Going Where He Sends Me
March 1, 2004 - Nine-time Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs is a legend in country and bluegrass music. But in an interview with Decision, he says that he would rather be remembered as an honest man who loved God and his family and was a witness for Jesus Christ. Since recommitting his life to Christ a few years ago, Skaggs has taken the Gospel to venues ranging from Franklin Graham Festivals and churches to casinos and bars.
by Jim Dailey
Q: What are you are working on right now?
A: We are working on a new studio album that should be out mid-summer. I don't have a title for it yet, but I found some really great songs. I try to find positive, uplifting songs that direct you to the Lord whether or not you know Him. We also are getting ready to start our Skaggs Family Christmas album. We did some Christmas shows this past winter and just had a great time. Those songs really present the Gospel, so we're hoping to do more of those this coming Christmas. I am also producing the group called "Mountain Heart." They are from north Georgia, are Christians who love the Lord and are good guys. They have a very positive, uplifting show. They do a lot of Gospel music in their show, as well as good, hard-driving bluegrass.
Q: How do you share your faith through your music?
A: It starts out as a lifestyle. You can't just share your faith when you get a golden opportunity. You share it through your lifestyle—maybe in the grocery store letting someone go in front of you who doesn't have as many groceries as you. Pick something up for someone, open a door, have good manners—to me that's a witness. The Apostle Paul said we have become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). When Christ comes to live in us, we have to allow His presence and His person to be developed in us. When we live that lifestyle, with the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us, then the works of the devil are destroyed in our life.
What I have seen in the past 10 years of traveling—performing at a church one day and a casino the next—is that a lot of people in the church want to be entertained, and people in casinos want to be ministered to. That's hard to understand, but I see a hunger in the world that I don't see in the church.
Q: How do you keep your faith fresh and vibrant in the midst of a busy entertainment schedule that keeps you on the road much of the time?
A: I have a good, solid family at home praying for me. I know I have intercessors around the country lifting me up to the Lord each day. That strengthens me a lot. I feel the prayer. When I sing "Somebody's Praying," I can sing it with conviction and authority because I know that somebody is praying for me. I also try to stay in the Word. The Lord is on my mind constantly. I tell Him how much I love Him and what He means to me, thanking, praising and worshiping Him. That keeps my eyes on God and off the devil. I seek to keep my faith strong and built up. I try to read while I'm on the bus. I'm reading either the Bible or something else that is edifying for me.
When I go into a casino, I thank the Lord for putting me there. There is a reason for me to be there. I tell Him, "I'm working for You, and You are my Master and my Boss. I believe that You have sent me here. I can't do anything outside of You."
A few years ago I recommitted my life to the Lord, and I said, "Lord, wherever You want to send me, I'll go." I know that whenever I go to a bar, club, casino, bluegrass festival, church—wherever—the Lord's presence is there with us. I don't encourage people to start a ministry of going to bars, clubs and casinos by themselves. But if the Lord puts it on your heart to be a witness in places like that, then take two or more people with you. I believe in accountability and safety in numbers. A lot of people aren't strong enough to go into places like that, stand their ground and be a Christian witness. I tell the guys in my band to watch me all the time. Billy Graham's life has been such an example of how Christian people who travel ought to act. He made himself accountable to others. If I go downtown shopping by myself, I always tell one of the guys where I am and what I'm doing. I think it's good accountability.
Q: You mentioned your family. How important are they to your ministry?
A: For so many years I have traveled and left young children at home. My wife, Sharon, traveled quite a bit, too. But once Lucas came, Sharon wanted to stay home and focus on the children. She made a sacrifice because she felt like that was what the Lord wanted her to do. She has brought up godly children. I am so thankful that I have a wonderful wife to be a mother who sees the kingdom of God created in our children. Sharon was looking at the eternal, not the temporary.
I also have two children from my first marriage—Mandy is 26, and Andrew will be 25 in July. In the early days, I was away from my kids a lot. But I took them with me on the road in the summers, and they lived with me for two to three months.
Blended marriages are hard. When Andrew became a teenager, he had some rebellious times. It was hard to deal with that along with everything else I had going on. But through it all, the Lord gave us a wonderful relationship. He caused us to face each other and spend time with each other. That was wonderful.
Q: You've sung the challenging Harry Chapin tune, "Cat's in the Cradle" at some events. That has some meaning for you, doesn't it?
A: When that song first came out in the '60s, I heard it as I was walking through a store. I didn't have kids, but I knew the Lord was speaking to me somehow. It's about a father who is so busy with his life that he can't spend time with his son. He always puts it off until later. Well, the son grows up to be just like his dad. When the dad retires and wants to spend time with his son, the son is busy and doesn't have time. There are some scriptural principles in that song. The things that you love the most are the things that you spend the most time with. That had been a struggle, but God has been so faithful to us with our children.
Andrew had a lot of health problems. When he was 7 years old, a deranged trucker shot him while he was riding in the car with his mother. Then, when he was 15, he was in a very bad car accident. He lost his gall bladder and spleen and broke his left leg. We thought he wasn't going to make it. Then about four years ago, he had double pneumonia. I was in Los Angeles doing "The Tonight Show" and got a phone call to come home because the doctors didn't think he would live through the night. I had to believe with every ounce of faith that God was going to pull him through. Whether God had another plan or not, I didn't know at the time, but I think the Lord would rather that I err on the side of faith. The Lord did pull him through that, and now he's married with two children.
Q: What are the desires of your heart?
A: There are a lot of things. I want the Lord's presence to be so evident in our music that people get saved in the pews, a bar or at a bluegrass festival. I want them to look way beyond us and see Christ in us, the hope of glory. It's Christ inside me that will be the hope for anyone that I'm around.
A desire of my heart is to see the Church become the Church. He paid a tremendous price for us to be living a sub-standard spiritual life. Luke said in Acts that when people saw Peter and John's courage, they knew "these men had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13, NIV). We can be with Jesus every day because He never leaves us or forsakes us. The book of James says that we are as close to the Lord as we want to be: "Come near to God, and he will come near to you" (James 4:8, NIV).
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: I would like people to know that I was a good, Christian man. I've made a lot of mistakes, and I haven't lived the life that I could have lived, but I don't want to waste the next 30 to 40 years of my life. I want people to remember that I was honest, that I was a Christian, that I loved God and loved my family—the music doesn't even have to be mentioned. That's just the highway that the Lord has given me to travel to where I am a witness for Him and am used by Him. Music has taken me to so many places that being a minister of the Gospel would never have taken me. As powerful and popular as Mr. Graham is, there are places where he would not be invited ... but I would be, and vice versa. So, we all have a purpose and a place in life, and finding that purpose is the key to life and to success.