Shout to the Lord on American Idol

As a pastor and professional musician, I find American Idol interesting on a number of levels. It’s fascinating to see how a simple idea can capture the attention of millions, how people respond to evaluation, how people can be so misled about what they actually sound like, how ordinary people handle massive fame, the difference between gifting and hard work, and more. I also appreciate how some of the contestants have used the platform to bear witness to their faith in Christ. Melinda Doolittle, from last season, stood out for her humility, modesty, and joy.

Yesterday, I had started a post on my response to Wednesday night’s program. It was American Idol’s “Give Back” show. You may know (or maybe not) that it was a two and a half hour mix of music, comedy, and humor, with the expressed goal of raising as much money as possible to aid those who live in poverty, both inside and outside the U.S. A worthy goal.

I was working at my computer under headphones for most of the show, but as it ended, I caught the eight remaining Idol contestants stepping forward and belting out the worship song classic, “Shout to the Lord,” by Darlene Zschech. Only they replaced “My Jesus” with “My shepherd.” I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Isn’t there a disconnect between shouting to the LORD on American IDOL?

But before I finished this post, I saw the beginning of last night’s show as the entire group of Idol contestants sang “Shout to the Lord” again. Only this time, the name of “Jesus” was clearly proclaimed.

I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. What is going on? Is this an advertisement for Hillsong Church? Who chose this song? Do they even know what they’re singing? Who made this decision? Worship has hit the big time! What made them change “Jesus” to “shepherd” the first night and bring back “Jesus” on the second tonight?”

After the dust in my mind cleared, I had two thoughts:

It’s amazing that this happened. My next thought was, it’s concerning that this happened.

Lest you think I’m schizo, let me explain.

The Bright Side
In the positive column, someone watching”Shout to the Lord” on American Idol might be led by God’s Spirit to download the song, or even to start going to church again. They might hear the Gospel and be gloriously converted, all due to hearing “Shout to the Lord” in one of the most unlikely places. For that potential, I praise and thank God.

One blogger pointed out that there are many countries you’d never hear a clearly biblical, Christian song on prime time TV. Instead, you’d be persecuted for even mentioning the name of Christ. That’s reason to give thanks, and to pray for those less fortunate. Also, hearing a Christian song on American Idol might remind a Christian that they don’t have to be shy about their faith. It could provide an evangelistic starting point around the water-cooler or at the lockers. It’s also possible the producers of Idol recognize the Christian contingent to their fan base, which may lead them to include other Christian references and more “all-contestant” worship songs.

On the Other Hand
But there’s a dark side. There’s something paradoxical about worship songs being sung on prime time TV by people who don’t know why Jesus came. Does the world see any difference between what’s taking place on American Idol and what we do on Sunday mornings? Has worship become part of the entertainment culture? It’s unsettling when Christian songs or worship leaders are acclaimed by the masses. Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” He also said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mt. 15:8). Both verses temper my unbridled enthusiasm.

American Idol, for all the good the show is seeking to do, will never be a platform for worshiping a crucified Messiah. The Gospel has to be gutted of a bloody cross to find a place on prime time TV.

It’s doubtful that most people who heard or sang along with Shout to the Lord were aware of its implications. The Savior they were singing to was crushed for the sins of every person who would ever trust in him. He is Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, and the One who gave his life as a substitute to pay the punishment for our transgressions against a holy God.

Two Responses
So I had two more thoughts. First, we need to do everything we can to sing and promote songs in the church that clearly, biblically, passionately, and faithfully proclaim the one and only Savior – his work, his words, and his worthiness. Along with songs that express our love for the Savior, we need to sing songs that “teach and admonish” (Col. 3:16), that celebrate and rehearse the foundations of our faith and fill out our vague conceptions of God with clear, theologically informed biblical truths.

Second, we we need to live in such a way that it’s clear being a Christian is more than giving money to worthy causes and being emotionally moved as we sing songs of every genre together. We want to do all we can to ensure that those who walk into our meetings see clearly that we’re not a local version of American Idol.

A Reason to Pray
Hearing “Shout to the Lord” on American Idol is an opportunity to pray that God would use this event for his glory and fame, for the advancing of the Gospel, and the building up of his church. It also motivates me to pray for purity, discernment, and holiness in the church, and that we would reach out to those who don’t know Jesus without embracing worldly values or godlessness.

