This has happened before. A very well-known celebrity has crossed the line to declare their faith in Jesus Christ. I’ve heard of these stories, read about them, and remember how tragic the results can be.
I’ve been around Christians long enough to develop a love-dislike relationship with the Church. At times she is beautiful, well spoken and full of grace. At other times, she’s a harlot, sucking the life out of people, totally insecure and selling herself to the highest bidder. In effect, the Church lives up well to her Old Covenant counterpart “Gomer” in the book of Hosea.
So this is a word of caution about what Kanye West may soon experience. If you had the chance to check out my message, “Kanye West, C. S. Lewis and Jesus Christ walk into a Bar” I mentioned the fact that Kanye has, like former notable agnostics and athiests before him, converted to Christ in a powerful way. I’m thrilled but I’m also nervous. Celebrity and Christian subculture have a tortuous past.
The first problem is that Christians have a serious insecurity problem. We believe in Jesus but we are often guilty of longing to be liked by the world, especially someone like Kanye. I wish it wasn’t so, but it very often is. We say we believe the scriptures, but then we live like they don’t exist. We point our accusing finger at celebrity culture for their pride and arrogance, and then we create a “Christian” celebrity culture that imitates the secular one almost note for note. We write “Worship” songs that could be pop songs if you simply replace “Jesus” for a word like “you”, “lover” or male/female pronouns. We even take those who should be speaking the truth in love, challenging us and confronting us with sin and elevate them into “Celebrity Pastors.” God help us.
These things, however, are not my main concern for Kanye. Here’s the something else we do. We take a celebrity conversion like this and use it to legitimize our faith thinking it will REALLY evangelize people. I remember reading about how the church treated Bob Dylan when he briefly professed a born-again experience. He was invited to sing for Christian events and pressured to be active in Christian-centric evangelism. It turned him off. I also Pastor a church that had an NFL player preach on occassion at one point. Many parents of teens and 20-year-olds came to me asking when he would preach next so they could bring their children to hear him. Their faith wasn’t in the Gospel, it was in the celebrity. All this was our age-old insecurity driving the bus, supposing if someone “like him” could believe in Jesus, then it must be true. God help us.
I would love to welcome any person of notoriety and fame into a Christian movement that does not share these faults. I would rather us simply rejoice that another sinner has been saved and heaven awaits. I would really love to see the Church embrace Jesus for WHO HE IS instead of what “important” people think about Him. I long for this kind of church, but right now, in America, she’s not there. We are a mess. We are still a work in progress.
We should happily welcome people like Kanye into the fold because of what it means for him, not what it means for us. A celebrity conversion does not legitimize our faith, nor is it necessarily the vehicle to advance our faith. The Gospel is still the POWER OF GOD unto salvation to EVERYONE who believes. The Gospel has always been enough and will always be enough.
So welcome to the family, Kanye. May Christ be enough for you always. May the Church simply welcome you as brother and co-laborer. Come Lord, Jesus, and help us.