“A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men”
- Proverbs 18:16
- Proverbs 18:16
From the outside looking in, Christian Hip Hop seems to be a world where theology is often used to critique the so-called legitimacy or illegitimacy of “Christian rappers”. Often times, it seems as though there is a quota that has been given to “Christian rappers” which requires them to mention Jesus, or your favorite theological terminology, a specific number of times per minute. This is a very interesting phenomenon to me because theology is simply how we understand God and His plan for our lives. Theology is similar (key word; similar) to reading a book or taking a class about women in order to better understand them, yet, no book or class about women comes close to actually knowing a woman, talking to a woman, and/or spending time with a woman. One’s personal experience with God or view of God will not necessarily line up with another’s personal experience with God. God is the same and does not change, but we all have different stories, strengths and weaknesses and so God has to meet us all at different points and in different ways; and subsequently moves and speaks through us all differently. Therefore, we can’t impose our personal convictions on others – that is the definition of legalism. But I’m not here to delve into the intricacies of Christendom; I’m here to talk about rap, Christian rap, and rappers who happen to be Christian.
Let me kick it off with this, being a musician in an industry (there are no industries but that's for another day) is a business endeavor. Where the confusion seems to come comes in is when “Christian rap” is referred to as a ministry. So then the question becomes: “how do we reconcile ministry and business which necessitates the making of money and, often times, lots of it?” Well, first, I believe that we have to be clear on what we mean by the word ministry. If by “ministry” we mean testifying about Jesus Christ in order to draw people to God then we are all ministers. But if we're being honest with ourselves, explicit testimonies can’t and/or don’t always happen on our jobs. The opportunity to tell someone about Christ or about your own personal testimony may arise, but while you are in the office, you really have a job to do and often it will be your behavior that does the preaching for you and not your mouth. As the saying goes, your life is the only bible that some people get to read.
For example, Kevin Durant is unashamed to tell the world about Christ, but during those four quarters in which he’s balling out, he's trying to win a game. During the game he's not quoting scriptures to the opposing players but his sportsmanship can be a message to them as opposed to those players who have none. That is how it should be for rappers who happen to be Christian.
God has blessed us all with gifts which will cause us to shine in whatever field He has placed us so that His glory can be seen by all, not only through our character and attitude, but through our work-ethic and our results as well. This is where an alternative meaning of the word ministry comes into play. I believe that the word minister has been over-spiritualized and has lost its root meaning; to “minister” simply means “to serve”. The same way that a ‘Minister of Finance’ or ‘Minister of Defense’ serves the people is the same way that talented artists or rappers serves the people. However, nobody would dare say that Ministers of Finance or Defense are not involved in business and should not strive to take their businesses as far as they can, and if you didn’t know, public administration is big business. Life in general is about business and regardless of what career you undertake, you must cultivate a business mentality if you plan on succeeding at it. God, Himself, has never been a God that encouraged anything less than a business mentality. Proverbs 27:23 says, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds”. For further convincing, read the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-8).
As God’s Kingdom continues to rise in the marketplace (which it will); those who have been called to the ministry of Hip Hop will have to settle in their minds, in the face of naysayers, that their calling is also a business. They will have to gain the clarity that if God has called them to be a professional music artist then he has also called them to be a business person and will give them the grace to pursue business opportunities and endeavors while remaining loyal and subdued to him. What is needed now is for believers who have been called to be music artists to accept that calling and run with it. Run with the freedom that comes from the Holy Spirit and not with any imposed religious mandate to fit into a box that comforts those who aren’t even experiencing the freedom of the Holy Spirit. The only reason that Daniel was able to testify about God to King Nebuchadnezzar was because he was operating in the gift which God gave to him; he was also far ahead of his counterparts in skill and wisdom. It was a combination of those things that made Daniel a minister to four kings. As rappers and artists, God has called you to a position of influence, but the only way you will reach that position is if you become the best version of you and not a second rate version of what others want you to be. Being skillful, wise, talented, and business minded are all precursors to opportunities to share the gospel and to be godly influences with and to those you may come across. Just as the scriptures say that a man's gift makes room for him, so as a Christian rapper you have to take ownership of your gift and watch what God does with it. You must also understand that business savvy, shrewdness, and strategy are just as important as your talent. Don’t succumb to the pressure to prove that you are a Christian artist by filling any mandated quota. A good tree will always produce good fruit; do you!
About the Author: Elijah Adefope is a law student at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also an Associate at ‘Walker and Associates’, an Entertainment Law Firm in Atlanta, Georgia. He can be found at @ElijahAdefope or www.walkerandassoc.com.