The news media recently reported Kanye West’s conversion to Christianity. West is a 42-year old rapper “who has long melded black gospel sounds with secular hip-hop” according to the New York Times. West has won 21 Grammy Awards, sold over 140 million albums, and has 29.2 million people following his Instagram account. He is perhaps best known for a controversial incident with Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, his marriage to Kim Kardashian, and his friendship with President Donald Trump. However, none of this is catching the media’s attention today.
Last week, West hosted a series of listening parties in Detroit, Chicago, and New York. The events, held in churches, showcased West’s new album, “Jesus is King.” The profanity-free album includes songs titled “God is,” “Baptized,” “Sunday,” and “Sweet Jesus.” Unbeknown to his audience, West invited a pastor to speak. In Detroit, Rev. Adam Tyson preached a 12-minute sermon from Isaiah 6. According to Christianity Today, he said, “I’m here to tell you that while our God is the judge over the universe, he’s also a God of mercy and he’s a God of love, and he sent his Son to die on a cross because he loves you.”
Tyson is the pastor of Placerita Bible Church in Santa Clarita, California and a graduate of The Master’s Seminary. West met Tyson after attending his church, which led to a Gospel conversation a week later. Describing his relationship with West, the pastor said, “I want to be faithful to a new brother in the faith, Kanye. I want to help him be connected to the Word of God. I told him, ‘As long as you’re exalting Christ, I’m 100% behind you.” Tyson continues to accompany West at performances but cautions that concerts don’t replace the church.
How Ought Christians to Think about Kanye West’s Conversion?
Christians may form quick opinions and react to a celebrity’s conversion story either dismissively or triumphantly. But before we hit retweet or delete, we need to sober our judgment with the soul’s worth and the Gospel’s power. How ought Christians to think about Kanye West’s conversion?
Be Hopeful, But Not Naive
First, the Gospel is powerful enough to transform anyone’s life. The Apostle Paul described himself as a chief of sinners, and he felt the cold shoulder of hesitant Christians unwilling to believe his conversion (Acts 9:26). Perhaps that is your reaction to Kanye West. A wait-and-see attitude with folded arms is quite different from a hopeful relationship started with an embrace. The Great Commission requires discipling when it says, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This means that every profession of faith should be followed by faithfulness. You will know believers by their fruit (John 15:8).
Be Cautious, But Not Pessimistic
Wisdom requires that Christians be cautious, and caution is a good virtue. Isn’t it good to be cautious when you drive through a traffic light? The answer is “yes” because caution equals safety. Salvation is an intersection of life and must be navigated with wisdom. Young believers need answers to questions, prayers for assurance, and good discipling before baptism. They need a church to love, teach, and protect them. Hostility, power, and fame are no match against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God delights in rescuing sinners from the penalty of their sin and angels rejoice when a sinner repents.
Be Accepting, But Not Opportunistic
As with every new Christian, fellow-believers must help, pray, and encourage their spiritual growth. 2 Corinthians 5:17 expects change, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” While all Christians can pray for Kanye West’s spiritual growth, Christians close to him should make it their aim to disciple him. A word of warning is necessary for Christians, pastors, and churches: we must never exploit fame for evangelism. Christianity never serves well as an adjective for celebrity. Christ needs no publicist. Our goal is not to make the Gospel popular, but to make it known.
Pastor Michael Wilburn