Five Reasons Preachers Should Listen to Hip Hop

This particular style of music has some unique benefits for preaching

“The more important the truths we share the more they deserve to be said in a beautiful way. Why would you display an expensive painting in a cheap frame? Preaching shouldn’t be merely about helping our audience know something, but helping them feel something, helping them see something.”

 

In his book The Artist’s Way of Preaching, Charles Denison says, “Most people do not read poetry, but the preacher should!” I wholeheartedly agree. But I will go a step further, I think preachers should listen to poetry as well.

I don’t mean that all who teach God’s Word should get a 116 tattoo or become a hip hop groupie. Nor do I mean that if you don’t like rap that you are wrong. You’re just missing out (in my humble but accurate opinion). What I do mean is that I think this particular style of music has some unique benefits for preaching. Here are five:

1. Metaphors:

A good Christian hip hop artist will work really hard to take a known truth and make it feel as though it’s being seen for the first time. Artists like Trip Lee produce potent metaphors for biblical truths.

To give just one example, Trip’s song “I’m Not a Robot,” is a powerful illustration of how the Spirit sets us free from the bondage of sin. Check out his lyrics, “I am not your robot, I am not a clone. You are not my puppeteer and I am not a drone. Got a new master and I follow Him alone. I want a good life ’till I’m gone.”

As Denison says in The Artist’s Way of Preaching listening to poets allows us to learn their trade of “using words to create image.” Download a Trip Lee album and study the way he uses word pictures to convey spiritual realities. It will help you be more creative in helping people imagine the truth you are talking about.

The more important the truths we share the more they deserve to be said in a beautiful way. Why would you display an expensive painting in a cheap frame? Preaching shouldn’t be merely about helping our audience know something, but helping them feel something, helping them see something.

2. Concise and Compelling Sound Bytes:

As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of innovation.” Rap music illustrates this point. A rap song has sixteen bars in each verse. This genre imposed limitation forces the hip hop artist to say things in a concise and memorable way. When you have limited time you should weight every word.

Sometimes preachers use light sentences and feathery paragraphs because they know they can take about as long as they want. It’s a shame that some preachers even joke about going long as if it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the words are weighted and if going long is necessary to better understand and apply the text.

It’s wrong if going long is just because someone hasn’t spent enough time crafting their sermon. I have no doubt I’ve been guilty of this more than once. I think preachers can benefit from seeing how much content can be loaded into a four minute song. I know I have.

Listen to a KB album and see how much truth he is able to share in one sixteen. Regarding persecution, he gets all this into just a few lines, “What are they gonna do, what murder us? What murder does is send a surge of us to go put churches up. Ain’t no hurtin’ us!” Hip hop artists like KB can show meandering preachers, and we’ve all been there, how to get and stay on point.

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