So, Kanye is having a moment.
I presume you’ve heard what’s going on with the artist who started his career as a producer for Jay-Z, Ludacris and Alicia Keys before he released his first solo album 15 years ago. Since then, Kanye has earned 21 Grammy awards and sold 140 million albums. Wikipedia reports that Kanye is one of the most critically acclaimed artists of the 21st Century. Kanye apparently agrees. In an interview this week, he said he is “unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time. It's not even a question at this point. It's just a fact.”
At the beginning of 2019, word got out that Kanye was starting to hold Sunday services at his home in Calabasas, CA. There were videos showing up on social media of Kanye playing hymns at the piano. Then in September, his wife, Kim Kardashian West told The View that Kayne had been “born again” and “saved by Christ.”
This month, Kanye has released a new album titled Jesus is King. He has said that his purpose in life is to preach the gospel and that he will no longer record or perform secular music. He has been holding Sunday Service concerts in cities across the country, accompanied by a 100 voice choir, and has had a pastor from California, a graduate of the Master’s Seminary, preach the gospel at his concerts.
This week, James Corden released a 20-minute video with Kanye and the choir aboard an airplane (think Carpool Karaoke in the clouds). Music critics have begun weighing in on his new album, with some scathing reviews (it’s “the least inspired album of his career” says Time magazine). And social critics have begun weighing in on his profession of faith. The Daily Beast says Kanye has sold out and that his new found faith is a “gospel of black self-hatred and white acceptance.” Religion News Service posted the comments of Andre Henry, who says that white evangelicals are all excited, not because Kanye has found Jesus but because Kanye supports Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, some self appointed “guardians of the faith” are warning us to beware. They point to some of Kanye’s recent statements that sound like the musings of a very prominent young believer who might miss a few questions on a theology mid term in Bible college. There are reports that he is “very interested in spending time” with Joel Osteen, and that he has “struck up a little friendship with Jerry Falwell Jr.
As I said, Ye is having a moment (Kanye sometimes chooses to go by his Twitter handle Ye).
What should we make of this high profile profession of faith? Here are a few random thoughts.
1. Back in 1979, Bob Dylan has a moment too. His albums Slow Train Comin’, Saved and Shot of Love were recording shortly after he started attending a Bible study in California with Keith Green. I remember during that time, people thought that Dylan’s conversion might legitimize the gospel in the eyes of his fans and might be a catalyst for revival.
Always a man of few words and mystery, there has been a ton of speculation over the years about whether Dylan had a “gospel phase” or whether he has continued to follow Christ. But what did become clear is that while a high profile celebrity conversion can put the cultural spotlight on Jesus for a period of time, at the end of the day, the power to change a life is found in the gospel message, regardless of who the messenger is.
2. We should expect Kanye to say things that will cause us to flinch. I know I said things as a young believer that I’m glad only a few people heard. I remember leading a Bible study for high school students where I made the statement that it didn’t really matter whether the virgin birth was true – what mattered was that God could do it if He chose to (I know! Yikes! I actually said that).
So let’s be careful not to hang on Kanye’s every word. Or to dismiss him as a heretic if we hear that he said something off the cuff that he might later wish he never said.
I think we can be encouraged that there is more Bible in Kanye’s latest lyrics than we often find in a lot of modern Christian music.
3. If God has begun a good work in Kanye’s life, He will be faithful to complete it. Maybe Kanye’s profession of faith is a sprout that will shrivel in the heat of the day or be choked out by weeds at some point. Time will tell. In the meantime, we should be on guard against both cynicism and celebrity culture. We should pray for him and hope. And be careful about drawing conclusions or saying much at this point.
4. As we saw when we looked together at John 3 last week, the new birth is a sovereign work of God. “The wind blows where it will,” Jesus said.
And more than anything else, the new birth is why Jesus came. He came to bring sinners out of darkness and into His marvelous light. He came so men and women who are dead in their trespasses and sins can pass from death to life. It was His mission. The proclamation of that news is still the central mission of the church 2000 years later.
It’s pretty much all Kanye wants to talk about at the moment.
When was the last time you told people in your world that Jesus is King?
If you missed church last week, you missed this announcement.
Congrats to Howie and Jerusa!
Last night, about 20 of us helped out with the David O’ Dodd Elementary School Fall Festival. We had folks serving food, working games, and smiling and greeting all who came. Thanks to those of you who served and who helped us serve our neighbors!
Enjoy the afternoon daylight while you can. It’s about to come to an end.
Jews in Jesus’ day were waiting for God to send a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman oppression and would usher in the Kingdom. So when Jesus told Nicodemus he couldn’t even see the Kingdom unless he was born again, it was not what the teacher of Israel was expecting to hear.
We’ll continue to see what Jesus says about the new birth as we continue our study in John 3 this week.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!