An Unlikely Church-Building Alliance
While the crowds in the buildings may be dwindling, the faith-filled are finding their way to Jesus’ message nonetheless. | by Jackelyn Viera Iloff
As more and more polls discuss how and why churches are losing audience share, more and more people are going directly to the church source messaging that resonates with them. They bypass the traffic and the crowds and watch the Word delivered directly to them through outlets like satellite radio or online streaming and some through music and film. Many popular preachers and megachurches even have their own online feeds.
A few Sundays ago in Houston, Texas, at a local church service that was streamed live, heard on satellite radio, and watched on social media, the world took notice of a secular figure who had led the faithful astray with his hard driving hedonistic messages and obscenely lavish lifestyle.
Months earlier Kayne West, one of the most influential and critically acclaimed artists of the 21st century, declared for all to hear that he had found Jesus Christ and turned away from all worldly things that led him down the wrong path. The church world reacted with awe and shock and some bewilderment.
The Christian world seemed torn between those who condemned a figure who has been so controversial and disdained by believers and those who were newly minted in adoration and adulation of a sinner who had been reborn as a faith-filled follower of Jesus.
The implication for all believers is that God will call who He will. We may be confounded but we can never underestimate the reach of God’s love. No matter the sinner, the Lord will offer his love to all who declare him their Savior. And that is where the message can thrive. In our modern world, our isolation and stress keep us from community and contentment. But with Jesus, we find rest and compassion, forgiveness and acceptance.
After a few warm and heartfelt conversations about faith and worship, Kanye and Pastor Joel Osteen orchestrated the largest church event broadcast in recent history. The November 18, 2019, service started with a revealing and thoughtful conversation about how Kanye had come to be born again. It allowed participants to see and hear firsthand what this icon of hedonist fashion and song could tell us about his conversion.
Kanye followed the conversation with a dramatic demonstration of his talent for directing a production by performing a praise and worship event like no other. The capacity crowd in the 16,000-seat sanctuary was evenly split between Lakewood church regulars and longtime Kanye fans. From the youngest to the oldest, no one stayed seated. Enraptured, they were on their feet singing, swaying and even dancing along praising their risen savior, Jesus.
More than four million people watched across the world as a pastor and a rap star created a new way for how church could be done. The witness, the music, the praise and worship pointed millions of lapsed and non-believers to the true message of Jesus Christ, to love God, love one another, and accept all that we are because of all that He is.
Participants and viewers witnessed that when the Church is open to accepting God’s creatures with all of their flaws and all of their shortcomings, then Jesus Christ’s message resounds and people are drawn to Him. Our mandate could not be more clear. In a world of excesses, only the true message of our Lord can fill the void in every individual heart.
When polls lament the emptiness of pews, perhaps it’s not a lack of faith we should consider but more of a lack of clear messaging that reaches out to a hurting world. Perhaps we could offer more healing – love – hope – comfort – correction in our content and refuse to delve into condemnation. We know that we are all fallen. Jesus’ message helps us get up. God never has been about condemning His creation. He has always been about offering redemption and reconciliation.
It is a great day for the Church when one of its lost lambs is found – when the prodigal son returns to claim his inheritance. It is a game-changing moment when Joel Osteen and Kanye West take the platform to minister to a secular world and have the secular crowd embrace the message of God’s love.
Churches don’t need to have a Kanye West minister to reach the hurting, yet it might be wise to reach out past dusty pews and bring a transformational message to our hurting communities in a way that resonates with the immediate issues that impact those to whom we hope to minister.
The take-away lesson is to offer God’s love and forgiveness to those who hurt so that healing will take place. And, to offer it up in way that resonates with our modern, hectic, stressed-out lifestyles so the faithful will return to be refreshed and the unbeliever will find a place to be embraced.
Maybe by understanding what Kanye’s new work demonstrates about our modern age and by realizing that even the most worldly can be reached, we can catch a vision that the blood of Jesus is still powerful to bring in the lost and unreached and in even greater numbers.
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