Would it be great to see more Christian worship songs sung on American Idol? Sure. But when a Christian song receives national attention or reaches number 1 on the charts, it’s no clear sign one way or the other that the Gospel is advancing or the church is having more of an influence on our culture. It can just as easily be a sign that the church is being swallowed up by the culture because it’s indistinct from the world.

Still, God is sovereign, and I know he will use this for his glory and purposes regardless of what the Idol producers intended.

Finally, my prayer is that we will be known more for lives lived worthy of the Gospel than our songs. May God’s Spirit work through us to enable those around us to turn from their empty idols to serve the only living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9-10).

Update: My senior pastor, Josh Harris, has written some insightful thoughts about this topic on his blog.

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47 Responses to Shout to the Lord on American Idol

  1. Joel Lee April 11, 2008 at 12:04 PM #

    You make very good points. I’ve yearned for the past couple months to find an online worship resource where the people leading the website are Christ-centered and actually know what they’re talking about. I’ve been following Worship Matters for the past few months and with every post I read, I’m happier that I found this place.

    Praise the Lord for allowing you to lead others towards the truth in worship. Thank you.

  2. Nick Coller April 11, 2008 at 12:37 PM #

    Wow, this is amazing. While I have no doubt that it was a ploy to get more Christians watching the show, it’s still fantastic that the song will get exposure, and people may just look a little deeper into the meaning of it?

    Incidentally, did you know that Hillsong albums have been the top selling independent artists in Australia for the past several years? Now they’re breaching the American market, it would seem! As an interested Aussie onlooker, I’d be very interested to hear what you make of their music, Bob…

  3. Wally Joiner April 11, 2008 at 2:05 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    I love what Mark Driscoll wrote in the first chapter of his new book, “Vintage Jesus”, about who the pop culture says Jesus is. My wife and I heard him preach that sermon in Seattle last year. At points, I wasn’t sure what to think of some of what he said and how he said it. He had a “Jesus is my Homeboy” T-shirt on and said that Ben Affleck, Brittney Spears, and Pamela Anderson wear them, too. His point was not to shock us (though it did), but to say that like it or not, even the peeps in the pop culture are preaching something of Jesus, and as they say in the news business, “There is no bad press.”

    After pondering what Mark said and how he said it, I realized that I was out of adjustment, not Mark. I had been huddling in the culture of my particular church (not a Sovereign Grace church at the time) and not caring too much to learn the language of modern man so as to be intelligible as I speak the gospel. I have recovered from the shock and adjusted. What Mark is doing is Seattle has changed my thinking over the past few years.

    I bring this up because when you wrote, “Would it be great to see more Christian worship songs sung on American Idol?” sure sounds like capitulation at first glance… “Worship on Idol” sounds like an oxymoron. I am now persuaded that it is not. Like Tim Smith taught at the recent conference you were at in Seattle that there are things we can receive and things we must reject in most events put on by the world. Paul said expectantly from a prison cell, that “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry”, yet his response to it was, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, Philippians 1:15-18 . Call it “bad press”, but Jesus got a mention, and both Paul and Mark (and Wally) rejoice.

    I am not saying that those who sang on American Idol sang a worship song from wrong motives (God is the “Discerner of the intents of the heart”), but that it is a strange venue for exalting God and not man. I am learning not to twitch, and rather to rejoice, remembering that for all the hatred of the Christ and His stumbling-block of a gospel (Psalm 2), they cannot get rid of His name or His church. This is what Mark was emphasizing. And I should know, for the 1st preachers in my life were George Harrison, Eric Clapton, the Doobie Brother, and Seals & Croft… all of them saying something about God in their songs which I was playing in clubs in the 70’s. In a weird but real way God started moving me toward the gospel through these strange pop preachers. “Jesus Is Just Alright With Me” and “I Have Finally Found A Way To Live, In The Presence Of The Lord” coming from the lips of the Doobies and Clapton stated me thinking and sent me to the Bible seeking. Weird, but wonderful! I am a believer today, which in some way is related to them.

    Wally

    PS, congrats on your book! I am looking forward to reading it.

  4. Terry Stauffer April 11, 2008 at 4:05 PM #

    Thanks for this, it is an excellent read on this episode in American culture.

