Hip Hop Pastor
Epiphanies, or galvanizing moments, can happen anywhere, at any time and change the course of your life. For Michael Pennington, it happened in a singular moment when one of his CCD professors challenged him with a simple question, “What are you doing now about it?” This question and his resulting answer changed the course of Pennington’s life, giving him a renewed mission and a powerful purpose.
Stepping back to the early '90s, Pennington was pursuing a music career as a rap singer and running with the hip-hop band The 2 Live Crew out of Miami. Pennington could see he was headed down a destructive path so he turned to the Christian faith. For two decades he worked tirelessly to bridge a gap between hip-hop and Christianity. To the traditional authorities of the Church, the two concepts were in conflict with one another, but he pressed forward working with a growing community of gang members and at-risk youth translating Bible passages and sermons into rap and performing outreach at schools and prisons.
With the desire to earn a degree in music-business law, Pennington enrolled at CCD as a paralegal student. It was during a casual conversation with his instructor discussing an essay he was writing about the current state of rap music and its destructive effects on his community that this life-changing question occurred.
“I had already started the conversations with people like Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg and Reverend Run and LL Cool J and had made my appeal for them to clean up the rap music from negative to positive, but we still had a long way to go,” said Pennington. “My essay was about how we can't legislate morals and values but we can be on our guard about what's going on in our surroundings. And my professor said, 'Oh, I see what you’re saying these other people can do, and what you did [to bring awareness to the situation]. So what are you doing about it now?'
“So when the instructor basically asked me ‘what are you going to do about it?’ that’s when the calling came to me to start what was called the Hip Hop Church of Denver, a rap ministry that would bridge the gap between the positive messages of faith in the form of rap music in order to serve a new group of people. And I became known in Denver as the Pastor Devine, the Hip Hop Pastor.”
But Pennington’s story is even bigger than that. It’s about how he has taken everything he has learned through his education and experience, from ministry and business, leadership and music to influence legions of individuals who seek inspiration and guidance.
“I have been speaking in schools against drugs and violence," he said, "working across the country with sheriff’s offices, police departments as well as the Federal Government to do what is called 'faith-based intervention.'” He’s even been invited to speak before the U.S. Congress.
Sometimes it’s the small personal conversations between students and instructors that sparks the big changes in life. The ripple effect from that simple conversation in a small classroom at a humble institution known as Community College of Denver has impacted thousands of lives as Pennington continues to inspire and lead those to live in their higher purpose. Pennington received his B.A. in Pastoral Leadership from Newburgh Theological but credits CCD as the turning point in his life’s work.