Kerry Livgren, lead guitarist/composer of the secular group Kansas... became a Christian a little over a year ago. We contacted Kerry and asked him to explain exactly what had happened, here is our conversation.
CS [Cornerstone Magazine]: To begin, could you tell us exactly how you became a Christian?
KL [Kerry Livgren]: That's sort of a mystery to me, I was raised in the Lutheran church. I felt a certain devoutness about it all, but I don't think I really understood it or came to a true knowledge, of our Savior at that time. In the early '60s I drifted away from Christianity. It wasn't in vogue and wasn't the thing to believe in and I got caught up in all manner of religious teachings.
I've always been a very religious person, although at this point I didn't know which one to believe in and I dabbled in about every Eastern religion you could think of. I sort of moved from one thing to another, from Hinduism, Baba Ram Dass, Zen; finally I ended up in a... belief centered on the Urantia Book. At that point I thought I had really found the answer.
I became convinced that the book could not have been written by men or human inspiration. So I made the mistake of attributing the supernatural to the divine, a very easy mistake to make, although I didn't realize that at the time. I sort of wholeheartedly gave myself to this thing as the end of the road as far as systems of belief go.
Last summer our group Kansas was touring with a band called Louisiana's Leroux. Their lead singer and lead guitarist was named Jeff Pollard, who is a very powerful and knowledgeable witness for the Lord. We struck up sort of an instant friendship, seeing as how we were both theologically minded, and we started having these discussions.
Fortunately, Jeff has true devotion and has done special study toward helping people who are involved in [the "c-word" used commonly as an epithet for a minority religious group with marginal status or a group which one dislikes is used here]. Although I wasn't involved with a [that word] per se, is far at an organization, I was certainly involved in a false, doctrine. So we started having these debates and they became so intense, and important to me that I quit riding with Kansas and started riding with Jeff's group on their bus. We had these sessions for days running, 8 and 9 hours at a time, non-stop. We would sit there and discuss. He'd have his Bible open and I had my Urantia Book open. And we would go over various points about the person and nature of Christ.
Although I would try as hard as I could logically and every way I knew to swing him over to my side of the fence, I started noticing these feelings in me that really wanted him to be right. I think that I really knew in my heart that he was right; that the Bible was the Word of God. Partially, it was pride that didn't want to give up something that I had believed and was proved wrong in; the fact was that I had been taken, and sucked into a demonic doctrine.
But when I saw the tremendous disparity between the Bible and the Urantia Book, and the nature of that disparity as it pointed to the nature of Christ and who He really was, it started to eat at me. Why is this book denying the things which the Bible says in fact are my salvation?
It became clear to me in a flash that this thing was designed to dazzle the intellect, and to actually lead me astray from what I knew in my heart to be the truth, the Bible. At that point I don't think there was any doubt in my mind that I was going to become a Christian, although I hadn't gotten down on my knees asking the Lord to forgive me and giving myself to Him completely. But I did do that a few days later, in a hotel room - in Indianapolis, Indiana, about 3 o'clock in the morning. And the moment I did that, the Spirit swept me like a flood and I cried like a baby. I knew I'd really found the Lord.
CS: How long ago was that?
KL: That was July 29, 1979.
CS: Oh, that's a one year anniversary! By the way, I've heard you have a friend by the name of Ken Boa, a writer from Scripture Press.
KL: Yeah, Ken's a very good friend of mine. My meeting Ken was really a blessing from the Lord. The way it worked was, shortly after I got saved, I absolutely immersed myself in Christian literature. I felt like I had wasted so much time, I wanted to know everything there was to know. Every town we went to, right after we'd check into the hotel, I'd grab a rental car and run down to the nearest Christian bookstore and buy a suitcase full of books. I probably read more books in the last 9 months than I have in the last 9 years. Having come into Christianity the way I did, I feel a special burden to witness to people that are in false doctrine. And to do so, you really have to have on the full armor of God, as well as a complete theological vocabulary and an understanding of these things.
