Sunday, February 25, 2007

Homeless Man: Rich Mullins

'If I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way I can do that is to identify with the poor. this, I know, will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers, but they're just wrong. They're not bad; they're just wrong." -Rich Mullins
Barefoot, unshaven; often in need of a shower.
Sounds like a prophet to me.
Though I've never heard it clearly claimed before; he may have been an apostle as well.
Surely the reason that word does not fly so quickly off the tongue is that the late Rich Mullins was not flashy, high-powered, or all those attributes we ...unfortunately...catalog as traits of an apostle.
If Brian Dodd is correct, in his wonderful post on "Apostles: Slaves of Christ " (found here), Rich may have been apostolic to the core; he certainly saw himself as an "expendable servant."
The two Mullins stories I told (recounted in the delightful biography of Rich by his friend James Bryan Smith...excerpts here) in our worship gathering today are among my favorite: Once, when he was opening up a concert for Amy Grant, he was not allowed into the backstage snack room that had been set up for Amy Grant and Rich. Then he was in the parking lot after the concert, and some young people (whom one assumes had just been in the auditorium and worshipping under Rich's leadership) walked by him and called him a bum.
Both episodes happened because Rich was dressed as usual...tattered jeans, unkempt...and the folks didn't recognize him. In neither case did he flash his "backstage pass," or bother trying to claim his rights.
That is apostolic.
Being mistaken for a homeless man, and letting the mistake win.
The only way he could justify playing Radio City Music Hall was to ride like a common roadie in the equipment van. (This is a different brand of apostle than Bono...or is it?! See this wonderful story, if you can't picture Bono self-effacingly facing his messianic complex, and volunteering to usher at a Christian event.and this if you're still reeling over the immodest proposal that Bono may be apostolic.)
So no surprise he was indeed mistaken for a roadie when he walked in the prestigious Hall.
"You probably wouldn't recognize an apostle when they walk in the room," Wolfgang Simson suggests in another hepfully counterintuitive definition of 'apostle.'
Sometimes the homeless man (Rich loved to call Jesus.. "the man of no reputation") is Jesus.
"Homeless Man" is a documentary on Rich , and
is a great introduction the this amazing humble enigma and mystic..Especially if all you know of him is next to nothing, or just his most well-known song "Awesome God." Here is Part 1:

The other episodes are here.

Unfortunately, concert video...where Rich was at his most genuinely prophetic and down-home apostolic... is hard to come by, though this site has several (currently not working) clips. There are even a couple music videos on YouTube. Knowing his disdain for the commercialization of Christian music, it is hard to imagine Rich connsenting to an official "music video," isn't it? Which is why I think he'd prefer me to show...if anything...this promo he did for Compassion International:


Or "The Color Green" (which you may have guessed by now is not about money):

...Oh, the shower thing. Smith tells a classic story that capture's Rich's spirit:
"One time he was in Florida to do a concert, and he realized that he had not showered for several days. He called some people he had met only once and asked if he could come shower at their house. They welcomed him. After he finished showering, he got dressed, walked to the front door, thanked the people, and left. They were stunned. He left without staying and visiting. He just used their shower. Sam Howard says of the incident, "In his mind, there was nothing wrong with that. He needed a place to shower, and they had one. He used other people's possessions without feeling any obligation because that is how he would have treated them if they had needed to use his shower. With Rich there was no mine and yours; it was all ours." (p. 130)

If I could live like that.

Finally, with a sigh of resignation, I decide to muster a mustard seed of hope that someone somewhere saw Rich for what he likely was: an apostle. I winced, and googled that unlikely combination of words.

The official result:

Your search - "rich mullins was an apostle" - did not match any documents.

Of course not.

Which is why he was.

Rich would undoubtedly be the first to deflect and deny it anyway.

Further evidence he was.

Brian Dodd again (just replace the word "apostle" with Rich Mullins. It works):

An “apostle” in the ancient world is simply someone who is sent (Greek: apostolos). An apostle was someone who was sent to conduct someone else’s business on their behalf. There was—originally speaking—nothing religious about them. They were normally an unvalued slave, who was expendable...

... If we practiced slavery like they did in the ancient world, when you said “apostle” today no one would think of the manager, owner or executive of a restaurant. They would think of the dishwashers and busboys. “Apostle” was not a claim to high status or authority, but a claim to low status and expendability. When you attached the words “of Christ” this communicated whose business and authority the apostle was operating under. Christ is the boss, he sent the apostle and, when the apostle speaks, he is merely the conduit.


  1. see:,%20Rich%20-%20Hollansburg,%20OH%2003.JPG

    Beats a pilgrimmage to Jim Morrisson's Grave, though Steve Taylor has made the case for that trip well..

  2. Living like that today is extremely difficult. Even trying to get church deacons to care for a widow these days is difficult, let alone any presumption of the brotherhood and sisterhood of believers that is lacking in today's church.

  3. Very Interesting. This is something as Christians we should be striving for. What if we all left our comfortable lives and really concentrated on working for Christ. What a concept huh, but I don't think it will ever catch on. I was homeless once and that whole no shower thing can get a little frustrating. However the thought behind being homeless isn't so bad. If we can all remember that no matter what possesions we have here on earth are just for a little while, we might handle the loss and gain of wordly things better. Most people are devastated by losing their jobs or houses and such. If we can all just remember the homeless theory of earth not being our real home we would be better for it. Thanks for that Dave it's always an inspiration to know my way of thinking isn't so crazy. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who gets me.

  4. are welcome..

    but thank YOU...You made my day.


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!