Friday, February 21, 2014

American Idol Gets Spiritual

Ok, I admit it. I still watch American Idol. Every year I say to myself, That’s it - I’m over it and not watching this year. And I said that again this year. But like my bowl of leftover Valentine’s candy, it keeps beckoning me, and I keep returning to it, moth to a flame.

Photo credit: AP images
The show made a few changes this season – a new judge, new studio, new format. But, as I tuned in on Tuesday night, they announced a change I never could have anticipated: the addition of a spiritual advisor. And not just any spiritual advisor, but a Christian minister.

The decision came about because David Hill, one of the show’s overseers, was struck by how many of the contestants come from faith-based backgrounds. "I thought to myself, wow, it must be really tough to go to this intense competition - and this show does change lives - and if you're used to being in a church-based organization, that would be a huge adjustment," Hill told USA Today Sports. 

So he had an idea: hire ministry leader Billy Mauldin and wife Julie to be chaplains to the contestants. Billy is president and CEO of Motor Racing Outreach, a ministry to NASCAR drivers, so he is used to helping people under immense pressure. He said their purpose is “to be there for the people, be present, help with the spiritual side of life and some of the struggles they may deal with as they’re going through the competition.”

And it sounds like they've been a big help. Hill said, “I told the contestants that Billy and Julie were people who understand competition and would be available to talk. The response was incredible. A large percentage made appointments to sit down and talk to him – and not only the contestants, but even some of the producers. It’s working beyond my wildest dreams.”

As I watched American Idol introduce the Mauldins to the world on Tuesday night, I about fell out of my chair. What’s going on? I thought Christianity was considered archaic, uncool, and passé in popular culture? But sure enough, here it is on prime time TV. It seems our nation is kind of a confusing place right now: prayer is not allowed in schools, nativity scenes are banned from courthouse lawns, but the gospel seems to be alive and well in Hollywood.

As I wrote in my post “God is on the Move” a couple of weeks ago, our nation is experiencing the beginnings of an historic spiritual renewal. I believe this story serves as an exciting example of how the gospel is going forth in new ways. As the renewal builds steam, more and more we will be seeing the Lord’s transforming presence pop up in completely unexpected places.

The gospel cannot be squelched, contained, or legislated away. God promises that He will continue to prepare a bride “without spot or wrinkle or blemish” until the day of Jesus’ return. So, if the gospel is blocked in one area, He will make a way for it somewhere else. 

It’s exciting to see that very thing unfolding on one of the biggest shows on television. Maybe I will keep watching after all.

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