When Rodney Finch, pastor of Calvary Chapel Cary, introduced the rapper Flauce to an Easter Sunday congregation of more than 1,000 people, he acknowledged that hip-hop might not meet everyone’s taste.
However, when the gospel rapper started sharing his testimony with the crowd at Dorton Arena on Sunday, it was clear that his message resonated with the people, even though his bass-laden beats might not have.
Flauce, of Raleigh, who made secular music for nearly a decade before starting rapping about the Gospel in 2010, said both his lifestyle and his songs changed when he formed a relationship with Christ.
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Fresh starts like the one Flauce found were at the heart of Calvary Chapel’s service at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, where the church has relocated for six Easter Sundays in a row. The church that Finch founded has outgrown its 550-seat sanctuary for Easter services, using an approach that’s at once “uncompromising” and adventuresome, as shown by the rapper’s appearance.
Flauce, whose real name is Jhazmere Preston, said he’s used his talents to “flauce,” or show off, his newfound purpose – inspiring others to know Jesus.
“You all have a purpose,” Flauce said to a round of applause. “You all have a reason for being here.”
Finch said during his sermon that he too found a fresh start in the 1980s, after a long history of abusing drugs. After attending a revival, Finch said, God started turning a life he said was “hopeless” into something meaningful.
He met his wife, Elvira, and started attending church regularly. In 1995, Finch and his family moved from California to the Triangle, where they started a Bible study group that has since grown into one the largest churches in the region.
The congregation has grown so much that it moved Easter services to the Gov. Kerr Scott Building at the Fairgrounds six years ago, and after they outgrew that building, to Dorton Arena.
“Jesus makes all the difference,” Finch said. “He did it in my life and he did it in hundreds of people’s lives in this room.”
The Easter service is not really “church,” in the traditional sense, Finch said. However, Finch said, the Gospel is still presented in an “uncompromising” way.
“It’s almost an event, an event at the state fairgrounds,” Finch said. “Except this one centers on Jesus and what he has done for us.”
Black, white, Asian and Hispanic people attended the Easter service. They had chosen Easter attire ranging from three-piece suits to shorts and T-shirts. A full band with electric guitars, drums and singers led a medley of soft-rock songs that had many in the congregation raising their arms toward the ceiling.
Finch said the unconventional and casual style of Calvary’s Easter service appeals to people who might feel like first-timers or what he called “two-timers,” those who go to church on Christmas and Easter.
“This is a way to say, ‘It’s not church; you don’t have to feel like a hypocrite,’ ” Finch said.
But the Easter service is also for Calvary’s regular members, who typically attend one of three Sunday services at the church’s sanctuary. On Easter, the church only holds one service, at Dorton Arena, allowing the entire congregation to attend together.
Bob Kristin, an usher at Calvary Chapel, was one of about 300 volunteers who helped move the church service to the fairgrounds. After first attending Calvary about six years ago at a neighbor’s urging, he said he and his wife liked the way Calvary’s pastors taught the Bible.
“We start at John:1 and go through the whole thing,” Kristin said.
“I’ve learned so much, and it makes me want to learn more. We like the music, too.”
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104.