This is an article written by Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae about how Christian Hip-Hop and Christian music in general needs to develop. It was originally published on May 21, 2012 and is titled Church Clothes – Purpose, Passion, Progression. It’s a bit lengthy but definitely worth the read.
Thanks to everyone who is downloading and spreading the “Church Clothes” mixtape (click to download Church Clothes).
I’m blown away at the response. It’s humbling and pushes me to keep going.
At the beginning of my musical career, my intention was to enrich and give hope to the listener (it still is). I was volunteering at a halfway house, and the young men there embraced Hip Hop music that encouraged their low ideals and detrimental perspectives. Over the years, some, due to their new found faith in God, had their ideals changed but now had few musical offerings. There were always Christians doing Hip Hop, but the music was usually inaccessible or unpopular. I would listen to the radio and wonder where was the Christian’s perspective being heard in Hip Hop culture? “Contemporary Christian Music” had developed, “Gospel” had its lane, but where was Hip-Hop that articulated faith in Jesus? Hard to find.
Interestingly enough, those genres are the only ones categorized based off the content and not the style of music. Though it gives people identifying marks for their music, it can also (in many ways) limit their reach. Many people take these titles to mean the music is for an exclusively Christian audience. If indeed the true Gospel is what transforms people outside the faith, then why should the term Gospel seem exclusive to those in the faith? Of course that’s not the intention, it’s just a reality that any missionary should consider.
As far as Hip Hop music done well by Christians, there were always a few groups and artists over the years that helped ease my woes; but I was not at all content. The general market was flooded with Hip Hop artists, but I rarely heard anything that embodied a worldview that God would endorse. Trying to be a part of the solution, I took to the studio and recorded an album. It captured my southern roots, love for lyricism, and I tried to make it as current in production as I could. (I produced most of it.) The result was a tool for my fellas at the halfway house and other areas with similar struggles. That project opened doors for me to travel a bit—mostly prisons, churches and inner city outreaches—and perform my songs. I found that I had a gift for catalyzing people toward truth and creating anthems for Christians to live sacrificially and unashamedly for their faith.
Personally, I couldn’t simply talk about change. I had to be apart of it, so I spent my life living in the inner city, doing foreign missions and serving in the local church. All of that was ammunition for my Rebel album. My life bled out in that project, and the result was God showing tremendous fruit and people’s lives being transformed by His power.
But one problem I faced was that, in my hood, only the kids in after school programs and the Christians were feeling it. Sure, some were rejecting the Gospel but others didn’t give it a spin at all due to the labels placed on it. I was respected by my non-religious friends, but my music to them was very limited and didn’t speak to any areas of life other than salvation and living right. I sought advice and was led to books by people like Francis Shaffer, CS Lewis and others. (There are links below.)
I was challenged in more ways than you can imagine.
Desperate to help the lost, broken and hurting, I tried building relationships with my newfound understanding. It was difficult and awkward, but God showed me plenty of grace. People came to Jesus and grew deeply, and I found I was liberated and matured in ways I could not articulate.
I’m starting to get it. God hasn’t changed my vision, He’s expanded it.
Only 4% of all Americans have a biblical worldview and only 10% of Christians see the world with a biblical lens. (There’s a test link below to check ya self!)
We tend to wear bifocals—partially seeing things as spiritual and seeing other things as secular or non-spiritual.
We limit spirituality to salvation and sanctification. As long as we are well versed in personal piety and individual salvation, we think we’re good. But most Christians have no clue how to engage culture in politics, science, economics, TV, music or art. We tend to leave people to their own devices there.
We subscribe to views like, “Politics and movies are evil or of the devil,” and we don’t touch them. Leaving them to be dominated by non-biblical worldviews. Or, since we don’t have a philosophy or filter, we do it the way culture says to…chasing vain ambition.
Most professing Christians have no idea how to direct their careers with biblical lenses, but instead of praying for and offering solutions we usually just shake our heads and dismiss these “sellouts & compromisers.”
We are missing out on the gospel’s power of redemption and glorification in all things.
The whole idea of a secular/sacred divide was born because ancient Greeks (specifically Plato) thought matter (or things) was preexisting and eternal. They thought matter contained the ability to resist the gods or just God–making it evil. But as Christians, we defeat that claim with the doctrine that only God is preexisting and eternal. He is the source of ALL creation.
PSALM 24:1 “The Earth is the Lord’s and all it contains.”
In Genesis 1, God repeatedly identifies His creation as good, meaning no part of creation is inherently bad or evil.
Paul in 1 Tim 4:4 says, “Everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
I can already hear people saying, “So pornography and crack is good if embraced with thanksgiving!?” Obviously not. The origin of objects and God’s intended function are what’s good; it’s man’s direction that distorts them. So the origin and function of sex is good, but the depravity of man to direct and distort it into pornography is a manifestation of man’s darkened heart.
Is there such a thing as evil music? Well, the artist’s heart may be evil and because of that you are hearing their heart. Matt 12:34 says that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The heart is therefore the problem, not the music. Changed hearts produce changed music.
When Adam and Eve rebelled, they sinned. The trees didn’t sin, the ground didn’t sin, humanity sinned. The natural world was, however, affected by human sin. Humans were the housekeepers of God’s creation, so their sin had a ripple affect into the natural world.
Humanity had authority and there is a consequence for authority. If the owner of a house is lazy, the house is going to catch the effect of his laziness. It’s going to look ragged and filthy. It’s not that the house wants to look ugly or creepy, but the people’s sin has affected it. Even good things fall to the depravity of people.
Evil and disorder are not intrinsic, built-in or inherent in material things like art, dance, or alcohol. “The heart is wicked,” the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9. We take those things and distort them, because the human will and volition are rebellious and wrong.
Paul writes in Romans 14:14 nothing is unclean itself. It becomes unclean when sinners use it to express their rebellion towards God. The line between good and bad is therefore not in the thing, the music, the movie, the politics, but in the heart.
A butcher knife is usually depicted as an evil murderous tool. But God made the ore and wood and man can use it to make a knife that cuts food and feeds people.
A skull is typically viewed as evil and demonic, but God made skulls. We all have them and they are VERY good. They protect our brains! So wearing a skull on your shirt doesn’t make you less of a Christian, even though society has given it negative associations.
All this to say that the “secularizing” of things or music speaks more to the heart’s intention on not painting a picture that God would endorse. After all, food, music and school buildings are just things. They don’t have a soul or mind and can’t have intentions. The people who are involved in them do.
Worldliness does not mean engaging culture, it’s when the culture shapes your thoughts over God. Jesus prayed we would remain in the world but protected. He also tells us the gates of Hell will not prevail against us. Gates were established to protect cities, so for the gates not to prevail would mean we are trying to storm them. We are here to engage culture not run from it.
Wrestling with worldly ideas challenges us and gives us new ways to depend on God. Is this my new direction? No, it’s just an expansion on what I’ve already been doing.
Will I continue to write songs like “Don’t Waste Your Life” and “Go Hard”? ABSOLUTELY! But after seeing how powerfully God is using my latest efforts, I will also write songs to engage culture and speak to things that humanity in general will wrestle with and think on.
So, thank you for supporting me and helping the success of the mission and vision. I’m not concerned at all with being a “star”. I got in this to bring hope and that’s how I’m going out.
Biblical Worldview Testing – http://www.nehemiahinstitute.com/peers_test.htm
Francis Shaffer – http://amzn.to/KnKnab
Chuck Coloson – http://amzn.to/JWeM1Y
Nancy Pearcy – http://amzn.to/Lng2Q7
CS Lewis – http://amzn.to/J9A4bs