The following is a guest post, written by The Urban Gospel Mission, long time Wade-O Radio listeners and supporters. TUGM’s bio and contact info can be found at the bottom of this post. If you’re interested in guest blogging, please contact our managing editor, Mikaela.
One day I was listening to an interview between Phillip Holmes of the Reformed African American Network and president of ReachLife Ministries and former rapper D.A. Horton about ministry and hip-hop. The conversation was very fruitful as D.A. shared much timely wisdom that was not only relevant for Christian artists but also for all believers, as they navigate through the difficulties of glorifying God with their time, talent, and treasure in the urban context. Halfway through the interview, D.A. made a very profound statement that still resonates with me today when he said, “Christian entertainers have now become the third office in the church.”
By making this statement, D.A. was not endorsing the idea that Christians entertainers are to be given the same status of elders and deacons, but he was trying to describe the magnitude of the influence and power these entertainers wield over their thousands of followers. The more I began reflecting on this idea, the more dangerous I realized this newfound development could be, because if these entertainers have hundreds of thousands of people who are hanging onto their every word, who are they held accountable to in order to keep them from abusing their power?
If you make a list and add together all of the Twitter followers of the top five most influential Christian pastors in the Urban Community, you discover that most popular Christian entertainers by themselves have more followers than all five pastors combined. While there is nothing wrong with these entertainers possessing such a large following base, it becomes problematic when people look to these individuals in order to seek godly wisdom instead of turning to those whom God has placed in spiritual leadership over their souls.
When it comes to the Christian faith, a person’s ability and authority to proclaim the gospel is not based upon the articulation or giftedness of the individual, but on their holiness and commitment to God. This is why the Bible holds such a high standard for individuals who desire to be pastors and teachers of the word (James 3:1). In 1 Timothy 3, Paul provides a list for the qualification of an elder in the church, and one of those qualifications says that an elder should not be a recent convert because pride and the enemy can quickly ruin their lives and shame their ministry.
Yet, if we look at the age and maturity of most popular Christian entertainers, we will notice that they are made up of recent converts or young adults who do not have the spiritual maturity that comes through age and sanctification. While most Christian entertainers will never publicly say that people should look to them as preachers’ or pastors, they do have thousands of people hanging on to their every word for spiritual guidance, which should not be taken lightly. I am not advocating for Christian entertainers to adhere to the spiritual standards of an elder, but I am suggesting a spiritual standard that these entertainers should live by that will prevent those who don’t live out the gospel they speak about from deceiving their listeners.
Sadly, in our current celebrity driven culture, we believe an individual’s ability to rap well, throw a football far, or make good movies, makes them godly individuals who are called to preach the gospel. I am not saying these things to attack individuals who posses these gifts, but to call for a higher standard for the Christian entertainer than mere giftedness because you don’t have to be saved by Jesus in order to exercise your talents.
I once had a conversation with rapper Sho Baraka about a point in his life when he was on tour preaching about the importance of the local church, but at the same time not being in attendance in his own local church in months. Sho told me how the Spirit revealed to him that he was guilty of not living out the words he was making music about. Sho’s honesty opened my eyes to see how easy it is for a Christian artist to do as they please without anyone holding them accountable for their personal lives, because people confuse their ability to stir up a crowd with their commitment to the gospel.
The sad thing about most of us and our relationship with our favorite Christian artist, is that we know nothing about them outside of their music. We don’t know their commitment to scriptures, love for the local church, devotion to their wives, or their heart for seeing souls saved. All we know is that they are able to articulate biblical truths in poetic form, which is not a spiritual gift that is bestowed on an individual by the Holy Spirit, but a natural talent that can be given to any man by God, regardless if he is saved or not. As I said in one of my previous articles, “I can guarantee you that Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, or Kayne West can make a good Christian rap song if they wanted to,” because their common grace giftedness allows them to make good music about any subject matter, even if they don’t believe it to be true.
I did not write this article in order to bash or attack the Christian entertainer because God has been using many of these individuals to lead thousands of people to him. I am only trying to challenge the notion that allows entertainers and gifted individuals to speak authoritatively about Christ to hundreds of thousands of people without discerning their character first. As Christian hip-hop becomes more successful and more accepted by mainstream, I fear there will be a rise in artists who will only make Christian music out of a desire to earn profits instead of a heart of reaching people.
As listeners and fans of these Christian entertainers, we should remain on our faces humbly praying to God for their spiritual well-being. We should pray that they find accountability and are committed to their local church in order receive discipleship and discipline that will stir them to godliness. I hope that one day we can judge Christian entertainers not by their giftedness or talents, but by the content of their character. We should not only hold this standard for Christian entertainers, but for any Christian who is heralding the name of Christ to a public audience.