NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Chris Sligh and Melinda Doolittle are two remaining “American Idol” contestants who have demonstrated faith in God on the nation’s most popular reality television show this season, and they’re part of a group with several ties to the church.
“He’s not going to back away from the fact that he’s a Christian,” Chris Surratt, campus pastor of Seacoast Church in Greenville, S.C., said of Sligh in an interview with the Associated Press. “He’s going to let that shine through in what he does.”
Sligh, who attended the Baptist-affiliated North Greenville University, is one of the 10 remaining American Idol contestants, and he leads worship at Seacoast Church. AP said he has drawn some criticism from people at Bob Jones University, where he was a student before transferring to North Greenville, for singing rock songs on the show. But Sligh’s vocal instructor at North Greenville defended his faith.
“It would be like me singing in a jazz band,” Cheryl Greene said. “You can be a Christian or non-Christian. It’s a style of music.”
John Jeter, the owner of a Greenville nightclub where Sligh has performed, told AP that Sligh’s wholesome attitude and his faith are obvious in his music.
“It speaks well to the fact that it’s not all blood, guts and trash,” Jeter said. “Music doesn’t have to be filthy. You can have a good time in a good environment, and Chris is proof of that.”
Doolittle, before joining American Idol, was a backup singer for several gospel music acts, according to a report by The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville March 21. Some have compared her to last season’s Mandisa Hundley, who portrayed a strong faith on the show and is now recording a Christian album.
Each American Idol contestant answered a list of questions for their biography page on the show’s website, and Doolittle said one of her goals is to “represent Christ well,” and she prays before she performs. She cited her Bible as her lucky charm, and if she wins the contest, she plans to thank Jesus and her mother. Entertainment Weekly magazine has picked her as their favorite to win.
Other contestants with ties to the church include Jordin Sparks, who sang on two Michael W. Smith Christmas tours, according to The Tennessean, and Phil Stacey, who leads worship at First Coast Christian Center in Jacksonville, Fla., and is a graduate of the Church of God-affiliated Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn.
“We certainly hope he does well,” Stacey’s father, Gary, told the Church of God news service. “Someone was congratulating me for having a son in American Idol and I told them we had no interest in raising an American Idol. Our hope was to help him to be someone who loved the Lord, is a faithful husband and a good father. This [appearance on American Idol] is a door of opportunity where he may glorify God with his life and his gifts. We certainly would request prayer for him and his family. This is an exhausting ordeal. The hope is that someone might be pointed to Jesus by this effort.”
Gary Stacey, a Church of God pastor in Hendersonville, Tenn., said his son grew up singing in the church.
John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association, has taken note of the number of American Idol contestants this season with gospel ties, and he hopes others in the broader music industry will notice too.
“Everybody knows a lot of great pop talent has come out of the church,” Styll said, according to The Tennessean, “but this crop of contestants, specifically with their gospel backgrounds, really speaks to the incredible talent that exists in this community. It’s a great thing to see them on Idol and being so successful.”
The Top 10 contestants will perform on American Idol Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern on Fox.