Citing a “strong desire to pursue ministry,” long-time country musician Granger Smith announced his 2023 tour will be his last. “I’ve toured for 24 years,” Smith said in an Instagram post April 11. The upcoming life change is hard, exciting and hopeful, he told fans — and it’s motivated by what he senses God is leading him to do.
“I have felt a strong desire to pursue ministry, and this doesn’t mean I’m going to start a church or a crusade or a revival,” Smith said in the video.
“This means that me and my family are going to serve our local church. We’re going to pour into that church as members, and have my 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.”
Smith also noted he is pursuing a master of arts from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
His social media feeds feature posts from his many vocations — music, podcasting, film producing, a clothing line, and, in the last two years, occasional preaching. A 2021 post celebrated Smith preaching his “first Sunday sermon.” Two upcoming tour stops in Ohio and Florida are designated not as performances but as preaching dates.
His tour is the “Like a River Farewell Tour” in honor of the 3-year-old son Smith and his wife, Amber, lost in a drowning accident in 2019. Their son River is also memorialized in Smith’s upcoming book “Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache.”
Smith told fans on Instagram he hopes to take the book’s message to as many people as possible. “It’s the most important piece of media that I could ever release, that I ever have released,” he said.
God did a “radical transformation” in his life after the tragedy, Smith told Fox News host Trey Gowdy in a recent interview on the network’s “Sunday Night in America.”
While he can’t take credit for the change, he has to do something with it, Granger said.
“Now that this gift was given to me, in a time at the darkest tragedy of our life, now I have a purpose to go out and share this message of what happened to me, for other people that are probably going through the same thing.”
The Smiths, who are parents to three children, established The River Kelly Fund to help children in need and support a variety of charitable causes.
Fame and Jesus
In announcing his farewell tour, Smith pointed to the tension between fame and Jesus’ call to deny oneself. When Gowdy asked Smith why he couldn’t just use his country music platform to share his faith, the singer quoted Mark 8, when Jesus says whoever wants to follow Him will deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Him.
“That self-denial is something I struggle with in country music, where instead every night I’m getting up on the stage and seeking glory, seeking applause, seeking people to exalt me. And that’s just not what we’re called to do as followers, and I could not reconcile those two things together,” Smith said.
He added that he only speaks for himself, not others working in entertainment. “This is something I struggled with internally because I struggled with exalting myself and seeking that praise, and that’s something that I needed to strip, through sanctification, away from me.”
The Like a River Farewell Tour begins April 20 and runs through Aug. 26. Smith’s book about his family’s journey through tragedy is out Aug. 1 from Thomas Nelson.