On Sunday, pastor Joel Osteen told his worshippers — both in the packed crowd at Lakewood Church in Houston and watching online or listening to SiriusXM — that it was a “breakthrough day for us.” He also spoke of God “bringing the right people across our path.” It’s not clear whether the televangelist meant Kanye West, but that’s who turned up.
About 45 minutes into service at the Texas mega-church, Osteen welcomed West to the stage, prompting audience members to stand and whoop. Once the applause had died down, the rapper began to speak out his renewed commitment to Christianity.
“I know that God’s been calling me for a long time, and the devil’s been distracting me for a long time,” he said, as the words “Jesus is King” — the title of his latest album — appeared on a scene behind him.
As daughter North and wife Kim Kardashian West — the “Stronger” star corrected Osteen when the pastor introduced her as merely Kim Kardashian — watching on from the audience, West spoke of turning to faith and having “visions” during his “lowest point,” his 2016 hospitalization for what he called a “mental breakdown.” West was inspired to release a gospel album — the afore-mentioned Jesus is King, which dropped last month —
West — who asked for silence from worshippers prone to shouting out during his responses, explaining that the outbursts were distracting and he’d rather “let God float through me” — said he felt pressure to “quiet” his own religious urges, with people telling him that superstars shouldn’t be speaking openly about Jesus.
“The only superstar is Jesus,” he then said, prompting a roar from the crowd.
The 42-year-old also hit out at ads for alcohol and likened strip clubs to sex trafficking, and criticized misogynistic lyrics in rap music as a misguided effort to “maintain coolness.” As a family man — his reference to being married for five years drawing another round of applause — he now felt a “blatant responsibility” to set a better example.
“When we bring up the name of Jesus, we’re told to be quiet,” West shared, adding that he was “drawing a line in the sand and saying I’m here in the service of God.”
On the subject of fame, he said it made Satan “powerful”: “The devil stole all the good producers, the devil stole all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers, all the good businesspeople, and said you’ve got to come work for me.”
But, with a smile and a comment acknowledging his “arrogance and cockiness,” West told the crowd that the “greatest artist that God ever created is now working for him” — a reference to himself.
Other topics touched on in the roughly 20-minute appearance were his defense of Osteen and his prosperity gospel (“When you’ve got Kanye defending you, you’ve made it,” the pastor quipped); his new music (he’s found the “most fire producers” and is “bringing them back to God”); and his criticism of ending prayer in school.
“Reinstate the fear and love of God and eliminate the fear and hate of everything else,” he added, later launching into a somewhat rambling prayer that he joked veered into “Ricky Bobby” territory, a reference to the Will Ferrell comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.)
West will return to the mega-church’s stage on Sunday night for a special edition of his “Sunday Service” performances.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott praised the rap artist for performing at local jails on Friday.
Some question @kanyewest motives as he speaks of Jesus & performs in jails.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 17, 2019
If he moves just one person closer to God the world will be a more peaceful place.
The Lord works in mysterious ways.
As Jesus said: You don’t understand what I’m doing now but someday you will. https://t.co/vt0KT3xhMY pic.twitter.com/6TNqO8ofIJ
After kicking off with one performance for more than 200 men at the 701 San Jacinto building, @kanyewest ducked down into the underground tunnel and turned up in the main Baker Street jail to do a second show for a smaller crowd of women. https://t.co/VNJqoq3Ult pic.twitter.com/95ZFVWQ0HC— Houston Chronicle (@HoustonChron) November 15, 2019
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