Friday, November 16, 2007

The Best Use of the Platform

There's been an ongoing debate in the Christian Hip-hop community about the role and content of the Christian emcee. Are we ministers? Are we entertainers with a spiritual emphasis? Or are we simply Christians who happen to enjoy Hip-hop? It has been a sometimes emotional debate that has caused many of those on either side to draw lines in the sand and take firm stances. I was reminded of this recently as I came across an old email correspondence between myself and another Christian emcee about this topic.

The context of my email below is that Lampmode had an opportunity to share the stage with an artist who had a different view of the purpose of the platform. On the night in question, there was a large crowd primarily made up of professing Christians and their unsaved friends. The emcee gave a great show, but a clear presentation of the gospel was absent from his set. The following excerpt is part of my response when he asked for honest feedback about the evening. I'm reproducing it here- with some slight changes to protect identities- because I think it is a good summary of the Biblical rationale for my views on this issue.

"First, I just want to say thank you for inviting us. You were very gracious in extending us the open arm of fellowship. Thanx for the warm welcome and hospitality. We appreciate the love. I thought your set was pretty good. You definitely had the crowd participation thing going. You clearly have a gift in that area. Overall, it was a good time.

With that said, although it was fun and enjoyable, I have some questions concerning the overall goal of your set. I know you wanted the saints to have a good time, and that's cool. However, I thought some of what you did wasn't as edifying as it could have been. I thought the focus at times wasn't on the Lord, but rather on your gifts. I know that that wasn't your desire. I don't think you were sinning, but I do think you could have used your time and platform more wisely. Consider the following passage from Ephesians 5:15-20:

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"

Consider the platform we have as emcees: we have a microphone and a sound system. At your concert, we had lights and a huge projection screen behind us. And we had a captive audience of hundreds of people who were ready to hear what we had to say. It's not often that this situation arises. In the audience that night, we can be fairly certain that there were a few different kinds of people:

1. There were people who were/are dead in their sins, not reconciled to God, under His just condemnation and on the broad road to destruction. These people could be divided into sub-categories, but that won't be necessary right now.

2. There were people who are saved, but struggling. They are struggling with sin, with depression, with doubt, with fear, with tough decisions they need to make, with hearts that are being hardened by sin's deceitfulness, etc.

3. There were people who are saved, strengthened by the grace of God and walking in that strength.

The question is this: what do these people need to hear? I think you would agree that all three of those groups need to hear
the gospel. They need to be confronted with, reminded of, or comforted by a crucified, risen, exalted and returning Christ. This is especially true in light of the days being evil and our struggle not being "against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places and the cosmic powers over this present darkness".

So I guess my challenge to you, my dear brother, is that you would consider structuring your set in such a way that all the individual elements point to Christ and His gospel- including your exhortations between songs. I know that everyone is not called to minister in the same way. At Lampmode, our goal with every ministry event we do is to highlight the character and works of God in such a way that those who God enables will repent and believe the gospel. Therefore the means we use ( the proclamation of the gospel) is consistent with the end we hope to attain (repentance and faith). I understand that not every Christian emcee has that end in mind when they grab a mic. We all have different gifts and callings. And we're talking about hip-hop, not the pulpit.
However, the question I'm asking is what is "making the best use of the time" in this context? Knowing that we will be held accountable for every idle word that comes from our mouths and also knowing that the judgment seat of Christ will be a place where our works are tried and either pass the examination or burn up, I'm very jealous to see cats like yourself abound in fruitfulness, not wasting any opportunities you might have to proclaim the gospel, which alone is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe..."

grace and peace,


andrew travis pantazi said...

Wow, that was definitely a strong confrontation and I am glad that you allowed us to see a glimpse of it with the purpose of edification. I also want to give thanks to the Lord that He uses you to use your ministry for the edification of the saints and spreading the Gospel. It is interesting that Ephesians 5:15ff is my favorite passage and I have committed it to memory but I think it is important to remember that we will be shown our idleness before God. Lately, at college I have witnessed to some of my friends who live completely debauched lives but been shut down. I realize that nothing I do can change them and I have to leave it to the spirit but it has been hard to try and not be idle and forget that God has called me to make disciples and to teach others to obey the Law. I appreciate the personal insight.

soli Deo gloria,
andrew travis pantazi

eve said...

just want to say, shai, that i'm blessed by your insight. the feedback for the brother was clear & biblical; & i pray it was received in humility, contemplation, and obedience to how God would have him respond.

peace, bro.


S_Tigga said...

Brethren, I thank you for the example displayed here. As an emcee myself, I feel this was necessary for guidance to those who may be subliminaly bypassing the Cross for the sake of just rockin' da mic. By no means am I saying that was the case here, but it could be mistaken for just that if I or another were in the crowd searching duke's lyrics to hear sound Biblical content for edification and ministry conveyance to the various people in the crowd. Shai, you are wise beyond your years; the likes of which I do aspire. Bless...