Country gospel singer Susie McEntire Eaton and professional team roper and minister Trey Johnson grew up in the world of Western sports and are spreading the message of Christ’s love through music and speaking. First up, Susie McEntire Eaton grew up in rural Oklahoma, the youngest of four kids in a family who worked their ranch and competed in rodeos across the state. She recalls the stories of her early music days, touring with her sister Reba, and meeting her husband on the rodeo circuit. When she became pregnant with their first child, Susie’s marriage took a turn she never expected. She candidly shares how she struggled with years of abuse and shame.
Trey Johnson was PRCA’s Rookie of the Year in 2000, and has had countless wins since then. Today, Trey tells us about growing up in West Texas, the traumatic event that changed his life forever, and the unlikely places God has led Trey to minister throughout his life.
This episode of the Jesus Calling Podcast is brought to you by James Avery Jewelry. Gifts for everyone on your Christmas list. JamesAvery.com.
Susie McEntire: I used to dread going out on the road. I used to think about, Oh, what am I going to sing? What if it’s the wrong song? What am I going to wear? What if it’s the wrong thing to wear? Now I don’t worry about that. And now it’s like I’m an open book.
Gaining Confidence Through Christ: Susie McEntire Eaton and Trey Johnson – Episode #124
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s guests both grew up in the world of Western sports and are spreading the message of Christ’s love through music and speaking: country gospel singer Susie McEntire Eaton and professional team roper and minister Trey Johnson.
First up, Susie McEntire Eaton grew up in rural Oklahoma, the youngest of four kids in a family who worked their ranch and competed in rodeos across the state. Susie learned to sing from a young age, harmonizing with her siblings. She recalls the stories of her early music days, touring with her sister Reba, and meeting her husband on the rodeo circuit. When she became pregnant with their first child, Susie’s marriage took a turn she never expected. She candidly shares how she struggled with years of abuse and shame.
Susie McEntire: I’m Susie McEntire Eaton. I live in Oklahoma. I’ve been singing for over 30 years professionally.
A Legacy of Rodeoing, Ranching, and Singing
The McEntire family has lots of dynamics. We were raised on this ranch. We were also raised up going to rodeos, because my daddy was a rodeo cowboy. And then we learned how to sing, going to these rodeos. And so all of those meshed together to be able to catapult us into three different kinds of careers: the rodeo, the ranching, and then the singing. And it’s amazing to me how it all comes together.
My grandpap, whose name was John McEntire, he lived just up the road two miles at Lapstone Gap with his wife Alice. They had Daddy, that’s the only child they ever had. And my grandpap was a champion in 1934 because he won Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
My grandpap, he didn’t want much. He liked the notoriety of being a champion. He liked his friends. And by the time he got home from a rodeo, he had already spent it all. He gave it to people. He’d spend it on on going out to eat, or whatever. He was very free with his money.
Daddy saw that and he said, “I don’t want to be that way. I want to have something for my work.” And so Daddy was very studious about his practicing, his ethic of work as to rodeo. And he had a purpose of his rodeo money. What he won on the rodeo circuit, he brought back home to southeastern Oklahoma, and he bought land and cattle. That’s all he wanted to do. He wanted a ranch where he could have cattle, and so he had a purpose.
After he and Mama got married, they had us four kids in five years. My older sister Alice was 5 when they brought me home from the hospital, and so [my mom] was busy. I mean, she was extremely busy.
It was hard to take that many kids on the rodeo trail. But every once in a while, we would get to go, and especially the trip was to go to Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne. And we have very, very fond memories of being underneath the grandstand.
It was all so fun, but also meshing in with the music, those kind of trips were when we really really learned to sing.
So Daddy being that only child, he wasn’t raised up around kids. He was raised around a lot of adults, and so his fuse was just a little bit short. He was concentrating getting down those two-lane roads with the wide trailer on the back. It was a lot of responsibility, and he would get a little short fused. And so to keep things harmonious, Mama would teach us how to sing three-part harmony.
“To keep things harmonious, Mama would teach us how to sing three-part harmony.” – Susie McEntire
What a gift that was, to be able to learn how to sing and how to sing harmony. And we didn’t really go to school to hear that, and it wasn’t with instruments. It was just with our hearing the notes.
