Church Clothes - Purpose, Passion, Progression

Posted on May 21, 2012 / by Lecrae

The truth is: God is still at work! 

Thanks to everyone who is downloading and spreading the "Church Clothes" mixtape. 

I'm blown away at the response. It’s humbling and pushes me to keep going. 

 At the beginning of my musical career, my intention was to enrich and give hope to the listener (it still is). I was volunteering at a halfway house, and the young men there embraced Hip Hop music that encouraged their low ideals and detrimental perspectives. Over the years, some, due to their new found faith in God, had their ideals changed but now had few musical offerings. There were always Christians doing Hip Hop, but the music was usually inaccessible or unpopular.  I would listen to the radio and wonder where was the Christian's perspective being heard in Hip Hop culture? "Contemporary Christian Music" had developed, "Gospel" had its lane, but where was Hip-Hop that articulated faith in Jesus? Hard to find.

 Interestingly enough, those genres are the only ones categorized based off the content and not the style of music. Though it gives people identifying marks for their music, it can also (in many ways) limit their reach. Many people take these titles to mean the music is for an exclusively Christian audience. If indeed the true Gospel is what transforms people outside the faith, then why should the term Gospel seem exclusive to those in the faith? Of course that's not the intention, it's just a reality that any missionary should consider. 

 As far as Hip Hop music done well by Christians, there were always a few groups and artists over the years that helped ease my woes; but I was not at all content. The general market was flooded with Hip Hop artists, but I rarely heard anything that embodied a worldview that God would endorse. Trying to be a part of the solution, I took to the studio and recorded an album. It captured my southern roots, love for lyricism, and I tried to make it as current in production as I could. (I produced most of it.) The result was a tool for my fellas at the halfway house and other areas with similar struggles.  That project opened doors for me to travel a bit—mostly prisons, churches and inner city outreaches—and perform my songs. I found that I had a gift for catalyzing people toward truth and creating anthems for Christians to live sacrificially and unashamedly for their faith. 

Personally, I couldn’t simply talk about change. I had to be apart of it, so I spent my life living in the inner city, doing foreign missions and serving in the local church. All of that was ammunition for my Rebel album. My life bled out in that project, and the result was God showing tremendous fruit and people's lives being transformed by His power.

But one problem I faced was that, in my hood, only the kids in after school programs and the Christians were feeling it. Sure, some were rejecting the Gospel but others didn't give it a spin at all due to the labels placed on it.  I was respected by my non-religious friends, but my music to them was very limited and didn't speak to any areas of life other than salvation and living right.  I sought advice and was led to books by people like Francis Shaffer, CS Lewis and others. (There are links below.)

I was challenged in more ways than you can imagine. 

Desperate to help the lost, broken and hurting, I tried building relationships with my newfound understanding. It was difficult and awkward, but God showed me plenty of grace.  People came to Jesus and grew deeply, and I found I was liberated and matured in ways I could not articulate. 

I'm starting to get it. God hasn't changed my vision, He's expanded it. 

 Only 4% of all Americans have a biblical worldview and only 10% of Christians see the world with a biblical lens. (There's a test link below to check ya self!)  

 We tend to wear bifocals—partially seeing things as spiritual and seeing other things as secular or non-spiritual.

 We limit spirituality to salvation and sanctification. As long as we are well versed in personal piety and individual salvation, we think we're good. But most Christians have no clue how to engage culture in politics, science, economics, TV, music or art. We tend to leave people to their own devices there.

We subscribe to views like, "Politics and movies are evil or of the devil," and we don’t touch them. Leaving them to be dominated by non-biblical worldviews. Or, since we don’t have a philosophy or filter, we do it the way culture says to...chasing vain ambition. 

Most professing Christians have no idea how to direct their careers with biblical lenses, but instead of praying for and offering solutions we usually just shake our heads and dismiss these “sellouts & compromisers.”

 We are missing out on the gospel's power of redemption and glorification in all things. 

 The whole idea of a secular/sacred divide was born because ancient Greeks (specifically Plato) thought matter (or things) was preexisting and eternal. They thought matter contained the ability to resist the gods or just God--making it evil. But as Christians, we defeat that claim with the doctrine that only God is preexisting and eternal. He is the source of ALL creation.

 PSALM 24:1 “The Earth is the Lord's and all it contains.”

 In Genesis 1, God repeatedly identifies His creation as good, meaning no part of creation is inherently bad or evil.

 Paul in 1 Tim 4:4 says, “Everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving."

