The Gospel According to Macklemore: Church

Sometimes I think there are Christians who have just as skewed an understanding of the Church as those who are outsiders to faith. I know, because my understanding needed quite a bit of adjustment.

I grew up in the context of a Christian family, going to church gatherings every weekend and midweek, attending a private Christian school, yet it wasn’t until I was removed from that context and living on my own that I discovered a more accurate vision of the Church.

The summers between college semesters, I traveled with missions organization events , which introduced students to church planting and missions—following the model of Jesus coming to earth to reconcile people with God, and using the example of the Apostle Paul’s mission of planting churches to continue connecting people and fulfilling needs in God’s networked kingdom. Listening to teachings on the Church, Scripture, and the kingdom of God week after week incurred the friction of internally processing my paradigm shift.

Then during my semesters at college, I got involved in a local church plant in Minneapolis, led by one of my best friends, Nate Ray. Frequent late night conversations, community groups with college students of broad variety of church background (or none at all), a surge of exposure to insightful books and blogs and podcasts on Christian spirituality, and even college courses on Scripture and theology aided in my quest to define the Church. (Learn more about my journey through a variety of Christian teachings, communities, and changes without losing sight of God—or myself.)

What The Church Is Not

The Church is not a building. In the New Testament, the scores of times the Greek word “ekklesia” is used to describe the gathering of people pursuing life with Jesus, not once does it refer to a building or structure. The Church is not a country club.  It is not an exclusive group of high- (or holy-) rollers who get together for a good time or propping themselves up. The Church is not even a group of good Christians.

What The Church Is Supposed To Be

In the words of Nate Ray, the Church is “the shared life and mission of people following Jesus.” If we fail to uphold the heart of the Church (the mission), we have divorced her from the purpose for which Jesus saved her. [You may also note that I call the Church “she” — because that’s how Scripture paints the picture; the Church is the rescued and redeemed bride of Jesus, not an inanimate “it.”]

Abigail Van Buren says, “The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” One of my pastors likes to say, “Welcome to church; we’re messed up and in need of grace, too.”

photo credit: Ryan Lewis Productions

The Church According to Macklemore

One of the things I like about Macklemore is that he’s a thinking man’s rapper. He gives us insight into the perspectives of a generation of artists, but with more eloquence and philosophical thoughtfulness than the average hip-hopper. He expresses life truths and cultural worldviews with ease and authenticity. Consider his thoughts on “Church (featuring Geologic)“:

I was in my head and I was bustin’ with Pac
Takin’ off my wifebeater and getting drunk in the park
But after that part, I found God, it wasn’t Jesus
Some psilocybin and the ink released him
I began to hold communion every time my music came out the speakers, I used it
And it fueled my movement I believed in, voice of reason, just me and my Adidas
And I could achieve it, I put my hand over my heart, pledge allegiance
I solemnly swear by the faith that raised me since Kool Herc dropped the needle
The South Bronx, that’s hip-hop’s Egypt
The word of our God is manipulated and twisted by the same system
That has infiltrated and falsely interpreted Jesus
One life, one love, one God, it’s us, treated your neighbor how you would want to be treated
The universal laws of God, don’t look too far, it’s right here, us human beings
The spirit’s right here and I don’t have to see it
Now every time I want to connect with God I put my headphones on

Shadows of Truth

  • Clearly, Macklemore has great interest in spirituality. He’s not afraid to call it like he sees it, even if it means he acknowledges his struggles to find the divine.
  • Mac finds spiritual connection through music and his writing. This is not at all surprising, as the creative process is one of the ways we can join God’s heart for creating, forming, making things beautiful. “I began to hold communion every time my music came out the speakers.”
  • Scripture hasn’t fully informed Macklemore’s view of God (as seen in his outright denial of Jesus as God), but he does quote the Golden Rule and the value of “one life, one love, one God.”
  • It’s significant that he recognizes that humans and systems have the tendency to manipulate the word of God and falsely interpret Jesus. Often people are open to the “real” Jesus, while repelled from the Church because Christians can distort what should be a holistic picture of Christ. However…
  • His worldview carries tones of humanism and individualism, inferring that we are gods or godlike. Possibly referring to specifics of his past, Macklemore “found God” (himself?) through hallucinogenic mushrooms and the writing process. This is a dangerous philosophy, as the search for truth and ultimate authority evasively shifts the goal posts when a man considers himself to hold the answers of life within himself.
  • Interesting note: the parallel of South Bronx as “hip-hop’s Egypt,” from which to emerge.
  • Making a guest appearance on this track, Geologic expresses great distaste for his church experience, which was likely the reason for his abandonment of religious institutions in favor of a more accepting and appealing community, centered around urban music. [“I could never get past the $#*@ that was spit out the pastor’s lips, and the rappers started making more sense.”] This is an unfortunate reality for many, often because of misrepresentation of Jesus and failure to join Him on mission with love and grace. People will find their community of belonging, whether it’s one of faith or not. My hope and prayer for the Church is that we will not forgo opportunities to connect people with the fulfilling life of the “real” Jesus and His networked kingdom through the Gospel.

