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Remembering Rich Mullins

May 1, 2012 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

One of the most inspirational films I have ever seen is a 50 minute tribute to Rich Mullins, a Christian musician and songwriter best known in church circles for his worship songs “Awesome God” and “Step by Step.” The film, called “Homeless Man” (thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can watch it for free here), uses interviews from his family and friends, as well as clips from Rich’s concerts, in order to tell the story of Rich’s life and the effect that his death in 1997 at the age of 42 had on those who loved him. Ironically, the first Christian concert I ever attended was a concert by Rich Mullins (with the author Brennan Manning speaking) at South United Methodist Church in Manchester in 1995. I watched this film again this week, and I just wanted to share a few of the aspects of Rich’s life, as told by his friends, that moved me the most.

Rich, despite the fact that he was a famous Christian musician, spent much of his non-touring life teaching music to children on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, far away from the limelight. One of his friends shares in the film how he asked Rich what a normal quarter was for him in earnings, since musicians are paid royalties quarterly. Rich’s answer was that he didn’t know. He said that all of his earnings from his music were sent to a body of elders at his home church who handled his finances, and that he had asked them to pay him the salary of whatever an average American working man made that year (which was about $25,000). The rest he gave away to his church and to causes that he supported.

Watching the movie, it was beautiful to see how compassionate Rich was. The recollections shared by his sister and friends about his compassion were truly moving. In one instance, his sister shared about giving birth to a severely handicapped child, and how angry she was with God as a result. But she shared how Rich, when he first had the chance to speak with her, told her how proud he was of her, how proud he was to be her sister. He said, “Don’t you know that God only gives children with special needs to special people that He knows can care for them?” Another friend also gave birth to a handicapped daughter, Madeline, who was not supposed to live beyond her first year. But she continued to defy the doctors, and Rich’s friend shared how Rich used to whisper his prayers in Madeline’s ears, claiming that Madeline was his best prayer partner. He even wrote a song about her, with the chorus ending “God gladly bends just to hear Madeline when she prays.”

The interviews with the children on the Navajo reservation and in Bogota, Colombia, where he also served often with Compassion International, were heart-breaking. To watch how this man, who could have lived in a mansion removed from the hurts of the world, spent his life among the poor and was able to give them such dignity and love, and to watch how these children had been affected for all eternity by the way Jesus loved them through Rich, was so beautiful. Rich was fond of referring to Matthew 25 in his concerts, and how Jesus identified with the poor by saying “Whatever you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you do to me (Matthew 25:40).”

In Acts 20:35, Jesus is quoted as saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Whether or not you are able to watch this film, I encourage you to learn from the example of Jesus and from the example of Rich Mullins, that to give one’s life away in service to others, in the name of God, is truly to find your life.

P.S. One of my favorite songs is a song Caedmon’s Call wrote about Rich Mullins when he passed away, called “The Rich Song”. I love the chorus, drawn from Philippians 1:3 – “I thank my God every time I remember you.

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