After three albums in two years failed to provide them with a hit single, Kansas was under pressure from Kirshner and CBS records to write a hit. Livgren and the band realized it was their last chance. Due to Walsh experiencing writer's block, Livgren wrote or co-wrote all the songs for the group's fourth album, Leftoverture. On the last day of rehearsal for the new album, Livgren brought the band one more song, which they performed once before heading to the studio. The song, "Carry On Wayward Son", became Kansas' first hit, reaching #11.
Riding the success of Leftoverture, Livgren wrote "Dust in the Wind" for the Point of Know Return album. Like "Carry On Wayward Son," "Dust in the Wind" was added to the album at the last minute. Livgren said the song was an acoustic guitar warmup. While playing it one day at home when his wife was doing laundry, she told him he should put it on the album. Since the album at that point had extra time available, he presented the song to the band and it was included. It became their highest charting single, reaching #6.
In early 1979, Livgren became interested in The Urantia Book, a series of papers that claim to be a revelation authored by supernatural beings. Its influence can be felt in the lyrics of Kansas' 1979 album Monolith. Livgren subsequently rejected Urantia doctrine, and while on tour with the band in support of Monolith, he converted to Christianity. This was a result of a series of debates in the back of the tour bus with Jeff Pollard of Louisiana's Le Roux, the opening act for Kansas during the tour. The discussions between Livgren and Pollard concerned whether the Bible or the Urantia Book was the accurate record of the life of Jesus Christ. Because of the debates, Livgren became convinced that the Bible was the genuine record of Christ and that he had been mistaken in following the teachings of the Urantia Book. After a private hotel room conversion experience, he became an evangelical Christian.
In 1980, Livgren released his first solo album, Seeds of Change. The album features several members of Kansas, along with Ambrosia singer David Pack and noted heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio, who sang on the tracks "To Live For The King" and "Mask Of The Great Deceiver." Dio, who was between stints as singer for Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Black Sabbath, later proved somewhat controversial among Livgren's evangelical Christian fans, as Black Sabbath and Dio were then perceived as "satanic" by many Christians. Dio said in an interview that he did not consider the album to be a "Christian" album and had performed on it as a favor to Livgren. After Dio left Black Sabbath in 1983, he said in a summer 1983 interview in Hit Parader magazine that he had considered working with Livgren again.
Livgren recorded three more albums with Kansas. However, tension was growing among the band members as a result of the increasingly Christian perspective of his lyrics; he was increasingly dissatisfied with the band's musical direction (at least in part due to his newfound faith); and Steinhart left the band. This led to Livgren's exit from Kansas in 1983.
Livgren has continued to appear occasionally with Kansas on various tours since the 1990s and contributed new songs to The Kansas Boxed Set in 1994 ("Wheels") and to Freaks of Nature in 1995 ("Cold Grey Morning"). In 2000, the original and current members of Kansas reunited at Livgren's studio to record a new album written entirely by Livgren, titledSomewhere to Elsewhere. Though the album received very favorable reviews, sales were not comparable to Kansas' past successes decades earlier.
In 1983, after his departure from Kansas, Livgren recorded his second self-produced album for CBS, Time Line with Hope, Warren Ham, Michael Gleason and drummer Dennis Holt. By the end of the recording sessions, the session musicians had jelled, and he decided to name the group AD.
Due to legal entanglements caused by his contractual obligations with Kansas, Livgren was unable to market AD in the mainstream secular market. After negotiating with the record label, he received a waiver to perform with AD in the Christian rock market. Unfortunately, this would become a hindrance to commercial viability for the band. AD toured extensively between 1983 and 1986, sometimes playing bars and clubs one night and then churches the next. Livgren has stated on several occasions that he experienced some of the highest and lowest points in his career during his time with AD. Livgren mentions in his book Seeds of Change: The Spiritual Quest of Kerry Livgren that his time playing live with AD was his best as a guitarist.