What I learned from Kanye West

“I believe my calling is to be the leader of the free world,” rapper Kanye West declared during a recent two-hour ramble on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Many writers have since picked apart the interview, mostly to work out exactly what West was trying to say about, well, becoming leader of the free world.

But one thing that kept coming across clearly throughout his chat with podcast king Rogan was West’s conviction that his running for US President was God’s idea.

“God put it on my heart back in 2015, ” he told Rogan. “A few days before the MTV awards, it hit me in the shower.

“When I first thought of it, I just began laughing to myself. And all of this joy came over my body, through my soul. I felt that energy, I felt that spirit.”

West confessed that many of his friends thought “it was a joke” and “were telling me all these millions of reasons why I couldn’t run for president”. But it obviously didn’t stop him running for the 2020 election (which will take place in just one week’s time on November 3), and he’s even committed to running again in 2024.

“I’m definitely, 100 per cent, winning in 2024 … I was thinking I would possibly be the Democrat,” said West, somewhat vaguely.

It’s hard to move beyond the seeming ridiculousness of West’s desire to rule America (although …). It’s also hard to validate West’s ideas about his “calling” and even about his Christian faith when his mental health struggles seem so apparent. West has openly discussed his bipolar disorder and, on the podcast, he said being medicated for this condition “blocked my ability to channel what God wanted me to do.”

But there are moments of great clarity during West’s conversation with Rogan – most of which pertain to his relationship with and desire to serve God. During these moments, this unlikely messenger unravels a few key insights into what a heart committed to the Lord should look like.

Whether you doubt West’s theological understanding, whether you think he’s way off track in regard to what God is calling him to do, and even if mental health issues have affected his judgement, there are still some valuable lessons to be found in his conversation. And these insights reminded me to look again at how I am living out my faith.

Insight 1: A desire to be of service to God

According to West, his desire to be US President stems from a desire to “be of service.”

“Not service to my own ego. I feel like God says to me … I gave you an ego that helped you overcome all these roadblocks and smoke-screens and people telling you what you can’t do. Now, you need to realise when you’re doing things for your ego and when you’re doing things for me. This is what I feel God is saying to me.

“It really irritates me when people say ‘God told me to tell you’,” said Kanye, as Rogan laughed, “so I’m very mindful with this kind of wording.

“I’m saying I have a feeling that that’s what God is saying – for me to be of service. So the ultimate service position is leader of the free world.”

While West’s conclusion about where God wants him may well be off course, his desire to serve God and not himself (if this is genuine) reminds me of the command that all Christians are called to follow: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Insight 2: Making sacrifices for God’s kingdom

In early 2019, West stepped out of the music industry to create “Sunday Service” – where West performs gospel songs alongside a choir in different locations each week.

“When I made Sunday Service, I completely stopped rapping, because I don’t know how to rap for God. All my raps always had nasty jokes.”

Even though he wasn’t yet a Christian, West says he decided to step out of the music industry to follow God’s “calling”.

“I was four months in [to delivering Sunday Service] before I gave my life to God. I wasn’t saved, I just had a calling, saying, ‘Just go make this church’,” West told Rogan.

“God knocked me off my horse, literally called me and said, ‘Now I need you.’ Not that God needs me, but we need God.

“He called me to serve him. I was tired of serving the music industry, tired of serving filling up stadiums.”

OK, so monetarily this doesn’t seem like a big sacrifice to for the “highest-paid person in hip-hop“. But it is still a good demonstration of a changed lifestyle and realignment of priorities – of moving away from the things that dishonour God and working towards the things that do bring him glory.

Insight 3: Being bold for God

One of the most touching moments of the podcast interview is when West describes himself as the “little drummer boy” when being “called” to start Sunday Service.

“I’m saying, ‘This is all I got to bring, my drum,” he said. “I might not be well versed in the Word, but I know how to make music and I know how to put this choir together. And all things can be made good for God.”

While West may have, perhaps, incorrectly referenced Romans 8:28 here, there is great truth behind this sentiment.

For this mega-star (and some would say narcissist) to admit such vulnerability, and to be willing to place himself at the service of God – despite the ridicule and personal cost – reminded me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Perhaps Kanye West is not as “out there” as he seems.