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The Keith Green Interview
by Don Gillespie

 

I met Keith a number of times. Our first meeting and was Keith's first trip to Australia. The media, distributors and everyone else wanted to meet with him. Several companies wanted to be the Australian agents for Last Days Ministry and it was crazy. I rolled up to the Motel in Sydney to do the interview as arranged and Keith decided he had had enough of the media and didn't want to do an interview. I said fine, put the camera a tape recorder away and we chatted for about an hour. It was time for me to go and I said well lets pray that you have a good time out here and the Lord blesses the meetings and we prayed. looking up at me he said, "You're the first person in Australia that has prayed with me and not demanded anything. Lets do the interview." Subsequently to that first meeting, Keith asked me to set up a Last Days Ministry in Australia. The week before he was killed we were talking on the phone about setting up dates for us to go over to Texas.

Don: What are your feelings at present towards Christian music?

KEITH: Christian music, at best, is a very poor and weak instrument of the gospel. Potentially it can communicate the truth of God, the joy of the Lord, one's Christian experience and even warnings of judgement, but since it has become polluted by the `star' system, Christian music can only communicate or evangelise in a very weak manner. By polluted I mean that it has become tainted by something nearing idolatry. Starting first in the world and spilling over into the gospel music industry, I see many young Christians needing to have a star to replace Kiss or Elton John whom they idolised before they got saved. But when we become Christians, Jesus commands us to give him all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength and all of our love. The Israelites, having an innate desire to worship - as in fact we all do - couldn't see God who is invisible, so they kept backsliding into worshipping idols they could see, touch, and make. The same thing happens today where we feel justified spiritually in worshipping, or idolising, or uplifting, or putting on a pedestal (where we can see them) someone who speaks the truth of Christianity. In our senses, we fall and want to worship that person.

We may call it admiration, appreciation or gratitude, which we can have for someone without idolising the person, but there is a fine line between them when you are dealing with young people whose senses are constantly bombarded with the presentation of idols on TV., radio and rock concerts. Whether it's Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, Kiss or The Beatles - all are uplifted for us to gaze at, laud, praise and thank. Unfortunately, the gospel music industry, using some of the same advertising tactics, marketing techniques and including the packaging of albums, brings out the same lust in us, to have someone put on a pedestal. Because of the overshadowing of idolatry in the commercial Christian industry, Christian music, especially ‘contemporary’ Christian music is a very weak form of evangelism and communication.

As I am not an historian I may be wrong, but I think it started with the Salvation Army. Brass bands then were the equivalent of 'acid-rock' today. In the Bible, music was used for praise, worship and exultation, but never as a tool for evangelism. Now I'm not saying that it can't be used, as God can use all things for His glory - He promised that! But as it is not mentioned in the Bible, we need to be careful. Let's face it - even in William Booth's day there were no trumpeting `stars'. Let me tell you this story. There was an English evangelist who used to walk the streets of London.

There would be magnificent moves of the Holy Spirit as he went from place to place holding revivals. One evening while he was preaching, nothing happened. The Spirit didn't fall, no-one was saved and no-one was under conviction. He couldn't understand it. He went back to his room and prayed, "God show me what's the matter. What have I done wrong?" He didn't hear anything from God, so he went into the town square where he saw posters all around with his picture on them. They said, "Come hear the world's greatest revivalist preacher!" He tore them down and informed those in charge that night to remove the rest. He told them, "Don't you understand that God will never move where the glory is given to man?"

Charles Finney once said, "The greatest way to stop revival is to promote and advertise it."

I get the picture that you are not happy with the current trend in Christian music; and Christian industry in general?

Christianity as we have it today is a far cry from Biblical Christianity. Churches in America, and I seem to see it in Australia too - appear to be existing for the wrong reason. They seem to be there for the pleasure of Christians and the containment of Christianity, rather than for the glory of God and the explosion of Christianity on the secular world. I see Christians who are satisfied with experiencing `Christian things' like praise, worship, services, dinners, fellowships and so on, whereas that was never supposed to be the function of the church. Its function was to train and equip people for outreach into the world and to prepare the Body to be the Bride for Christ for all eternity, to glorify God. Everything comes back to the glory of God. But when things start coming back to the pleasure of Christians, which is not necessarily for the glory of God, you get a selfish, stagnating, almost cancerous church.

Don't get me wrong, I do love the church; and I don't think all the people in the gospel music industry are a bunch of sharks trying to make a buck. In fact, most of the people I've met in the gospel music industry are dear brothers and sisters obeying the light they have. I'm not saying I have a greater light, but I have to obey what God has told me to do. And he's told me that for me, it is wrong to sell anything that has the truth in it. You can't sell the truth! You have freely received, freely give - that's a Biblical principle! He's also told me that it was never His will for the gospel to turn into a major money-making industry. It doesn't mean He can't use it: it doesn't mean He can't glorify , Himself through it and it doesn't mean that people within the industry are not ' being obedient to God. I know that a " lot of people are doing what God has told them to do. But God is going to change it- and He's going to fight, not against Christians, but against Christian industry.

