Nashville Pastor Leads Touring Musicians’ Ministry

The terrible news came raining in, one blow after another – this friend getting divorced, that one on drugs, a third self-destructing in an uncharacteristic string of bad choices.

Milam Byers prayed to see the common thread he was missing.

His answer, surprising in how obvious it was: All those friends were touring musicians.

So four years ago, Byers, the former lead guitarist of Christian rock band Bleach, launched The Reversal. Part chaplaincy, part Bible study, part virtual community, the Nashville-based ministry seeks to connect touring musicians for spiritual support.

It fills a need bricks-and-mortar churches can’t, because they’re impossible to attend while traveling for months at a time, and the people inside – while well-meaning – have little idea what it means to keep a Christian faith and family together in that transient, temptation-filled life.

To be clear, The Reversal’s members say, life on the road isn’t one big, debaucherous “Almost Famous” scene. There’s also potential to lose spiritual connections over the mundane routine of drive-unpack-perform-pack-drive. But even Christian tours have their moments, and isolation can lead to damaging secrets. If you sleep with a girl in Iowa or get drunk in Montana, Byers points out, who will know?

But the group provides members a lengthy list of like-minded friends with cell phone numbers to call when times get rough. It encourages them to study the Bible with other people on their tours, whether those peers already claim a religion or not. And it gives them an understanding community when they come home – no matter what stories they have to tell.

“We all do fall short. There are times I’ve screwed up big time,” said Trevor Sarver, who spent a decade touring with The Wedding. “You may have a girlfriend, a wife, a friend who’s never toured, but if you have someone who knows the boat you’re in and can love you through that, that’s incredible.”

Byers was ordained Southern Baptist, but The Reversal and its gatherings are nondenominational. He runs it while serving as artist representative for Food for the Hungry, a Franklin-based nonprofit working in 18 countries. He sometimes travels with bands, serving as a chaplain.

Photo: The Tennessean, Sanford Myers/AP
Clay Hunt, left, Davy Baysinger of Bleach and Trevor Sarver of The Wedding at the Edgehill Café in Nashville, Tenn.

At one point, he was coordinating five Bible studies for touring musicians across Middle Tennessee, but he’s pulled back from leading those, although some members continue to meet on their own.

It’s giving him a chance to consider The Reversal’s next horizon.