Mystery Worshiper

Since 1998, a group of people calling themselves “mystery worshipers” visited churches incognito to “ask those questions which go to the heart of church life: How long was the sermon? How hard the pew? How cold was the coffee? How warm the welcome?” (Source: Then the mystery worshiper will post a report on the website. Depending on the worship experience, the report would either rave or rant about the church. For example, it gave a scale of 1 to 10 rating on how good the preacher was. Other items in the report included How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?” and What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days’ time?

Not surprisingly, mystery worshipers have visited famous churches in our country. What struck me are not the comments about the preachers (I think it unfairly criticized a mega church pastor for having a thick accent and another for mouthing “prom” whenever he would say “from.”) or the praise and worship style (one was labeled “a church with a disco atmosphere” and another with “retro contemporary praise.”) What caught my attention are comments about the welcome. One report noted, “No one. As in no one! It’s hard to be noticed in a sea of people. Perhaps the ushers thought I was a regular. I came and went having met no one.” Then when asked if ever he would make this church a regular, the mystery worshiper gave it a 5 rating only and added, I might have thought differently had there been a proper welcome. Another report goes like this, “I went down to the fellowship hall… and took some coffee and a cookie. I finished both without anyone coming up to talk to me! I left the building having met and known no one. …It seemed a nice enough church in which to belong, but people could make use of a little more friendliness. …And I thought Christianity was about knowing a person, joining a family, and connecting.

If ever, what impression would we give as a church? I can forgive criticisms about the length of my sermon or even my accent. Yet it would be sad if a mystery worshiper would comment that we failed to give a warm welcome. That doesn’t mean our goal is to impress people. But nonetheless we make an impression with the way we treat people in the church.

Brethren, what if a mystery worshiper visits our church?


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