love, sparked by God’s love.
“Then the dam broke. I couldn’t press record fast enough. I had 50 ideas and they kept coming,” he said.
Those ideas ended up in not one, but two new albums released this year: Smith’s “A Million Lights” and a live worship album, “Surrounded.” Those two combined in Smith’s current national tour, “Surrounded By A Million Lights.”
Smith, 60, released the two albums a week apart, a rare double release that had some in the Christian music industry scratching their heads, but both works found receptive audiences and became his 30th and 31st albums to land in the Top 10 Christian album charts.
Chart success is nothing new for Smith, whose career in Christian contemporary music spans three decades, encompassing 31 albums, 18 million albums sold, 45 Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association, three Grammy Awards and membership in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
His songs like “Place In This World,” “Healing Rain,” “Above All” and “Agnus Dei” are loved by many and church congregations around the world sing his songs in their worship services.
There’s largely a fatherless generation. Nobody talks about God. Nobody wants to go there.
Smith’s worship album “Surrounded,” however, found him with a new perspective from the Old Testament book of Amos. The prophet Amos tells his listeners that God isn’t impressed with their worship and sacrifices, but demands work toward justice as well, Smith said. “Worship and justice go hand in hand,” he said.
There’s plenty of work at hand for the church to do and it’s time to do it, he said. “It’s not an easy answer. There’s largely a fatherless generation. Nobody talks about God. Nobody wants to go there,” he said speaking of the current climate of public discourse.
But Smith looks at himself humbly. “I would not call myself an evangelist. I’m a lover of Jesus . . . and a bad follower,” he said.
The message he wants to share with listeners is one of God’s love and that’s a message many feel too unworthy to accept, he said. “You are loved,” he said. “There are a lot of people who struggle with grace.”
This summer finds Smith energized by the response to the new work. “The tour has been off the charts. After all these years, I can’t believe I’m saying that,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
The veteran Christian singer-songwriter also found himself on a national stage this spring with the death of iconic Christian evangelist Billy Graham. Smith led the singing of the hymn “Just As I Am” at a memorial at the U.S. Capitol, then performed at Graham’s funeral service at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“He was a great friend. I miss him,” Smith said. “He poured his life into me.”
Fans of Smith’s and those not familiar with his music and ministry will have a chance to hear him July 7. And they’ll see that God will make you relevant at any age or state in life. God is never done with you.