A thousand people reportedly responded to an altar call after a Kanye West ‘Sunday Service’ in Baton Rouge in Louisiana on Sunday.
West performed on a section of concrete in front of large crosses, set amongst the lawns of Bethany Church South, without a stage, lights or impressive audio equipment and surrounded by musicians and his 80-strong choir. He opened with a song from his newly released album Jesus is King, rapping,
“Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-Fil-A. Hold the selfies. Put the ’gram away. Get your family. Y’all hold hands and pray. … Raise our sons. Train them in the faith, through temptations. Make sure they’re wide awake. Follow Jesus. Listen and obey.”
“Baton Rouge, are you ready to sing? Come on, I can’t hear you. Are you ready to sing until the power comes down? Come on, put your hands together with us. You’re going to have to put that phone down. And worship with us. Let’s go,” West told the crowd of people with raised smartphones filming his every move.
“Can we hear it for Jesus? He is king tonight.” – Pastor Jonathan Stockstill
The Louisiana instalment of West’s Sunday Service was announced last minute on Friday, hosted by Jonathan Stockstill, the pastor of Bethany Church. Stockstill introduced the rapper to the crowd, saying “Can we hear it for Jesus? He is king tonight.”
But it was the massive response to the night’s altar call that was delivered by West himself which was most striking, with 1000 people raising their hands to respond from the crowd of 6000.
“There might be someone who needs a Saviour, who needs deliverance, who wants to come home, who’s been lonely out there, who’s been lost out there… and that Saviour is Jesus. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever would believe on him,” West told the crowd.
He then stopped to quieten the restless crowd, telling them “Come on now, just stop where you are…. just hold it where you are” before continuing.
“Every knee shall bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. If you need him, just lift your hands where you are, if you want to receive him. This is the perfect night, the perfect place to ask God to come into your life, to receive him. Your life will never be the same. Every day it might not be easy, but with your hand in his hand you can lie this life and you can live this life redeemed and set free. I’m a witness and you have many witnesses around you of what God can do.”
“Father, I thank you for sending your son Jesus to die for me….” – Kanye West
West then led those who responded in repeating a salvation prayer, phrase by phrase, after him.
“Father, I thank you for sending your son Jesus to die for me. I thank you that he was the perfect sacrifice. I thank you that he rose from the dead. And I receive him as my Lord and my Saviour. I thank you, Father, that my sins are forgiven and I’m looking forward to living my life with you – walking with you, talking with you, moving with you and living for you. And I am free in Jesus name.”
Pastor Curvine Brewington – the Student Ministries Pastors at Crossroads Church, Lafayette – attended the event and took to Instagram to testify to the event’s details.
The history of Christian revival is filled with stories of preachers who got themselves out of church buildings and into the streets, not the least of whom were John the Baptist and Jesus Christ himself. Often, they were criticised, regardless of how well they preached or how receptive the crowd were to the message.
Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon – who became London’s most popular preacher during the second half of the 19th century and is still today often referred to as the ‘Prince of Preachers’ – actually took the whole subject of “open air preaching” head on.
“I fear that in some of our less enlightened country churches, there are conservative individuals who almost believe that to preach anywhere except in the chapel would be a shocking innovation, a sure token of heretical tendencies, and a mark of zeal without knowledge,” Spurgeon noted in 1881. “Any young brother who studies his comfort among them must not suggest anything so irregular as a sermon outside the walls of their Zion.”
“It is most interesting to observe that congregational singing is sure to revive at the same moment as gospel-preaching.” – Charles Spurgeon
And just as preaching spilled out into the highways and byways, so too did worship music.
Take, for example, “the first field-preaching in the Netherlands took place on the 14th of June, 1566, and was held in the neighbourhood of Ghent” with preacher former-monk, now reformed pastor at Oudenard Helman Modet preaching to 7,000 people” according to Dr Wylie, who is quoted by Spurgeon.
“At these conventicles the Psalms of David, which had been translated into Low Dutch… were always sung. The odes of the Hebrew king, pealed forth by from five to ten thousand voices, and borne by the breeze over the woods and meadows, might be heard at great distances, arresting the ploughman as he turned the furrow, or the traveler as he pursued his way, and making him stop and wonder whence the minstrelsy proceeded,” Dr Wylie wrote.
Spurgeon himself wasn’t afraid to join the dots.
“It is most interesting to observe that congregational singing is sure to revive at the same moment as gospel-preaching. In all ages a [Dwight] Moody has been attended by a [Ira] Sankey,” he surmised. “History repeats itself because like causes are pretty sure to produce like effects.”
Some are wondering whether he would see West as the latest instalment in that history.