Lenard McKelvey, better known as “Charlamagne tha God”, has been making the rounds in a lot of the Christian cultural outskirts. He not only recently sat down with Relevant Magazine, but also with pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in North Carolina. Both of these interviews covered a variety of topics, with the main focus seemingly being on race relations, anxiety, and Charlamagne’s relationship with God. For those not familiar with Charlamagne, he is best known for being co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show, The Breakfast Club with DJ Envy and Angela Yee. He is also the author of two books, Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It, which made it as high as number 6 on the New York Times Best-Seller’s List, and his latest book, Shook One.
If you have never tuned in to one of his shows, and with only the aforementioned two interviews to go off of, you would be hard-pressed to conclude that Mr. McKelvey was anything other than a blood-bought believer. As Relevant magazine states:
“The go-to guy goes to God. He owns his past and owns his sins, but he offers praise for every blessing. He says whenever he steps outside and takes in the sky, the vastness of the world, it humbles him. That empowers him to be content, and if you’re not with that, Charlamagne the God doesn’t care.” (Source)
The same could also be said of Steven Furtick’s interview with the provocative radio host. During the section in their interview titled “Calling” (42:00), Furtick explains when he first felt his calling as a pastor. He asked Charlamagne where it was that he found his calling, and the exchange was … interesting:
“It’s funny when how you sit back and you watch how God can direct your steps, so to speak […] my whole story is rooted in a great foundation of spirituality, but then it was a whole lot of divine misdirection because I wasn’t doing what God wanted me to do … If you ask me right now what does God want me to do, I know, to serve … that’s what you do. You know what I’m saying? You’re just a pastor. I feel like I do the same thing, I’m just not a pastor. You know? I’m just here to serve the needs of the public in some way shape or form. You’d be surprised how many times I pray before I speak. … I’ll pray to ask God to say the right things at the right time.” (Source)
To which Furtick interjected:
“Because you still know that you are nothing without him.”
“Always. I’m constantly praying, constantly asking God to put things on my heart, constantly asking God to give me direction.”
“God knows he can tap you and you will do it.”
“I’m gonna do it.”
“You think that’s all He is looking for? I think that is all He is looking for is someone He knows he can tap. […] I’m so obsessed with this idea of helping people understand that they have a calling as significant as ours.”
But the truth is, one would only need to listen to a short clip of Mr. McKelvey’s show to be appalled at the idea that what he is doing is the same as a pastor. The idea that one can be serving God in any capacity is a good one, if they are actually using it for the glory of God. To consider yourself “serving the people” as you give them advice contrary to God’s word is actually a disservice to them. Telling women who call into your show to proposition their boyfriends to have a threesome with a woman they suspect him of cheating with, is not serving God or people. (Source) Asking ladies intimate details on his radio show about their sex life is anything but the behavior of someone who loves and adores God. Grabbing your Bible and putting in front of your face – after looking a young lady’s body up and down and making comments – is not the fruit we expect from someone who is supposedly fulfilling the calling God has for him. When people are looking at God’s will for their lives, they should sincerely open His word and see what He has to say to us. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
I do not expect Charlamagne to give Biblical counsel on his show if he is not a believer. But I also expect those who are called “ambassadors” and “reconcilers” to call on those who do not bear the fruit of a believer to be reconciled with God. This is not merely the duty of a pastor, but anyone who is a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). For a person to miss an opportunity to share the gospel, and even misspeaking, is all too common. But when this display is shown to a congregation as an example of how to share the gospel, that is simply the blind leading the blind into a ditch!
Furtick’s False Teaching on John 14:6, 10:1-10
Earlier in the interview, when attempting to discuss the idea of objective evil, Mr. Furtick appears to ramble about the biblical definition of sin. Somehow he took it to a text in which Jesus warns that people will be put to death and think it is a service to God. It was at this point that Charlamagne and Furtick have their first disagreement. Charlamagne considers what Furtick is trying to explain as the “weirdness of religion”. He believes that this “weirdness” is what keeps people from religion. While Charlamagne is explaining what he means, Furtick interjects with a problematic proclamation. Although he could have done a better job explaining objective moral laws, they did seem to agree on them, and Furtick was seemingly attempting to explain this to him in truth. I cannot say the same for Furtick’s interjection (37:50-38:42):
“You know what’s funny what you just said, When Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me” people always use that Scripture to say “so if you don’t believe in Jesus, you can’t get to God”, which of course as a Christian we believe Jesus is the way to God. But he also said, I am the gate, and what he was trying to say is like all the religious gate keepers, who think that they know who God is and who God accepts and who God doesn’t, they’re not the gate, I am the gate, you know? He was expressing that as an inclusive statement, but people have used it so many times to shut the door on people from even exploring faith.” (Ibid.)
While you might think that it would take the most illogical eisegesis to claim that John 14:6 would teach anything other than the exclusivity of Christ, just look at the proof-text he uses in an attempt to deny what Jesus plainly states. The proof text in which Jesus says, “I am the gate” is from John 10:1. Jesus also explains to us that not only are those who would try to come in some other way wrong, but they are considered thieves and robbers. He reaffirms this later in verses 7-10, where He points us to the fact that anyone who listens to those other than Him are not His sheep, and He is the only way in which to be saved. To wholeheartedly deny the centrality of the Christian faith, that Jesus is the only way, is not only wrong, but cowardly.
