If you head over to the Strength to Stand Student Bible Conference website, you’ll find Kanye West’s name listed right above Hillsong Young & Free. Two names we probably never thought would appear together, let alone share the same stage.
West will be headlining one of the concerts during the January 2020 run of the North American conference, which aims to give attendees “strength and renewed commitment to living for Christ despite societal pressures to stray from the path”. Over 10,000 students participated in 2018’s conference, and January 2020’s tickets have since sold out.
In an unexpected turn of events at the very last minute, West will be replacing John Crist’s stand-up act, after the latter was reportedly removed “due to a moral failure” – better understood as the recent scandal that involved the Christian YouTube comedian manipulating women to enter into promiscuous relations with him.
Scott Dawson, founder of the Strength to Stand Student Bible Conference, shared in a YouTube announcement video how removing Crist was a “severe blow” to the team, yet was sure that “the Lord was going to work something out”. Little did he know that that “something” was Kanye West.
After several calls to various Christian personalities and artistes, Dawson was able to connect with West through a mutual friend. Dawson knew that it was a “long shot” but decided to reach out anyway. Amazingly, West eventually responded to Dawson, telling him in a phone call that “after prayer and deliberation”, he would do it. He even shared his testimony with Dawson.
“I realised that, although this is a worldwide megastar, he was a brother-in-Christ,” Dawson said. “He told me his struggles and what he was still going through. He said he’s been delivered but he’s on a growth journey with Jesus.”
Can Kanye and Christianity ever make lasting sense? Or is this another Hollywood romance destined to fizzle out like a fad?
Much buzz has already been surrounding the pop culture icon, who has performed at world tours bringing in millions of dollars and has recently released a Christian-themed album Jesus is King, with some believers still finding it hard to believe his newly professed faith.
West garnered attention once again in early November when he was invited by Senior Pastor Joel Osteen to sing at Lakewood Church along with the Kanye Sunday Services choir. He’s also set to perform at Vous Church, whose lead pastor, Rich Wilkerson Jr., officiated West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding back in 2014.
With his name popping up on the pulpit of other churches – and now a large student conference to boot – the question still persists: Can Kanye and Christianity ever make lasting sense? Or is this another Hollywood romance destined to fizzle out like a fad?
While the thought of West replacing Crist as a headliner for a Christian youth conference (or just speaking at one!) may come across as baffling and bizarre for some, we cannot ignore that biblically, the very people whom society least expects are also the ones God has delighted in using.
Think of the Apostle Paul (Christian persecutor), Zacchaeus (hated tax collector), the 12 Apostles (mostly fishermen), King David (the runt of eight sons)…
Have we raised the speaker podium to a level of sanctity that we think only a select few can obtain when the truth is every child of God has been elected to speak God’s word (Ephesians 1:1-14)? Yes, that includes Kanye West. Is it so hard to believe that people change, that we are all on a journey of transformation to Christlikeness?
Kanye West may be a megastar; he may have come from a less than glorious past – but at the end of the day, he, like John Crist, is simply our brother-in-Christ. It’s not about who’s holding the mic when the glory all goes to one person. Only Jesus is King.