15 Years Ago Today Rich Mullins Died and I’ve Missed Him Ever Since – Here’s Why

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Fifteen years ago today my band Satellite Soul had just struggled in off the road after driving most of the night to get back to KC for a gig. We crashed at my apartment and were just waking up at two or three in the afternoon to go to our sound check when we got a call from a friend in Wichita telling us that Rich Mullins was dead.

I had never lost a hero before. It was way more painful than I could have imagined, and I have never missed another artist as much as I’ve missed Rich Mullins this past decade and a half. Even though he’s dead and gone, he is and always be my hero. Any time you spend with his music or his writings is time well spent. I’ve tried and tried to find another artist like him that I could imitate, learn from – someone just to inspire me like he did. I honestly never have. He was one of a kind.

The reason he was one of a kind is not simply that he was a great songwriter and performer, though he was, or because he was an inspirational mentor, though he was that as well. The reason he was one of a kind is that Rich absolutely refused to allow himself to become a cog in the wheel of corporate Christian music. He never became impressed with is own stardom. He gave away most of the millions of dollars he made and he sabotaged his own career time and again in order to be able to say what he wanted to say and do what he wanted to do. He was truly an artist in the greatest sense of the word. Rich was a prophet.

Although I’ve written hundreds of songs, and thousands of sentences, I think that I will never write anything as elegant or beautiful of any of a dozen of his songs. He is “O Captain, my Captain.” This song in particular is so sad and truthful with this tinge of hope. The video above is Rich at his finest. The lyrics are below. Enjoy “We are Not as Strong As We Think We Are.”

Well it took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh we are not as strong as we think we are

And they say that one day Joshua
Made the sun stand still in the sky
But I can’t even keep these thoughts of you from passing by
Oh we are not as strong as we think we are

We are frail we are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are

And the Master said their faith was
Gonna make them mountains move
But me I tremble like a hill on a fault line
Just at the thought of how I lost you
Oh we are not as strong as we think we are

We are frail we are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are

And if you make me laugh
I know I could make you like me
Cause when I laugh I can be a lot of fun
But we can’t do that I know that it is frightening
What I don’t know is why we can’t hold on
We can’t hold on

It took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh we are not as strong as we think we are

When you love you walk on the water
Just don’t stumble on the waves
We all want to go there somethin awful
But to stand there it takes some grace
Cause oh we are not as strong
As we think we are

No we are not as strong
As we think we are

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • Jarrod

    Wow, I could not have said that any better, there will never be another Rich.

  • Chad

    A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band is one of my all-time favorite albums. The song “The Color Green” always brings tears to my eyes. We lost Rich way too soon.

  • http://churchasart.com Troy Bronsink

    Great tribute. Watching the video I heard some Tom Waits in Rich’s writing that I’d never noticed before. Especially the bridge. Thanks for the reminder of a fantastic artist


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