KanyeKanyeToday was a busy, but typical Sunday. Church. Our family serving the homeless downtown, something we've done every third Sunday of the month. Taco Bell for an early dinner. Plans to watch Star Wars: Episode III as we work to introduce our kids to the Star Wars universe (a great time to be alive in our household). And then, tired kids blew up the evening and I found myself frustrated, pouting to myself, alone in my office, retreating to work. A familiar escape when life doesn't go to plan.
I'm far from perfect.
So, I went to YouTube and noticed Lakewood Church in Houston, TX was live streaming Kanye West's Sunday service. I've yet to catch one and keep reading about how incredible they are, so curiosity won and I tuned in, choosing that to be my background noise over Spotify while I knocked out some pressing email.
Two hours later, the phrase "What is life?" was ringing loud as I recovered from an amazing, huge encounter with Jesus...at a Kanye West show.
I can honestly say, I never thought in a million years I would ever speak, type, tweet, text or even remotely think that sentence.
Since news broke earlier this year that Kanye West had encountered Jesus, I've been following the headlines and stories. Then his album dropped last month, and the noise got a lot louder. I'm a champion because Paul tells me to be (see Phillippians 1:15-18), but if I'm being honest, I'm battling the same skepticism as everyone else, but I'm recognizing that that's not where Jesus wants me to be.
Again, far from perfect.
I've watched three camps form on the topic of Kanye West's conversion within my own circles: Outright skepticism and disbelief seem to be the most prominent. We all know who Kanye West has been, and it seems next to impossible that a public figure so ingrained into mainstream pop culture could be that serious about finding God. We've been duped before. And we're not going to be duped again. This isn't real. This is a marketing ploy to sell records and overpriced merch. This is the latest mental breakdown from a mental nutcase that we all wrote off years ago. No thank you.
The second camp is overflowing with "wait and see." Supportive, from a distance. Watch for the fruit. Don't get too close. He's too new in his journey to have a platform. It's cool and all, but I need to see more, read more and hear more. Keep working, baby Christian!
And the third is outright support and celebration, which I believe is where we should all be and where I continue to challenge my heart to live. That this is a true Gospel story being written in front of our eyes. Again, what a time to be alive!
Tonight's service was a big deal, at a big church with a prominent Pastor, with a big audience. I watched viewership between Facebook and YouTube hover around 80,000-100,000 for the full two hours. I watched a Gospel choir rejoice, praise, worship, fall to their knees, point to the heavens and break away for personal reflection to God. Kanye performed close to 40 minutes in, allowing the star of his show to be Jesus, and not him. He praised right along with the choir. His lyrics were never questionable, always hard-hitting, honest and self-deprecating and full of real-life rarely found in today's Christian music.
Tonight proved one thing to me: Jesus is real in Kanye's life. Period. It's written on his face, in his posture, in his lyrics and in his choice of delivery, and he is downright determined to bring the transformative power of the Gospel that he has encountered to the people.
To reject that, I believe, is to reject the Gospel.
To question that, I believe, is to question the Gospel.
You see, the Bible is full of stories where God used the down and out, the murderers, the adulterers, the wanderers. When Saul killed Christians for years and then had his Damascus road encounter, Christians did not immediately embrace him either. So there is precedence here. But skepticism creates space that allows us to miss what God is doing.
As Kanye's Gospel choir belted out some of the most beautifully arranged choruses that I've heard in a long time, I found myself disengaging with my surroundings. I left my inbox. I turned off the lights. I put my computer on sleep. And when I landed on the floor on my knees, crying for God to search my heart and weed out whatever imperfections I had as the Gospel message was preached out to the hundreds of thousands watching, my prayer beyond searching my faults was simple. "God, don't let me miss this."
Don't let me miss what you are doing through this man.
Don't let me miss the redemptive story you are writing.
Don't let me miss an opportunity to witness you changing a life that so many, myself included, thought was so lost, so confused, so dirty, so messed up. So unredeemable.
And most importantly, don't let me miss the changes in my own heart that need to be addressed as I pause, wait and ask for performance over a blind trust that my God is bigger than any expectation I can place before him.
I'm not wanting you to like Kanye West. That's not the point of this editorial. His music isn't for everyone. But I am wanting you to like Jesus and champion wherever he wants to move. Sometimes, that requires we step up to the plate and go where he's going, even if it makes us a bit uncomfortable.
Tonight, I was supposed to be watching Star Wars while digesting crappy Taco Bell food (let's be honest, it's cheap and tastes good, but 15 minutes later, you're always like, "what have I done?"). God seemed to have other plans for me tonight. I'm just still in shock that Kanye West and crew led me to that encounter.