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Streetlights: A Bridge Between Urban Illiteracy and Biblical Fidelity

Tyler Burns

Most churches find teaching the Scriptures to be a daunting task in an increasingly unbiblical culture. Add to that the difficulty of sharing God’s Word with the illiterate and the church’s growing wariness over a tech-saturated gospel and the difficulty increases. However, there are some who display a keen desire to bear the burden of getting the Bible in as many hands, eyes and even ears as possible. Enter the “Streetlights” urban Bible program, an audio/visual collage of the Bible put to beats, with the expressed goal of communicating the authentic Word of God. Sparked with the signature voices of some of Christian Hip Hop’s finest artists (such as Propaganda, Braille, and Odd Thomas from the Humble Beast Record Label), the program is the first of its kind and carries with it the weight of blazing unpaved roads for the Gospel to travel. The endeavor has been spearheaded by the focused Esteban Shedd who is also known as Boogalu, lead rapper of the Humble Beast hip hop band Alert 312.

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The Chi-Town native, who took a few minutes to explain his passion to RAAN at the Legacy Conference, knows firsthand the detrimental effects that illiteracy can have:

“Years ago, when I was working with ten young men in Chicago, I found that eight of them had a reading level that was below 4th grade. It made me think to myself ‘how am I supposed to tell them to open their Word when they get home if they can’t read it?’”

Surprised but undeterred, the emcee recorded Acts 2-3 in his home studio over Pete Rock instrumentals as an experiment to reach his context. “The difference was like night and day,” the emcee said with a smile. “Before, all they were seeing was black print on white paper, and that brings up shame and fear. But now the dynamic reading of the text brought Peter’s message to life.” This effective test run eventually spawned a much larger volume of material that is now being used across age and culture gaps to spread the timeless truths of the Bible.

Another Translation

Despite his clear excitement for this project, Shedd was quick to explain the intentional thought process for including a broad, balanced diet of Scripture. “It’s an urban dynamic audio Bible that we build out in volumes because not only is literacy a problem, but Biblical literacy is also a problem. That’s why there’s Old Testament and New Testament packaged together.” The emcee spoke glowingly of his aunt and uncle, both Wycliffe Bible translators and avid supporters of Streetlights. He listed that they saw it not just as an “alternate translation” but also an “alternative dialect”. “It’s a multitude of different voices, dictions and backgrounds to show the diversity of the Body. You could have a brother on the West Side or a sister from Ghana who just moved to the North Side with the same material, and both are able to understand God’s Word.”

As with any groundbreaking endeavor, the Streetlights team anticipates and feels the push-back from seasoned saints uncomfortable with the Scriptures presented in such an overtly urban way. But the group is aware of objections, the very Word of God has strengthened their resolve to go forward.

“If I were living in a completely deaf society, and everyone communicated through paintings, it would be dumb for me to just preach on the corner all day. The best way for me to speak with them is in their language. That’s why Paul says ‘I become all things to all men’.”

Boogalu spoke passionately of case after case where both young and old were transformed by Streetlights’ auditory approach, challenging every Christian’s call to communicate the Gospel.

“I don’t want to make them learn another language so they can learn the Gospel. I want to present the Gospel in their language and then say ‘learn this’.”

The Vision

In the end, Shedd understands the power of the text and desires for people from Chicago to Kenya to hear the message that has changed them. His goal of using a “multimedia toolbox” to introduce the Scriptures may be a novel one, but his passion for sinners should strike the sweet spot in the soul of every saint. As he eloquently stated, “If they’re deaf and mute, I will paint for them.”

The Streetlights Bible Program has been instrumental in breaking new ground in the areas of biblical literacy and urban evangelism. What they have in common with other programs is a need for vocal support, funding, and grassroots influence from the Body of Christ. These three things are essential to insuring that the Streetlights Program reaches everyone that it needs to with the Gospel of Christ.

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10 thoughts on “Streetlights: A Bridge Between Urban Illiteracy and Biblical Fidelity

  1. Lillian

    Thanks, it is very informative

  2. Thank you for the excellent post

  3. Dell

    Thanks for the wonderful manual

  4. Christen

    I like the article

  5. Brianne

    Thanks, it’s quite informative

  6. Brittny

    It works quite well for me


    I spent a lot of time to locate something similar to this

  8. Bryce

    I spent a lot of time to locate something such as this

  9. daveski

    I truly applaud the effort to get the truth to all people. However, my concern is that this doesn’t solve a great need – the ability to read. For reasons that I hope are obvious, the ability to read has tremendous advantages and learning to read should be pursued.

  10. Jamaal Fridge

    Whenever I hear about great exploits being done for the glory of God, I often tend to hear it in terms of some distant land or in another part of the country. It’s refreshing to hear this is happening in my own backyard. May God bless their efforts.

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