Of all the things I ever dreamed I would be writing about in 2020, this one never even crossed my mind. But here I am, on a quiet Tuesday morning, tapping out words about what I saw and experienced Strength to Stand this weekend.
Scott and I took eight of the girls from our church to Scott Dawson’s winter conference over MLK weekend. It was their second year to attend and they love it. If you’ve never been in a room with thousands of students engaged in worship, it’s an incredible experience.
Our girls have been excited about the conference since we got home last year. But their enthusiasm jumped by about one million percent ten weeks ago when we found out Kanye was coming and bringing the Sunday Service choir with him. (And, to be totally honest, I was pretty pumped about that too.) For a group of girls from a relatively small town in Alabama, this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sunday morning, we got up early to get in line at the LaConte Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, TN. If the energy in that line of 12,000 students could be bottled, none of us would ever be tired again.
When the doors opened, we moved with the throng to find seats. Settling in about 20 rows from the stage (which was in the round so there were literally no bad views), we reminded our girls that this was not a Kanye concert but rather a worship service. Eyes bright and smiles big, they nodded in agreement. The truth is, none of us knew exactly what to expect.
Kanye’s Sunday Service + Making Jesus Known
The stage was covered in flowers purchased by Kanye for the event. And after a prayer and simple introduction, the instruments began to play as the one-hundred member Sunday Service Collective walked up to the stage. Dressed in simple gray shirts and pants, the choir covered almost every inch of available space.
You could feel the energy building in the room. We were all waiting for the spotlight to shine on Kanye making his grand entrance to the stage.
But that never happened.
The choir began to sing and we were a few songs into some incredible worship before we heard Kanye’s voice. No one even knew he was actually in the room.
In fact, over the two hour service, the only words we ever heard from him in four of the songs. (In the afternoon service which we did not purchase additional tickets to attend, I understand he shared his testimony.)
For two hours we stood as this incredible choir led us to lift up the only Name worth praising. We sang and danced and stomped and praised Jesus. Adam Tyson preached a compelling and Gospel-driven sermon from Luke 15, the prodigal son story.
And then we sang some more.
There were no autographs or pictures, no merch table with all Kanye’s products. We simply — and enthusiastically — lifted up the Name of Jesus.
I’ve spend two days trying to figure out what I want to say about this experience, about what I saw and heard. And I realized I want to do what Kanye did — I want to make Jesus’ Name known.
The Real Questions
The biggest question I keep hearing is, “Is Kanye’s conversion real?” I can’t answer that. I can say that a HUGE celebrity entered a room full of his target audience demographic and did not one thing that pointed to himself. He dressed in the same simple gray clothes as the choir, did his part in the songs, and entered/exited the stage without any attention being drawn to himself.
I do know this, the Jesus we sang about and Kanye rapped about IS real. And He is REALLY able to change hearts, to bring us from death to life through His blood. And it was Jesus we worshipped in that room, not Kanye.
I also know this, salvation happens in an instant and it is totally between that person and the Lord. But sanctification, that transformation of the old flesh self into the new self through the Holy Spirit, takes our whole lives. And all of us do it imperfectly.
Will Kanye’s faith be lifelong? I can’t answer that and neither can anyone else. Honestly, it’s all I can do some days to keep my own eyes focused on Jesus, moving forward in my own lifelong faith.
How should we respond to his conversion? The same way the angels responded to our own salvation — celebration! And then, as those who are just a little further down the path than he is, we need to be praying.
Making Jesus’ Name Known
Kanye West can go places with the message of the gospel I could never go. He has opportunities I will never have. But so do you … and the best way I can sow into the Kingdom is by doing the work God has placed in front of me and by praying for you and Kanye to do the same.
Experiencing Kanye’s Sunday Service was a reminder to me about keeping my focus on Jesus and serving the people He has placed in front of me.
Kanye used to proclaim he was king. Now, he is lifting high the King of kings — and that needs to be our focus every day as well.