Mike Rathke on His Heartbreaking Childhood, Keith Green and Music that Spurs Us to Love & Good Deeds

Mike Rathke

Mike Rathke, a Kansas native and singer-songwriter, has released his new single 'Every Era'. The new worship song is taken from Mike's 'The Dawning FireEP releasing on April 10. It's a reflection from Revelation 7 when we will one day worship beside our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout all of history.

'The Dawning Fire' EP was recorded at the Sound Emporium in Nashville with producer Billy Chapin. The EP features some of the industry's best musicians including Russ Pahl on pedal steel, Dave Cohen on keys, Miles McPherson on drums, Tim Marks on bass and Justin Ostrander on electric guitar. Rathke was a special guest performer at Gracefest 2019 featuring acts Tasha Cobbs, Jeremy Riddle, and Mercy Me. 

Q: Mike, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself. I was intrigued to read about your childhood especially some of your struggles you had to go through. For our readers who are not familiar, can you tell us a little about your early years?

A: Thanks. I'd be glad to. I grew up in a trailer court in rural Kansas with my mother, stepfather and two siblings. Our mother had struggled with mental illness for as long as I can remember. She often would be admitted to psychiatric hospitals for several months and then released. She would be fine for a little while but would eventually get off her medications and need help again. It seemed like, as time went on, the times where she was lucid were shorter and shorter.

When I was 10 or 11, she was pretty much gone. It became more than all of us kids could deal with. My sister was the first to leave. She was about 14. Then my brother, who's the oldest, he left. Finally, when I was around 11 or 12, I left too. But the Lord always made sure that there was someone that would take me in. I'm eternally grateful to a handful of families that never asked any questions, never made a big deal out of it. They just opened their door and their hearts and made sure I had a place to stay.

Q: Your mother had her problems but she was the one who bought for you your first guitar. In what other ways had she been supportive of you and your music?

A: My mother loved music. She was classically trained and attended Julliard's School of Dance in New York. So, there was a rich history of music in the family. She played piano, had a beautiful voice and used to sing hymns around the house. I think most of her support came from just seeing her love of music. I heard a recording of Cynthia Clawson recently singing an acapella rendition of 'I Love You Lord.' It made me tear up because it sounded a lot like I remember my mother's voice. Her illness was so severe...she just didn't really have the bandwidth to offer a lot of direct support.

When I was 14, she gave me $20 for my birthday. I met a girl on the school bus that said she had a guitar she would sell me for 20 bucks so I used the money for that. I would spend hours and hours with that guitar, learning old Metallica songs and whatever else I could find. I still have that guitar. It was a rough time in my life. But I have no bitterness towards my mother. She did the very best that she could. She loved the Lord and I know I'll worship beside her in the resurrection.

Q: How then did you come to know Christ?

A: I always believed. For me it was never a matter of, 'does God exist?' When I was really little, we used to go to church and I would attend Sunday school. I remember once when I was about 4 or 5...I think about this memory quite a bit. I was outside of our house. The sun was shining and I was singing 'Jesus Loves Me.' I just sort of had this feeling that God was there with me and was smiling at me. As I grew older, I went through the typical seasons of doing stuff I shouldn't, but I always knew He was there.

When I was 19, I got a job doing groundskeeping for a cemetery. I found myself listening to sermons from Calvary Chapel in my headphones while I was cutting grass. One day, I had this sense that I really needed to buy a Bible. That God was putting pressure on me to follow Him. He didn't want me to say another prayer. He wanted me to pick up my cross and follow Him. As I was walking home from work, I stopped into a little Bible bookstore and bought a Bible. The first book I started reading was Ezekiel! I had no idea what I was reading. HAHA! But I began to fall in love with the word of God. That was a pivotal moment for me. It's been a journey of walking with the Lord and Him refining me little by little.

Q: How and when did you feel the call to sing, especially Christian music?

A: All I ever wanted to do as a kid was play music. When I became a Christ follower, I turned that desire over to Him. The funny thing is, I was too scared to sing in front of anyone. It wasn't until I got plugged into a church that I ever even tried. In addition to the worship set, I signed up for a special sing at my local church and it just sort of took off from there. That's one of the beautiful things about the body of Christ. When you have a talent, and you're plugged in with other believers, the Lord will place you in a spot you can fill. The greatest advice I can ever give a young musician is, give it to the Lord.

Q: You have a new EP coming out. Why did you entitle it "The Dawning Fire"?

A: We live in a time where it's becoming increasingly expensive to stand on the pure word of God. There are times when Christian artists are being put on the spot about some of the more controversial truths of scripture. It's vitally important that in our response, we hold to the pure milk of the word while proclaiming the love of God. There's a line in 'The Dawning Fire' that says, 'let Your word be exalted and every man a liar. Come aboard Heaven's Ark before the dawning fire.'

