Rich Mullins

Few song defined contemporary Christian music (CCM) from the 1980s and \"90s together comprehensively together “Awesome God” by wealthy Mullins (1955-1997). With a singable, theologically i was sure chorus and driving, attractive melody, “Awesome God” continues to it is in sung by countless congregations approximately the globe today—more 보다 30 year after its early stage recording. Yet there is maybe no more controversial number in contemporary Christian music history than affluent Mullins, and the history of the track makes little sense unless thought about as a item of his bigger oeuvre. Neither story deserve to be called without likewise telling the story of Mullins himself. (See finish lyrics at https://genius.com/Rich-mullins-awesome-god-lyrics.)

“Awesome God” was originally a solitary from his 3rd record, Winds that Heaven, ingredient of Earth. Released by Reunion records in 1988, “Awesome God” came to be Mullins’s signature song; indeed, it came to be one the the signature songs of the burgeoning contemporary worship music (CWM) movement, gift voted the third best contemporary Christian tune by CCM Magazine in 1998 (Powell 2002, 616). As such, it is no stranger come controversy; newly a colleague supplied it as an example of the generally poor quality of lyrics in contemporary worship music. Critiqued for both the awkward message in its opened stanza (“When he rolling up his sleeves, that wasn’t simply puttin’ top top the ritz”) and the succeeding repetitiveness of the chorus’s unrestrained triumphalism, it has been an symbol or lightning rod or also straw male (depending on your perspective) for countless of the discourses that configured the “worship wars” the the late-twentieth century, the clearly or character scriptural quotations that make up the song’s lyrics notwithstanding: “He reigns in heaven above with wisdom, power, and also love” (Rev. 7:12); “Kicked ’em out of Eden” (Genesis 3:23); “Shed his blood” (Romans 5:8; i Cor. 15:3); “He speak in the darkness and also created light” (Genesis 1:3; 1:14); “Judgment and wrath he poured out on Sodom” (Genesis 13:10); “Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross” (Galatians 6:14; Philippians 2:6).

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There has also been controversy around the nature the the debate of the song. The feature film Ragamuffin (2014) depicts the tune as a subversive jab at both the Christian record industry and the singing practices of good news churches, essentially saying come the first, “You want a hit? Well right here ya go,” and to the second, “Since her theology is so poor, here’s a poor song because that you come sing.” However, together depictions execute not have to align through the memory of those in ~ the recording industry who knew Mullins and also produced his music. Michael Blanton, the head the Reunion records who created Mullins’s albums, attributes the song’s quirkiness to the character of Mullins himself:

He . . . Never thought around doing something because that church music, he simply never thought about that. He was truly creating for the ragamuffin, the male out there that loves avant-garde music (Michael Blanton, Interview v author).

Blanton prove this denial of the film’s explicate of Mullins’s intentions by informing a story about his conversation v Mullins worrying Amy Grant’s “Sing Your praise to the Lord,” i beg your pardon Mullins had written:

When I very first met him, he had this song, “Sing your worship to the Lord,” the was his first—that was on Amy’s El Shaddai/Age to age album. So ns was in ~ a water park, and also a girl came as much as me and also said, “I’m a stewardess for American Airlines, and also someone claimed you’re Michael Blanton,” I said “yeah,” and also she gave me a cassette ~ above Rich. And on there to be this ten-minute variation of “Sing Your prayer to the Lord,” and it just takes forever; that this good build up, yet it take away forever to gain there. Therefore I referred to as Rich, and also said, “I’d choose to talk to you about being a writer and an artist, and also would girlfriend come under to fulfill with us right here in Nashville. And by the way, ns thinking about having ‘Sing your Praise’ be a track for Amy.” And, i said, “But, we’re prolly gonna shorten this intro the you’ve got, just to make it a tiny bit more acceptable. But we’ll still store it long. Fine still make it 5 minutes or so—five or six minutes—it’s just not gonna be the ten or twelve minutes. What influenced you to create a song favor that?” that said, “Well, it’s similar to sex. Did you do it gotta have actually a really great foreplay prior to you acquire to the climax.” and also I went, “Oh boy, that is this guy?!?” So, literally, as soon as you listen to that song and also think about it from the angle, he was not trying to it is in weird around it, he was simply saying, “You know, this is the very same thing; why can’t our love partnership with God be like, there’s some foreplay and then a wedding?” (Blanton)

Blanton’s have fun fits well v those that others that knew Mullins professionally: one executive referred to him as “a weirdo v one an excellent song” throughout our interview. Indeed, the man was rather eccentric. Born on a tiny farm in countryside Indiana in 1955, he prospered up attending a friend (Quaker) church v his mother, and also he displayed a unique outlook ~ above life the countenanced creativity as a cook virtue. Together a young adult, Mullins dabbled in evangelicalism, however never seems to have actually been totally comfortable in that tradition—as evidenced by his later on interviews (Staub, 1997, for example).

During his career as a recording artist, Mullins met laicized roman inn Catholic priest and author Brennan Manning, and the two started a lengthy friendship. Manning, a famous and self-professed alcoholic who work had actually a deep affect on Mullins, suspect a pastoral function in Mullins’s life, with the younger guy naming his tape “The Ragamuffin Band” ~ Manning’s titular persona native The Ragamuffin Gospel (1990).

