Glenn & Michelle Robertson: Pastoring & All That Jazz
Meet the Muso & his Muse
Glenn is 48 and has been married to Michelle for 24 years. They have 2 daughters and the family lives in Rondebosch, Cape Town.
They met at Michelle’s 13th birthday party where she says Glenn was chatting up her best friend!
Glenn states Jonathan Butler as his favourite Gospel artist, with Tommy Saaidon’s version of the song, ‘Ordinary People’, as his top tune
Michelle relaxes by reading and gardening and is inspired by Mother Theresa
Glenn is currently reading ‘More Jesus, Less Religion’ by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton
How did you come to Christ?
Michelle: My sister and friends had been praying for Glenn and I for years – seemingly to no avail. But as we all know, the Lord has His own schedule. I had been terribly dissatisfied with the lifestyle that came with a husband singing in clubs and accepted the invitation to join a singing group at the Methodist church. I thought that it might alleviate the frustration I was experiencing. I was asked to sing a song called ‘King of my Life’. It was an unashamed proclamation of the Lordship of Christ in one’s life and heart. I felt the deepest conviction that I wasn’t qualified to sing the song. I knew that He was not King of my life. The Holy Spirit was so gentle with me and the next day I stood in the passage at home and said, “God, you really do seem to want all of my life. Take all of me, but if you do, you will have to dissuade Glenn from his present lifestyle if it’s Your Will. If you are happy with it, I’ll submit to it because you are God.” Two weeks later, Glenn had his own encounter with the Holy Spirit and our lives were never the same again!
Glenn: From a young age, the music bug bit and after matric, I started acting in a Drama Group. During our breaks from acting, Onyx Phillips (pianist) and I met backstage around a beautiful black grand piano and I would sing whilst he played. That was the birthing of my first band and many other bands to follow.
I had been playing music and singing jazz since I was 17 years old and my apprenticeship as a jazz musician was under the brilliant ears and eyes of my good friend, Trevor Ray Parker. Michelle would always ask me if Jesus had to come for me, would I be able to safely say that I was serving Him? I would always just shrug and laugh it off. I had this belief that if God was unhappy with what I was doing, He would simply take away my ability to sing! He didn’t, so I assumed He was ok with it! What arrogance!
One Saturday afternoon at the Galaxy Night Club, I was on my way to the bar when a drunken woman stumbled across my path, cursing at the barman. In that moment, I stopped in my tracks as Michelle’s words came to me and I imagined Jesus walking through the door to meet me. I looked at everything around me and for the first time saw sin for what it was. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was not where He wanted me to be. I walked back to the stage and joined the band in song but as I got there, I felt someone looking at me…
I saw Michelle smiling at me. Puzzled, I asked why she’d come. She replied simply, “I’ve come to collect you.” Without hesitation, I started packing up my equipment…whilst the band was playing! The band members did not understand why I behaved so strangely – I have subsequently explained to them my reasons. I was compelled to leave the band as God had a plan and a purpose for me and I needed to be obedient to His voice.
Later, at Bible school, 1 Cor 7:14 came alive to me: “The believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband.” Her prayers and faith had set me apart for Christ to work in my life! My sister- in-law Tania’s prayers had been answered after almost nine years. Hallelujah!
What prompted a move from jazz to pastoring?
Glenn: I was approached by a local gospel band, Davahu, to join as singer and percussionist. That was the start of my Music Ministry. After coming to Christ, I attended His People Bible School and a couple of years later started leading praise and worship in the church band. In 1994, I accepted the position as Music and Creative Arts Pastor for His People Christian Church. At one point in the ministry we had 13 bands ministering at church services around Cape Town! I spent some of the best years of my life there, met some of the most amazing people and, to this day, I still have good relationships with many of the leaders.
Looking at your website, it is clear that you have a creative, laid-back approach to ministry.
Glenn: I believe that each person is programmed to express an aspect of the nature of God. He is a multi-faceted and colourful God. Just when we think we’ve got the handle on what He’s like, I’m sure He takes great delight in showing us something new! God expects us to steward what He has blessed us with and to be faithful with it. I happen to be a musician and a pastor, so I believe I’m simply tapping into the resources that He has given me.
How is Kaleidoscope different from the average church?
Glenn: We host a bi-monthly music, arts and culture evening at the Nassau Auditorium. My jazz band is the resident band, so we determine the environment and then we have various guests complementing the evening. We have also created a platform for artists to exhibit their work in the foyer while people mingle before the bands play. The majority of the people who come to these evenings are generally the kind of people who would never set foot in a religious church setting. I realise that this is not your conventional outreach programme but as I’ve said before, “Each individual is unique, therefore each calling is unique.” Can you imagine what the body of Christ could accomplish through Him if we just took the courage to hop out of the little comfort boxes we allow ourselves to be wrapped up in? There is a huge, lost world out there. Jesus was moved by compassion and He came to seek and save the lost.
What I’m discovering is that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He says that He will give us the desires of our hearts. I have always loved music and I truly believe that He has graciously afforded me the opportunity to express His love for people through what He has gifted me to do!
A ‘pastors wife’ often comes under much scrutiny. What is your advice to other women in ministry who feel like they are under the microscope?
Michelle: Jesus said, “My yolk is easy and my burden is light.” I guess that’s the cue I take in order to enjoy who and what I believe I’m called to. It’s true that you can never please all of the people all of the time, but I believe that if I’ve found favour with my Father, then that alone should settle it. I have seen some people in ministry ‘perform’ in order to keep the people happy and it works for a while, but this cannot be sustained. To other women who may find that they are under a ‘ministry microscope’, I would say that you cannot be someone other than who you have been created to be. God has wired you uniquely and by trying to be like anyone else or trying to fulfil other people’s expectations of a ‘pastor’s wife’, you’re robbing the body of Christ of what God wants to do through you. We need to remember that it was for freedom that Christ came to set us free!
Sometimes Christian couples in ministry have thriving churches, but their home life is a shambles. Why do you think this is?
Michelle: I don’t believe that anyone going into ministry intends to live a farcical life. I think that most people start out with the best intentions, doing as much as they can for God, but begin to lose sight of the fact that it’s only His grace that enables us to do whatever He’s called us to do, anyway. I also believe that too many families in ministry are expected to portray the picture of perfection. We’re not designed to bear that kind of burden. A lot of the time there are unrealistic expectations from congregants. Everyone has their opinions about how church should be done, how it should be run, how the pastor should relate to individuals, the preaching content, the worship and even the measure of anointing present. The list goes on forever and I suppose someone reading this might think that this is no big deal, but when healthy boundaries have not been established in the couple’s life, then this kind of constant pressure can be terribly destructive. It’s like a pressure cooker without release. The public picture seems close to perfect and the private one is in a shambles. Ministry couples either succumb to this or choose to protect the God-given space available to them. God requires us to worship Him in spirit and truth. Pretence is a killer!
How do you and Glenn guard against this?
Michelle: I could present you with a plan of how we’ve resolved never to fall into the trap others have fallen into, but our humanity renders us fragile most times. All of us have different weaknesses that plague us from time to time so a word that comes to mind is Grace. I don’t know where we’d be without it! In 2 Cor 12:9 the Lord reminds Paul that His grace would be sufficient for him and that His strength is made perfect in weakness. As we continue on this incredible journey of faith, I want to say like Paul, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Here’s to Grace…and, may I add… the fierce protection of God-given spaces!