An article at the Seattle Times deals with mystery worshipers and online church ratings. Jim Henderson, a Seattle evangelical Christian, came up with the idea to launch ChurchRater, a site that allows people to rate the churches they have visited. In some instances they pay people to rate churches and in other instances they allow anyone to rate a church as they see fit, much like you or I might post a review of a book on Amazon. What’s the problem with this? It is part of the ongoing commercialization of the church where churches are evaluated in the same way, and often by the same criteria, as businesses. The spiritual realities of a church dictate that it is not the same thing as a business. But this kind of enterprise blurs the two. I think there is great value in having an outside person provide some feedback about his experience at your church (something I did quite recently for a friend, at his request, after attending the church he pastors) just as there is value in having a brother or sister in Christ tell you things about your life that you may be unable to see on your own. But to do it in the way ChurchRater does invites abstract, anonymous and mean-spirited critique. Drive-by anonymity, transient anonymity, is not a valid basis for critique of this sort.
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