What Can American Idol Teach Us About The Church?

I confess that I have a few American Idol alumni in my Itunes, but just like my voting policy, I’ll never tell you who they are. Last night, my wife reminded me as I was doing homework with one of my daughters that the season premier was on in a little bit. A couple of years ago watching what I like to call the American Idol pre-season became a tradition of sorts for my wife and I. Back then we could only watch one channel and we were in a little cabin waiting for something a little bigger to open up for us. Of course like a lot of Americans we laughed at some of the contestants, wondering what in the world they were thinking. So last night I stopped what I was doing and from the first commercial on we watched the carnage. I’d like to tell you that we had empathy for those people who tried and failed but the truth is we laugh at most of them. The truth is after the auditions I’ll hardly watch any of the episodes. About half way through, I said to my wife, “There’s something we can learn from this, I just don’t know what it is.” Believe it or not, I actually pondered this for the rest of the show. I pondered what can the church learn from American Idol? Not, how can the church emulate American Idol but what are the inherent truths here that I’m missing.
Then it happened.
Near the end

There was a series of failed contestants walking out the door, some sad, most angry, and all of them talking about how they were going to make it “without American Idol!!!”
Now, let’s think about that for a moment, here is two of the best talent evaluators in the business (Randy and Simon–I’m not really sure why Paula is on the show) and they’ve just told you that you’re not good enough but you’re gonna go make it on your own. Sure, there probably will be somebody who will do that once, maybe.
Realistically, though these people are not going to make it. They’re just not that good. All of the Princess Leigh like hair do’s and chest hair waxing isn’t going to make their voices any better. No amount of one finger salutes or complaining about the make up girls that all look alike is going to change that. It’s amazing really, these people just lie to themselves. The truth is too hard to face. It’s easier to blame the judges. It’s even easier to get angry instead of facing the truth that your hurting. I imagine for many if not all of these people this is a life long dream. Many have probably had the flames of this dream fanned by well intentioned friends and family members who have listened through ears that are well… friends and family ears. Rather than hurt the person they love they encourage them that they could make it, that they might have a chance and their voices might be good enough. The idea of being dishonest in an effort to be nice is a topic for a whole other day. So they rant, they rave and they blame everyone out there.

Before we get too hard on these idol wannabes I want to ask, doesn’t the church do this?
Seriously, the conservatives blame the emergents, the emergents blame the conservatives. One denomination blames another, free willers blame Calvinists, Calvinists blame free willers, etc.
I know of a pastor who led a church to a third of the size it was when he took over. You know what he says the reason is? People just cannot handle good hard preaching anymore. Now, I wonder what that says about the guy before him, who hired him and groomed him to take his place. Is he saying that guy didn’t preach solid Biblical truths? That church has lost most of its influence in the community in which it has historic roots, mostly because it fought the wrong battles. Read the gospels. It’s fascinating. Jesus was hated or loved depending on who was around him but he was never marginalized. He was never ignored. Everywhere he went people talked about Him, they knew about Him. Same thing with the Apostle Paul. It’s amazing, people tried to kill him in a variety of ways. The early church grew. Maybe it was because it didn’t have the time to blame outsiders because those outsiders were persecuting them.

I love when a church or some para-church ministry rants and shrieks about “the Culture Wars” and taking America back to the golden age when “it was a Christian nation.” When I was a kid we used to spread that kind of talk on our fields as fertilizer.
I’m afraid the church has lost some of its effectiveness because we’ve failed to tell ourselves the truth. We’ve failed to look at the mirror and see where we are failing. We’ve been too busy blaming people who don’t believe like us for not acting like us. We’ve gone crazy trying to defend things are extra-biblical. It’s time we take a long deep look at us and ask if we are redeeming the time or punching a time clock.
The problem is that this is hard. It’s hard to say that you were wrong, It’s even harder to ask for forgiveness. If you really want to do something extremely hard that Christ commands us to do, don’t worry about taking the gospel to some third world country–just try to forgive someone who has really hurt you. For many, going to that third world country will be far far easier.
There are people who actually fight over the terms we should call ourselves. Christ-follower or Christian? I sincerely doubt that the label we proudly slap on our chest has ever shown anyone what it means to be loved. I doubt that anyone has ever decided to follow Christ because of some label. Both terms drives at people looking like Jesus. One of the terms actually means “little Christ.” I wonder if Christ would have thumped his chest over a label? When the disciples were exercised over someone doing Kingdom things they told him to stop because he wasn’t one of them. How did Jesus respond? He told them to let the guy alone.
The time has come for the church to stop blaming “those people” whoever those people are take a long hard look at the church. What if every church, every Christian/Christ-follower were to just ask one simple question this year? What if we asked how much we looked like Jesus? The Bible is full of great ways that we can demonstrate that we are like Christ. They all involve actions. If you really want to be relevant to your community, go love somebody this week. Let the person behind you jump ahead at the checkout next time. Write a thank you note to the person who’s opening the envelope that contains your check for a bill you owe. Forgive the person who wronged you. It’s time we started telling ourself the truth. It’s not some catchy phrase on a sign that is going to show people that we love them and each other and that is important, after all how well we love each other is a sign of who we’re following.


About Joe

I am a simple guy. I live in West Michigan and have a counseling business. I also do public speaking. I'd love to hear your story.

2 thoughts on “What Can American Idol Teach Us About The Church?

  1. Joe,

    “I’m afraid the church has lost some of its effectiveness because we’ve failed to tell ourselves the truth. We’ve failed to look at the mirror and see where we are failing. We’ve been too busy blaming people who don’t believe like us for not acting like us. We’ve gone crazy trying to defend things are extra-biblical. It’s time we take a long deep look at us and ask if we are redeeming the time or punching a time clock.”

    Great point!

  2. I could be wrong but the real problem lies with how the Church has let itself become less convicted. The truth is the Gospel is hard to take, the disciples didn’t have it easy, Jesus was always on them to change their ways and always challenging them. So now we have Churches that preach about wealth, use mainstream music and other tactics all to bring in more people in the hopes of more tithes. I know it’s harse but the truth is too many people want to feel good about life in some way and just one Sunday is all they are about. And those that want to go deeper can’t because the message has been muddled and been made easier to swallow losing it’s punch.

    We can’t save anyone, only God can and that includes Churches. That’s why God gave us guidelines in the Bible to follow. The service is there for the believer, not an outreach to save the lost. Not that it can’t happen but it’s not the goal.

    I said it to my friend the way Churches operate today is like telling someone to start a diet by giving them two bowls of ice cream every night to make it easy for them to start the diet.

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