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As news breaks that Kanye West's Gospel choir has been booked to play Coachella music festival, Tobi Oredein explains why she believes Christians should be wary of its influence
Over the last few months, I've seen multiple social media posts showing Kanye West's family enjoying church services inside their home.
It has been dubbed “Kanye’s Sunday Services” by the internet. Videos tend to show a 50 person choir following Kanye’s musical lead, dressed in his fashion line, delivering praise and worship. The songs tend to be Gospel versions of his biggest hits, including 'Jesus Walks'.
And now, we've just learned that 'Sunday Service' is booked to play one of America's most well known music festivals this summer: Coachella.
Have Christians universally welcomed these services? Of course not! There's been both praise and criticism of them online. But as I watched the videos I kept reminding myself of Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them." You never know who is watching these videos and who might be moving moving closer towards the idea of a relationship with God.
This isn't just theory for me. Believe it or not, Kanye West played a huge part in me coming to faith in Christ.
In my teenage years I was held back in my faith by the (false) idea that you need to be perfect before you can embark on a relationship with God. I didn’t even think that a relationship between myself and God was possible.
Enter Kanye West. Here was a rapper who was outwardly open about his Christian faith. He wasn’t a Christian rapper, he was a rapper who was also a Christian. 15-year-old me finally understood that a relationship with God was possible. I remember hearing 'Jesus Walks' and thinking if a rapper can come to Jesus and be so public and bold about admitting their sins and declaring their faith, then of course, God will accept me. Now looking back, I can see why some may see that as flawed thinking, but I was young and the truth is, God can use anyone to do his work.
That's one side of he equation. But here's the other...
The Bible instructs us to be discerning, and it's clear to me that not everything about these gatherings should be welcomed.
My major issue with Kanye's Sunday Services is that they appear to be exclusive clubs for the rich and famous. The average person can't visit - instead we're kept at arms length merely watching on screens. A church - or any gathering led in Christ's name - should be open to everyone.
1 Corinthians 12:12 says: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” God wants a unified church, full of different and diverse people from all walks of life.
As I watched these Sunday Services, I also wondered who was being glorified. He's employing a choir of people who are not only singing his songs, but are all dressed in his apparel. Is Christ really at the centre of this gathering? I'm not sure he is.
Few churches would explicitly state their services are for the rich and those with social status. But there are Christian leaders out there who seem to always be wearing designer clothes and are benefiting from tithes and offerings which run into the upper hundreds and thousands of pounds or dollars.
Although this may not be Kanye West’s intention, he is in danger of creating a congregation full of high net worth individuals, rather than providing a space where anyone in the community can worship. It's for all these reasons (and more) why I can't bring myself to call his 'Sunday Service' concept a church.
Can it draw people closer to Christ? Of course it can, and it's always heartening to see celebrities engaging with Christianity. But when I think about the global political climate, I can't help but feel that Christ's true Church must embrace diversity as much as we can. The concept of diversity applies not just to your gender or the colour of your skin. It includes social status. We must work hard to make sure the sunday services that us non-celebrities attend, are places where people of every socio-economic background are welcomed.
Tobi Oredein is a journalist and founder of the lifestyle platform Black Ballad. She is a regular Premier Christianity magazine columnist. To read more from Tobi, subscribe to the print issue here.
Premier Christianity is committed to publishing a variety of opinion pieces from across the UK Church. The views expressed on our blog do not necessarily represent those of the publisher
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