Music and More

Compassion International

Jon Rivers

[Here In America]

Jon Rivers: And I'm Jon Rivers. That was Rich Mullins from his Reunion album, A Liturgy, A Legacy, And A Ragamuffin Band. This is Compassion International's Music and More, featuring Rich Mullins.

I talked to Rich about many things, including how he came up with the album's title, A Liturgy, A Legacy, And A Ragamuffin Band.

[I'll Carry On]

[Compassion ad]

JR: This is Music and More, brought to you by Compassion International, featuring Rich Mullins.

[Hold Me Jesus]

JR: Rich Mullins and "Hold Me Jesus." From A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. This is Music And More from Compassion International, featuring Rich Mullins, with your host, Jon Rivers.

Since early in his career, Rich has been interested in reaching out to others. Not just through his music, but in tangible, hands-on ways.

JR: And I, for one, am glad that Rich took those trips, and came to that place, and continued recording. I asked Rich about his first trip overseas to view firsthand the work of Compassion International.

JR: And that's us, isn't it?

JR: Welcome back to Compassion International's Music and More, featuring Rich Mullins.

I think my favorite song from Rich's compact disk, A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band, is "Here In America." And I talked to Rich about the song.

    RM: Well, I wrote that, probably around 1976 or so. I was hitchhiking, and - normally I don't write a song in one sitting. Normally it kind of accumulates over a period of time. Like, I'll write a line or two, or I'll write a song and throw the song away, except I will find two or three lines that I really like and I'll save those lines.

    It was just, I think it was after having been eaten by red ants and sleeping in a culvert that I really realized what a cool country this really was. Just kind of went, everywhere you go, it's different. And everywhere you go, it's hard. I mean, you come to the Midwest, you watch those old - you read those old John Steinbeck novels about, you know, the Dustbowl. And we have a history of 200 years of desperation, of people hanging on for dear life. Hanging on, because they believe there's gotta be something better than this. And I don't think people would have left Europe and the other places they left to come to America, if there weren't some pretty bad situations over there.

    And so, I think, one of the things that was compelling - when I was in, back in the 70's, I grew up in a fairly privileged home. I mean, I guess we were probably poor by most people's standards, but I did have a father and I had a mother who both still lived with us. I had a great extended family - I had grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, you know, just everywhere. We had some real values. And we were never so poor that we didn't eat, you know, it wasn't like that.

    And I think there was something real compelling - I had just finished some Steinbeck novel, and it was the first time that I took off on a hitchhiking venture that just went to nowhere - just kind of going, I kind of want to see the country, and want to see it the way John Steinbeck would have seen it - because I was a big fan of his at the time. It just hit me that way. And I think, at the time, it was also in a real desolate stretch of road where there was absolutely nobody around. And I tend to like people, and I tend to want people around me. And in that real aloneness, the realization that God was there, that was very comforting. So I was kind of going, wow, this is great!

[Here In America]

JR: Rich Mullins. "Here In America" from his album, A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. You're listening to Compassion International's Music and More with Rich Mullins. I'm Jon Rivers.

I asked Rich about another song from his new project, "Hard."

    RM: That was kind of my 'voter-anger' song. It didn't come out very angry on the tape, but it's a little more tongue-in-cheek look at the same thing. Just acknowledging - see, I think there's a big problem in the church. I think that everyone thinks that if you have struggles in your life, it's because you're not really filled with the Holy Spirit, or you're not really reading your Bible daily, or you're doing something wrong. I think life, by nature, is a struggle.

    You know, whether or not you believe in the health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine, the ideas of that have kind have polluted almost all of our thinking about Christianity. Where we think that a really great Christian is that Christian who does not struggle with temptation, that Christian who can't wait to get up in the morning and spend four hours praying and reading out of the book of Leviticus. We think, boy, that's what a really mature Christian looks like.

    Well, I'm looking at Paul, kind of going, here's a man who obviously was filled with the Spirit, a man who obviously had studied the Scriptures, here is a man who had had an authentic encounter with the living Christ, and he prays to God and says, "Lord, I beg you to take this thorn from my flesh." (Which we don't know what that means, and you can guess anything you want to guess - I don't think it matters or we would have been told.) "Lord, I've been praying for you to take away this infirmity of mine, and you haven't." And God looks down at him and doesn't go, "Yeah, it's because you're so spiritually immature!" God didn't look down at him and say, "Well, it's because you don't have enough faith." God didn't look down from heaven at Paul and say, "Well, you know, if you would just get up earlier and pray a couple more hours in the morning," or "If you would just memorize another ten psalms." He didn't say any of that. He merely said to Paul, "Hey, My grace is plenty. My grace is sufficient."

    And so, I think, many times we are afraid to drop our guard, because we're afraid that people will think that we are spiritually flakes. Well, the truth is that we are. And so are they. And we're all trying to fake each other out. And the song, "It's Hard To Be Like Jesus," is kind of like looking at yourself and going, "Whew, what a relief! I don't have to fake it anymore. I can admit that I don't always feel like not honking at the person who is stopped in front of me at, you know, won't go through the green light. I don't have to pretend it's not hard for me to make the best choices that I can make."