    It’s an old but true cliche’ that balance can be achieved by putting weights at either end of a see-saw or by putting weight in the middle. Too often we’re satisfied with being somewhere in the middle (if you’ve read Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, think “pink”). There are two sides to this!

    There, I got through this comment without using the word “tension.”

  5. Gabriel Gagnon April 11, 2008 at 4:39 PM #

    Thanks Bob for the post, it’s good to examine what is happening in the culture and look at what it can do to the culture and the Church. We need to discern what is happening and I think you did a good job at it.

  6. Ted Slater April 11, 2008 at 5:28 PM #

    Among other things, you wrote: “There’s something paradoxical about worship songs being sung on prime time TV by people who don’t know why Jesus came.”

    It’s my understanding that some of the contestants are Christians. I believe at least a handful of the AI contestants were singing from their hearts.

  7. Bob Kauflin April 11, 2008 at 5:49 PM #

    Ted,

    You’re absolutely right. For the sake of brevity, I wasn’t as clear as I could have been. I should have said, “worship songs being sung by people, most of whom, don’t know why Jesus came.”

    But the grammar sounded odd to me.

    In any case, thanks for the clarification.

  8. John C April 11, 2008 at 6:22 PM #

    I haven’t had the chance to read every single post, so pardon me if this has been covered. My take – I think it’s hard to judge just “what” is going on, on any level, without knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. These contestants are going through what is probably hell on earth with all they are having to do and hoops to jump thru, let alone the contest itself of course. It’s obvious from watching them that while “in the trenches” with each other, they’ve become very very close. You can tell there are strong relationships being shared here together by them in the midst of all the stress that bonds them together. I don’t know the spiritual background of every single contestant, but who knows who’s been rubbing off on who? Perhaps someone in the cast or on the show in some form or another has had a huge impact on these kids with Christ and they’re maybe even perhaps “getting it”? Perhaps Dolly had a big impact on them for Jesus when she was on and spending time with them? She was certainly very vocal about Him on the show! (amen!) Anyway – to say they don’t know who or what they’re singing to when they sing that song, may not be all that correct. Just a theory anyway. Have no idea.

    Also -if you check out the secular boards for Idol, and the idol boards themselves, it’s AMAZING how many people are saying “what is that Shout to the Lord song – I HAVE to have it – it’s so beautiful!!” Who knows where someone who has NO IDEA what kind of music is sang in church these days will now have heard that and a whole new world has been opened up to them in terms of what church, God, and Christianity can be (not that it’s all about modern worship, shout to the lord, hillsongs etc. of course) but if it turns people towards the church, Jesus, God etc. . . . I’m all for it. Jesus can take anything that happens on that show and use it for His glory if He wishes.

  9. Bob Kauflin April 11, 2008 at 10:25 PM #

    John,

    You make some good points. Thanks for stopping by and for the encouraging news about how many people are downloading “Shout to the Lord.” May God use it to bring many people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

  10. Matt April 11, 2008 at 10:41 PM #

    Man, this is going to sound so like a cop-out, but I was working on the computer Tuesday night when AI was on, which my wife was watching (yes, I was in the room, but I was guilty only by association!!). I didn’t hear them do “Shout to the Lord.” I did hear one of the contestants sing a song with the chorus of “We are all innocent.” Hmmm…we are? If we are, then why do we need to shout to Jesus? The dichotomy hit me then, and I had no clue that they actually sang “Shout to the Lord” that night. Now, it’s even more vivid. Bob, I think your pros and cons on this are right on. Yes, praise God! A song that lifts high the Name of Jesus was sung on prime time TV! But singing songs about Jesus is a far different thing than knowing Him. And mixing a song about the Lord in with a song championing our “innocence” serves the purpose of our enemy, dumbing down the Gospel.

  11. eccsam April 11, 2008 at 10:47 PM #

    Bob,

    Thanks for the nuanced cultural response. I’m with you in wondering “Who picked this tune in the first place?” and “Why was the name of Jesus edited out the first night and put back on the second night?”

    Oh, to be a fly on the wall. Thanks.

