“ Christ’s Strong Pursuit: the Story of Michael and Laura Beth “…Looking back, I see there was no actual desire to pursue the things of God… Nonetheless, when my church and family fell apart, I began to live in my car at age 15. I turned to the world to provide for my happiness and security. I would return to church when I would get arrested or if I had fear due to some uncontrolled and unexpected circumstance. But as soon as the danger was over, I lost interest…” This is the early-life narrative of Michael Strong; now church planter of Near North Community Church in North Minneapolis. His early-age knowledge of Christ grew stale as the difficulties and brokenness of life growing up in Little Rock took their toll. Hopelessness. Depression. Lost in sin and brokenness, searching for something real in which to find hope. At the same time, Laura Beth, Michael’s future wife, was battling against her own trials as she forsook the faith of her childhood for a time to explore what the world had to offer. “Mid-high school I got into the habit of not going to church, but maintaining my relationship with Christ—until college. In college, I explored my freedom for the first time and took a dive into being a complete fool—from marriage with an unbeliever and drug use, to skipping class and eventually dropping out,” said Laura Beth. “A few years later, my husband abandoned me in all senses of the word, and I took another dive head-first into a relationship with another man and his sweet, beautiful daughter. We had two children and owned a home before I was finally divorced. But it was during all of that where I found nothing could satisfy me and the burden of my sin was too much to carry. I pondered many things, including suicide, as I didn’t feel worthy of life…” In the midst of this utter darkness, though, God was laboring behind the scenes in the lives of Michael and Laura Beth, slowly drawing them unto himself, and shaping them to become his ardent servants. “At age 25, my girlfriend [Laura Beth] drug me to church,” explained Michael. “Actually, she took me back to my church [Oak Park Baptist]. I was ashamed and wanted to fix everything before I came back, but nonetheless I agreed that I needed to go back to church. We began attending every week, and we stopped using and selling drugs. I also got away from the friends I was hanging out with and dumped all of my porn. Laura Beth talked me into joining a Sunday school class for young couples, and the teachers took us in.” Drawing Their Hearts Back Home During this time, it was obvious that God was drawing this couple back to himself, giving them hope and a purpose. But even though Laura Beth and Michael had stepped foot back in to the church doors, Michael’s heart was yet to be permeated. “At year two of church, I went through some college classes and began to doubt the Bible was inerrant, as well as doubt the truth of who Jesus was,” continued Michael. “I wanted to seek God, but wanted no part of Jesus Christ. I would read the Old Testament and avoid the New. I believed it was altered or an outright lie. I spoke with my pastor about these doubts, hoping he would convince me otherwise, but he sent me on by saying, ‘Mike, you know what you believe.’” As these doubts grew and consumed Mike’s mind, he began to worry that his eternal destiny lay in hell. Because of this worry, he attempted to “force” himself to believe in Christ as the Son of God, but to no avail. He tried to be more “Christian,” but with no result. “I felt I couldn’t be saved. I also felt like I deserved hell because my sins after conversion were unforgivable. That night, I read all of the epistles to Laura Beth and pleaded with her to see my fate and the reality of my fears,” said Mike. “She was worried and began to pray for me regularly. Our relationship was still sinful. We weren’t married. We had kids. I was convicted about it, as was she, and shortly thereafter we decided she would live at her mother’s house with the girls and I would visit. But that separation was needed until we were able to be married. I filled my time with sermons from John Macarthur and Greg Laurie, and researched Lecrae and 1-1-Six Clique lyrics. The Bible became my best friend!” One morning, at age 28, in the shower before leaving to work, Michael Strong broke down in repentance. Though he had been previously been completely unable to express emotion, he suddenly melted in repentance and truly confessed his sins to Jesus. As Michael puts it, “My aching turned in to joy!” “We traded drugs, friends, and card games for bible studies with believers and eating at our Sunday school teachers’ home or with our Sunday school classmates after church each Sunday,” said Laura Beth. “During this time, we experienced hurt, loneliness, effects of past sin, and the struggle of persistent sins, but God proved faithful and true! In this season, we also felt and experienced a deeper sense of calling to more seriously and intentionally spread the gospel. We desired something more than sitting on the pews for the rest of our lives. It was church planting.” Developing Church Planting Hearts “I knew I wanted to be a part of church planting, but I didn’t feel equipped to be a pastor,” said Mike. “I didn’t feel