Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Authenticity: A Mini-rant

If you're going to exert copious amounts of energy and resources to bedazzle and impress with lights and loud music and elaborate sets and flashing video and fog machines and glossy promos and Guy Smiley spokespeople and performed sermons, if you're going to usher people into a showy atmosphere of spiritual entertainment, how dare you then tell them to put down their guard, "open up," share their hearts. If you're going to create a culture of impressive facades, how dare you request their "authenticity."

You're putting on a show. Why wouldn't they?


gavin richardson said...


Anonymous said...

What strikes me about a lot of contemporary churches are several claims...

+ Authenticity
+ Excellence
+ High energy/ production = alive and pleasing to God

For one thing, any modicum of "authenticity" is difficult enough to guage in a one on one encounter or small group. Much less in a drummed up environment with thousands.

Excellence. I found out when I used to go to BCC that worship team members were asked to "try out" and be evaluated. In a pinch, session musicians would be enticed into showing up. All in the name of excellence.

I don't know how things are now, but in that day you knew that you were walking into a performance every week. A lively, yet sterile worship environment that played off a worldly premise of excellence. A stench in the nostrils of God.

Also the idea that all of these production elements ushered people corporately into the heart of worship anymore than dour denominational decay. Makes me think of the visual we got from Weekend At Bernie's.


Ken said...

I must admit I'm confused. Is this post about questioning the authenticity of "contemporary" church, or "traditional" church or both? If flashing video, elaborate sets and fog machines are replaced by artificial floral arrangements and a group of warbling sopranos with machine-gun vibratos in burgundy choir it more authentic?

I'd really like to hear someone provide their insights into a that which is "truly authentic".

Also, is the striving to achieve excellence among church musicians vocalists automatically equate to worldly premises and impressive facades?

Milton Stanley said...

Amen, Jared!

Jared said...

Ken, if you find me arguing for floral arrangements and warbling sopranos in choir robes, your question would make sense.

It's a false dichotomy that is part of the reason why the new "authenticity" leaves a bad taste in my mouth; it loves so much to be the anti- traditional church, as if those are the alternatives when it comes to church -- be hip or be lame.

I am writing from within and to my evangelical context, which is more and more entertainment-driven, not to become more "traditional," but to reform their ways.

I'd really like to hear someone provide their insights into a that which is "truly authentic

Then read posts other than this one.
Truly authentic means truly honest, which means talking most about what Scripture talks most about and worshiping the way Scripture prescribes worship, not for fun but for the awe of God.

It means being honest about ourselves -- which is that we are sinners who need grace, not dysfunctional people who need life skills.

It means stopping pretending that by updating our programming we are somehow now more authentic than people and churches with less money, less resources, less access to the cutting edge books, conferences, and speakers.

It means stopping pretending that the stuff we're "borrowing" from every other church doing and using the same stuff is innovative and original.

It means stopping acting like our churches can work well as cookie-cutter clones of what works for MegaAwesome Cutting Edge Community Church, and starting to see congregants as unique individuals in a unique community creating a unique local church culture, not as consumers.

is the striving to achieve excellence among church musicians vocalists automatically equate to worldly premises and impressive facades?

And I didn't suggest that; Nathan did.

I would say "try outs" are probably a good idea. For the same reason churches shouldn't let anyone who feels like it get up and teach.

I would hope worship leaders and musicians are screened for their understanding of worship as much as for their "chops," though.

Thanks for the questions.

Anonymous said...

There's a middle ground between denominational boredom and American Idol Community Church.

There are Pastors that are committed to teaching the word and Church communities that come before God in heatfelt worship that isn't stopwatch timed by some clipboard holder wearing a headset.

I went to BCC years ago so I don't mean to indict the Church now.


salguod said...

Amen, well said.