  12. John C April 11, 2008 at 11:31 PM #

    This brings to mind a question I always have: If a bunch of non Christian studio musicians and singers record a christian worship song – full out Jesus lyrics and everything (could happen – maybe has (think of classical orchestras/choruses performing the Messiah? Or many Christian performance tracks I imagine with band only) do we call that “worship” (in the recording of and/or listening to it on the recording? NOW THEN: A bunch of Christians listen to the recording and have a glorious worship time singing along and listening to the recording at a camp retreat. Is the music “heard” on the recording part of the worship? Hence: AI contestants, black gospel singers in the choir, the band etc. – all of whom some may be Christians and some may not – perform “Shout To The Lord” on TV. Is it worship? To who’s ears does it have to fall on to “be” worship? Does it matter? Yikes! I go in circles and make myself dizzy!

  13. John C April 11, 2008 at 11:38 PM #

    RE: Innocent Song . . .

    I’m not familiar with this song, but in reply to Matt’s post: Here’s the lyrics to We Are All Innocent. I don’t believe there should be or really was any intent to make this song have any Christian context or that it figures in with singing Shout To The Lord in the same show. My take on these lyrics is that it’s speaking of the lost innocence of youth, childhood etc. rather than “we are innocent of sin” etc. But interesting concept to ponder. I would look at Idol I guess as akin to a local community talent contest. Most of what’s going to be sung is throw away, yet, there may be one contestant who gets up and gives a strong witness by what they sing about spiritually. I’m not trying to stick up for anything on AI, but one might wonder if the contestants found most of what they sing to be “throw away” but found a certain different sense of meaning in Shout To The Lord whether they know Christ or not? May have taken some of them by surprise if they’d never sung to the Lord before! Again, just brain dumping while I’m riding in the car here for awhile on a dark rainy windy night. (not driving of course!)

  14. John C April 11, 2008 at 11:38 PM #

    Oops – here’s the lyrics!
    (Note from Bob: I edited these for brevity)
    “Innocent”

    Oh, Johnny wishes he was famous
    Spends his time alone In the basement
    With Lennon and Cobain
    A guitar and a stereo while he wishes he
    Could escape this
    It all seems so contagious
    Not to be yourself and faceless
    In a song that has no soul

    I remember feeling low
    I remember losing hope
    I remember all the feelings
    And the day they stopped
    We are, we are all innocent, we are all innocent
    We are, we are, we are
    We are all innocent, we are all innocent
    We are, we are

    Oh, Tina’s losing faith in what she knows
    Hates her music, hates all of her clothes
    Thinks of surgery and a new nose
    Every calorie is a war
    While she wishes she was a dancer
    And that she’d never heard of cancer
    She wishes God would give her some answers
    And make her feel beautiful

    One day you’ll have to let it go,
    One day you’ll stand up on your own, you’ll stand up on your own
    Remember losing hope,
    Remember feeling low,
    Remember all the feelings and the day they stopped

    We are,
    We are all innocent
    (One day, you’ll have to let it go, you’ll have to let it go)
    etc.

    We are,
    We are all innocent
    (One day, you’ll stand up on your own, stand up on your own)
    etc.

    We are… we are all innocent…

  15. John C April 11, 2008 at 11:45 PM #

    OK – sorry to dump so many posts. I guess after re-reading the lyrics a few times from a different angle, one could draw several different conclusions. One could even make the case that “we’re all innocent” – of course once we have repented and given our sin to Jesus and have become new in Him. Anyway – I suppose we’re not really here to debate all of the lyric meanings but just to clarify I can see it from several ways. How that figures with singing Shout To The Lord? I have no idea! Again – to me on a show like this – to each his own. What’s to stop a someone from a completely different religion from coming on and singing a song based on their beliefs? This could get interesting!

  16. Patrick Donohue April 12, 2008 at 12:25 AM #

    Bob,

    I watched the last few minutes of the program myself and was in utter shock, almost angry inside. I felt conflicted since I shoul be excited that Jesus was being proclaimed to tens of millions. However, I think it’s also symtomatic of how people like the “sound” of songs and the lyrics are secondary. I’ve even noticed young people singing songs because they are catchy and not even noticing the ilicitness of what they’re proclaiming in song. I just didn’t realize that this corresponds to Christian worship songs. I really shouldn’t be surprised since this is the Starbucks era, which is governed by an impression/experience of culture, not depth of culture.

