Community Outreach

Is Hip-Hop the Key to Connect with Today’s Teens?


An Interview with A Christian Hip Hop Artist?

A Brief History of Hip Hop

Becky Blanchard writes this about Hip Hops beginnings.

“Hip-hop music is generally considered to have been pioneered in New York’s South Bronx in 1973 by Jamaican-born Kool DJ Herc. At a Halloween dance party thrown by his younger sister, Herc used an innovative turntable technique to stretch a song’s drum break by playing the break portion of two identical records consecutively. The popularity of the extended break lent its name to “breakdancing”–a style specific to hip-hop culture, which was facilitated by extended drum breaks played by DJs at New York dance parties. By the mid-1970s, New York’s hip-hop scene was dominated by seminal turntablists DJ Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Herc. The rappers of Sugarhill Gang produced hip-hop’s first commercially successful hit, “Rapper’s Delight,” in 1979′.”[1]

Hip-hop has since evolved into a multi-million dollar industry.  It has an influence on teens of all races and economic backgrounds.  I may later delve into the influence or dangers of hip-hop on the psyche of young impressionable minds.  In this post, I want to focus on how one young white Lutheran teacher is using this music to connect teens to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Below is an edited transcript of my meeting and interview with Josh Atkinson, a teacher at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.

Keith:  So, Josh, when we talked you told me what motivated you to introduce hip-hop to chapel, was that the mostly black population at Milwaukee Lutheran was falling asleep and bored in chapel.  As we know any change in an institution comes with much difficulty.  So, how did you go about making a change to the way chapel was being conducted?

Josh: Different cultures have different languages. Sounds obvious, but what we don’t realize sometimes is that these different cultures could be right around the corner, or in our own backyards. I wanted to speak the language of teens through music, and that genre today is hip-hop. So, then the challenge was combining Jesus and hip hop. As a Lutheran school leader, sharing Jesus is our mission. So that is always the number one focus. And really it should be that in all that we do in ministry. But we must connect to get the message across. So, I did a few things to make Jesus the center. First, I found a cross that I wanted to use as the backdrop for the stage. This same cross is now a staple for all our chapel services. (I’ll put a picture of it at the bottom, it was covered in an inch of dust in our storage at school.)

I always have the lyrics of the song displayed on our screens. The message is number one and in rap music, it can be tough to understand or keep up with the lyrics. So, I always introduce songs by describing the lessons or teaching of the song.

I also wanted to create a concert type atmosphere. Lights, shows, and smoke machines are a major part of each performance.

Finally, I intentionally work to stay current with the lingo and language of hip-hop. It truly is an entirely different language. And if you can speak it, the kids will listen.

Keith: Why is hip-hop so popular with teens?

Josh: I could go on and on about this, but it’s extremely catchy and creates a ton of internal feelings. It creates adrenaline and excitement! It’s also cool! Hip-hop artists are some of the most famous people in the world. So, our youth look up these people as special. The problem with that is teens are exposed to extremely inappropriate lyrics and themes. Christian hip-hop is just as catchy and adrenaline boosting, but with the message of the Gospel!

Keith: You mention that hip-hop has some very inappropriate lyrics and themes how do those negative things effect our youth?

Josh:  Hip-hop is cool and most kids are listing to it, of all backgrounds. It has transcended race and has become the voice of younger generations. But there are 4 themes of the majority of mainstream hip hop. Drugs, sex, money, and self. Listen to any mainstream hip-hop radio station and that’s what you will hear. So, these messages are numbing the souls of those that listen to it over and over again. And to the minds of teens, it can easily become reality. Causing them to dress like them, talk like them, and act like these stars of hip-hop who only care about their bank accounts, not the souls of their listeners.

Keith: Now that you are producing and performing hip-hop what do you hope to accomplish with a positive message through your music?

Josh: Engage, engage, engage! If you can engage your audience, they will be listening with more intent. Focusing on your words and message way more than a traditional hymn or praise song. It’s your classic attention grabber. Leads perfectly into sharing the gospel with my students.

