'American Idol' Recap: Christians a Definite Presence

Looking back at this year's season of "American Idol," one thing is quite clear: Christians had a very definite presence on the popular TV talent contest.

The most obvious proof is this year's winner, Jordin Sparks, who took home the "Idol" crown last week. She has been on the Christian music scene for some time, and will become a positive role model for other Christians out there.

"I want them (non-believers) to know that God loves them, Jesus died for them, and that God has a plan for their life," explained Sparks in her online e-profile at the Gospel Music Association (GMA) website prior to the competition. "I want them to see and hear that being a Christian and singing about it isn't weird!"

Sparks, 17, has strong ties to the GMA. In 2004, she competed in the GMA Music in the Rockies – a showcase event for aspiring, often unsigned, songwriters and artists in the Christian music industry – and was the Overall Spotlight Winner at the 2004 GMA Academy in Washington, D.C., a feat which she listed on her online "Idol" profile as her "proudest moment in life so far."

The recent champion has even traveled as a singer with popular artist Michael W. Smith on his Christmastime tour, and listed "God" as the first person she would thank if she won "Idol," among several other contestants.

Besides Sparks, half of the singers on this summer's "Idol" tour – five out of ten – have Christian roots.

Third place vocalist Melinda Doolittle was a backup singer in Nashville, hometown to a majority of Christian artists, for some time, and was labeled as this year's best singer by many critics. She also attended Belmont University – the largest Christian university in Tennessee.

When asked what her personal goals in life were, she responded, "To represent Christ well and do everything 150 percent."

Other Christian top ten finalists included Chris Sligh, Phil Stacey, and LaKisha Jones, who have all voiced their Christian foundations.

Stacey is a minister of music at First Coast Christian in Jacksonville, Fla., as well as a student at Liberty University – an independent fine arts Baptist university located in Lynchburg, Va.

Sligh, who had several people support his faith early in the competition, also serves as a music minister at his home Seacoast Church in Greenville, S.C., and, like Sparks, had competed in the GMA Music in the Rockies where he took home a first place award. The South Carolina native has even announced plans to move into a Christian music career.

"He's not going to back away from the fact that he's a Christian," said Chris Surratt, pastor of the Sligh's church, in the Associated Press. "He's going to let that shine through in what he does."

Sligh is also the son of missionaries and attended two Christian universities in the past: Bob Jones University and North Greenville University.

Rounding out the five Christians is LaKisha Jones, who although does not have professional ties to Christian music, has explained how she honed her singing voice from growing up in the church.

Even non-competitors have had a significant impact on this year's contest. "This Is My Now" was chosen as the winning song for the "American Idol" songwriter competition and was performed by both Sparks and fellow finalist Blake Lewis in the finale. It, too, was composed by two Christian composers: veteran Christian artist and songwriter Scott Krippayne and his pastor Jeff Peabody.

Famous gospel artists, BeBe and CeCe Winans, also had a reunion performance with Doolittle, their former backup singer, during a rendition of "Hold Up the Light" in Wednesday's finale.

After all the success and fame that comes from "Idol," it will be interesting to see how each of the Christian finalists will hold onto their faith.