A pastor attends the concert of a popular rap artist thinking it’s all good until he arrives at church the next day to find his parking sign removed, his name taken off his office door, and someone else officiating worship. He was fired with no warning because he went to a rap concert, fair or unfair?
This is not fiction but fact and it happened to Rodney Wills, the now former pastor of Mt. Salem Baptist church in North Carolina. According to a story published on AmericanPreachers.com, Wills attended Rick Ross’s Saturday night concert while, unbeknownst to him, the church deacons were voting on whether they needed his services anymore. The next morning, instead of giving him a courtesy call, they removed his parking sign, took his name off the door, and delegated morning worship leadership to someone else. The way that the church handled Wills’s firing seems unethical and ungodly. Why wouldn’t the deacons meet with Wills to discuss their issues with him attending the concert—the Rick Ross concert and the Lil Wayne concert that Mt. Salem youth spotted him at on a previous occasion–before deciding to fire him? (Unless they were just looking for a reason to fire him.) But the big issue here isn’t how Wills was fired–although it deserves some attention–but why he was fired–which requires us to ask some questions.
Miles Langley, one of the deacons at Mt. Salem said, “We cannot have our leader supporting people of this world who are tearing down the kingdom of God.” This issue of categorizing Ross and his ilk as “people of this world who are tearing down the kingdom of God” may give too much power to people who may just be innocent bystanders. People who may be believers and lovers of God who don’t see anything wrong with what they are doing. Rick Ross may be such a person and Rodney Wills is more than likely such a person. One commenter on social media said of this, “The funniest thing to me is that church goers constantly think that the world is out to get them. It’s really not.” There may be some validity to this statement. Rick Ross may not be out to tear down the kingdom of God, he may just be here to tear the club up. And maybe, for one night, Wills wanted to tear the club up too and sing-a-long to his favorite Ross songs–we will hope that he stayed quiet during Ross’s controversial verse on “U.O.E.N.O.” Maybe Wills wanted to keep up with what the youth of the church are listening to so that he could connect with them on a particular level. Maybe Wills, being a 26-year-old man himself, genuinely enjoys rap music and felt strong enough in his faith to listen and not be hindered by it. Wills probably didn’t think this would affect his faith or his job and now that it has affected his job, we should hope that it doesn’t hinder his faith either in God or in the church which he may feel vocationally called to despite Mt. Salem’s swift removal of him.
On the topic of “tearing down the kingdom of God” it is dangerous to claim that the faith of a congregation can be endangered because the pastor attended a rap concert. Rap concerts are not the things that destroy the kingdom of God–especially if you have a particular eschatological vision that sees the kingdom of God as that which is “already and not yet.” This necessitates a theological discussion on how we understand the kingdom of God. What is it that we are asking for in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Thy kingdom come” if the kingdom is being torn down? Do we understand what it means to say that someone or something is tearing down God’s kingdom? Do we want to give Rick Ross or any other entertainer that kind of power? Indeed this is a complex issue, but we don’t want to ignore the potential for rap music or any form of entertainment to be a tool of destruction–bracketing talk of the adversary. Rap concerts and/or music, movies, books, et al could destroy the people of God if they lack true knowledge of God and knowledge of self in God. We can’t be glib about the potential of much of this world’s products to destroy us in some way if we don’t first ground ourselves in God. But we should be careful about what we judge as the effect these things have on others before we dismiss them.
This story unearths a lot of questions, so what do you think? Was it fair for Mt. Salem to fire Wills for attending the concert? Is it appropriate for a pastor to attend a rap concert? How could this situation have been handled differently, on both sides?