Rich Mullins performed at an all day Saturday Christian music festival in Louisville, Kentucky along with CCM artists Al Denson, Strait Company, White Heart, Michael Sweet, 4 Him, Carman, Michael W. Smith, and comedian Mark Lowry. (Susan Ashton was scheduled to perform but became hospitalized at the last minute.)
This transcript records Rich's approximately 40 minute appearance on stage and audience reaction to his songs and words. He was joined by Jimmy Abegg, known simply as Jimmy A., who accompanied Rich on guitar and background vocals. All songs performed are ["bracketed"] and followed by the instrument Rich played for that song. Audience reactions and visual details are explained in (parenthesis). Rich's words between songs are written just as he spoke, including pauses, mistakes, and the occasional "uh", which he uttered when thinking of what next he was going to say. The use of ellipses... represent brief pauses, sudden changes in thought, and/or other speech patterns that do not translate well into written form. (For this reason it may help either to slow down as you read or to reread Rich's words to obtain the feel and rhythm of his speech.) Each song receives recognition in the form of applause or cheers from the audience, but sometimes the applause is greater than normal. Thus, (Applause) is used to signify strong audience reaction to Rich's songs and words.
The concert begins as Rich is introduced while he and Jimmy A take the stage. Rich is carrying his hammered dulcimer, has his guitar slung over his shoulder onto his back, is wearing jean shorts, an oversized t-shirt, and is... barefoot. Rich stands at center stage to begin and then seats himself after the first song. Jimmy A sits in a folding chair next to him and plays guitar on every song but the first.
[I Will Sing] (Rich sings a cappella by himself)
[Hope to Carry On] guitar
(In a typical "Rich moment", confusion ensues as Rich looks around stage perplexingly and states...)
OK, I plugged the wrong thing in, so we've got to do a bit of adjusting on the hammered dulcimer, but we'll try to get it up and playing for you.
(Rich briefly tunes dulcimer)
This is a song that Beaker and I... (Rich interrupts himself)... Beaker isn't with us today; his wife is about an hour and a half away from having a baby, so he's obviously been busy doing other things... (pause), which I can only envy him for... (audience replies with laughter, and Rich gets back to his original thought)... This is a song that we wrote on an airplane because his wife wasn't there, and uh, it's called Creed.
Here is another song Beaker and I wrote and I don't know how to play it so uh... (he looks over at Jimmy)... do you know Jimmy A?... he's uh, "a lot of fun to play with him" and he's kind of a hero of mine and uh, he's going to do the guitar on this because I can't. (Rich was probably trying to say the phrase "a lot of fun to play with" as well as "play with him", but it came out all jumbled together as he spoke.)
[Boy Like Me / Man Like You] no instrument
(Two things happen during this song that illustrate Rich's down-to-earth "ragamuffin-like" qualities and humorous nature. Rich stands to sing this song with his arms folded across his chest, but then bends down and grabs a Diet Pepsi after the first verse. As he sings he opens it and takes a few sips between verses. Then, he nonchalantly wipes his mouth on the sleeve of his shirt after completing a chorus and before beginning the next verse. Also, he tries to whistle the interlude just as it sounds on the WABAIRI V.2 recording, but his whistling quickly turns into laughter as he recognizes his failed attempt to duplicate the sound on stage. He tries a second time near the end of the song but ends in laughter once again while Jimmy A. finishes the whistling for him, hitting the notes that Rich was unable to whistle.)
Ok, this is a song I wrote... I always say that I wrote it about moving to Kansas but the truth is there is so little to be said about Kansas that if I had only written about that it would have been a very short song. (laughter from the audience) So I enlarged it to include all the prairie states and uh, that just made it a whole lot more of the same. And then I put a long introduction in the beginning of it and I... (clear throat)... you know I went to bible college and I thought about being a preacher, but... (pause) but, I find out at bible college that mostly what preachers do is they take a true point and then they tell a lot of lies about it. (audience groans with a collective "Whoa! I can't believe he said that." reaction) So I decided to be a musician instead. So this is a lot of exaggerating about what it's like to be on the plains.