The other objective is to give my students who perform with me a positive outlet for their gifts. I have found students who are extremely talented rappers and singers who otherwise would be singing or rapping about sex, drugs, or money without this outlet. I have a crew of students that perform with me every show.

Every generation has music that their parents dislike or just don’t understand.  It is the allure of that something new.  The question for the church is how do you use that musical medium to connect with the heart language of that generation.  Josh is doing that by taking what can be negative and adapting it to a Christ-centered alternative.  A lesson for the church possibly?



You can follow Josh on his youtube channel.  Here is a link that will lead you the page.



Community Outreach, Faith Conversations

Is Outreach Necessary?


Yes, and here is why

This may sound like an absurd question. Many church people I meet with are disenchanted with the church, with America, and with the shifting society around us.  Those same individuals are encountering denominations that are dwindling in numbers and revenue.  There is a sense of desperation all around.  My response to this is you are right these are trying times for the church, but I have never been more energized.  It means the church is more important, more relevant, demands a bolder witness than ever before.

Outreach is not just needed; it is indispensable to the survival of our communities.  But not in the manner you may imagine.  I am not saying this will grow your church, but it will expand your capacity, your compassion, your heart, and you as a follower of Jesus Christ.  I believe outreach is more about using our God-given spiritual gifts than it is about church growth.  Churches may grow due to our outreach efforts, but that is a Holy Spirit thing, not a program thing, or an energy thing, or even a planned thing.

Our calling is to invite people to meet this Jesus Christ who has transformed our lives through His death and resurrection.  It is our opportunity to create an environment for people to take part in a foretaste of the feast to come.  Come and see the man who knows everything about you, yet still, loves you.  That’s why outreach is crucial, even more so, urgent.

Outreach is Necessary Because the Message is Powerful

Maybe this example will connect with you.

She was lying on the ground. In her arms, she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little — but it was all I had.

Taking a bite, she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft, warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.

Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes, the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived. Love is a costly thing. – Love is a Costly Thing, by Dick Hillis

God in His love for us and for a broken world “spared not His own Son.” God gave the mission to the church to tell the world of the everlasting, all-encompassing love of God. But God’s love came at a significant cost.  Believers, we must tell the world regardless of any personal cost to us. Outreach is an expression of that love’s cost. Our faith costs parents and sons and daughters, relationships. Faith costs the missionary life itself. In his love for Christ, the missionary must give up all to make the Savior known. You are a missionary. The world needs to hear your message of the salvation.  Look around you, there is brokenness, there is hatred, there is racial division, and there is anger.  The only thing that breaks the hold Satan has on the world is the power of forgiveness offered to the world through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ love breaks through hatred, division, and brokenness.  So, saints of God let your love for Christ, cost you something, and we will together live out the mission of inviting people to experience a foretaste of the feast to come.   Outreach is telling a lost and dying world of God’s costly love for us in Christ Jesus. Go, and be an outreach fanatic!

Community Outreach, Mission

Are We Missing the Mission Right Under Our Noses?


There is this excellent illustration about Catherine Booth the “mother” of the Salvation Army. “Wherever Catherine Booth went,” said Campbell Morgan, “humanity went to hear her. Princes and peeresses merged with paupers and prostitutes.”

One night, Morgan shared in a meeting with Mrs. Booth. A great crowd of “publicans and sinners” was there. Her message brought many to Christ. After the meeting, Morgan and Mrs. Booth went to be entertained at an elegant home; and the lady of the manor said, “My dear Mrs. Booth, that meeting was dreadful.”

“What do you mean, dearie?” asked Mrs. Booth.

“Oh, when you were speaking, I was looking at those people opposite to me. Their faces were so terrible, many of them. I don’t think I shall sleep tonight!”

“Why, dearie, don’t you know them?” Mrs. Booth asked; and the hostess replied, “Certainly not!”

