Stonewashed Worship

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : January 28, 2005

Check out this worthwhile article from Christianity Today about the manufactured authenticity found in churches today.  Here’s a snippet:

To paraphrase the Epistle to the Hebrews, I do not
have time to tell about the freshness of the salsa picante at the
unassuming burrito joint wholly owned by McDonald’s, or the rustic
pleasures of the Italian grill where concertina music floats through
the air, and good, simple wine is poured from oaken casks. Nor do I
have the budget. But all of these experiences, as much as they improve
on the chain restaurants of a few decades ago, only reinforce consumer
culture’s latest trend: the good life, the "authentic" life, is
available for purchase, and all the hard work has already been done.

So we connoisseurs of the authentic go shopping for
a church, and our senses are well-tuned. We may discern it in the
heartfelt break in a song-leader’s voice, in the not-too-pretty edge on
an electric guitar, in flickering candles or in ancient forms of prayer
lifted from liturgies hither and yon.

This is one of my problems with many recent attempts at doing church.  Authenticity cannot be achieved through style (though I will grant ambiance can help authenticity along a bit).  Authenticity is something that takes time and effort.  It cannot be manufactured.  You aren’t authentic merely because your church meetingplace has a sort of candle-lit shabbiness to it.  You aren’t authentic if your preacher likes to get personal in anecdotes.  You are authentic when a group of people has developed the ability to trust one another and struggle together.

for further reading . . .

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3 Responses to “Stonewashed Worship”

  1. blorge on January 28th, 2005 1:40 pm

    I think that Andy’s column was right on. It was well-written and I kinda have to admit that I like that it was rather melancholy. Evangelicals need to be ok with being melancholy in order to be authentic, yet even melancholia can be pre-fabricated.

  2. Chris B. on January 29th, 2005 10:15 pm

    I guess I agree that sometimes churches think the atmosphere they create will “manufacture” authenticity, but it kind of almost sounds like the writer of the article is saying that a church almost CAN’T be authentic if they have a good show. A sense of style doesn’t bother me one bit. My problem is when people try to equate a change in style with a change in structure. Bad structures are the problem in my estimation. Let people burn candles and drape themselves in velvet if it makes them happy.

  3. jeff on February 1st, 2005 4:37 pm

    I didn’t read the article (who has time for such things?), but I thought your comments, Mark, are right on.

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