American Idol Finalists Who are Christian

American Idol Singers Who Got Their Start in Christian Music

Love it or hate it, American Idol is one of the most popular shows in America. Artists from the Top 12 have gone on to be superstars in many genres, including Christian, Gospel, Top 40/Pop, and Country. Many of them either started in the church or ended up on the Gospel charts. While each season has had Christians make the Top 12/13, so far, seasons 11, 8 and 6 have had the most.

Season 12 Contestants

Amber Holcolmb
Finalist Amber Holcomb attends the FOX 'American Idol' finalists party at The Grove on March 7, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Season 12 had nine out of ten faith-based contestants.

Colton Dixon (Season 11)

Colton Dixon
Colton Dixon. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

We first saw Colton and his sister Schyler in 2011 when they auditioned for the show. Not making the Top 24, Schyler made a second attempt in 2012 and Colton was there for moral support. The judges insisted that he audition too and they both got the golden tickets to Hollywood. ​Schyler didn't make it to the end, but Colton went all the way.

While the show didn't focus on his faith, Colton's facebook left no doubt as to how strong it is. When he was warned by the show's producers that his "religious statements" could cost him the AI crown, he still didn't budge, saying that he would rather please God than please man.

Colton was voted off on April 26, 2012.

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Erika Van Pelt
Erika Van Pelt. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

When Erika was a little girl, her mother encouraged her to join her sister in singing in the children's choir at church. By the time she was seven, her strong vocal talents landed her a spot singing solo with the adult choir. She lists one of her major musical influences as Kim Burrell. Erika was voted off on March 22, 2012. More »

Heejun Han (Season 11)

Heejun Han
Heejun Han. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

The 22-year-old Korean-American nonprofit organizer from New York holds the distinction of being the first male contestant of East Asian descent to make it all the way to the Top 13. His personal twitter account announces his faith to the world by saying, "ALL FOR GOD ALL BY GOD" in the "about me" section. Heejun made it to the top 9, being eliminated on March 29, 2012.

Jeremy Rosado (Season 11)

Jeremy Rosado
Jeremy Rosado. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

The 19-year-old receptionist at an infectious disease clinic from Florida was the first contestant voted off of Season 11. Rosado, who also serves as the Worship Leader at his church, LifeChanging International Ministry, didn't let that slow him down. He appeared the following Monday on Live With Kelly and performed "Gravity" by Shawn McDonald. Jeremy lists Francesca Battistelli, Kirk Franklin, and Israel Houghton as his favorite artists. Jeremy was eliminated on March 8, 2012.

Joshua Ledet (Season 11)

Joshua Ledet
Joshua Ledet. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Joshua Ledet comes from a strong church background. The son of a pastor, he sings every week at the House of Prayer Holiness Church in his hometown of Westlake, Louisiana with his seven siblings. Josh and his brother Jason write most of the songs they sing.

Jacob Lusk
Jacob Lusk. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

When Jacob Lusk made the American Idol finals in season 10, he brought with him years of church choir experience and talent that brought the crowd and the judges to their feet. The spa concierge from Compton was a featured performer at the Spiritual Experience Celebration 2010 with gospel stars Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Ben Tankard.

In a stand-out Idol moment, Randy Jackson called Jacob's performance of "God Bless The Child" during Hollywood week the best in the show's history. More »

Didi Benami (Season 9)

Didi Benami
Didi Benami. Michael Buckner / Getty Images

Season 9 finalist Didi Benami was a waitress living in Los Angeles when she made it to the AI finals. The former student at Belmont University said that the death of her best friend, Rebecca Joy Lear, gave her inspiration to try out.

Didi was the third finalist to go home in Season 9.

Lacey Brown (Season 9)

Lacey Brown
Lacey Brown. Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Lacey Brown was the first finalist to go home in season nine, getting voted off of the show on March 17. The daughter of the co-pastors of Victory Church in Amarillo, Texas, Lacey worked with the college youth at the church before trying out for AI for the second time. She made it to Hollywood week in Season ​8 but did not make the cut to the final 12.

Tim Urban (Season 9)

Tim Urban
Tim Urban. Michael Buckner / Getty Images

When Tim Urban auditioned for American Idol in 2009, he was no stranger to the stage, having been performing around Dallas with his band at various churches and events. The member of Actors, Models and Talent for Christ (AMTC) was supported online by the blog "Vote for the Worst," but that wasn't enough to keep him from going home on April 21st.

Danny Gokey - promo 2010
Danny Gokey - promo 2010. RCA - Photo Credit: Andrew Southam

Danny Gokey came to American Idol's 8th season as a church music director from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His story about losing his wife Sophie a mere month before his audition won the hearts of America and his talent and humble spirit took him deeper in. He finished the season as the third place finalist.

