Category Archives: New York City

Converted rapper Ja Rule, tripped up at Fyre Festival, seems to have gone prodigal

ja-ruleWhat has happened to Ja Rule?

The early 2000s hip-hop sensation famously became saved after a stint in prison for tax evasion and illegal possession of a firearm. Specifically, he accepted Christ at New York’s Hillsong church after filming the Christian movie, I’m in Love with a Christian Girl.

But now Ja Rule has become embroiled in the Fyre Festival fiasco. After promoting a bacchanal hedondom to well-heeled millennials, he’s being sued for failing to deliver the lavish hotel, food, rock stars and hotties. Partiers found themselves stranded in refugee camp tents with cheese sandwiches on the Bahamas Island. The stunning models were noticeably absent.

Has the New York rapper become a prodigal?

Famous for “Always on Time” and “Mesmerize,” Ja Rule — born Jeffrey Atkins – had songs ranked in the Top 20 from 1999 to 2005. He received Grammy nominations, notoriety and tons of money, but police busted him for tax evasion. Released from prison in 2013, he picked up a role in the movie I’m In Love with a Church Girl. As he promoted the movie in churches, God began to draw his heart.

Luxury accommodations at Fyre Festival?

His prior involvement in Jehovah’s Witnesses marred his understanding of God. His mother left the group in his pre-teens, and the rest of the family completely ostracized her.

“The family wasn’t speaking to my mother, and I saw how much it hurt her, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the religion,” he said.

But his aversion towards God changed due to his involvement in the movie.

“I kind of reconnected with God by doing the movie,” Ja Rule told a radio station. “I reconnected with God in a different way. I was going to all these different churches, and they were great, but I didn’t feel like they were talking to me until I went to Hillsong right here in the city.”

Hillsong projected a non-traditional image that he found appealing.

“You walk into this church and it’s dark in there and the disco ball is still in there and you see the lights and you’re like, well this is different, and then you get in there and you start to look at everybody around you, and they look just like you,” he said. “It really gave me the feeling that when they say come as you are, they mean the skater kids in the back with the skateboards, like they just came off the street coming to church. It was a different type of crowd.”

In response to one of the sermons, he and his wife, Aisha, were both saved.

His first steps in the Lord were tentative, but he didn’t shy away from discussing them.

“I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing. I don’t want people to misconstrue what I’m doing here,” Ja Rule said. “I’m taking baby steps, and I want to get closer to God. I feel it’s something you should do in life.”

But then he was quiet about his faith for a number of years.

Earlier this year, Ja Rule joined brash entrepreneur Billy McFarland in hyping an elitist rock competition on beautiful beaches that was supposed to rival or surpass Coachella.

Ja Rule promised purchasers of $1,200 event ticket they would be “living like movie stars, partying like rock stars, and f—–g like porn stars.”

Hmmm. That doesn’t sound very Christian. Read the rest of Ja Rule Christian.

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God in Gotham: Finally revival comes

statue-of-liberty-new-york-cityNew York City – never considered the spiritual heartbeat of America — is now experiencing revival, especially among millennials flocking to upbeat services with vibrant faith communities.

“A lot of people told us, ‘this is the graveyard of churches. Don’t go there. All the hipsters won’t want to come to church.’ We felt that’s the best place to be, where no one wants to go to church,” said Josh Kelsey, senior pastor of C3 Brooklyn Church.

In 1989, less than 1% of city residents attended church, according to CBN. But now about 5% goes to church, and there are hundreds of churches, big and small, scattered throughout the city.

c3-brooklyn

The C3 Church in Brooklyn

“New York has reached the tipping point,” CBN concluded. If current trends continue, it could become a majority Christian city by the year 2026, according to CBN.

It turns out that Batman is not going to save Gotham City. Jesus is.

The formula for success has been to revive the unchanging elements like prayer and Bible study while changing the liturgy and relational dynamics to fit the multi-cultural, educated population of the city, pastors say.

“Church for me was a place where I always felt I had to be perfect,” said one church-goer. “C3 allows me to embrace my imperfections and know that God still loves me regardless. So it’s changed my perspective because I know I can still be a human and still beloved by God, which is not an idea I had before.”

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Pastor Josh Kelsey

A 2013 Barna survey found 32% of residents of the Big Apple considered themselves born-again, up from 20% in the 1990s, Religion News Service reported

“New York City is not known as a particularly religious place,” the RNS article stated. “But it is more spiritually active today than even 2001 in the wake of 9/11.”

The Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed Churches were strong in New York City in the early 1800s but began to misfire as the city grew and changed its ethnic makeup, according to Pastor Tim Keller, a prominent minister in NYC.

When Catholic immigrants flooded Lower Manhattan in the 1880s, churches found themselves with fewer and fewer members. Restaurants, stores and theaters burgeoned, supplanting churches as a social gathering place. Many churches moved out of the ethnic downtown, and others built houses of worships in a fruitless effort to attract congregations, Keller said.

With numbers dwindling, churches grasped for fixes. Charles Briggs of Union Theological Seminary tried modernizing the message, teaching that much of scripture contains error. This gave rise to liberal Chrstianity, and instead of attracting followers with a more “intellectually reasonable” message, it finished off local churches, Keller said. Read the rest of the article.