Pastor’s Perspective – November 2019
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong… so that no one may boast before him.”
I Corinthians 1: 27, 29
We have been praying for a revival. Pleading to God for a change in the status quo that will bring the glory of the Lord Jesus to the world around us. We have mourned over the increasing moral decline of our culture and the near collapse of the local Churches. Congregation after congregation has experienced decline and closure of sanctuaries and fellowship halls. Denominations have struggled to create new life in an atmosphere of diminishing memberships and fractured communities.
We have sought relief in the children of our former leaders; seeking to find a legacy of virtue to help us navigate our current crisis. We have looked to seminaries to train up a new type of leader and argued over styles of worship and other ministerial delivery systems. If only God would send a prophet. Generations rose and fell, but few movements bore fruit and many never bloomed.
Then Kanye West dropped “Jesus Is King” and a new hope arose.
Yes. That Kanye West. The clown prince of hip-hop. The bi-polar genius whose renown as a hip-hop artist was rivalled only by his ability to offend people. The one who attacked President Bush for “hating black people” after Hurricane Katrina. The one who attacked country pop princess Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards, which prompted then President Obama to refer to him as a “jack-ass.” The same guy who as a Trump supporter wore a Red MAGA hat while performing on Saturday Night Live.
Kanye just topped off the insanity by becoming perhaps the highest profile Christian convert in a generation. Kanye is not someone who would accept Jesus as his Savior in a low-profile manner. Instead Kanye (like Zacchaeus, Saul of Tarsus, Martin Luther, and William Wilberforce) vowed to transform not just part of his life, but all of it. For Kanye this meant changing his music, his stage performances, and his personal life. He was declaring Jesus as HIS King and he was going to live this truth. He was going all in and becoming a musical evangelist.
This is where things get tricky. People love assertions of faith, but we are much less enamored with the type of faith that involves changing personal expectations and lifestyles. Record companies want good reviews and brisk sales. Fans want familiarity. The Church demands safety and control. Suddenly a man known as angry, disturbed, uncontrollable, and troubled stepped to microphone to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. The rap icon who married into the most dysfunctional family in our reality television nation was suddenly asking Kim Kardashian to tone down her seductive wardrobe and was talking about protecting his daughter from negative social influences.
No one in his inner circle is complaining. They see his joy and have experienced his transformation. His wife and children are celebrating his new life and joy. His former brother-in-law, retired NBA player Lamar Odom, turned from a life of drug abuse and gave his life to Jesus. Kanye’s album has been embraced by the public and quickly went to number one. His concert appearances, which he calls Sunday Services, began to include an evangelistic sermon in which thousands of people were exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In recent days mass conversions to King Jesus are being reported.
We do not know what will happen next, but we can see and feel the fresh movements of the Holy Spirit within the entire saga. We may be on the cusp of a revival, but while we have been praying for just this, many of us may not be prepared for the results of a revival: Change.
Change is not the friend of the established Church. The established Church tends to maintain old habits and rituals far after their divine purpose has been completed. Like Peter we seek to establish booths on the Mountain of the Transfiguration instead of worshipping the glory of the Lord in the moment. This leads the Church to get stuck where we once experienced the Holy Spirit’s movement instead of relentlessly following the calling of God and going where God desires to meet us today and tomorrow.
Revivals do not care about where we have been. When the Holy Spirit moves, God expects us to move and grow in the Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit so that we might break free from old sins, habits and patterns. The movement of God shakes our foundations and can leave those who value stability off balance. The inherent fluidity of revivals causes many in the Church to respond to God’s movement more like the Pharisees than Christ’s disciples.
That just might be the point of God’s shaking. Revivals force us to make a commit. When God moves in a mighty way, God calls us to a moment of decision. We must either abide into the camp of the Lord or remain outside the gates. Revivals can separate the sheep from the goats. In the history of the United States, our two most transformative revivals, known as the First and Second Great Awakenings, preceded the two most devastating internal conflicts in our nation’s history. The first revival is often credited with fomenting the spirit of the American Revolution and the second revival solidified the moral objections that made the war between the states unavoidable. Revivals force you to take sides. Holy Spirit people do not compromise.
We are once again facing a choice. It is time for the Church to wake up and commit ourselves to the full nature of the gospel. We have wasted precious seeking to ignore or avoid the spiritual challenges that we face all because we are afraid that we do not have the strength of the moral authority to stand against the powers and the principalities of the moment. We have forgotten that our faith is not in our power or righteousness, but in the power and faithfulness of God in Jesus Christ. Revivals call us to rely on the Spirit of God and challenge the powers of darkness.
Our celebrity-driven culture will try to make this a story about Kanye West. The Church will likely follow suit and may become offended by any attention that he receives. We must remember that it is not about him. In Christ, an artist is the paintbrush by which God delivers the eternal message of grace and love upon the temporal canvas that is his life. While we are unsure where this will lead us, it is my prayer that we will allow the art of Kanye West to awaken our yearning for God and prompt us to remember the central thesis of his new album.
Jesus is King.
No more and no less. For all our political dramas and controversies; for all the scoundrels and charlatans that seek to gain our admiration and worship in the public square; in red states and blue; It is Jesus who is our King.
King Jesus is calling Kanye. King Jesus is also calling you and me. It is now our turn to decide if we will answer the call, repent, and follow. We can play a role in the unfolding drama of God’s work on this planet. We can serve the Lord. We can stand for King Jesus.
Pray for Kanye. Pray for each other. Pray for revival. Proclaim and celebrate what the Lord is doing in our midst. King Jesus is calling. Will you serve him?