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Trusting God Through the Messiness of Life (Part 1 of 2)

Air Date 03/14/2018

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Bart Millard of the popular Christian band MercyMe discusses his troubled childhood, and he and his wife, Shannon, describe how the band's success negatively impacted their marriage. The couple offers encouragement as they explain how, with God's help, they've found healing from their painful past as they've persevered in their faith. (Part 1 of 2) 


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Episode Transcript


Musical Excerpt:

“I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine
When all I can do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine
I can only imagine”

End of Excerpt

John Fuller:That’s music from MercyMe, and lead singer Bart Millard and his wife Shannon our guests today on a special edition of Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, our recording today is in a unique place, isn’t it?

John: A very unique place.

Jim: We’re on a cruise ship. We don’t normally do this, but we’re here on the Disney Dream, and we’ve had a wonderful 40th anniversary celebration. I want everybody to shout so the audience can hear who’s here. Shout.


Jim: That’s amazing. Four days into a cruise, I thought you guys would be asleep, so...

John: (Laughter).

Jim: Wonderful that you’re here. We have a great program today. And I think at the core of it, it’s to help you if you’re in a place where you don’t feel the presence of the Lord, you don’t believe your life is in a good place, maybe you’re broken. And that’s good news in some ways because the scripture - right there in Psalms - says he’s close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those crushed in spirit. And we’re going to talk to two guests today who have experienced that firsthand.

John: And if along the way you feel a need to contact us, our website is, uh, is open 24/7 - Or give us a call, 800-A-FAMILY. Now, I mentioned Bart and Shannon Millard. And, uh, Bart formed the band MercyMe with a couple of friends back in 1994. And, of course, they’re super successful, very popular. They have, uh, an incredible story or two or three or four to share with us today. Uh, Bart and Shannon have five children, and they’ve been married for 20 years now.


Jim: Well, with that, welcome.

Shannon Millard: Thank you.

Bart Millard: Thank you.

Jim: Hey, um, why MercyMe? Why did you start a band? I’m not musical at all. I cannot sing. So I think you’re crazy (laughter). Why would you do that?

Bart: To avoid hard labor.


Jim: No, I love that. You were a football player. I - I play football.

Bart: No, seriously, to avoid hard labor.


Jim: (Laughter) Could you sing? Or did you ever try?

Bart: Uh, yeah. I mean, I sang when I was, like, five. And I sang in youth group, like, for our little youth choir a couple of times. The problem was, like, I’d sang before, but puberty hadn’t completely set in yet. So it wasn’t cool to be sitting with the altos.

Jim: So you sounded like Michael Jackson (laughter)?

Bart: Yeah, since I was the only dude in a high voice. And so being a football player - a big kid, it wasn’t very fun. So - so I was pretty reluctant, but had an amazing choir teacher that convinced me that I had a gift. And I fell in love with it.

Jim: That is something. That is something. When you think back now, after two decades - right?

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: Maybe more than two decades of music what God had intended for you. Shannon, um, I was able to prescreen the movie that’s coming out March 16th.I Can Only Imagine, the movie. Jean and I were just bawling. So I - I’m really upset at you, Bart, for making us cry.

Bart: (Laughter).

Shannon: (Laughter).

Jim: And - but it was fabulous. And what really caught my attention, um, was how you two met and how you knew each other. I mean, you are childhood sweethearts. Tell me a bit about that experience and meeting Bart as a little girl. And you...

Bart: I wasn’t a little girl. She was.


John: Thanks for clarifying.

Bart: That sounded really odd.

Jim: I’m talking to Shannon now.

Bart: I met Bart as a little girl.

Jim: But thanks for clarifying. For those on radio, thanks for clarifying. I’m looking right at Shannon.

Bart: That would’ve been on the, uh, screen if it were...

Jim: But you don’t hear that kind of story that often. How - how did you know? How old were you when you looked at Bart and said, That could be my husband?”