    Patrick Donohue
    Santa Rosa, CA

  17. can April 12, 2008 at 9:59 AM #

    People with negative views and concerns about this should look directly to Phil 1:15-18

    “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

    The basic idea is that Paul rejoiced in the proclamation of Christ, regardless of the motive. I think that applies properly in the case of worship songs, don’t you? Some may complain that I’ve taken a verse out of context. I still think that Paul’s attitude is clear here, though.

    Can anyone deny that Christ was clearly proclaimed those two nights to millions of people worldwide?

    Ironically this song’s message of praise is so clear and so different than much of the CCM pop out there today. Much of the CCM seems to cloud the message in favor of being cool. Because those CCM songs are performed by professing believers we generally give it a pass and have little concern.

    If this song hits #1 on the pop charts or any future song that so clearly proclaims God’s greatness, no matter who sings it, then like Paul I will rejoice!

  18. can April 12, 2008 at 10:02 AM #

    I forgot to mention that my wife came up with a great double-meaning name for this topic.

    “Idol” Worship ;)

  19. Bob Kauflin April 12, 2008 at 10:20 AM #

    CAN,

    Thanks for your helpful thoughts.

    I agree with the basic thrust of what you’re saying. We should rejoice whenever the Gospel is being preached. But while the message of praise is clear in Shout to the Lord, the message of the cross isn’t. I can’t say that Christ was “clearly” proclaimed in Shout to the Lord. His name was mentioned, and people were encouraging others to join in to praise him, but apart from the word “Savior,” I’d be hard pressed to find anything that clearly referenced Jesus dying and rising from the dead to redeem us from our sins, which is the heart of the Gospel. Even if the song was clearer (and there have been clearer songs sung by previous AI contestants), the entertainment environment of AI tends to relativize whatever truth is sung on the show. I seem to remember Simon telling Mandisa last season she was being “indulgent” when she sang a song that clearly spoke of her faith. It’s all about feelings, impact, and popularity.

    But my comments in no way limit my confidence in what God is already accomplishing through the song in people’s hearts. And for that fruit, I, too, rejoice!

  20. Judi April 12, 2008 at 10:57 AM #

    AMEN to “Can”, and thanks to Bob for this post. Some of those contestants are Christians as are many fans of AI. This was amazing. I, too, was awestruck and felt overcome with emotion and pride that this song was chosen, sang beautifully and gloriously on American Prime Time Number One watched show!! Praise be to God!!

  21. -V- April 12, 2008 at 11:17 AM #

    Thank you so much for writing about this, Bob. It’s good to hear your thoughts… And great that there is some range of opinion covered in the comments here.

    I resonate most with the ‘unsettled’ sense you’ve mentioned in ‘On The Other Hand’ above. I agree God can be, and is always, at work – through things we can see and things we can’t. He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. And, certainly, ‘Shout to the Lord’ does not belong specifically to one venue, to the extent that it should be absolutely excluded from others.

    But (and you’ve eluded to it a bit with your comment about the Church being ‘swallowed up’ by culture) – do you sense danger here for those who are ‘young’ in Christ? That, because of AI’s ability (and not just AI, but other cultural icons of today) to speak the Name of Christ AND so extol philanthropy, those new in Christ might be drawn to this type of seriously mixed message as one that is safe to embrace?

    I am with you – that it’s the Cross of Christ that lives at the heart of the gospel message. The Cross of Christ (and His Resurrection) is the length to which the world will not go. It will set true Christ-followers apart, in the end. As a ‘worship leader’, my heart feels the weight, lately, of the importance of keeping the Cross, His Truth, at the forefront of the messages that go out from among us. So fewer will be deceived by counterfeit messages that seem to rapidly be getting more and more elaborate – and convincing.

    I would welcome your referral of any good books or resources on ‘standing firm’, and even combatting, false prophecies that are pertinent specifically to the quickly evolving messages we’re getting ‘out there’ today. I am seeing many being drawn in…

  22. Bob Kauflin April 12, 2008 at 12:26 PM #

    V,

    You’ve brought up a valid point and one that often gets overlooked, that is the long term effect of worship songs becoming popular in the general marketplace. It’s similar to southern gospel and black gospel where you can hear very clear Gospel messages in songs, but also get a-theological sentimentality and emotion. It’s harder for people to hear the Gospel because it’s simply become part of the musical genre and culture. Again, the driving force isn’t biblical faithfulness but emotional effect, fame, and money.

