Rich Mullins

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Rich W. Mullins

Richard Mullins (October 21, 1955 – September 19, 1997) was an American singer and songwriter. The most famous of his songs is "Awesome God", a song commonly heard in churches around the English speaking world. He died in a car accident in 1997 and is remembered especially for his sincere devotion to his faith.


Richard Wayne Mullins was born in Richmond, Indiana. Starting in 1986, he was a well-known Christian music artist until his untimely death in an automobile accident in 1997.

He is best-known for his praise choruses "Awesome God" and "Step by Step", which have been embraced as modern classics by the Christian church. Two of his albums are considered among Christian music's best: 1986's Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth and 1993's A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band. His songs have been covered by the likes of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Caedmon's Call, and Jars of Clay but his influence on his colleagues in the music business reaches further.

In addition to his music, Rich Mullins is also remembered for his sincere devotion to the Christian faith. He often called Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) his "hero", and modelled his life after him by having great compassion on the poor and adhering to a vow of poverty. In 1997, he composed a musical about the life of St. Francis (set in the Old West) called Canticle of the Plains.

Mullins was seen as an enigma to the Christian music industry. Often barefoot, unshaven and badly in need of a haircut, he didn't look like the average American gospel music writer. Although he achieved a good amount of success on Christian radio, he never received a Dove Award until after he died.

Unlike many artists in Contemporary Christian music, Mullins did not consider his music as his primary ministry, but rather as a means to pay his bills. Instead, his ministry was the way he treated his neighbors, family and enemies. Taking a vow of poverty, he accepted a small church salary and spent the last years of his life on a Navajo reservation teaching music to children.

Musical career

Mullins began his musical career with Zion Ministries in the late 1970s, where he wrote music and performed with a band called Zion. Zion released one album in 1981 entitled Behold the Man. While working for this ministry, Mullins penned a song called "Sing Your Praise To The Lord", which was recorded by singer Amy Grant in 1982 and became an immediate hit on Christian Radio.

In 1983, Debby Boone recorded Mullins' "O Come All Ye Faithful" for her Surrender album. In 1984, the song was also featured in a TV movie called Sins of the Past.

Mullins became a songwriter in the Contemporary Christian music industry by 1984, penning songs for Pam Mark Hall, and a second song for Amy Grant. Grant would go on to record yet another of Mullins songs for her 1985 album, Unguarded, entitled "Love Of Another Kind".

By 1986, Mullins recorded his first self-titled solo project, and followed it with a second solo album in 1987 called Pictures in the Sky. Neither album had sold very well and it looked as though Pictures might be his last, until Mullins wrote a song called "Awesome God". Mullins recorded that song and released it on his third album, Winds of Heaven... Stuff of Earth and it quickly became a hit on Christian radio and a modern day hymn sung in churches around the world.

The Winds of Heaven... Stuff of Earth album also introduced fans to the Hammered Dulcimer, an instrument that would become a Rich Mullins trademark.

In the early 1990s, Mullins released a pair of albums entitled The World As Best As I Remember It Volumes 1 & 2. These albums featured more of a stripped back, acoustic feel than Mullins earlier work, with nods to Irish music. Step By Step, a song written by good friend Beaker and included on both volumes, became an instant hit on Christian Radio, and like "Awesome God", with worship leaders.

In 1993, Mullins assembled a group of Nashville musicians (including Jimmy Abegg, Beaker, Phil Madeira, Rick Elias, Aaron Smith) to form A Ragamuffin Band, which was named after The Ragamuffin Gospel by author Brennan Manning. The band recorded A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band, which was later named the #3 Best Christian Album of All time by CCM Magazine. The band would get together again in 1995 to record Brothers Keeper.

In 1997, Mullins teamed up with Beaker and Mitch McVicker to write a musical based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, entitled The Canticle of the Plains. Mullins had great respect for St Francis, and even formed "the Kid Brothers of St Frank" in the late 1980s with several friends, each taking a vow of poverty. Mullins was never really aware of how well his records sold, because the profits from his tours and the sale of each album went to his church, who divided it up, paid Mullins a small salary, and gave the rest to charity. Mullins was also a major supporter of Compassion International and Compassion USA.


Unfortunately, Mullins was tragically killed in a car accident on September 19, 1997. He and friend Mitch McVicker were travelling on I-39 outside Peoria, Illinois to a benefit concert in Wichita when Rich's Jeep flipped over. Both men were thrown from the vehicle and Mullins was struck and instantly killed by a passing tractor trailor, swerving to avoid the Jeep.

Shortly before his death, Mullins had made a rough tape of songs for what would have been his next album on Reunion Records; he was going to call the album "Ten Songs About Jesus." This rough microcassette recording became the basis for "The Jesus Record," which A Ragamuffin Band recorded after Mullins' death. Mullins and McVicker had also recorded what would become Mitch's first true solo album (aside from lead vocals on four songs on the Canticle of the Plains album).

At the time of his death, Mullins lived on a Navajo Reservation, where he taught music to children.


Rich Mullins

Exactly two months before the tragic death of Rich Mullins
"Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won't also cost you yours'."
"So go out and live real good and I promise you'll get beat up real bad. But, in a little while after you're dead, you'll be rotted away anyway. It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live."
"It's so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, Contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, I know a lot of us, and we don't know jack about anything. Not that I don't want you to buy our records and come to our concerts. I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to church.. you should read the Scriptures."
"We do not find happiness by being assertive. We don't find happiness by running over people because we see what we want and they are in the way of that happiness so we either abandon them or we smash them. The Scriptures don't teach us to be assertive. The Scriptures teach us – and this is remarkable – the Scriptures teach us to be submissive. This is not a popular idea."
"I had a prof one time... He said, 'Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway."
"I think if we were given the Scriptures, it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the Scriptures, it was to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing."
"Bear in mind, children, that they listen to you because you are kids - not because you are right. That's how our Father listens to us."
"We never understand what we're praying, and God, in His mercy, does not answer our prayers according to our understanding, but according to His wisdom."
"Yes, it's embarrassing to be born again, but imagine how embarrassing it must have been to be born the first time. At least this time you get to wear clothes!"
"We are not saved because we're good. We're good because we're saved. Never forget what Jesus did for you."
"If you've ever known the love of God, you know it's nothing but reckless and it's nothing but raging. Sometimes it hurts to be loved, and if it doesn't hurt it's probably not love, may be infatuation. I think a lot of American people are infatuated with God, but we don't really love Him, and they don't really let Him love them. Being loved by God is one of the most painful things in the world, it's also the only thing that can bring us salvation and it's like everything else that is really wonderful, there's a little bit of pain in it, little bit of hurt."
"It's just that for so many people that I know, Christianity's this matter of ... it has everything to do with morals. Christianity is a religion about morals. And they will even talk about Jesus. And they will say kids need to know about Jesus so they won't smoke, drink, or dance, or go with girls that do, and all that kind of thing. And I kinda go, 'That's not why people need to know about Jesus. The only reason--The only possible excuse for talking about Jesus is because we need a Savior.'"


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