(This article is a departure from my usual ranting about politics.)
Sept. 19, 2013 marked sixteen years since the day Rich Mullins was tragically killed in a car accident. I went back this week and watched a video of his “Live From Studio B” concert which was originally recorded in 1997 at Lesea Studios, South Bend, Indiana. The music is as relevant today as it was when originally written and recorded during the 1980’s and 90’s and Mullins’ interpretations are moving, raw and honest, even with a couple of glitches that may only be apparent to his most ardent fans.
I realize the link to the concert is for the entire concert and most people won’t take the time to watch the entire show so I am going to add a couple links to individual songs and give anyone interested a couple of places within the concert of special import to me. What I want to call attention to isn’t the music per se but the way Mullins introduces each song with insights into his view of Jesus Christ, the Bible and Christianity as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, the music is phenomenal, but I was especially struck by his enthusiastic challenge of the American Christian experience.
When honored as “Artist of the Year” at the 1998 Dove Awards (for Christian Music) Rich Mullins was described as the “uneasy conscience of Christian music” by Christian Artist Amy Grant. She went on to describe a man who never lived like a star, preferring to have the fruits of his labor distributed as Christ commands in Matthew 25:35-40:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Evangelical Christianity during the last thirty-plus years has focused often on the joys of Christianity without ever discussing the cost. We as believers sometimes fall into a trap- we want to concentrate on only the easy and enjoyable while forgetting Luke 9:23, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'” While Rich Mullins lived by example, he was willing and able to needle other Christians both directly and indirectly when he thought they needed it.
An example is his intro to “Elijah” (Live From Studio B- starting at 32:30) where he talks about Christian music and how some folks know more lyrics than Bible verses. In another example from Studio B (at 46:23) he pokes fun at American Christianity vs the world as part of the intro to “Creed”.
There are also a couple of intros that speak to Rich Mullins’ views of God, prayer, the Christian faith, God’s love for us and art- first “Awesome God” then “Sometimes By Step”. (The links here are for the individual songs and their intro.)
This was one of the last concerts Rich Mullins performed before the accident that reunited him with his Lord and Savior. It is poignant, inspiring, emotional and worth a look. I was fortunate to see Rich at Elmbrook Church in Waukesha, WI just weeks before his death and still listen to his music regularly. He was a great musician, composer and performer and I miss him.