I just read the long profile of rapper Lecrae in the Huffington Post. You should read it. Here’s a swatch:
“I’m digesting C.S. Lewis and Tim Kellers and so on and so forth, Francis Schaeffer,” Lecrae said, referencing some of the most influential evangelical thinkers of the last half-century. “I’m seeing how they’ve affected culture and politics and science and so on and so forth, with implicit faith versus explicit faith.”
I love who Lecrae is reading. More Christians should read these folks. As a result of the example of folks like Lewis, Keller, and Schaeffer, Lecrae lives in Atlanta. The article explains more:
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.
“I live in Atlanta because Ludacris lives in Atlanta,” Lecrae said at the Christian leader conference last fall. “And because T.I. lives in Atlanta, and because Lil Wayne comes to Atlanta to hang out all the time, and because Rick Ross’ engineers are in Atlanta. I live in Atlanta because I’m from that world, and I can engage that world, and I can go to these studios, and I can have conversations, and I can wrestle with things back and forth with them.”
I love this vision. Each of the three figures mentioned above–Lewis, Keller, and Schaeffer–lived (or live) amongst unbelievers. I think that was probably why they were able to find a wide audience, because they had to meet the challenge of communicating to a skeptical, cosmopolitan crowd. I applaud Lecrae for embracing this call. It’s not an easy call, and I’m sure that like other public Christians, he faces regular temptation. I am glad, though, to see him filling this role.
In fact, let me just go ahead and say this: I think believers should lay off of Lecrae. He’s putting out excellent music, he clearly wants to be a witness to a severely under-evangelized crowd, and the Lord is blessing his way. We have lots of artists who make music for the church. I’m deeply thankful for them, and listen to many in this category. We need more, though, who have the inclination and vision to speak to folks beyond the church.
This is not to say that one form of ministry is better than the other. That’s silly. There can be different roles for different people, though. We shouldn’t be threatened by that as believers.
I don’t think Lecrae is perfect. No one is. But I wonder if a good percentage of the criticism that Lecrae receives comes from folks who either don’t get Schaefferian cultural engagement–in which you actually enter the world to be a witness to it–or are jealous of his success. To the first, I wonder if a good number of believers are, in the end, uncomfortable with true cultural engagement. We often say we like it, but many of us evangelicals are vastly more comfortable inside the church walls than outside them. To the second, well, never underestimate the power of jealousy.
Let’s leave Lecrae alone. Better yet: let’s pray for him, encourage him, and be thankful to God for his growing voice.
(Image: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)