    I’m not sure what kind of books you’re looking for, but I think John PIper is doing a very effective job of confronting the idols of our age in a winsome but biblical way. Tim Keller is attempting to do the same. I’d have to know what kinds of “messages” you’re referring to to be more specific.

  23. -V- April 12, 2008 at 1:30 PM #

    Thanks, Bob. Love Piper’s books and theology – haven’t read Keller yet; will have to check him out.

    Specifically, I am connecting the messages of pluralism, tolerance (in the sense of needing to agree with all conflicting viewpoints – not just showing respect for the people who hold them), universalism – (it can be called many things, I think) – to this issue.

    Though false messages have always been out and about, for a time, Christianity seemed to maintain a certain distinction from other faiths and teachings – even if that distinction was viewed somewhat negatively by the culture. In the past decade or so (more and more recently), it is becoming trendy to move more toward embracing ‘Christianity’ (or something that looks like it), as long as a nice, all-inclusive environment can be maintained. That is the spirit I am seeing in the AI display this past week, and also being highly promoted by other popular figures (one example would be Oprah with her promotion of ‘A New Earth’ while simultaneously claiming Christ’s Name). Your description of culture “swallowing” Christianity (or a weaker version of it), is an insightful illustration, I think. Passages like 1 John 4 and Matthew 24 are top-of-mind here.

    My concern is that, with this shift, there is potential for younger or newer Christians to be lured away from real Truth because it appears as if Christianity is being embraced by culture at large (though, as we discussed, His Cross and Resurrection will not be). Resources that speak to standing firm against this newer strain of Christ-inclusive pluralism are what I’m, specifically, hoping to find… Thanks so much for your follow up and further question here.

  24. Worthey Brisco April 12, 2008 at 4:17 PM #

    I can’t imagine EVER getting upset or angry over ANY song about Christ being broadcast from ANY television show, regardless of its source, or the performer. The song’s message is still the same!

    As my wife and I listened to the AI singers lifting this Lord-glorifying song, we both had a smile come upon our faces, and I had a huge lump form in my throat. For here, in front of millions of fans, the majority of whom are non-believers, was Jesus being presented as Lord and Savior, freely and openly. So what if that wasn’t the producer’s/show’s “intent”? And so what if the majority of the singers may not know Christ? (Or even believe He exist, for that matter.) That’s not the point. The point is that Christ WAS presented, in a very beautiful song, and in a dignified fashion.

    When we reach the point of such piety and sanctimonious snobbery that we actually question–yea, get upset/angry–that a “Christian song” has been sung by a group of (primarily) unbelievers, than we’ve certainly a problem… but it has nothing to do with the folks who sang the song!

  25. Chelsey Miracle April 12, 2008 at 4:18 PM #

    Thanks Mr. Kauflin for bringing up these great points! Likewise, I was surprised when I heard the chords of one of my favorite worship songs on LIVE secular TV! I never thought about the dark side of it before…thanks for putting it into perspective.

  26. Bob Kauflin April 12, 2008 at 5:05 PM #

    Worthey,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    To say that asking questions about Shout to the Lord being sung on AI is “sanctimonious snobbery” is judging the hearts of those who may simply be trying to consider the implications and effect.

    Again, I’m not sure that Christ was presented in the song, so much as our feelings about Christ. There’s a difference. We want to be careful about oversimplifying what it means when Christianity is accepted in main stream media. It’s possible for our faith to become a mere cultural experience.

    Again, I know God can and will use it for his glory, and in that I rejoice!

  27. Jayson April 12, 2008 at 6:39 PM #

    I am not sure that we should be rejoicing or proud over the fact that American Christians experience so little persecution and enjoy so much cultural acceptance that something like this performance could (and did) happen.

    Does anyone else see this as an indictment not an endorsement?

  28. Bob Kauflin April 12, 2008 at 7:38 PM #

    Jayson,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    You hit on the point of my post. Shout to the Lord on AI has both good aspects and bad. We’re not proud that we experience so little persecution. We’re grateful that we live in a country where a song of praise to Jesus Christ can be sung on prime time TV. Your point is a good one, and the reason why I wrote my post, assuming that most Christians might see this as nothing but good.