Shannon: I know. It’s crazy. Um, I was 13. And when we met, we were in youth group. And I - I didn’t share this information with him ‘cause I was not as forward as I am on the movie.

Jim: That’s probably - yeah, for your age that was probably right.

Shannon: Probably wise, right? Um, but I remember in church, I was sitting there one day, and I just felt like - I just heard, you know, a voice. I’m thinking it’s just me thinking about, he’s cute. But...

Jim: That’s kind of where it starts, isn’t it?

Shannon: It starts like, he’s funny. And he drew - his personality drew me to him. And I remember thinking, ah, that’s the kind of guy I want to marry. That’s kind of where it stayed for a while, but then it just grew into, that’s who I want to marry. But you think that’s just your childish ways, you know.

Jim: Yeah.

Shannon: Your first crush, and, um...

Jim: Now it wasn’t like this...

Shannon: No.

Jim: ...Meaning you were tight at a young age. You guys - you didn’t really connect that way, but you talked like friends. Right? You weren’t...

Shannon: Yeah, we were best friends.

Bart: Yeah, we...

Jim: Yeah, you were friends.

Bart: It was - it was on and off. Like, we “went together”, I guess, that - whatever you do when you’re in seventh grade or whatever.

Shannon: Meet for Coke.

Bart: Yeah, go together. And, uh, for a few months, and then, it was just kind of on and off. And we were - but we were, like, best friends the whole time. Her parents are my second grade Sunday school teachers. They’ve known me my whole life.

Jim: Man.

Bart: And, my - I’m two years older, so she was in seventh grade, I was in ninth grade. And then my junior year - her freshman year - we dated that whole year. But the whole time, we were, like, best friends, always telling each other who we should or shouldn’t be dating. All that kind of stuff.

Jim: Yeah. Bart, in that regard, and this is where, you know, the story takes that turn and we start to talk about what was going on underneath the bright side, which so many people experience in different ways. I experienced it in some ways, too. Not exactly your story, but, you know, my - my upbringing was tough, too. And, uh, played football like you did. We tend to hide those things that are going on at home - at least I did. I think you did as well. Describe for us how you guys connected in that way, even as young people. Did you open up to Shannon, Bart? Did she - was she aware of what was going on at home? And tell us, you know, a little bit of what was happening.

Bart: Now, I never really open up to anybody. I don’t think Shannon - Shannon kind of figured out herself. But I don’t know if we ever talked about it like a - that part of the movie’s kind of true. I kind of kept everybody blocked out of it. But my dad - everybody loved my dad. He was like a hometown hero, all-American football player - that kind of stuff. And, um - and to go back a little bit to explain him. Like, before I was born, my dad - he was a scholarship player at SMU, and then, um, got married. Scholarship player couldn’t have a job to support his family, so he ended up quitting college and kind of gave up his dream and started working for the Texas Highway Department. You know, he was the guy waving the flag, waving traffic through when they’re building roads and stuff. And he got hit by a diesel and was launched, like, 50 feet in the air.

Jim: Oh, my.

Bart: Didn’t break any bones in his body, but he was in a coma for about eight weeks is, uh, what I understand. And he was a teddy bear before it happened, and afterwards, they - they think it was similar to the frontal lobe thing that football players deal with..

Jim: Sure.

Bart: He woke up, and he was a monster. Like, it took 12 people to hold him down. He’d never said a cuss word in his life, and he just had the foulest mouth. Like, my mom said, “I came home with a monster,” like...

Jim: So that really changed him?

Bart: Completely. Yeah, like my mom’s like - even a family doctor that’s still alive to this day, if I saw him, he would say that - that wasn’t your dad. And so - and so I was born after that. And so for whatever reason, I have an older brother - five years older. He was never abused or whatever, but when my parents divorced because she feared for her life, I became kind of a punching bag, like, he took it out on me. And I don’t remember many weeks where I wasn’t beaten three or four times a week most of my life.

John: So you mean literal punching bag?

Bart: Yeah, yeah. Literally. Yeah, yeah.

