Being the Messenger

Christian Singer Prefers Being the Messenger

by Susan L Rife

Wichita Eagle June 23, 1989

"Singing is really hard work," Mullins says

No matter what happens in Rich Mullins' life he operates by this credo: Follow God.

Mullins a contemporary Christian singer and songwriter regards the American predilection for "following your heart" as harmful.

"I think of all the junk that American society puts on us that one of the worst is the idea of follow your own dreams, follow your own heart," he said "Who knows where your heart is going to go? Follow God. God knows what his plan is for you God knows what is best for you."

Right up there with "follow your heart" is "believe in yourself" "That's the most absurd thing In the world," he said. "How can anyone with morning breath and pillow head believe in himself?"

A conversation with Mullins has very much more to do with his Christianity than with his music.

Mullins considers himself less a singer than a messenger.

Despite a healthy career as a Christian performer of the pop/rock persuasion, he's uncomfortable with the performing, the commercial success, the stage persona.

"I'm not naturally a singer," he said relaxing on a sofa in the Crucible Productions offices at The Dandelion on East Douglas. "Singing is really hard work for me and I don't really enjoy it. I don't have any range - your range is supposed to be where you feel comfortable singing and I don't feel comfortable anyplace."

So why is he chi stage singing?

"Because I didn't like the way other people recorded my songs. I mean, they just sounded so nice. I just thought niceness is not something I'm after in music."

He's the first to admit that his costars in a Reunion Records concert tonight at Central Christian Church are the true singers Billy Sprague and Renee Garcia.

Mullins thinks his own strength lies in his honesty.

"I think the strength of my performance is just that," he said.

"I think I'm honest and I think I'm enough of an ordinary guy that people can go away feeling like it's OK to be who they are like not everybody has to be fabulously impressive."

Modest words from a man who's been nominated for two Dove awards and has had three of his songs - "Verge of a Miracle' and "If I Stand" - reach No. 1 on the Christian charts. His songs have been recorded by such Christian artists as Amy Grant and Debby Boone. His three albums on Reunion Records in the past three years contain 29 self-written songs, just one is a cover.

Mullins who for the past 13 months has made his home in Wichita and as a member of Central Christian Church also is a man of strong opinions - about the state of the world the condition of Christianity and the approach other performers take to Christian music.

He guesses that 90 percent of contemporary Christian music comes not from the heart but from the pocketbook.

"I think you can tell because you buy albums and people just say junk," he said, leaning forward and speaking with intensity. "If you want to say junk, you should be in pop music because that's all that's there to talk about, you know? I think nothing is worse than taking things that are holy and making them profane."

"It's perfectly all right to take profane things and be profane about it but if you're going to talk about truth and you're going to talk about things that God has for us then don't slander him by being cheap and stupid and saying ridiculous things like 'isn't God neat?' The next performer I hear say that, I think I'll want to burn them alive."

Mullins acknowledges that he has trouble with the overt sexuality of heavy metal Christian bands.

"I do have a problem with the modesty thing I don't understand pelvic thrusts for Jesus," he said looking bemused. Mullins, 33, is a native of Indiana. He lived and studied in Cincinnati for about 10 years before his career took him to Nashville. He came to Central Christian Church in Wichita for a retreat a few years ago.

"I liked the church and I really Just started thinking that it was very important for me to be integrated into a church body," he said.

He also has a younger brother in the Air Force at McConnell AFB.

Mullins plans to cut back his touring schedule to summers only so he can enroll at Wichita State University. He'd like to write musicals.

"I think I have a couple realty good ideas for a couple really good projects and I Just don't know anything about how to go about doing It," he said.

Tickets for "Reunion in Wichita' with performances by Rich Mullins with Avenue G, Billy Sprague and Renee Garcia are $8.50 in advance, $10 at the door. The concert begins at 7:30 pm today at Central Christian Church 2900 N Rock Road. Tickets are available at United Music and Sound, Better Book Book Room, Living Books and Gifts, New Psalm and The Dandelion. Proceeds benefit Youth for Christ