Christians Who Make Art, Not Christian Artists

I admit, I grew up in the heyday of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM). Jars of Clay had gotten play on MTV, dc Talk was still together, and even my non Christian friends would ask to borrow my P.O.D. CDs. But as I entered my teenage years, a lot of my favorite Christian bands stared to get more play time on the secular radio. Switchfoot’s Meant to Live was played on the top hits radio station, Skillet started gaining traction within mainstream audiences and all the while I kept hearing the phrase, “I don’t want to be known as a Christian band. I want to be known as a band who is made up of Christians.” Being the incredibly mature and thoughtful homeschooler I was, I was convinced my favorite bands were selling out and were becoming just like the world. Yet as I’ve grown and started wrestling through these issues myself, I’ve started to realize how right a lot of those people were.

Enter Lecrae. I was introduced to Lecrae by my youth pastor during my senior year of high school (06-07) and he quickly became my favorite rapper. Up until that point I was frustrated with Christian’s lack of innovation within music, especially within rap. His songs “Send Me” “Aliens” and “Represent” quickly became my go to pump up songs before any basketball games. I finally had a Christian rapper I wasn’t embarrassed to show to my friends! Over the past couple years, Lecrae has now broken into the mainstream rap scene, with number 1 selling albums on iTunes, number 1 selling album on Billboard and appearances on BET. Yet through all this success Lecrae hasn’t backed away from his Christian convictions. In fact, he’s continued to take a strong stand for his beliefs, and many other people are starting to take notice. The Huffington Post just wrote a piece today titled ‘This Is What Happens When Hip-Hop Lets the Saints In.’ It’s a very telling piece that gets to the heart of why Lecrae does what he does. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but some very good excerpts:

“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent,” Lewis wrote.

C.S. Lewis was a man so far ahead of his time. This shows exactly what so many of the bands I liked were trying to do: be faithful in their calling and then use that calling as a way to make Jesus’ name great (John 3:30).

“The hard-lined wing of evangelicalism that would criticize someone like Lecrae for ‘selling out’ is a very small piece of the evangelical world these days. If anything, American evangelicalism prizes recognition and engagement in mainstream culture these days,” said D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power, and now the president of Gordon College.

This is a very true statement, but a very important one. Conservative Evangelicals who attack someone like Lecrae seem to be the loudest group out there. Yet often those Christians who are attacking Lecrae fail to see the pride in their own eyes. I’m encouraged by the general trend of Evangelicalism to neither hide from the culture, but also not become exactly like the culture. We need more Christians like Lecrae or Tim Tebow who are able to do incredibly well at their jobs and use it as a way to proclaim Christ.

Lecrae believes that the best way to change popular culture, and ultimately to make a difference in people’s lives, isn’t to attack others, but to build trust through personal relationships. In 2007 he moved to Atlanta, the center of the Southern rap world. It was a professional decision, giving him the opportunity to network and build his career. But it has also given him a chance to speak about his faith to influential members of the hip-hop community.

This is something I’ve been saying for years now. The confrontational model of evangelism was most effective 10-20 years ago (if it was even effective at all!). Today we need to be building inroads to unbelievers, or the “nones” as they’ve been called, over a long period of time and through many conversations. It’s not enough to simply say you’re a believer, leave a tract and think you’ve done your duty. It’s going to take a long time of someone seeing the way you live and seeing that you’re different before they’ll be willing to trust and believe you.

“The most stressful part is coming from the Christian side. Because everybody has a standard and a conviction that they believe you need to be living by,” he (Lecrae) said.

This is the part the hurts me the most. The group of people who should be encouraging Lecrae and lifting him up in prayer are the very ones who are blasting him. I hope and pray we continue to have more people like Lecrae who are gifted in areas and can begin to actively engage with the culture in ways they’ll listen. Lecrae is reaching people I could never dream of reaching, and God is continuing to bless Lecrae’s faithfulness. I hope that we can continue lifting him and the others on his label up in prayer that they will stand strong against the temptations of the world.

I also hope that Lecrae is setting the stage to make it easier for people to follow in his footsteps. As we continually engage culture my hope is that we can start becoming the trend setters. I get tired of hearing cheap knock-offs of secular songs, but genuinely enjoy when I hear something innovative coming from a believer. We are called to do everything we do to the best of our abilities at to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). What do you need to do to become a better and more faithful example of Christ to the world today?

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