Why He put Down The Gun

A young man was sitting in his apartment in New York City, and began loading his handgun. His level of depression had reached its peak, and he felt that the only relief would be found in death. As he held the gun a song came on the radio…a song that would change his life forever. We’ll return to him in a moment.

When I decided to be a pastor I totally resented the fact that radio kept pulling me back in! The radio business would not leave me alone, or maybe it was my friend and nationally syndicated Fitz who wouldn’t stop calling me with jobs? Regardless, I believed that I was to serve the good Lord by preaching, and one day Fitz said, “Tony, you can reach more people on the radio than you ever could in a church.” This is really difficult for me to say, especially in writing, but he was correct. And today’s blog post is a great example of how God can use us in ways we never dreamed.

I believe it was around 2003 when I was standing in the studio at Wild 100 in Dallas with the morning show host Fitz, and the other cohost Big Gay Steven (his preferred name). We played music with BEAUTIFUL lyrics that included gun violence, and the words pimps, and hoes.

So when I suggested to Fitz we play a new song called, “I can Only Imagine” by the Christian band MercyMe he obviously said no right? Wrong, Fitz loves his Jesus so he was all in, and so I brought in this weird thing called a CD. Fitz popped it in the CD player for all of Dallas/Fort Worth to hear! We went from blasting music about pimps, bitches, and popping caps to:

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

In over 20 years in radio I have never seen an audience respond to a song like they did that day. The request lines lit up like a Christmas tree, and one after another they cried telling us how the song made them think about a family member who had passed away. And then our hotline light started blinking, which sends panic throughout any DJ’s body, because it usually meant we were in trouble! We picked it up and our boss said with excitement, “Who is MercyMe?”

At the time MercyMe was already well established as one of the top Christian bands, and even lived in the Dallas area! However, our audience and boss felt like they had just discovered gold! Well, actually it was more like platinum, because by the time this story came to an end “I can Only Imagine” was certified double platinum. Nearly every station and format in the country was playing the song.

The next day Bart Millard, the lead singer of MercyMe, called the request line and said, “This is Bart from MercyMe and I heard you are playing our song.” And within 48 hours they came into the studio to play the song live. Now, here is the part of the story many don’t know. I literally used a different name when I was on the show, because I was attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was terrified if they found out that I was on that show and radio station that I would be kicked out of the seminary. As I stood in the studio watching MercyMe perform that song…I knew I was exactly where God wanted me.

There are many stories about how that song encouraged, inspired, and even saved lives. The young man from New York was sitting in his apartment ready to end his life when “I can Only Imagine” came on the radio. On a radio station that would not have normally been playing a song with such a blatant Christian message, but it had taken on a life of its own.

Regardless of where you are in life, God wants to use you to positively impact the world. The reason that song went to number one, the reason a movie was eventually made about it, and the reason lives have been changed is because ordinary people do extraordinary things when they simply allow God to use them.

  • The teacher who takes the neglected child and makes her feel as though she can one day cure cancer, and she graduates from medical school.
  • The hospice nurse who brings peace to the end of life.
  • The man or woman who loves their stepchildren as their own, and invests in them daily.
  • The couple who fosters children and helps them realize they are valued and loved.
  • The pastor who spends his entire career ministering in the poverty stricken parts of town.
  • The salesperson who is honest and treats every client with respect, and serves his community.
  • The wealthy who donates money to charities.
  • The volunteer coach who instills integrity and confidence into every child regardless of their talent.
  • The woman who volunteers to serve food at the homeless shelter each week.

The reason that song is a success is because God wanted the message to be heard, and a few goofballs in Dallas had the privilege of being His hands and feet. Begin to look around for those in your life that need to know they matter. Who have you noticed that seems a little distant or sad at work or school? Who seems to stay to their self, rarely leaves their cubicle, or is suddenly more isolated? Who needs someone to believe in them? Who needs someone to simply give them a hug? You are the hands and feet of God.

I love you,


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6 responses to “Why He put Down The Gun”

  1. hyltonla

    You were God’s hands and feet about 23 years ago when you told me I needed to run back to church. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t see your name, but I hope you are well. 🙂


  2. Terri Mullen

    So good Tony! I can only imagine is one of my favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JFace

    I was listening to y’all that day. I don’t have a moving story to tell but I can say that when I hear about “Fit with a z”, that is always what I remember. Him playing that song and talking about it for a few after it was done and then having Mercy Me on that station a few ways later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading! It was an interesting day in pop music. 🙂


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