"Worship is not two or three songs," Smith says, laughing. "We worship for a long time, .but nobody wants to stop."

"My goal--in terms of my career, in terms of musically and the gifts God's given me--would be to create something that's never been done before, that is so God-inspired" he says. "I want to be singing a new song, not sitting around worrying about whether it's going to sell or not."

Before pop success found Smith, he discovered Belmont Church in the 1970s. Across the street from Belmont in those days was a coffeehouse called Koinonia, where Smith's friend Amy Grant sang for the first time. Smith was working for a music publishing company and frequented Koinonia, and eventually Belmont. In 1982 he married Debbie, who worked for the same publisher, and their involvement at Belmont grew.

As a couple, their relationship with Finto deepened. The 1980s became a time of rapid spiritual growth for Smith. It was during that period that two of his worship songs became hits--"How Majestic Is Your Name" (1982) and "Great Is the Lord" (1983). Neither, however, were written for the pop charts.

"I wrote 'How Majestic Is Your Name' for Belmont Church," Smith says. "I didn't write it for Sandi Patty. Well, Sandi Patty cut it, and it's in the hymnal now. We wrote a lot of songs back then for Belmont."

Much of Smith's young faith was shaped by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Jesus movement, and there was a time when he attended Bible studies five nights a week. Later, and on many occasions, he sought fellowship at Full Gospel Business Men's meetings. One in particular changed his life.

"The service was just amazing," Smith says. "And I went forward because I wanted more of God. I looked down the aisle, and a guy was laying hands on people. People started passing out and getting slain in the Spirit, and I went, Oh, gosh, what have I gotten myself into?

"And this guy touched me, and I was out for 15 minutes. .Took me forever to get off the floor. And I laughed. I laughed for--I laughed all the way home."

Besides this unusual burst of "holy laughter," Smith says many more charismatic experiences have occurred since. He isn't bothered by the questions people have about spiritual experiences like his, but he doesn't like to use the label "charismatic" to describe himself because of negative baggage associated with the term.

Laughter, in particular, helped relieve the pain of an intense situation Michael and Debbie once faced as parents. During an especially difficult time in one of their son's lives, they sought medical counsel. .Michael and Debbie wept together when the phone call came from Nashville stating that their son had a rare behavior disorder for which there was no reliable cure. Upon seeking a second medical opinion, their fears were relieved somewhat, but other concerns lingered.

They called on their prayer group for support. Debbie's parents, Michael's manager, and Finto and a few other friends assembled at the Smiths' house, and at Finto's suggestion, they began to anoint the house with oil.

"Every trim around the house we anointed with oil, and we prayed," Smith explains. "And it was heavy, you know? This was my son.

"So we were wrapping things up, and a real close friend of Deb's [was there], and she hadn't said anything all night long--and she's a prayer warrior.

"We thought she was going to pray. Well, she looked like she was choking up, so Deb and I went over and put our hands on her to pray for her.

"Well, all of a sudden, I started laughing. Don starts laughing--me and Don. We hyperventilate. And I'm rolling on the floor--with my in-laws watching--and I'm thinking, What in the world is going on?

"Then everybody started laughing. We laughed for 30 minutes. And you know what? I really believe that that was God."

Smith longs to influence culture with the gospel by using musical artistry. Secular doors are opening for one of his [protégés], a blind, 24-year-old singer-songwriter named Ginny Owens. Her songs have been on prime-time television, and she performed some of them in January at actor Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival.

Smith is elated for her, but already he's hearing criticism about it from the church.

"Her songs have been on five TV shows. They've been on Felicity, Roswell and others. And we've received e-mails, people saying: 'I can't believe she's on Felicity. Why would you let her? I just don't think that's what God would want you to do.'

"And you know what?" he adds. "I just believe the opposite. I think Ginny Owens is going to impact culture. Doors are opening up for this little girl who's blind and loves Jesus. And I love that it's outside the box."

Smith's future is also outside the box. He believes new things are coming for him that may or may not involve music.

His newest record, This Is Your Time--dedicated to Columbine shooting victim Cassie Bernall--released in November. It probably will be his last one until 2001, when he hopes to put out an instrumental album. He believes it will contain his best unreleased work and has strong potential for bringing people into God's presence.