The “Rise” of Trip Lee: Pastor and Rapper Talks Pastoring, Porn, and John Piper

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Trip Lee is a 27-year-old rapper, husband, and father of two. He’s also planting a church in Atlanta — yes, he’s a pastor — and late last year he released his fifth studio album, Rise, which quickly hit #1 on the iTunes charts. And he’s just published his second book.

Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story, the companion book to his latest album, comes out today, January 27. I caught up with Trip to talk about Millennials leaving the church, his relationship with John Piper, and why he felt like he had to write about sex, lust, and porn.

You released an album by the same name late last year — how are the two connected? Do the two serve distinct purposes?

I thought of the concept for the book first because when I was thinking about doing a project I thought about what I wanted to communicate to the people that I have influence with, and one of the things I really wanted to communicate was the need for us to not wait until later to take our lives seriously.

With the album, what I wanted to do was introduce those things, and then with the book, that’s where I really wanted to dive deeply. A song captures emotions in unique ways, and a song helps you to celebrate things in unique ways, but at the same time, you only get three or four minutes, so you can only communicate so much. So I wanted to use the songs to do the celebrating, to connect emotionally, to really get people excited about those things, and then use the book to go really deep into those things and help people think about it further.

What’s do you think people will find most surprising about Rise?

One of the surprises is that a rapper wrote a book. I think a lot of people don’t expect rappers to try to communicate viewpoints and think deeply about things. Music allows me to have the ears of lots of people, so I’ve tried to rap about life and stuff that matters and God instead of just rapping about chains, money, girls — typical hip-hop things.

This is something I’m very passionate about, because books have been huge in my life. I love reading and books help me to think about the world better, expose me to different ways to think about things, help me to grow with my faith. I hope people are surprised that I’m somebody who really loves writing — this isn’t just me trying to expand my brand.

Who has inspired you as a rapper, pastor, and author?

In terms of music, I would say probably the most influential on the way I approach the art form is Jay Z. He’s a guy who is arguably the best rapper of all time. The way he uses metaphors and double entendres and the way he’s able to connect with an audience — he’s just really good at what he does. But, obviously, I do it differently than him, because I have a different worldview. I would disagree with some of the things he says, but really respect him as an artist.

In terms of as a pastor and preaching, John Piper is a pastor in Minnesota who I heard a lot of his sermons early on that really inspired me to really want to continue to preach and proclaim God’s word.

As an author, that’s really hard. I would say one: C.S. Lewis. He’s a guy whose writing doesn’t read like sermons, but they’re so engaging and he answers questions before you even ask them and he argues so well and he understands culture well and understands scripture well. He’s a guy who’s influenced me a lot as an author.

How have you been able to blend, as John Piper writes in the introduction, reverence and relevance? The two can seem almost oxymoronic.

I think the main way I do that is just by trying to be myself. So, one thing I could’ve done is I could’ve read John Piper books and I thought, “Man I need to write like him. I need to preach like him.” That’s not me. He’s a white dude in his sixties and I’m a young black dude, a rapper, in my twenties.

I think it does Christianity a disservice if we feel like, “Hey, if I’m going to be serious about my faith, I have to look like this and dress like this and talk like this,” as opposed to, “Hey, when I put my faith in Jesus, he changes me from the inside, so that who I am culturally can stay the same, but I can still talk about deep things.”

Though God is going to call us to grow and change, it’s not going to be change like you have to wear suits now and you have to speak in King James language. No, no. You can still be yourself and be young and be cool, all those things — some people ain’t cool to start with, so you don’t get cool — but God can take you where you are, you can be yourself and you can be changed in a way that matters.

Speaking of, there’s this unique relationship between veteran Reformed guys like Piper and Mark Dever and younger rappers like yourself. Can you talk about that?

I do think it’s unexpected. I think what we’re seeing there is that even though we don’t have a lot in common culturally or age-wise — and maybe these are guys I never would’ve even known or had any kind of relationship with — what we do have in common is that we believe in the same Jesus and that makes us passionate to see the same things happen in the world.

And those are guys who I think get it in a way that they want to pour into people who have influence in different realms. For instance, John Piper, he’s always been incredibly kind, he sought to understand what we do, and then he’s gone out of his way to be really kind to us and love on us.

I think that’s powerful even as we think about some of the racial issues going on. I want people to see that there can be unity, and I’ve seen that unity come in Jesus. We believe in the same Lord — there are a lot of different things that are different about us, but we believe in the same Jesus and that’s what brings us together.

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SOURCE: Faith Street
Corrie Mitchell

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