Kanye West and … the Next Great Awakening?
Much buzz has surrounded the recent profession of faith by hip-hop artist Kanye West. We’re fascinated by his outspoken desire to share that faith with the world. In dramatic fashion, the star announced that grace had totally transformed him. He said that it was now his duty to use his platform to glorify God and bring others to Him. Once defined by his vulgarity and opulence, the star said he will use his widely influential platform for better purposes.
This might shock many. But this star’s Damascus-road experience bears great similarities to revivals and awakenings we’ve seen before. Which raises a question. Are we on the verge of another Great Awakening?
A Platform for Praise
Kanye’s use of music to announce God’s kingdom? It’s a blessing we’ve seen before. Larry Norman chose to use his platform for the same purposes during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s. See Greg Thornbury’s gripping account in Why Should the Devil Have All The Good Music?
The message preached in the Great Awakening was at once deeply convicting and radically egalitarian. See Eric Metaxas’ account of the great evangelist George Whitfield in If You Can Keep It. Whitfield crisscrossed a young nation with an ancient message: Every man, regardless of status, stands totally guilty of sin before a righteous God. Each is called to repentance and faith in Jesus as savior.
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On Kanye’s newest album we find a collection of theologically deep gospel tracks. Jesus is King admits the hollowness of the hip-hop culture which Kanye has ruled. Its lyrics ask much more of life than driving in fancy foreign cars or boasting of sexual conquests. In “Closed on Sunday” Kanye articulates the importance of rearing a family and guiding a child in godliness. He articulates the brokenness of man in “Use This Gospel.” Track after track focuses on the eternal, instead of the fleeting. No Malice raps: “They give you Wraith talk, I give you faith talk.” Besides evoking ghosts, this alludes to a model of Rolls-Royce, the sort of status marker too many rap songs invoke.
The Church Coming Together
The great revivals of Billy Graham brought the church together across racial and denominational lines. Likewise believers are coalescing around Kanye in his dramatic conversion. A reformed pastor with ties to The Master’s College, Adam Tyson, serves as a mentor and spiritual adviser to the singer. So does Rich Wilkerson Jr., a dynamic young preacher at the helm of the charismatic Vous Church in Miami. Prominent Catholics Lila Rose and Sohrab Ahmari have praised Kanye for his clear articulation of the faith and biblical values.
Saul of Tarsus was hardly a likely convert.
I’m reminded here of how Christian leaders came together through the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lasaunne, Switzerland. The transformation of one man can show the power of the Gospel to do God’s work for millions.
Champion the Cause of Christ
However Kanye’s personal journey proceeds, we must seize this moment. And internalize this truth: Anyone can be made a new creation, raised from death to life by the power of Jesus Christ. Kanye’s conversion surprises us. He’s a provocative figure, in a very public marriage to the erotically provocative Kim Kardashian.
But remember how dramatically God has transformed people for His cause in ages past. Saul of Tarsus was hardly a likely convert. This persecutor of Christians had to fall off his horse and go temporarily blind to begin his devotion to Jesus. Other Christians viewed him suspiciously. But the radical change he endured was proof of God’s limitless power to create us anew in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)