Hip Hop, the Gospel and Worship

Early last summer some of my staff and I were on an Acts 17 mission driving around our community observing the culture. There are several churches in our area that are trying very similar things in ministry and outreach to reach very similar people. But, during our drive we noticed a segment of the population who is largely neglected. They were 19-29 year old young men who play basketball nearly every single day, wear baggy clothes strategically placed to show off inked skin, work (or don’t work) part time to support various addictions, go from relationship to relationship sometimes producing children, and are heavily influenced regardless of race by hip hop music. These men, we recognized, may be directionless now and lacking maturity, but in reality they are the future of our community. They are in desperate need of being rescued by King Jesus and maturing into a manhood that is more about biblical masculinity than a macho bravado and locker room mentality. We decided that we were going to try our best and go after these guys.

What did we do? We started an open gym night in an amazing gym facility that God has provided at our campus. We began to have 20 or so guys showing up every week with whom we were building relationships. Then, we began to plan and promote a community 3 on 3 tournament. The event was a huge success. We had over 150 people in attendance. That meant more relationships and more chances for Gospel witness because since then we have been having at least 50 guys show up for each week’s open gym. What was the next step?

When we took that drive back in the summer and observed this sub-culture we recognized immediately two predominant things that interested them: basketball and hip hop music. We knew that we had the facilities and guys who could connect with these young men through basketball. We said, “This is out there but what might really be cool is a hip hop service of some kind with open gym afterwards…” But, we said we are as far from hip hop as anybody can be. Then, Ronnie Parrott, our student minister and contributor at Baptist 21, told me that he knew of a Christian rapper who goes to Boyce College. He is really good. He is with Cross Movement. His name is “Flame”. He is nationally known and travelled. He is theologically sound and lyrically talented. He uses hip hop as a medium to communicate Gospel theology. His last two albums, “Our World Fallen” and “Our World Redeemed,” have walked listeners through the Grand Story of Redemption. So, we decided to approach him and get his counsel on how to use hip hop to reach out to some of these guys. We began a friendship with him, and he was extremely gracious in giving ideas on what this might look like. We tossed around all kinds of ideas from concerts to hip hop services. We decided that we would begin the basketball events to meet people, develop relationships, etc. Then, we would begin to incorporate hip hop. So, our next step/event is this Friday night November 21. We will be hosting off-campus at a community center gym a hip hop concert with 3 point and dunk contests plus free food. Flame will be there to entertain and share his testimony with these guys.

There has been a lot of discussion lately in evangelical circles about contextualization, which mediums can be redeemed, what mediums can be used to communicate the Gospel, etc. Even the issue of Christian Rap has become quite popular. Dr. Russell Moore interviewed Flame on the Albert Mohler Radio Show. They discussed the merits of using hip hop as a Christian medium. Both Mark Driscoll and the Worship Pastor at Mars Hill recently interviewed Lecrae, another Christian artist with Reach Records who has everything from hip hop albums to a curriculum through the Pauline Epistles to manhood studies. You can download all of these interviews on itunes.

I would like to hear from you. What do you think about Christian Rap? Do you think Hip Hop, with all of its baggage and connotations, can be used as a medium that faithfully communicates the Gospel of King Jesus to lost young men? What would be your opinion of incorporating elements of hip hop in a worship service? Let me know.

If you want more info on the event this Friday go to www.comingtothevalley.com