A new documentary special on the impact of "American Idol" on the Christian music industry, and vice-versa, will be aired six times over the next two weeks following its world premiere Thursday.
Since "American Idol" debuted seven years ago, the hit reality TV series has taken largely unknown talents out of obscurity and given many a chance to pursue their dreams and chart a new course toward success. And for devout Christians who find themselves thrust into the national spotlight and on to the show viewed by as many as 36 million people, "American Idol" has also given them a chance showcase their God-given talents and use them to reach and inspire a wider audience.
"I just think that God saw the opportunity to use people on a television show that's the biggest television show in the history of the world," comments Stacey in the new documentary "From Idol to Inspiration."
"I believe that He wanted to use me there," adds the one-time church music minister.
Produced by David Lewis Productions, "From Idol to Inspiration" tells the stories of several former "American Idol" finalists - including Mandisa Hundley, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Melinda Doolittle, Chris Sligh, and Phil Stacey - whose Christian faith stood out during and after the competition. Also included is current "American Idol" finalist Danny Gokey, a worship leader whose wife died a few weeks before his audition for the show.
"Like Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles before them, these singers grew up in the ultimate proving ground for a singer trying to find his or her voice: the church," notes MTV News blogger Gil Kaufman, who was interviewed for the documentary.
"Singing in front of an audience and learning new songs every week is practically a boot camp for a show like Idol," he wrote on the MTV News Blog earlier this month, "and the string of church-bred winners and contestants (Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Mandisa, George Huff, Chris Sligh, etc.) got as far as they did on the show because they used those lessons they learned in church on a show that has become like a pop-culture religion."
Last month, Kaufman had written an article about the faith of "American Idol" finalists that drew heated reactions from readers, many of which "vehemently stated that they thought religion should remain a personal, private matter, not fodder for stories," he reported later.
Other reactions ranged from applause to indifference.
When the documentary premiers Thursday night on Gospel Music Channel at 7 p.m. ET ahead of the 40th Annual GMA (Gospel Music Association) Dove Awards, it will be presented under GMC's news program, "Gospel Music Channel Insider," as the network's first full-length special report.
"From Idol to Inspiration" encores on GMC April 24, 26, 27, and 30; and May 2-3. Gospel Music Channel can be seen in 45 million homes on various cable systems around the country, on DIRECTV on channel 338 and on Verizon FiOS on channel 224.
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