Ahead of Kanye West’s Sunday Service concert at Pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church on Sunday, he and members of the gospel choir performed at two Harris County jails.
West performed songs from his Jesus is King album for more than 200 men at the Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas, Friday before walking through an underground tunnel system to perform another show for a smaller group of female inmates at the Baker Street Jail, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"This is a mission, not a show," West told the inmates in a video released by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
During the performance’s finale, many of the male inmates wearing orange scrubs knelt down in prayer together. Several of the women inmates cried as they were moved by the lyrics sung by West and the gospel choir.
Lauding West's decision to perform a concert for the inmates, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott posted a message on Twitter Saturday saying, “What Kanye West does to inspire the incarcerated is transformative. Saving one soul at a time. Inmates who turn to God may get released earlier because of good behavior and may be less likely to commit future crimes. It would be great if other artists followed Kanye’s lead.”
In August, two-time Grammy award-winning singer Lauren Daigle performed a concert at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, The Christian Post reported. Daigle also visited with women at the Statesville Correctional Prison in Crest Hill, Illinois, last year after the release of her album, Look Up Child.
West’s representatives told the Chronicle that they contacted Sheriff Ed Gonzalez on Wednesday to coordinate the secret performance at the jail. The artist’s team had also contacted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to officer a live concert at one of the state’s 104 prisons, but the department declined, noting that they needed more time to coordinate such an event.
In October, ESPN football analyst Tim Tebow shared the Gospel with a few inmates at the Alfred D. Hughes maximum-security prison in Waco, Texas, where he also took part in a pushups competition that he lost.
Lakewood Church, where West will perform a Sunday Service concert at 7 p.m. tonight, has a street evangelism team that ministers to families outside the Harris County Jail where West and the gospel choir performed Friday. A group of volunteers from the church go out twice monthly to the jail and other areas downtown to distribute pamphlets, books, and the New Testament to those who need to hear encouraging words that are put into motion through a prayer that's spoken over their lives.
West spoke at Lakewood Church for 20 minutes during the 11 a.m. worship service where he asked the audience hold their applause and be completely silent to "let God flow through me as I speak to you guys today."
During West's Q&A with Osteen he addressed his mental breakdown and mentioned some of the struggles men face such as the devil's distractions in the world through the allure of strip clubs, which he described as sex trafficking venues, and the "spirit" of alcoholism that people struggle with.
CP reported Friday that half of the tickets to the Sunday Service concert were reserved for members of Lakewood Church through a special pre-offer that required a code. The remaining tickets were free through Ticketmaster and released at 10 a.m. Saturday and were gone within seven seconds.
Some people were fraudulently selling the tickets online Friday for hundreds of dollars and others who claimed to have tickets but didn’t were also scamming people online.
A representative from Lakewood Church told CP that Joel and Victoria Osteen are excited about what God has been doing through West.
“It’s really neat to see what God is doing in Kanye’s life. It will be a fantastic weekend,” the spokesperson said. “It’s going to bring a lot of people who have never been to Lakewood as well. Kanye has a big influence on the culture.”
West started his popular Sunday Service events, which generally include prayer and live music, in January 2019. At the time, his wife, Kim Kardashian West, said her family was on a path to spiritual enlightenment.
In a recent interview with radio DJ Zane Lowe, West explained how his faith journey inspired his new album. "Now that I am in service to Christ, my job is to spread the Gospel. To let people know what Jesus has done for me," West said. "And in that, I'm no longer a slave. I'm a son of God now. I'm free through Christ,” he said.
In an opinion piece published by CP earlier this month, pro-life activist Abby Johnson who was once the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic, urged Christian to “stop questioning and start praying.”
“Kanye’s conversion and this new album is an amazing work of God. Stop ‘waiting and seeing.’ Support this man who has laid it all on the line in an attempt to share the Gospel with our flailing culture,” she stressed, noting that he will fail and he will disappoint believers at times.
“Are you waiting for him to say something that you disagree with? That will assuredly happen. Are you waiting for him to drop a cuss word? I guarantee that will happen. Please explain to me what exactly you are waiting for? Are you waiting for that moment to come so that you can self-righteously look down your Christian nose at everyone and say ‘See, I told you so.’”
The Chronicle noted that in years past, other celebrity musicians have visited state prisons, such as the late Johnny Cash’s famous concert at the maximum security Folsom State Prison in 1968 which later became the title of his live album, At Folsom Prison.