Beyond the Song by Jantina Baksteen
Michael Combs is no stranger to gospel music, and the song “Drinking From My Saucer” had reached me years ago. Now I got the chance to interview Michael Combs. I hope you enjoy reading his testimony and the story of his great ministry.
Jantina Baksteen: Everybody in gospel music knows you, but perhaps not all the readers of SGNScoops. Could you please give a short introduction?
Michael Combs: Of course. Michael Combs Ministries was established in 1989 when I, Michael Combs, was gloriously saved at a Revival meeting in Jacksonville, Florida. I became a new creation and God placed a new song in my heart. Since then, I have had the privilege of sharing my story, writing songs, recording those songs, and sharing the gospel through song and testimony for over 30 years. I have been so blessed.
JB: I’ve been listening your album “Tell Me That Story.” Could you share how this project came together? Please also share with us your testimony, since you lived a whole other life before 1989?
MC: Well, Jantina, we could probably write a book on that. The “Tell Me That Story” project was a collection of songs that I had written, which of course, included the title song. I had a lot of things on my heart that I wanted to share and God was giving me all of these wonderful melodies as I would noodle around on the piano. I was able to go into the studio and with the Lord’s help, and some very talented musicians, complete the project. “Tell Me That Story,” “Almighty God,” and “They’ll Never Take Jesus (Out Of My Heart),” were all on that project. It was a huge boost for our ministry.
My story is that I was raised in a good Christian home by godly parents that loved the Lord and we loved each other. I had a wonderful childhood. My mother loved music. She loved to sing. We sang in the home. We sang at church. We even sang in the car. Mom was also the choir director at the church we attended when I was a boy.
However, even with that background and upbringing, I was like the children of Israel. I became rebellious, and chased after other gods. I became a drunk and a dope addict. A lot of people gave up on me (and I couldn’t really blame them). However, God showed mercy on me. Saved me. Made me His own!
JB: What happened on that Monday night in 1989 at the revival in Florida? Who invited you to join? What was the message that changed your mess into a message?
MC: A neighbor down the street from my wife, Denise, and I, a guy named Ray McSwain, invited us to Westside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. It was there that I began to hear God’s word again. But this time I heard it with my heart. All the same things that I had heard as a child began to resonate loudly in me. I knew that I needed (and wanted) Jesus in my life. I knew that he was all I needed. My heart broke into a million pieces and I cried out to Jesus. I told him how sorry I was that I ran from him (and his love) for all those years. I asked him to forgive me. To save me. He did. Hallelujah!
JB: You are such an inspiration to the gospel industry; you’re a singer, songwriter, and musician. Could you share about your success?
MC: God changed sorrow into joy. I have been so blessed, Jantina. Never dreamed that night when I gave my heart to Jesus that I would become a full time gospel music evangelist. Never imagined that I would stand on stage with some of the biggest names in Southern gospel music. I just wanted to do something for the Lord. I just wanted to be used of God. I’ve always loved music, as I stated earlier. I began to take notes when our pastor would preach at church. I would then go home, sit down at the piano, and write a song about it. Then, come back to church the next Sunday, and share it with my Sunday School class. Then other classes. Then in the church. Then a businessman in the church, by the name of Warren Coker, told me that I needed to do an album. He said if I would do it, that he would pay for it. That’s how my recording career started. I called a toll free number in an ad in a Singing News Magazine and a gentleman by the name of Dave Wilcox answered the phone. He was the A&R person for The Eddie Crook Company/Morningstar Records. I did three albums there and they did a great job for me and helped get off to a good start. My first single out to radio charted on The Gospel Voice Magazine charts!
JB: What is your mystery that you can pack a crowd bigger than any other artist?
MC: I don’t know if it’s a mystery or even one specific thing. I think it’s a combination of things. I know that God has always had an unusual anointing on me when I sing or share. I believe people hear that in my voice on radio. They then have to see this guy with the unusual voice. Then when they come to a concert/service, they not only see but they feel something that compels them to come again. And again. We have a large faithful following that has followed our ministry for years. A lot of them say it’s like a one night Revival service. We’ve had countless people saved in our concert/services over the years. It has been a tremendous blessing to see.
JB: How does God give you the lyrics of your songs?
MC: Oh boy…I knew you would get to that one eventually. It’s hard to explain in just a few words. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard work. I’ve written some in minutes with hardly any effort. I’ve agonized and taken months to write others. The inspiration can come at any moment. A sermon. A book. (The Book!). An event in my own personal life or someone else’s. World events. The news. And when it comes, it’s best to stop everything and work it out (even if it’s only a little). The inspiration can come and go very quickly. I was very fortunate when I first started out in gospel music. I was invited to sing at some of the largest bible conferences in the country in those days (1992-2005). I had a front row seat to hear some of God’s greatest preachers and I had my notebook with me. That’s where a lot of inspiration came from in the early days, and a good Sermon still gets my creative juices going. Sometimes a melody will speak words to me. Maybe just a few words. I hear the words just as they will be sung. Like “Not For Sale,” or “Carry Me Jesus,” which I will develop a whole story line around. I don’t have a certain way of writing. It’s happened in different ways.
