A Secular Rapper Calls American Pastors to Account

In this April 23, 2017, file photo, Kendrick Lamar performs on the Coachella Stage during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.

By Michael Brown Published on May 8, 2017

You know we’re in trouble when a secular rapper urges pastors to get back to preaching that the Lord is a jealous God of “discipline and obedience.” As a recent article declared, “Chart-Topping Rapper Kendrick Lamar Is Preaching More Spiritual Truth Than Most of the Dead Churches In America.” So sad, but so true.

Lamar is a 29-year-old, Grammy Award-winning rapper, and his lyrics are typical, hardcore rap: filled with content, packed with protest, laced with profanity. Suffice it to say that he is not a pristine pure, born-again, Christian rapper. Yet he sees a gaping hole in many churches today, and it mirrors his experience as a boy.

A Perceived Imbalance

In an email to Hip Hop website DJ Booth he wrote,

I went to a local church some time ago, and it appalled me that the same program was in practice. A program that I seen as a kid the few times I was in service. Praise, dance. Worship. (Which is beautiful.) Pastor spewing the idea of someone’s season is approaching. The idea of hope.

He continued,

After being heavily in my studies these past few years, I’ve finally figured out why I left those services feeling spiritually unsatisfied as a child. I discovered more truth. But simple truth. Our God is a loving God. Yes. He’s a merciful God. Yes. But he’s even more so a God of DISCIPLE. OBEDIENCE. A JEALOUS God. …

And in words that mirror the words of Paul in Romans 11:22, which urge us to consider both the goodness and severity of God, he wrote, “So in conclusion, I feel it’s my calling to share the joy of God, but with exclamation, more so, the FEAR OF GOD. The balance. Knowing the power in what he can build, and also what he can destroy. At any given moment.”

Telling the Whole Truth

I’m all for preaching hope and encouragement and love, but that is not the whole message.

How ironic that a worldly rapper is more concerned to balance out his message than many a preacher in America. How ironic that someone whom the churches would damn in a moment (in fact, “Damn” is the name of his latest project) sees the imbalance in so many of our contemporary churches.

Today, in many of our churches, it’s all about making people feel good about themselves, all about the coming breakthrough (probably financial!), all about fulfilling our personal dreams.

But what about the biblical gospel? What about the fact that one day we’ll have to give account to God for our lives? What about the judgment that will come on the whole world? What about the reality that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)? What about the fact that Jesus saves us from our sins so that we will live the rest of our lives for Him?

I’m all for preaching hope and encouragement and love, but that is not the whole message. What happened to the rest of God’s holy Word?

A Quick-Fix Gospel

In my forthcoming book Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Reformation, I devoted one chapter to the subject of “Restoring Thunder to Our Pulpits.”

In that chapter, I wrote,

Let the truth be told. There is very little thunder from our pulpits, very little preaching that creates an atmosphere of holy reverence (what the Bible calls ‘the fear of the Lord’), very little that challenges us and confronts us and stirs us and awakens us, very little that equips us to endure hardship or to be courageous or to confront the culture or to live a sacrificial life out of love for our neighbor.

Many of our leaders preach a toothless, pep-talk gospel that fits in perfectly with our convenience store, quick-fix Christianity, promising all kinds of benefits without any requirements. What a deal! Who could refuse it? No wonder we are producing consumers rather than disciples. What else can we expect when we so studiously bypass the cross in so much of our preaching? What else can we expect when we preach God the Genie rather than God the Judge?

Do you affirm these words?

‘The Pulpit is Responsible’

At the beginning of the chapter, I quoted from an 1873 sermon from Charles Finney. He said,

Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.

Although the pulpit was more influential in his day than in ours, I believe that what he said remains largely true. If America is in serious moral and spiritual decline, many of our preachers are partly to blame.

I say it’s time that we restore thunder to our pulpits. A chart-topping, secular rapper says, “Please do!”

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  • Gary

    I don’t believe most “Christians” would support preaching that wasn’t perceived to be boiled in, injected with, and wrapped in “love”. They believe God is a kindly old grandfather-like figure who pats people on the head as he chuckles at their mischief. I have seen several churches attendance reduce dramatically by a pastor who refuses to sugar-coat everything.

    • Just to be different, a couple weeks ago we had a sermon on “Fearing God,” and we are starting up an intensive discipling program – how to live according to biblical principles, to hold each other accountable, and to assist others in doing the same. Last Spring (2016) I (and a bunch of others in our church) took a graduate course in biblical preaching. Not that I’m likely to do any more preaching since the class, but suffice it to say that “biblical preaching” starts with the Bible and applies it to our lives. It does not mean starting with some touchy, feely, tolerant, everyone is OK application and trying to rustle up some Bible verses to support it (or not, since using the Bible doesn’t seem so critical, any more). Given that our pastor taught the preaching course, we do have sound biblical preaching at our church. As a little aside, it took me about 80 hours to put a sermon together – our pastor takes a “mere” 30 hours or so!

      I think that there are a lot of good churches out there. But the mainliners have lost their way, and just because a church calls itself “evangelical” doesn’t mean it is sound. Some such churches are among the worst at preaching a false gospel (Joel Osteen, I’m talking to you). Serious Christians need to find a church that takes the Bible seriously. It may take some looking, but it is worth it. So the real question is, how many serious Christians are there and how many serious Christian churches?

      • Gary

        My brother has been the pastor of a Baptist church in the “Bible Belt” for about 15 years. I have to disagree with your statement, “I think there are a lot of good churches out there”. What I would call a “good church” is rare. Even in the South, where most US Christians live. And the biggest reason for that is that good preachers are rare.