A Grandma Who “Emanated Christ”
When Daddy wasn’t rodeoing, he was out managing his cattle, fixing fence, doing things like that and trying to build his ranch. Mama stayed home with all of us until I was just about to go into school.
I was too small to go to the first grade, so Mama made sure that when Daddy couldn’t keep me on the ranch, if he was too busy or if he had something going on that was too dangerous for me to be around, she would ask Gene Wilson, the school bus driver, to come by, pick me up with one of the other kids, and take me by Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
When that bus hit the cattle guard and straightened out to go to Grandma’s house, my heart was just full of anticipation. I’d get off that school bus, and my Aunt Georgie would get on because she was still in high school. And my grandma always had hot cocoa on the stove.
And the greatest honor Grandma let me have was one time she was sewing on her Singer sewing machine. And it was the one that you pushed the pedal and you could stop it with your hand up here. She let me push the pedal for her. Now I didn’t realize that she had a she had a brake on it right here, and she could keep me from hurting her at any time. But she honored me and trusted me that I would be able to push that pedal on the bottom.
She taught me lots of things. She taught me respect for her. She taught me respect for the church, and everything about her emanated Christ. And I think to myself now, as I keep my little granddaughters, that I want to be the same kind of influence on them that she was with me.
“[Grandma] taught me lots of things. She taught me respect for her. She taught me respect for the church, and everything about her emanated Christ.” – Susie McEntire
In fact, she led Reba to the Lord on the Pond Dam, they were fishing one time. And she didn’t rely on church for Christ to be honored. She honored Him all the time. So I’m very honored to be able to have been in her house at the age that I was. It was a huge boost to me as a woman.
“I’m going to be someone different in this family.”
But my Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a haven to me because I believe that being in a household with three older siblings, and as close as we were, I tended to be kind of pushed aside because I was younger. And we had lots of cousins around all the time. We were either at their house, they were at our house. And I was the youngest, trying to keep up. I didn’t realize until the last probably year that influenced my life a lot.
Ranch life caused all of us to have to be on a horse every once in a while, but the older ones were on horses more than me. They were older than me, for one. And I don’t think any of us really got a riding lesson. I think we just got on a horse and started going. But it seemed like to me that every time I got on a horse, I got hurt. And so I would just kind of go away from that. I didn’t want to be on that horse.
So my journey was a little bit different. I was a little more studious than the other kids, I think. By the time I was in the fourth grade, I had made 100s on all of my spelling tests. And my teacher Mrs. Roberts entered me into the spelling bee at school.
From 4th through 8th grade, I won the spelling bee. So it was like, This is my forte. I’m not a rancher, I’m not a rodeo person, I’m gonna be somebody different in this family.
So that was the kind of the the different path that I took from those guys. I really didn’t want to rodeo I didn’t want to do much ranching, but I’ll sing a little bit.
I started in the band about seventh grade, when I got over to the high school building. And we all had one hour to be able to have music class. And we would be in the cafetorium, where there was a stage and we had our musical instruments and everybody had to sing lead on at least one song. And so that stretched me a lot.
I decided to go to Oklahoma State University, and I took one singing class. And of course, they had the big numbers and all this kind of stuff. And it was almost . . . not opera, but it was hard. It wasn’t country. And I was like, “What are you trying to do to me here?” They were trying to expand me and get me in higher octaves and all this kind of stuff.
And finally, the music teacher just said, “This is not working for you. You’re too country.”
And I said “Well, coming from southeastern Oklahoma, what do you expect?”
So I pretty well laid singing down. And I thought, That’s not going to be a part of my life.
I graduated from Oklahoma State, and put out some resumes. I went to work for an oil lease company in Oklahoma City. And then Reba was on the trail doing her music, and she called me one day and she said, “Would you consider coming home and being my companion and my back-up singer for me?”
And I said, “You bet. I’ll do that. I will absolutely do that.”
And so I moved home. In the meantime, I met my future husband at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. Reba was singing the anthem, and then we were singing for the dance afterwards at the Marriott in Oklahoma City. We dated for a little while and married in November of 1981.