He is going to fight it! It doesn't glorify Him in the long run. It only makes the people in the world more sceptical of our motives. How in God's name can a non-Christian trust a Christian who in ministering to him ' and not only making a living, but making a fortune, for God's sake! I see some ministers making literal millions and living like that. I'm not going to name names, but they are driving Mercedes and living in mansions; being picked up in limousines and so on. I'll never forget the day a guy came to our church to teach on "Financial Principles of the Kingdom" and he drove up in a Mercedes. As far as I was concerned, this guy shot his whole ministry down the drain.

Jesus was born in a borrowed stable, rode into town on a borrowed donkey, He ate His last supper in a borrowed room, died on a borrowed cross and was buried in a borrowed grave. That's the ; Lord of Lords; the King of the Universe; the creator of all good things and if that's the life He lived and He told me to take up my cross and follow Him, I have no right to live any differently. And if I do live any differently because of some new revelation the Holy Spirit has given me, that means God contradicts Himself - and that's not true. Even the things that He owned when He died were taken away from Him and they cast lots for His clothes. He gave His mother to John saying, "John, behold your mother." (She's not my mother now, she's yours).

How then is what you are saying reflected in your own life as regards concerts, records and the way you live?

As regards concerts, I don't see any Biblical foundation for charging an admission to hear any truth about God. If you want to put on the `Christian entertainment hour', you should say, this is purely entertainment and we don't pretend it to be a ministry. Then you might have some validation for charging admission if people want to be stupid enough to pay to hear Christian entertainment when a world is burning and dying all around us! In America, I have the ability to command between $2-3,000 for concerts and $3-7,000 for festivals. Now that doesn't take any faith, but it does take a lot of gall! The concept of free concerts for me was a real step of faith. When I first started doing them, I would ask for up to 75% of the offering plus expenses. I was charging the promoters a percentage, but it was hard because of my flesh as I wanted to make more money, not for myself but all the plans for a ministry.

Then I began using Buck Herring's approach which was 50/50 plus I paid my own expenses, and I didn't like that. Early in 1979, the Lord spoke to me and said that I had no right to ask for anything of the offering for myself or for my expenses. So I came to this country without asking for any part of the offerings and I paid my own airfare in. In our previous tour, the sponsors in their generosity gave us half of the offerings. In most cities, it ended up being much more than we've ever received before. We didn't ask for any of it and told them that we didn't expect anything. Even if they gave us $2, it was $2 more than we asked for. It's a good feeling that anything you get isn't what you expect, but something above and beyond your expectations. Everything is a gift then.

How did you come to the concept of doing a `free album'?

I had just signed a new two year, two-album deal with Billy Ray Hearn at Sparrow; yet I didn't feel totally comfortable about it. And I certainly didn't feel comfortable accepting offers from the other major labels in America. While praying one day, God said to me, "I want you to put out an album. I don't want you to charge any minimum price and I want you to allow people to pay whatever they can afford. If they can't afford anything or if they are poor, give it away free by the bundles; by barrowloads. Don't refuse anyone, no matter how small or how large they want to pay."

So I went to Billy Ray and I said to him that I had a problem. I've decided to break the contract. God has told me that I'm to do this thing, and I explained it to him. He was surprised. I knew he'd let me out of it, but I didn't think he'd let me out of it the way he did. He said, "If I don't let you go and if this is what God wants you to do, He will curse my business because I'll be fighting Him, not you." The next day, Michelle, my secretary, went into Sparrow to pick something up and she asked Billy Ray what he thought about my doing this. He told her - the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. That blessed me!

What is the record going to be called?

"So ... You Wanna Go Back To Egypt!" It's about the hard road of a Christian and will probably be the most `Christian' of the three albums, but it's going to be produced at a gut level like the first one. It will include a lot of high energy songs produced in a simple yet polished manner. "No Compromise" for me, went a little too far in a lot of areas and became too slick. It's an album which will not be obtainable in shops - only by direct mail. It's our intention to make the hundreds of people who are on our mailing list promoters for the album. The only way that it is going to get out to your brothers and sisters is for you to tell them about it. So, if we make any money from its sale it will all go back into the ministry. A great percentage will go directly to the poor and needy.

Anything above that will be channelled into the production of other albums and possibly a missionary training school which we are praying about establishing. My wife and I have never yet received one penny from our nonprofit corporation. Because we live in a community, all of our meals and so on are taken care of by the community which may sound like a good thing, except when you are living with 30 people in a house. All of our personal 'Dills are paid by ASCAP royalties that come in every three months from radio. It's a royalty you get from radio stations who play your songs and that comes to about four to five thousand dollars a year. We have a house back in L.A. which we are renting out and that takes care of incidental expenses. So we've never had to take a salary. Even the royalties from the sales of "No Compromise" and "Ears to Hear" all go into the non-profit corporation.

We'll never see those. I don't really feel we are going to lose money, although it will take a lot of faith. As a Christian, I don't feel good about borrowing money, so we are praying it all in. It's really been beautiful. We don't ask Christians for it. We never solicit funds through our newsletter and we never ask even in concerts when we take up the offerings. It's given to the promoter and he does what he wants. If he chooses to give some to us, Hallelujah, if not, Hallelujah!