Truth in Advertising

Last year my wife, thinking it might make a good Christmas present, had a puzzle made from a photo she took some years back. It was a picture of two of our children and two of their cousins posing in front of Mount Rushmore, with the kids’ faces in the same positions and with the same expressions as the famous faces carved out of the side of the hill.

Even after two attempts, the company making the puzzle wasn’t able to reproduce the photo well enough for it to be gift-worthy, so the completed puzzle sat on our kitchen island for more than a month. We had plenty of time to study it.

The subjects are our beloveds, so taking a look now and then is a pleasant experience. But what regularly strikes me is how rare it is to capture an image like this one. Although the children are carefully posed, it looks entirely candid and genuine. This is what our kids really look like (when they aren’t performing for the camera, that is). It’s certainly very different from the selfies they take for social media. It’s what they look like when they’re staring out a car window or when they were deep in play.

This has me thinking about how we choose to capture our lives visually and, more specifically, how we choose to present our church lives to each other.

Recall the pictures you’ve seen from the early days of photography. As special and expensive as those early images must have been, I can just imagine the photographer’s instructions: “No smiling. This is not a joke. Harold, fix your vest and tie. Everyone, shoulders back. Stand up straight.” No doubt our view of the people living in those days, if based on these black-and-white images, is that they were devoid of any joy whatsoever.

I wonder what our great-great-grandchildren will think of the images we’re making now. Will they really believe we were this happy? That our smiles were that perfect, our teeth that bright? That we couldn’t possibly be dealing with the issues they are dealing with?


When my church first started including praise teams in worship, a consultant brought in to help the church get started said, “When you pick out what to wear, as a group try to represent the variety of dress of the people you’re leading in worship.” I think that was good advice—advice we should apply to the visuals we are creating. Taken in total or taken over time, do the pictures and words we use in worship represent where our fellow worshipers are at—the highs, the lows, and the many shades in between?

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 140 © June 2021, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.