***Your Turn: What perceptions or misconceptions have you had about the Church or Jesus? Share in the comments below.***


Life is hard, the world is complex, and we’re all searching for our place in it. I wrote a book to help. Check out “The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices” on Amazon/Kindle or get a discount and free excerpt from the book here.

Read more on The Gospel According to Macklemore:

White Privilege.
The Town.
Life Is Cinema.
Make The Money.

26 responses to “The Gospel According to Macklemore: Church

  1. This read was very helpful in trying to connect with my teen & her music choices & styles.

  2. I think Macklemore is a Christian, he just is a little shaky on the bible being the entire truth. I really love him! He has some deep lyrics and has totally changed my perspective on life and the way I am living it. I thank him for that! He isn’t afraid to tell people what he thinks they should hear and he is greatly supported!!

  3. Who this guy think he is a PROPHET. That its he right to come out and speak against the bible with his liberal thinking. The bible states that it is a sin to be gay. It does say that god will forgive you for your sins if you ask forgiveness for them. But if you truly are gay and believe that it’s alright and shouldn’t be a sin then what forgiveness are you asking for. And I sorry to all you who are gay Christians or Christians that think its alright to be gay but I didn’t right the bible. I’m just a follower.

    • B. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Inheriting the Kingdom of God

      1 Cor. 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, (10) thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. (11) Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  4. One of the things I like about Macklemore is that he’s a thinking man’s rapper. He gives us insight into the perspectives of a generation of artists, but with more eloquence and philosophical thoughtfulness than the average hip-hopper. He expresses life truths and cultural worldviews with ease and authenticity. ”

    I don’t think I’ve read a better description of Mack on any other site!!
    Great post I’m glad I stopped by from a google search!

  5. Fo real? Some of y’all need to brush up on your discernment. This dude is no Christian. He is using drugs to tap into the DEMONIC source that influences his music and worldview. He mocks Jesus and hijacks Scripture. He’s talented, no doubt. But y’all who claim to be in Christ, get a backbone and stop validating your faith by claiming that you “might” share the faith with someone popular. The man made it plain where he stands, take his word for it.

    • hum no. Haha. Macklemore is against drugs, against rappers who sing about drugs. He feels that rappers have to much of an influence on kids and don’t even know what they are talking about most of the time.

      Same love is about gay rights and how we are all equal

      The otherside (not one of his mainstream songs) is about how drugs are bad and they kill too many people and ruin too many lives

      And we danced is about how kids should not drink at parties (though his sexual references are a bit inappropriate I feel)

      White walls is about him working hard and earning every dime for something he always wanted a Cadillac just like his grand dads

      And thrift shop is about saving your money from frivolous spending on expensive clothes when you could be more wise and still look good.

      YES he used to do drugs but after a friend of his died on a codeine overdose he checked himself into rehab voluntarily and began to promote a drug free lifestyle.

      Besides who are you to judge? It’s Gods opinion that should matter. Not yours.

      • I love it when people say who are you to judge. Yes it’s a sin but so is speaking against god word right.

  6. I love the pro gay vibes… my church is AWESOME and volenteers at the Gay Pride Parade. Jesus loves everyone…and in the Gospel of Luke he cures a gay man’s sick lover.

  7. BUYANOVSKY: There’s a good amount of callbacks to the church and spirituality in your songs—what’s your relationship with God like? Were you always a religious person?

    MACKLEMORE: My relationship with God is as strong as the time and energy I put into connecting with God. Today, I woke up, said some prayers, meditated, and jumped on Twitter. I’m all over the place. I find that when I put my spiritual life first, the rest of my life is easy. When I put my career first, that’s when I have problems. At this current moment in time, I’ve been feeling pretty good.

