Art is an expression characterized by authenticity. Art results from someone who has experienced something real and wants to convey that “something” to you.
Your 3-year old made you a finger-painting. It’s a picture of the two of you. It’s in your office. You proudly show it to your co-workers when they stop by. You love it.
You have a co-worker. His son (let’s call him Billy) made a finger-painting for him. It would be a little creepy if you secretly wished you could display Billy’s finger-painting in your office. It would be borderline child abuse to actually rip the finger-painting off your co-worker’s cubicle wall, bring it home, hold it up in front of your son and boldly say:
“Son, you know I love you. Do you see this? This is a finger-painting that Billy made for his Daddy. Now I want you to make one like it. Make me something beautiful.” That would crush your son and expose you as a contemptible villain.
But why is that so wrong? Because as image-bearers, we instinctively value internal authenticity over external beauty. The trouble is, that we’re often fooled into thinking that someone else’s authentic expression must also be our authentic expression. So we imitate.
In church as in finger-painting: beauty follows authenticity – not the other way around.
God will never expect your church to become anything but a more mature version of itself.
(A word to those who serve in leadership in any capacity – regardless of title – please don’t crush those in your care by asking them to re-create someone else’s finger-painting. I can guarantee that you won’t like the product anyway. Instead, let the reality of who your church is create authentic expressions worthy of the only hook on your wall.)