Along with many others, I watched with interest the Kanye West phenomena being played out recently on a national stage at Lakewood Church in Houston as he continues to proclaim his newly awakened faith in Christ. From major church platforms like Lakewood to engaging prison inmates with his message of redemption, I listen to sense if this may be a true spiritual shift in the heart of one of the most visible and controversial artists of our day. Or, is it just a passing fad, as some of his critics like to believe?
And then I have a flashback to over 40 years ago, when I was actively involved in the nascent stages of the contemporary Christian music industry and Christian music radio.
During those early days, when mainstream artists found God, they used their platforms to proclaim how Christ changed their lives. That WAS their message. So, when I watch Kanye, it is reminiscent of artists like Terry Talbot, Keith Green, Second Chapter of Acts, and Carmen, to name a few. People I grew to know well, spend time with, produce concerts with and appreciate their unique perspectives of how their new-found faith should be expressed. Therefore, from my experience, what Kanye is doing is nothing new.
As I see his fervor and listen to his heart, it takes me back to when our faith-filled music was fresh, innovative, laden with passion for Christ and the desire to tell others ... when proclaiming the Gospel and lifting up the name of Jesus was WHY you left the mainstream world to embrace this music and its message. Changed hearts lead to a change in direction in most everything you do.
Of course, none of those artists had the international notoriety of a Kanye West. But that’s not the point. The point is that Kanye’s purposeful, outward expression of faith in Christ is attracting major national coverage, and criticism. That’s to be expected. Simply because this is a potential cultural game changer, as he openly decries the things he once expressed in a musical genre that has captivated the hearts and minds of a generation of young people, and not-so young people, as well.
“I know that God’s been calling me for a long time, but the devil’s been distracting me for a long time,” he states during his interview with Joel Osteen. “When I was at my lowest point, God was there ... the only superstar is Jesus.” And then he talks about repentance ... how following the Bible’s principles and the person of Jesus set him free from himself and his sin. Now there’s a word you don’t hear too often in our culture today.
For a man formerly so self-consumed in an equally self-aggrandizing society, that’s quite a statement. Which is why Kanye will get so much heat from the secular mindset ... he’s going against the spirit of our current culture that grows more and more uncivil by the day ... where the problem is always someone else other than me. Kanye’s new mantra is that the problem IS me.
And Kanye’s criticism from the church world seems similar to when the religious intolerants of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, approached him claiming that Satan was the one doing things through him. Christ’s reply was all too logical – why would Satan work against himself? That’s what Kanye’s critics might ponder ... why would the Devil use Kanye to so strongly and passionately proclaim the Gospel, win people to Christ, and potentially create a seismic shift in the music industry? There are some pretty hefty financial and egotistical apple carts that could be overturned if this catches on.
Seems to me that the better perspective might be what one highly regarded Pharisee teacher, Gamaliel in Acts 5, said to his fellow Pharisees as they attempted to stop the disciples from proclaiming the Gospel. Which Peter and John flatly told them they would not do. The wise Gamaliel stated the obvious – if what they were proclaiming was not of God, it would fade away. But, if it were from God, there was nothing they could do or say to prevent it. I think that’s a good position to take in Kanye’s situation.
Also, to the people that can only stand back and criticize Kanye, even the apostles had a negative reaction to Saul’s conversion when they first heard about it. So, that’s nothing new either in the church.
To all the naysayers, relax. Pray for Kanye, that his conversion is real for his sake, first of all. Then, pray that he will withstand the pressure to compromise his faith, and that he surrounds himself with men in his life who can disciple him, care for his spirit, and look for nothing in return. All guys need that, regardless of who they are.
If Kanye’s new proclamation is not of God, it will fade away. But if it is, no one can stand against his testimony. His conversion may be the start of a change in our culture that many of us have been praying for. Albeit, he may not be the answer that many expected!
In the economy of the kingdom of God, it never is.
As Jesus said, who knows where the wind blows when the Holy Spirit decides to show up.
JOE BATTAGLIA is a broadcaster and the founder/president of Renaissance Communications, a media company involved in the promotion of successful hit movies to the faith-based marketplace and the co-executive producer of the nationally syndicated radio program “Keep the Faith,” the #1 faith-based music radio show in the country. He is the author of Unfriended: Finding True Community in a Disconnected Culture and The Politically Incorrect Jesus. https://joebattaglia.com.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy/Staff
JOE BATTAGLIA is a broadcaster and the founder/president of Renaissance Communications, a media company involved in the promotion of successful hit movies to the faith-based marketplace and the co-executive producer of the nationally syndicated radio program “Keep the Faith,” the #1 faith-based music radio show in the country. He is the author of Unfriended: Finding True Community in a Disconnected Culture and The Politically Incorrect Jesus. https://joebattaglia.com