In 2009, Gokey signed with 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville and released My Best Days, a country album. He was nominated a year later as the Best New/Breakthrough Artist at the first annual American Country Awards but lost out to Easton Corbin. More »

Kris Allen
Kris Allen. Charley Gallay / Getty Images

Kris Allen took the season 8 Idol title in 2009. A member of the worship ministry at New Life Church in his hometown of Conway, Arkansas, he was signed to Jive Records after the season was over and his debut album released in 2009. More »

Matt Giraud (Season 8)

Matt Giraud
Matt Giraud. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Matt Giraud came to American Idol's 8th season as a church musician who had released two indie CDs. His Idol story ended on April 29th.

Michael Sarver (Season 8)

Michael Sarver
Michael Sarver. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

The Louisiana native who calls Jasper, Texas home started writing songs at the age of 14. Three years later, he learned to play guitar and those skills helped him lead worship at Harvest Church in Jasper.

Michael's time on AI came to an end of March 26th, but his music career was just getting started. He is signed to Dream Records, a Universal Music Group-affiliated independent label run by the Dream Center in Los Angeles, a non-profit outreach dedicated to helping inner-cities.

Scott MacIntyre
Scott MacIntyre. Scott MacIntyre

As the first blind finalist on American Idol, Scott MacIntrye had a lifetime of experience in doing what others would consider out of the question. After studying music at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto as a child, his family moved back to the US and he was homeschooled until being accepted at Arizona State University's Barrett Honors College and Herberger College of Fine Arts at the age of 14. In 2005, he received the prestigious Marshall and UK Fulbright scholarships and was ranked by USA Today as one of the top twenty undergraduate seniors in the nation. At 19, he graduated ASU Summa Cum Laude ​and went on to receive a masters degree from Royal Holloway, University of London and the Royal College of Music in England. More »

Jason Castro (Season 7)

Jason Castro - Who I Am
Jason Castro - Who I Am. Atlantic

Season 7 delivered Texan Jason Castro. Though his faith was not played up in the show, it was always there with him. He finished the show with a third-place runner-up finish and signed with Atlantic Records. His self-titled, mainstream debut came out in 2009. A second release on Atlantic followed a year later with five of the eight songs making a reappearance. The difference (aside from five new songs) is that ​Who Am I released to the Christian market. 

In an interview with The Christian Post, Jason said that his plan did not include a Christian release, but the songs he wrote expressed a time in his life when he had a yearning for God. He explained, saying, "I was so tired all the time, I didn’t even have the energy to reach out to God, and I started having this longing for more God in my life. And I wanted more God in my music. Every day, I can count on connecting with him there."

Chris Sligh (Season 6)

Chris Sligh at American Idol's Annual Top 12 Party - 2007
Chris Sligh at American Idol's Annual Top 12 Party - 2007. Michael Buckner / Getty Images

Prior to American Idol's sixth season, Chris Sligh was no stranger to music or the church. The son of a military chaplain, Chris began his love affair with music in high school. College was pre-law at Pensacola Christian College until he transferred to Bob Jones University to get a degree in music in his sophomore year. He excelled musically to such an extent that he was invited to audition both for The Juilliard School and the Metropolitan Opera in New York but those kudos didn't keep him from getting expelled during his senior year when he was caught attending a Christian rock concert.

Jordin Sparks (Season 6)

Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks. 2007 Getty Images

Jordin Sparks took the season 6 Idol title in 2007. She came to the show as the “Overall Spotlight Winner” for the GMA Academy in 2004 and with experience touring as a background singer with Michael W. Smith.

After Idol, Jordin signed with Jive Records and hit the Pop charts hard. Though her songs are more wholesome than religious, she herself is both and she embraces the challenges of being a Christian in a secular world.

She explained during an interview with 'Everyday Christian.' "My faith has been a humungous part of how I have looked at my career. I started out singing in church very young and it took off from there. With my purity stance, I'm very careful about what I wear and the lyrics in my songs.

Lakisha Jones (Season 6)

Lakisha Jones 2007 - at the Entertainment Weekly And Vavoom's Upfront Party
Lakisha Jones 2007 - at the Entertainment Weekly And Vavoom's Upfront Party. Evan Agostini / Getty Images

At the age of five, Lakisha Jones started singing at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. From there it was on to singing with the award-winning Madrigal Singers of Flint's Central High School followed by a degree in music from the University of Michigan-Flint. After a move to Houston, Jones worked at Abundant Life Cathedral and sang in their 70-member choir for six years.

After leaving Idol in the fourth spot on May 9th and the Idol tour, Lakisha didn't sit idle long. She joined the cast of 'The Color Purple' on Broadway as the Church Soloist and as Sofia during the matinee performances.

Jones' debut album, So Glad I'm Me has a release date of May 19, 2009.

