Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Phenomenon of the 'Mystery Worshipper'

This post is not about Hellenistic mystery religions, but there is something decidedly non-Christian about this topic. In an effort to be more seeker-friendly, many churches are turning to outside, corporate, marketing firms for strategies to fill pews. One of these strategies is for 'mystery shoppers' to come to the church and check it out. They rate everything from the condition of the bathrooms to the effectiveness of the sermon.

My initial reaction to the concept of mystery worshippers was similar to that of the mystery worshipper, himself, in the article; "I was horrified." The last thing that the church needs is a consumerism akin to the culture around us, where attending church is based on a "me first" attitude.

This attitude may be starting with the pastors. Our nation has an absolute plague of preachers who are more interested in how to get their opinions heard, and their thoughts read, than on building the overall body of Christ through quiet and humble service. These pastors want pay/respect/and a celebrity life. There is little variation from the culture around them, just a slightly different product.

The Gospel requires something else; sacrifice. The Gospel focuses on Jesus Christ, not on man. We must exalt him at our own expense. Our primary focus is to be on his glory and not ourselves. The man-centered gospel is a travesty that leads to a consumerist church philosophy. If we can only be bright enough, clean enough, and give enough perks to our congregants, without requiring anything in return (accept maybe tithes), then we will pack them in like sardines and be the best.

If that is our goal, what's the point? These people may receive a self-esteem boosting speech, a la Osteen, but they will not be forced to change. They will not be conformed to Scripture. If they are confronted, they may leave.

I say let them go! If our congregations' idea of the gospel is a single prayer for salvation and then social hour every week, then their is no point to the gospel and we can all go home. The Gospel requires each individual's life. It requires our effort (although not to earn our way to heaven). It requires introspection and the excision of sin. It requires the sacrifice of our time, our money, and our prayers. Dare I say that those unwilling to give these things are uncommitted? I question their allegiance to Christ and his glory. The Gospel is more important than our comfort and is worth our discomfort.

With all that said, there is a place for clean bathrooms and better landscaping, but it is not the most important thing. I would also suggest it is not worth the $1,500.00 per trip/report that may be charged. While we would not want to turn people off from the church on account of a messy bathroom, the preaching of the Word, and the teaching of right theology are far more important. Let all toilets overflow and Christ be glorified, than for our churches to be white-washed tombs. Let us not major on the minors.

Let's work on our greetings, on our worship services, on our teaching points, but may they all be only outworkings of the healthy Gospel displayed. Remove bureaucracy and corporate methods from the church. Let's let Scripture and its sufficiency take center-stage. Let's not follow the culture in problematic consumerism which has led to the enormous debacle the globe is facing today. The church is not about you or me, it is about glorifying the great name of Jesus the Christ.

1 comment:

Sasha said...

Amen! I was equally horrified when I had heard about a church who was handing out Starbucks coupons so that people would come to their church.