Jim: Bart, some are going to connect with you. My older brother had that experience with our father. I never got spanked. But he - he and my dad went at it, and he’s 10 years older than me. What - what did that feel like to have someone you should, uh, respect and love and be loved by to be hitting you and not even knowing, what have I done wrong?

Bart: Well, I mean, it was - it was awful. I mean, it was - you live in fear that only if there was a silver lining at all, which this sounds insane to say this, but as a kid this is - if you’re in a relationship you kind of justify and you kind of try to look for the positives - that I didn’t know any better. Like, literally from the time I can recall, I’ve been beaten. And so I didn’t know of any time to when there wasn’t abuse involved. And so like, you know, living in fear was one thing, but I - there wasn’t, like, these memories of, this is what a perfect family is.

Jim: Right.

Bart: And so some days are just not as bad as others. And so - it sounds like such a hopeless situation, but you find ways to grab onto the tiniest bits of hope, even in the midst of that. And so if he had a good day, that was a huge win for me. You know, and...

Jim: Right. But to live on that edge all the time - what Dad do I have today?

Bart: Yeah, totally.

Jim: I - I get that, especially with alcoholism. Bart, there was a - a great silver lining in your life, and that was your grandmother on your mom’s side. I think you refer to her as Mawmaw.

Bart: Yeah, yeah She is the godliest woman I’ve ever known. And she...

Jim: How - yeah, how did she express that to you, and how did you catch it?

Bart: Well, I mean, the big part - my, my parents divorced when I was three, and my mom remarried when I was in third grade, and my stepdad moved from Greenville, Texas down to San Antonio. And so everyone kind of decided it was best for my brother and I to stay together. My brother really wanted to stay with my dad, and so by default, we were kind of left there. My mom moved away, and so - so my grandmother became kind of like that mother figure in my life. You know, she was about the only female in my life, and, um - and she was just unbelievable. Like, she was the greatest display of grace I’ve ever seen. And for her, just giving an idea of how amazing she was, uh - my grandfather was a Baptist preacher, started a little bitty church outside of Greenville. And, uh, they were married for, I mean, 40-something - almost 50 years. And he left her for the church secretary before I was born. And he stayed with her for - I met him maybe once or twice in my life, and she never remarried and - for as long as I knew her, she would always say that my prodigal’s gonna come home. My prodi-- she would never say-- and if youanything bad about Pawpaw, she would knock you out, man. And so, uh, in the late ‘90s, my grandfather passed away and my cousin and I were the ones voted to go tell my grandmother that Pawpaw passed away. And so we are walking in, and she’s in a wheelchair, cataracts - she can barely see. Soon as we walk in, we’re like, “Mawmaw”, and she’s like, “Lloyd died, didn’t he?” And - and we started bawling. And so we got up next to her, and we’re like, we’re so sorry. And she kind of reached out. She goes, “Hey, hey” - she goes, “I’ve loved two men in my life.” She says, “Your Pawpaw and Jesus.” And she goes, “I’m much better with the first leavin’ me than the second.”

Jim: Wow.

Bart: And so that’s all she said. And then, two seconds later, she goes, “Well, I guess I’m too old to start dating now.”


Jim: What a great sense of humor.

Bart: And, um, and that’s all she ever said about it.

Jim: That’s awesome.

Bart: And then she passed away probably a year and a half - two years later.

Jim: Wow. That is - now she’s also - is she the one that as you were talking about being in the music business, she said...

Bart: No. My - my I have two Mawmaws actually - my dad’s mom, my mom’s mom. My mom’s mom - the Mawmaw we’re talking about - she’s the godliest woman. My other one is the craziest woman I’ve ever known.


Jim: Oh, so this is a normal family?

Bart: Yes. My other one loves Jesus, but she’s where I get my sense of humor, and she’s the one that, you know, when I told her I was going to start a band, said, “MercyMe, why don’t you get a real job?” And so, uh...

Jim: (Laughter) That’s the story behind the story.

