Country star baptized in a Church of Christ reflects on his spiritual highs and soul-wrenching lows.
By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle
And it was down with the old man, up with the new.
Raised to walk in the way of light and truth.
I didn’t see no angels, just a few saints on the shore.
But I felt like a newborn baby, cradled up in the arms of the Lord.
— “Baptism” lyrics as sung by Randy Travis
For the longest time, I’ve heard that Randy Travis was baptized in a Church of Christ.
However, I never knew the specifics of the Country Music Hall of Famer’s conversion until reading his new autobiography, “Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life.”
My friend David Duncan recommended the book, which describes the singer’s 1991 immersion by minister Dan Harless Jr. at a Church of Christ in rural Ashland City, Tenn.
“Despite making some progress at being a better person, I still felt that if I were to die, I would not go to heaven,” recalls Travis, 60, whose all-time hits include “Three Wooden Crosses,” “I Told You So” and “On the Other Hand.” “More likely, I suspected, I had a good chance of landing in hell.”
A powerful sermon by Harless one Sunday inspired the country star to respond.
“I didn’t quite know how to express my decision to trust in Jesus and to follow him, so after the service, I approached the pastor and said, ‘I’d like to get baptized,’” Travis recounts in the 304-page memoir, co-written with Ken Abraham and published earlier this year by Nelson Books.
“The church had a baptismal pool on-site, so Brother Harless wasted no time. That same evening he baptized me, and it was a special celebration of my Christian faith,” the singer explains.
“For me baptism was a powerful illustration of the statement that the old Randy was dead, buried in the water and gone, and that I was a new person. Thanks to Jesus, I had been raised to a new life here and now and eternal life in heaven to come.”
Decades of spiritual highs and soul-wrenching lows followed.
Faith and redemption play a significant role in Travis’ life — and in his book — but then so do demons and the singer’s often shameful choices. To quote one of the artist’s most popular songs, his autobiography spends a fair amount of time “diggin’ up bones.”
This column appears in the September print edition of The Christian Chronicle.