American Idol and Megachurches


Last year, I wrote a piece about American Idol’s fascination with the “new.” This year, a few days before the final show, the Los Angeles Times has a fascinating piece about the ties between pagan “Idol” and megachurches.

ameridol2010In “‘American Idol’s’ Christian Connection,” Scott Collins writes, “Mega-churches across the country’s heartland have served as the training grounds for many of the Fox show’s contestants, with parishioners doing their part with prayers and text votes.”

Since “gospel music” started spilling over into the churches in the 1950s, music originating from the pop industry has taken over the churches which, for the most part, have replaced hymns and psalms with contemporary pop and rock. Collins says American Idol is a big part of this current movement:

“Meanwhile, experts say it’s no accident that the popularity of ‘Idol’ over the last eight years has dovetailed with the continued growth of megachurches, which, in addition to offering a broad menu of social activities and groups, often stage elaborate musical performances at weekly services attended by hundreds or thousands of worshippers…

“Scott Thumma, a scholar at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research who has written widely about mega-churches, recalls visiting a youth service at a large church in the Washington, D.C., area. The entertainment portion featured dramatic stage lighting and electric guitars. ‘It was easily a rock concert,’ he said. ‘The only thing missing was ”Free Bird” and us holding up our lighters.'”

Based on an annual report by Outreach magazine and LifeWay Research on the 100 fastest-growing American churches with at least 1,000 weekly attendees, New Life Church in Conway, Arkansas was the fastest-growing church in America in 2009, increasing its attendance by a whopping 61 percent. How did this church do it? God-centered preaching? No. God-centered teaching? No. God-centered sacraments? Not even drama, puppet shows, altar calls, or “Revolution” youth programs. It’s the church of 2009 “Idol” winner Kris Allen.

This is not just an American phenom. Anyone who has seen the Philippine megachurch scene will never know that they’re watching a Filipino church show, except for the dark-haired, brown-skinned crowd.


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2 thoughts on “American Idol and Megachurches”

  1. This isn’t too surprising.  It’s just interesting that an LA Times writer recognized that evangelical Christian mega churches have been doing what it does long before American Idol has been around. Generates the same type of atmosphere: audience (congregation), host (pastor), singers (worship team or solo performances), lights and smoke, and singing pop/rock type songs.

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