“Well, that is interesting,” Mrs. Booth said. “I did not bring them with me from London; they are your neighbors!”

The illustration above points out that often we overlook the mission possibilities in our backyard.

Don’t get me wrong I love mission trips abroad.  Christians can do great ministry in third world countries.  When I see the personal distress of children, my heart is stirred to compassion.   I applaud those people with the tenacity and determination of a missionary. God bless you and the work He has called you to do.   I wish I saw more people who have a passion for the mission field right under their noses.

Local mission work is not as sexy, but the demands are just as great.  And the cost is greatly diminished because you don’t need to board a plane, then take a bus and a bike to far remote places.  Instead, you get to hop in your car then drive to a neighborhood that you often drive through quickly on the way to somewhere else.  These communities often do not have a missionary agency asking for short-term missionaries, yet their mission needs are just as great.  The human hurt is just as heartbreaking.  The suffering, just as generational. The life transformational potential just as impactful.  What makes this possibility even more desirable is that it does not have to be a short-term mission it can be an ongoing missional relationship.

When we ignore the mission opportunities outside our doors, Christians are failing to live up to their full mission potential.  This example says it all. Imagine this: Jesus has come to earth on a special mission. And one day God speaks to Him and says, “Lay hands on this blind man and heal him.” But there’s a dilemma, Jesus has two withered hands. Then God says, “I want you to go and raise Lazarus from the dead.” But suddenly, Jesus collapses and can’t control His legs. Every time God tells Him to do something, something goes wrong. You’re probably thinking that that would never happen. But the church is a body of believers who are Jesus in the flesh on earth today. I wonder if God feels a little bit like that’s the way it is with the church when we don’t live out our local mission.  How powerful could our witness be if the people outside our walls saw and experienced the same level of missionary zeal that so many Christians practice in other countries?

Pray that God opens our eyes to the mission potential in our communities so we can make the most of that opportunity with dogged determination.

Community Outreach, Mission

Are Missional Communities a Threat to the Local Church?


Missional communities continue to be an instrument by which we can live out what it means to be a missional church in the 21st Century.- Keith Haney

 The new standard for information, Wikipedia, defines “missional communities” this way:

“A Missional community is a group of people, about the size of an extended family, who are united through Christian community around a common service and witness to a particular neighborhood or network of relationships.”

I have to admit that is not a bad definition.  One congregation that has a robust mission community philosophy has the following as their definition and vision.  This plan comes from Christianity Today.


“What is a “missional community”?

 A community of Christ followers, on mission with God in obedience to the Holy Spirit that demonstrates and declares the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a particular people group.


  • They are committed to having spiritual conversations that lead to sharing the Gospel of Jesus and the Word of God with the people group.
  • They are committed to regular, passionate prayer for a people group.
  • They are committed to intentionally living among the people group.
  • They are serving the people group in tangible ways.


  • They are committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus and the Word of God with one another.
  • They are committed to regular, passionate prayer for one another.
  • They are committed to intentionally sharing life with one another.
  • They serve one another in bearing burdens. ” Christianity Today


Sounds a lot like what the local congregation is commanded to do.  Are you perhaps reflecting on the realization that the very thing people are seeking in missional communities should be available in the ancient church?

Gathered around the mission

At first glance, two main factors stand out.  The local church today struggles with carrying out the mission. Churches are not assisting folks in substantive ways.  If you take a step back and analyze, many churches outreach plans appear to miss the mark of connecting with the needs of the community in a manner that affect people’s ordinary circumstances.  The simple explanation is that the church struggles to have meaningful contact with unchurched people.  Relationships have not been established to serving people in tangible ways.  Believers at times do ministry “to people” instead of in partnership with others.  Missional communities schedule regular meetings with people, with prayer, and spiritual conversations. During these gatherings, needs are dealt with and religious questions examined.   Building community is done deliberately.  Community happens on Sundays but how intention is our interactions?


