Christian MediaCreativityEngaging Culture

Why Can’t Christians Be More Original?

Filmmaker Jesse Bryan, creative director at Mars Hill Church in Seattle sent me this interesting article from USA Today.  The question is the $4.6 billion dollars in Christian merchandizing – most of it rip offs from the outside culture.  As the paper says, “American retailers sell about $4.6 billion worth of Christian products annually, and some are spoofs or spinoffs of commercial logos or brand names. Many such goods are illegal, trademark attorneys say, but companies often are 
unaware their names are being copied or don’t put up a fight for fear of being labeled anti-faith.”

We wonder why Christians don’t make more of an impact in the culture, when so little of what we do is really original and innovative.  When it’s easier to copy ideas from the non-believing culture, what attraction is that for them to consider our perspective on faith?

When Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” on the church door at Wittenberg Germany, it sparked an explosion that resulted in the Protestant Reformation.  I think it’s time for a new 95 Theses style document that calls Christians to a higher standard of innovation and original thinking.  After all, we worship the ultimate creator.  So why do we prefer to rip people off?

Let’s have a “Creative Reformation.”  Anyone else in?


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  1. I am in. Originality has fallen prey to the need to be relevant for the sake of relevancy; we have pimped out the our legitimacy and uniqueness to reach people for what we think they want in a god…when ‘the God’ meets them where they are.

  2. Exactly.  This topic literally makes me angry.  Churches say “We want to be relevant to culture.”  SO STOP LOOKING LIKE IT.  I find non-believers not wanting to come into something that looks like what they are in already…We are not of this world, so why is the Church trying to look like it…

  3. Is worship a few songs on Sunday, NOT! Is it giving 10% of the money you have in your pocket, NOT! Is it following every word of the celebrity, er, pastor that is ‘hot’ at the moment, NOT! Maybe if someone, anyone, actually did worship with their whole life, everyday, their impact would be, well, supernaturally creative…not only creative, but if a word, logo, message is actually, directly from God, then the Holy Spirit will make is so impact the recipients’ hearts that they will have to respond. That’s just the truth, like it or not…when He speaks through a person, regardless of the delivery medium…it will not return void to the Creator…without Him we can do nothing, so we just copy the world…

  4. Do Christians, Christ Followers, whatever the latest title is REALLY “worship the ultimate creator”…maybe this answers your question! If people REALLY “worship”, then why do they lack creativity??

  5. Is this a rhetorical question?

    Seriously, I was at the beach this last weekend and saw one of these church youth groups doing skits without dialog and was totally moved. Really, Just after the crowd started yelling at me; “Get out of the way!” I was pushed aside by some skateboarders.Sheesh!

    I just think that is so rude that no one is paying attention to the efforts of our very talented youth. Isn’t skateboarding illegal?

    Then they started singing some top 40 covers, with all the words changed to Christain lyrics. Lemme tell ya, American Idol’s got nothin’ on this stuff.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it.



  6. The truth of the matter is that those who profess G-d as their G-d, can’t come up with an original idea if their life depended on it.

    I’ve seen enough ‘Christian’ movies that suck, it’s not even funny.

    It is really tragic when the creatives of the world outdo the those ‘connected’ with the Creator.

    How is that those with the greatest story ever told, can’t tell their way out of a paper bag. There is so much self adulation out there that leads people to believe that mediocre is great.

    But there is good news folks! People are being called up. People are learning the craft of the ‘master storytellers’, and very soon you will begin to see more and more of the return of the arts. In fact, it’s called ‘The L-rd’s Renaissance of The Arts”. I am meeting more and more people who are preparing and training for this next great wave of the Spirit of G-d.

    This isn’t as good as it gets, it gets better.

  7. Thanks for the word of encouragement, Kurt.  It is easy to criticize…but perhaps the solution is for us to take seriously the call to “get on our knees” for some extended times per Martin Luther and see what new ideas the Spirit of God shows us… ;-).

  8. One man told me the value of something is determined by its unique qualities. If this is true than the I believe the christian world must strive to find it’s unique qualities and creatively show them to the world.

  9. Nothing gets stale faster than Over-Relevance.

    (Anyone seen Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In recently?)

    Except Pretentious Over-Relevance.

  10. Thank you for raising the call.

    We hear you loud and clear and are giving it our best shot with

    The truth is, we need increasing support and more people to know we are answering the call for high quality original work.

    Though we can make the very best short films based on Jesus’ parables we know how, if more people want “truelight” t-shirts(…Twilight), the next iteration of Purpose Driven, or can’t get beyond Nooma as the definitive answer(and Nooma is great work!) then it may be some time before others answering your call will have the support needed to continue.

    Regardless, you’re right! A consumer driven culture is just that… and so if the Christian consumer will change what they buy then voila! and the content you are calling for is out there and ready to spread onwards and upwards out of the substream and into the mainstream.

    Merry Christmas and here is to a creative reformation in 2010!


  11. I’m reading the original post and the replies the day after Christmas. What’s is so striking to me is that I was thinking about this very subject just a few days ago. We Christians do an extremely good job of copying the culture, and a really bad job of leading the way.

    As you all know, we are supposed to live sanctified lives, set apart from the ways of the world. With that in mind we should be creating things that the world has never seen.

    I do think that we have to realize that many of the products that copy the world and are sold in Christian stores are probably not even designed/made/manufactured by Christians. They come from people who see a guilble Christmas market and take advantage of that.

    Still,  this copying of the prevailing culture touches every aspect of Christian life and few seem to care, especially our so-called Christian leaders. Some of them are the worst offenders.

    We  need to take the thought of “Set Apart” very seriously if we really want to impact the world for HIS sake.


  12. Marcus

    Interesting you should mention Christmas, perhaps the original “unoriginal” Christian idea.  Just take Saturnalia and rename it, rebrand it, sanctify it and voila, it belongs to us. and woe to a world that dares to reclaim it, or voilate the sanctity of it in any way.  It appears that Christians borrowing from the world goes back a lot farther than we think.

    Am I wrong, or have we lost something since the golden age of symphony composers who composed to the glory of God, and whom the world listened to with an awesome, reverence?  The secular world continues to listen, learn and copy their genuis to this day.  What wells did they draw from that we have neglected and forgotton?

    We are the children of a God, of whom I believe it is safe to say, is the originator of creative originality.  His creative genius should flow freely, like a river, out of our hearts for all the world to hear, and see and take notice of.  Hopefully, as we realize this, take our eyes off the world and focus on Him as the source of our creativity, thing will begin to turn around.

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