While music has always been part of Mike Lee's life, he didn't truly understand its power until he encountered Jesus. It's that moment when the songwriter's life was forever transformed, when music became much more than just lyrics, chords, and choruses.
Mike grew up in a musical family, but it wasn't until faith in Jesus became his life's focus that he started writing. At the age of 14, Mike found his dad's old guitar and began scribbling down songs for the sole purpose of responding to the Lord. Those quiet moments of contemplation, time spent in the Word and connecting with God through song, are what inevitably led to Mike leading worship at church and youth gatherings.
Mike realized about a year into his tenure that no matter where he was in life, songwriting and worship leading were always going to play an integral role. It wasn't a hobby, a job title, or even an exciting career move. It was a calling--a calling the Fort Wayne, Indiana native took seriously.
In addition to leading at his local church, Liquid Church in Fort Wayne, Mike also began traveling regionally with his band. Fueled by the desire for believers to "not only see God, but respond to His call," Mike also began teaching and ministering the Word.
But when Mike and his wife Michelle became pregnant with their son, Preston, Mike realized that he might have to give up on the idea of traveling and leading worship. Their traveling slowed for a while, and Mike happily settled in with his local church, and that was that. Or so he thought.
God clearly had other plans. It was Michelle who kickstarted the conversation in more ways than one. With a heart to expand their ministry, Michelle reached out to legendary Nashville-based producers Scott and Ed Cash (Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe, David Crowder). They invited Mike to record an album in their studio, and the ensuing two years of collaboration between Mike and the Cash brothers worked to expand Mike's vision for what the Lord had in mind for the mission-minded songwriter.
Further confirmation of God's plans arrived in a way that still blows Mike away. After launching a Kickstarter campaign for the songs Mike was recording, they ended up exceeding their original goal by nearly $7,000.
"It's funny when you see the Lord take over and do something you couldn't have done on your own," Mike shares. "I'm incredibly honored and humbled to be stewarding this project, which was a total gift from the Lord."
Instead of the original plan of recording three songs, Mike was able to record five for his EP, Awakening Hearts. Many of the songs were "birthed out of weighty conversations about salvation, grace, and a law of faith rather than a law of works--all while standing on the truth of God."
Committed -- and compelled -- to sharing the truth through song, the album's prevailing theme centers on Ephesians 1:13-14: "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory."
"Awakening Hearts, is a celebration of the witness of the Holy Spirit, and a call to wake up and respond," Mike shares. "When we hear and believe, the only appropriate response is to wake up. It's a sensory, emotional response when we hear the Word of God: 'Wow, I've heard the voice of the eternal God, and this is entirely new.' That's the heart of the album right there."
Fueled by Scripture and spiritual insight, the tracks of Awakening Hearts are both compelling and creative. With the song, "Different," written in a minor key with a sound reminiscent of MuteMath, the lyrics explore how God couldn't be more different than man, yet He's never indifferent in His love for mankind.
"It's probably the most evangelical song I've written, and it's as much for the lost as the found," Mike shares. "I sort of play with the idea of time and space, and how we as humans are bound by that. We're limited. But God, He's limitless, He's endless. And it's not just His reign that's endless; the possibilities of what He can do are endless. In that, we all have hope."
In stark contrast to "Different," "Still" is a quietly powerful moment on Awakening Hearts that underscores the hope we have in Jesus, and the realization that one day, our faith will become sight.
"'Still' embodies some of the challenges we face with our linear logic, because there's so much that's complex in regards to the salvation and the cleansing work that Jesus did on the cross," Mike shares. "And yet it is clear that the hope of the Christian faith is centered on the idea that we will see Him face to face. He's sealed our hearts, and we're running after Him, until we see Him with our eyes. And I think that's good news.'"
When you talk to Mike, his passion for God and His Kingdom is immediately evident, so it's not surprising that it shows up in even seemingly unlikely ways--like his work with Lee Brothers Submission Academy, where he coaches mixed martial arts with his brothers.
"We teach the art and sport of combat, but we do it through the lens of our primary passion," Mike says. "Our business is centered on brotherhood, or more accurately, Christ and His love for all. Guys who fight are fighting for a reason. Usually there are some broken parts, and in order to fight, sometimes they go to emotionally lonely places. In order to do what we do, we've got to be willing to go there with them. For what it is, these guys are encountering the love of God through relationship, and I love seeing the Lord doing His work -- whether it's through music, in a church, or in the sport of mixed martial arts."