  29. can April 12, 2008 at 9:46 PM #

    Dear Bob,

    So a praise and worship song that does not specifically mention the cross and full plan of salvation is not truly proclaiming Christ? I urge you to rethink that premise.

    In this particular song Jesus was proclaimed as Savior and Lord and Wondrous and Comfort and Shelter and Fortress and Refuge…to name a few.

    God’s Word does not return void, and the name of Jesus in the context above is very very powerful. So much so that someone decided to edit out the name of Jesus on the first version on Wednesday night.

    I again go back to the verses that I mentioned.

    If we want to be troubled about our youth, let’s be troubled about the modern watered down CCM songs from a plurality of artists that are seeking fame and fortune in the name of Christ instead of humbly giving Him all the praise that is due.

    Shout to the Lord is a God honoring song, and many will ask about it because of AI and some will come to Christ through that. Maybe even more than we individually could ever hope to lead to Him in many lifetimes over!

    Amen to that!!

  30. Bob Kauflin April 12, 2008 at 10:03 PM #

    Can,

    Yes, I think that a song that doesn’t mention Jesus dying for our sins is not “fully” proclaiming Christ. That is the heart of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 Cor. 2:2). Someone could hear Shout to the Lord and not have any clue about what Jesus did at the cross and why he did it.

    But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a bold move for AI to have it sung on the program, nor does it mean that God isn’t using the song to draw people to himself. From what I’ve read, there are widely varied reactions from non-Christians. Some are incensed that the song was allowed to be on the show at all, others are downloading a beautiful song they heard for the first time.

    I pray each of them will come to know the beauty, glory, and authority of Jesus, the only Savior of the world.

  31. Matt April 13, 2008 at 4:34 PM #

    Wow, there are definitely some heartfelt and honest responses on this topic, eh? I really liked Can’s post that brought in Phil 1. But I think I’m still with Bob on this one. Just because a song is sung that includes the Name of Jesus, or that we view as a “worship” song, does it have any impact on anyone that is NOT a Christian? I would be curious to hear the thoughts of those who don’t know Christ on the impact the song had to them. Were they compelled to seek Him? Or is the inclusion of a song like this on a show like AI just another example of the dumbing down of Christianity in the soup of popular culture?

  32. Matt April 13, 2008 at 4:36 PM #

    Bob, I just noticed that you remarked about the reactions of non-Christians to the song, so sorry for doubling up those comments.

  33. Andrew Randazzo April 14, 2008 at 7:25 AM #

    Happy Blogger Appreciation Day! I appreciation your site and the ministry you have through your writing. Keep it up, and God bless!

    (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/04/14/today-is-blogger-appreciation-day-unofficial/)

  34. Rich Tuttle April 14, 2008 at 8:35 AM #

    Bob,

    When I saw both performances on AI, I too had mixed feelings and your post hit the nail on the head regarding them. personally thought that the performance screamed “Hillsong” with a big group of people singing Shout to the Lord…it was really weird.

    What really resonated with me was your quote, “Does the world see any difference between what’s taking place on American Idol and what we do on Sunday mornings?” I would take it even a step further and ask, does the church see any difference between what’s taking place on American Idol and what we do on Sunday mornings?

    I think that those questions are the real crux of your post and what I’ve been feeling about this. This is a good time for all of us worship leaders to reflect on how our songs are viewed by, not just the world, but the church. Do they see a difference on Sunday morning or is it just a “hand-me-down” American Idol performance?

    I also agree that this song does not fully proclaim Christ and if I were to do this song on a Sunday morning it would have to be bookended with songs about what Jesus has done on the cross. Also, I don’t really think it was a very “bold” move for the producers to have them sing this song….I bet Oprah would have that song sung on her show too without a second thought. It’s that “sprinkle a little Jesus in to the mix” mindset that has become pretty popular lately….Oprah, American Idol, politics,….CCM (ha!)

    Thanks for the great post, Bob

    Rich

  35. Bob Kauflin April 14, 2008 at 1:25 PM #

    I heard from a friend who knows some of the members of the AI orchestra. He asked them about the change from “shepherd” to “Jesus” and told me:

    “They were well aware of the controversy floating around. They didn’t say who made the decision, only that it was made at the suit level, not the performers. What they’re hearing from the inside is that it was a PC decision – Wednesday night’s telethon was worldwide, they didn’t want to offend those of other religions by using the word “Jesus.” After the telethon was over, (the following night) they changed it back.”