Gathered around to form meaning communities

Secondly, these communities are gathered to live life together.  There was a powerful connection in Acts when the new church regularly came together to live life as in a community.  A community focused on prayer, mission, and helping those in need.  One could argue that mission groups are not some new-fangled, thing, rather, the church is just going back to its roots. Luke describes how mission communities functioned in Acts 2:42-47, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” 


Would it be wonderful if every congregation could have people living on mission in their homes?  Imagine how the gospel could spread as the number of seed spreaders increases.

To answer the question: “are missional communities a threat to the local church?” No, they are the local church doing the mission Jesus commanded among people who are not knocking down the churches doors to get in. Missional communities take the mission to the people.

Other posts in this series:



Community Outreach

Two Ways to Bring Christ to Culture


Christians are losing their power and influence … because they are losing their separateness.- Charlene Kaemmerling

When Robert Ingersoll, the famous atheist, was lecturing, he once took out his watch and declared, “I will give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I have said.” The minutes ticked off as he held the watch and waited. In about four-and-a-half minutes, some women began fainting, but nothing happened. When the five minutes were up, Ingersoll put the watch into his pocket. When that incident reached the ears of a certain preacher, Joseph Parker, he asked, “And did the gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of the Eternal God in five minutes?” [1]

The world outside of God’s sheepfold is fond of playing this game of spiritual chicken.  “Come on God prove to me you exist.”  As Paul faced the religious skeptics in Athens, he explained a foreign concept to them, the patience of God.  People are familiar with the wrath of God, or so they think, but patience is a concept far from the mind of the skeptic.  In this post, we will cover the final two ways Paul turned their religious thinking on its head and left the learned spinning in their philosophical seats.

Jesus is the Savior (v. 30).

 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  As Paul brought his arguments to a close, he summarized the clear evidence of God’s patience and the power of His grace. For centuries, God was patient with man’s sin and obliviousness.

“This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Romans 3:25

Let’s not get things confused here.  This by no means indicates that humanity was not guilty, as You will see below in Romans 1.

For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Romans 1:19–23.

What Romans 1, does reveal is that God withheld His divine wrath.  Does that fit the narrative of a God who wants to punish all humanity in a whimsical sort of way?  It instead exposes a different side of God that we Christians know all too well; God is a God of love.  In His time God sent a Savior, and now He commands all men to repent of their foolish ways. This Saviour was killed and then raised from the dead, and one day, Jesus will return to judge the world. The proof that He will judge is that He was raised from the dead.

Paul wipes away the prideful Greek culture by calling it “times of ignorance.” With all their knowledge and learned thinking, and being the height of culture, the Greeks failed to find the true nature of God. If humanity just repents and believes, God is ready and will forgive no strings attached.

Jesus is the Judge (v. 31).

 “…because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this, he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31

There will come a day when God will judge. God has appointed a day of judgment, and the Judge will be His Son, Jesus Christ. Why that should give us comfort is that this is not some distant judge, but one who understands our struggles and our temptations because he has experienced them Himself. For us as believer’s, judgment day is not a day of dread but a time of celebration.   If we trust Christ through faith in His death and resurrection, He will save us.  However, if we reject Him, tomorrow He will judge us.

The people of Athens responded with three different attitudes toward the Gospel. Surprisingly enough those responses are still relevant today.  1) Some people openly oppose the Word, 2) some will mock it and even openly challenge God to prove His existence as in the opening illustration, and 3) some receive the Word gladly and believe. We cannot control the response.  We are not called to, that is all the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit produces faith.

God calls us to be seed-planters and not to grow tired and discouraged.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

The proof of the pre-eminence of Christ is the resurrection. It is no unknown God but a risen Christ with whom we have to deal. And this Christ has died and risen from the dead for you and for me, and invites us to believe on Him and live forever with him in Eternity.  Does it make sense to the learned, NO?  It is a message and a gift that we receive by faith alone. The Holy Spirit makes the Unknown Savior, Jesus Christ the God of our Salvation.