    I’ve never been a religious person. I’ve been a spiritual person since I was about 15, 16, when I was first introduced to Psilocybin [mushrooms]. That really opened me up to thinking about the universe in a different way, and coming to significant realizations about my connection to something greater than me.

    • Thanks interesting, thanks for sharing, Chris.
      It’s apparent Macklemore is interested in and sees value in various forms of spirituality. One of the things I like about his lyrics is he doesn’t shy away from expressing what he thinks needs to be said.

  8. Hey there, John. I enjoyed reading this blog. I’m a strong Christian myself, and I stumble over Macklemore’s lyrics quite often… I can’t tell if he is Christian or not. Wikipedia appears to say no. Anyways, I appreciate the coherence and sensibility that come out of his lyrics. It’s nice to hear a rapper whose words make sense, having meaning, and aren’t simply a bunch of gibberish. Have you checked out his song “Ten Thousand Hours”? “Ten Thousand Hours” is a reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” where he says that one must invest ten thousand hours of their time training and practicing a specific talent to truly become an expert at that given field. Macklemore’s opening lines are… “I hope that God decides to talk through him, and the people decide to walk with him.” This struck me as being a strongly Christian line…. saying perhaps that he hopes that God decides to use the talents obtained by experts (like Macklemore) to shine His light on said people in hopes that they might begin to follow or walk with God.

    The next few lines read, “Regardless of pitch forks, cosigns I’ve jumped, make sure the sound man doesn’t cock block the drums. Let the snare knock the air right out of your lungs, and those words be the oxygen, just breathe. Hey man, regardless I’mma say it.” I think this could also be a metaphor seen in Christian light. I read these lyrics as saying… regardless of the numerous times I’ve sinned and messed up, make sure that God (the sound man) doesn’t prevent Macklemore (the drummer) from showing God’s light through his talents. Obviously a snare is a form of a drum. So I read in the next portion… Listen to what I’m saying and be open minded because what I’m saying could resonate with you in such a way that you gain a new perspective and possibly a new way of life. Just breathe because what I’m saying is truth. He states that he is going to speak what he believes anyways so maybe God should take advantage of someone in this kind of position to make a difference in numerous people’s lives. All of this is just an observation of course.

    I could be reading way too much into this… Haha I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case but I’m curious to see what you think about how I’ve interpreted these lines. I am beyond intrigued with Macklemore and I’m thrilled to have a rapper in pop culture on the uprise that is potentially a Christian. Thanks for your time.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful input, Fletcher.

      I’ve been listening to “The Heist” album since it came out, and it hasn’t let down my expectations. I haven’t thought of the opening lyrics of “Ten Thousand Hours” that way, although I did catch the link to Gladwell.

      Macklemore is also very intriguing to me because of his plethora of spiritual references. In previous tracks, he’s relayed some sort of respect for God and even Jesus, but even simultaneously says, “I found God, it wasn’t Jesus” ( Regardless of his precise theological persuasions, he’s definitely one to follow for a good, challenging, authentic perspective.

  9. This blog is awesome. Stoked to find like-minded people and I love how much you have thought about this. I do the same thing with his songs. I love the way his music makes me think way beyond my own little selfish world.

  10. I’ve been loving The Heist as I’m sure you have too and I’m a new Macklemore fan and a follower of Christ. I listened to Church on Spotify and googled it soon after just because I was curious about his lyrics and I stumbled upon your blog and this post! Such truth and wisdom you put into this, I loved it. I’m definitely starring your blog to read about more of what you have to say. Have you ever checked out I feel like you’d be a fan.

  11. Love what you’re doing with these posts, John. Just as Macklemore is a “thinking man’s rapper” (and I love him for that same reason!), I love that you’re thinking outside of the box of his own lyrics. Instead of taking them for what they are, you’re digging deeper into them, finding the (Biblical) truths that Mack himself may not even realize he’s sharing. Your thoughts have certainly gotten me thinking, not to mention pointed me in the direction of a new favorite artist.

    • Thank you kindly for the goodly words. I think it’s essential to engage culture and exegete it to understand what people are thinking and the reasons behind what they are doing. Glad to share worthwhile music as well.

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