About Michele McGovern
Listening to worship leader, composer, lyricist and singer Michele McGovern’s new album, “Ransomed,” her third, it’s hard to believe she was ever “mike shy.”
“Since the age of sixteen I knew God was calling me to be a worship leader,” she tells ChristianMusic. “I always felt very inadequate in that area and ran from the call. I was content to be a backup singer and thought it was ‘humble’ of me to be satisfied in such a position.”
Whenever Michele had to lead worship she would get physically sick from it, she says. One day she got a call to lead worship for a conference that Teri Gladstone Furr was leading. Terrified at the idea, and then suffering a broken elbow that mended just in time, she ended up playing at one session.
“Teri started to preach and stopped about two minutes into her message, saying that she was so distracted by what she had to say to me that she couldn’t continue,” reveals Michele. “She told me that God was bringing me into a new season. She talked very specifically about the plans He had for my life, and related my feelings of inadequacy to that of Moses.
“She basically uncovered the secrets of my heart in about three minutes. I knew it was God, without a doubt, and that my life would never be the same,” Michele says. “I left the conference and immediately dove back into the Word and into my relationship with the Lord.”
This newfound faith and courage – she realized it was fear more than humility that kept her from fulfilling her destiny -- led to playing in more and more venues, recording, and leading worship in conferences and at her father’s church, Journey, on Long Island, New York.
That’s appropriate, since Michele’s father encouraged her musically from the beginning. “My dad always wanted to play the piano, but grew up in a very poor immigrant family and could never afford lessons,” Michele says. “He dreamed that one day I would play and he went out and bought a piano even before my first lesson.”
“As a kid, God had this cool way of speaking to me through music,” Michele says. “I would often find myself humming a song subconsciously and then at some point realize that the lyrics to that song were speaking specifically to what I was going through at that very moment.”
So, it was just a matter of time until Michele would “write back” via song. “One night when I was about 17 years old and really struggling with a bad breakup, the Lord woke me from my sleep with words to a song,” she says. “I wrote them down from start to finish in a matter of minutes. Something was awakened in my soul that night. I had never felt so alive. I knew it was just the beginning.”
Three albums later, the onetime number-one fan of Amy Grant has her own set of fans for a style she describes as “modern, honest worship with a soulful rock edge.” After hearing of a particularly difficult test of her faith, each one of those words has special meaning.
When, three days before the release of her second CD, her father was diagnosed with cancer, Michele took it especially hard. “I was angry at the devil. I was more angry at God,” she reveals. “Every dream we had, every dream for our family, our church, seemed to come to a screeching halt.”
At first she went through what could properly be deemed a faith-based denial. “I knew with every fiber of my being that my dad was going to be supernaturally healed, that he wasn’t going to need chemo, or a stem-cell transplant, and God was going to get all the glory for his healing.”
Things didn’t work out that way. He did have to go through chemotherapy, she says, and a stem-cell transplant, “and I watched him lose his hair, and I watched him get pneumonia, and I was resigned that maybe I never knew the voice of the Lord.” Michele confesses, “I felt like I didn’t know anything about anything.”
“The wrestling match in my mind was relentless.” Michele relates. “Apparently, I didn’t know his voice at all and maybe never did. I didn’t speak any more on Sunday mornings… only sang.”
During the long process of healing for both her father and herself, Michele and her brother put up notes with scriptures around the house to help them “stay focused on God’s promises, despite circumstances.” One verse that particularly struck her was Psalms 55:18, “He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me.” Thus the title of the third album.
“’Ransomed’ is about learning to see yourself and your circumstances through God’s lenses, removing the filter of fear.” Michele explains. And on the cover, the Joshua tree, “is in honor of my hero, my dad, Joshua Bonventre.”
Just six weeks ago, Michele got her answer about hearing God’s voice. “My father was told he is officially in remission. It was a beautiful day,” she exclaims. “Two days later my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our third child. I felt like God was saying that the baby symbolized ‘beauty from the fire,’ because in so many ways he brought beauty and light into one of the darkest seasons of our lives.”
-- Nate Lee and Julie Carr
Part of a letter from Michele McGovern to ChristianMusic.com:
In October of 2007, I returned to my friend Debbie’s church for a Fragrant Oil Conference. Teri Gladstone who was now Teri Furr, would be speaking again, as well as Dawn Sweigart…and Rita Springer would be leading worship.
