Luke, the doctor. Peter, the fisherman. Matthew, the tax-collector. How about Chance, the rapper? A bird's-eye analysis of last night's Grammy Awards Show.
DISCLAIMER: I don't know Chance personally. These are simply my thoughts from watching his performance last night at the Grammy's. Enjoy!
Bringing Church To You
Last night, Chancellor Bennett (a.k.a. "Chance the Rapper") received three Grammy Awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Album. But his live performance of "How Great/All We Got" left millions speechless. You can watch it here.
For me, it's encouraging to watch a 23-year old rapper use one of the largest platforms in American television to proclaim the name of our Lord, Jesus. While accepting his first-ever Grammy award, Chance said, "Glory be to God; I claim victory in the name of the Lord!" In an industry where it's challenging to bring his peers to church, Chance brought church to his peers. And that's something I believe, we, as Christians, can learn from.
Earlier this morning, I met with a friend I've been mentoring to read Ephesians 2 together. Before we got started, I asked him about this topic, and he shared some gracious insight. We talked about the importance of utilizing your platform for the glory of God, and how this requires us to make much of God, instead of making an idol of ourselves, or our platforms. This idea comes from the truth we find in the book of John:
John 3:29-30, "Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less."
It is God's intention that we would find extraordinary joy through the increase of Jesus, not ourselves. If, at any point, our lives become focused on ourselves, we must decrease. God created Jesus to be the main character of life, not us. In other words, we must constantly guard our hearts from idolizing anything apart from God himself, which distract us from the glory God gets.
Our platforms, our bodies, our minds: they are only temporary. Whatever is not eternal is not worthy of your hope, your faith, and your trust. God, the living, eternal God, is worthy of all these things, and much more.
Say "No" to "Cookie-Cutter Christianity"
Lately, I've realized how quick we, as Christians, can wrongfully put famous icons on a pedestal and worship them. And when they don't fit a certain mold or cut, we knock them off that same pedestal. Imagine what our world would look like if we abandoned "cookie-cutter Christianity" altogether? Or if the only icon we valued as being worthy of our worship was Jesus?
Can we be real with one another and agree that diversity is a God-given gift, including diversity in the way we use our God-given platforms? Our culture, especially within the church, creates these molds that icons who bear the name of Christ need to fit. And for whatever reason, it makes people uncomfortable to support a "secular rapper" who chooses to bring glory to God without explicitly classifying himself as a "Christian rapper".
Maybe it's the explicit language in some of his songs. But even the language points to a struggle in faith, which isn't uncommon to Christians. We've created this idea that you can't struggle if you have faith in God. But can we be honest and agree that, sometimes, it's challenging, which can lead to wrestling with doubts in our walk with Christ?
Also, I think it's important to note two things here: (1) I'm not condoning the use of explicit language. But the heart behind what Chance is trying to convey shows a wrestling with faith that causes him to rely on Jesus, which I can support. (2) Biblically-speaking, there is nothing wrong with seeking joy in our works. In fact, we should be seekers of joy, including the way we receive joy and blessings from telling others about Jesus.
With that being said, Chance doesn't need to conform to any mold other than the one which God has called him to, according to the gifts God has given him.
And the same goes for you. Be who God intended you to be, and find a way to glorify Him with the gifts and talents and platform He has blessed you with. Then, let's encourage others to do the same, and celebrate how God has made each of us unique. This helps us glorify God in all that we do, as we are called to do so in Scripture.
Therefore, we can work diligently to be skillful in things like rapping, or writing, and still become more aware of our present reality and experience, while using our gifts and platforms to tell others about Jesus from a Christian worldview.
God equips the "called"
I'll admit: I was not a fan of Chance the Rapper before last night. And I don't even know if I consider myself one now (give me a little time, though). But my opinion on music matters little. What truly matters here is that this young, aspiring musician used his God-given ability and platform to both rap and speak for giving God His due glory. I won't worship Chance, only God is worthy of worshipping, but I'll stand and cheer alongside him in this good work.
And that's exactly what God has done. Look at the disciples who walked with Jesus during His time on earth. Jesus chose fishermen, a doctor, and a tax-collector. Not pastors. Not Bible scholars. But people who worked outside the church, and were able to help bring church to the world. The church is not a building or a Sunday gathering, but a community of believers out in the world proclaiming the name of Jesus.
Therefore, God isn't searching for people worthy of platforming for His glory. In fact, Scripture tells us nobody is worthy of that kind of spotlight. Instead, God equips those, who faithfully trust in Him, with what is necessary to fulfill His will. Let's ask God to help us remember this piece of Scripture for moments like these:
Hebrews 13:20-21, "Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
May we trust in God that a magnificent work has been done, through Christ. While studying Ephesians 2 this morning, my friend and I observed this work of grace through faith coming to fruition. Take a moment, and read what God has done that makes Him worthy of all praise and glory, that He will justly receive.
How great is our God, that a 23-year old, independent rapper could make history, and give God the glory in that moment? How great is our God, that the name of the Lord was proclaimed through the speakers at the Staples Center and through every tuned television at home. And how great is our God, that His glory and fame are not dependent on any of us, but He graciously uses sinners like you and me to receive all of it:
Philippians 2:9-11, "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Last night was never about Chance, or any other musician. It was a celebration of God-given talent to the glory of God alone. As great as last night was for Chance, he only (yes, I use that cautiously) took home 3 of the 84 total awards presented. And this was the 59th year of the Grammy Awards.
The point is that even on one of the largest stages of the music industry, each individual must share the spotlight. And yet, the only individual who deserves the fame, glory, and praise is Jesus.
By no means do you need to celebrate Chance's decision to use his platform for good. You might disagree with me, and that's okay. But, I choose to cheer him on as he seeks to glorify God with the gifts He has given him. And I pray Chance continues to do so, as God decides to use him to unite people in a fractured, broken, hurting world.
May we learn from this momentary example, and put God first in all that we do, whatever God has gifted us in. Let us seek to bring church to our friends and peers through our words, actions, and attitudes. And God, please help us to remember that this world revolves around Jesus alone, not us.
Jesus is the point of life. Use your God-given gifts and platform to glorify your Maker, your Creator, and your Father in heaven.