JB: You released a new song to radio “They’ll Never Take Jesus Out Of My Heart.” What’s the song about? What does it mean to you personally?
MC: Great question. This is another preacher/sermon story. A dear evangelist friend of mine and I were ministering together as a team at a revival meeting. He did all the preaching that week and I handled all of the special music and played the piano. My preacher friend, Evangelist Rick Coram, has a son, Jonathan, who was very small at the time. Jonathan had a little bible tucked under his arm when we walked him to the nursery one night. After the service, I walked with Brother Rick back to the nursery to retrieve Jonathan. When we arrived we saw Jonathan down in the floor playing with one hand and still clutching that little bible under his arm with the other. I said, “Brother Rick! They just can’t get that bible out of his hand!” Brother Rick responded immediately, “Brother Michael, I pray they’ll never get it out of his heart!” That stuck with me.
JB: You’ve been through a lot of health issues. Could you share with us your testimony?
MC: Sure. I was diagnosed with Liver Cirrhosis in 1988. I was told that somewhere down the road (maybe 10-15 years down the road) I may be looking at a transplant. I was young and not real concerned about it at that time. I was saved in February of 1989. Went to work for the Lord, singing and sharing my testimony at bible studies in people’s homes, nursing homes, Prison Outreach Ministries, and had even done my first album. Things were going well. Then I got very sick. Had emergency abdominal surgery on Christmas Eve, 1990, to repair a ruptured artery in my stomach cavity. I was having blood circulatory problems due to the Liver damage. Nine months later I had a liver transplant on 9-9-91 in Omaha, Nebraska at UNMC. Years later, in November of 2014, I had emergency surgery again when my lower intestine flipped/twisted during the night. This was caused by old internal scar tissue that had attached itself to my lower intestine and over time had pulled it over. After taking anti-rejection medicine for 25-plus years, my kidneys were next to go. The early years of anti-rejection medicine was very toxic to my kidneys and did a lot of damage. I could not travel and sing and preach, tied to a dialysis machine, so we began to pray for yet another miracle. In January of 2017, I got a new kidney at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. God is so good to me.
JB: Is there a song you wish you had written?
MC: I’ve always looked up to and admired Squire Parsons. He’s my hero. I love the song, “He Came To Me.” I love the line that says, “Oh, when I could not come to where he was…He Came To Me.” Now that’s good stuff.
JB: What is ahead for you in the near future?
MC: Whatever the Lord allows, I suppose. I feel great. People seem to still enjoy our music and still come out to see us. I would love to keep going for a little while longer. Of course, I wouldn’t try to do as much as I’ve done in the past. I think I still have a lot to do and want to do. I’m writing some new songs and hope to have them ready soon. Would love to do at least one more project. Hard to believe we’ve done 20 recordings. What a wonderful journey!
JB: What message of hope do you share to the crowd, especially to those who have no hope?
MC: Ah. Our hope is in the Lord. He won the victory over death, hell and the grave. By placing our trust in him, we too have victory. Call out to Jesus. He will save you. He is your only hope.
JB: Is there a wish on your bucket list you would like to see fulfilled?
MC: Boy, you saved the toughest question for last, now, didn’t ya! However, believe it or not, I have never been to the Holy Land. That would be a dream come true. To see where he lived, where he walked, where he performed miracles! To see that empty tomb…
We hope you enjoy listening to Michael Combs sing, “They’ll Never Take Jesus Out Of My Heart.”
Find out more about Michael Combs and his ministry here:
Thank you, Michael, for sharing your story with SGNScoops. It was a pleasure to sit around the table, in a social media way. May all you do continue to be a blessing to the crowd you sing to.
By Jantina Baksteen
Jantina Baksteen is a gospel music writer and a regular contributor to SGNScoops magazine and website.
Jantina Baksteen – biography:
I live all the way overseas in the Netherlands. I’m married and I have three adult children. I grew up in a Christian home and knew in my early years that I wanted to belong to Him. I surrendered my life to Christ was baptized one day before I turned 11 years old. Somehow, the seed of loving gospel music was planted by the style of music my parents played at home. Around 2006/2007, I was listening to Gaither homecoming music that I found on the internet. The song, “Oh, What A Savior,” by Ernie Haase hit me with the so-called Southern gospel bug. From there, I’ve been reading /studying all I can find. I found the digital SGNScoops Magazine. I started praying for God to please give me a job in the Southern gospel industry. Now I do the “Beyond the Song” article that really has my heart as I am reaching out to artists, asking about a current song and having a sneak peak behind the scenes.
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