  • justin faver

    So true people want messages to tickle there ears but what i am also seeing here in the Spirit is that Kendrick Lamar is calling out to God and wants to be set free because his in too deep and is looking to come out we need to pray for him and for his salvation so that people can preach the unfailing, unwavering Gospel and
    truth of Christ

  • Christian Cowboy

    It takes a pastor that preaches the Word without compromise. It also takes people who will accept and live the Word-as it is written and taught. I really want a teacher, not just someone who tickles my ears. Challenge me to like as God intends me to live.

  • Kelly Finke

    I don’t know that it is a matter of preaching more thunder as much as a matter of having preachers in the pulpit who are earnestly, wholeheartedly, committed to speaking from a heart that is intimately interacting with God on a consistent basis. If the preacher is devoting his/her self to prayer and intentionally seeking what God would have them say, there will be power in thier words. But sadly, oftentimes preachers fall into the trap of being afraid of offending people, or of losing some income if people don’t like what they hear. Their motives get skewed and their priority shifts from one of clearly voicing the word of God come what may, to one of tap-dancing around the truth so as not to infringe on people’s comfort zones.
    I absolutely love my pastor and his family. They walk out the truth in their lives. Sometimes the pastors message is direct and convicting. Other times it is very tender. I believe that he is sincere, honest, and vulnerable in his desire to express the heart of God. And because God is a father who needs to express both rebuke and affection, the messages should reflect whichever point of the spectrum is appropriate at a given time. And the only way to know which is appropriate is to be intentional about seeking to know his heart.
    I hope that this rapper goes full circle from not only being able to identify hypocrisy in the church to praying that God directs him to a place where he can learn and grow and thrive in increasing knowledge and relationship with God and with others who share the same heart. The church is not a bulding, it is a group of individuals who have the living Christ residing within them. And when they meet, whether hearing rebuke or affection, it should draw them personally closer to both God and to one another.
    I know that those places exist and I hope that God leads this young man to the place where his soul flourishes. Perhaps he will even become a pastor some day. He sounds as if he may have the heart of a true pastor.

  • Autrey Windle

    I consider myself a member of a little church that is very far from my house. I stay in touch, but we don’t have a live broadcast online or anything like that so I don’t make the trip often since getting out of hospital. The church was about 7 people, (mostly pastor’s family) a piano player, a blind girl playing guitar with her dog and my friend and I. I used to tell Pastor that I would rather have a handful of true believers than a mega-church of Sunday singers. The church began to grow. The Pastor told the truth and made some sinners mad and they all left in a huff and now I am reminding him to take heart and keep preaching the truth and the folks will come and be taught. We need men of courage in the pulpit and we need musicians who write true praise and give us a song that lifts our hearts. My 2 favorite songs are Higher by Unspoken and The Old Rugged Cross. I don’t want or need profanity-laced rants sent from my lips to God’s ears. Lamar’s rapping with profanity makes me think of churches that don’t tell the truth about homosexuality; a dangerous thing to call Christian. I do pray that he will finish seeking what he is obviously still missing about the love of God and the rules for salvation.

  • BroFrank

    21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they
    ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in My counsel,
    And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them
    from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.

    . . . . 29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that
    breaks the rock in pieces?

    (Jeremiah 23:21-22,29 )

    Excellent insight: This article reminds me of the Lord’s use of the Rechabites to shame Israel, concerning their unfaithfulness (Jer. Chapter 35). They were not of Israel, and yet put the Jewish brethren to shame with their faithfulness by what they practiced. However, when considering the matter of preaching, the Lord specifically pointed out the need for personal cleansing and intercession.

    . . Yet when seeking to apply the Lord’s admonition to our day, we notice a marked advantage, on our side of Calvary that Jeremiah did not have: the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The principle difference between Jeremiah’s day, and ours (or that of Elijah @ Mt. Carmel and the apostles @ Pentecost) –is the Presence of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the believers. This is what the prophet Jeremiah was starting to project. Bottom line: If the Holy Spirit is not moving upon the people in holy fire, there will be little change. Pentecost rocked the religious world of its day because of Holy Spirit activity—of which Peter’s preaching was a part. Reinhard Bonnke started his ministry in a gospel hardened community, and persisted, until the “fire” started falling, in Africa. The result has been a “blood washed Africa” (see his biography, A LIFE OF FIRE). His lieutenant’s suggestion (Daniel Kolenda) is intensified, Holy Spirit directed, intercession (see his latest book, UNLOCKING THE MIRACULOUS). Nothing moves without earnest intercession, prayer, and persistence.

    We need more than pulpit fire. We need Holy Spirit REVIVAL.

  • Wallace Joe Robertson

    Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Love that line, “God the Judge”, not God the Genie. This carries over into the “self-help” style of preaching. “You can be a better you, but you need us to help.”

  • m-nj

    Give me a pastor who truly fears the Lord, and who understands and believes that every word he speaks is going to be weighed by THE JUDGE, and i’ll show you a pastor who will preach the whole counsel of God, and will speak of the joy of the Lord as well as the fear of the Lord.

    i feel extremely blessed that God saved me a church lead by a pastor like that, and in my life travels thus far He’s allowed me to find church homes lead by such as well… and i must add, they have all been non-denominational churches.

  • Brian Roden

    I think I saw somewhere last week that Kendrick’s cousin is involved in the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. That doesn’t take away from the truth of the rebuke, but it makes me “raise my shields” when considering what he is putting out.

  • Jon Washburn

    Wow. The church being rebuked by the world…very very serious matter…I hope she responds appropriately.

    COME ON CHURCH! Return to your first love! Remember who He made you to be! Fear God, find repentance, and MOVE FORWARD! Hebrews 12: 5-6

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