January 11, 2011 –
One of the first Christian hip-hop panels organized by a church in Manhattan’s Lower East Side—and by a Nazarene church in New York—was held on January 29 at the Lamb’s Church, under the leadership of Pastors Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero. Called “Clash of Cultures? Christian Hip-Hop Meets the Church,” the panel provided churches an opportunity to discuss this music’s role in ministry.
Panelists included rapper and author Phanatik, founding member of the two-time Grammy-nominated group Cross Movement; Pastor Raymond Robles, former member of the urban singing group TRUCE and founder of the record label Bloody Ink; film editor Yolanda Solomon with a short film profiling a gospel rap artist; and popular Christian rapper J Sky Walker. The panel was broadcast live on one of the nation’s leading holy hip-hop radio stations, hollafestradio.com, which is also a Holy Culture Radio podcast. It was a free event open to the public.
The panel was birthed from recognition of the need for churches to dialogue about Christian hip-hop. “There is controversy surrounding Christian hip-hop, as some people feel uncomfortable with not only the music but also the culture. Yet, hip-hop is a fecund platform for outreach,” said the Lamb’s Nazarene Youth International President Michael Lopez. Many churches, however, know little, if anything, about Christian hip-hop, let alone how to incorporate it as a tool for ministry. This panel exposed people to different types of this musical genre, discussed its history, challenges, and appeal, and equipped churches to utilize it to engage youth and their teens to young adult years.
“I love hip-hop,” said the Lamb’s youth leader, a young adult himself, Guesnerth Perea, “I see hip-hop culture and Christian culture as very similar; both speak to and give a voice to the marginalized and the poor. So, I would like to have a conversation on how the two can work together.” While the Lamb’s has held several panels, this was only one of two panels to which a number of other churches are actively being invited.
The panel was part of a Christian hip-hop night and was followed with an open mic, featuring two rappers: The Mouthpi3ce and Dying Breed and up-and-coming spoken word artist Kevin Goodridge, who has performed at the Nuyorican Poets Café. Expected to participate in the open mic portion were singers as well as spoken word, reggaeton, hip-hop, and reggae artists. There was also a wall for graffiti artists to tag. All proceeds from the open mic went to the Lamb’s Emergency Food Program.
Though Christian hip-hop may attract only a subset of church population, this subset is invaluable to the Lamb’s Church. “Part of who we are is a multicultural, multigenerational church. While hip-hop is not necessarily part of my generation, it touches the millennials,” said Pastor Jeanette Salguero, “It speaks to them in their language, and at the Lamb’s, we love in everyone’s language.”
Christian hip-hop is speaking to youth now more than ever; in September, gospel rapper Lecrae topped iTunes’ general album charts at number 3 and iTunes’ rap album charts at number2, behind secular rapper Little Wayne. It appears Christian hip-hop may help reduce the staggering 80% of twenty-some-things in the US reported by the research firm Barna Group to be absent from church.
Exploring the relationship between the arts and Christianity has historically been a trademark of the Lamb’s. Originally located in the Times Square area, the church is known throughout New York City for the high caliber of its theatrical performances, which showcased professional, often Broadway, singers. Now in the Lower East Side, the Lamb’s retains its passion for sharing Christ through art; it has held a jazz concert featuring Grammy award-winning bassist John Benitez and continues to provide art therapy for vulnerable populations through its Gifted Hands program.
About the Lamb’s Church
Under the leadership of Senior Pastors Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero and Asisstant Pastors Rev. Wu and Rev. Falconi, the Lamb’s is comprised of a Chinese Mandarin congregation and a Spanish/English congregation. Together, these congregations are one: a multicultural, multiclass, multigenerational urban church committed to developing Christian leadership and ministry that transforms individuals, culture, and communities through worship, education, compassionate ministry, and community development. To that end, the Lamb’s participates in the Green Faith Program, spearheads the food pantry initiative Emergency Food Program, and administers art therapy program Gifted Hands. For more information, visit www.lambschurch.org/