Pastor Mike Leichner’s friends told him to sing country, but he grew up with gospel music. Three years after recording an album of country gospel music, he celebrates “God, country, and family” and he has been recognized by the International Country Gospel Music Association as male vocalist of the year.
“I’m able to take patriot, country gospel songs where they’ve never been,” said Mike Leichner, 63.
Leichner is a senior pastor of the Ark Church in Maize. Sending a positive message is what he wants, especially to his fellow veterans. He was in the Marines form 1971-74 and it is something that deeply impacts his music.
While watching the news, Leichner saw a report about a young man dragging and stomping on a flag. The person was confronted by a veteran, who told him that she had seen people die for the flag.
“That right there is a songwriter’s inspiration,” Leichner said. “In respect, that’s right up next to the cross. You don’t run down the cross, you don’t run down the flag.”
Leichner wrote, “Don’t Bring the Country Out in Me.” The song talks about “American country, where we believe in the 10 Commandments,” Leichner said.
From Wichita, Leichner, grew up touring the country with his family, the “Singing Ledbetters.” In the 1980s and 90s, he toured with his brothers, playing guitar. It wasn’t until 2015 that his personal music career took off when “House of Good News,” a “bluesy, southern rock country song,” went to #1 on Cashbox Magazine’s Christian Country Gospel Chart. Since then he’s recorded other music that has also done well and recently released the CD “American Made.”
Leichner has been a pastor for 28 years. He tries to be gone from his nondenominational church no more than one Sunday each month. His travel has increased since winning the award, however, with churches, veterans’ organizations and others asking him to visit. He doesn’t charge when he performs at veterans’ events.
Ultimately, he wants to have concerts on military bases.
“Just to bring a little joy and happiness sometimes where there is none and (to) those who have served us, put their life on the line, that’s the greatest joy there is,” Leichner said. “My real dream is to be a real strength and help to our fighting men and women.”
Leichner’s wife, Dee Leichner, said she was “awestruck” when Leichner was named male vocalist of the year. The couple just sat there, hardly realizing what had happened, she said.
When people ask him who he is, Leichner tells them, “I’m a pastor in Wichita.”
The award sitting on his mantle is still “pretty unbelievable,” he said.
Leichner’s music is available online at www.mikeleichner.com. His website also lists upcoming events, including a September event in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and an October event in Liberal, Kansas. Leichner also sings regularly at his church at 5501 N. Maize Road in Maize.
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