It was cool, traveling with Reba. It was she’s always fun. She takes care of business, and she’s was fun onstage to sing with. But I was with her when she got her first bus, and that was the most cool thing. Of all the bragging rights I have, being on the Johnny Carson Show with her and being with her when she got her first bus, [those were] the neatest things, to be able to have those two milestones with her, and going on those radio tours with her.
I learned so much from her, her work ethic and everything. And I think God had a part in. You know, I could have been born in any other family. I could have been born in any other country and any other part of the world. But He chose to put me here, in this part of the country, with this family, with a sister like her who paved the way.
And my career, I don’t discount God in any of that. In fact, I think He placed me where I’m supposed to be.
“[God] placed me where I’m supposed to be.” – Susie McEntire
Spending Years in a World of Gray
I got pregnant with our first son, E.P. And so I went home and worked for [Reba] in her office and everything was going really well. And then my brother called me and said, “Hey, would you like to partner with me? Let’s let’s do a duet career.”
I was already having trouble in my marriage. In fact, we got married in November. By March, there was emotional, verbal, physical abuse in our marriage. My husband was very jealous. When I would work for Reba, he would ask me, “Well, how long does it take for you to get from her house to this house? What’s going on? Who did you talk to?” You know, just an insecurity and a jealousy that was mounting.
By the time the rodeo at Fort Worth, I remember one morning, he just flew off the handle. And I had E.P. by then, and he was a little baby. And you know slammed the door and kicked the door. I went in the bedroom and he kicked the door off the hinges, just a real uncontrollable type of of anger, a rage–just a rage off nothing. And so as I’ve learned about that, there were things in his past that he was still processing and still angry about. His parents had an abusive relationship, and so he was raised around that all of his life.
When the abuse first started, I immediately took it on myself that I was doing something wrong. And with my personality, it’s comes out as, “How can I fix that? How can I fix this situation to make him happy and not hurt me and not hurt these kids?” And so it put me on alert constantly.
“When the abuse first started, I immediately took it on myself that I was doing something wrong.” – Susie McEntire
But the first time it happened, we took a trip to Mexico. And I don’t really know why he got angry, but I was wanting to go to bed. I was wanting to go to sleep. We’d had an argument. I don’t even remember what it was about. But if I tried to lay down, he would pull the sheets off the bed. And he would pull me, and he pulled me around the apartment with the back of my hair. I just didn’t understand it.
So the first time it happened was in that situation. And I took it upon myself, “I’m going to fix this situation.” Instead of confronting it and saying, “No more, buddy. This ain’t going to happen to me,” I went under it. I’m not saying that I caused it, but I enabled it for many years.
There’s many kinds of abuse. There’s what ours started out with, the control. My ex-husband was not in any way abusive when we were dating. He was happy go lucky. He was very spiritual, he read his Bible. He did all these things. He got up and spoke about his testimony in front of the Cowboy Church services. He was a rodeo cowboy.
There’s emotional abuse. I mean, that tore at my heart. I was accused of cheating, of being unfaithful. There’s the mental abuse, the emotional abuse, the physical abuse, which everybody can see. And then there’s the spiritual abuse. “You’ve married me, you can’t get out of this.”
With me being in the limelight, it was hard for me to get out. And we started sharing our story. We started sharing our story, that this was happening but we’re working on it. We even wrote a book called A Tender Road Home, and did a big thing about it. I recorded an album called Tender Road Home to go with it. We did speaking tours about the book. And yet, the abuse was still happening. It was an ongoing story.
That abusive marriage lasted for 26 years and three children. And I got to the point that I was so stressed that I couldn’t even open my mouth to sing. I was just locked up. I was just overloaded. And we had kids and there were rodeoing, and they were doing school activities and all these kind of things. I was singing. It was just it was a boatload for me.
And so [my husband] Paul came in that day and asked me a question, and I couldn’t answer him. He began to cuss me and tell me how inept I was. “In fact, you’re ugly and you’re stupid and you can’t do these things.” And as I sat there and watched him, I just asked God, “Please get him out of my life. Please. I can’t take this anymore.”
He rode off on his horse that day. I went into the bedroom, and I laid on my bed and cried and cried and cried. I said, “God, why don’t you do something?” I mean, we’d written a book. We’d been to all kinds of conferences, all kind of counseling. Nothing was changing. My heart was still being ripped out and demeaned. I was like, “God, do something!”
