What’s up with the Kanye West effect?

Crossovers from rap to pop culture to faith aren’t anything new in the music industry, but when one of the most divisive and controversial figures in pop culture says he’s called to do the will of Jesus on earth, it’s a big moment.

With over 140 million records sold worldwide, Kanye West is among the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 21st century and one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Married to American media personality, model, businesswoman, and actress Kim Kardashian, with 150 million followers on Instagram, Kanye and Kim made it onto Time’s 100 Most Influential People on the planet.

Christians are finding it hard to come to grips with this divisive figure’s Sunday services as a real church.  

Farley Flex, Canadian Idol judge and key founder of Toronto radio station Flow 93.5 believes Kanye’s depth of spirituality is real.

“I’ve never seen him [Kanye] as one who lacked spirituality,” Flex said.  “Unlike a rapper who starts out as a gospel artist and rises to prominence, Kanye has reversed engineered the plan; he’s already acquired fame and fortune and notoriety, and now he’s using that to express himself differently.”

But when faith and money get pulled into the mix, one can’t help but question if we’re getting scammed. Flex advises us not to be concerned about the money but rather focus on the impact of the message and those who want to absorb it and use it as a guide or influence in their spiritual lives. “Church and pop culture have never been 100 percent integrated into the context Kanye is offering it in.  This is the reason for the heavy followership — for some, it is fellowship, we can’t ignore that it will influence individuals to look deeper inside and find that spirituality within.”

That’s the feedback I’m getting, like this from a Context viewer who posted after our analysis on Kanye: “I loved Context last night. I’m so glad you did this show!  From my perspective, Kanye West is a Godsend. My 18-year-old son is a fan and is now once again open to and learning about Jesus.”

Final thoughts

After 30 years of tracking the God stories, I can tell you that our God is always doing new things in new ways with new people (and we have the videotape to prove it). When Kanye, the party man, now says—”I like being home, with my family as much as possible. We’ll eat dinner, play with the kids, put them to bed, my wife watches Dateline… I read the Bible….”   Well, it sounds like a new thing is well underway.   God likes being public, and what’s happening in Kanye’s new Sunday Service approach is breaking all records on Christian gatherings as it flies digitally around the world – millions of people are watching and worshipping God when they never expected to move that way.   God is the big winner in this round of pop culture, and I’m cheering for Kanye to keep the groove going! 

What are your thoughts? Is Kanye for real? Should we get passed his past? Leave your comments below.

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Lorna is the CEO of Crossroads Christian Communication Inc., YES TV and Executive Producer of Context with Lorna Dueck TV show and online production. Lorna enjoys interviewing culture-shaping guests for any evidence of God. The award winning program is produced from the Crossroads Christian Communications Centre in Burlington, Ontario, airs on seven networks, and is seen Sunday mornings on Canada’s largest networks, CTV and Global TV. Lorna is a regular commentary writer on faith and public life in various publications in Canada, and a frequent media commentator. She travels the world reporting on church-led response to humanitarian crises.