[1]  Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (pp. 146–147). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


The other post in this series:





Community Outreach

Outreach Begins On Bended Knee


9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. I Thessalonians 3:9-13

The survey came in overwhelming for this week to cover the topic of reaching out to the community. Let me lay out this article of faith right out of the gate. We don’t bring anyone to faith, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians, “Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow.”

The place any outreach initiative begins, is on bended knee with prayer. You see that in the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica. There are three critical parts of this prayer that become the starting place for the church seeking to connect with its community.

  1. Paul prays that they might have their love increase (v.12) May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
  • Paul makes an interesting request. “May the Lord make your love increase”
  • What was Paul’s goal for asking this: so “he strengthen your hearts”
  • How is this goal accomplished? 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Our love increases by us showing love for others, both inside and outside the body of Christ, the church. Isn’t that the simplicity and the difficulty of the call to be a church engaged in the mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You see love is not just some mushy emotion, but it is grounded in mercy and service, as a vehicle for the people of God to demonstrate God’s love to others.

What Paul clearly shows is that if you want your love to increase that happens as we first pray for the health and well-being of other people. This is hard because is to so contrary to our sinful way of thinking. The sinner in us says our needs come first, I have been in church meetings where I hear things like this “We need to get our act together before we can go out into the community and invite people into our fellowship” Or “We have to take care of our needs before we can help those unfortunate souls out there.” Now for some people who are dealing with some severe emotional trauma in life that may be true. But for most of us, one of the best ways to gain some insights into our own life is to pray for other people.

I should warn you though if you pray as Paul suggested that our love increase. It will transform the way you view hurting people. Some bible commentators added this to this section on love:

Heubner: Love should not be scanty, poor, but rich, exuberant.

Chrysostom: Love after God’s kind embraces all. If thou lovest this man, and that man not at all, this is nothing but a friendship after a human sort.

Matthew Henry: We are beholden to God not only for the stock put into our hands at first but for the improvement of it also.—The more we are beloved, the more loving we should be.—J. L.

In praying for our love to increase, it transforms how we perceive those outside the body of Christ. It allows us to see them through the eyes of Christ, to have our hearts like his broken for those who are discouraged by the Church, distanced from God, disenfranchised from Christian fellowship. And that view of them through Christ’s eyes changes the very way we do ministry. It moves us, compels us to reach in love as Christ would guide and direct us. As my partner in ministry would say, this view leads to an attitude change and attitude change leads to a change in action.

2. Paul prays for them in light of the future. (V. 13) 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Jesus lived in the present with an eye on the future.
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result, you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.

The future impacts the presence! As believers, we live in the assurance of everlasting life. We live in joyful anticipation of the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because we know when he comes he we see us through the eyes of his sacrifice for our sins, His shed blood. However, for those outside this community of faith, Jesus sees their lifetime of sin, of bad decisions, their mistakes, their broken and destroyed relationships and their rejection of the forgiveness offered to them through His Son. So they face the full weight of that lifetime outside of God’s grace.

We have the supreme joy and opportunity to be used by the Holy Spirit to communicate to those outside of God’s grace that Christ has come, has suffered, has died, and rose again to repair the brokenness your sin has caused and reunite you with your Father in heaven. So that when Jesus comes again we can all stand together to meet him blameless on the day of his coming. That is at the heart of our mission. To be used by the Holy Spirit to see God perform the miracle of faith and turn enemies of God into friends of God.

3. Paul Prays out of his own deep and sincere love for others.

Why does Paul invest so much of himself in others?

6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us.

He deeply and genuinely loved them. Serious prayer for others forces us to get serious about ourselves and our God. One congregation to live this out placed all the first names of unchurched people on a board as a reminder of Christ’s mission. As a reminder to place that burden of those outside of God’s grace in their hearts. If they are on God’s heart should they not also be on ours? Outreach begins with the church of God on bended knee praying for those hurting souls in our community.
May God bless you and may God bless His Church.