I was extremely excited to get to the conference, even though I didn’t come with any specific expectations. I was just looking forward to an opportunity to be refreshed and ministered ‘to.’ Friday night I was so ready to worship, and yet as I started to sing and to try to enter in, I found myself really struggling. As I battled in my mind, I kept thinking, ‘My God, I’m a worship leader. Why I am having such a hard time worshiping?” And as I found myself getting distracted by my own thoughts, I realized I was beginning to make comparison between Rita & myself. “She’s has such a prophetic mantle on her life. She’s so gifted. She’s so anointed. And she leads worship completely differently than I. Her songs are different than mine. Her style is different. My God, am I missing the boat? Do I have this all wrong? And I remembered that the last time I led for Teri, some of the leadership were a little nervous about how my songs would be received by the ladies…since they were sort of progressive for the church. And knowing they were nervous, I started to silently wonder how Teri would receive me…since my style was so different than Rita’s. I knew the songs were from God, and I knew that God birthed that style in me…but I was afraid Teri would think there was performance in it…or that I was entertaining. All these thoughts came over me at once…and then worship was over…and I had lost the battle.
Well Saturday night, when Rita was speaking I found myself hanging on every word. I appreciated her honesty and transparency because I could relate to so much of what she was saying. As I listened, I started to feel the Holy Spirit all over me. It was like He was hovering right over me and I could feel His presence on my skin. I started to cry and I knew at that moment that a veil was being taken from my eyes. All at once I experienced the love of God like I have never experienced it before. I’ve had glimpses over the years of His love for me, but I never really “got it” like I got it that night. He began to show me that the reason I was having a hard time entering into worship over the weekend, was because I have no problem singing about how much I love God…but I have a much harder time singing about how much he loves me…which was definitely a thread throughout the songs for the weekend. For some reason, as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve always had a hard time receiving His unconditional love. I have always worked for His affection….tried to earn His love. And I always felt like He had higher expectations for me than for other people, and because of that, He would ultimately make me into some sort of guinea pig…allowing me to face all kinds of tests and trials…because “Michele can handle it. She won’t leave me”….a Job complex I guess.
But as I sat there absorbing His presence, that faulty image of God was eradicated from my mind…and all I could do was bask in His great love for me. I sensed that he was proud of me. And he began to show me how he was using the fractures in my life to bring life to His Kingdom…that a beautiful fragrance was coming through those cracks…and the impact on the Kingdom was going to be so much bigger than I realized. He then reminded me about the “beauty from the fire” and told me that He wasn’t just talking about the beauty that came from my dad’s fire….but the beauty that was coming from my personal encounters with pain.
At that point in the evening the altar was opened up for prayer and intercession. So many women responded that we actually had to wait on line before we could proceed to the front. And as I waited I just continued to cry, and I found myself saying to God…”Lord, I just want you to know that I don’t need a prophecy tonight. I’ve had more than my share over the years and you’ve been very kind to keep reminding me of your promises… but I don’t need one tonight. I’ve gotten a word directly from you and I just want you to know that that’s enough.” As I finally approached the altar began to move through the prayer team, God again was just raining His love down on me and I felt it almost tangibly. I knew a work was being completed in my heart and I was overwhelmed by His kindness. When I got to the end and Dawn laid her hand on my head, my knees immediately buckled and I felt the presence of the Lord on me as strong as I’ve ever felt Him before. As she started to speak about the melodies that were coming…the songs of healing and deliverance that God was giving me, I knew He was confirming everything He told me.
BUT THEN… she went on to say that these were “funky songs” and began to repeat the word funky. I cannot tell you the freedom that came with that one word….”funky” of all things. To someone else that may have seemed like a random, irrelevant word, but for me….it just made me fall on my face. I knew at that moment that God was saying….I’ve given you the songs you’ve written, and I’ve given you your funky style, and I know that your heart is right, and I know you are not performing, and I know that you’re not entertaining, and I’m not asking you to be a carbon copy of someone else…I made you who you are and that’s who I want. I can’t tell you how life giving that affirmation was. The fact that God knew I wrestled with how others perceived my style…and that He would love me enough to tell me that it was good to be ‘funky.’ And even though I told him I didn’t need that prophesy, He knew me well enough to know that I needed that point clarified…or I may have continued to wrestle in that area. Dawn’s prophesy & Rita’s words confirmed everything God had spoken to my heart many times since my initial meeting with Teri, and as I received everything God wanted to show me, I felt the Lord gently tearing down the concrete wall I had been erecting in my heart. At that moment, He released me again to dream. He lifted a weight of confusion and frustration from my heart….even as Rita prayed that exact prayer over me at the end of the night…and freed me to love Him and BE LOVED BY HIM. I know that He has taken me into a new season, and I thank God from the bottom of my heart for using those three amazing women to usher me in.