“I’m a Lutheran” is a monthly profile featuring ELCA members around the country. The profiles showcase ELCA members in all their diversity, connecting one another through individual faith stories as Lutherans. Sentence prompts are provided to each person featured. If you’d like to nominate someone for “I’m a Lutheran,” email megan.brandsrud@elca.org.

Congregation: St. Luke Lutheran Church, McDonough, Ga.

Occupation: Inspirational hip-hop artist/speaker

Having performed at the 2003, 2006 and 2015 ELCA youth gatherings makes me so proud to be part of a national church of faith and action. I think anyone who has an opportunity to attend should make every effort to take advantage of it. In my opinion, the Youth Gathering rocks! I hope to get the opportunity to share my gifts and talents there for years to come!

I pray that people continue to accept my gifts and what I have to offer the church. God is using unconventional messengers and innovative methods to deliver the gospel, including hip-hop culture. I pray more youth begin attending and getting involved in church, and developing their gifts to serve the kingdom. The future of the world lies in our youth. I pray the church continues to embrace them, nurture them and prepare them to become our future leaders.

I wanted to make “Glow with Grace,” a record highlighting parts 1-5 of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, to connect younger generations to the Small Catechism in a way that’s relevant for them. Youth today respond to music and technology on a much deeper level than previous generations. Without compromising the message, I changed the method. The CD has the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Holy Sacraments and Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”—hip-hop-style. 

Growing up in Compton, Calif., was a formidable, yet formative time in my life. I witnessed the effects of drugs, violence and poverty on an impoverished community. I witnessed the strength and the leadership of my grandmother, Ada Foster, who strongly encouraged the presence of her family every Sunday at First Lutheran in Carson, Calif. I witnessed the perseverance, hope and faith of my parents, Dennis and Doris Mims, who worked extremely hard to improve both our opportunity and our circumstance. They taught my siblings and me how to trust in God with all of our heart, soul and mind. My hometown greatly influences my identity. There’s a pulse of creative energy that resonates throughout the city and it emanates from within me.

People are surprised that I’m a cradle Lutheran, I watch an episode of The Golden Girls every night, I’ve been married for 13 years and I have a doctorate in education. 

I struggle with the temptation to solely create music that caters toward a secular audience. Sometimes opportunities to share my gifts in the Christian sector are sparse. Other times the opportunity is there, but the compensation is low. However, I believe God has called me for a higher purpose, so I pray for guidance, discernment and continued support of both the church and my community. 

I think the Reformation is relevant today because the story of Luther’s courage to challenge authority is highly inspirational. It’s a testament to how education and hard work can lead to enlightenment. Enlightenment can spark action, and action can change the world. I know it wasn’t quite as simple as that, but we have to remember that we do have the power to make a difference in the lives of others. God, who is faithful and just, can reform us and give us new life through the death and resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ. So, reformation through the power of the gospel is relevant yesterday, today and beyond.

I connect hip-hop music with my faith life by practicing the founding principles of hip-hop culture: peace, love, unity and having fun. Many people mistakenly use the terms rap and hip-hop interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. Rap is a musical product and those things associated with rap music entertainment. Hip-hop is the creation and development of cultural expressions of oppression, health, love, awareness and wealth. I’m not a rap artist; I’m a hip-hop artist who creates faith-based music. The majority of my songs are based on God’s word and Lutheran theology.

My favorite Bible story is the story of Lot and his wife in Genesis 19, specifically verse 26, which says she looked back and became a pillar of salt. As a child, I had a children’s Bible that had a vivid illustration of the scene. The city behind them was burning, Lot and his daughters were in the shadows, and Lot’s wife was a melting statue of salt. That story and that image not only taught me to fear God, but also to fully trust in his word.

My favorite church memories revolve around intimate moments of music and singing. I love singing “Silent Night” surrounded by candlelight during Christmas Eve service. I love gathering around the campfire singing worship songs at Lutheran campsites. I encounter the spirit of God in those moments. I believe that gatherings centered on spirituality and creative musical expression are essential for faith development. Our church should continue to financially support and create opportunities for people to encounter God during those types of events.

I believe in the Triune God—Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus Christ is the living and abiding word of God incarnate. The wages of our sin are death; however, being justified by our faith through God’s grace, we are given new life and hope.

I wanted to get my doctorate in education with a concentration in hip-hop studies because as an elementary teacher, I saw firsthand how powerful hip-hop is as an instructional tool. Hip-hop culture is composed of several elements: linguistics, music, art, dance, knowledge, fashion, entrepreneurialism, and health and wellness. Practitioners of authentic hip-hop culture are making productive contributions to society every day. As a Lutheran hip-hop artist, I felt compelled to advocate for the viability of hip-hop in academia and expand the field of study.

Having a pastor for a parent wasn’t easy. I must admit that I was a rebellious youth at times, yet I’m honored to call the Rev. O. Dennis Mims my father. Not only did he blaze trails as an African-American in the ELCA, but he has also paved the way for numerous clergy, deacons and lay ministers throughout the national church. They call him Reverend Mims, but I call him Dad. One thing I learned from my dad was to serve God and his people wholeheartedly.

Winning a 2015 Gospel Choice Award for “Best Holy Hip-Hop Artist” was such a humbling experience. It was my first time being formally recognized by music industry professionals. The greatest reward was knowing that so many people out there actually voted for me. Two other Lutheran musicians, Rachel Kurtz and AGAPE*, were instrumental in helping me spread the word about my nomination. I remember the announcers calling my name and being so surprised that I forgot my acceptance speech. I even forgot to thank my husband, who was sitting in the audience.

I’m a Lutheran—“L.U.T.H.E.R.A.N., we get baptized and take communion. Saved by grace through faith, yes I am. Proud to say, I’m a Lutheran!” (A quote from her song “God is Calling You” off Back to My Future.) 

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is an associate editor of Living Lutheran.

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