The film Walk the Line is a biographical story of music legend Johnny Cash. In a scene based on Johnny’s first audition for a recording contract, Johnny and his two band members are in a studio with music executive Sam Phillips. The song that they’re auditioning, however, is a common gospel tune that he and his band perform flatly, without emotion or conviction. Part way through, Phillips interrupts:
“Hold on. Hold on. I hate to interrupt, but do you guys got something else?” After an awkward pause, he explains: “I’m sorry. I can’t market gospel no more. I don’t record material that doesn’t sell, Mr. Cash, and gospel like that doesn’t sell.”
Johnny asks, “Was it the gospel or the way I sing it?”
“Both,” Philipps replies.
“Well, what’s wrong with the way I sing it?” Johnny asks.
Phillips’ response is telling: “I don’t believe you,” he says.
“You saying I don’t believe in God?” Johnny’s friends attempt to get him to leave, but he pushes forward. “I want to understand. I mean, we come down here, we play for a minute, and he tells me I don’t believe in God.”
“You know exactly what I’m telling you,” Phillips says. “We’ve already heard that song a hundred times, just like that, just like how you sang it.”
Johnny protests, “Well, you didn’t let us bring it home.”
“Bring it home?” Phillips asks in disbelief. “All right,” he says, “let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song, one song people would remember before you’re dirt, one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth, one song that would sum you up, you telling me that’s the song you’d sing? That same Jimmie Davis tune we hear on the radio all day? About your peace within and how it’s real and how you’re gonna shout it? Or, would you sing something different? Something real, something you felt? Because I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.”
True worship comes from the heart. It may be simple and it may be familiar, but it is always from the heart. That’s the kind of worship that saves people.