06 October 2010

Mystery Shoppers: $25 a Service

You've heard of mystery shoppers who are hired to visit a business and test the service? Well, what if that were to happen in a church?

In pursuit of frank conversations about faith, churches and well-meaning Christians, Jim Henderson hired Matt Casper to visit churches with him and fill out a survey.

Matt was paid for it so it was a job, with expectations and structure.

While we may not like the process, the conversations that followed or the perspectives gained from the study, integrity requires us to consider the validity of Matt's words. See the link at the end of this post.

I love the Church. It is the organism or organisation that Jesus left here on Earth to accomplish His purposes. What we think of Church may or may not be what He had in mind, but I'll hold out hope that we can get it right and that authentic biblical community will refresh people wounded by the world in which they live.

So I do not read such books as Jim & Casper Go To Church with much relish. I do read them though, and nod my head, knowing that many of the things Matt says are reasons my brother, my friends and coworkers give as reasons to leave religion behind.

I do read them and wonder why we exact honesty from leaders and organisations elsewhere, but rarely think we can scrutinise long held traditions associated with the Church.

One of the problems with the Church is the same problem the Israelites had while Moses was up on the mountain hearing from God. It is easier to function in the here and now than it is to contemplate what might be and all the potential variants of that future. "Let's just focus on what we've got in our hands and find ways to program things efficiently." I think it's a control thing, in a way.

Another problem with the Church is that it is full of people like me. I'm good at some things and much prefer to do those things rather than the things I'm not good at. It is very easy for me to get out of balance, exercising certain muscles while neglecting others.

Teaching and organising believers is easier than responding appropriately to the messy spirituality of those who are outsiders or new. Focusing solely on benevolence produces more impressive stats than leading people to self-sustaining maturity. Ivory towers are tidier than the dark alleys. Suburban congregations are often more predictable than edgy church plants.

None of the above examples are necessarily more important than the others, it's just that we can so easily get the focus wrong, get the balance wrong. How can we remain holistic, with clarity in the big and long term vision? How can we keep our heart beating in rhythm with that of Christ who disdained popularity, power struggles and prejudice?

How can we make sure that if Jesus were to come to our places of worship as a Mystery Shopper, He'd feel welcomed even though disguised as an outsider, and He'd feel worshipped, honoured as Lord and Head of the Church?

For gleanings from Jim & Casper Go To Church, check out this link from Raw Religion.

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