No one meeting Michael Robert would equate the peaceful, unassuming forty-something man with the wide grin and firm handshake as a high-octane thrill seeker - and that is just the way he like its. He is not, after all, the kind of guy who jumps out of airplanes or jet-sets to high stakes poker tournaments. But a thrill seeker he is, nonetheless. You see, Michael Robert is a worship leader at heart. If you check out very much of your Bible, you'll find those were the guys on the front lines when it came to warfare – both the physical and spiritual kind. And so it is that Michael finds his greatest thrill in seeing people fall to their knees and worship a holy God.
Michael is, by his own admission, something of a driven, disciplined man, with a creative streak a mile wide. Raised in a Christian home on a ranch in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Oregon, he made friends with the guitar at an early age; and it has been his best friend and confidant ever since. Leading worship at his youth group led to missionary work in Mexico, Honduras, and the Philippines, but once back in the States, it wasn't long before his guitar began luring him back into its embrace. Soon he formed a new band and hit the road, sharing Jesus with anyone who would listen. Along the way he shared the stage with everyone from Skillet and Bleach to NewSong and Randy Thomas.
Then one Fourth of July, he met a young, single mom named Linda and Michael Robert admits to seeing fireworks – literally and figuratively. Marriage was inevitable. Linda became Michael's grounding and counter-weight; an anchor that holds him fast; the compulsion that drives him forward. Through the ensuing years of marriage they have faced all the trials and tribulations that are common to believers on both edges of the twenty-first century; and some that no one wants to even contemplate.
"We've gone through some trials over the years," Michael understates. "Depression, health issues, kidney problems, open-heart surgery – we've been through it all. We are truly thankful for modern medicine and the working of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing like being kept on your knees to keep you humble before the Lord."
Although the new responsibilities of being a husband and father meant laying aside the music - at least the touring aspect of it - and getting real job, Michael's irrepressible creativity simply shifted gears and began expressing itself through a completely unrelated outlet.
"I started my own pest control business," Michael explains. "I invented my own line of natural pest control products, jumped in my old, 1971 Datsun pickup and started treating homes." Michael's drive and creativity soon propelled the company to phenomenal growth in the Pacific Northwest and it is now one of the largest natural pest control businesses in the country. "It is interesting how the Lord sometimes puts you in places you never expected to be," Michael says with an ‘aw shucks' grin.
While Michael poured his energies into his pest control business, Linda embraced motherhood as the Lord blessed the couple with five more children. With an athletically inclined brood, Michael soon found himself coaching Little League, serving as an umpire, and supporting the local high school football, baseball, and basketball teams. But the music was never far from his mind and opportunities for ministry continued to present themselves.
Drawing on the life of the legendary Keith Green and the raw abandon of Christian rockers, Rez Band, for inspiration, Michael continued to pour out his heart in song. He soon found himself leading worship for congregations both small and large. The thrill of seeing hearts reborn continued to resonate in Michael's spirit, and with an unexplained burst of fresh creativity, he says the Lord started giving him new songs that had the potential to impact lives. He formed Michael Robert Music as an outlet for that creativity.
"I've always written songs," Michael explains, "but during the last three years in particular the Lord has given me some amazing songs, songs that I can't ignore, songs that I believe are meant for more than just me. The time was never right before, but when God puts a call on your life and makes it clear, you simply have to obey. That's the way it is right now."
As the songs began to pour out, Michael began to carve more time out of his schedule to record. Two full-length worship CDs, "I Come Into Your Presence" and "Lift Up Your Voice" are the first fruits of his efforts, with dozens more songs in various states of completion waiting their turn to be unveiled. As his songs began to impact the airwaves, Michael has found new opportunities to travel and minister to congregations who might never see a national recording artist.
"I love leading worship at little churches," he grins. "There is nothing like walking into a congregation of 80 people and doing a rock concert. I just love it. I love to encourage these small churches and hopefully help them grow. As an evangelist and teacher, that is where my heart is. These days everyone seems to think the mega-church is where it is at, but I think most of the work of the Spirit is done in these little churches where people actually know each other, and the accountability is strong."
The groundswell of interest in new praise and worship music comes as no surprise to the seasoned worship leader, but he does admit to being a bit bemused by it. "It seems like the hot thing to do right now is to release a worship album, but worship is what I've been doing all along," he says. "I think people are hungry for more than just a rock concert. There is a place in all of us that only worship can fill. Being able to be a part of a group in worship and praise is a thrilling experience. I think people long for that. I know I do."
Whether rocking hard with a full band or gently strumming a peace-evoking worship ballad on his trusty acoustic guitar, one thing is certain for Michael Robert - the thrill of leading people into the presence of God through worship is back. "I may be a little older than your normal, emerging Christian artist," Michael grins, "but I've got a lot of life under my belt, a lot of life in front of me, and quite frankly, a lot more to write about."