“My heart was still being ripped out and demeaned. I was like, ‘God, do something!’” – Susie McEntire
And in the quietness of my heart, He said “Why don’t you?” It was like God was calling me to be a person of intestinal fortitude, to get some guts. “Susie needs to take the reins and run her own life and take up for herself.”
And so I got up from there, and I made the decision, the kids had heard it all. And my older son E.P. came in and said, “Mom what are you going to do about this?”
And I said “Well, I’m going to ask for,” This was the second separation. “I’m going to ask for a separation and we’ll go from there.”
And so as the year wore on, I realized that I wasn’t even seeing colors anymore. My world was gray. And when he walked out—and I made that decision in 2007, something I thought I would never do, I filed for divorce—I started seeing color in my life. And I hadn’t seen it for probably 20 years. That’s how oppressive that abuse can be, and I wouldn’t want anybody to live like that.
My stance now is to also talk to women who are being abused, and men who are being abused, first to stand up for yourself, to call it what it is—it’s abuse—and to not stand for it. It’s demeaning. It’s tears your heart up. It has a lasting effect on your family and on your children. And so I would ask the people who are being abused to get help, to get out of that situation get to a safe spot and do something.
Finding a New Chapter
Narrator: As Susie forged into a new chapter of her life, she began to sing again. And as she was traveling, she also found love again with her now-husband, Mark Eaton. She talks about how, through the love of her husband, the strength of her faith, and the support of her family, she has become stronger and wiser, and how grateful she is for this new season of life.
Susie: I can’t thank God enough for that chance meeting in Cannon Beach, Oregon, to find the love of my life, who is such a huge part of my life right now. And for Him to bring me full circle and then have me marry a man from the state of Washington, who didn’t know the difference between the Hereford and a heifer? I mean, that’s pretty awesome. It’s just downright funny, that’s all it is. It’s just funny and ironic how God works. He’s got a great sense of humor.
I think that I got more confidence after we got married through several different things. Mark started singing with me, and I literally felt myself relax when he would come on the stage. It’s kind of like the pressure’s off me I’m not the focal point now.
And then when Mark said, “God smiles when you sing,” it’s like . . . Really? You mean, He would continue to love my singing? Even when anybody else quit? And so it really, really warmed my heart. It was an awesome thing to say to me, to encourage me to continue, no matter what.
Sharing the Gospel Through Cowboy Church
Narrator: Susie and Mark now partner together as they travel to churches, rodeos and other events to share their music and preach the Gospel. They talk a little bit about the beginnings of Cowboy Churches and their love for the people in rodeo and the Western Sports world.
Susie McEntire: We started Cowboy Church. And a lot of people say, “What is cowboy church?” Well, there are events, and that’s where it got started. There were about seven cowboys back in the 70s, and my ex-husband Paul was part of that.
There was a Jesus movement on the rodeo circuit. And these guys would have church services behind the chutes, at the at the trailers—wherever they could get together, they would have fellowship. Well, they started having church services and invited fans to come.
And then there’s the big influx of Cowboy Church. In Texas, the Baptist Association really put a lot of money getting these cowboy churches started. And they’re Baptist-funded and based, lots of them, over 150 in Texas.
And then there’s Cowboy Church on RFD-TV. We’ve been on there for quite a few years and get in front of a lot of people. I believe that every ministry needs to be ministering to the people that they can relate to.
Because I was raised on this ranch, you get pulled back to what you love. And I love this. This place is so dear to me. There’s places on this on this land that I can go back to, and I can remember Daddy building fence across a pond, so that two pastures would have water. Us going to the roping pen, and all those things, the rodeo trips and all of that. You just can’t take it out of your blood.
We’re Never, Ever Alone
Narrator: Susie finds inspiration in the pages of Jesus Calling. She shares a favorite passage and why it speaks to her.
Susie McEntire: It’s April 26, and it covers II Corinthians 4:16–18, and then Psalm 89:15. It says,
“Welcome problems as perspective-lifters.”
To me, that says it’s not going to be a downer, but it’s going to be an uplifting thing. I’ve got an album called Count It All Joy. And it says, “Count it all Joy, this trial you’re in.” And it’s an amazing song that just encourages people that whatever they’re going through, you will be better for it. It’s going to develop characteristics in you that you never thought possible.
