If you’re anything like me, you’ve been amazed at the public transformation of the pop icon, Kanye West. Over the past several years, he’s gone through an evolution of sorts. He’s moved from singing about drunken nights to singing about Jesus setting captives free.
I have to admit, I’ve not really listened to Kanye West’s music… until recently. I’m proud to say that I’ve purchased my first Kanye album. Jesus is King is very good. I’ve watched his recent lengthy interview where he shares about his coming to Jesus and about being set free. In fact, for quite some time, I’ve been watching him. And, I’ve got to say. I’m both excited and upset.
I’m excited because I believe God is doing a genuine work in Him. And I’m sad because of the response of so many Christians.
Kanye is saying, “when you’re not serving God, you’re serving everything else.” It sounds like something we’d hear in our church circles because it sounds reminiscent of some of the things Jesus has said in the Gospels. But when Kanye says it…. oh, boy. You better watch out because the Church is up in arms.
Let me share a few thoughts on what I believe is an opportunity for the Church to learn and grow as Kanye learns and grows.
We’re invited into a journey.
I’m on the edge of my seat because Kanye has invited us into his journey of transformation. In the Church, we’ve gotten used to going throughout out weeks and forgetting what it transformation looks like. It happens far too often. We put on our Sunday worship services and it looks a lot like a holy club of Pius Christians. So much so that we become distant and removed from the reality of those who are far from God and those who seek to follow Him. But that’s not how we’re meant to live.
Jesus came on a mission and invites us to join Him in it.
The church is the representation of Christ in the world. Which means that we are meant to live on mission. The Church is meant to carry a burden for lost people into every sector of society. We are meant to embrace the messy, the crazy, the hurting and the lost with the unbelievable, uncontainable, totally radical love of Jesus.
The journey of surrendering your life to Christ is often messy because the process of putting to death your old self and coming to full life in Christ isn’t as clean cut as we would like. If you’ve imagined that it is, you’re delusional. Have you forgotten that learning to walk with Jesus is sometimes messy? If so, I would ask when was the last time you sat with a new convert to disciple them.
I’m excited because we’re invited to watch the process of transformation. For the Church, there is a potential to see this public transformation and wake up from our slumber. It’s a chance to be reminded of the calling, the burden and the joy of journeying with those who are searching for Jesus.
We’re invited to remember.
I’m excited because, for some of us, watching Kanye will be reinvigorating. It will be a chance to see afresh, the power of the Gospel to transform. The Gospel raises the dead, reorients lives and takes out the heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh.
It’s very possible that you and I are witnessing a modern day Saul to Paul transformation. Remember when he accepted Christ? People were astonished because He has previously been boldly persecuting Christians. But, wow did God use him!
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.Acts 9:20-22
The transformation that comes from accepting the Gospel can be fast, radical and messy. He may not be the most articulate or theologically refined person. But, since when has that been disqualified someone for service to God? I can think of more than a few people in scripture that didn’t exactly have it all together. But God worked in and through them in powerful ways.
Kanye might not say all the ‘right things’, but that’s not what God asks of any of us. He’s not after our perfection. That was Jesus’ job. He is after our surrender.
Think back over the many icons of our faith. There have been a whole lot that hurried to tell people about Jesus and proclaim His lordship before they ironed out all the details. And Jesus makes it clear that He loves those people. Isn’t that a picture of the childlike faith that we’re all called to?
He [Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 18:2-3
It’s the faith that takes Jesus at His word and does what He commands. It’s the faith that let’s go of what people think and let’s Jesus manage His own public image and theirs. I’m excited because watching Kanye is an invitation for us all. It’s an invitation to remember how God works and who He is in the business of using.
Are you the type of person that is willing to take Jesus at His word? To throw caution to the wind and follow Jesus wherever He leads? The disciples did. Paul did. Moses did. David did. Radically selling out to Jesus may look crazy, but following Jesus has always been foolishness to the world.
We’re part of one body.
I’m excited because when someone like Kanye radically accepts Christ, there is unbelievable potential for impact. As he speaks about Jesus and his process of repentance and transformation, he’ll be planting seeds in people and places that you and I will never reach. He will lead people to make a decision to follow Jesus that I will never have the chance to.