[Calling Out Your Name] dulcimer
(Rich moves to the electric keyboard, thanks audience, and introduces next song by saying...)
This is a song I wrote in Amsterdam.
[Hold Me Jesus] keyboard
(Applause, brief pause, and then directly into...)
[Screen Door] keyboard
(Audience clapping throughout song)
[If I Stand] keyboard
(Audience immediately recognizes introduction to next song)
[Awesome God] keyboard
(Audience emphatically joins in singing chorus and refrains with upraised arms toward heaven)
(near end of song, Rich instructs audience with...)
Alright, you sing it!
(Audience sings out strong)
(Short bow by Rich to acknowledge appreciative audience)
Thank you very much (Rich sipping soda again) and uh, I appreciate so much your being here to listen. I don't have a big band and all that with me... (laughter from audience)... And you've been very patient... (cheers from the crowd)... But uh, we're going up to Illinois and going to be practicing with Jimmy, and uh Rick Elias, and uh, Oh! I can't even remember who all... there's a bunch of guys, we're all getting together and we're going to be touring this summer, and maybe you can come hear us with the band and we'll be as loud as we can be. Some people like it quiet I guess. I don't really have a preference.
A lot of people ask me if I like Christian music and I say, "Yeah, I,... I,... (lost in thought but recovers with...) When Peace Like a River, one of my favorite pieces,... The Old Rugged Cross, there's a lot of pieces like that I really love." Then they say, "Well do you like secular music?" And I say, "Well, I've got to admit that I'm awfully found of O Susanna... (laughter from audience)... and O Shenandoah... (more laughter from audience)... most secular songs that start with the word 'O' I really like... and Moon River, by Andy Williams. His recording is, I think, the definitive one."
When I was a kid, you know occasionally my parents would argue and uh, when things got really heated up... we lived on a farm so us kids would go for a walk. And when we got back from that walk, if... when we were coming up to the house, if we heard 'Moon River' coming out of the window we knew that we should just turn around and spend another hour or so, uh... (audience laughs enough so that Rich doesn't feel the need to finish his sentence)... so anyways, I always feel good about that song. 'Cause my... (Rich, thinking about his parents, begins again)... I'm so fortunate that my parents loved each other, and I thank God that they were uh, healthy, vital people... (audience laughs)... otherwise I wouldn't have gotten here.
There are a million preferences we can all have but uh, there's only one savior!... (audience approvingly agrees with clapping and cheers)
Sometimes I am tempted to believe that I am better than anybody because I know Him. And then I remember that uh, I don't know him because I was smart enough to figure out some riddle. And I don't know him because I was good enough to ascend into heaven on my own and shake hands with him and meet him. Of all the things that make God awesome, the most awesome thing in the world that I can imagine from a god is that one who would be holy, and one that would be just,... and one that would be innocent and beautiful, and would have no need of me... that someone like that could love me is amazing. And uh, that does not make me a good person; but it makes Him a great God!... (audience applauds wildly)
(after applause dies down Rich pauses slightly and then reminisces about...)
I remember one time, Beaker and I were hiking in the Appalachian trail and he met some friends of his and they all went in... (Rich immediately rewords himself)... they were all talking about school which I didn't want to talk about because I've been in school for so many years it's not interesting any more... (Rich pauses while audience laughs)... and uh, of course that happened after third grade... (more laughter from audience as Rich continues)... so I walked into town. It was about a five mile walk from the campsite down in... down the trail... down into town... and when I got there, I went in and was having a steak, and this guy started talking to me and we had this great conversation; we were having a good time and he said, "Hey look, it's dark and it's five miles up the road to your campground. Why don't I drive you up there?"
And I said, "Hey, great!"
And uh, so we got in his car and just as we pulled out from under the uh, last light in that town the guy said, "You know what, I should probably tell you that I'm gay."
And I said, "Oh! I should probably tell you that I am a Christian."
(audience applauds, but Rich continues...)
"...and Christians and gays are really a lot more alike than most people think."
And he said, "Well, what do you mean?"