Bart: That’s how that band got its name, yeah.

Jim: That is amazing. I love that. I just love it. Shannon, tell me where you’re at as you’re movin’ along with Bart. And you’re hearing this. You’re in your 20s - you’re married, right?

Shannon: Yes.

Jim: Um, was everything bliss because you have this broken man who now found Jesus and got it all together and he’s actually perfect?

Shannon: Of course. No.

Jim: (Laughter).

Shannon: What we didn’t say is no one in the youth group knew how bad his home life was growing up. So I marry this man thinking, you know, you’re from a broken home, but that’s really all I knew. And so as our marriage went on, I started realizing there’s a lot more to this story than you’ve ever told. ‘Cause he covered it in humor and his...

Jim: Right.

Shannon: ...Personality was so infectious; you just didn’t even think that there was something else there. ‘Cause he’s always so happy.

Jim: Can I ask you?

Shannon: Sure.

Jim: I mean, this may be too much of a pry, but I can relate to you, Bart, so I’ll confess some things myself in a minute here, but how - how did that come out? You know, once you got beyond the humor, what did you see in him, both that was a good thing, and maybe those things that were a struggle for you as his spouse?

Shannon: He’s a strong guy. And he endured a lot. And I think it takes a lot to put on a happy face when you’re hurting so much inside.

Jim: Yeah.

Shannon: So I was blown away by that ‘cause that’s hard work. And on the flip side, I didn’t really started noticing it until we had children. And then our parenting was kind of going separate ways. Like, wait a minute.

Jim: That only happens to you, by the way. Yeah, nobody else goes in different directions parenting (laughter).

Shannon: No, no, no. So that’s when it started...

Jim: So - but what were those attributes, to help the listener, what were those things that Bart did that caught your attention in the parenting space that was so different from you? I mean, let me ask you, did your anger come up?

Bart: No, I was the opposite.

Shannon: Oh, no.

Bart: Um, like, I was so afraid I was going to be like him that there was - I would not discipline my kids at all.

Jim: OK.

Bart: So I would - I don’t - I don’t know if I’ve ever spanked my kids - maybe once.

Jim: Yeah.

Bart: But like, times where she’s like, “Can you take care of this?” And I’m like, “Let’s all love each other,” you know. I was like - I was like, I was so afraid that - and there are moments, don’t get me wrong, there are moments where little things will kind of set me - and like every parent to where it’s like – I got five kids. If we can’t get our order straight in a drive through, I’ll snap. I’m like, come on. What is wrong with us?


Shannon: Yes.

Bart: So the smallest things just set me off and so...

Jim: I am so relating to you right now.

Bart: Oh, man. Yeah. It’s like - like, I’m tellin’ em, “We’re going to come back around. We’re not ready.”


Bart: “Round the horn. Round the horn.” So, it’s the little things set me off. But like, when it’s -um. Yeah, when there’s moments when she needs me to step up. and I’m just like, you know, we’re gonna be OK. You know, I was quite the opposite. And that’s when she realized something’s not right. Like, it’s OK to be a parent.

Jim: Shannon, in that regard, uh, for the moms who are frustrated with their husbands who are not leading, who are not doing the right things, what advice do you have for them as the wife that wants to see more? And then for the husbands who aren’t sure or confident enough to do it, what would you say?

Shannon: My biggest thing was I learned the more I nagged, the worse it got.

Jim: Yeah, say that again.


Shannon: The more you nag, the worse it will be.

Bart: Lean into the mic. Lean into the mic a little more there.

Jim: Yeah, lean - turn this one up.

Bart: Yeah, turn it up, yeah.

Jim: Turn it up, guys.

Bart: Do y’all have closed captioning on this? Could y’all turn that on, please?

John: Billboard size.

Jim: This just in, from Shannon. Shannon.

Bart: Let’s all say it together.

Jim: Say it again. No, I’m sorry. Go ahead, say it again.

Shannon:There’s a difference in nagging and just kindly just throwing it out there. I’ll say that too, um.

