The Biblical Model for Urban Christian Hip Hop Outreach
Make no mistake. God is at work in transforming the lives of our youth through Christian Hip-Hop. But there is a strange cultural dichotomy at work right before our eyes. Most Christian Hip-Hop artists, with a few exceptions are Black. But most fans who love the music, memorize the lyrics, buy the albums, and attend the concerts are suburban, white kids.
Personally, I’ve been amazed. I’ve been a fan of Christian Hip-Hop for perhaps the past four to five years. When I first got hip to the scene (by my eldest daughter), I discovered that many of my fellow Christians in a predominantly white bible study I teach at the office, were not only familiar with Lecrae, but heavily saturated in Christian Hip-Hop. But Black members of my own church would rather listen to ungodly, vulgar trash (secular hip-hop) than give these artists a spin.
In my house, we are totally “set apart” from secular (i.e. “godless”) music. I’ve guarded my home from the influence of the popular but carnal philosophies as effectively as I possibly could. It’s not allowed in my car, my house or on my kid’s iPods. The fruit has been sweet.
Two years ago, I took my daughter to the Unashamed Tour stop in Dallas-Fort Worth for her birthday. She loved it! We didn’t have tickets or money for gas, but I told her, we’re going to go and trust God by faith because I promised you we would go. We got there an hour early and a guy was selling tickets that his church group bought but they were not going to use. We ended up getting Row 7 seats. It was awesome! Near the end of the concert, which was like a worship experience, my daughter looked over at me with a beaming smile and said, “Daddy, this has been the best birthday of my life.” As I rejoiced inside, I was overcome with this thought: “OMG, my daughter is in love with righteousness!” As I looked at the brothers who were in the crowd, I thought, “There is hope for the future. Not everyone has bowed their knee to Baal…”
Yet something was missing. Over the past few years, it’s become painfully obvious the frustration many Christian Hip-Hop artists face. They dedicated themselves to mastering their craft, tirelessly working at ensuring their lyrics are theologically sound and yet, it seems that the hearts of many Black listeners, including Black Christians, Churches, and gospel radio stations, have hardened their hearts and rejected their music. In contrast, many white, suburban churches have readily accepted them and booked them for concerts, supported their ministries and even helped sponsor their careers.
Over the past few years, we have seen a number of artists wrestle with what seems to be an age-old battle of our collective conscience: “Am I compromising if I tweak my music and relationships in order to go mainstream or am I being faithful to the call to missions by reaching people who are perhaps un-churched with my music?” We’ve seen artists leave labels, release mix-tapes and reject labels all in response to an honest frustration with the reality of this cultural malaise we find ourselves in.
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