June 17, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – Greg Buchanan was a drunkard and a drug user who tumbled to the brink of suicide as he wallowed in mental hospitals and jails.
When he recalls those difficult days he is reminded of the fervent prayers said on his behalf by his Southern Baptist grandmother.
"I just thought this (that lifestyle) was Grandma with her invisible friend," Buchanan said, describing his life growing up in Belton, Texas, hearing her read from the Bible and talking about a personal relationship with Christ.
Buchanan was lost. Suicide was becoming an option. That was when he went to a meeting where music, a love of his life, was being used to glorify God.
It was Oct. 17, 1981, and Grandma’s prayers were answered as her 28-year-old grandson, an accomplished harpist, converted to Christ.
"Anyone who has really drawn near to God has come to the understanding of the total depravity of themselves outside of Christ," said Buchanan, 49, a world-class harpist who now ministers through his music throughout the United States, often in Southern Baptist settings like the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting and the Billy Graham Crusade.
"You don’t have to have the severity of lifestyle that I had to be absolutely, grievously, mournfully broken over your capacity to sin. When that hits you and you start the journey of ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,’ then that gives you a gracious spirit."
On his Web site, www.gregbuchananministries.com, Buchanan proclaims that his "enthusiastic jazz-style of playing sets him in a category all by himself." He is known for playing the harp with skill, talent, sensitivity and awe. The sum of it all is worship.
"When you’re doing something and the church is edified, it’s a spiritual gift," he said. "Probably what I’m experiencing is a spirit of encouragement, but it’s manifesting itself through a musical talent, and thankfully because I’m a child of God I realize the talent is the Lord’s. He anoints with His Spirit and does something special for a special purpose. Of course that’s absolutely thrilling to experience that."
Buchanan said he is blessed to perform 200 times a year by praising the Lord with the harp (Psalm 33:2). This is his passion — and he gets to do it for a living.
"The other 165 days I’m home in Southern California with my wife and kids," he said. "I don’t have other things going on."
Playing the harp enables him to preach. Pastors have come to respect not only his testimony but also his God-centered doctrine. On a typical Sunday in June, he preached twice at Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, and once at First Baptist, Kirksville.
"Grace is the power of God to be a child of God and to live pleasing to God, but it is without human merit," Buchanan said. "It’s all of God.
"How sovereign is God? Well, He’s absolutely sovereign. When I’m struggling and suffering, not seeing clearly, not thinking clearly, I grab onto the sovereignty of God. That’s what produces Christ’s life in me more than any other concept."
He and his wife of 18 years, Becky, a former lesbian, have three children. They are members of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, which focuses on the Word of God and missions, according to Buchanan.
"That’s what attracts me to Southern Baptists," he said. "They’re real strong Bible teachers. They’re real strong missions people."
His Southern Baptist grandmother lived to be 104. What he remembers most is her abiding with Christ much like the branch abiding with the vine (John 15:5), one that bears much fruit.
Grandma’s "invisible friend" has become Buchanan’s true friend.
"We need Jesus Christ," he said. "We need to be filled with the Spirit. We need to realize our total depravity outside of Christ."