    That would make sense to me. Although America is pretty pluralistic as well…

  36. Twila Majkowski April 15, 2008 at 11:31 AM #

    I think it’s great every time Jesus’ name is proclaimed! Jesus invites us to know him before we were all perfect and cleaned up, and were not even looking for Him at the time. Yes, we’re clean because of the blood of Jesus Christ taking our sin away and us accepting that, but it’s His gift of grace and not our own righteousness and I find that the more we focus on Him and his love for us the more He changes us to be more like Him! Jesus loved us before we even knew Him and I’m glad He invited me to know Him by someone who shared the gospel with me at a concert where they were dancing ballet to a Christian song.

  37. Mark April 15, 2008 at 1:05 PM #

    Exodus 32 – the mixture of Baal idol worship with the worship of Yahweh

    God was not happy about it then. I do not think He likes it now either.

    Jesus is LORD alonside of American IDOL. Is this a blessed dichotomy or a clear contradiction? Is a diluted Gospel really ‘good news’?

  38. Worthey Brisco April 15, 2008 at 7:26 PM #

    Bob, thanks for the response. You’re right about my comments being judgmental, but I wasn’t clear about my intended target. I’m not suggesting any form of snobbery by those who would ask questions, I was aiming more toward those who would question the right/propriety of AI singers to even perform this song or, as some have done, to even lambast the song itself (and, thus, its being presented) for what they determine to be “shortcomings.” Belief their is a distinct difference in questioning the possible impact/effect (which I do not oppose), and questioning the very right for AI to have even done the song. That was my beef ….

    Perhaps snobbery is a poor word choice … Bob, what word would you use to describe someone who’s view on worship music is such that they would desire to limit the singing of any “Christian” song to a select number of people (of their choosing/approval, of course), in a select venue (again, of their choosing/approval), and for the “right” reason (yep, of their choosing/approval)?

    A quick run through the postings here indicate that there’s a strong propensity for some to have proffered at least one of these “filters,” while others seem to have hit them all …

  39. John C April 16, 2008 at 11:52 AM #

    There is some interesting “behind the scenes” stories from the shout to the lord story and american idol here http://www.joshharris.com/2008/04/inside_scoop_on_shout_to_the_l.php with some actual stories from people behind the scenes at FOX as well as some band members from the show – many whom are Christians and having strong influence there I guess.

  40. Gabriel Gagnon April 17, 2008 at 11:34 AM #

    Hey Bob, I was wondering if you could have a post on Hillsong, and the influence that they have in the Christian community, or what’s good or bad about it.
    Thanks, it’s just because I was reading the comments and they seemed to not be on the right track and one of my friends left Québec to go study at their school, so I would like to be aware of the things that are happening there.

  41. bobw April 17, 2008 at 2:40 PM #

    great post, thanks. just bought your book…looking forward to reading it.

    anyway, I’m just waiting for the launch of “Christian Idol” :-)

  42. Nick S. April 28, 2008 at 2:19 AM #

    I think that you bring up a very important point about worship in general; we should include the reason why we “Shout to the Lord.” Without the rich background of the Gospel, this song would be no different than a popular song on the radio or television.

    Christ’s death is what makes Christianity unique among religions and our services and attitudes should portray that; nothing we believe in could be possible without the debt that was paid by his blood.

    Hopefully, God willing, Christianity in the public eye will help lead others to places where they can find depth and meaning to songs like “Shout to the Lord.”

  43. Katie Crum May 6, 2008 at 12:42 AM #

    I have had similar thoughts on this particular topic. On one hand I always get excited when I am watching the show and someone openly talks about their Christianity and backs that up by choosing a worship or Christian song as their song. I think it is so great that they are proclaiming God in front of millions of people. It is so great that everyone watching the show is hearing the words of a worship song instead of some of the secular songs that are nearly always sung. On the other hand, is American Idol really the proper place to be singing worship songs? As you said, I am not sure it is exactly the right context because the fullness of the message is not portrayed or focused on. Thanks for your insight!

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