September 19 marked 20 years since the passing of beloved contemporary Christmas music artist Rich Mullins. Mullins died from a horrific car accident in 1997, but left a legacy of Christian worship.
Ian Kissell writes in a memorial tribute that Mullins’ music continues to impact him, though many years have passed since he first heard Mullins’ words in the 90s.
He writes, “The Christian life is a delicate balance between singing for joy and falling on grace. That is what I think keeps me coming back to Mullins. His music never feels trite, quite aware of the difficulties of life. However, it is always fully aware of the propensity of grace to overwhelm even the greatest trouble, and the role music has to play in helping with that process. It is, after all, the finest thing a person can find on this earth.”
Mullins is best known for his Christian radio hit “Awesome God” but his influence on Christian music stretched across multiple albums during the 80s and 90s. Current Christian artists and bands including Caedmon’s Call, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, Third Day, and Hillsong United have all covered his work. It seems that though Mullins’ time in the Christian music industry was regretfully short, his impact on Christian worship remains today.
Writes Kissell, “I grew up largely in a church culture that was infatuated with the shiny: the newest books, songs and ideas quickly crowded out the old. In that environment, there is something profoundly impactful with falling in love with the same songs your parents did; with letting them speak to you as they did to them. Most of us don’t normally think of ourselves as part of a continuing story, as if we have somehow participated in the events of the past and are continuing them.”
“His music is a reminder that stories from and about the men of old and their faith still have a place in the life of the Christian community.”
Crosswalk.com blogger David Burchett adds in his own tribute that Mullins’ song “We are Not as Strong as We Think We Are” continues to influence him today.
The song includes this powerful stanza: Well, it took the hand of God Almighty/To part the waters of the sea/But it only took one little lie/To separate you and me/Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are.
Burchett responds, “If only we could acknowledge that we are not as strong as we think we are and then live accordingly I believe we would see an amazing difference. We need God and community to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. Yet pride tells me that I am able to handle the situation. Fear tells me that telling the truth in love will only make it worse. So one little lie or misunderstanding dealt with in my own strength negates the strength of a God who could part the waters of the seas and could no doubt heal my pain. If I let Him.”
This confidence in God, and so much more, can still be gleaned from Mullins’ words today. May his music continue to uplift the spirits of God’s people through his legacy of worship.
“I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise.” (Psalm 101:1)
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