Mullins went to a Baptist college and met his dream girl but she left him because he was planning on travelling to Nashville to pursue a career in music; she wanted to settle down in their home town and get married. He never got over this and never got married. This relationship and the terrible one he had with his father constantly weighed on him and helped lead to his problems with alcohol.
Even though Mullins made millions of dollars he never knew it as he had his record label give almost everything away to charities and churches except for a small living allowance. Mullins hero was St. Francis of Assisi so he tried to live by some of his poverty principles. It was difficult to spot Rich in regular shoes as he typically wore sandals or even more often bare feet. This made sense because his favorite personal cause was to work with children on Indian Reservations.
Speaking of working on a reservation, a Catholic church was the only one there so Rich began going to daily mass and took a RCIA class (a class about Catholicism and overall our Christian faith in general), one of my favorite courses ever. Every time I left a meeting I was pumped about being a Christian. Mullins never converted as he wasn’t a denomination kind of guy he just wanted to pursue God not religion.
Rich wasn’t a very happy person some believe he was depressed. He grew up on a small family farm in Indiana. His family (two sisters and two brothers), were poor and their mom and dad struggled to put food on their table. His dad was a hard man abusing Rich slightly physically (in his opinion shaking some sense into him), but mostly mentally. Mullins thought little of himself growing up because he wasn’t farming material like his siblings instead he was an artist/musician something his dad had no need of on the farm and he told him this constantly. He also told Rich he was a dreamer who would never amount to anything. Throughout his life Rich and his dad’s relationship was a struggle not even having his dad tell him he was proud of him when he began singing to sold-out crowds.
Most of his songs were about a broken man the very type person God wants not someone who pursues perfection. Remember when Jesus was getting heat by the Pharisees for hanging around the sinners? Jesus said he was there for the sinners not those who believe they don’t need him (paraphrased).
Mullins didn’t like performing large concerts preferring instead to sing in small churches and venues. He could go from singing to a crowd of 20,000 and the next week singing to a church with 100 people. He liked to interact with his audience talking about the struggles life possesses and how Jesus can heal our wounds. This was difficult to do with larger audiences. I think his willingness to perform in front of small crowds at the height of his career goes to show he was a humble person.
His first huge hit was “Awesome God” followed by “Hold me Jesus” both absolutely beautiful songs; a couple of my favorites. I don’t think you could go anywhere where young people don’t know the lyrics to Awesome God …amazing! Some of the best Christian artists sang songs he had written; Amy Grant was his biggest fan using his music long before Rich started his own singing career. The fact is Mullins never would’ve made it in Nashville if it weren’t for his extraordinary writing skills as it got his foot in the door; Amy’s label ended up signing Rich to a contract…extraordinary good move on their part.
Mullins is a great example of how God doesn’t pursue perfection. If we were perfect we wouldn’t need him. God takes us as we are shaping us as long as we pursue him. With the exception of Job I can’t remember anyone else in the Bible who had it together. The disciples were ragamuffins (the title of one of Rich’s albums), yet through Jesus they accomplished amazing things. We can’t let our imperfections hold us back from being Disciples of Christ. Other people can relate to us better if we understand their pain and imperfections; we can be more effective because of our personal struggles.
On September 19, 1997, Mullins and his friend Mitch McVicker were traveling to a benefit concert (he had just finished a radio interview), at Wichita State University when his Jeep rolled over. They were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle; Mullins was killed while McVicker was seriously injured. They never did figure out for sure why the vehicle crashed their best guess was that Rich fell asleep at the wheel as there were no skid marks.
Shortly before his death Mullins taped ten songs in a small church (seated about 50), on a cassette player; these songs were a tribute to Christ. Christian artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith came together to sing and release this final album called: “The Jesus Album.” Another hit with all profits going to Rich’s favorite charities.
Mullins died young still helping out at the Indian Reservation. Someone said the length of your life is less important than its depth. His legacy through his music and writings (plus his personal struggles), helped others grow in their faith; I don’t think he wanted anything more.
Here’s to one of the amazing ragamuffins!