Rich Mullins teaches sold-out crowd

Rich Mullins teaches sold-out crowd to "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" (March 1, 1997)

by Deb Rieselman

The Christian Music Place March 1997

For nearly three hours, Rich Mullins and his guitarist Mitch McVicker played, talked and led 1,800 people in singing praises to the Lord at a sold-out concert in Cincinnati in March. The "acoustic" show was something of a homecoming for Rich, who attended Cincinnati Bible College in the '70s.

From the beginning, Rich made it clear this concert was to be "interactive." He started off by dividing the audience into sections to sing an old-time Sunday School-type song, then having them stand and sit at appropriate times, just as they would have done when children.

The opener put them in a relaxed, enthusiastic mood and encouraged them to sing when the spirit moved them. That happened frequently and created exciting highlights when the 1,800-voice choir sang the refrains of "Sometimes by Step" and "Awesome God." So willing was the crowd to carry the melodies, that Rich sometimes sang the harmony, let the audience sing without him at all, then eventually let the audience sing a cappella. It was amazing how beautiful so many untrained voices could sound.

The concert featured all his biggest hits, including "Hold Me Jesus," "Brother's Keeper," "Creed" and "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," which launched his musical career after he wrote it in Cincinnati. He also threw in numerous of old-fashioned tunes for sing-a-longs, like "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"; some of his new, unrecorded works; some of Mitch's original tunes; and some oddities, like Bach played on a mandolin. Although there were only two musicians on stage, they demonstrated a wealth of talent on guitar, hammer dulcimer, grand piano, mandolin and harmonica.

Besides the music, Rich threw in plenty of down-to-earth stories. Many were humorous and served to put the audience and performer on a warm, friendly level:

"Beaker and I wrote 'We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are' when we were listening to the radio one day and realized there aren't a lot of good Christian 'break-up' songs. It's as if, 'Christians don't do that.' When I recorded it, people wrote to say they were sorry about my break-up. It's not about me; I haven't had a date in a decade. . . .

"I thought "Jacob and Two Women" would be a great musical because of all that sex, lust and betrayal. But the Christians wouldn't go see it because there was too much sex, and the pagans wouldn't go because it was too Biblical. It seems that if you go to all the trouble to write a musical, you ought to sell a few tickets. So I just wrote a song. . . .

"One of the things I like about the Bible is all the weirdos in it. It makes me feel like I'll be right at home. . . .

"Don't put too much emphasis on the music. Go home and reread your Bible, especially the parts you didn't underline. People in other parts of the world probably underlined them."

After two hours and 45 minutes, Rich said that no Christian concert would be complete without singing "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow." The audience quickly took it up, singing reverently and earnestly. And as their voices filled the hall, Rich quietly slipped off the stage, without waiting for their applause.

But he must have heard it back stage, because it certainly thundered.