We Spoke to a Pastor at the Atlanta Church That Puts Drake and Future’s Music Into Its Services
By Zach Frydenlung | complex.com
Drake and Future’s music isn’t made for church. Whether it’s Drizzy singing about losing an ex or Future’s overwhelming drug-influenced crooning, it just doesn’t seem like the right mix in a place of worship. However, for the Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church in Atlanta, it’s the perfect soundtrack to reach a new generation.
Over the past few weeks, videos of their Sunday services went viral—mostly via Facebook. Instead of run of the mill choir performances, the church songs like “Hotline Bling” and “Big Rings,” among others, into gospel anthems. And they’re streamed online every Sunday, so you’ll never have to miss out.
We reached out to speak to Will Gravely, a pastor at the Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church, who oversees the college ministry, as well. Gravely told us the church has incorporated popular music into their services for over a decade now, and have covered everyone from Poison to Beyoncé and Rihanna.
How did you start incorporating popular music into your services?
Our pastor received a book a long time ago—the Purpose Driven Church—and what it taught was that Jesus’ ministry in the gospel was to reach people who thought they weren’t righteous already. His biggest critics when he was on the Earth were religious people, but his ministry was towards those who were far from God. The purpose of the local church is to bring people who are far from God closer to him. At that point we became what’s known as “Seeker Sensitive,” and we use Sunday, especially because we’re in the Bible Belt, to offer an invitation to people who feel far from God or who don’t really do church. We make the environment welcoming.
Is the church progressive across the board?
We have very conservative stances when it comes to scripture, but we see ministry, and the expression of that in the culture, as it can go in multiple directions.
Have you reached a brand new audience now?
Yeah definitely, we’re reaching people all over the world, and via our live stream, we’ve had people tune in from Hong Kong, Russia, multiple countries. Our target is really un-churched people, or people that have been hurt by religion so we kind of go out of our way to make people feel welcome, and realize that cultural stuff is man-made and negotiable. We really need to do whatever we can to connect people to Jesus.
How often do you guys rehearse for the services?
There are two rehearsal performances on Thursday and Saturday. What’s interesting though is that a lot of things happen for us spontaneously on Sundays. Whether it’s lyrics or even music changes and shifts or things like that. The band might be the ones interjecting certain popular songs into the music in the moment, kind of like a Jazz musician would.
I JUST WOULD HOPE THAT FUTURE AND DRAKE REALIZE THAT THERE’S A PLACE FOR THEM [AT CHURCH] AND THAT WHAT THEY DO IS NOT TOO DIRTY FOR GOD.
Do you, personally, listen to Future and Drake’s music?
Some of our members actually do. Some people don’t, so we just try and have our ear to the culture, but not in a mimicking kind of way. We really focus on our target and who we’re trying to reach. We knew that [Hotline Bling] was starting to get a buzz, especially with how people were making memes of Drake dancing. So, if we could flip it, and turn the lyrics towards God for something that they were already listening to constantly, [it’d] get the message of Jesus to people.
Were you aware that the videos went viral?
We weren’t aware until maybe four days later, because for us, it was just another service, and the video that was originally captured was from somebody in the audience. I guess it was strange to them, which is kind of why we do what we do because it’s common in the Bible Belt to have traditional churches that create their own culture that’s really biblical but doesn’t necessarily help people. We’re one of several churches that lets people know that this culture isn’t necessary. We can use culture as a celebration of God instead of something to stay away from.
How did the “Big Rings” performance come about?
Honestly, our worship leader comes from a gang background and very honestly, he’s just a hip-hop fan. I think he just saw that it fit in the moment, I don’t think that was planned, he just saw that those same words could be a celebration of God. We’re all together on Sunday, that’s kind of where we come together kind of like at a football game and it was appropriate for the moment. What a time to be alive.
What would your reaction to Drake or Future seeing this be?
I just would hope they realize that there’s a place for them, that there’s not a separation, and that what they do is not too dirty for God.
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