Last Sunday, America got to have a Sunday Evening Service all thanks to Chance the Rapper. Chance, backed by a praise choir and Kirk Franklin led the nation and the whole music industry in singing Chris Tomlin’s How Great is Our God. It was an odd moment. Is this allowed? Is Jesus coming back? Then in his acceptance speech for 3 awards (Best Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, and Best Rap Performance) he gave all the glory to God.
What are we seeing here? I had to ask what is the Gospel According to… Chance? And I’m still not sure. After having sifted through his latest mixtape Coloring Book, I am still perplexed as to what he believes.
What we know is this: he’s 23 years old. He’s on his 3rd album. He’s garnered more fame and support because he’s doing things his own way by not signing with a record label. He even changed the rules of the Grammy’s that a physical album had to be produced and sold. Chance’s music is all for free to download on his website or other streaming platforms.
Chance tells us I don’t make songs for free I make them for freedom. He wants freedom to sing about what he likes, the style he wants, and who he worships. There’s a lot to like about this. Then in his first release of the album, he sung Blessings a song he unveiled on The Jimmy Fallon Show. Where he gave credit to all his blessings come from his creator and that he can distinguish the difference between blessings and worldly possessions. Amen! Let’s take our kids to see him! Maybe he can lead more congregations in praise.
But…then there are songs like No Problem where he promises to get revenge if another label tries to stop him and then he goes off on his greatness evidenced by the girls and drugs he gets all the time. It makes you pause.
There are other songs that make you question the sincerity of his faith, Juke Jam features Justin Bieber and singing about sexual encounters at the skating rink, as well as songs about drinking All Night. So what do we do with Chance the Rapper?
On one hand I truly appreciate artists being honest thru their art and not hiding their warts and struggles. I cannot stand Christian artists that only present the joys of the faith without sharing the struggles of it too. But, to me Chance doesn’t appear confessional about his sins. And yet, he says I’m at war with my wrongs.
So this mixed bag of profanity laden, yet God praising music is perfect for us to study and train our students in asking ‘What’s his gospel?’ Because it takes work to uncover. One of my favorite lines in this whole album comes after the praise song How Great where Chance begins his rendition of this song by adding, Magnify, magnify, lift it on high. Spit it Spotify to qualify a spot on His side. I cannot modify or ratify, my momma made me apple pies. Lullabies and alibis. The book don’t end with Malachi.
Chance lost his Grandmother, and at her funeral How Great is Our God was sung, and he says, “it crushed me.” This is a song about seeing God’s greatness amidst the darkness. About praising God even when it feels he is far away and not answering his phone calls. AND YET – the book don’t end with Malachi.
Malachi, the last book in the OT, is known for being the last time God speaks for hundreds of years…until Christ the savior comes. So Chance is the bearer of good news! The book, our book, our story doesn’t end with God’s silence – but Jesus comes breaking in!
Now what we need is for Jesus to break in to Chance’s life a little more. To reveal he is not only Great, not only able to give blessings, and restore hope to his broken city of Chicago, but He is able to restore his soul and heart to be free from the other idols his heart is still bent towards.
We can’t know for certain where Chance’s faith is, just like we can’t know anyone’s truly. But, we can look at their fruit. Chance has fruit and thorns all mixed up. But still fruit. Which means…life. It appears Chance recovered his faith just recently, and it helps to view him as a newborn Christian. We can pray for him what his grandmother prayed for him: Lord, I pray that all things that are not like You, You take away from Chance. Make sure that he fails at everything that is not like You. Take it away. Turn it into dust,”
Please pray that over me too.