    The honest truth is, it is hard. And it will probably remain that way for a good long time. Not that there's no joy in the Christian life. And I think, part of the joke of the song is the "His eye is on the sparrow, and the lilies of the field I've heard / and He will watch over you and He will watch over me so we can dress like flowers and eat like birds." I deliberately wrote that, because I think what the Gospel of Christ does, is it challenges us at every level.


JR: My extraordinary friend, Rich Mullins. From A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band, on Music and More, brought to you by Compassion International. I'm Jon Rivers. Thank you for joining us.

    RM: One of the reasons I love Compassion is because it does give the average person - I think we all feel frustrated. And what Compassion does, is that it offers you the opportunity to have a positive impact. It gives you an opportunity to do something you wouldn't otherwise be able to do.

    There are a lot of reasons I like Compassion. One is because they work with the local churches in the areas where they go, with works that are already there, helping to support. There are tons of people who are doing, who are already out there doing the work. It's just that there's not enough resources for them to really be able to dig in and do the work really well.

    And what Compassion does, is it allows me to facilitate this work that is already going on. It involves indigenous people, which I really like the idea of people helping themselves, and me facilitating that.

    I like the idea that Compassion does have some criteria for who they plug into and who they don't. That they do have a commitment, not only to the local church and to local works that are already ongoing, but they also have a commitment to Biblical integrity of the people that they're working with, that sort of thing. So I kind of go, as a strong believer in the autonomy of the Church and as a strong believer that the actual work of redemption, the work that Christ came to do, and that the Church, as His Body on earth, continues to do, I believe that happens through the church.

    And I think a lot of times, in that we're Americans, we tend to have this mentality that says we need people specialized in special fields and let's depend on the specialists. Compassion somewhat flies in the face of that and says, no, let's support the organism of the church. It doesn't replace the church, which is one of the things that I really like about it. It doesn't replace it, it sort of undergirds it, and gives me the opportunity to participate in a field far away from where I live.


JR: Rich Mullins. On the trust factor involved in giving to Compassion.

    RM: If I'm going to err, I would rather err in favor of Compassion than in favor of cynicism. If I'm going to waste one thing or another, I would rather lose $24 a month than lose my ability to believe that people can be honest, and that work can be done, and that lives can be changed. I would rather not have that 24 bucks and still have a faith than otherwise. And I don't - I think that Compassion gave me, before I started sponsoring a child, I asked them to see a financial report. Compassion was very open with me. They were, you know, responded very quickly. And there is still an element of faith involved in it.

    You kind of have to go, I can't guarantee that every penny that was ever given the church, or ever given to a charity organization, certainly that was ever given to a government, was properly spent, but I can tell you one thing. If the government of the United States was run as efficiently as Compassion International, we wouldn't have the debt that we have. I'm convinced of that. And I think that they are very respectful of the money that comes in.

    I find the story of the good Samaritan fascinating for that very reason. That however the story would have ended up, Christ went to the trouble to describe three people that passed up the man who was hurt. There were three people that passed him up, and Christ didn't say, this guy had merely been passed by a lot of people, but He described the people. And the good Samaritan did the right thing. You know, what we don't know is what happened to that man, when he came around. We don't know if he suddenly decided to love Samaritans. We don't know if he accepted Christ as his personal Savior, we don't know if he learned to read, we don't know what happened as a result of the Samaritan's good actions. All we know is that there was a man who saw another man, who might have been his enemy, in terrible need, and he responded positively.

    I think some day there will be a judgment, and I'm not trying to say that we can earn our way into heaven, I'm not saying that we can earn what Christ has freely given us. But when we identify with Christ, when we take on the name of Christ, when we become a Christian, I think that means that our lives should be infused with the character of Christ. And the character of Christ is that of a wildly, ridiculously generous and compassionate Man, who says, I will love you regardless of your response. I will love you. I will continue to hold my hand out to you, regardless of whether or not you grab it.

    And so I think, as a Christian in my own fight against cynicism, what I have - the story of the good Samaritan has become more meaningful to me. Not because of what I know about the good Samaritan, but because of what I don't know about the man who was the recipient of his generosity. It says to me there is something in the character of Christ, which I as a Christian, He empowers me to love that way. Christ empowers us, the Spirit empowers us; Compassion merely gives us an opportunity to act on that empowerment. But it is the love of Christ that makes the difference.

    And if a difference is gonna be made, I don't know that there's a 100% success, but I know that, when we act generously, when we behave in a compassionate way, I know that God looks down and goes, "Wow, people are still capable of faith. People are still capable of love. I'm so glad. I've made, I'm not always glad about what I've made here. But you have made me glad."

    If we want to bless the Lord, this is the way to do it. He doesn't need our applause. What He, I think, must feel blessed from is when we actually participate in His nature. And so, the opportunities that these kids will be given as a result of having an education, as a result of being able to read, and being able to eat, even, how do you measure that? How do you weigh that? What kind of value do you put on that? And I kind of go, for $24 a month, boy, that doesn't put a lot of value on it, that's the best bargain in the world that I know of. Except for salvation, which doesn't cost us a penny.

JR: Hmm....Rich Mullins.

[Compassion ad]

JR: This has been Music and More from Compassion International, featuring Rich Mullins. I'm Jon Rivers, your host. Thanks very much for listening.

Copyrighted by Compassion International, 1993

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