You, me, Kanye. We’re part of one mission; to proclaim that Jesus is King. Wherever we are. With whatever gifts or platform we have. That’s the mission. When that happens, Jesus will draw all people unto Himself.
The whole body of Christ needs to wake up to the purposes of Christ. Then the world will be reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The way I see it is that Kanye is using the gifts, the platform, and the place that God has placed Him to do what God sets before Him. Are you? Are you more concerned with using what God has given you to accomplish what he has set before you? Or are you concerned with weather or not Kanye is doing it?
We’re called to repent.
I hope this doesn’t include you. But, there are a significant number of Christians that have responded with skepticism and dismay about Kanye’s new found faith. I’ve read Facebook posts and comments, article reactions and reactions to his interviews and album that criticize him beyond what I would have expected. Christians have been up in arms and stating that this is just a publicity stunt. There are plenty of skeptical reactions to his conversation that suspect his ‘faith’ will be short lived.
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:4-5
I find this sickening. Scripture make it clear that Jesus is the one that reveals the heart and makes a judgement on it. Yet, the church is so publicly spewing its judgement. Shouldn’t we instead be joining the resounding chorus of heaven and celebrating the conversion of anyone.
What Our Role Is and Isn’t
Our role is not to decide if his conversion is real. That’s up to Jesus. Rather, our call is to embrace, to disciple, to pray for those who are seeking Jesus. Ya’ll, speak truth and encouragement to Kanye and anyone else who is seeking to follow Jesus.
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.1 Corinthians 4:5
If the Christian response to Kanye is any indication of how we respond to other new believers, I’d wonder about the state of the Church. We’ve done this with plenty of other celebrities that have had an encounter with Jesus. It’s like we have forgotten that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We forget that Jesus came for the purpose of seeking and saving the lost.
You and I were once lost. Maybe your sin was more private. But aren’t you glad that God forgave you? Remember He paid the price for your sins. And He paid the price for Kanye’s sins.
A Different Response
Instead of skeptically judging if Kanye’s heart is pure, try asking if your heart is pure. Seriously, you’re not responsible for how Kanye portrays Jesus or for what He says, or for the intentions of His heart. You’re responsible for your heart, your actions, and your words. Ask God to reveal any judgement, skepticism or bitterness in your heart. And if He reveals something, repent.
Praise and Prayer
Instead of tearing Kanye and others like Him down, thank God for what He’s doing and pray. Thank God because no matter the current level of maturity, God appears to be working in His life. And as we get a front row seat to watch Kanye sort out what it means for him to walk with Jesus, celebrate what God is doing in Him.
Every time we see an indication that God is working in a life, we should praise the Lord. No matter the backstory of an individual, celebrate the work of God. And no matter the eventual outcome, meaning if Kanye continues to grow or turns away, celebrate the work of God. Your praise of God for His work won’t dictate the end of the Kanye story. But your criticism certain could.
Pray for Kanye. Pray that God will bring wise people into His life. And pray that he will root himself in scripture. Pray that the Spirit of God will bring growth and maturity. No matter what the fruit of Kanye’s transformation is, our first response should be to pray.
We should celebrate and the support the work of the Holy Spirit, believing that Kanye will be good soil for the Word of God to take root within.
Instead of judging, try celebrating. Friend, I cannot imagine the pressure of being a celebrity and a Christian. Everything that Kanye (and others like him) do is under a microscope from the culture. Don’t add another microscope to inspect and judge his behavior. Be a voice that celebrates God’s work, the transforming power of the Gospel and the broader impact that Kanye can have for the mission of God in the world.
If you’re going to listen to the message or Kanye, or anyone else, measure it against scripture. Scripture is the rutter that guides us in wisdom. Be smart. But don’t be a skeptic.
Looking for a starting place for impacting the world?
As you pray for wise people to surround Kanye, to disciple and encourage him, you may be thinking about your own influence on the people around you. If you’re like me a few years ago, you realize that you’ve accidentally grown to the point where we are. Maybe you haven’t been effectively discipled. And therefore, you wonder how we’re supposed to disciple the people round you.
I’ve got a great resource that I’d like to offer to you, free of charge. It’s a short discipleship study to guide you as you set a plan in place and seek to make your maximum impact on the world.
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