Louisville, Kentucky – In an enthralling finale watched by more than 24 million viewers, Chicago native Nathaniel Adams has been crowned the winner of the inaugural season of Preaching Idol, receiving the honour in front of a raucous crowd of more than 17,000 preaching fans gathered at the KFC Yum! Center.
Adams triumphed over Boston’s Dallas Brown in what host David Mathis called “just an incredibly close public vote, in the providence of God”.
Brown had been the frontrunner with Las Vegas oddsmakers for several weeks, having become a favourite of judges Mark Dever, Kevin deYoung, Thabiti Anyabwile and C.J. Mahaney after his stirring exposition of Isaiah 6 in Old Testament Prophets Week.
Adams, meanwhile, flew under the radar for much of the competition, initially being damned with faint praise for being “faithful to the text”, “clear” and “the kind of man probably best suited to pastoring a small congregation of about 50 people, what with that gentle, godly character of yours”. But a turning point arrived in Later New Testament Letters Week, when Adams shrewdly chose to speak from 1 Peter 2 in a message entitled “Life in Exile: Standing Out without Selling Out”. The message stirred the hearts and minds of viewers and judges alike, with Anyabwile asserting that he was “challenged and encouraged in equal measure”. Mahaney tearfully declared that he was “deeply, deeply convicted”.
Around the same time, a series of controversies appeared to hurt Brown’s image with viewers. Accusations surfaced that he had once accepted an Amazon gift card after speaking at a youth camp in 2011, violating the competition’s strict rules that require preachers to maintain amateur status. The following week, Dever was visibly upset when, in an aside during a message on Acts 16, Brown claimed that it was “not necessarily sinful” for believing parents to have their infant children baptised. His decision to quote N.T. Wright with approval during Paul Week also raised eyebrows.
In the end, Adams clinched the title with a strong exposition of 2 Corinthians 5. His combination of careful exegesis, pithy quotes from C.S. Lewis and John Calvin, and a clever illustration involving an airplane combined to see off Brown’s high-risk, high-reward gambit of preaching on Romans 9:14-29.
“This is a huge privilege,” a beaming Adams declared while hugging his wife, Ruth, and two-year-old son, Nehemiah. “I hope it shows my fans out there that if you follow your preaching dream, anything can happen. Who knows what honours might be bestowed on you for preaching the gospel!”
Airing on the FOX network, Preaching Idol proved to be this season’s surprise new hit, with the show’s unexpected success spawning a slew of copycat programs. In March, ABC announced that David Platt had signed to head up America’s Got Homiletics, while CBS quickly countered by luring Matt Chandler to be the face of The Exegesis Factor. Both shows are slated to begin next fall. And rumours continue to swirl that, following a season of prayer and healing, God may be calling Mark Driscoll to link up with HBO’s new venture, MasterPreacher USA.
As the winner of Preaching Idol, Adams receives a four-year scholarship to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a publishing contract with Crossway Books, an all-new Kia Optima, and a preaching slot at one of T4G 2018’s breakout sessions. Speaking on behalf of T4G, Dr. Ligon Duncan said he was optimistic that, with a little more experience and exposure, Adams may one day be ready to speak on the main stage at T4G. He expressed confidence that, in the meantime, there were “at least ten other guys in America who can hold down the fort and faithfully preach the gospel at events like T4G.”