What if Kanye West opened a church?


Maybe it’s not that much a ridiculous prospect as you might think. Imagine it. Kanye West has brought literally millions of people to watch or take part in his Sunday Services. Maybe he could go one step further and become Pastor Kanye.

OK let’s take a step back. Kanye West. Yes, that Kanye West who started his rapping career talking about his gratitude for surviving a serious car crash. Yes, also that Kanye West who in the eyes of many became an egomaniacal monster who became increasingly wild, erratic and more uncontrollable with each album. And yes, that Kanye West who brought Jesus into the mainstream conversation before it was cool. Chance the Rapper wasn’t the first to do it, you know.

Kanye has been holding Sunday Services throughout the year and they have been generating a lot of interest online. There was the one where he led his choir to do a cover of Fred Hammond’s This is the Day. There was also the service held at Coachella, the music festival held in the Colorado desert. The videos show Kanye and his choir leading outdoor worship sessions. And it looks genuine and people are there to take part.

The most recent Sunday Service took place in the LA neighbourhood of Watts where a certain Brad Pitt even passed by to see what was happening. The Watts service included the choir doing their own gospel version of Tupac’s California Love. The video has over two million views.

The Sunday Service has already been going since January and is a regular event, albeit in different locations and on an invite-only basis. But they drive so much engagement and conversation.

So the question is this. Can a controversial figure such as Kanye West open a church? And if he did, would you go?

The obvious Christian response is ‘Of course not’. But if the rapper is bringing new people to worship services, is it a bad thing?

Read the comments under a lot of the Sunday Service videos and you’ll see a lot of people saying that if church was like this, they would go every week. Is there a wider failing in the church then that is stopping young people especially from being engaged at regular services?

QUICK HIT: Kanye West has won 21 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most successful artists at the awards of all time.

One thing we can see from all of this is the power of music as a form of worship and expression. You can’t take it lightly that music has helped people discover Christ for the first time, it encourages them at their low points and it helps them celebrate their mountain-top moments. Music’s biggest stars have huge influence – whether they are from the Christian scene or not. And as such, when the artists want to lead the conversation about faith, it will never go unheard if their platforms are big enough.

Yes, Christians will be quick to pour scorn on the suggestion of a rapper like Kanye being responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of a congregation. And that isn’t the intention of his Sunday Services, at least for now. But it does bring up the discussion of should we shut down the idea just because it’s Kanye.

Given what we know about Kanye, it’s very easy to feel uncomfortable about his Sunday Services. But don’t many of us have pasts we aren’t massively keen for people to know about. Wait, some of us even have presents that we aren’t fond of. And as scandals break out within church circles, it’s a constant reminder that pastors aren’t perfect. They’re human beings. The only difference maker is the God they’re following who is giving them the grace and capability to lead congregations. A failing of many churches is to place too much emphasis on the person on the stage instead of the God they’re representing.

Would we be queueing up to attend a church led by Kanye West? No. But people take many different paths to find their saviour. Maybe newcomers attending a Kanye Sunday Service might be drawn by the music but could end up finding a more, shall we say, conventional church home. It’s Jesus that would be transforming their hearts anyway.

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