Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

Belinda Smith, who co-wrote “But For the Blood” with Joel Lindsey, grew up in a church her grandfather pastored. After her grandfather died, the church shut down, and she bought the church piano.

One day, co-writer Joel Lindsey had come over to Belinda’s house in Nashville. They were sitting at this piano when they decided to write a straight-up Southern Gospel song. “Whenever you tell me straight-up Southern Gospel,” Smith recalls, “I immediately think of the Blood, the Cross, the tempter, and Salvation. Those would be the things where I go immediately.”

“I was trying to write a song that my grandpa would like,” she adds, something that would “get my grandpa to say amen out loud.”

After they had been working on the song for a while, Joel asked, “What if we did a chorus that was like, ‘But for the mercy, but for the blood’?”

“It was one of those moments where it was like the ceiling opened up, and the light of Heaven came down,” Smith said, “and I’m like, ‘Yes, Yes!’”

After that chorus idea, they finished the song in about ten minutes.

The Hoppers recorded it on their 2002 album Steppin’ Out and selected it as a radio single. Though the song didn’t hit #1, it got so much radio airplay that BMI gave Smith and Lindsay an award for the song being one of the most-played Southern Gospel hits of the year.