ABOVE PHOTO: Kanye West (Photo: Everett Collection / shutterstock)
By Juan A. Lozano
HOUSTON (AP) — Rapper Kanye West told parishioners at Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch on Sunday that his recent spiritual awakening has made him realize he’s no longer in the service to fame and money but “in service to God.”
West spoke to a packed crowd of about 16,000 people at Lakewood Church’s 11 a.m. service during an interview with Osteen from the stage. West told the parishioners about his recent conversion to Christianity and how God has been guiding him.
“I know that God has been calling me for a long time and the devil has been distracting me for a long time,” West said. He added that at his lowest point, when he was hospitalized in 2016 after a “mental breakdown,” God “was there with me, sending me visions and inspiring me.”
Last month, West released “Jesus is King,” a Gospel-themed album that’s been described as Christian rap.
The rapper’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, and their daughter, North West, joined him at the church. They sat in the front row of the cavernous arena, the former Compaq Center, which was once the home of the Houston Rockets. Many of the parishioners seated around West took photos of him with their cellphones.
“This is like the Super Bowl today,” said Amy Holmes, who was visiting from New Orleans with her husband and decided to attend.
West also was scheduled to perform in the evening at Lakewood with his “Sunday Service,” a church-like concert featuring a choir. Tickets for the free concert were distributed through Ticketmaster and sold out within minutes Saturday, though some people have been reselling them for hundreds of dollars.
West has been traveling around the U.S. holding his “Sunday Service” concerts since January, including at the Coachella festival, an outdoor shopping center in Salt Lake City and at an Atlanta-area megachurch.
On Friday, he and his choir performed for inmates at the Harris County Jail in Houston.
During Sunday morning’s appearance, West touched on a variety of topics in what he called his “streams of consciousness,” including religion, the perils of fame and money, going to church as a child, strip clubs and the devil.
“The only superstar is Jesus,” West said as the crowd applauded loudly.
But West’s trademark boastfulness hasn’t completely disappeared.
“Now the greatest artist that God has every created is now working for him,” West said.
After the service, Osteen told reporters he was excited that West was “using his influence for the Lord.”
“We come from different backgrounds. Styles are different. But we’re still brothers in Christ. We’re all on the same team,” Osteen said.
Jose Gonzalez, a 25-year-old who attended the service, said he believes West’s religious conversion to be sincere.
“I don’t see why it would not be genuine. Especially with someone with his platform that talks about God and love and unity, it can get really shut down unfairly,” said Gonzalez.
When asked what advice he had for people, West told reporters, “Every single millisecond be in service to God.”
West and his wife are among the celebrities who have expressed support for Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, who received an execution stay on Friday. Reed’s supporters said new evidence raises serious doubt about his guilt in a 1996 killing.
On Friday, Kim Kardashian West traveled to death row in Livingston, Texas, and visited Reed.
Lakewood Church, where more than 43,000 people attend services each week, has become the largest church in the U.S.
Osteen’s weekly television program is viewed by more than 13 million households in the U.S. and millions others in more than 100 nations around the world.