good enough, smart enough, or like I knew the Bible well enough. My life felt like it would never get out from under the guilt and shame.” Fast-forward to early 2012, and Michael began to feel a strong call to minister to urban youth and young adults who were caught up in the same lifestyle that he had left behind for the hope of Christ. His passion and desire became to fill the gap of sound doctrinal teaching that oftentimes exists in impoverished and marginalized areas. “Our plan was to do evangelism through rap music,” explained Mike. “A church plant in the hood? Now I’m equipped and have a heart for that! A pastor can’t just be a good preacher. He has to be someone who is equipped and has a heart for that group of people; a shepherd has to care for his sheep.” So, Michael began to use his own rap music to build a community and a bible study group. Then the question came up between Michael and Laura Beth – “Why are we not church planting? We have people that God is drawing to us! Let’s start a church for people like us.” Making the Move Soon after the Strong family began to realize God’s call and purpose for their lives, they made the move from Little Rock to Minneapolis with a heart set on establishing churches and discipling people in the impoverished and marginalized areas of the city, specifically North Minneapolis. “My wife and I decided to move into the neighborhood when we arrived in 2012 and have been prayerfully seeking gospel opportunities with our neighbors and community ever since,”explained Michael Strong. “I hope to be a part of a new wave of revival and a church planting movement beginning with a church plant in Near North Minneapolis, MN.” Though the Strong family has been evangelizing for years now simply by having people in their homes while they live life and study the Word of God, they now have a clear focus in mind for reaching out and establishing a gathering of believers in their community. “I am challenged regularly to continue to grow in the ministry of the Word and to be a ‘first-hander’ who has studied and applied the Word to myself before preaching or passing it on to others,” said Michael. “That requires scheduling time to grow in my skills and to press in to the sanctifying work God is gifting me with as I walk with him. I am also more aware of the need to point others to Jesus and away from me and my sin and limitations, as I see those around me follow in my footsteps. That means I have to be concerned with growing in repentance and honesty about my own struggles and limitations, my need for Jesus, and the sufficiency of his finished work.” God is continuing to shape the stories of Michael and Laura Beth Strong. Though their stories were once ones of heartbreak, addiction, and hopelessness, Christ took their lives, like a Potter to the clay, and made something beautiful; a story and a ministry that shines in to the darkest places. “One of the biggest things that God is teaching me right now is that he is patient,” concluded Michael. “He is patient with me. I am not always as patient as he is, but he leads me along when I take forever to act. Transformation takes a long time, and sometimes it’s difficult to see the fruit of ministry if you’re looking directly at it. But when you step back and see what God has been doing, he’s been removing weeds, removing rocks, and preparing the soil.” Making an Impact As Michael and Laura Beth Strong work to invest in their community by sharing the hope of Jesus, would you be in prayer for them? Pray for the opportunities and wisdom to help people see that God truly loves them. “That’s the hardest thing to get across to people – God loves you,” said Michael. “We want to break through the brokenness of alcohol, drugs, sexual relationships, and things that satisfy in the moment, explaining that those things can’t really satisfy. It’s so painful watching people you love throw what they have in the trash and not see their value. I still have to battle sin every day, but to watch someone you love shoot up heroine in your front yard…they don’t know that God loves them. They don’t desire to spend time with him. They don’t know he loves them like a father, brother, friend, and husband. “You don’t have to have a needle in your arm for us to share the truth of God’s love with you, though. There is another group of people out here that we have a heart for as well. There are lots of people who never did any major outward sins—no drug use or arrests—but are still unaware of what God has done in sending Jesus to die for them, to rise for them so that they can have a new relationship with God. They can be freed from the shackles of fear, sin, and shame and step into a newness of life that doesn’t come from measuring up or being good enough, but is rooted in Christ being the fullness of God who has perfectly kept the law and died as our substitute. Being good enough is wearying, and we see that in our community. Christ says, ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ We want to share that message with as many as will listen.” Please be in prayer for wisdom and opportunity for the members at Near North Community Church to help draw people out of themselves and show them the love of Christ. Pray for divinely orchestrated meetings for believers in this North Minneapolis neighborhood to share Christ to the lost and broken. If you are interested in contacting Michael and Laura Beth Strong about their ministry, you can email them at email@example.com, give them a call at 501-838-9637, or send them a letter at 1348 Sheridan Avenue N., Minneapolis, MN 55411. ” - Mati Spencer