“If you encounter a problem with no immediate solution, your response to that situation will take you either up or down. You can lash out at the difficulty—” which I would do. It’s there it’s fault and it’s not good for me and I’m mad at it,—“resenting it and feeling sorry for yourself. This will take you down into a pit of self-pity. Alternatively, the problem can be a ladder, enabling you to climb up and see your life from My perspective.”
God’s perspective is a lot higher than ours, and He sees a lot of problems from His perspective. And even though our problems may not be anything like people in Africa or the people in Syria or people in third-world countries that are having to walk ten miles just for a gallon of water. Our problems are still important to God.
“God’s perspective is a lot higher than ours.” – Susie McEntire
“Viewed from above, the obstacle that frustrated you is only a light and momentary trouble. Once your perspective has been heightened, you can look away from the problem altogether. Turn toward Me, and see the Light of My Presence shining upon you.”
So forever, we keep our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, the One who brings that light to us. Our problems seem to pale in His Presence, and we’re never, ever, ever alone.
Narrator: To learn more about Susie McEntire Eaton and her ministry, please visit SusieMcEntire.com. Also, if you’re in the Las Vegas Area during the National Finals Rodeo, December 6-16, we’ll be at the we’ll be at the Stetson Country Christmas located at the Sands Expo. Come and visit with us at Jesus Calling booth #109. Susie and her husband Mark will be stopping by, as will other stars of rodeo and country music. For more information, visit JesusCalling.com/rodeo.
Stay tuned to hear our next guest, rodeo star and minister Trey Johnson, after this message from our sponsor.
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Narrator: Our next guest is the multi-talented minister, professional team roper, and leadership development expert Trey Johnson. Trey was PRCA’s Rookie of the Year in 2000, and has had countless wins since then. And now, he speaks all over the world, sharing Christ’s love through sermons, roping clinics, and leadership conferences. Today, Trey tells us about growing up in West Texas, the traumatic event that changed his life forever, and the unlikely places God has led Trey to minister throughout his life.
Trey Johnson: My name’s Trey Johnson, and I’m in the ministry. And I team rope professionally, and then I also do a lot of leadership development. I’m an executive director for the John Maxwell organization. And I so travel all over the world doing all three. Between doing roping clinics in schools and other countries, and speaking at churches doing leadership development, those are the three areas of strength that I have and those are the areas that God uses me in. So that’s what I worked to develop on a daily basis.
Dreaming of Being a Cowboy Someday
Well I grew up in West Texas. And my mom and dad both, you know, rodeoed and things growing up. And so I spent a lot of time with my granddad. I think we both cried whenever I had to go to school when I was in kindergarten because I spent so much time with him.
He wouldn’t stop for lunch whenever we was working and stuff. So I learned at a young age, I’d stuff my leggings full of sausage and biscuits, you know, because he wasn’t going to catch me out there that eating lunch.
And so I just grew up, I grew up riding, cutting horses, and trading horses and everything and just enjoyed the Western lifestyle and didn’t really know much different.
Whenever I was born, I was never supposed to walk or or wear boots or anything. My my toes touch my heels on both feet. I had a real severe club feet, and so from an early age they’d go in and break all the bones in my feet and they’d have to reset them. And it was kind of iffy there for a long time, whether I’d be able to run or wear boots or anything. But I didn’t really think about that a lot. I remember as a young kid, it wasn’t an issue if I was going to or not. Regardless of the surgeries, I was gonna get better and get through them and do everything that was in my heart to do.
I can remember as a little kid out there, just dreaming of being a cowboy. And like I said, I spent so much time out there with my family. I learned so many great principles and all of them are God’s principles: how to work hard, and the importance of getting up early, and being diligent and keeping your word, and showing up on time, and just the list goes on and on that you learn just when you have a responsibility like we had growing up, taking care of the horses and the cattle, and taking care of the place. It wasn’t whether we was gonna sit inside and watch TV or whether we was going to work, it’s just what we knew. We were going to get up and take care of the place every day, and this who we were and what we did.
“I can remember as a little kid out there, just dreaming of being a cowboy.” -Trey Johnson
My dad worked in the oil field, and so I knew that I was going to try to get away from working in the oil field as soon as I could, busting flow line in high school and stuff like that.
