Church. Everyone has an opinion. Some of us like liturgy and hymns. Some of us like electric guitars and fog machines. Some churches claim to be holding the fort…“traditional.” Others claim to know you… “relevant.” Others claim to be stuck in the 80’s… “contemporary.”
In some churches, there’s congregational singing. Others are more of a performance by professional musicians. Some pastors preach exegetically…verse by verse through Scripture. Others tell stories and make reference to Scripture. Some make you wonder if they have ever read the Bible. Some preach hellfire and brimstone, others grace. Some preach in person, some via Skype.
As I say, we all have our own opinions on the way church should be, and these vary greatly. The closest we come to a univocal agreement came from the late George Burns:
“The secret to a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”
When I was a kid, these opinions were shared face to face. In today’s world of social media, we share with the world. One way this is done today is through Google Reviews. Anyone can write a review of a church, positive or negative. You can also rate the church – five stars being the highest. Google then calculates the ratings, like it would a hotel or restaurant. So when you look for a church on the internet, the first thing you see is Google’s seal of approval…or not.
I just checked the web and our little church has a 4.7 rating out of a potential 5 stars. Not bad! It was better than I anticipated. I know one negative comment about our theology came from a Muslim visitor…so I’m not losing sleep over it.
A church in Beaverton, Oregon recently sued a disgruntled former member to the tune of $500,000 for her negative online comments. This is getting serious…and absurd.
The other day I watched a humorous bit by comedian John Crist in which he makes fun of these church reviews, and he got me thinking. What if Google’s rating system existed in the first century…how would the churches score back then?
The Church at Troas: 0 Stars. “Great fellowship and wonderful people, but the pastor’s sermon literally bored me to death! ~ Eutychus”
The Church at Corinth: 3 Stars. “My family enjoyed this church – the worship is exciting. But they need to update their website. The service times are confusing. We went to a fellowship meal and by the time we arrived all the food was gone! We won’t be back!”
The Church at Corinth (Part 2): 1.5 Stars. “I really enjoyed the people and the singing but was very disappointed in the preaching. I’ve been following Paul’s blog for some time, and was excited to finally hear him in person. His content was good, but his presentation…Google “milktoast” and you’ll see Paul’s picture!”
The Church at Corinth (Part 3): 2 Stars. “It was fine, but there is better preaching down the street.”
The Church at Thessalonica: 3 Stars. “Great church, overall. But went to lunch with a family after the service and they expected me to pay for them. I’ve noticed a bunch of freeloaders in the congregation.”
The Church at Ephesus: 1 Star. “We did not have a good experience at this church. Things started well. We were initially welcomed with open arms. The young pastor, Timothy, was very kind and a good preacher. But it wasn’t long before my wife became the topic of discussion among the gossips. Church should be a judgment free zone!”
The Church at Jerusalem: 0 Stars. “The church’s website should be clear on dress code. I was running late for church…just got off work. Did not look or smell great, I’ll admit. I was respectfully received and seated close to the front. But then, someone came in with a gold ring and fine clothes. They made me give this man my seat and moved me to the back where I had to stand throughout the service! I’ve never been so humiliated. Won’t be back!”
The Church at Galatia: 2.5 Stars. “The people were nice and welcoming…too welcoming. They seemed to welcome everything. I’m looking for an Evangelical church. But with all their discussion of the Jewish Law (I’m a Gentile) I wasn’t sure if I mistakenly entered a synagogue instead of a church.”
There you have it, the first century Google Review of churches. In my very unscientific study, I calculate that the early church would receive a 1.6 rating on Google. Not good at all.
I often tell folks, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join it. You’ll wreck it.” The church is full of people; well-intentioned, but fallible people. We’ve all come to the church because we’ve recognized we have issues. Over the centuries, we’ve changed the world because God has changed us. We’re not perfect…at least not yet.
Whatever your preferences, we’d love for you to join us and make us better!