Jim: Is it the fear that if you say it in a way that’s not nagging, it won’t be heard?

Shannon: Yes, and I think the nagging automatically puts a wall up - gives you a completelyopposite response.

Jim: Yes.

Shannon: And then it hardens them more the more you do it.

Jim: No, not us.

Shannon: Yeah. So...

Jim: (Laughter) It’s so true.

Shannon: I quickly realized I had to stop begging and pleading and harping on him and just start praying that God’s gonna change him. Because there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix the situation.

Jim: Yeah.

Shannon: Um, and then on his side, I kept saying, you’re not your father. I don’t know how many times I said, “You’re not who he is.”

Jim: Wow. Wow.

Shannon: And he didn’t believe that for a long time. But when I would ask him to discipline, you’re not him. You’re not going to do the things he did. Because you’re Bart. You’re not Arthur.

Jim: Bart, when she would say that, what went through your head - through your soul when she would say, you’re not your father?

Bart: I mean, most of the time I just didn’t believe it. You know, it’s like, well, you know, one - you’re supposed to say that. And I’ve - I’ve known me longer than anybody. And, um, you know, and not that I have any proof that I would become that, but it’s just that - you know, I’ll tell you what. When I was younger, I remember I was being in youth group and, you know, so many things that we mean well. And I grew up in a lovely Southern Baptist Church outside of Dallas, Texas. Legalism was alive and well to say the least. And, um, with all the amazing things I learned, there were things in maybe just the way I received them - because everything for me was of seeking approval, you know, hoping they wouldn’t walk out on me. I remember they would always talk about, you know, how divorce is so bad and, you know - you know, divorced kids usually become just like their divorced parents. And - and you’d be just like your dad. And man, I - I’d soaked up so much that I genuinely believed that our marriage isn’t going to last and that I’m going to end up just like him - that I had no choice in the matter’s what it felt like. ‘Cause it was such a black and white issue of, you know, statistics proved that divorced kids become divorced parents. So I was like, I’m done for, you know. And - and so yeah, it took a long time just kind of to almost reprogram a lot of things that I learned growing up.

Jim: Oh, I feel that. I feel that. And so many listening feel it as well. Bart, I need to ask you about, uh, one of your perhaps most famous songs,I Can Only Imagine. Um, how did that come about, and what was your goal? Did you even know what you were doing at the time you wrote it? Tell us the story.

Bart: Well, um,Imaginewas written when my father passed away, uh, in ‘91, uh.We were leaving the gravesite. My grandmother said, “I can only imagine what Bub’s seeing right now.” And I became consumed with, um - with what my dad was seeing. In fact, so much so, people always say the song’s about my dad, and really, this song has nothing to do with my dad. It’s all about seeing Jesus. But that being said, the whole thing about it was I got - it was way easier for me to be consumed with heaven than to see an empty bedroom or miss my dad. And so it was really therapeutic that - I mean, I became obsessed with heaven. And it just occupied my time. Otherwise I would just have - I would have lost it because by this point, my dad had such a massive change and, like, when he was diagnosed with cancer when I was a freshman in high school, um, he - he went from being a monster to being a man that was, I mean, desperately in love with Jesus.

Jim: And did he - did you talk about the why? Because people listening may not have a relationship with Christ right now. They’re experiencing the bottom of the barrel.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: What for your father made the difference for his heart to open up?

Bart: Well, gosh, I mean, I’m sure it’s kind of the perfect storm, so to speak. I’m sure cancer didn’t help. Um...

Jim: So that - that knowledge that your life is...

Bart: That had to be a wake-up call.

Jim: ...Coming to an end?