I spent a lot of time roping calves when I was growing up. And I didn’t start team roping until I was a senior in high school, between my junior and senior year. And so when I decided to really focus on my team roping, my dad was like, “Oh, why are you doing that? You know, it’s just you and your horse and the calf whenever you’re roping calves.” But it was just a desire I had in my heart. When I gave my life to the Lord I really started seeking Him, I really had a desire to focus on my team roping and and become good at it.
The Wreck That Changed Everything
My parents did a great job when I was growing up. You know, they took us to church and we’d go to the services at the rodeos and different things like that. As far as me going after God with all my heart, I didn’t I didn’t do that until I was almost 20 years old.
When I got out of high school and went into college, like most families, there’s a lot of alcohol history, drug history, stuff like that. And I was headed down that same road whenever I went to college, waking up with beer and doughnuts as what I was having. And I ended up quitting college, went to junior college and ended up quitting school. I moved in with the girl down in El Paso. And during that time, the environment I was in, you name it, it was there. Just a bad environment.
And my parents did such a great job. They said, “Trey, we love you and you’re always welcome to come home. But we’re not going to finance or support the lifestyle and the decisions that you’re making.” And at the time, I didn’t understand. I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll be my own man. I’ll work, I’ll do whatever it takes.” And felt like I knew what I was doing. Of course, I didn’t.
I went home one weekend. And whenever I went home and I was getting ready to leave, my dad came out the back door and tears were running down his face and he said, “Trey, the Lord showed me that you’re going to die if you don’t get your life right with the Lord.”
“‘The Lord showed me that you’re going to die if you don’t get your life right with the Lord.’” – Trey Johnson, quoting his dad
And I was like, “Yeah right, Dad, whatever.” I thought he was just being a parent trying to pull one over on me. So I went back to live in the lifestyle that I was living.
And about two weeks later I was leaving the rodeo in Austin, Texas, headed to another rodeo. And the guy I was roping with was in the passenger seat, the girl I was dating at the time was in the back seat. I was driving. And I woke up in the middle of the night running 70 down a four-lane highway, and I was in the median with a truck and horse trailer.
When I woke up, I tried to ease it back onto the highway, and I saw that I wasn’t going to make it because there was the big water culvert in the middle of the four-lane highway there. And so I pulled the truck back in the middle, and it had concrete slabs going up both sides of the big water covert there. I hit it perfectly with the truck, and we’re running 70 miles an hour here. And we jumped, but then the trailer hit the culvert just right on and just ripped the living quarters away from the truck. And of course, it spun us around. And as I’m spinning, and you know go slow motion when you’re having a wreck like that, the trailer’s just going end over end over end. And when we got to stand still, and I realized that everybody was okay, I just took off running towards the horses. Couldn’t get any of the doors open or anything, and it was like a ball of tin.
By this time, people had called 911 and and the Jaws of Life are on the way to cut the horses out. I crawled in the top of the trailer—it was on its side— down through one of the windows. I got down in there and I was petting the horses because they’re just going nuts. And I never will forget it. I’m squatting down there with the horses, and I just remember my dad coming out the back door, tears running down his face and telling me, “Trey, if you don’t get your life right, you’re gonna die.”
I knew that night, God had spared my life—that He wasn’t the one that had anything to do with the wreck or anything, but He was the one that spared my life.
And so in that trailer, I made a decision. I’d been to church enough and I knew how to call on the name of the Lord. So I called on the name of the Lord and asked Jesus to come into my heart. And I told Him, “I want to know You. I don’t want to, I don’t want to play church. I don’t want to be religious. I know You spared my life, but I want to know You.”
“I don’t want to play church. I don’t want to be religious. . . . I want to know You.” – Trey Johnson
That was a life-changing decision for me. And even though I didn’t know how to come out of everything that I was in, I started making steps.
I found Matthew 6:33, which says,
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything else will be added unto you.”
And so I started putting Him first. Every day, I’d get up. And I didn’t know how to read my Bible, didn’t know what to do, but I knew that life was in His word. And I just started putting Him first and putting Him first. And He started delivering me one thing after another.
You know, I’d had all kinds of addictions and stuff that I was dealing with. I found one translation of Proverbs 4:20, which says,
“My son, be addicted to My word.”