 I can already hear people saying, "So pornography and crack is good if embraced with thanksgiving!?" Obviously not. The origin of objects and God's intended function are what's good; it's man's direction that distorts them. So the origin and function of sex is good, but the depravity of man to direct and distort it into pornography is a manifestation of man's darkened heart. 

 Is there such a thing as evil music?  Well, the artist’s heart may be evil and because of that you are hearing their heart. Matt 12:34 says that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The heart is therefore the problem, not the music. Changed hearts produce changed music. 

 When Adam and Eve rebelled, they sinned. The trees didn’t sin, the ground didn’t sin, humanity sinned. The natural world was, however, affected by human sin. Humans were the housekeepers of God's creation, so their sin had a ripple affect into the natural world.

 Humanity had authority and there is a consequence for authority. If the owner of a house is lazy, the house is going to catch the effect of his laziness. It’s going to look ragged and filthy. It’s not that the house wants to look ugly or creepy, but the people’s sin has affected it. Even good things fall to the depravity of people.

 Evil and disorder are not intrinsic, built-in or inherent in material things like art, dance, or alcohol. "The heart is wicked," the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9. We take those things and distort them, because the human will and volition are rebellious and wrong. 

 Paul writes in Romans 14:14 nothing is unclean itself. It becomes unclean when sinners use it to express their rebellion towards God. The line between good and bad is therefore not in the thing, the music, the movie, the politics, but in the heart.

 A butcher knife is usually depicted as an evil murderous tool. But God made the ore and wood and man can use it to make a knife that cuts food and feeds people.

 A skull is typically viewed as evil and demonic, but God made skulls. We all have them and they are VERY good. They protect our brains! So wearing a skull on your shirt doesn’t make you less of a Christian, even though society has given it negative associations.

 All this to say that the "secularizing" of things or music speaks more to the heart's intention on not painting a picture that God would endorse. After all, food, music and school buildings are just things. They don’t have a soul or mind and can’t have intentions. The people who are involved in them do.

 Worldliness does not mean engaging culture, it's when the culture shapes your thoughts over God. Jesus prayed we would remain in the world but protected. He also tells us the gates of Hell will not prevail against us. Gates were established to protect cities, so for the gates not to prevail would mean we are trying to storm them. We are here to engage culture not run from it.

 Wrestling with worldly ideas challenges us and gives us new ways to depend on God. Is this my new direction? No, it’s just an expansion on what I’ve already been doing.

 Will I continue to write songs like "Don't Waste Your Life" and "Go Hard"? ABSOLUTELY!  But after seeing how powerfully God is using my latest efforts, I will also write songs to engage culture and speak to things that humanity in general will wrestle with and think on.

 So, thank you for supporting me and helping the success of the mission and vision.  I’m not concerned at all with being a "star". I got in this to bring hope and that's how I'm going out. 

Love y'all 

Lecrae 

 

Links:

Biblical Worldview Testing - http://www.nehemiahinstitute.com/peers_test.htm

Francis Shaffer - http://amzn.to/KnKnab

Chuck Coloson - http://amzn.to/JWeM1Y

Nancy Pearcy - http://amzn.to/Lng2Q7

CS Lewis - http://amzn.to/J9A4bs

Tim Keller - http://sermons2.redeemer.com/category/sermon-hierarchy/mission/renewal/arts

Mike Z said:
Wow, thanks for the insight into the creative process. I am so grateful to have a legitimate example of hip hop, that uplifts God. I really like what you have to say with your newest release, and it has encouraged me to preach to my youth with a renewed sense of purpose. The theme i derived from the title cut "church clothes" is that we are Christ followers need to re-brand what a christian is. the culture has heard of christians, yet knows few followers. It's an uphill battle to be real in a world full of hypocracy, but Jesus is in our corner! God Bless, I love your label, keep up the good work!
May 21st, 2012 at 1:43pm
Ashley said:
CHURCH CLOTHES IS AMAZING!! IT HASN'T LEFT MY CAR! I BEEN MAKING COPIES FOR MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY! I ALWAYS KEEP YOU IN PRAYER MY DUDE!! YOUR RHYME SCHEME IS PURE BEAST AND ANNOITED BY GOD! HOPE THERE'S A TOUR, IF SO WORCESTER, MA GOT MAD LOVE FOR YOU BRO!!! BE SOOO BLESSED IF YOU COULD COME THROUGH!! STAY BLESSED!
May 21st, 2012 at 1:43pm
Tara said:
I just commented and it disappeared. Well I said I have struggled with this issue of trying to find a balance of being a light in this world. It really hits me when I think of sinners being comfortable around Jesus and religious people not. I want to be the same. Thanks shedding light on this issue Crae!!
May 21st, 2012 at 1:44pm
Brad B. said:
This was a great explanation of your heart, mind set, and Mission Lecrae. Thank you for being real and more importantly, REAL CLEAR! That's why I continue to support you in your work! God bless you bro.