Bart: Yeah. And by this point, like, literally, the youth group raised me from this - as soon as I can get in - seventh grade or whatever - I was there every time the doors opened. And so for a long time, my dad was almost jealous of the fact that I would - like, I wouldn’t go home. I would be at the church any time the doors would open. I was afraid to go home. And, uh, by this point, I was bigger, and so we didn’t - we didn’t get in as many fights, but emotionally he would tear me up, which sometimes were worse than the beatings. And, um, so I spent all my time in church, and I saw him kind of getting jealous of my relationship with the church. And - and just the kind of weird - just - he didn’t, you know - and he would go to church from time to time. And he’d, you know, go to the singles class or whatever. But it just didn’t really click for him. And, um, when he was diagnosed with cancer, I think it just was all is - everything was kind of set in place. And, um, he heard-- he heard me sing in church. And, you know, I think more importantly, I think he just got his - he put his face in the word and started reading and seeking for himself.

Jim: So his heart really opened up?

Bart: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, I remember coming home and, you know, at night and my dad would be praying for my brother and I, or my mom who he divorced when I was three. And he’d fall asleep with his face in the Word every night, and I’m like, free for a couple of years. Like honestly, I didn’t want grace to be for him. You know, I mean, I was hurt, man.

Jim: We’ve got to - I mean, that’s painful.

Bart: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: When you have that kind of - would you describe it as hatred or bitterness or anger or all of it?

Bart: Um, yeah, yeah. All of the above. Yeah. I mean, you know, I mean, I was - when he was diagnosed with cancer, part of me was glad because I thought this was all coming to an end. But he was also all that I knew as my dad, so I was still devastated. And, you know, I mean, just the fear of being alone was worse than what I was going through. And so it was bittersweet and, um - but when he started, you know, doing things where, you know, the change started taking place, I just didn’t believe it was true. You know, it’s like, I mean, it...

Jim: So you’re skeptical?

Bart: You’re like an abused pet. You know, it’s like you cower down to everything, and you don’t trust that it’s real. And, um, so it was just - and I think the - the change was undeniable, not because of what he did in front of people - because, you know, he wasn’t, like, preaching on street corners, he didn’t go into ministry - nothing like that because all the stuff he did to me was in private where nobody was watching. And the change was taking place in private. It’s what he did when nobody was watching that was what was convincing. You know, and so the biggest time that it probably changed - our relationship changed or when I realized this was happening was, um, probably the end of my junior year in high school.

My dad by this point would have, um - maybe it was the senior year - had a hospice nurse that would come in and look after him. Had one during the day, one at night. One at night was a guy named Tom and became really like another brother. Like, really close. And Tom was killed in a car accident, and it - it really did a number on my dad’s health. And just emotionally, and he was like, “I can’t do this again.” And so the day nurse was a good friend of ours. I went to school with her daughter. And she said, “OK, I’m gonna break the rules a little bit here, but I’m just gonna - the paperwork is going to show that he’s a day nurse.” And then she taught me how to do everything at night because he didn’t want another nurse.

And so he had this medication - I can’t remember what it was, but he was - he had a constant I.V. And his medication was like caulk - it was so thick. And it would take about two hours to push through his I.V. And you had to do it by hand. And so from about 2:00 to 4:00 every night of my senior year, I would have to sit up with my dad and give him a shot every night. And so as bad as that sounds, especially when you’re a senior and that’s the last thing you wanna think about, like, the conversations we had every night for at least two hours were things I would never trade for the world. And we talked about, you know, what’s going to happen after he’s gone to why am I not dating Shannon to everything in between, you know. And so that’s when I realized, like, this is like - this is what it’s like to have an amazing father, you know. And to where I would look forward to, like, I got to go home. Not just, like, he can’t miss the medicine, but I looked forward to talking to him.

Jim: So that yearning in your heart.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: So it was finally being met.

Bart: And so in about a - about a year - little less than a year, we were making up for lost time. And it was, like, you know, I mean, I would be - during the day, I would think of things - I’ve gotta ask him this. I’ve gotta ask him this.

