"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
Reaping The Harvest: An In-depth Look at Kanye West’s Sunday Service
This thanksgiving as I was gathered around with family, I couldn’t help but overhear to the proud family cooks talking about how grateful they were that everyone loved their cooking so much, but slightly upset that they didn’t get to keep any themselves after others gathered takeout plates. I couldn’t help but to think about how the art of good cooking (southern cooking especially) has been almost been lost with the generations before. People crave genuinely home cooked meals over the pre-prepared and processed food served at many restaurants today. Even the “sit down” places serve mostly factory processed ingredients in their “so-called” fresh dishes. The fake processed stuff just doesn’t do what our bodies need it to. They don’t provide the nutritional punch, but rather a punch to our slowing metabolisms. The only thing growing from all of this are the waist lines of America.
Just like in our food, people spiritually crave the genuine gospel whether that’s what they recognize it as or not. Where there is not a genuine experience with God, it is substituted. For some it may be some type of substance abuse, while for others it may be a more honorably viewed aspect of life such as religion, but regardless the presence of God in our life will be substituted if not present. Those who are tired of the same old routine church services or being beaten down by those who claim to be Christians don’t want what is fake. They don’t want plain tradition, religion, or judgmental attitudes; they want a genuine encounter with God. Before we can tell them how to act, dress, pray, or whatever else some Christians believe it is their duty to enforce upon the lost who don’t even know God yet, we must obey the Spirit and give the people what it is their soul desires, a genuine encounter with the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ.
After the death of Billy Graham and many great heavyweights of the faith recently, I began to think in my conscious that maybe God is either preparing the next generation for a great move or He has already chosen someone to be the next source of a great awakening in our country. My faith and God’s Word tells us that “He’s not done with us yet.” What I didn’t know is that God was doing quite a work in Kanye West. Yes, you heard that right, the rap artists that has won numerous awards and prided himself off his own abilities to make masterpieces in the music industry. As one can imagine, Christ-like behavior, demeanor, and language is not what the popular hip-hop artist is known for. However, after doing quite a bit of research into Kanye’s life for the past year and seeing some interviews of important people in Kanye’s life, it appears that Kanye has experienced a genuine conversion experience in Christ. He has not only recently produced a gospel album called “Jesus Is King,” but has begun a series of worship services in various cities called “Sunday Service” held in arenas and venues around the country.
I must admit, when I first heard Kanye West had a plan to introduce the gospel in a “music concert” sort of style or fashion, I was a little skeptical. My next thought was that he must be having another “moment.” As it turns out it was nothing of the sort, but rather a product of his newfound genuine faith in Christ. After Kanye’s conversion, he took a familiar path like many of us; however the circumstances were certainly a little different than your average new “babe in Christ.” After hearing Kanye’s testimony, it appears that after his conversion, he began connect with local pastor Adam Tyson. Although Pastor Tyson’s church is not the size of a typical mega-church in California, Kanye somehow connected with the pastor after randomly attending his church for a few weeks. Kanye even began flying Pastor Tyson out to his ranch in Wyoming after a few weeks of meetings and Bible study at the church when Kanye had to travel. It is at that ranch where God began birthing the dream of “Sunday Service” in Kanye. This “service” has not only been effective, it’s attracting a lot of attention outside of the Christian circles. While it is rather early in the series of the event to gather analytics and prove with numbers the impact that the service has, it is obvious that the Sunday Service has had a huge impact on people’s lives all around the world. Just looking in the comments of the archived services on YouTube, you will find comments like “since the day this record came out, my life has changed” and “I met God at this service.”
This article by Rolling Stone is an interview with Kanye’s Choir Director and talks about how Kanye’s vision grew into a reality from simple songs to massive events over a course of a few months:
Looking at it from God’s perspective, Kanye has the perfect platform for God to impact the world through. He has a following of millions all across the world (even though there have been radical statements and scandals that have turned some away from him in the past), he has some of the greatest live performance skills of anyone ever in the music industry, he’s been a producer for nearly his entire career, and he has the financial resources to do much of it without any resources being fronted to him. However, all these things can also be obstacles to someone who can’t handle such access to resources and popularity. The great thing is that Kanye has risen out of such an environment by the strength of God and although he has chased all of these idols in the past, he now seeks God above it all. This is an artist who I listened to as a young man while he blasphemed against God, calling himself the savior. He now not only claims Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he professes that his new purpose is to “serve and glorify Christ in all he does.” In one service Kanye even mentions how, “the devil had me chasing a golden statue (referring to music awards),” but now he chases God and the purpose that God has given him.
So, what is it about Sunday Service that works so well? Well, remember what I said about the people thirsting for a genuine gospel? This is what I was talking about! A recent convert, fresh off a year-long growing process in the Lord, fired up by a dream planted by God with all the resources needed to share the gospel through the methods that the enemy once used him for being genuine with the people. That is what works folks. Billy Graham wasn’t just effective because he was a good preacher (I actually believe my local pastor may be more gifted in that aspect), but Billy Graham was a genuine believer who was on fire for God and was given the tools necessary to share it with the masses. He knew how to connect with the everyday people of American and Kanye knows how to not only connect with much of the world, but especially the younger generations of America.
Sunday Service doesn’t do away with traditional Christian songs or even many of the traditional church methods of having service. The service still utilizes a choir, sing old gospel hymns, and include preacher giving the gospel message. What it does incorporate however are the smooth music production skills of Kanye and other professionals God has placed in his life, along with keeping the basics of the gospel intact throughout the entire theme of the service. At points throughout the service you may hear the testimony of Kanye himself and many other subtle elements that are effective at delivering the gospel message. Even the worship music crosses over cultural boundaries. I may be no musician, but I know good worship music that helps me connect with God when I hear it. During the first Sunday Service, the worship songs varied from traditional black gospel to hymns and included added flavors of genres such hip-hop, reggae, and many others. While this may certainly be outside the boundaries for many who are used to the “traditional” ways of worship and doing things, we also realize that these services aren’t mostly geared towards seasoned believers, but the world who will be reached by Kanye’s methods. While many in the church may have spiritually grown past being attracted to this type of service, remember that every ministry has its own culture. Kanye’s culture in this season of his walk will be one of attracting the lost into a genuine encounter with God.
When God does a work in someone like Kanye, it does awesome things to the confidence and faith of a whole generation. What our nation and the entire world frankly needs is a movement of God sourced in the youth framework of this country. When great revivals come about in the young generations, the movement has an impact not just for today, but for generations to come. While the world may be changing (and not always for the good), God is doing great things among the spiritual warfare brewing all around us. Psalm 27:3 tells us, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.”
Let us not continually discount and dismiss the work God is doing in Kanye, but let us celebrate what the Lord has done. Even if Mr. West is lead by the wayside tomorrow, the work that has already been done through the dream that God has manifested through the hands of this man, will continue to have a spiritual impact for generations to come. Let us learn a lesson to take back to our own local ministries in that genuine faith, genuine love, and getting back to the basics of Christ is what the people need and are seeking. Big conversions like Kanye’s surely won’t stop today, as he isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last. The question is, with the mighty army of servants that God has prepared in these last days plowing the fields and sowing the seeds, is the local church ready? Are we ready for the harvest God has for us at hand, or are we idly standing by waiting for rain, as the harvests pass us by? Let us not miss this opportunity due to closed-minded arrogance in our legalistic and selfish ways, but embrace what God is doing even in the most corrupt corners of our society. Isn’t that just like Jesus? From the penthouse to the whore house, God is doing a work in us!
Here are some archived videos from the previously recorded Sunday Services: