In the age of technology, we have more access than ever to the lives of people all around the world. There are positives and negatives to this. On the positive, you can experience different cultures and contexts, learn about and advocate for important issues and keep connected with friends and family who are a distance away. On the negative, privacy continues to diminish, face to face relationships become prioritized less and people can portray a false image of who they are, what they do and what their intentions truly are set out to be.
One of the by-products of the technological age has seen people document the good deeds they perform. It might be giving a homeless person some food, a stranger some money or some seemingly random act of kindness. The thing is, the whole notion of recording yourself doing something good for sake of showing others comes at a risk. A risk we will explore as warned about by Jesus in Matt. 6.1-4.
Check out this video of a person tending to a house fire. What are some behaviors/actions you notice that he might only be taking because the camera is rolling?
Questions for discussion:
- How might Jesus is King relate to the key text (Phil.1-15-18)? - What feelings might the Church have in response to this album - positively and negatively? Why? - It's possible that this album might reach more non-believers than any church could every hope to reach. Is that a good thing or a bad thing and does it say about the state of the Church today? - How do we live out the teaching Paul offers in this text? - How do we rejoice that Christ is preached when its preached by someone we may not agree with/like/support? - How do we avoid being the Christians Paul is writing to and adopt more of the mindset Paul has from his prison cell?
(These thoughts are provided as a guide. Feel free to do your own study and research and mould to your own context)
Jesus is King draws Paul’s writing from prison in Philippians 1 about Christ being preached to the forefront. In writing to the church at Philippi, Paul suggests that ‘the important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.’ (Phil 1. 18). Whilst listening to Jesus is King, it seems clear that Christ is being preached indeed through this project. When examining the lyrics of the album, this is reinforced. In the track Selah for example, the end of the first verse says;
“Won’t be in bondage to any man -John 8.33 – We the descendants of Abraham – Ye should be made free – John 8:36 – To whom the son set free is free indeed – He saved a wretch like me”
Lyrics like this are consistently found throughout the album. From tracks like Use this Gospel to Everything We Need, it is clear this album is not intended to be about a Kanye West at all but rather the subject of his lyric and rhythm.
It is worth noting that this is an album released for the masses, which debuted number 1 on the American Billboard 200 Chart. That’s not just Christian or gospel charts, but number 1 alongside all popular, ‘worldly’ music as well. Music about money, possessions, sex, drugs, selfish ambition, joy and sorrow. Jesus is King literally sits at the top.
It could be suggested that any church around the world would clamour to occupy the same position. A position where the realities of the Christ we know may penetrate the sometimes seemingly impenetrable world outside of the walls of a church building. For many people, they may catch a glimpse of the Good News through this project before they ever even consider walking through the doors of a church on a Sunday morning. That’s a sobering reality for us to consider when thinking about how effective the Church is in today’s world at meeting people where they are. As I recently heard one minister from our church remark - "There are more followers of Christ outside of the church than there are inside of it."
So what might our youth be able to take from all this? Drawing back to Paul’s writing, the challenge for us is avoid being the people Paul is writing to – a section of opposing fellow-believers tormenting his imprisonment – and rather adopt the mindset of Paul himself from the confines of his prison cell. If we are to build and nurture strong faith relationships for young people in our church and faith communities, they will be able to rejoice when Christ is preached. Even more so when in places that Christ is not often preached with the same vigour and influence of that of Kanye West. It doesn’t mean we aren’t to be weary of motive and truth. But it does give us an opportunity to explore our Christianity in strange new found territory. Does that make Kanye West a Christian example all young people could follow? I truthfully couldn’t say. But does an album written about Gods transforming love by a human being on a faith journey give us an opportunity to rejoice? Perhaps it does.