After having developed himself in the modern-day Christian music market, Mullins relocated to Kansas in 1988 (the very same year “Awesome God” to be released) to begin studying in ~ Friends University. After ~ graduating with his bachelor’s level in 1995, Mullins moved to brand-new Mexico come live through the Navajo nation in Tse Bonito, part of the home window Rock preventive in the 4 Corners area. Probably through Manning’s influence, but certainly v his fascination through St. Francis that Assisi, Mullins started exploring roman inn Catholicism, and he had actually completed the Rite that Christian Initiation for adult at the moment of his fatality in an vehicle accident in 1997.

Mullins was an important of “anglo evangelicalism” in his final years, and also he thought that the American obsession with customer goods and also financial riches impoverished Christian faith. As a response, he set up a board of directors because that his finances and also had his checks sent to his lawyer, that then distributed the funds together the plank directed. Mullins embraced only the average mean salary for a laborer in the U.S. At that time; the rest of the money was provided to the number of charities the Mullins supported. His life and also unique method to faith and artistry are frequently cited as the inspiration for one individual’s job or life choices. Shane Claiborne cites an encounter with Mullins in ~ Wheaton College together a profound, life-changing occasion that collection him ~ above the food to radical discipleship (Irresistible Revolution 2006, 96-112).

Mullins composed “Awesome God” during his dalliance with evangelicalism. Purportedly penned either at rock Lake Christian Assembly camp in Michigan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oep3Tx7X3BQ) or during a drive in between Tennessee and Missouri (https://www.songfacts.com/facts/rich-mullins/awesome-god), the details that the song’s composition space sketchy. Together is often true that the work of touring musicians, a song will incubate for numerous weeks, months, or even years, before it coheres into something recognizable come the writer. It appears this was the situation for “Awesome God” as well.

Mullins himself was ambivalent around the song’s origin, and also he was often quite crucial of the song’s quality (see his interview v Brent Waters in Lighthouse electric Magazine, 1996). Lot of this self-critique seems focused on the triumphalism of the chorus and the poor poetry the the verses. Moreover, comparison v the rest of his oeuvre—especially his later on material—reveals a simplistic technique to theology the is tested in later songs, such together “Brother’s Keeper” (1995) with lyrics like:

Now the plumber’s acquired a drip in his spigotThe mechanic\"s obtained a clank in his carAnd the preacher\"s thinking thoughts that room wickedAnd the lover\"s acquired a lonely heart(See complete lyrics in ~ https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/richmullins/brotherskeeper.html)

Other songs, such together “The shade Green” (1995), sell stirring meditations top top grace. (See lyrics at https://genius.com/Rich-mullins-the-color-green-lyrics) Theologian Anthony D. Baker (2017) says that Mullins “scandalously use familiar religious language” to define his monitorings of nature, such as an “oak that welcomes birds as elevating arms in ‘a blessing because that being born again.’”

Michael Blanton provided in our interview the Mullins “probably taken grace better than all of us in the entire Christian thing.”

Yet Mullins likewise acknowledged that God was acting in and through “Awesome God,” in spite of his dissatisfaction through its artistry and theology. While many (myself included) are tempted to lay host of the item as proof of one point or one more (such as poor theology, modern worship music, or critiquing the Christian music industry), sometimes it is an excellent to step ago and acknowledge God’s task beyond the limitations of our very own opinions and also preferences.

Sources and also Further Reading

Anthony D. Baker, “As ideal as I deserve to Remember Him.” The other Journal 28 (Environment Issue, 2017), https://theotherjournal.com/20... Blanton, Interview with Author, April 5, 2016.

Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).

April Hefner and also Lindy Warren, “Requiem because that a Ragamuffin.” CCM Magazine (November 1997), https://www.kidbrothers.net/articles/ccm-nov97.html.

Mark Allan Powell, Encyclopedia of modern-day Christian Music (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002).

Dick Staub, “Interview through Rich Mullins,” April 1997, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0Gm9Y-7UIA.

James Bryan Smith, Rich Mullins: His Life and also Legacy: An arrowhead Pointing come Heaven. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

Brent Waters, “Rich Mullins Interview,” The Lighthouse electrical Magazine (April 1996), http://www.kidbrothers.net/words/interviews/lighthouse-electronic-magazine-apr96.html.

Trevin Wax, “Learning from rich Mullins – a Ragamuffin in ~ the Door of oh my gosh Mercy,” The Gospel Coalition, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/learning-from-rich-mullins-a-ragamuffin-at-the-doorstep-of-gods-mercy.

_____. “Telling the Ragamuffin Story of affluent Mullins: an Interview with Director David Leo Schultz,” The Gospel Coalition, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/telling-the-ragamuffin-story-of-rich-mullins-an-interview-with-director-david-leo-schultz.

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Nathan Myrick, a indigenous of Warroad, MN, got his M.A. In theology indigenous Fuller Seminary, and PhD in church music native Baylor University. His research concentrates on musical activity and human growing in the context of Christian communities. That has produced two music albums and also numerous articles and book chapters. That is right now assistant professor that church music at the Townsend college of Music, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.