TUPELO • At the 39-minute mark of the recent GMA Dove Music Awards TV broadcast, an unseen female announcer came on the air to introduce the next performer.
“One of the best-loved bands in Christian music, MercyMe,” she said, and the curtain began to rise to reveal the group.
MercyMe guitarist Mike Scheuchzer said he didn’t hear the intro before the band’s performance, so he was humbled when he was told about it almost a week later. Scheuchzer then offered a quick reply on why he thought it was so complimentary.
“Yeah, my mom wrote the script,” he said, and then he laughed. “I’m just kidding.”
MercyMe has felt a lot of love over the years, especially since the March 2018 release of the movie “I Can Only Imagine.” The movie is based on the real-life story of lead singer Bart Millard and the inspiration behind the band’s 1998 breakthrough single.
The movie led to the band’s lengthy “Imagine Nation” tour, which comes to Tupelo’s BancorpSouth Arena this Sunday for a 7 p.m. show.
“We’ve been in a real season of gratitude the last few years,” Scheuchzer said last week in a telephone interview. “We’ve felt so much love from the fans and the radio community. Media of all sorts have always treated us so well.
“We’re 25 years into this,” he added. “We’re still getting to do this because people support it and are being ministered to by what we’re doing and God using these songs in people’s lives.”
MercyMe has produced a long list of inspiring hit songs, including “Word of God Speak,” “Greater,” “Flawless,” “God of All Creation,” “Shake” and “The Hurt & the Healer.”
However, it was “I Can Only Imagine,” originally recorded in 1999 and re-released in 2001, that started it for the band. The song has since become the most-played song in the history of Christian radio as well as the best-selling Christian song of all time.
The “Imagine” movie reignited interest in the song, and it’s ministering to people in new ways, Scheuchzer said. The film told about Millard’s rocky relationship with his father.
“It’s awesome to see the song take on a new life, and not because it’s popular again,” he said. “It’s taken on a new meaning in people’s lives. Everyone saw the backstory from where it came.”
Scheuchzer said “I Can Only Imagine” went from a song about overcoming the loss of a loved one, which was its original intent, to one that inspires healing between a parent and a child and restoring relationships.
“We got so many emails, stories and letters from guys who were talking about how they had really rough fathers or abusive fathers,” he said. “They were reconciling with their dads, forgiving them, and dads asking for forgiveness from their sons for their own anger issues and abuse. Things we did not see coming at all. It’s unbelievable how that song means so much to so many people after this much time has passed.”
The Imagine Nation tour kicked off last fall, and MercyMe decided to continue the same theme through this year. The band took a break from the tour Oct. 15 to perform its newest single, “Almost Home,” at the 50th annual GMA Dove Awards in Nashville. The song was released Oct. 25 for radio play, streaming and downloads.
In addition to singing the band’s latest song, Millard received the Dove Award for Songwriter of the Year (Artist).
Scheuchzer said “Almost Home” is a call for believers to stay strong during challenging times.
“It seems like a timely song,” he said. “The pain and struggle are real. Maybe God has this song for us at this time for some reason we don’t know. We’re hopeful that it helps and brings light and hope to people. ... Keep fighting for the finish line.”
The “Imagine Nation” tour is on its final leg before transitioning next year into the “MercyMe 2020” tour. In the meantime, Scheuchzer said the band has enjoyed touring with opening acts Micah Tyler and Crowder.
“(Tyler) is the first opening act we’ve ever had that gets up there with a guitar and people give him a standing ovation every night. He’s fantastic,” Scheuchzer said. “And everybody knows about Crowder. He’s one of our favorite artists to tour with.”