“ « Alabama 2 Arkansas Mixtape Exclusives Mike Streezy “It’s Big What You Did” Born in North Little Rock and raised in Little Rock, Mike Streezy is Christian Hip Hop. Yes. Christian Hip Hop. At its finest. He uses the experiences and stories thats he’s had in his life to reach people who may be struggling & hurting and give them hope. He is the owner of Nod Ya Head Entertainment and has a new album entitled Layers set to be released in February. Below is the lead single from the album called It’s Big What You Did. Stay current with Mike HERE and you can preview other tracks from Layers HERE. Keep up with him here: @MikeStreezy Salute! Mike Streezy – It’s Big What You Did Possibly related posts: (automatically generated) E*Rock (da mad man) This entry was posted on December 15, 2010 at 8:14 pm and is filed under Uncategorized with tags Arkansas Music, Little Rock, Single, Mike Streezy, North Little Rock, It's Big What You Did. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Like Be the first to like this post. ” - NaturalStateofMusik.com
“ 3TM Year In Review: Independent 3threat of 2009 – Mike Streezywww.mikestreezy.comMike Streezy is not a rapper. Mike Streezy is a true Hip Hop scholar and an inspiration to all aspiring artists within the urban music industry. Whilst he did not achieve platinum record sales or superstar collaborations in 2009, the unconventional Arkansas MC gained nothing but respect and admiration from his peers on both a local and international level for his indestructable work ethic and unwillingness to conform to industry norms.Following the release of his latest studio album Pleasure & Pain in Summer 2009, which really could be considered more an anthology of universal truths than a mere release, Streezy cemented his reputation as a storyteller and a diverse lyricist. The album provided a valuable lesson in resourcefulness and self-reliance for any independent artist.Streezy’s remarkable progression as an artist throughout this year is a tribute to his incredibly hard-working nature and also his willingness to expand and perfect his skills. His latest mixtape also provided a number of talented Arkansas artists a platform to showcase their work and sent a much-needed signal of unity, which sadly the game seems to largely be lacking today.Mike Streezy has had a phenomenal year and shown more improvement and artistic development than any other artist I have worked with this year. His ambition, creativity and drive know no boundaries and I for one am incredibly proud of his progression throughout 2009. Expect nothing short of great things for this man in 2010, as he will surely deliver. ” - I.N.F.O.
“Mike Streezy-The Takeover In the little more than six months that have passed since Mike Streezyreleased his very first solo album entitled Pleasure and Pain on his newIndependent record label Nod Ya Head Entertainment, quite a bit hastaken place. He has been featured locally by Sync Magazine, he has beenselected as artist of the month for 3ThreatMedia.com, artist of theweek here at OnThaGrind.net <http://www.onthagrind.net/> (also, he isnow part of the daily operation with OTG) and on XXLBlocktalk.com asvoted by the members, created a theme song for KABF 88.3's ArkansasShowcase, has been featured as a guest blogger for several weeks at SEAaward-winning site YoRaps.com and recently here as well, created arapidly growing website in MikeStreezy.com, was recently selected asArtist of the Year for 2009 by 3ThreatMedia.com, and on Christmas Dayreleased an Arkansas-bred Emcee compilation that is currently available100% free on DatPiff.com entitled Mike Streezy and the A-State All StarsPresent United We Stand Vol I. I guess you could say he's had a busyfirst half year in the music game! I want to also point out the fact that every time RTLD Media was outeither doing street team work or just out supporting artists, Mike wasout doing the same thing. I had come to the point were we just keptrunning into him. Now looking globally, Streezy has taken an approachto the net by pushing music through blogs and websites often overlooked.He has done mixtape tracks with artists in England, Australia andseveral states across the United States appearing on over 15 mixtapes byother artists. He is also building a unique live show that incorporatesa live guitarist in Sebastian Tiaffo, dancers with choreography andinteractive elements to bring the music to life with expectations totake the Rocktown across the United States stage by stage. With plans in the works to further build his live show, the imminentrelease of his second LP, production of a music video in sight, andupgrades making mikestreezy.com a full socially connected networkcomplete with user profile ability and posting functions, don't expectStreezy to slow down anytime soon! So keep watching because you mightjust miss something.J.T., CEO” - J.T.
