Why Does Susan Boyle Touch a Nerve?

susan-boyleForty million times.

Forty million times, people have clicked on the You Tube broadcast of Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent.

Forty million times, people have a watched a rather dowdy spinster from a small town in Scotland timidly walk on stage in front of Simon Cowell and friends.

Forty million times, people have watched the questions about how old she is and the singer she most hopes to emulate. 

Forty million times, people have watched the audience members – and the judges—roll their eyes in derision.

Forty million times, people have listened to Susan Boyle sing “I Dreamed a Dream” from the Broadway musical Les Miserables.

And forty million times, those people—the audience, judges and worldwide listeners– were stunned by what they heard.  The voice simply didn’t match the package.  It was an utterly unexpected moment that brought many to tears and has spread like wildfire around the world.


I think it is because deep inside, everybody longs to be simply noticed for the unique person they are and contribution they bring to their sphere.  But at the same time, deep inside, everybody fears that the world’s panting preoccupation with the slick, evidently smart and outwardly attractive means that merely ordinary people will ever be swept away as unnecessary.

And Susan Boyle gives them hope that their fears may be allayed while their longings might be fulfilled.  Susan Boyle taps the cry of the ordinary.

The church of Jesus Christ is full of merely ordinary people.  Are you one?  The merely ordinary may also be, in the words of C.S. Lewis, merely Christian, living the heart of gospel faith with integrity. Yet even in the church, it is tempting to notice the slick, the evidently smart and outwardly attractive.  That attractiveness can be physical, but it can just as well be because someone is a good worker, or creative or present or….We’re sometimes suckers for gauging people the same way as our world and can evaluate people in a way that is not consistent with the gospel we claim.

What does Jesus tell us about the merely ordinary Christians around us? That when they display His light to our world, others will see those good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16). That when they meet the needs of the broken and often ignored lives around us, it is tender ministry unto Jesus Himself.  (Matt.25:40) That when they abide in Him, depend on Him and bear much fruit, the Father will be glorified. (John 15:8)

There’s more.  Every merely ordinary Christian is a recipient of astonishing mercy who has been called from the dead, saved from wrath, brought to life and is seated with Christ in the heavenly places. (Eph.2:1-6) Every merely ordinary Christian is a trophy of God’s grace, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:7) At the very least, that means that the wonder of grace in just one Christian will take an eternity to display.  And when displayed this will cause angels to stand in speechless awe, for the good news is full of “things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:12)

            We’re not done.  All merely ordinary Christians “are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10) That’s an amazing claim.  The eternal God is at work in and through that person to accomplish some aspect of His eternal purposes of redemption. Some piece of God’s plan for rescuing lost people and making Jesus famous has been tied to that person since before the first beam of creation’s light.

            For most Christians, the outer package of their life doesn’t give a clue of these beautiful, eternal, gospel-drenched realities that are burning just under the surface of their life.  You look at them, and they look like just plain people–not even terribly spiritual. You would never expect the voice of their soul to bring you to tears and astonishment.

 Next Sunday morning, there will be a dozen Susan Boyles sitting around you at church. They are quietly afraid that their merely ordinary faith doesn’t matter and may be swept away as unnecessary. Yet, their hearts long to be noticed. It’s not pride or fawning weakness, but a simple yearning for affirmation.

So look beneath the surface at your ordinary brothers and sisters—especially those you may suspect or have never quite “gotten”.  Notice evidences of grace in them. Expect to be surprised at what you see.  Be delighted. Tell them.  Tell somebody else.  And watch what happens.

Have you seen any of the interviews with Susan Boyle this week?  There’s just a beaming joy in her face that has come because her beautiful uniqueness is no longer anonymous.

That is the heart-cry of every ordinary person. It’s also an encouraging hope that can spread like a viral You Tube video across our church.

Forty million times? Probably not.

Just once will do.      






One response

  1. Touching the unnoticed – if we don’t, who will?

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