Hello there! Thanks for taking some time to read (or let's be honest with one another... "skim") this article. We are beginning a brand-new series here on the blog I've entitled Copycat Christianity. I'm excited about this series! I've met a LOT of "copycat" Christians in my life, and I want to help you from falling into the same trap.
But before I take the time to tell you what the "dangers" of copycat Christianity might be, or how to avoid it, I want to use this week to explain what "copycat Christianity" actually is.
Years ago, I attended a workshop at a church planting conference led by Will Mancini, a former pastor who had started a "church consulting" ministry. Mancini started his ministry with the goal of helping churches avoid becoming "copycat" churches. If you've been around Christianity long enough, you've possibly heard of original sin. Mancini's pet peeve was churches who committed the error of UN-original sin!
What is "unoriginal sin?" Mancini claimed he could navigate to the website of almost any church, and just by reading the About Us page, he could predict which conference they had most recently attended or which celebrity pastor books they were most impacted by. These churches merely copied the language and style of whichever megachurch pastor they most liked.
In other words, they were copycats. The Oxford Dictionary app on my Mac defines the word copycat as "a person who copies another's behavior, dress, or ideas." That's exactly what these "copycat" churches do.
Yet, if God has created each human with a different fingerprint, and made each star in the heavens unique, why would He create local churches as mere copies of another local church? Especially when these churches are in an entirely different region of the country with an entirely different set of people?
This is why we haven't sought to make Riverwood like some other church in Houston, or L.A., or Fargo, or even Des Moines. We've aimed to understand the culture and people of our region of Iowa, and sought to figure out how to share the gospel into this culture, so local people can find Jesus and follow Him.
But faith-copying isn't only a church problem; it is a people problem. Just as church leadership teams can make the mistake of mimicking whatever church seems biggest and best, Christians often do the same thing. They adopt the thinking and attitudes of whichever pastor they prefer, or author they like reading, or any influential person in their life. This mindset is then reflected in the language of the copy-er and seen in their fashion, hairstyle, mannerisms, and more.
Why would a Christian do this? I believe it is because they subconsciously think their mimicry makes them holier, or more respected by fellow Christians (who are possibly copycat Christians themselves), or even more loved by God, since God clearly loves the influential person so much based upon the "blessing" that seems to be on their life. (Yes, I used sarcasm in that last phrase.)
But think about it: Your grandmother may have had a huge impact on your faith, but God's goal isn't for you to "love like Grandma loved and live like Grandma lived." Grandma might be awesome, and you'd be wise to learn from your grandmother, but God wants you to be like Jesus. That's why He says through the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that Jesus-followers are to be "transformed into the same image" of Christ, not the image of some other influential human.
"But Erin, what's so 'wrong' with copying my grandma? After all, if Grandma is 'loving like Jesus loved,' then being like her can't be all that bad, right?" Great question!
That's what we'll talk about next week. 😁
P.S. If you are part of the Riverwood family and haven't contributed to the Building Lives campaign yet, it's not too late to do so! We may have finished talking about the campaign through the Sunday sermons through Nehemiah and in this space right here, but that doesn't mean the campaign has concluded. We still have over $15,000 to raise to meet our $50,000 'minimum' goal. And we want you to be a part!
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