Mike Payne was born in West Virginia, in 1953. He became a Christian early on and grew up loving Southern Gospel music. His first efforts at songwriting were simply to change the lyrics of popular, secular tunes. In places where the early Mike Payne Trio appeared they sang songs such as I Can’t Stop Loving You, by simply changing the lyrics to reflect a Christian message. Later on when he met a songwriter who composed his own tunes he thought, “Wait a minute, if he can do that, I can do it, also.” That led to an incredible career of writing one favorite Southern Gospel song after another. In 1986 his “Angels Step Back” was the most played of all Southern Gospel songs.

Mike related to me a most unusual story concerning another of his very popular songs:  “In 1983 our group was to release an album entitled, I’m a Jesus Fan. I was searching for a particular song, a slow ballad. I wanted to have a variety of songs on the project. I had thrown around many ideas, but nothing at all seemed to click.”

“The night before we were to record, my wife, Loreen, and I were in a Shoney’s restaurant and happened to see Ronny Hinson, along with a number of his friends and business associates. I mentioned to him that we were to go to a studio the following day to record a new album, and that I needed another song. He asked, ‘What are you working on?’ I said, ‘Well, I have an idea about the theme for a song — when He was on the cross He was thinking about me.’”

“As Ronny was giving thought to that phrase, I continued, ‘What I want to say in the song is, when Jesus was on the cross, He saw those standing around Him, with their need, but He also looked into the future and saw me, and was thinking about me and my need.’” Ronny said, “Instead of saying, ‘When He was on the cross He was thinking about me,’ why don’t you say, ‘When He was on the cross, I was on His mind.’” I said, ‘Oh boy, that sounds great!’ Ronny jokingly said to me, ‘I’m going home and write about that.’ And I said, ‘Oh no, you’re not!’”

“Ronny and I got together that night in my hotel room. While Loreen was trying to sleep — of course, she couldn’t sleep — Ronny and I were quietly writing a song which Loreen was to record the next day. Through the night we quietly exchanged ideas about the lyrics and softly hummed bits of the melody to each other. When the morning came we had finished our song. We both had expressed what was in our hearts and minds at the time. We had lyrics written on paper, but no melody—only in our minds.”

“We sang it to Loreen and asked, ‘What do you think?’ She said, ‘I like it, I really do!’ That same morning we went to the Hilltop Studios in a suburb of Nashville and recorded “When He Was On the Cross,” which was then included in the new album.”

Ronny was present in the studio when it was being recorded and decided straight away that he would ‘pitch’ the song to the Florida Boys. He did so and unabashedly told them, “This is your number one song and it will be the song of the year.”

Although the song helped The Payne’s family’s album, I’m A Jesus Fan, it went to greater heights as the predictions Ronny made to The Florida Boys came true. It became the number one song on the charts and was song of the year in 1985 and 1986. Payne said, “It was the first time I ever co-wrote a song, and it was a unique experience.” He later reported, “Writing with Ronny was truly a dream come true.”

Many unusual stories could be told about Mike Payne’s experiences with this Southern Gospel “classic.” He reported that, to date, he has written more than 280 songs with approximately 80% of them being recorded or published. He would be the first to give Christ all of the glory and praise for His goodness in allowing him to touch the lives of millions of people through his music.

(Verse One)
I’m not on an ego trip I’m nothing on my own
I made mistakes I often slip
Just common flesh and bones
But I’ll prove someday just why I say
I’m of a special kind
For when he was on the cross
I was on his mind.

(Verse Two)
The look of love was on his face
Thorns were on his head
The blood was on his scarlet robe
Stained a crimson red
Though his eyes were on the crowd that day
He looked ahead in time
For when he was on the cross
I was on his mind.

He knew me, yet he loved me
He whose glory makes the heavens shine
So unworthy of such mercy
Yet when he was on the cross
I was on his mind.

Written by Ronald Michael Payne, Ronny     Hinson
Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

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