Culture

Kanye West tells 12,000 students: “He saved a wretch like me”

by Justine Ocampo // January 22, 2020, 9:00 pm

Kanye sunday service

Source: Awaken 2020 livestream

“This is a mission, not a show,” Kanye West said to a crowd of 12,400 students at the recent Strength to Stand Conference held in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, US. 

“We don’t pull up for the show, we pull up to spread the Gospel to let you know what He’s doing in our lives and praying that maybe you can come to know the truth of Jesus Christ.” 

It was announced last year that West was invited to speak at the conference in replacement of comedian John Crist, joining fellow headliners Hillsong Young & Free, Lecrae and Jonathan Edwards – a rather bizarre piece of news that caught the attention of many in the Christian circles.

To sceptics, the singer-songwriter and rapper’s increasingly more public proclamations of faith can easily be brushed off as another form of eccentricity, one of the many weird quirks the celebrity was infamously known for. 

Say what? Kanye West replaces John Crist as Christian youth conference headliner

As West took the conference stage, alongside the Sunday Service Choir, it’s hard to deny the attractiveness of his performance. Wearing neutral-toned outfits that bring to mind West’s upmarket brand Yeezy, the choir moved in unison as they belted out songs from his recent album Jesus is King.

With all this glamour, you wonder where is God in the picture? After all, the spotlight literally fell on West. 

As the Sunday Service Choir sings to West’s song “Selah”, he repeats the line “He saved a wretch like me”  over and over again. Not to put the attention on himself, but almost as if imploring with the young audience around him to see God’s grace and goodness. 

“The devil’s going to present new struggles every day,” West began, before proclaiming to everyone how he himself was saved a year ago.

“To be saved doesn’t mean that you won’t have pain anymore, or struggle or be confused. We’re human beings and we will fall short. But I’m telling you today, this is my testimony, from someone who has experienced everything the devil had to offer.”

The singer-songwriter and rapper confessed how being in the industry led him into a life where he could do whatever he wanted. “I got to binge on every piece of candy that my momma always said I couldn’t have because it was on that top shelf,” he revealed.

“I take every mistake as a badge of honour, as a lesson and a blessing.”

As he looked back on his music career, West said: “Somewhere down the line the devil got us to start mixing glass into our own food,” referring to his own songwriting, which included derogatory phrases on sexual desires and vulgarities.

How despite being a father to two daughters and two sons, his lyrics made it seem like he wasn’t. 

Why I love Kanye West’s new album, Jesus is King

West said he couldn’t hear God because flashy cars, awards and status seemed to always call him away. Now he no longer wants to focus on album ratings but on how to spread the Gospel.

“It was never enough, but with Christ in my life, I’ve learnt to take things one day at a time, to be patient, with a freed and restored mind.” 

West candidly shared how he appreciated God for allowing the world to see his journey, saying: “I take every mistake as a badge of honour, as a lesson and a blessing. It’s another opportunity for people to be able to relate.”

To me, that takes a lot of courage and humility to own up to. 

West and the Sunday Service Choir also reportedly sang a rendition of Coldplay’s popular song “Fix You” with altered lyrics that said: “Christ will guide you home/and revive your soul/Christ is here to fix you.” 

Scott Dawson, founder of the Strength to Stand conference, told The Christian Post: “What you’re seeing is that the Gospel never changes, but the Gospel can penetrate any culture… I think it may be Christianity going into pop culture instead of pop culture coming into Christianity.”

One certainly hopes to be able to see more rappers, athletes, actors – people in a position of influence – who aren’t afraid to say Jesus’ name out loud.

THE PRODIGAL SON

In some ways, West’s journey paralleled the message delivered by Pastor Adam Tyson, who spoke alongside West during his segment in the conference. 

Tyson shared: “If you come back to the Father, He runs after you. He loves you. He wants to embrace you. He wants to give you a holy kiss – a kiss of mercy, a kiss of love, a kiss of acceptance. It’s from the Father and it’s for you. It’s forgiveness for you.

“God’s calling you home. You might be here this morning in a bad place because of your own sin. God says this morning through His Word, ‘I love you. I’m calling you home.’

“And when you return to the Father, He runs up to you. He’s not shy. He’s not angry with you. He’s inviting you back into relationship with Him.”

After Tyson’s short sermon, over 200 students dedicated their lives to Christ during the altar call.

The prodigal son is a familiar story to all, yet when we see it played out in reality, we often struggle to offer the same warm welcome as the father had shown. 

Imagine how many more prodigals – celebrity prodigals in particular – can return to the Father if there was far less fear in being judged and criticised by others? Are we, as people watching on the sidelines, able to be as welcoming as the Father?

THINK + TALK

  1. What does being saved mean to you?
  2. What mistakes have you made in the past?
  3. How can you use them as an opportunity for others to relate to?
About the author

Justine Ocampo

Justine doesn't wear a watch, but she's always just-ine time, just-ine case you were wondering.