Casualties of War
It has been quite some time since Craig Lewis and Ex Ministries came on the scene and launched an assault on the whole of secular and Christian Hip Hop. Many of us laboring as indigenous missionaries to the hip hop community found ourselves ripped by the shrapnel of his claims. Internal bickering and disputing erupted within the church resulting in many casualties of this “war.” Sadly, there has been much damage to Christ’s body. Some people have been convinced that regardless of how Christo-centric and biblically laced a person from the Hip Hop community, he or she is an accomplice of the devil. Therefore, certain Christian Hip Hop heads have been repeatedly insulted by their Christian leaders, banished by their church family, boycotted, and despised because of their form of Christian ministry. Our CD’s have been burned in bonfires, and some individuals have been forced to renounce their affiliation with the Christian Hip Hop mission field.
In spite of this, others see how totally ungrounded this perspective is, and, based on 1 Corinthians 12:1-3, have decided to be even more dedicated to Jesus Christ and His lordship. Based on the truth of God’s revealed word, we are more confident than ever that God has graciously opted to save individuals within the culture of Hip Hop—like He has from every other fallen category of people. He has since taken us converts and dispatched us to a world that sees Hip Hop as a social phenomenon capable of affecting the urban and suburban scene one way or another. When you are passionate about seeing the Hip Hop engulfed urban landscape affected for Jesus Christ, you get excited at the thought of a redeemed community of hip hoppers being one of God’s tools to change the spiritual tide. So, whatever skepticism has come our way since Craig Lewis began tricking people, we take as “par for the course.”
Calm After the Storm
As divine providence would have it, after causing almost universal skepticism of Christian Hip Hop, the “minister” himself came under the eye of suspicion because of certain allegations and skeletons in his closet. All of this has caused a wave of confusion that has neither honored the Lord nor brought credibility to His church. Yet I sense a settling to the whole thing—a calming of this unnecessary storm. Indeed, immaturity keeps some people battling over “this and that,” but the lines seem to have been drawn, and “it is what it is.” With that being said, in the words of Paul the great apostle, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).
If you’ve been distracted from the Lord’s commission, it is time to get back to business. In spite of any momentary set-backs, confusion, and trouble, life after Craig Lewis goes on. He’s probably permanently apart of the church scene now, accepted by many as the tool of God to “stomp out the devil.” This should not surprise us. The Scriptures say, some in the church will “…accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This is surely what has given Lewis so much momentum—he teaches what many already believed (because of their social prejudices)and wanted to hear. Even though Hip Hop was something they never studied (from a social and theological perspective), engaged in, or cared about, they allowed a “false word” about it to thrive in the church. The result: he became a hero, and his myths became “doctrine.” That’s ok, things are settling down, and those who have “ears to hear” hear, and those who have “itching ears” are having them tickled.
Back At It
God never promised us that in this life all hostility would cease. Those who have withstood Lewis’ deception live on; and we must stop arguing about things that don’t profit. The mission continues—we must not only glance at what is in the rear-view mirror, but focus on what is outside the windshield. Forget what’s behind, in a sense; let us plow ahead in obedience to the Great Commission. A world is dying and in need of God’s missionary agent called the Church. Cities are in a worse state than ever. Philly has over 1 million people that don’t know Jesus, and 75% of the men in jail are African American males who undoubtedly love Hip Hop culture. Urban and suburban kids are exposed to godlessness at such early ages that today’s most creative and spunky sinners are often “young” people. Kids (Christian and non-Christian) are more ruthless, more disobedient to parents, more relativistic, and more self-absorbed than ever. Secular Hip Hop is a leading influencer of this mentality and someone must lovingly, but aggressively contend for the faith among that group of people.
So, returning to my original premise—my “thesis”—the church must be the missionary agent who carries the message of reconciliation to hip hop-filled cities and suburbs. The godlessness of hip hop is a perfect impetus for dispatching Christian missionary agents who are indigenous to that context so that the church will honor the need to both contend for the faith and contextualize for the culture. We need more than rappers; we need Christians who care about people who don’t necessarily look, dress, or act like them. We need believers everywhere to directly or vicariously (through someone else) “tabernacle for awhile among them.” Who could have the guts and the gall to hang out among the sinful Hip Hop context? I believe if no one else will, at least the convert who has been delivered from the clutches of godless hip hop. This would be considered indigenous missions.
We Need Jesus More than Ever
Cross Movement has always been an advocate of Christo-centrism in everything including Christian rap. More than ever Jesus must be the focus of this mission, and the message of these missionaries. Although it seems that most people today prefer mindless rap—being entertained by simplicity such as “chicken noodle soup with a soda on the side,”—the deep things of God must be offered during times like these. May we never let our message spread further than His message, nor our fame eclipse the fame of the One who sends us. Mark 6 documents the sending out of the disciples for ministry, saying that after they had gone out and come back,“[Jesus’] name had become known” (14). Their “going out” resulted in the His name becoming known (14). Most hip hop artists want their names known, but the type of missionary I’m talking about determines to go out and blow the name of Jesus up.
We Need Life More than Lyrics
Many of the accusations levied against the Christian Hip Hop community are true. For this reason, I believe that Paul’s admonition to Timothy is an appropriate admonition for all young Christian leaders (hip hop or not), “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” The way to combat people like Lewis is not with arguments on a message board. We must display exemplary Christian behavior so that those who judge us by our externals would be ashamed when they see the Christ-likeness of our internals.
Again, Paul tells Titus in regards to younger believers, “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (2:7-8). You see, sadly, your youthfulness is a strike against you in today’s culture, just like it was in Paul’s. The only way to combat this is to be boomin’ in your Christian character, and not just churchy or nominally Christian.
Let Us Move OnSo, we continue blessing the name of our God, praying that he separates the wheat from the chaff, the shepherd from the hireling, the true pastor from the false prophet, and the useful Christian hip hopper from the useless one. Life goes on and so does the call of God. No more fussing over clearly bogus teachings, which don’t profit anyone. We must all remember that “the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…” (2 Tim 2:24). Let us press on to maturity in Christ, and declare His name among every context that God graciously allows—from Hip Hop to the ends of the earth.