In this post Lee Berger reflects on the life and music of Keith Green, following a recent live web event honoring the ministry of Keith. Thanks Lee for sharing! As always, additional comments from readers are most welcome.
- Mike Hale
Hi friends. I don't know how many of you are fans of Keith Green’s music or are acquainted with the Jesus Movement music of the 1970's, but what Keith and others wrote and sang in those years was part of the genesis of what we today call "contemporary Christian" (including the bands, the soloists and the praise & worship music that is in vogue now). Keith [pictured below] was truly a firebrand of the gospel and a genius with his music and lyrics, and I love his writings.
On July 28th there was a free live web event honoring the life, ministry and music of Keith. His wife, Melody Green (who wrote many songs of her own) sponsored the event, and Christian leaders from Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and other organizations as well as individuals were speaking and leading in music worship. I was able to watch most of the web event (they had some serious technical glitches early on, but it eventually smoothed) and you can now go to www.KeithGreen.com to watch the nearly two-hour event.
There is a mix of some old video footage of Keith performing live, comments and prayers by people involved with him in early days ministry, some musical worship by a couple of young guitarists, and quite a bit of time spent in calling, challenging, and cajoling the viewers to repent of being lackadaisical, renew their commitments and sign up for foreign missions. You can almost feel the fresh excitement that these "hippies" evidenced when Jesus became visible to them.
To me, I gained from not only hearing from Keith and from those who knew him well, it was also interesting to understand the theology and Christian-life application represented by those involved.
And in that, I was frustrated. There was no doubt of sincerity and commitment to "follow Jesus" and be the best Christian these folks could be—and one could see and hear the emotion involved in the charismatic-leaning worship—good folks wanting to obey and honor Jesus. But I also felt that the participants in this sort of theology take a lot of responsibility onto themselves that belongs to the Triune God—especially to the Holy Spirit.
The need for Christians to get the Gospel message to every last person before they expire from this physical life is a heavy weight to bear—and one that (if one looks at the raw numbers of "converts" over the centuries) leans clearly toward failure to accomplish. I sensed a strong yearning of the participants to "save the world for Christ," but there was also a strong sense of "we're not doing enough/you're not doing enough"—and God can't accomplish His purpose without us. I didn't sense a lot of divine peace and trust in the Triune God, just mostly the desire to create kinetic action on our part.
I own recordings of dozens of Keith's songs (and of several others of the Jesus People music era) and I love their raw focus on God's love and His desire to save and redeem all mankind. This was all before "Jesus music" morphed into what is largely a more tamed modern-day "contemporary Christian" music industry. But while I very much appreciate the bold call for personal belief, transformation and sharing of the Good News, I believe the focus can rest too much on our human efforts 'for God' and not enough on God's work accomplished fully in Jesus Christ.
So I encourage you view the Keith Green event and to appreciate the passion in the participants—and to think about the great Plan God has in place for the salvation of all His kids.