Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Ricky Skaggs bluegrass concert

Bluegrass and Jesus


I attended my first bluegrass concert last week . . . and it was not what I expected.

The music was not a surprise. I’ve heard and enjoyed bluegrass before, including well-known songs such as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

And I’ve attended concerts before, too. Concerts featuring a wide variety of music. British invasion bands like The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits. Folk music groups such as Peter, Paul, & Mary. Christian musicians such as Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, and Mercy Me.

Yes, that list includes both “secular” and gospel music. And for each concert I attended, I knew what to expect. Each performance fit neatly into one of those two categories.

Until now.

Ricky SkaggsLast week, a friend invited me to a Ricky Skaggs concert with bonus front-row seats. I went, anticipating a country music concert. But for the first time in my concert-going experience, the wall between secular and Christian came crashing down, a crash rivaling the fall of the walls of Jericho.

Skaggs played his mandolin as if he’d been born playing it. Other talented musicians picked banjos, plucked guitar strings, and played the fiddle, all with speed and agility that sets them apart as giants in their field.

But these same musical giants spent a significant portion of the concert weaving in songs and testimonies of God’s grace extended through Jesus Christ. Testimonies from the band members and from Ricky Skaggs, himself. In fact, taped to his mandolin and guitar straps you could see the printed word, LIFE, in bright red letters for all the world to see. The sharing was organic. Natural. Not forced. Not preachy. Just matter-of-fact.

So why do we fall for the lie that we have to separate the secular and Christian aspects of our life? Here, in a concert, the Christian values and beliefs of the performers were seamlessly integrated with their music. Moving from secular to Christian and back to secular as naturally as a duck takes to water.

I want to take a lesson from this concert. A lesson that goes far beyond the world of music. I want to consistently live in a way that my faith—my relationship with Christ—is never separate from the rest of my life. Not forced. Not compartmentalized. Regardless of where I am or who I am with. Woven so seamlessly that it’s as natural as breathing. In my family. My neighborhood. As a community volunteer. And of course, at church and Bible study class.

I thought I was already living this way. But there’s always room for improvement. The world is changing. Increasingly hostile toward Christ and His followers. If I’m not intentional about identifying with Christ in every area of life now, I won’t be able to do it later.

Let the walls come a-tumblin’ down!



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  1. Nancy E. Head

    Traditional American music is quite often Christian spirituals. You’re so right that who we are as Christians should shine through our lives every day with not compartmentalism.

  2. Barbara Dusenbery

    I love it Ava!

  3. Melissa Henderson

    I love music that is spiritually based. My husband and I enjoy going to concerts given by Casting Crowns, ForKing&Country, Danny Gokey, We Are They and many more Christian bands. The music and messages are always inspiring.

  4. Stephen De La Vega

    What a pleasant surprise. I felt similarly one time when I went to a Martina McBride concert. I didn’t know much about her as a person before the concert, but wow did belt praise and glory to God sometimes. I left that concert with a newfound appreciation for Martina and our Lord. May I also do the same, in my everyday life, doing what I do and honoring God in the process.

  5. Jessica Brodie

    I love bluegrass, and you are right that this genre does such a beautiful job of weaving Christ and testimony in organically. This is what we all should do in our lives.

  6. Yvonne Morgan

    Sound very cool. I pray for more people to share their faith publicly.

  7. Melinda Viergever Inman

    I love it when people are bold with their faith, when they include us in what they believe. This is common among famous performers, but not usually is that their beliefs entail love and commit to Jesus. And yet, they were not deterred. Because of their love for Jesus, they shared their beliefs. We need many more of who believe to speak up and act honest in public about what they believe.

  8. Karen Friday

    Ava, your title caught my attention. My husband’s been a long-time fan of Ricky Skaggs. And not only because of his great music talent and craftsmanship, but also because he shares his faith, because that’s who he is. This resonated with me, ” I want to consistently live in a way that my faith—my relationship with Christ—is never separate from the rest of my life. “

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