Thirty years ago the American Christian musician, singer, songwriter and evangelist Keith Green died in a tragic airplane crash, along with two of his children. His life was cut short at just 28 years of age, but his tremendous musical and spiritual legacy lives on.
His story can be read about in the 1989 biography, No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green written by his wife Melody and David Hazard (Sparrow – later republished by Word and then Thomas Nelson). The expanded and updated 2008 version runs to over 500 pages.
But let me briefly recount his story here. Born in New York in 1953, he early on displayed his tremendous musical talents. He became a teen idol for a short period, but when that fizzled out, his depression led him on a spiritual quest. Although having a Jewish background, with Christian Science thrown in, like so many during this period, he got caught up first with the counter-culture revolution, and then with the Jesus revolution.
He met Melody, another spiritual seeker, when 19, married her at 20, and by 21 the pair had found what they were looking for. His readings in philosophy and theology were not sufficient, and it was an encounter with the living Christ that changed his life – and that of Melody.
Drugs and wild living were replaced with Bible studies and devotion to Christ, of whom he said, “Loving Him is to be our cause. He can take care of a lot of other causes without us, but He can’t make us love Him with all our heart. That’s the work we must do. Anything else is an imitation.”
Those wanting to see his story told in a seven-part video clip series can find it here: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDDF46A9CD7AB5975
Keith Green was incredibly privileged to be discipled – in part – by the great English revivalist and man of God, Leonard Ravenhill (1907–1994). Ravenhill had moved to Texas in the 1980s, close to where the Last Days Ministries Ranch of the Greens was set up. Imagine being mentored by such a man of God. No wonder Green had such a powerful ministry.
Ravenhill taught in the LDM classes, and pointed Green and others to the work of great revivalists such as Charles Finney. His singing and preaching reflected the powerful ministries of Finney and Ravenhill, and he called for no compromise and no surrender.
They started producing the Last Days Ministries Newsletter in 1978, which called on believers to live a life of radical and total commitment and dedication to Christ, and to be world changers. The newsletter grew into a magazine, sent to people worldwide.
It featured articles by Keith and Melody along with articles by Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, Winkie Pratney and others. It also included reprints of classic works by such believers as Finney, John Wesley, and William and Catherine Booth. They also tackled the tough issues of the day, including abortion, making a very strong and impassioned case for the right to life.
His first major Christian release was For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, which appeared in 1977. This was followed by the 1978 album, No Compromise. Later albums, which he often gave away for free, and did not demand financial compensation for, included So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt, featuring a guest appearance by Bob Dylan. In 1981 The Keith Green Collection appeared, and in 1982 Songs For the Shepherd was released.
Actually my wife and I were blessed to meet Keith and Melody in 1982 when they visited Europe, and dropped off in Holland where we were living, working with Youth With A Mission. We heard him sing for the first time There is a Redeemer, written by Melody.
Loren Cunningham of YWAM planned missions-inspired concerts with Green, but that was short-lived. While flying over his Texas property with eleven other people on July 28 in a small private aircraft, his life was brought to an abrupt halt. A pregnant Melody and another child were not on board.
One never knows why God allows any life to be cut short, but he of course is now with his redeemer, where he will eventually be reunited with Melody and his two other children. But his impact lives on, with his ministry just as effective today as it was thirty years ago. Posthumous albums of original recordings have been released, and his mark continues to be felt.
Simply offering a few quotes from him tells us a bit about what sort of man he was:
“I repent of ever having recorded one single song and ever having performed one concert if my music, and more importantly – my life – has not provoked you into godly jealousy, or to sell out more completely to Jesus!”
“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!!”
“The only music minister to whom the Lord will say, ‘Well done, thy 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!!!”
“I’d rather have people hate me with the knowledge that I tried to save them.”
These lyrics from his song Asleep in the Light I have shared before, but am happy to do so again. The opening lyrics are these:
Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down
Don’t you care, don’t you care
Are you gonna let them drown
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done
“Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord”
You know it’s all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear
But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in,
Oh, can’t you see it’s such a sin?
And a bit later, he offers this verse:
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed.
You can listen to this powerful song here, along with seeing the words. Please, I urge every one of you to watch this, and watch it again until God breaks your heart and moves you to a place of softness and tenderness of spirit before him, with a desire to serve him even more faithfully and fervently: