Why it’s Wrong to Steal finger-paintings (Authenticity: part two)

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.)

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6 thoughts on “Why it’s Wrong to Steal finger-paintings (Authenticity: part two)

    • Thanks for your reading, Ben. This post is part two of a series of posts on authenticity. My hope is that these discussions will provide an enduring template for how we think about the church as well as the levels you’ve mentioned above.

      Again – many thanks.

  1. What interesting timing. Our church is currently hosting 44 pastors from 25 countries to equip them and send them back to their countries. One of the things our pastor said in the training this evening was “don’t copy us.” And then I come on here and read this.

    • Crazy timing. I’ve been learning that copy-cat-ism (yep – just made it up) is one of the downfalls of the western church. How did they take that advice? Just curious.

      • I was in the back of the room, so I couldn’t see their faces, but I think the general reaction was relief. Most of them have smaller (couple hundred people is probably typical) and they’d just seen what we do with 1200 or so. The idea is that you see the kinds of things we do, and use that as inspiration or a springboard to have them make their own finger paintings (to continue the analogy) at home.

  2. Loved this post, Brannon. This is a topic I’ve just started to appreciate as I learn more of how missionaries over the past two centuries have not taken God’s Word to the unreached but rather have taken our church templates to the unchurched. I posted on this in response to something I read recently, but you’ve stated it much more poetically. Nicely done — good food for thought. Thanks for the constant challenge you give to our comfortable lives.
    http://dawnkruger.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/from-my-japanese-colleague-and-former-boss-and-flatmate/
    Dawn

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