Kanye West has been conversing with motivational speaker and author Joel Osteen, receiving an official invite to Lakewood Church from Joel himself, Christian News Network has confirmed. The controversial rapper turned gospel music singer has been making waves for his profession of faith in Christ recently, and has been making a number of appearances to publicize his new album, entitled “Jesus is King.”
“Yes, the story is true,” a representative from Lakewood stated, referring to the TMZ report citing that West was personally invited to attend a service.
“I know that Joel talked to Kanye about two weeks ago,” Donald Iloff, an official spokesman for Lakewood and brother to Victoria Osteen, also told Christian News Network.
Lakewood, which attracts as many as 50,000 people each week and broadcasts its service to millions around the world, has had a number of high profile visitors to its gatherings, including Oprah Winfrey.
Iloff advised that the media is never notified when celebrities attend services at Lakewood, and he is not certain how the report got out. He explained that Joel is in contact with many high-profile personalities.
“Joel, when he looks at someone like Kanye — and there are others I can blow your mind with — celebrities who Joel speaks to that you would say, ‘How in the world can that person be a believer?’ It would shock you. I’m not going to do it, but I could, and I could absolutely blow your mind,” Iloff said.
“And it’s people still doing things that you think, ‘Okay, you should not be doing that,’ but you know what, you’re in your walk and you’ve got to figure [it] out. You need to get there on your own.”
“It’s true. [Kanye] is very interested in going and spending more time with Joel,” a source close to West also told PEOPLE. “They are friends. They message each other a lot. They have deep conversations.”
Iloff told Christian News that Osteen has never met West in person, but that they have been in communication with one another, stating that the rapper has shared some deep personal issues with the prosperity preacher.
Osteen has been a controversial figure among evangelicals as his positive thinking, self-help messages are devoid of preaching on sin, repentance and eternal judgment. His books have included “Your Best Life Now,” “Become a Better You,” “You Can, You Will, ” “It’s Your Time” and “The Power of I Am.”
“You’ve been criticized for church-lite or a cotton candy message. Do you feel like you’re cheating people by not telling them about the Hell part? Or repentance part?” CBS asked the megachurch speaker and author in 2016.
“No, I really don’t, because it’s a different approach,” Osteen replied. “You know, it’s not Hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. … So I want [people] to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, ‘You know what? I may not be perfect, but I’m moving forward. I’m doing better.’ And I think that motivates you to do better.”
In 2013, during an interview with the Huffington Post, Osteen also explained his preaching philosophy, stating that Christians should exemplify kindness to the world rather than “pushing people down” by telling them about their sins.
“Again, the Scripture teaches the way people are going to know His disciples is for our love for one another, and so, I’m not preaching hate [or] pushing people down,” he stated. “I’m not here to tell everybody what they’re doing wrong.”
Osteen had apologized in 2005 after he told talk show host Larry King that he doesn’t judge whether unbelievers such as Jews or atheists go to Heaven or Hell.
“I can’t judge somebody’s heart. Only God can look at somebody’s heart. To me, it’s not my business to say, ‘This one is or this one isn’t.’ I just say, ‘Here’s what the Bible teaches and I’m going to put my faith in Christ.’ I think it’s wrong when you go around saying, ‘You’re not going. You’re not going. You’re not going,'” he said. “I would present my way, but I’m just gonna let God be the judge of that (who goes to Heaven or Hell). I don’t know.”
However, in 2013, Osteen provided a similar response when asked by the Huffington Post if those who believe in the “monkey god” will not enter Heaven.
“I don’t claim to understand who’s all going to Heaven,” he replied. “I just believe and I teach in all my messages that when you have a relationship with Christ — that’s the reason why He came, to have a relationship with him that is the guarantee from Heaven.”
“People don’t all believe like me; they see it bigger,” Osteen added. “I believe God’s mercy is very big. I thank God I’m not the judge of who gets to come. Only He can, but that’s the way I see it.”
Iloff told Christian News Network this week that “of course” Osteen believes in Heaven and Hell and that “Joel gives more altar calls to accept Jesus Christ than any minister in the entire world.”
When asked where Osteen speaks of sin, repentance and the wrath to come in his messages — as that is what has raised concern among many — Iloff recommended listening to Lakewood’s broadcasts and that “if you can’t find it, you believe what you want.” He said that he personally doesn’t interpret the Scripture to state that Jesus took the wrath of God on the cross, but rather that He came to earth to prove the worth of man against the assertions of the devil.
“If [Joel] doesn’t preach the wrath that you believe in, well, I gotta tell you, if I was a preacher, I wouldn’t be preaching it either,” Ilhoff opined. “Why would you preach about the wrath to come? … It’s kind of all the way you look at everything. You want to perceive God to be wrathful and hateful and that He had to have His Son torn to pieces so that His anger would be quelled. … Jesus came to defend His creation. Jesus came to defend the worthiness of His creation.”
In an interview published yesterday with BigBoyTV as a part of the promotion of West’s new album “Jesus is King,” the host “Big Boy,” whose real name is Kurt Alexander, asked about a statement West made “probably 6-10 years ago,” in which West seemed to have predicted what he is doing now.
