Book Review: The Hip-Hop Church

The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting with the Movement Shaping Our Culture

By Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)
Book Review: The Hip-Hop Church
In The Hip-Hop Church, authors Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson assert that hip-hop transcends the music on which it is based, forming its own culture that has been largely missed or dismissed by the church. They note that even youth who don’t listen to hip-hop music are heavily influenced by the culture it has spawned. This is the hip-hop generation, which the authors present as an overlooked mission field.

Divided into three parts, along with two forwards and an introduction, The Hip-Hop Church provides much to consider and contemplate about all that is hip-hop. In the introduction, the authors share their connection with hip-hop and their passion for it. Part one, “Why Should the Church Care about Hip-Hop,” consists of a solitary chapter that addresses the connections between hip-hop and the African American church. The authors astutely note that “the church cannot avoid the culture of the unchurched postmodern community,” (p 42).

Part two, “Understanding the Hip-Hop Culture,” addresses hip-hop as both postmodern and an influencer of culture. Laying the foundation for discussion, Efrem states that “Hip-hop is about dance, art, expression, pain, love, racism, sexism, broken families, hard times, the search for God and overcoming,” (p 81).

“Bringing Hip-Hop into Your Church” is the title of part three, introducing the concept of “holy hip-hop.” Comprising nearly half the book, this section is both a primer and a practical guide for those desiring to integrate hip-hop into their church services or to produce special hip-hop outreach events. After discussing the components that comprise a holy hip hop service, the schedule, or “flow,” of one is presented.

Phil concludes The Hip-Hop Church with the reminder that “culture and religion cannot be separated,” (p 217). For his part, Efrem reminds readers that “the church embracing and engaging hip-hop culture in the end is really not about music but about a generation of young people,” (p 220).

Throughout the book there are repeated allusions that though hip-hop is primarily an urban, minority phenomenon, its influences pervade all of culture and therefore all churches must consider reaching out to the hip-hop generation. Nevertheless, the examples and efforts shared center on the urban, African American church, leaving more questions than answers for those who are non-urban and non-African American. Even so, The Hip-Hop Church provides much to consider and contemplate.

[The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting with the Movement Shaping Our Culture, by Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson. Published by InterVarsity Press, 2005, ISDN: 978-0-8308-3329-0, 227 pages.]

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