Our duty is to proclaim the good news of the gospel. But if we shy away from the problem of human nature, that we are born into sin, the good news loses its impact. We have to be careful and present that with humility and love...remembering that our sin is no less grievous to God than anyone else's on the planet. It's important that we speak from that place when we're faced with those uncomfortable questions. 'The Dawning Fire' is simply a reflection of that. Today is the day of salvation. Enter into the Ark, which is Christ, while the opportunity exists because there is a day coming when the door will close.

Q: You have recently recorded a Keith Green song. Why Keith Green's "O Lord You are Beautiful"?

A: There are so many of his songs that speak to me. I've always loved his music. 'O Lord You're Beautiful' has been a song I've used in live worship settings for years. We recorded it at the recommendation of Brandon Bailey, who has helped oversee this whole project. I'm really glad we did. We've had a great response from it.

Q: I love your new song "Every Era" which is soaked in Scripture. How did this song come about?

A: Thank you. I wrote 'Every Era'in the early 2000's. I had a job for which I had to get up pretty early in the morning. I used to get up around 5:00 am to read the Bible and spend some time with the Lord while everyone else was still asleep. One morning I got up and was in the kitchen drinking coffee and listening to a song by Matt Redman called 'Facedown.' It was still dark. I had my eyes closed and was just sitting there listening when I had this scene sort of play out in my mind.

There was a platform full of musicians and a congregation standing before the platform. The congregation was wearing white robes and had palm branches in their hands. Everyone was just worshiping. On the platform there was a throne. After a minute or so, Jesus came out and sat on the throne and when He did, all of the musicians stepped off the stage and joined the congregation.

So, in the congregation there were celloist, violinists, and other musicians standing side by side with everyone else but there was no one on the platform but Jesus. That image really stuck with me and still does to this day. Sometimes, especially as worship leaders, it's really easy to lose sight of our focus in worship. This is never intentional, but it's a trap we have to beware of. There is a reason that Worship music has become a large revenue source. I'm not even saying that's a bad thing, in and of itself. But we have to remain humble and never allow anything but Jesus on the platform of our hearts.

Q: What were the highlights in the making of this record?

A: There were so many moments that weekend that blew us all away! The first morning of recording at The Sound Emporium in Nashville, we woke up at the hotel. I got up and looked at my phone and saw a memory pop up in my Facebook feed. It was from a few years ago and said, 18 years ago today I said, 'Okay, Jesus. I'll follow You.' That was posted 4 years prior, so that very morning was the 22nd anniversary of my decision to follow Jesus. I just sat there grinning and saying, 'Thank You, Lord.' How awesome is it that He would arrange for me to set foot, for the first time in a legit studio, on the anniversary of my coming to Christ? I had no idea what day it was until I looked at my phone. So that was one highlight.

Over the next two days we recorded all of the songs and the whole experience was just...breath-taking. We could all feel the presence of God in the studio. One of the songs recorded, as mentioned earlier, was Keith Green's 'O Lord You're Beautiful.' We finished recording everything on July 28th . That evening we went back to the hotel and Brandon got a text message from a friend of the ministry. The bottom line of the text was informing us that we had just recorded Keith Green's song on the 37th anniversary of his passing. We stood there in front of the hotel looking at each other with our jaws dropped open. Matt, who directed all of the filming of the project, said, 'wait...maybe that's an old post. Let's see what day Keith Green died.' He looked it up on his phone and his face went blank. It said July 28, 1982. It was like the air became electricity!

All of us just stood there with our mouths hanging open and goosebumps running up our backs. There was no way we could have ever planned that. The Lord was putting His fingerprints on the weekend for some reason. I don't know exactly what that means but I have a feeling that time will tell. Those are the two biggest highlights of our weekend in Nashville.

Q: How do you wish these new songs would impact the lives of your listeners?

A: Hebrews says, 'spur one another on towards love and good deeds.' More than anything, I pray that these songs will do that. That they will inspire the listener to surrender more of themselves to the Lord and His purpose for their lives. I tell my kids all the time, 'you only get once shot at this life.' Don't waste any of it. Find out what God wired you to do and then do it with everything you have. My wish is that these songs will inspire the listeners in that way.  

For more information about Rathke and his music are available on his website, and on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube

Tags : Mike Rathke Mike Rathke the dawning fire Mike Rathke interview Mike Rathke news Mike Rathke 'Every Era' keith green

Hot Trends

Most Popular

popular videos