Still a F-A-N-A-T-I-C,

Brad
May 21st, 2012 at 1:44pm
Josh G. Massey said:
I love Lecrae, enough said. His music has been a part of my life since I was 12 years old (I'm 20 now), and his life and art has inspired me to become an artist myself. I love what Lecrae is doing, and his creative process is unmatched. God Bless
May 21st, 2012 at 1:51pm
Juanginez said:
EVERYONE SHOULD READ Francis Shaffer!!! :) if your an artist that loves the lord! "..francis schaeffer art and the bible.." read this book! tried of ppl hate'n... THERE IS NO SEPARATION BETWEEN SECULAR AND SACRED! Keith green on of the greatest christian artist talk about this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23rmOF5zswk
May 21st, 2012 at 2:03pm
designbySPIRIT said:
This whole post is POWERFUL and so true. Quote of the day:
"A skull is typically viewed as evil and demonic because humanity has directed there, but God made skulls. We all have them and they are VERY good. They protect our brains! So wearing a skull on your shirt and it doesnâ??t make you less a Christian even though society has given it negative associations."

Praying for you bro. Much love.
May 21st, 2012 at 2:10pm
Olivia F said:
Thanks so much for explaining your motives. I love the mixtape and also the whole label and the music you all produce! I turned my life over to God about a year ago and I want to thank you and the whole reach records team for your help, even though you had no idea. I grew up listening to Nas, Jay, Usher, you name it. If it was Hip Hop or R&B and it was what was "hot" I was there. Music gave me a "out" when my life got hard, I could subliminally live through it. I guess you can say that music, mtv, bet, and the streets helped raise me.
When the Holy Spirit began to convict my heart and tell me it was time for a change, I not only dove straight into the word of God but any other outlet to hearing about God, I sought out. Which led me to you and your song "Just like you." Even though it was semi about a male figure, it touched me. I started my research and found your website and immediatley began buying or downloading anything I could get my hands on. Your music has helped me through so much, and to see I am not the only person that has gone through things and God still loves me. You all are truly an inspiration.
With this latest mixtape I have not only been listening to it consistenly since its release but, I have passed it on to friends and family that are not saved hoping; that they would get some questions answered, or see things differently, or allow the Holy Spirit to convict them through your music like He did me!
Your music has touched so many people and will continue to touch people! Thank you all for your amazing testimonies, burning hearts for the Gospel, and your desire to reach the broken!
God Bless you and the whole Reach team! Keep up the amazing Gospel of Hip Hop!
May 21st, 2012 at 2:16pm
Wretch said:
Dope blog post Crae. I thank God for how He's grounded you in solid, gospel-centered, missional theology, expanded your vision/mission, and allowed you to be of such great influence to believers and non-believers. I hope Christians (especially artists) actually pick those books up and read them. Grace and Peace.
May 21st, 2012 at 2:22pm
Beau said:
Crae!!!!