Well, that was my language. I knew what it was like to be addicted. So I literally started trying to overdose on God’s Word. And what came out of that is freedom. What came out of that is me discovering degrees, at that time, of who I was and what I was called to do.
Putting God First, Over and Over
And in just a few months after that, I was putting God first, putting God first, putting God first. I went with some friends down south. We were at a rodeo, and I was sitting on the fence. I was just a beginner roper at the time as far as my ability. And I’m watching my heroes rope in the rodeo, [people like] Rich Skelton. They didn’t know who I was, but I knew who they were.
They’d ride over to me and [introduce themselves]. Of course, I’m just like, This is the coolest thing ever.
And they said, “We’ve got to be in Oklahoma City in the morning by 8:00 o’clock. Would you drive us?”
I wasn’t thinking, Well, why are they asking me? or any of that. It was just, “Yeah, you bet!”
And so I get in the truck with them, and I get to share my story with them of where I was at in my life and how I wanted to change my life. And during that time, Rich said “We’ll, Trey, why don’t you live with me and work for me?”
And I was like, “Yeah, that’d be great!”
So I got out of that environment. And just three months later, the people that I lived with, they got caught with four and a half tons of drugs and [got] a life sentence in prison. And some have died in prison. I mean, God spared my life again.
And so during that time, I was working on my roping, and I just kept putting God first, putting God first. I started getting things back on track. I wanted to go back to college. I went back to Texas Tech and during that time. I’d get my studies done as soon as I could. I would spend hours in the library, but it wasn’t studying my ag business degree that I was after. I just wanted to know God. I had no idea I was called to ministry at that time. I just wanted to know God.
I went to roping one weekend, and some of the guys that I used to run with, they said, “Hey, Trey, would you do church for us in the morning?” Because they’d seen what God had done in my life.
And I was like, “Yeah, I’ll do church.”
But then I got to thinking, They’re just making fun of me. Because they were strung out when they asked me that. And so I was like, Yeah, whatever. So I didn’t show up for church the next morning.
Well, at the roping the next day, every one of them came up to me said, “Trey, where were you?” They had showed up for church, and I didn’t. It crushed me on the inside.
I just remember driving out of the arena at Pecos, Texas, and it’s a huge arena. I remember telling the Lord, I said, “Lord, if you ever give me a chance to share with people how good you are, I won’t tell you no.”
And so sure enough, two weeks later, I’d gone back to college. We’re at the college rodeo at Big Springs. And before I gave my life to the Lord, I’d sneak around the stands and I would be six to eight people in the stand at the rodeo services.
And so I go up to them and I said, “Hey, guys, who’s doing church service?”
They said, “Trey, nobody is. Would you do it?
And I was like, No way, I’m not doing it. Then I remembered what I told the Lord, and I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
I gave my testimony at that church service, and there were just tons of people that showed up. Corey Ross, a friend of mine, he started doing the music, and he’s in the ministry now also. I would do the preaching. And there would be hundreds of kids that would show up to the college rodeo services.
We had a revival for the next couple of years. And it got to the point, from that point forward, just one door after another began to open as far as ministry began. And so I’d go to school during the day, and I’d drive somewhere and preach, and drive all night back to school, and roping and doing the same thing. And so then, it just kind of escalated from there, beginning to discover you know who I was and what I was called to do.
Going Wherever God Calls
During that time after I won the Rookie of the Year, I just pastored churches. I started several different churches—some cowboy churches, some non-denominational churches. After about eight and a half years, every October or so, the Lord starts talking to me about the upcoming year and what He wants to do. And in every year it was “Serve my pastorate.” And for eight years, I served and helped start churches and oversaw the different three churches at the time, and we’ve done a lot of different stuff.
In 2010, the Lord started talking to me about going back and rodeoing again and roping again. And once again my first answer was, “Lord, no way.” At this level, these guys haven’t taken eight and a half years off mentally and physically. I work out and I stay in shape, but it’s different, just the feel, the sharpness.
I stepped back out to rodeo and stuff again and to minister, and so we have a lot going. I’ll speak anywhere from 100, 150 times a year around the world, whether it’s a leadership deal at conferences or churches, or whatever the case is. It’s been really interesting how God’s used the rope to open up doors all over.
