Thursday, March 1, 2012

Artisanal vs. Assembly Line

“A NonModern Manifesto on Church Planting and Evangelism” (Part 3) (see part 2 here and 1 here)

Near Santiago Chile there is a little artisan market nestled around a Dominican church in Apoquindo. There one can buy all sorts of arts and craftwork made on the spot. Back in the eighties there was an amazing luthier who made some of the most beautiful charangos. I have no idea if he is still there today, but I have never seen better work. That being said, all of the best charangos—any lute instruments really—are hand-made. There are some things that just aren’t the same when made on an assembly line.

Not that assembly lines are all bad. They make those things that would normally take a master craftsman months to build in a fraction of the time and therefore for a fraction of the price. They also make it possible to maintain a consistency across the board in production, eliminating little nuances and mistakes. Most people who play a lute instrument are content to have a mass-produced model, but everyone would take a hand crafted one if given the chance.

In our post-industrial revolution, assembly line world of technology, many things have been sacrificed in the name of convenience and efficiency. Well, it isn’t fair to call it a sacrifice, really, because many people do not see it as that. In a lot of ways things have gotten better over the past couple of centuries.

Still, there are some things that need to be made by craftsmen; things that need to be works of art. Things like baskets, paintings, and instruments are more special when made by a person. Made that way they are artifacts of culture, not merely products or consumables. Culture itself needs the same sort of human touch. Churches, fellowships of believers, are just such a cultural expression. They need to be seen as unique expressions of the body of Christ, each and every one of them. Instead, we tend to approach church with the assembly line attitude these days. We buy the latest book, we copy the current success, and we build our “spiritual corporation” based on secular and business models. Instead we should allow each collection of individuals to be itself and carefully craft it according to Biblical ideals applied to the specific group. That seems to be the way Paul did it.

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