Great post and I don't get what the big deal is with people who are "Christians" over this..we are to be the light in darkness not among light. Jesus was not hanging with saints but went after sinners, glad your not remaining in the christian bubble. I support what y'all doing and glad you are the man to do it.
May 21st, 2012 at 2:40pm
Melvin said:
Really enjoyed this article. You touched on some things that I've wrestled with. Keep up the good work. I loved the mixtape.
May 21st, 2012 at 2:41pm
haben fekadu @hss said:
God bless you ma bro @crae am so blessed by ur products so happy and tnx full to God cause of ze grace and you..... may God bless you wiz ur family be strong in ur aim love ya
May 21st, 2012 at 2:49pm
Lion Black said:
Keep it up bro. That puts the gospel of Jesus into perspective for me. I am a Gospel Poet and walk the fine line of whats "ok" and whats not "ok" to read in Christian settings all the time. But if we are going to be effective, we must be relevant. This is His world its time to take it back. I hope one day to share a stage with so we can spread the gospel side by side. Until then I shall continue to keep my hand to the plow. If you are interested in how Jesus works through me in your spare time check out Lionblack.com. Thanks bro for letting the light of Jesus Christ shine so brightly through you.
May 21st, 2012 at 3:41pm
O.F. said:
What a paradigm shift. THIS is the type of word (and work) that the world needs to hear. And the fact that you gave us this for FREE??? WOW! Keep doing what you're doing man. Thanks!
May 21st, 2012 at 3:56pm
Dushayne Parker said:
Thank you so much for putting this out Lecrae,many ppl including us Christians need to understand this and reach out to the ones that are lost with love and the grace God has given us.
May 21st, 2012 at 4:17pm
j@yahoo.com said:
1) Alot of people keep saying Jesus hung with sinners. When He was around sinners all He did was preach the truth. They either were changed and saved or the rejected and walked away. Jesus Christ bestfriends weren't sinners, He didn't just chill with them He was always teaching them. 2) Music was created by God, we all know lucifer was the head angel in music and when he became prideful and fell away he took 1/3 of angels. Being that he was head angel of music in heaven he has instilled his persuasiveness through music in todays culture. He recreated the gift God created and uses it to lead people away from God. So we do have to be careful as artist that we aren't hiding the gospel, trying to mix in the media with "normal" lyrics then hoping they see our life. We don't need to collab with the mainstream media. If you want to reach souls you keep Christ the center of your message and do shows in the jails, youth homes, parks, not just churches. Paul says in Corinthians My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) All he did was preach truth. He didn't dress it up, try to make the gospel more appeasing to sinners, he shared the Truth and lives are still being changed because of it. You can collab with mainstream media, you can get airplay on major radio stations but the bible says "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44) All we need to do is constantly share truth. People will be drawn to it, all I'm saying is Crae I love you bro but praying hard for you becuase so many temptations will arise and as a role model to millions if you fall alot of people could fall away. Having your songs on a mainstream station, channel doesn't mean a thing if when 10,000 songs played are all opposed to Christianity and then they throw in 1 of your songs. Just a my opinion.
May 21st, 2012 at 5:38pm
rex said:
Yo! Don Cannon keeps referring to Church Clothes as Volume 1. Will there be more free mixtapes?
May 21st, 2012 at 8:22pm
Victoria said:
I have been listening since the beginning! I turned to Cross Movement, FLAME, and Reach Records after getting saved. I knew that I needed to be listening to music that glorified God and helped cultivate a heart, mind, and life that dewlt on His truths. Unfortunately, I hit a brick wall....I couldn't find ANY music that had decent lyrics AND showcased true talent by way of beats, music, and vocals. Then, I came across CMR. I had finally found SOMETHING to listen to! My horizons broadened when FLAME signed on and continued to grow as Reach Records came onto the scene. I'm still listening. I am still grateful to God for changing your lives, giving you a talent and passion for the gospel and for music, and making it possible for you to do what you've done all these years! Please keep serving Him. One day the music will stop, but your legacy will still live on. Stay close to Him so that it will continue to be a legacy worth leaving! You all are brothers in the faith. I say these things to you and trust that they will speak to tou because they are just the kinds of things that you've communicated to me through your music. 116 is a movement that spans throughout all of time and all over God's creation. You've gone hard and my prayer is that together we will all continue to hold on as God does His work in and through us!
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Jan 3rd, 2013 at 11:41pm
MaryE said:
First & foremost giving honor to GOD for being GOD!I have just recently discovered & embraced the hip hop movement in spreading the Gospel. As a disciple of JESUS CHRIST,our brother,i must commend Reach Records team & all its affiliates. When i 1st truly rec'vd JESUS as the head of my life almost 3yrs ago, i did away w/ all worldly music. Even when the Elect Miss. of my church kept trying to into. Me to Lecrae & others i was like honey i dont wanna hear that. Uk i dont listen to all that rap. But when i was out in the world i did. I eventually Listened & the messages were REAL. I can agree w/ what was being spoken,JESUS ALL DAY I RIDE OR DIE! Its good to see young ppl adamant abt leading others to JESUS. There is deliverance healing miracles protection prosperity etc. In JESUS. The world needs to know that. Ppl often thnk being sold out to the LORD means u r boring and cant have fun. But life is boring w/out JESUS bc u r living w/out purpose. I love what u r doing,however,pls stay grounded.
Mar 2nd, 2013 at 9:12am
MaryE said:
@j@yahoo.com I agree. Many ppl are naive to spirits/demons. And even when are told they believe what part they want to believe as they do the BIBLE! Expanding on what u said lucifer voice was the 1st sound heard. When he was cast down the 1/3 of angels who r now evil spirits and demons work overtime to kill steal and destroy. Esp. Thru music! Lecrae made a good pt. When he was sayn that GOD made everything to be good but its the intentions of man who corrupts these things. Thats why we must be able to spiritually discern. Bc all who claims to knw and love GOD arent. Quoting scriptures is good but remember the devil knows the BIBLE thats y we as christians are struggling. Bc we knw the BIBLE BUT DONT WANT 2 LIVE IT.
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