Inner city youth minister uses Hip-hop to preach the Gospel

.- St. Francis of Assisi once said, “preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.” 27-year old Bob Lesnefsky’s motto isn’t too far off. “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use rap.” Until a few years ago, Lesnefsky, or “Righteous B” as he is better known today, was working as a youth minister in an inner city New York parish and having little success. “They weren’t responding to traditional ways of preaching the gospel”, he says.

That’s when Lesnefsky decided to try something different. He’d always enjoyed listening to hip-hop but said that the kids he worked with were “absolutely saturated in it.”

“I wanted to enter into and fully understand their culture and so I just started listening to rap all the time.”

That when Righteous B was born. Late nights spent in his basement trying to lay down his first beats on admittedly “primitive gear” led to so much success with the kids that Lesnefsky decided to put out his first CD, Are you ready for Righteous B?

That has since led to a second CD, Get the Kids to Revolt, as well as concerts in venues around the country including the Steubenville High School Youth Conferences.

Lesnefsky’s influences include such varied individuals as Rich Mullins, LL Cool J and St. Maximilian Kolbe, who “used modern technology to preach the Gospel.”

His ministry is clearly working too. “There are tons of cool lil stories about kids responding in awesome ways to the music.” He especially loves the stories of kids opening up “who never responded to any kind of ministry experience before.”

In the same vein as St. Maximilian, who utilized the tools of modern culture to spread Christ’s message, Lesnefsky is quick to point out that the influence of hip-hop music is everywhere, “from McDonalds commercials to mainstream rock.”

Prior to turning to hip-hop, he spent years in and out of bands as a Christian singer/songwriter but now, thinks that, “the whole game is changing. Hip hop is at a different place and there are amazingly talented mc's all over the place [rapping] for the church.”

Although many associate rap and hip-hop with things like drugs and gangs, Lesnefsky is convinced that “people have had enough of that.” He is convinced that there are many incredibly talented Christian artists today who doing a big part to change that association.

Talkin’ bout a revolution

Pope John Paul II has been speaking for years about a “new springtime” for the Church – which Lesnefsky sees as a revolution. This “revolution” against what the Pope calls the “culture of death”, he notes, “needs to start with me. My heart needs to change.”

And at its heart, this is the message Righteous B is spreading to young people—to be a part of the spiritual revolution, the new springtime, that, he says the Church is “aching for.”

Although he now lives with his wife and three children in what he calls the “mean streets of suburban Houston,” Lesnefsky’s heart remains in the inner city.

One of his major ministry goals is the creation of a non-profit, aimed at trying to come up with effective ways to do ministry to urban teens. 10% of the proceeds of each of his records, in fact, goes to help inner city parishes.

“To us,” Lesnefsky says, “life is Christ; and ultimately, that’s the fullness of everything we want to be about.”

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