At that point I was having my first little doubts, although they seem trivial looking back, at them now. But there were things that I didn't understand, that I wanted to find out, and I was in New York City and I went into this Christian bookstore... Most of the doubts I had at that point were things of a scientific nature that I didn't seem able to reconcile on my own with the scriptures. So I was in this bookstore and I happened to glance at this book on a rack and it said, God, I Don't Understand, by Kenneth Boa. So I reached over and grabbed the book and opened it up. And it had something about the parallels between matter and the nature of the Trinity. It looked like really heavy stuff! I thought, wow, this is great, this is just what I've been looking for.
I bought the book and I went back and I read it for the next couple of days. And this was the book that had been exactly written for me at that point in time. It absolutely answered the questions I was looking for in a very thorough way. I was so enthralled with it that I said, "I've got to call this author, track this guy down, and just thank him."
I called the Scripture Press and they gave me his address, but he had moved; I went round and round but he'd always move. Finally I got information that he was in Knoxville, Tennessee working with New Life. So I called there and they said, "No, he's not here any longer. He's in Atlanta, Georgia," which is, of course, where I live. I said, "Really! That's unbelievable. Give me his address." And I can almost, right now, walk to his house from mine. Since then, we've become really good friends. We see each other all the time.
CS: Is the church that you're fellowshipping with his church?
KL: We started going to the Episcopal Cathedral here, and it happens to be a very evangelical congregation, and doctrinally is exactly what we were looking for, so we both ended up going there.
CS: What sort of effect does your new relationship with Jesus have on your career with Kansas?
KL: Well, it certainly turned a new light on it. In short, I feel that the Lord gave me a talent with music, and now I know why I have it and what it should be used for. And that's fine for me; the problem is, I'm in a group which does not understand what happened.
They have a mental image of what it is to be born again, but, of course, not being that, they can't quite fathom what it really means. Looking back on my misunderstanding of what it was to be a born again Christian before I was one, I can absolutely sympathize with the way they feel. But, being on the other side of the truth, I can see how I must use my talent, and what I must use it for, and how I can best do that within the framework of the band is sort of a mystery at the moment, but I have made a solo album which I feel very strongly about because it's an evangelical statement for me, it consummates everything that I've done musically, and especially lyrically, up to this time.
What I did was make a very obvious statement about Christianity on my record, although one can listen to it and not immediately figure out what's going on, it's inevitable that they will if they even pause to listen to the lyrics for a moment.
In some of it, the lyrics tell more of a story. One of the songs is about the second advent of Christ. It's called "Ground Zero." One is called "Just One Way," that's about the fact that God manifested Himself in only one way, and there's one truth. Oddly enough, that is the song by Jeff Pollard, the guy who witnessed to me.
CS: Oh, so you had some other Christian artists even an the LP.
KL: Well, I had a number of other artists. Only two of them were Christians, and one of them became a Christian while working on the album, which was absolutely the most gratifying thing that I've ever been involved with.
CS: Hallelujah, who was that?
KL: The drummer for Jethro Tull, Barrymore Barlow. Barry has left the band now.
CS: You do seem like a person who approaches things from a more intellectual, thoughtful framework. Did that help you a lot finding Christ?
KL: No, I don't really think so. Being thoughtful would, yes. But being intellectual, no. As a matter of fact, it's probably in many ways sort of an entrapment. Because it's not fashionable to be intellectual and be a Christian, as C. S. Lewis will certainly tell you.
The interesting thing is, if you examine Christianity from an intellectual standpoint or a scientific standpoint, you can go as far with it as you want to go. Or if you approach it from a simple-minded point of view, it's absolutely the right thing in that respect, too. It can encompass all of humanity from any sort of standpoint you want to look at it from. Which is an amazing thing in itself.
CS: As a Christian, what seems to be your greatest burden at this point?
KL: What to do with the situation I'm in. I can't continue with Kansas in the same way that I have before. I can't do it because I have a responsibility, a desire as well as a responsibility, to be a witness, and I know that the gift that God has given me (which is music) isn't to be used for that purpose, but how to set that responsibility into the framework of the group as it is, is a difficult thing, I'm just gonna have to pray about it that the Lord's will be done in this situation.