While we may feel uncomfortable telling a person that they are on their way to hell without the blood of Jesus, we cannot attempt to create a salvation for ourselves that is separate from the salvation of the world. This is not any sort of way to show love to a person – by lying to them and telling them they are alright. This is merely a band-aid on a bullet wound. Imagine Mr. Furtick and Charlamagne sitting at dinner, and when Charlamagne gets up, Mr. Furtick witnesses the server place poison into his drink. Should Furtick be too nervous to tell Charlamagne about it? Would that be any sort of love? If he sat there as he watched him drink it, and even told him how delicious his wine is, even if Charlamagne’s may taste a little funny, would you not claim he is the biggest coward known to man? It does not matter if Charlamagne is offended or otherwise, we have a duty to tell the truth and we are warned that it is blind men like this that lead other blind men into a ditch.
The choice is very clear after listening and watching this interview. Either Mr. Furtick has not clearly read from the text he was quoting, and is therefore unqualified to speak on the subject, too cowardly to tell Charlamagne the truth, or he has read it clearly and simply does not care what it actually says. There are no other options to consider. It is one thing to misspeak about a text, it is something entirely different when it’s the only time they have to discuss the exclusivity of Christ in this interview and you either cower down or are unable to defend your position from Scripture. I wish it was the latter, but either way, it leaves his congregation with a pastor that has met the requirements of his own book, “Unqualified,” and not met the requirements that the God-breathed word has clearly stated:
“holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
When we dissect both interviews and get a little insight into what Charlamagne believes about God, we can see very clearly that his beliefs are not uncommon. As he stated in the interview with Relevant Magazine:
“I believe in my God. When I make poor choices, I turn to God to help me through that.”
Notice the words that Charlamagne uses here, “I believe in MY God” (emphasis mine). That just might be the most common sin in the history of mankind. Which may shed light as to why God enlisted His first two commandments on Mt. Sinai forbidding such behavior. God tells us not place any other gods before Him, and to not fashion for ourselves a god to worship. When we actually sit down and look at the god that people tend to believe in and follow, it is a god that is usually formed in their own image. This version of god that Charlamagne believes in is closer to a divine butler than the one true God. It is an attempt to keep God at arm’s length so that He doesn’t actually take the reigns of our life. This is why Jesus explained that one must die to themselves if they want to be a disciple. It is no small thing to follow our Lord, but it is worth it.
Jesus With The Woman of Samaria
When explaining his reasoning for sitting down with Charlamagne, Furtick pointed to when Jesus sat down with the woman at the well in John chapter 4. Interesting enough, the contrast is vast when you see these two encounters. Jesus offers the woman living water that can save her, when she was only coming to be sustained by the temporal. He tells her that God is coming for a people that worship Him in spirit and truth. He turns her physical need into an understanding of her dire need of spiritual hydration. One interesting part of that exchange is the fact that when Jesus tells her to go to her husband, He already knew that she was currently in adultery, and after she says “I have no husband”, Jesus corrects her and explains that He knew the sin she was currently engaging in. Instead of getting offended, she actually uses the proclamation of her sinful behavior to witness! For when she went into the city she proclaimed “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” (John 4:29). Not only did she point the town to Jesus, but she pointed out the fact that He knew exactly what she was doing! Jesus is the only remedy for the sins of the world. Many religions can offer people self-help, but only Jesus can offer salvation. Many religions have dynamic speakers, but only Jesus has paid the penalty for the debt that the human race has incurred for themselves. How can we keep this hidden from those who need it?
Giving False Hope
If we love Jesus and care about lost people, this should bother us. It should bother us that someone could walk away from these exchanges and think of themselves as being right with God. It should bother us that someone who is suppose to be shepherding a congregation is unable to have the backbone to share the truth with someone who is dead in their sins. If we care for the soul of Charlamagne, we should be righteously angry that he is being handed counterfeit money in both of these exchanges. He has been given a bill of goods worth nothing. To have a relationship with his god, and not the one true God, is to be lost. Nobody likes to be in uncomfortable situations, but I don’t read anywhere in Scripture where Jesus or the apostles let a person walk away thinking themselves justified, all the while they are in rebellion. It is sad that we have to hope that Mr. Furtick and the interviewer from Relevant are simply ignorant, but I believe the real answer lies in their cowardice. Just imagine if a patient came to a doctor and believed himself to be healthy, when in fact he was riddled with cancer, and the doctor, not wanting to offend him, told him he was fine. Now imagine that the doctor actually has the cure and doesn’t do everything in his power to convince the patient of his need for it! Forget being a bad doctor, that is an evil doctor and he should lose his license to practice.
At the very least, Furtick is communicating to his congregation that the way that we share the gospel is to shrink back when it comes to sharing the truth of the exclusivity of Christ. That if they really want to share the gospel, we tell someone that leading a show (that is far too repulsive to mention any specifics to his congregation) is the very calling of God on his life. If we read the interview done by Relevant, and then go back to listen to a few of the videos uploaded by The Breakfast Club on their YouTube channel, one could only surmise that Relevant believes that treating women as mere sex objects and demeaning your guests is simply commonplace for the believer.
As Jesus spoke of the scribes and Pharisees, these men hinder others from coming to the kingdom of God. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). In Luke 17:1-3, Jesus warned of those who would place stumbling blocks before those who would come to Christ, and calls us to call them to repentance! What greater stumbling block could there be than a pastor and leading Christian magazine seemingly calling you a brother if you are not one? I ask you to pray for someone to really sit down with this man and share with him the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not for their magazine, not for their YouTube channel, but that someone would legitimately sit down with him and have a legitimate conversation about our need for Jesus and that outside of Him there is no salvation. I pray that if he is truly seeking Him, he will find Him and God will use him in a powerful way!