“I’m not just a musician. I’m a Christian, revolutionary, visionary, products person. I ain’t here to dance for you. I ain’t here to do a two-step. That’s just a piece, that was just my end. And now I want to create. I want to create content. I mean eventually, ten years from now, I just want to create for the church, period. I’m Christian. I’m designed like the new, the new Sistine Chapel,” West could be heard saying on the recorded audio.
“Did you always feel like this was a plan? Or, was that always in the, as far as the windshield, or does it look like it was plan now that we’re kinda in the rear-view mirror? Did you always know you were going to end up here?” Alexander asked West. “I mean ten years [ago] you kinda said it,” he added.
“Yes, but I definitely was lost. I got lost. I got caught in my own ego, my own strategy, my own ideas. I tried to hold everything in my own brain, and then I had to let go and let God and put it back in his hands,” West replied.
“Jesus Is King” has received both applause and criticism from Christian and secular outlets alike, with one reviewer calling the album “a nice break for anyone sick of hearing Kanye’s relentless self-boosterism” and another declaring, “I celebrate you. This is progression, not perfection. … This man just spit more theology than most pastors do on a Sunday.”
Criticisms have included that the 30-minute release is “too slight a record, too lacking in substance, to offer any sense of purification or real insights into West’s mind” and that “[o]n this album and as an artist, divide is all he seems to be doing.”
West has reportedly stated that he is done recording secular music. Some note that the album is the first that is devoid of profanity — as his previous recordings were heavily laden with expletives — but West does use a four-letter word in the track “God Is,” rapping, “He has opened up my vision/Giving me a revelation/This ain’t ’bout a d*mn religion/Jesus brought a revolution/All the captives are forgiven.”
He also predicts in the recording “Hands On,” “What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?/They’ll be the first one to judge me/Make it feel like nobody love me/Make you feel alone in the dark and you’ll never see the light.”
West acknowledges, however, that he understands that some will be skeptical of his stated salvation, adding to the lyrics, “Yes, I understand your reluctancy/But I have a request, you see/Don’t throw me up, lay your hands on me/Please, pray for me.”
According to reports, among those who have been invited to preach at West’s “Sunday Service” gatherings, which he launched earlier this year, include hipster pastors Carl Lentz of Hillsong New York and Rich Wilkerson of Vous Church in Florida, the latter of whom officiated the wedding of West and Kim Kardashian and has remained friends with West, being stated to have helped with the script for the “Yeezus” tour.
“[P]astors … wanna talk about, ‘T.D. Jakes said this. He ain’t saved. He wasn’t pure to the Bible.’ But then they can’t tell you a black pastor that they like, though. It’s a divide in Christianity. That’s what I’ve seen since I’ve been saved … I’m an early convert,” West said during one service, according to footage posted online.
“Here’s what I see: If you believe that Jesus died for your sins, then you know the gospel. That’s the gospel. Don’t be telling me Mormons got an extra book and Catholics do this. It’s simple. Christians, we be making it too hard for people to come and be involved in this,” he asserted.
However, Adam Tyson, pastor of Placerita Bible Church and graduate of John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary, has also presented the gospel at West’s “Sunday Service” and is among those speaking truth into his life. Fox News reports that Tyson has been discipling West in a Bible study as per his request.
“In addition to leading a Bible study, we have had lots of conversations about how to love God, love others, walk in holiness, as well as working on the new album ‘Jesus is King,'” Tyson told the outlet.
“My message [at Sunday Service] is that God is holy, but we are all sinners and therefore deserve God’s judgment. God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and was raised from the dead on the third day,” he outlined.
“The good news is that through repentance of your sin and faith in the risen Christ you can have true joy and happiness which is found only in Jesus.”
The Independent notes West’s personal and musical journey, outlining, “The death of his mother Donda of surgery complications in 2007 had a profound effect on him; ‘808s’ and ‘Heartbreak’ followed, featuring a despondent West who had clearly lost his way. But then he declared himself a god on ‘Yeezus;’ his inner demons were fought via the story of Paul the Apostle on ‘The Life of Pablo’ before, finally, he asked God to shine a light and save him on 2018’s ‘Kids See Ghosts.'”
“I just talked to Jesus/He said, ‘What up Yeezus?’/ I said, “[Expletive], I’m chilling/Trying to stack these millions,” West rapped in his 2013 song “I Am a God.” “I know He the Most High/But I am a close high/… I am a god.”
However, during a recent Sunday Service, when a member of the audience called out, “Thank you, Kanye,” the artist responded, “Who said ‘Thank you, Kanye?’ [What] I want you to say is, ‘Thank you, Jesus.'”
West had planned to release a project entitled “Yandhi” last year, but scrapped the album, explaining in his new song “Selah,” “Everybody wanted Yandhi/Then Jesus Christ did the laundry/… Whom the Son sets free is free indeed/He saved a wretch like me.”
West’s YouTube channel has over 5.44 million subscribers and still contains his old profane and sexually explicit music videos, alongside of his new content.