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Josh Harris ends his latest post on “American Idol” with an outstanding section called, “Closing Thoughts.”  I too have found myself “not at home with either group.”

“So far, my two posts about the song have been more humorous than serious. I wasn’t outraged when they edited the lyrics. I was surprised when they did the song again and included Jesus’ name, but I didn’t think it was a major triumph of God’s kingdom. 

As I’ve read various comments people seem to fall into two different camps. Some Christians are upset—because they left out Jesus, because non-Christians were singing a song of “praise”, because it was all about money, because it’s another example of Christianity being “censored.” Other Christians are elated—because they put Jesus back in, because a praise song was heard by millions of people, because they see this as incredible evangelistic platform.

I guess I’m not really at home with either group. With all due respect, I don’t think that having a song like Shout to the Lord sung (even though I like it) is going to usher in revival. This reminds me of the fervor before the movie The Passion of the Christ was released. People spoke about this movie as if it was the ultimate opportunity for the gospel to advance. I don’t think it was. Was I glad that it was released? Sure. But I think that it’s too easy for Christians to think that any moment in the media spotlight on TV or in film is a bigger deal than it really is. We should welcome any opportunity for media to help spread the good news about Jesus, but I don’t think we should put too much stock in that vehicle. The gospel is going to advance as it always has—steadily as it is clearly proclaimed by believers in their words and modeled by their lives and actions. The gospel advances as local congregations receive and live God’s word for their neighbors to see.

So I’m more excited about Christians inviting their unbelieving friends over to watch American Idol together so they can build friendships and establish a platform for sharing the gospel in that relationship than I’m excited about an occasional worship song being sung on the show. If both happen, that’s cool, too.

Oh, and let me gently disagree with people who are upset about the song being sung, edited or not. Don’t get so worked up about unsaved people singing songs of praise to Jesus. It happens every Sunday in churches around the world. It happens in my church every Sunday. Thankfully, a large portion of people at our church are Christians. But there are many people who claim to know Christ that don’t. And there are many unbelieving people who come who need to repent and believe.

Here’s reality: we live in a secular, pluralistic society. We need to be good neighbors to agnostics and atheists and people of other religions. Christian faith and practice shouldn’t be forced on others. And we shouldn’t be overly surprised when “gospel” music that is very meaningful to believers is co-opted and used in secular settings by people who don’t have personal faith in Jesus. How many times has Amazing Grace been sung and loved by people who don’t really grasp its truth? Like it or not we live in a culture where many people view gospel music as merely a style that is part of a cultural tradition. That’s all it means to them.

Moments like this are reminders for me that the songs and trappings of Christian culture are not the hope of the world—Jesus is! We need to make him known. We need to love and seek to serve the world around us through prayer, through faithful evangelism, and through Christ-like service of those in need. Our goal is not building a more air-tight evangelical bubble. Neither should our goal be hoping that our subculture will burst out into the broader culture to great acclaim.

Instead, our goal should be to proclaim Christ and him crucified to the people we go to the school with, work with, and live next door to. Our goal should be to preach the gospel and live lives worthy of that gospel. Our goal should be to use our gifts in every sector of society so that God is glorified. I’m grateful there are Christians at Fox attempting to do that. I’m going to try to be more faithful to pray for them and all the rest of us, that we’d be busy making Jesus known.

Long after American Idol airs its final show, Jesus will still be on his throne. Isn’t that a comforting thought? Let’s seek to make him known right where we are.”

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