One day while working as a Substance Abuse Counselor many years ago, I heard about a function coming up in which Lecrae would be performing and I was like, “YO!!! I’m going.” I’d first heard of his music while I was in prison and it really impacted my walk. I later learned that Francis Chan would also be present along with some local spoken word artists. I didn’t really know what spoken word was at the time but I would soon find out. As usual, I never roll alone, and I managed to go to this event with about 10 people from the Spanish ministry at Emmanuel Reformed Church and all I can say is that I was blown away….seriously! We were driving by and searching for the addrress, it was in downtown Glendale and as we drove past the venue I assumed it had to be the wrong spot, you see there were easily over a hundred young people lingering about outside. Not just young people, but I mean hip, good looking kids… I was like, “This can’t be it!”. But why Rudy? Why can’t this possibly be the spot? Because in my overly religious mind, Christians didn’t really dress this way… and there can’t be that many young people looking like they’re anxious to get in and hear about Jesus. This moment truly changed the course of my outlook on what Christianity looks like practically lived out. Not hiding our ethnicity, not working around our cultural differences, but instead using the very nature of who we are as a people…black, brown, Asian, and everything in between for the sake of the Gospel…reaching our own people in a way that only we can. Speaking in a language we can truly understand and identify with.
(Below is a picture of a panel discussion held at that event in Glendale, shown are JSon of Lamp Mode Records and Francis Chan)
I’d later find out that P4CM (Passion 4 Christ Movement) and SoundVision Entertainment were involved in putting this together and/ or promoting it. What truly blew me away was the spoken word poets, not that I didn’t enjoy Lecrae and Francis Chan…but I need to be very transparent, I was a closet poet…. I loved poetry, it was a way that I’d learned to express myself and this was something that really manifested itself while I was in prison. With so much time on my hands and being stuck in a cell, I started writing in ways I never knew I could, but… I couldn’t let the homies know I was a poet, that wasn’t gangsta’… however those that did know where always asking for poems to write to their wives and girlfriends for anniversaries, birthdays, and whenever they’d get caught up. So now for me to witness black, brown, and Asian brotha’s and sista’s spitting some of the dopest poetry I’ve ever heard in my life was amazing… and they were love poems too… but a different kind of love, they were fueled by their love of God and His love of us. Some of these poets, organizers, and promoters would later become some of my really good friends. Cats like Jose Palos, Chris Webb, Montell Ricks, Steve Ross, Celah, TQ Senkungu, AD Williams, Shai Linne, Chris & Morgan Davis, Thi’sl, NIQ, and many others are valued friends whom I love, care for, and respect in their ministries and personal lives.
So what does any of this have to do with church planting in the hood?
Why? Because people like these are influencing people that look like me, that come from backgrounds like mine, and these folks need to be taken seriously in ministry. And to be honest, this is not something that’s happened quite often. The Anglo culture has not always been too receptive and has even been somewhat hesitant to deal with these types of ministries, genre of music, and it’s not because they’re bad people… this is just something that’s foreign to them. My previous church is a historic Dutch Reformed Church and to say it was easy to incorporate spoken word poetry and Christian hip-hop into the culture there would be a lie. But it wasn’t impossible! All of what I’ve said here is to lead up to this…Emmanuel Reformed Church allowed me to start an annual spoken word poetry and hip-hop show every year for my last 5 years there. It was an annual church plant fundraiser…all monies raised went towards helping fund new church plants and existing church plants into Compton and heading west towards South L.A. and even the Hollywood area. They took a chance on doing something different and I’ll always love and respect them for that! Did these shows make millions? No, but the Gospel was preached, money was raised, connections were made, networking happened, and ALL of it in the name of Jesus.
My heart has always been with church planters… I just didn’t think I’d actually be planting one myself…I’m blessed to have been a part of a movement at Emmanuel in Paramount, and now as we’re planting RCLA (Reformed Church of Los Angeles) in Lynwood I don’t know when we’ll be hosting another show…but best believe something BIG is stirring up in our hearts and minds. We plan to bring all that we’ve learned, all our relationships, and resources to use these types of ministries to impact our new community for the Kingdom of God and let everyone know it’s all about Jesus, our Christ and King. Without Christ at the center of our lives, all we do is in vain. But if we keep our eyes focused on Him and His finished work on the Cross…if we truly are obedient to His teachings, commands, and open to being used in different ways and embracing folks just as they are and point them towards Him…all will be well. We’ve got a great team whom I have a deep love and respect for…we’re a diverse looking bunch, maybe even weird…but a beautiful sight to God, folks that normally wouldn’t be together are now together in an area they probably shouldn’t be…doing His work ya’ll.
This was our final show last year… it was so dope as we also added a conference component to it with some of the most solid theology from Christian Hip-Hop artists who are also theologians, pastors, and servants. Check the whole conference here, Chopping Block Conference Q&A
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