Melinda Doolittle (Season 6)

Melinda Doolittle - 2009 American Stars in Concert - The Spring Break Tour
Melinda Doolittle - 2009 American Stars in Concert - The Spring Break Tour. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

No one who heard Melinda Doolittle sing on American Idol would believe that she was tone deaf all the way up until 7th grade and was regularly told by her chorus teacher to "just mouth the words," but she was. Eventually, the music major from Belmont University overcame it so much that she worked as a professional back-up singer for artists like Aaron Neville, Anointed, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Kirk Franklin, Alabama, Jonny Lang, Michael McDonald and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Then came American Idol ...

The third place finalist signed with independent label Hi-Fi Recordings in the summer of 2008 and released her debut CD, Coming Back to You on February 3, 2009.

Phil Stacey (Season 6)

Phil Stacey - 2009 - American Stars in Concert - The Spring Break Tour
Phil Stacey - 2009 - American Stars in Concert - The Spring Break Tour. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

In 2006, when Phil Stacey auditioned for American Idol, he was the music minister and a Petty Officer Third Class in the U.S. Navy. He was also an expectant father, who ended up missing the birth of his daughter McKayla because she was born while he was waiting his turn to sing.

None of that kept him from going all the way to the top six, though. In fact, his family, his church and his Navy buddies were some of his strongest supporters. The Navy even allowed him to go on the Idol tour instead of coming back to duty.

After Idol, Stacey released a country album but less than a year later, switched gears to Reunion Records, who released his debut in 2009.

Chris Daughtry (Season 5)

Chris Daughtry - 2008 American Music Awards
Chris Daughtry - 2008 American Music Awards. Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Chris Daughtry made it to the number four spot on season five, getting voted off of the show on May 10. While he is a rocker through and through, he writes music that comes from Christian roots and represents a Christian life perspective. As a matter of fact, Chris belonged to a Christian rock band called Absent Element prior to Idol.

He has toured with Day of Fire, his album single "Home" has done well on Christian radio, and he sang back-up vocals on "Slow Down," (from Third Day's album Revelation.

Mandisa (Season 5)

Mandisa - promo 07
Mandisa - promo 07. Sparrow / EMI

Born and raised in Citrus Heights, California, Mandisa grew up singing in the church. She did session work as a backup singer for a wide variety of artists including Christian author and speaker Beth Moore, Sandi Patty, Shania Twain, Take 6 and Trisha Yearwood prior to American Idol's fifth season. Mandisa was voted off in 9th place on April 5th and went on to sign with Sparrow Records in early 2007 after the completion of the Idol tour.

Mandisa has released two gospel albums and two Christmas albums (one full-length and one EP).

Carrie Underwood (Season 4)

Carrie Underwood - 2009 Grammys
Carrie Underwood - 2009 Grammys. Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Carrie Underwood, the season 4 winner, started singing as a young child in church. While her genre is country (and she has 50+ awards to prove how good she is at it), her faith-based roots still shine through. Her single, "Jesus, Take the Wheel," won six awards, was named the 2006 Grammy Country Song of the Year as well as the Dove Country Single of the Year, and as a ringtone, sold more than one million downloads and was certified Platinum.

George Huff (Season 3)

George Huff
George Huff. Courtesy of Word Records

After growing up singing in church, George Huff came into the national spotlight on Idol's season three. He stayed on the show until 5/5/04, when he was eliminated in the fifth position. After the Idol tour, Huff had offers from several labels but signed with Word. His debut release was a Christmas EP titled My Christmas EP and it hit stores in 2004. A year later Miracles came out and George Huff hits stores on April 7, 2009.

Ruben Studdard (Season 2)

Ruben Studdard
Ruben Studdard. J Records

The season two winner, Ruben Studdard, debuted with an R&B album (Soulful) that sold over 400,000 copies in its first week of release. His second release came from his gospel roots and was titled I Need an Angel. It debuted on the gospel charts at #1 as the highest selling gospel debut since Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation Project in 1998 and eventually sold over 500,000 copies. Album number three, The Return took him back to R&B and album number four, which will release on May 19, 2009, will be titled Love IS.

RJ Helton (Season 1)

RJ Helton
RJ Helton. B-rite

Season 1 on AI gave us RJ (Richard Jason) Helton, who was voted off on 8/14/02 in fifth place. In the fall of 2003, Helton was signed by B-Rite Music and his debut album, Real Life, hit stores in 2004. The release came in at No. 14 on Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart but had lackluster sales and Helton seemed to fade from view.


On October 18, 2006, Helton appeared as a guest on SIRIUS Satellite Radio host Larry Flick's show "OutQ in the Morning." When asked why he no longer sang inspirational music, Helton replied, "I can have a faith but can't be who I want to be. So a lot of it was just personal things I needed to overcome and just be proud of who I was. … Just because I am gay does not mean I can't love God."

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