People come into the roping schools. I’ve had mafia guys end up coming in, thinking they’re going to get better at their roping, and they do. But then they have an encounter with God that totally changes their life and puts them on a different path and different course. So in the roping, the ministry, the leadership and all those things, I just I want to bring glory to God.
“I’ve had mafia guys end up coming in . . . but then have an encounter with God that totally changes their life and puts them on a different path and different course.” – Trey Johnson
Depending on God Transforms Your Life
You know, I’m not for sure the first time that I heard about Jesus Calling. But in all my travels, bookstores, stuff like that, I remember when it first came on the scene—or I think I do, anyway. First time I was aware of it, I just thought, “Isn’t that an interesting name?” Because you know the word “calling” in itself means an invitation. And I remember what it was like—and still like—every time I get quiet, God is always inviting me to go the next level. He’s always inviting me to step out and do something that’s beyond me, that’s so much bigger than me.
People in my family have gotten this. We’ve gotten it from our oldest daughter, seen it in airports, bookstores. And so every time I see the name Jesus Calling, it just makes me pause for a moment and really think about, What does that mean to me?
Jesus is always, the Lord’s always in front of us. You know, He’s always inviting us to become who we are truly created to be. Yes, He loves us where we’re at, but He loves us too much to leave us where we’re at. He’s always calling to have a more intimate, deeper walk with the Lord.
Narrator: One of Trey’s key messages to others is how depending on God changed his life. He reads one of his favorite passages from Jesus Calling, from the January 5th entry:
“You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me. People usually associate victory with success, not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own string tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failures, weaknesses and neediness that you learn to allow Me.
True dependence is not simply asking me to bless what you’ve decided to do. It’s coming to me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant My own desires within you. I may infuse within you a dream that seems so far beyond your reach. You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal. Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me. It is a faith-walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life through deepening your dependence on Me.”
He never leaves us, He never forsakes us. He has always committed to us. He’s always committed to us. He’s committed to His Word. His love is committed to us. His mercy is committed to us. His grace is committed to us. He is committed to help us overcome anything that life throws our way.
“[God] never leaves us, He never forsakes us. . . . He’s committed to His Word. His love is committed to us.” – Trey Johnson
And so just this process of being in a devotional like this and realizing one day at a time that, if I put God first, I can lift my thinking. I can lift my believing. I can lift my expectation. I can live my life, no matter how intense it is all around me. One day at a time, one thought at a time, one step at a time, one action at a time, that He’s always calling us to new heights.
Purpose Never Changes
Years ago, I was asking the Lord what success was. As a young man and after God and you have all these different definitions of success out there, and the Lord says, “Trey, a person that’s in the process of knowing Me and being the best them they can be? That’s true success.”
“A person that’s in the process of knowing Me and being the best them they can be? That’s true success.” – Trey Johnson, speaking on God’s perspective of success
When I’m in the process of knowing God and I’m operating in my gifts and my strengths, my assignment, my calling, my purpose, He promises the resources are going to be there. Everything that we’re running around trying to get? He promises He is going to be there. That’s my purpose: helping people know God and helping them be the best them they can be.
Purpose never changes. But the way that it looks, that changes throughout our 20s, 30s, 40s, so on. But the purpose never changes. And so the more we’re in relationship, the more we discover about Him, the more we discover about ourselves and what He has for us what’s on the inside of us. And so still to this day, I reflect back at that decision I made in the horse trailer, and it’s still in my heart on a daily basis. You know, I get up before everybody else does and I still want to put Him first. Because regardless of whether I’m speaking at a conference, it doesn’t matter, I want to know Him.
Narrator: To learn more about Trey Johnson Ministries, visit treyjohnsonministries.com.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we visit with television host Kathie Lee Gifford. Kathie Lee shared a new project she has been working on, a children’s book called The Gift That I Can Give, which encourages kids to recognize the unique gifts God has given each and every one of us.
Kathie Lee Gifford: So I think we’re asking our children the wrong question in our culture. We’ve been asking them for years, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I think a better question is, “What are you already becoming? Because God made you that way. What is your gift? What is the one thing that you can do that no one else can do but you?” That’s where you’re also going to find great joy in life because you will be in the center of God’s will.