It’s Time to Stop Ripping Off the “I Am Second” Campaign

We all know that God chose to introduce himself in the first verse of Genesis as a “creator.” We know the great artists, painters, writers, filmmakers and others through history who were inspired by their Christian faith. So today, why do we keep ripping off other creatives instead of being creative ourselves? I’m finally fed up with all the “Christian” writers, producers, and directors who have been ripping off the unique approach of the I Am Second campaign. If you haven’t seen it, it’s one of the most innovative media approaches for engaging the secular culture to come along in a very long time. I know the team. I’ve been to their studio. They are a truly brilliant group.

But instead of celebrating their creativity, and letting that inspire us to go beyond, too many people are just ripping them off. I’ve seen “I Am Second” themed commercials with old people, youth groups, missionaries – all kinds of wrong situations. I’ve seen rip offs with embarrassing camera work, lighting, editing, and bad substitutes for the white chair. I have to hand it to John Humphrey and the I Am Second team – they don’t complain and they don’t make a stink. But I can bet you, they don’t like it, and neither do I.

We’re Christians. We worship the Great Creator. Of all people in the culture we should be the most creative of all. And yet we’re not willing to pay the price. We’re not willing to put in the work. We’re lazy. We live off the currency of other people’s ideas. And trust me, it’s not impacting the culture.

The I Am Second campaign is brilliant. But we don’t need more lame copies. What we need is the next creative leap.

Who’s willing to step up?

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    1. I agree. Some of the teaching process is not only to inspire for greatness but to illustrate clear ‘fail’ examples. While I understand what you are saying Phil, from a consumer, I am not sure we get the difference between the ‘original’ and the ‘copy’. This is a great opportunity to share their differences. Many who want to convey a message may not know how to develop their skills.

    2. I am happy to share what Christ has done in my life, and the idea of using this method worked very well in the church I attend. What is the goal here? To be uniquely creative all the time? Or to share Jesus? I will let God decide- in the meantime, here is the video created:

      1. Why can’t you do both Zack? Why can’t you share Jesus in a uniquely creative way? The secular world has copyright laws. it’s a shame Christians don’t have a higher standard than the world when it comes to copying other people’s projects.

  1. What’s that phrase, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? All creatives borrow and / or copy from those who went before. It’s really only a matter of how far back they went. Look at Jack White in music. His style is a copy of bluesmsen b4 him. George Lucas borrowed for Star Wars and now is massively borrowed from. Who did I Am Second borrow from? I don’t think they were the first to shoot a set like that. 🙂

    1. I understand what you’re thinking Scott, but “being inspired” to do great things and “copying” great things are different. I’m all for using great ideas to jump to new things, but simply copying what others are doing doesn’t help us advance.

  2. Since we were made in the image of God I do believe the full extend of his creativity is available to us in Christ. Like so many other “Christlike” attributes either we don’t seek or develop those gifts fully. We can do all things through Christ and there is no limit. All we need to do is ask God to fill us and equip us and then what he gives us can be as fresh and new as the mercies he bestows on us every morning!

  3. Thanks for speaking up about this. Unfortunately Christians don’t seem to think it’s wrong to steal creative ideas. I’ve seen this far too often of late. Donald Miller writes vulnerably about how to live a great story and suddenly there are knock off Christian books and sermon series complete with graphics and marketing materials for pastors who basically jump on the “story” bandwagon with no credit where due and probably not reading the original work that spawned all the knock offs. Another creative friend has had her work imitated (read stolen) by a big publisher. Sad. Thanks Phil for calling for some accountability and some originality! And yes, there is nothing new under the sun but please at least give it a try!

  4. This is what I wrote and am living it. I’m at present working on a screenplay that the Lord is showing me as I spend time in the word studying and searching. There has never been anything like it before! Praise the Lord!

    We are the head and not the tail!

    Christians are chasing after the “world” trying to catch up with what they are doing (movies,
    etc.) The “world” should be chasing
    after us because we should be getting our ideas from the Spirit of God while spending time (with Him) in His presence.

  5. Good thoughts Phil, it’d be so much more impacting to have originality and creativity spurred on.

    How would you describe the difference of doing something as an imitation that’d be ripping off vs. inspiring other videos as a mashup and as a meme that spreads an idea to the masses, a la Gangnam Style videos all over YouTube and elsewhere? Is there also value in having a great idea built upon and shared widely that imitates a source idea?

  6. Thank you for sharing the truth Phil. The saddest part is the laziness and lack of creativity has seeped into the culture of church (Not completely though).

    There are numerous pastors and artists I have personally heard talk about doing their research on YouTube to be inspired (Read: to use someone else’s creative work). Unfortunately I have had to watch their uninspired results.

    How many more “Lifehouse” skits do we really need to see?

  7. very unique stores….I kept thinking about the apostles as I listened……and wondering if they felt…” as a second….” just a thought…..
    a few years ago I listened to a Kenyan pastor talk of the holy spirit….to make a long story short….his message was the strength of the holy spirit in the margins of our life…..I believe when god walked among humanity his greatest message was in the margins….
    ” I am second…” is from the margins and oh how great an addition to the human experience….
    I hope many copy this but do it with strength of faith and a heart of conviction….

  8. “We’re Christians. We worship the Great Creator. Of all people in the culture we should be the most creative of all. And yet we’re not willing to pay the price. We’re not willing to put in the work. We’re lazy. We live off the currency of other people’s ideas. And trust me, it’s not impacting the culture.”

    Cannot applaud this statement enough!!!!

  9. I’m curious now that this post is 7 years old Phil if you still feel and think the same way? In all sincerity, I wonder that at the core is most offends you about this? I’ve heard that whenever we are offended it’s usually because it’s reflecting something back that deep down we despise in ourself. I find that to be true in my own walk more often than I’d like to admit! 🙂 People can debate and never agree until the end of time the subtleties between paying homage to, emulating, being inspired by, ripping off, stealing, someone else’s work, or in true openhandedness and openheartedness we can inspire and encourage each other to love and support those who are called to memorialize and share these types of stories with reverence. May humility, encouragement, and generosity of our God given gifts and talents (including the gift to recognize good art and emulate it) help more people hear what God has done for, in and through the lives of His people.

    1. Sorry Todd. I must really despise myself because my opinion hasn’t changed. Of course we should look to others for inspiration, but ripping people off is another thing altogether. Beside the moral implications, I just don’t think we’ll impact the world by stealing other people’s creative work.

  10. Phil i certainly hope and pray that you nor anyone who is in Christ would despise themselves. I was referring to that thought, behavior, or quality within oneself that one may subconsciously despise perhaps out of anger, guilt, shame, envy, contempt. Jeremiah 17:9

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