The Mystery Worshipper" and visits churches all around England on a Sunday morning, and then writes reviews about them. Apparently he had visited our main London church and had his observations about the beautiful building, the friendliness (or lack thereof) of the church staff, of the loudness of the microphones and the "patrolling" of the assistants who he called stewards. He thought it was generally a friendly place, but strongly disliked any of the teachings on tithes and offerings. Even though he said there were other teachings as well, he zoomed in on the giving aspect and felt it was "disturbing."
He came with some preconceptions, no doubt; he was a white English guy going to a predominantly black immigrant community church, and he didn't come with the purpose of humbling himself before God, but to add another post to his blog of reviews. I don't take everything he said as the gospel, yet there is something intriguing about this Mystery Worshipper.
We rarely get to see what our churches, our groups and even we as individuals appear to be in the eyes of others who observe us. We like to assume that because all we do is with the best of intentions and for the noblest of causes, it covers for any mistakes we might inadvertently make. In the eyes of God, yes, He judges us by our motives and our faith, and can bless us despite our faults. Obviously He does or none of us would survive!
But if our lives, and our churches are to exist for the purpose of reaching out to others with the Good News, removing potential obstacles is only common sense. We should be willing to hear what others say about their impressions, if they have the courage to do so - like this Mystery Worshipper. An assistant ran after him as he was leaving the service to ask if he liked it. I'm sure the man told him yes, because what else could he say to the assistant's eager face? Most are too polite to say how horrendously we sing, or how confusing the songs or prayers are or how unwelcoming we may be (just as examples - I'm not picking on anyone.)
The more modern hip churches on the other hand, are so concerned about appearances that they have gone to extremes to be cool. When I turn on the TV and see a guy on a black stage with a mike and tailored dress shirt with the tails out, skinny jeans and perfectly coiffed messy hair with blond highlights, a leather wrist band and a Bible, I think, this guy's trying way too hard... and change the channel.
So we can't please everyone. We can't be obsessed with appearances. We have to say what God leads us to say whether people like it or not. We have to be sincere. That's a fact.
But there needs to be room for listening and understanding how we may be turning people off so much that they can't hear what God is saying because we stubbornly want to stick with our traditions or the idea that, "this is just the way I do things." Who said that the way you are is the way it has to be?