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May  2011 26
Idol Meets Preaching

My wife Cheri and I are huge American Idol fans (despite severe disappointment this season as we watched all the genuine artists get voted off). Over the years, there are several phrases from judges and contestants that I’ve thought, “That’s something I’d like to say about a sermon I’ve heard, or something I never want to hear from a preacher, or something I wish a preacher could say.” Here are three comments heard on Idol and my application to preaching and preachers. 

Contestant: “I had a good time. I really enjoyed singing that song.”

We hear this self-indulgent comment much too often. While a singer’s enjoyment may contribute to the audience’s positive experience, what counts is not if the singer had a good time but if the audience did! Similarly, a congregation does not care if the preacher had a good time preparing for or preaching the sermon, or if the text is a preacher’s person favorite. Preaching that is self-indulgent rather than connected with the congregation is not worth the congregation’s or the preacher’s time. 

[Judge] Simon Cowell: “I’d expect to hear that in a karaoke bar or in a cruise ship lounge.”

A contestant can have a decent voice, pleasant to the audience, but lacks authenticity. Singers can do worse than imitate the sound of Luther Vandross, Barbara Streisand, or Bono. Preachers could do much worse than imitate Fred Craddock, James Forbes, or Barbara Brown Taylor. But as singers need to know “who they are as an artist,” every preacher needs to risk finding and using his or her own voice. Can the quest for one’s own voice go too far? Sure. See “That was self-indulgent.”  

Contestant: “I left it all on the stage.”

This season, despite the fact that metal is not our musical cup of tea, we loved James Durbin. He has a great voice, prepares well, is a spectacular performer, and melds his emotion and body into his performance. After performing, he would often say, “I left it all on the stage.” That’s what I hope we preachers do, bring everything we’ve got to the pulpit, use everything we have, and exit the pulpit each time knowing we gave it everything—yes, for the glory of God and the edification of the people of God.



Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
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