And I said, "Well, I think that gay people are people who desperately need to be loved. And I think Christian people are pretty much the same."
(audience applauds loudly)
And he said, "Well if you want out of the car..."
I said, "Why?"
And he said, "Well, I'm gay and your Christian."
I said, "It's still five miles and it's still dark." I'm not crazy.
(laughter from audience)
And he said, "I thought Christians hated gays."
I said, "That's funny, I thought Christians were supposed to love. I thought that was our first command." (audience applauds loudly again)
He said, "Well, I thought God hated gays."
I said, "That's really funny, because I thought God was love."
And He said, "Well uh, do you think uh, God sent AIDS down to punish gay people?"
And I said, "Well, in the same sense that he sends bankruptcy on farmers and presidents on voters."
(audience laughs at presidential remark and Rich pauses before saying...)
"...that there are consequences for our choices and sometimes we have to bear the consequence of other people's choices."
And then he asked me the big one. He said, "Do you think I will go to hell for being a gay?"
Well, I'm a good Hoosier... (audience laughs) ...and I puckered up to say, "Yes, of course you'll go to hell for being gay." Now folks, I will tell you the truth. I got ready to say, "Yes, of course you'll go to hell for being gay," and when I opened up my mouth it came out, "No,... of course you won't go to hell for being gay." And I thought, "Oh my god, I've only been in New Hampshire for one week and I've already turned into a liberal." ...(audience roars out loud in laughter)... What am I going to tell this guy now?
You know there are times when we think we are God's messengers, when we think we are the mouthpiece of God. And God really needs fewer mouths than he needs ears... (audience cheers approvingly)... And there are times when we think we've got it all together. And we meet somebody. And they ask us the right questions. And we get to find out something about God that we learned when we were little because our moms and dads read it to us, and because they took us to Sunday school and we were told over and over the great truths of the scriptures. But we forget them because we get all caught up in how cool we are.
(Getting back to his story, Rich concludes...)
I said, "No, you won't go to hell for being gay any more than I would go to hell for being a liar. That nobody goes to hell because of what they do. We go to hell because we reject the grace that God so longs to give to us... (audience applauds)... regardless of what we do."
So many of you people try so hard to be good. And you think someday you're going to be so good that God is going to look down on you favorably. Well, let me tell you something. God already looks down on you favorably... (audience agrees by applauding)... That's what grace is... not because you have earned it but, because he is a favorable looking God. Some of you people are so afraid that someday you're going to cross that line, that you're going to do that one sin that God will never forgive you of... or, you're going to do that one sin that you've been doing so long... but, you have this feeling that there is a certain number of times you can get away with it and God can look away... but, one time too many and your life is over. Folks, God knew you at your worst before he ever sent Christ to die for you. And the good news of Christianity is not that... Christ came into the world to make good little boys and girls. Christ came into the world to take away those sins that you've allowed to come between you and God. It's sad to me to believe... to look out there and see... when you're driving down the road and you see people who are afraid, you see people who are angry, and you go, "If only you knew how crazy about you God was... God has already loved you... if only you knew!"
And so today... I'm...
(Rich pauses to tell everyone...)
...I don't know why I'm nervous as a cat about Beaker's wife having a baby. He doesn't seem near as nervous as I am. I'm about to wet myself up here thinking about it.
(Audience laughs and he continues...)
...so I don' t know if I can make a lot of sense in a lot of ways, but let me tell you this... that God will never give up on you. He will never stop loving you. That love is a reality no matter what you do or don't do. God does not call us to be angels; he calls us to be His, and to be who we are in Him. And uh, so this is a little prayer song that if you want to pray with us you're welcome to join in...
[Sometimes By Step] keyboard
(As he usually did, Rich ceases to play the keyboards during the last chorus of this song as the audience joins to sing with Rich acappella, "God, you are my God... and I will ever praise you" over and over. Then Rich deliberately walks off stage to leave the audience singing the remainder of the song on their own in a worshipful moment of praise to God.)
Remarks and transcription by Lee McConnell
Copyright 1994 by Joy Jam, Inc.