Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Mystery Worshipper

Well, we have officially been "Mystery worshipped" by a "Ship of Fools" contributor. This happened a few weeks ago in December.

We can look forward to our review appearing in the new year.

Reading through other reviews it is quite difficult to ascertain whether we are going to get a complete sledging or they may have quite liked it. Reading some of the discussions on Ship of Fools this year it is obvious that the Newfrontiers name is mud, which does not bode well. That said, some contemporary Churches have good reviews, so I guess it depends who does the review and how it went on the day.

Whatever the frailties of the concept, and for me part of it does not sit right, at least we will have outside eyes and ears giving us an opinion. I do hope nothing really unfair is written, but I guess that is the point of having a review. Whether it feels unfair or not we need to work out why it made them feel like that and what we can learn from it, even if all we can learn is to take no notice of Ship of Fools reviews!

That said, if it is a great review then we will probably want a copy for our Church magazine, so who knows?


Mark Heath said...

Most of the mystery worshipper reports tell you at least as much if not more about the mystery worshipper's theology & church preferences than they do about the church under review. Hope they don't pan you too hard, but if they do, you could always think of it as persecution for the sake of the gospel.

Pauline Griffiths said...

I have been investigating The Ship of Fools site; though I admit not in any great depth: I simply picked a few reviews at random to get an idea of what they are looking for.
There is certainly a great variety of churches reviewed here, and covering most denominations!

I would hazard a guess that, having visited Barnabas a few times now, that you will get a very good review for welcome and atmosphere; the way you encourage feedback and extend the hand of welcome after the service as well as before.

Yet, I wonder how it can really be possible for any Mystery Worshipper to limit God's work to a series of points: building, welcome, nature of worship..etc.?

Surely nobody can accurately quantify the extent to which an individual was touched by God whilst attending a service. Neither can they predict the effect of that; whether it is a "seeker" moved to commit his or her life to Christ, or a Christian gaining a new insight; a word from God which leads to new growth and direction. People can't limit God to a series of "tick boxes"!!!

A Mystery Worshipper can only report on what he or she finds.Sometimes God works in the hearts of individuals; sometimes a whole comgregation will be moved at once. What I'm saying is that you can't limit the work of God's Spirit or restrict it to a moment in time.

Yes- the welcome matters, and the teaching, and the music. I hardly think the building does; after all the first disciples were in an upper room when the Holy Spirit descended on them!!

On the few occasions I have visited Barnabas, I have been impressed by the welcome. Someone has always invited me to join them and I have been made to feel that, although I am a member of my own church here in Billinge, I am also part of the wider body of Christ and as welcome in Shrewsbury, also.

Also, whilst visiting Barnabas, there are at leat two occasions on which I have received some kind of message, or been prompted to grow as a Christian by confronting things I needed to deal with, that might have been holding me back in some way.

As I say, you can't limit the work of the Holy Spirit to a series of sub-titled paragaraphs.

Yes, the report, when it arrives, will be interesting, but I can't see that it could possibly sum up the work of God within a church.
No human evaluation can limit God.

Fat Prophet said...

I read these reviews often and feel that Mark is right in that there own preferences seem to come out quite often and I always think lots of the contributors are heavily into liturgy. Part of me says if the folk are coming through the door week in and week out and you are growing then it would seem you are either doing something right or meeting people with worship that they find acceptable.
I will watch for the review and hope it will be realistic and helpful to you.

Ari said...

Really, who cares. Critiquing churches like you're watching a movie or reading the latest paperback is a detestable idea. Please God, not people.

Fat Prophet said...

I think Pauline makes some very valid pints here - it seems we were typing our comments at the same time so I had not seen this.
I have to say I do like the description of the building and the background on the area but agree it is really the work that goes on from week to week that is important and how God is moving in that situation.
I think the stuff about how welcome someone is made has some bearing on the attractiveness to the first time attender and may persuade them to return again or not. There is a tale told and I am not sure if it is true of the man who went into a church after many weeks and kept his hat on. One of the door stewards went to him and asked why he had kept his hat on and he responded by saying he had been coming weeks and nobody had spoken to him so he had decided to keep his hat on to see if it got a reaction.
I have been preaching for over twenty years in a wide variety of churches and denominations and have seen exactly what the man had seen in the story (not often fortunately) and can see how this might persuade someone not to return, especially if the rest of the service doesn't push the buttons.

Jongudmund said...

The concept has never sat right with me either. Although I've been told I ought to become a mystery worshipper myself. Not sure how to take that really.