J. Cole is reaching millions of people. These people would say J. Cole is more than just an artist. He’s inspiring people to look beyond their situations and believe in a brighter future. He gives them hope, encouragement, and, lets not forgot, entertainment.
Cole is one of the most talented hip hop artists, but he’s not your typical hip hop artist. He’s a socially conscious rapper, cut from the same cord as Kendrick Lamar and, of course, Tupac Shakur. Cole cares about addressing the pressing concerns of communities looking up to him for hope. However, Christians are afraid of even approaching him since J. Cole is entrenched in hip hope culture.
Cole is having a positive impact on hip hop culture. He understands kids are looking up to him and he wants to be a positive role model for them. He has talked about taking his role as a spokesmen for young black males seriously. He wants to show them there’s another way to live your life, besides the life going down the wrong path. He’s raw and unfiltered in his presentation and that’s why he’s connected with such a wide audience. Cole is a superstar at connecting with people and identifying with what’s going on in the pulse of a community.
Christians and J. Cole share some similar messages and Cole is tapping into an avenue in addressing them in a different way, and, sometimes, a better way. We, as Christians, should lend an ear to what he’s doing. I’m not saying you have to be a big fan like me, but I am saying that we should constantly be looking for new ways to bring the message of the Gospel to people.
The Church sometimes is prone to stay within the four walls of our churches. However, as I pray you have heard already, the Church is a people, not a building. People talk about building a church on that or this corner, but Jesus is about building the church within you and I. That building we go to each week is just a symbol for something bigger, the Church.
Another thing happens when you listen to Cole’s music, which I feel is another great thing about Cole’s music. You press play and immediately become consumed in the canvas with which Cole is painting on. His lyrics become steps to further step into his mind. And we can’t help but share it with others. Good music is like good food: it’s best experienced with others.
The first time I shared a meal with my wife at Taco Bell, I knew I never wanted to share a Crunchwrap with anyone else. It’s the same way with Cole’s music. You gotta ask people what their favorite songs are and what they thought about a certain album. I specifically remember being blown away when J. Cole’s Born sinner album was released. I couldn’t stop listening to it and talking about it. This is just what music does to people.
Music, like I wrote earlier, is best experienced with people. Cole’s music has brought me into conversations I wouldn’t normally be involved in. Cole’s lyrics bring together people from all walks of life who share a connection to his lyrics. This intersection of connection is the ideal place for a Christian, since we can talk with people on subjects that can transcend music. Jesus used agriculture metaphors to talk with people on subjects that transcend plowing a field, so why can’t some Christians use hip hop culture metaphors to do the same?
Sure, Cole’s lyrics are filled with some words that aren’t PG-13, but I feel like his message outweighs certain words he uses. I sometimes feel like Christians only listen to people who speak exactly like them. I sometimes feel like we don’t give people the time of day if they don’t adhere to the full teaching of Jesus (“How dare you use any other four letter word besides holy?!“) or some preconceived man-made bare minimum standard of Christianity (“I might not attend church, read my Bible, or even talk to Jesus, or think of anyone besides myself, but at least I don’t struggle with foul language like that egregious sinner!” – The Pharisee in Luke 18:11, but also a lot of Christians). It’s a problem when the only people you hang out with look, talk, and act like you. People who don’t act or look like you have a story to tell and their story is no less important than our own.
Personally, I’m not someone who makes a habit of using foul language. My favorite curse word is cats (if you like cats, you need to repent of your sins right away). When it comes to Cole’s music, I don’t focus on specific words, but on his message. Sure, there’s a bunch of lyrics that stick out to me, but what keeps me coming back to him for more is his message.
One last reason why Christians should listen to J. Cole is check the pulse of what’s current in culture. Cole’s song hit a nerve with people and we should take notice, since it’s probably hitting a nerve of a issue affecting our community of believers. This doesn’t just have to be with Cole or even music.
Sometimes take a look at what’s popular at the movie theaters or on television and make a note of what those movies or TV shows are addressing or how are people connecting with them. For example, Thirteen Reasons Why was a massive hit and struck a nerve by exposing teenage depression (and so much more). We should take note of this and think through ways we can make our churches better. We don’t have to be afraid of culture. We can use it for something bigger than culture. We can use what we learn to connect with people who wouldn’t dare step foot inside a church, but they would listen to J. Cole or watch Thirteen Reasons Why.
And I feel I have to stress this happen, I don’t think it’s God’s plan for our lives to use foul language. Ephesians 4:29 is pretty clear about that. However, I don’t take that verse as saying we should avoid people who speak foul language or any media that has foul language. This is a topic for another post, but my point now is that I just feel this connects back to the idea of Christians mainly only spending time with people who are mirror copies of them. I don’t think that’s God’s plan for our lives, and it’s a pretty dull existence too.
Let’s leave our churches and go be the Church. Connect to powerful messages in movies, television, and music and use that connection to build a bridge with people. Talk to people who don’t think, act, or speak like you. How can we bring the Gospel to a world we constantly disassociate ourselves with?
Leave your church and go be the Church.