Chance the Rapper and the Gospel

by Jessica Leep Fick

Sitting on a grassy slope under the summer night, the pungent odor of marijuana drifted around us and the 20,000 people who were raising their hands to sing along with “how Great Is Our God.” If this sounds like the most bizarre church ever, it’s not. It’s a scene from the Chance the Rapper concert that my husband and I attended earlier this year.

We had seen Chance perform on the Grammys and unabashedly hold a praise session as he and his backup choir sang “How Great is Our God.” We were intrigued to see one of the top hip hop artists not simply acknowledge God during an acceptance speech, but to be so bold in proclaiming the gospel. A quick check on twitter and tweets like “Chance is bringing the grammy’s to CHURCH!” showed that we weren’t the only people surprised and amazed.

People are becoming more spiritually curious even as they reject traditional religious structures as evidenced in Barna’s research on the decline of practicing Christians. As a leader who develops evangelistic resources and advocates for more proclamation evangelism, Chance’s concert felt like a window into the souls of Millenials who are longing for the divine, yet not knowing how to connect with God.

I believe that what we experienced in a crowd ten to twenty years younger than us showed a way to connect with spiritually curious people and those skeptical of the Church. Chance modeled vulnerability from the stage; instead of bravado, there was gratitude. There were moments of unapologetically revealing the ways he is “in process.”

He rapped about getting high with his girlfriend, his anger with record labels trying to buy his creative freedom, and people using him. Essentially, he showed that he is human and that he doesn’t have it all figured out.

How often do we see those aspects of character in our churches and pulpits? None of us have it all figured out, and by God’s grace we are experiencing His sanctifying power. Chance’s vulnerability with being in process was compelling to me as a Christian leader and evangelist.

It made me think more about what I share about where Jesus is in the midst of the “in process” and broken places in my life with people who are spiritually seeking. While some might see Chance’s lyrics as syncretistic, I think it points to the confusion and longing of what it looks like to seek God in today’s culture.

In the intro track for his mixtape “All We Got,” Chance raps about music, God, and his girlfriend. Below is one of the lyrics:

“This is the kids of the king of all kings
This is the holiest thing
This is the beat that played under the Word
This is the sheep that ain’t like what it herd”

For all the “sheep that ain’t like what it herd” inside and outside of the Church, I’m praying that evangelists like you and me will ask the Holy Spirit how to be honest, creative, and vulnerable in preaching to the scattered sheep. Jesus wants us to meet them where they are and experience His love in real ways.

Jessica Leep Fick (@JessicaLeepFick) is the national director of Evangelism Resources for Stonecroft Ministries which is committed to reaching every woman “where she is + as she is.” She is author of Beautiful Feet: Unleashing Women to Everyday Witness. Jessica is married to Dave and enjoys exploring Kansas City with their two sons.