Recently, hip hop artist Kanye West converted to Christianity and the American Christian world is on fire. If you know anything about Kanye’s 20-year career then you know that he’s flirted with Christian themes and ideology for some time. One of his earliest hits, “Jesus Walks” might even have been played at Gen X’ers progressive youth groups in the same way that some groups embrace Drake’s “God’s Plan.” What’s intriguing is the responses to his conversion and what it says about the American Church. Like it or not, Kanye West wields influence like no other in American culture. It was these responses that caused a holy discontentment of sorts for me.
The Story Of Kanye’s Conversion Reminds Us Of The Parable Of The Prodigal Son
The prodigal son is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. Kanye coming to Christ reminds us of the son, who disrespected his Father, spent his money on hard living and then returns to a welcoming Father and a party to celebrate. The prodigal reminds us of all of our salvation. As Christians, we were all lost before we accepted Christ’s welcoming embrace. Unfortunately for the American church, the son isn’t the one I’m reminded of. No, I’m reminded of the brother. The older brother that stayed with the Father. The brother that was indignant that the Father would celebrate his son’s return. If you look at social media right now you’ll see what I mean.
So what’s our response supposed to be to Kanye’s conversion?
This man has been prideful, sacrilegious and blasphemous. He’s celebrated sin and been known to be crazy. As a Christian how are we supposed to respond to that? When Jesus told the story of the prodigal son, he didn’t leave us hanging as to the response we need.
Why Kanye West’s Conversion Might Be The Best Thing To Happen To The American Church
When you read the posts about Kanye’s conversion it ranges wildly from skeptical and cynical to outright calling him the second coming of the apostle Paul. Washington Post calls him a “tax collector” for this generation. They aren’t far off. This is an opportunity for the American church, but the window is small. Instead of acting like pharisees, that is questioning every motive and want to judge Kanye, let’s get excited about what he’s bringing to church. A new fire, a new curiousity and possibly a new generation.
The American church by and large is luke warm and worn out. The mega church experience is at best, spiritual fast food. You stop in, sing a few songs, hear an encouraging word and get sent out to “pay it forward.” That’s great, it’s a nice wholesome quiet life. Life change happens in spite of this, but not because of it. God didn’t call us to a life of quiet routine (aka Religion). He called us to live an amazing adventurous life with Him and through him.
What Kanye has brought with his conversion is a new curiousity from the rest of the world, the ones out there living a life. You know the people, the ones you look at with the side eye. The ones we quietly judge. The ones that won’t step foot in a church because of they saw your side eye and call you a hypocrit. The same ones that desperately try to fill a hole in their heart with things of this world. The same ones that you and I pass over, even though we have the answer to their pain.
For some lucky few, we’ll be getting 2nd chances. These new people will come to your church, they won’t look like you, they won’t talk like you and they certainly won’t know your routines. When they show up, leave your pharisetical goggles at home and welcome them. Show them love. Reignite the fire, remember the love you felt when you came to Jesus. Get WOKE for Jesus.
Instead of cynicism and sarcasm, let’s show the world what love looks like. What it looks like to embrace a new brother in Christ.
What this doesn’t mean for the American church.
Let’s not be fake. Let’s not add secular hip-hop songs to our church’s playlist just because Kanye has a new album. Let’s not try to act cool to attract a particular audience. Let’s not water down the gospel. Instead. let this be a wake up call and a reminder that what we do and how we act matter. What changes a person isn’t going to be a new laser light setup that reminds people of a Beyonce’ concert. What changes person is to experience the authentic love that the Father has for His children and seeing that love expressed through the church. So for the next few Sundays, let’s love like the Savior that saved us.
I get it, a few of us are quietly hopeful about this particularly public conversion. We don’t want to be burned by a fake convert. It happens all the time. If we’re honest, we’re all fakers. So let’s lower our expectations a bit.
Only God can change a person. I know that’s true with me. I said the “sinner’s prayer” at an early age, I went to church most of my adolescence, but it wasn’t until I was in a marriage class that I learned that I could have a relationship with Jesus. Before that time, I told people I was a Christian. They must have wondered what kind of Christian would vandalize public property or steal from department stores. They must have wondered what kind of supposed Christian would be blaring out Notorious B.I.G. and dress like some gang member.
What I’m saying is we’re all frauds if we’re honest. When we accept Jesus he gives us a new ability to change. However, the change isn’t instantaneous. We change at the speed of the realization of how much we’re forgiven and how much we’re loved. I didn’t have that realization for almost 20 years. No matter what happens over the next few years, I have grace for Kanye. Like Paul, I can pray that he grows in a deeper knowledge of God’s will. I can pray that no unwholesome talk comes out my own mouth toward him and that none comes out of his mouth.
More importantly, I can pray and ask that my heart be softened to people like Kanye.
I say that Kanye West’s Conversion Might Be The Best Thing To Happen To The American Church, but in reality it might be the best thing to happen to me.