The “sweet spot”, this is how Michael Whitaker Smith describes the current stage in his life. With a successful career tracing back to the early 1980s, during which time he has sold almost 20 million albums and won countless awards, Michael says his biggest challenge now is for people not to see Michael W Smith but Jesus.
The worship artist is currently on a four-stop tour of South Africa, including Bloemfontein, Durban, Cape Town and Gauteng.
Despite his tight schedule, Michael spent time with a room full of worship leaders before heading into a media interview hours before his concert in the mother city yesterday (Thursday, 28 May 2015).
He explained how days before his departure for the tour, someone back home with a gift of prophecy had reminded him that he was coming to South Africa on assignment. He said he feels he is here to “deposit something”. He believes that music is the most powerful universal language in the world that can radically change a person’s life within three minutes, which can spill over and in turn change a community, a city and an entire country.
Worship is key to breaking down walls
Despite all the negativity that appears to be happening around us, Michael stated confidently that God is sending a new wave of revival and worship is the key to break down the walls. According to him, too many worship bands are still trying to perform and in many cases the reason is that they do not fully understand the Father’s heart.
He said often people have been hurt so badly by their biological father or mother and, therefore, cannot relate to God as a loving Father. For him, worship is all about ushering in God’s presence and allowing the Holy Spirit room to move. When a young worship leader asked what he should do when the Holy Spirit starts moving in a visible and unmistakable manner, which got the rest of the audience laughing, Michael’s advice was that he should simply stay on the song that is being sung and not be bound by a programme. He said his team have already dubbed him the “king of wing”, as he always allows the Spirit to lead.
As for all the suffering evident in communities, Michael rather boldly stated that he believes that if the church did its job, there would not be anyone on the street. Having been chosen as the 2014 “Philanthropist of the Year” by the Nashville Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and honoured by the Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD) for his impact on the Nashville entertainment industry, Michael said that every individual has the ability to do something to contribute to their community in a positive way or it would be wasting the grace that has given for that day.
Love people as you want to be loved
He said the challenge is to love people the way you want to be loved. He also stated that there are too many Christians looking at the next person and picking on their “issues”, instead of looking at themselves. He said anything that is controlling you, of which you do not have control over, albeit eating habits, is a sin. He added that it is all about balance and focusing on your spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing and doing everything with excellence.
According to Michael, God has called him to a life of excellence, which requires discipline, but he says he is not a workaholic, knows how to take care of himself and has learnt how to unwind.
But how does he get it right to have such staying power and appeal to different generations? His recipe for success has been to reinvent himself a few times in a way that allows him to still stay true to who he is; to surround himself with an accountability group – a wife whom he loves, a great pastor and great friends who have all been married for 25 years or more; and remind himself constantly that God despises the proud but exalts the humble.
When asked about how he endures times of testing, he stated without hesitation: “Be still and know that I am God”. He confessed that this was not always easy, as, according to him, artists like himself seem to have “a bit of madness”, his “mind wonders” and he struggles with focusing but he says he is energised and hits a “sweet spot” when he becomes still in the presence of God.
He has clearly matured in his Christian life and he says he now has a weekly, rather than a daily, battle to stay humble and understands that he is no more special than anyone but has been called to do something extraordinary. Yet his belief is that we all have a purpose.
His last piece of advice: “Go back to prayer and take scriptures like ‘If My people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land’ and act upon it.”