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Bob Hartman interview essay

By: Josh Renaud
September 1998

My interview with Bob Hartman took three sets of email, where I gave him a bunch of questions, and then he wrote back. After that, I put it together for an essay, which I turned in for my Freshman Composition class. I don't know what my grade was yet, but here is the essay. Judge for yourself.. Hopefully you'll enjoy it!

Bob Hartman is a laid-back, quiet sort of guy. His black hair, now starting to grey, is curly, not over-styled. His face and his eyes reveal someone who is introverted, a thinker. He might not be the type of person you would picture founding and leading a pioneer Christian rock band, but thats exactly what he has done for the last 25 years.

"I would never have picked myself to be in any kind of public ministry," he said. "As far as a leader goes, I'm probably not a good choice. I am not a great people person."

But it seems that God had a very special plan in mind for Bob. He began learning to play the guitar at age 13. He taught himself from reading books and watching other people play.

By the time he was 21, Bob had already played in several secular bands. Bob was attending the same fellowship as John DeGroff, a bass player. As Bob put it, "It happened naturally that we tried to get a band together."

And so the band Rapture was born. Bob wrote a few of the songs on their first album, but the band didnt last long.

"After Rapture broke up," he said, "John moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana to go to Christian Training Center, a school based out of a church there. I had already begun jamming with Greg Hough, the other original guitar player, when the Lord let me know He wanted me to go to that school as well. Greg and I both moved to Ft. Wayne to attend, and there Petra formed with a drummer who was also attending."

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a spiritual revival in America, known as the "Jesus Movement," that touched many counter-culture people. These hippies, former drug users and drop outs became known as "Jesus people" or "Jesus freaks." But at that time, Christian rock music was almost unheard of.

"It was very rough," said Bob. "There weren't many places to play and we were lucky to make our expenses when we did play. We also had to deal with the anti-rock message that many churches were giving out. We played mainly in places that had started during the Jesus Movement...coffeehouses, etc. It was really a wonder we survived at all."

Although it was difficult, God still had a plan for Bob and for Petra. The band was really a ministry, dedicated to reaching kids with the message about Jesus.

"In the early years of Petra, we played mostly evangelistic concerts that were promoted by Jesus people. Many times we would play open-air concerts to attract an audience, and then we'd deliver the Gospel."

Over time, Christian music developed, and it became more and more accepted. As it did, Bob found himself ministering through Petra to many Christians, as well as non-Christians. But Petra never left its evangelistic roots.

As the Christian music scene grew, so did Petra's popularity. But after lead singer Greg X. Volz left the band in 1985, things were uncertain. The band's popularity rose again in the late 80s and early 90s, only to decline as the popular styles of music changed.

"There have been very few stable years for Petra," Bob said. "The peaks and valleys have let us know what a privilege it is to serve God in this way, and I believe they have kept us from getting complacent or conceited."

Through it all, Bob kept his faith in God, and did what God told him to do. "We have always tried to take things one step at a time, and tried not to guess where the Lord is taking us," he said.

Being in a band, especially a band that travels as much as Petra does, means spending a lot of time on the road. Bob explained that on the road, the band spent most of its time in the concert hall or in the hotel. Off days provided a chance to go to malls, see a movie, or get the laundry done. More important than anything else, though, was keeping their relationships with God growing strong, through individual study of the Bible and times of group prayer and fellowship.

"I especially remember our trips outside the USA," Bob said of touring. "Among my favorite memories are traveling by train through Germany and seeing the castles, and seeing the Fiords of Norway. Of course, my best memories are of seeing the audiences respond to our music and message."

In 1995, Bob felt God leading him to make a change. He would no longer tour with the band, but would stay at home with his family. Over the past several years, his responsibilities with Petra have been confined to writing and producing albums. This change turned out to be a tremendous blessing.

"It has been great for my family and for myself since I left the road. It has enabled my wife and I to homeschool my son, which has been a great experience."

Since leaving the road, Bob has found time to do many things. He's produced two Petra albums, as well as written most of the songs on those albums. He's also written a devotional book, written regular articles for an Argentine magazine, written Bible studies for Petra's latest album, pick up tennis, and taught himself about computers.

It is amazing to see God work. It seems like He picks people to do things that might not seem logical for them to do. He asks them to follow Him wherever He might lead them. It is as if He is trying to teach them to trust Him, and when they do, things work out just the way He wants them to.

That is what happened to Bob. The quiet man was called to preach a message through music, and Bob listened and obeyed.

"I have always felt like an ordinary person who has been called and given a special grace by God to complete the work to which He has called me," he said.