Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen has been cultivating a friendship with apparent born-again Christian rapper Kanye West and wants the “Jesus Is King” MC to visit his Lakewood Church.
Local Houston news station KHOU-TV reported that “Osteen and West have developed a friendship through phone conversations about faith, according to Lakewood.”
The original report comes from entertainment and celebrity news site TMZ.
Sources with direct knowledge tell TMZ, Kanye and Joel speak from time to time on the phone … as recently as 2 weeks ago. We’re told Joel has invited Kanye to take a trip to Houston and experience his megachurch, Lakewood, where 45,000 people show up to pray every week. The Sunday service reaches 100 MILLION homes in America and tens of millions more around the world.
We’re told Joel genuinely likes Kanye and believes his life is rooted in faith and love. During their conversations, they talk a lot about faith and Joel’s proud that Kanye has traversed his sometimes difficult journey, and has come out believing in a higher power.
It wasn’t clear if Osteen invited West to perform, as West had previously been showcasing his latest work among audiences at popular churches across the country.
Osteen is not the only Christian leader West has been affiliated with, as previous reports have linked him to pastor Adam Taylor. Taylor pastors Placerita Bible Church in Newhall, California, and says he has been discipling West in his newfound faith. Also, West and wife Kim Kardashian had their wedding ceremony officiated by pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. in 2014.
West’s album, “Jesus Is King,” was finally released to the public on Friday, October 25. The 11-track album runs for about 35 minutes and includes such titles as “Selah,” “Follow God,” “God Is,” and “Jesus Is Lord.” The songs are riddled with biblical and spiritual references. For example, on “God Is” West raps: “You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’ name/ Listen to the words I’m sayin’, Jesus saved me, now I’m sane.” Slate charted and annotated all the name-drops on West’s album and concluded that the rapper references the secular a bit more than the religious on “Jesus Is King.” However, he references the New Testament and the Old Testament equally.
Although early reviews for “Jesus Is King” have been mixed, West says plans for a tour for the album are well underway. In addition, a documentary with the same title was released in theaters via IMAX. Fans of West’s newest album can also scoop up exclusive merch tied to the theme of “Jesus Is King.” The Los Angeles Times reports that a special installation went up locally that features “T-shirts ($60), sweatpants ($140), crewneck sweatshirts ($160) and ball caps ($45) emblazoned with ‘Jesus Is King,’ some with a watercolor-like illustration of a figure (presumably Jesus) with a nimbus of light framing the head.”
As West has proclaimed during performances and in interviews, his new turn to gospel music is a genuine reflection of his desire to follow God.
“Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me,” West told Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1, according to NME.com. “I’ve spread a lot of things. There was a time I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me, I was letting you know what the Hennessey had done for me, but now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me, and in that I’m no longer a slave, I’m a son now, a son of God. I’m free.”
The 42-year-old artist’s turn from producing “the devil’s music” to lifting up Jesus as king has not put a damper on his ego, however.
The rapper previously known for grabbing mics and crashing stages to voice his views, maintains that with “Jesus Is King,” he is “unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time.”
West’s declaration was linked to his apparent boundary-breaking moves, such as saying things that he believes others won’t and being an avowed Trump supporter, as the president remains unpopular among Black Americans.
“ … I’m only afraid of God … “ #JesusIsKing @kanyewest . pic.twitter.com/vJvNwayoXr
— Flint Bedrock (@flintbedrock) October 26, 2019
It was West’s very public support of President Donald Trump and his controversial statement about slavery being “a choice” that caused some of his African-American fans to put him on pause in 2018. Despite his apparent turn toward Jesus, former fans and admirers remain skeptical of West’s intentions — particularly due to his turn to the Black church for his Sunday Service shows ahead of the album’s release.
“An appeal to the Black church is part of the redemption playbook for disgraced Black celebrities,” Naima Cochrane writes at Billboard.
Kristin Corry posed questions about Kanye’s turn to religion and his “fixation with the Black church” to religious experts for Vice.com.
Ashon Crawley, writing at NPR, wonders about “mixing the political and economic with the religious” and if West “has used the concept of salvation … to disallow thoughtful engagement with his politics.”
Some Christians, meanwhile, have called for caution in blindly championing West’s public declaration of his conversion to the faith.
“Some might be tempted to portray Kanye West as a kind of prodigal son, someone who has finally ‘come home’ to the Christian faith. But Christians in particular should view him in the same way that we view ourselves. West is a ‘tax collector,’ and Jesus is king,” writes New Testament professor Esau McCaulley. “We shouldn’t expect someone new to this level of devotion to spark a sudden revival. We should not expect him to lead. We should instead give him space to learn, grow and be held accountable in a community of faith that will ground him and prepare him for a lifetime of service.”