A Georgia man’s chance meeting with country music star Chris McDaniel in a Delaware store led to a life-changing encounter with someone far more famous.
McDaniel, a founding member of the multi-platinum-selling band Confederate Railroad, had stopped at the store for a soft drink as he prepared to drive back to Georgia. When he walked to the counter to pay for it, a man he came to know simply as Pablo was there with a basket of groceries and no way to pay for them because he had left his wallet at home.
McDaniel, now worship and evangelism pastor at Mt. Rachel Baptist Church in Dalton, paid for the groceries, then walked out of the store and into the parking lot with Pablo who was thanking him profusely for his kindness.
“I was happy to buy your groceries, but there is another person who paid a far greater price for you,” McDaniel said. “His name is Jesus. He paid your sin debt and made a way for you to have a fulfilling life on earth and ultimately a home in heaven.”
Right there in the parking lot, McDaniel said, Pablo gave his life to Jesus. Later that day, McDaniel stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Virginia and led another man to Christ. They were just the latest of more than 2,700 people McDaniel has introduced to Christ this year in Georgia and across the country.
Rock bottom and rehab
McDaniel, a reformed drug addict, has been passionate about pointing people to Christ ever since he experienced the transforming power of the gospel for himself. He encountered Christ after 16 years with Confederate Railroad, the Grammy-nominated singers and musicians who generated six Top 40 hits on their first album alone and was named the Top New Vocal Group by the Academy of Country Music in 1993.
“Life in the music business can be hard, and even the most grounded person can lose himself with all the pressures that come along with stardom,” McDaniel said. “During that time, I thought I had it all until I found myself completely lost and in the middle of a $70,000-a-year cocaine addiction. After hitting rock bottom, I eventually went into rehab where I had to admit I had a problem and needed a higher power to help me.”
When he finished rehabilitation, McDaniel went to Bayside Baptist Church in Harrison, Tennessee, where, after listening to the sermon, his heart was burdened by the weight of his sinful past. Someone led him to the church’s altar where he “totally surrendered” his life to Christ.
With an engaging personality and the unique ability to start conversations with almost anyone, McDaniel has found that the world is filled with lots of people like Pablo who have a spiritual hunger. McDaniel is always ready to share the gospel with the people he meets, wherever he meets them.
That includes inside a sauna.
“Young men will walk in the sauna and say, ‘Man, it is as hot as hell in here,’” he said.
That’s when McDaniel shares a description of hell from Luke 16, which talks about a rich man who ended up there, begging for a tiny drop of water to be placed on his tongue because he was tormented in the flames. McDaniel said it’s important for people to understand that hell is a truly awful place so that they can avoid it by turning to Christ.
Along with his duties as staff evangelist at Mt. Rachel Baptist Church, McDaniel travels 12 weeks each year, pulling a trailer filled with impressively antlered whitetail deer mounts, to speak to outdoorsmen at wild game dinners across the state and nation.
“The trailer has opened more doors for me to do wild game dinners than ever before,” he said. “And we now have our own tent that will hold 2,500 people for tent crusades.”
The musician-turned-evangelist lives a life of obedience to what Christians know as “The Great Commission.” It’s the charge Jesus gave believers to share the gospel throughout the world.
McDaniel believes that means introducing people to Christ not only inside church buildings but everywhere, including in saunas, restaurants and stores, like the one where he met Pablo.