“Getting easy to be Streezy Hip-hop artist heads back to the scene after hitting tough times. By Shea Stewart (Contact) Tuesday, July 14, 2009 LITTLE ROCK — The rust is slowly disappearing for Mike Strong, aka Little Rock hip-hop artist Mike Streezy. The 12-track Pleasure and Pain album, self-released on Streezy’s own Nod Yo Head Entertainment record label and recorded by Mr. Big Shae and mixed by Big Key, both of Key Ingredient Music, was Streezy’s reintroduction to the local hip-hop scene after a few years wandering in the wilderness. “Yeah, I’m proud of it, but that was me just wiping the dust off,” Streezy said. “What I have coming is so much better.” Born in North Little Rock in 1982, Streezy turns 27 on July 20, but during the past couple of years the hip-hop artist has undergone a rebirth: finding himself in a nurturing relationship with his girlfriend Laura Beth, focusing on being a good father to his two daughters Alyssa Paige and Felicity James, going to church on a regular basis and working a solid 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. The new foundation of Streezy’s life is ages away from his former life: being involved in illegal activities and caught in the nasty web of a spiraling downward relationship. He lost custody of his children at one point and spent seven months with no job, car or cell phone. “I just kind of thought I was done. I met Laura two years ago. It was finally somebody who wanted me to do good. Now I got somebody who will help me. That’s amazing. [The tough times] was what God needed to give me. We go through these things for a reason. I needed to grow up. Everything that happened to me had to happen to me.” The tough times bleed all over Pleasure and Pain, but it’s also filled with joy and hope. Originally, Streezy planned to release a 12-tune album simply titled Pain, but after writing 27 songs for the album he re-directed his efforts, splitting the songs on the album between the two emotions. “I started thinking that no one would want to listen to an album that made them feel terrible,” Streezy said. Produced by Inertia (except for “Gangsta” produced by Eric Porter), Streezy networked on hip-hop and producing Web sites to collect the beats for Pleasure and Pain, spending a total of $440 on the album’s beats. “I like Southern beats,” Streezy said. “And I like the sound we have from around here. But it doesn’t fit me. I had to go find the beats that fit me. “We kind of picked out a sound that works for me.” While Streezy’s hip-hop influences include Scarface, Ice Cube, The Notorious B.I.G., Nas and Tech N9ne (“I just look at the guys you see lasting,” he said.), lyrically his influences are country artists like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. “It’s the stories they wrote,” Streezy said. “I’m more about writing stories like they did. I want to be the Mark Twain of hip-hop. I want to make it feel like you are there. When you listen I want it to seem like you are living it. I see different ways of telling stories. We deserve music that has a purpose. “I want my writing to have meaning. I want to be remembered as a songwriter, not as a person who wrote songs limited on his daily life. I can be more than that.” Growing up in a church-attending family, Streezy wasn’t exposed to hip-hop music until around 2000. But by high school Streezy and a friend were freestyling over Metallica and Smashing Pumpkin albums, and some friends introduced Streezy to hip-hop music. “I didn’t like rap,” he said. “I’d heard people like Ginuwine, and I used to think that rap was a joke. I really didn’t know about it. “Some people sat me down and explained to me the difference between rap and hip-hop. The more I learned, the more I listened, the more I started to respect it and love it and want to learn more about it. The big difference between rap and hip-hop is the culture. It’s also not filled with bland lyrics. It’s more about being an intellectual.”” - Shea Stewart
“MIKE STREEZY IS WWW.ONTHAGRIND.NET'S ARTIST OF THE WEEK BEGINNING 08/04/2009!!!” - JT
“Mike Streezy is named 3Threat Media's First Fresh Face! Fresh Faces: Mike Streezyhttp://3threatmedia.wordpress.com/Despite his colourful past, Mike Strong is no gangster. Representing Little Rock, Arkansas, the man affectionately known as Mike Streezy to his fans hardly fits the stereotypical image of a rapper. Perhaps this is because he is far more concerned with returning to the actual music than concentrating on his image. Claiming to be ‘done with’ the gimmicks and clichés that often seem to go hand in hand with Hip Hop, Mike considers himself an author.Conveying true human emotions and addressing real issues, the forthcoming album ‘Pleasure and Pain’ is almost as much a cinematic experience as a musical one, depicting a range of timeless characters and stories that people can really relate to. By focusing on the lyrical elements of his music, Mike is able to discuss a number of topics from dealing with loss or illness to the simple joys of falling in love. The album, which features a diverse range of tracks including the haunting ‘Writing You a Letter’ and the light-hearted ‘She’s So fresh,’ marks the return of lyrical Hip Hop.Good music can evoke a number of emotions and listening to Mike Streezy certainly conjures up a range of feelings from pain and despair to hope and inspiration. A true lyricist, Mike’s music appeals to the contrary sides of our personalities and provides a cathartic insight into all aspects of our lives. Stating ‘I’m not here to be 2pac, Kud Cudi or Kanye,’ Mike Streezy is going to do things his way and if it has any sense the industry is going to take note.‘Pleasure and Pain’ is out now!Look out for the new mixtape single ‘Take It Back’ on www.mikestreezy.com.© 2009 Hannah O’Connor (3threat Media)” - Miss Infomaniac