There have been multiple media stories here, here, and here running recently that Kanye has become a born-again Christian. We have some inside sources that also confirm that he has accepted Christ and that he is re-targeting his Sunday Services to reflect the evolution of where his heart is. He has multiple people in his circle who are counseling him spiritually. (“Discipling” is the word in Christian circles). Although Kanye has been known as impersonating Jesus through his alter-ego “Yeezus” (who his Adidas-branded “Yeezees” footwear is named after), he has now flipped and worshipping the true Jesus.
I just finished watching almost an hour of Kanye’s “Sunday Service” that he held in Chicago. The rain was falling on what appeared to be a 100 person ensemble of singers and a few musicians who played the keys like they had started when they were two… Prodigies. It’s no wonder they are rolling with Kanye as in many circles he is considered a musical prodigy. Kanye has helped to shape the Hip Hop and urban culture for decades. His recent dabbling in politics may have turned off many (rightfully so) but it has not changed Kanye’s ability to take music ideas and deliver them to the culture at the right time, with the right message, that catches on and shifts mindsets. Let’s take his new musical endeavor: “Sunday Service.”
My first experience with this expression was this past Easter Sunday. Yes, this was my Sunday service. I was just returning from a trip and rushed home so I could stream it. Why? Coachella was hosting the “Sunday Service” and I was obsessed with the performances from this years line up. Great production, eclectic artists, and a Pop culture explosion! Live performances are like watching football. Will they catch the ball? (Hit that note.) Will they dance after a touchdown? (Display their dance moves.) What will the halftime show be? (Will they have some cool fireworks burst from the stage when they sing their hit!)
Anyway, I love live music and production. So, the Sunday Service idea had my attention. How would Kanye lead Resurrection Sunday? Well, he didn’t. But he helped to put people and arrangements in place that did. This may be semantics because he was actually “leading” but more as a Music Director. Honestly, Kanye has always been great at this. During the Easter “Sunday Service” Kanye curated beautiful, worshipful voices, and created a look and feel that felt like I was on a hill in Jerusalem watching people from every tribe, tongue, and Nation worship Jesus in their native tongue. The singers wore garbs that looked like what I would wear if I was trying to dress up like a shepherd boy or girl in the Middle East.
Now moving on to Chicago’s “Sunday Service” on Sept 8th, 2019…
Kanye is a Chicago dude. Born in Atlanta but raised in the Chi. His Dad was a Christian Counselor, which may explain some of his Jesus roots. Kanye, like many urban youth, have a complicated relationship with the church in America. In the black church, kids are raised playing multiple instruments if inclined, learning to shout, clap, dance and “catch the spirit” of Jesus from a very young age. They have church clothes, school clothes, and street clothes. Many African American youths have a wild church life and a wild street life, which both are wild for different reasons that we won’t get into now. The point is, church for a lot of African American children is a part of their culture. Music is a part of the culture. Gospel music is cultural and contextual to the African American community. It fits right in there with grandmas soul food cooking. Now, this is not true for all, but for many, this is true including Kanye’s friend who made a pop-up appearance in Chicago, Chance The Rapper.
Do I think this is all a bit strange? For Kanye to return to his roots is no surprise to me. I think he is sensing like many artists are now, that he needs to move culture. He needs to inspire. He needs to create space for peace. America needs some inspiration. Something that holds us together. Something familiar. Something true and not ambiguous. God is that. Jesus is that. The sound of the organ is that. A gospel choir with big passionate, soulful voices singing in harmony is that.
Worshiping Jesus under the Chicago sky and proclaiming He is the risen Lord is very straightforward. It’s not ambiguous. Now, some may say, “Can I trust Kayes’s motives?” To that I would say, Who cares! Look at the scripture below.
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.Mark 9:38-50 New International Version (NIV)
Notice how the disciples got caught up in “They aren’t one of us.” There it is, us and them language that permeates the American church today. We love being in control. The American church loves being the chosen ones. Loves being the judge. Loves trying to be God. But Jesus says don’t hate! Don’t stop “the other” who is doing good in my name. Instead, let it be done unto YOU the good work. I would say Kanye is doing good work. He is funding and facilitating worship services in cites across America. Giving us the gift of music and worship in Jesus name.
This should not be too much of a surprise. “Jesus Walks” was the song that launched Kanye in 2004. But there’s a big difference with Kanye now though, he used to say:
“Jesus Walks and I don’t think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs. I want to talk to God, but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long”Kanye West
Now, Kanye steps on the stage during these “Sunday Services” and changes up the original lyric to “Jesus Walks I know exactly what to do to right my wrongs. We ain’t afraid to talk to God.”
*Listen to him spit at minute 42 in the video.
All this to say, I am choosing to receive this good from Mr. West.
Kanye is giving me space where I can worship God and that is a gift. I pray he receives his reward for the many he is touching. I believe he will because Kanye know’s that Jesus walks with Him and Jesus LOVES to walk with complicated brothers like Kanye West.