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Integrity is Required to Lead

Published on April 9, 2010

I know this may be viewed as old news at this point in time, and “digging it up” may be the last thing we all need.  I refuse to touch on the details, as this is far from a gossip column.  My delay in turning in my article has been deliberate on my part because I’ve needed to process my thoughts before I articulated my feelings regarding the most recent controversy contributing to the state of my beloved Christian genre of hip-hop and rap music.  Typically, I write devotionals, I know.  I’m about to air out some of my own laundry, FYI.

Yes, we’ve had a rough couple of years with a lot of let-downs. I pray for restoration every day.  I think it’s safe to say we’ve all felt the aftershock of each-others’ mistakes, simply due to the public nature of these things.  Sin is sin. We are all justified thanks to God’s mercy and grace by sending Christ to make us acceptable upon our relenting to Him.  Some sin just hurts those around us more than other sin does.

I got a text message this past Saturday night pointing me to RedCloud’s Youtube page, and I took a few listens to the song “Evandalism” he posted (which has since been pulled down).  You may have heard it yourself, or likely heard about it.  I am not going to dissect it because I’ve only spoken to RedCloud a few times over the past few years, and don’t know him on a personal level. I have absolutely no idea if any of the content of the song has any truth to it. Nonetheless, after hearing his pain and resentment towards fellow Christians, I not only felt like I knew him, but my heart admittedly broke for him.  I disagree wholeheartedly with his methods; don’t get me wrong.  Airing out your laundry on wax isn’t a sign of maturity, no matter how legitimate the anguish may be, hip-hop tradition or not.  That’s beside the point, though.  I dwelled on it the entire weekend, and it was my wife who was able to pinpoint the root of my anxiety about the whole thing.  I didn’t even realize she was being attentive when I informed her of the song.  It turns out she was listening to it on my phone as we drove home from Paterson to Boston.  Out of the blue she said, “the issue is, as Christians we come together as a body of believers, and then we get entirely too comfortable within our own circles.”

That was it, man.  That’s what was tormenting me.  The fact that RedCloud expressed that every Christian leader he had ever looked up to had let him down.  We flock together a believers and we create Christ-centered communities.  As we become comfortable with one another, we drop our guard and allow compromise to enter the picture.  The common ground was rooted in faith, but gradually the focus shifts to more tangible, or perhaps more immediately gratifying activities.

I went to youth group as a teenager.  Youth group was Friday nights, but my friends and I would regularly blow off the Friday night meetings and do “other stuff.”  I used to date girls from that same group.  I also learned some things from some of those girls that I shouldn’t have learned until after I was married.  I smoked my first cigarette with the same friends, and often watched inappropriate movies with them.  We met at church, but we strayed away, doing our best all along not to divulge any details to our core group Bible study leaders.  Thankfully, I never put myself in any real danger or situations with long-term repercussions.  I never did drugs, and I never had sex.  As stated, sin is sin, and gray areas should never be overlooked.  When I entered my freshman year in college, I soon learned that one of my previous youth group leaders was living in my dorm.  My first night at school, he came into my room with a group and friends and welcomed us to (Christian) college by putting a pornographic video into the tape player.  Wow.

My senior year of college I invited a prominent Christian rap artist to perform at our school.  I obtained the funding from the campus events council, and worked super hard to promote the event.  And yes, I was the self-appointed opening act.  This performer I admired shared testimony.  God was uplifted.  Then he proceeded to decline our after-concert dinner in lieu of an evening with a sexy co-ed.  Talk about letting the air out of my tires.

I believe we are all susceptible to such behavior, and I have continued to witness its presence firsthand within Christian hip-hop.  I recall driving home from a concert in 2003.  Several artists, deejays, and hype-men were in my van, and our drive was a long one.  We decided to pass the time with a cipher.  Innocent freestyle turned into a battle, which is also innocent in nature and almost always entertaining.  Humorous trash-talk turned a corner to cursing and vulgarity, however.  I didn’t put a stop to it because I was an active participant.  Hours earlier we were sharing the gospel with our music.  Imagine if the kids in the crowd could have witnessed our behavior off of the stage.  We felt way too “safe” within the walls of that van, and somehow the moment got the best of us.  I remember sitting in silence for the remainder of the drive, wondering how we could have tainted such a blessed evening.

For several years, I found myself picking up the last habit I could have imagined.  It stemmed from long car rides after concert events.  I have always enjoyed coffee as my primary stimulant, but all of those bathroom breaks were extending my trips home.  One night, on a long post-concert drive, I picked up a tin of chewing tobacco.  This was the kind that comes in little individual pouches, so it doesn’t get on your teeth.  I tried it, and found that it sped me right up, and kept me wide-awake.  A one-time “experiment” turned into a full-blown habit within weeks.  I’ve since quit and learned from my mistake.  If we give Satan an inch….

Yes, our ministry will make a way for us, but our behavior will inhibit our sanctification.  If we cannot embrace consistency in word and action, how can we expect God to use us?  Non-believers will resent our hypocrisy, and we will grow bitter towards one another when the results of our actions catch up to us.

My wish and prayer is that we will recognize the integrity required to lead.  If we allow compromise into our lives, we relinquish our roles as leaders.  We may move around a lot, but we will never grow.  Let’s hold each other accountable in love, and build our walls high and wide.  Amen.

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