Jim: Bart, here’s the question that I think may be the question. People that are suffering, that are going through hard times - maybe similar to yours, maybe different from yours, but they’re just hard times where it’s breaking them down. How do you absorb that? How do you not resent the Lord? How do you not shake your fist at God? How do you stay going to youth group and saying, OK, Lord, I know I got dealt a bad hand here, but I’m going to persevere? I’m gonna keep pressing through. How does a person stay resilient when everything around him is communicating, nobody knows about me? Nobody cares about me. Nobody loves me.

Bart: I mean, I can only speak for myself, but for whatever reason,I never - I never blamed God for what was happening. He was just my hope out of it. I can’t tell you why I saw it that way. Unfortunately, the more, you know, ‘cause I’m - you’re a teenage kid and you’re desperate for hope. I mean, the more I become a professional Christian, so to speak, I could probably justify being angry at God. But back then, I was just - I was starving for something. And, you know, I never thought, “God, you did this to me.” I was like, “God, you can get me out of this,” was kind of was my attitude. And I don’t know why it was that way, but it always was. I never put the two together that he was the one that did this. And, um, and so, yeah, he was just my hope out of it. He was the reason to get up in the morning and, you know.

Jim: Yeah, it’s beautiful. And it’s great to see what the Lord has done in your life. I mean, now we’re seeing the full story, right? But back then, it didn’t feel good, I’m sure. Have you thought about our testimonies and the fact that we don’t own our testimonies, the Lord does? And he bought them with a price, right?

Bart: Yeah, absolutely.

Jim: His blood.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: He died for us. He died and said, “Will you walk it with me?” And, man, what I love hearing in your hearts - both you and Shannon - is, yes. Yes, I will walk it. And I think that’s beautiful. Just a beautiful expression of your love for him. I want to come back next time. We’re going to pick up the story, I want a little more detail on what happens with the band and some of your marital difficulties, if you guys are willing to talk about it.

Bart: Sure.

Jim: And, uh, I want to hear because it’ll help the rest of us - those that are struggling in our marriages, in our communication, how to do it better and how to honor the Lord in a better way. Can we do that?

Bart: Mmhmm.

Shannon: Sure.

Jim: Okay, let’s do it.


John: That was a really memorable conversation we had with Bart and Shannon Millard and they’re, of course, from the popular band MercyMe and that recording took place on the Focus on the Family 40th Anniversary Cruise.

Jim: I love the transparency, John. Bart and Shannon just are so open and if you’re struggling to overcome a hard past, something in your background that you just can’t shake-- we want to talk with you, we want to be here for you.We have caring Christian counselors available on staff that can listen to you and give you an initial consultation to say here’s what we think the Bible is saying about it, what we think is a professional counseling approach to helping you to recovery. And I think you will gain great wisdom by doing this.

John: Yeah, these counselors really reflect the heart of the ministry and have such good and godly counsel. To talk to one of them, call 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Now sometimes we have a really high call volume, so you may have to leave a message, but we will call you back just as soon as possible.

Jim: Today’s program has highlighted why we exist. We want to help people grow in their relationship with God and lead them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope you’ve heard that loud and clear. And if you believe in that mission, to reach people with the gospel, to help them in their journey, make a donation today. We need your help. We are supported by listeners like you. And today with your donation of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Bart’s book, I Can Only Imagine as our way of saying thanks for your partnership.

John: And you can make your donation, get that book and ask for a CD or instant download of this two-part conversation when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by

Jim: And John, let me encourage the listeners to go see the movie, I Can Only Imagine, which chronicles Bart’s story. It’s opening in theaters just a couple of days from now on March 16th. It will be great!

John: Make sure you get out to see this inspiring movie. And thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller inviting you back. We’ll hear more from Bart and Shannon Millard and once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Bart and Shannon Millard

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Bart Millard is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and the lead vocalist for the multi-platinum selling Christian band MercyMe. He has released two solo albums, Hymned, No. 1 and Hymned Again, and a memoir titled I Can Only Imagine, which recounts the true story that inspired the MercyMe hit song of the same name. Bart and his wife, Shannon, reside in Tennessee and have five children. You can learn more about Bart by visiting his website,