Keith Green: The Not-for-Profit Prophet

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Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) has evolved these past three decades into a veritable industry. While the Lord Jesus warns that one cannot serve two masters—God and mammon—the unholy spectacle of “worship-tainment” led by worship rock stars pervades CCM, to the tune of mass monetization and the praises of men (i.e. the Dove Awards). Debatably, today’s CCM is largely processed-sounding, homogenous and banal, worldly albeit baptized in the name of Jesus and peddled as such.

This potential for Christian music ministry to deviate into consumerism was always a burden for American evangelist Keith Green (1953-82). Having previously sought fortune and fame in the 60s and 70s pop music scene, Green, after years of soul-searching, finally surrendered his life to Christ along with any ambitions to musical acclaim. He challenged the burgeoning CCM business purveyors to radical faith and trust in the Lord, would not charge for his concerts, even gifting his albums to those who could not afford them.

Green was very much the true New Testament prophet, a man acutely aware of his own innate sinfulness yet abounding in the agape and charis of His heavenly Abba, singing:

“Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I see
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me
I want to take your word and shine it all around
But first help me to just live it Lord
And when I’m doing well help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You
Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clean
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear …”

An outspoken and authoritative preacher, here are some notable quotes:

“Why do we idolise Christian singers and speakers? We go from glorifying musicians in the world to glorifying Christian musicians. It’s all idolatry! Satan is getting a great victory as we seem to worship these ministers on tapes and records and clamour to get their autographs in churches and concert halls from coast to coast.”

“If somebody writes a great poem, people don’t run around applauding the pencil, saying ‘Oh, what a great pencil’… I’m a pencil in God’s hands.”

“The only music minister to whom the Lord will say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ is the one whose life proves what their lyrics are saying, and to whom music is the least important part of their life. Glorifying the only worthy One has to be a minister’s most important goal!”

Keith Green died in the prime of his life, age 28, in 1982 in a plane crash in Texas. With his death CCM–with no prophet to serve as its conscience–steadily transmorphed from  Christian music ministry to Christian music industry.

In this age, more than ever, we must return to our First Love, remembering from whence we have fallen, and repent and do the deeds we did at first, no compromise.