So what is next in the world of churches driven by the retail market? Where will the next set of cutting-edge churches learning from the greatest corporate execs go? How does a church obsessed with its “street-cred” make sure it is passing the grade? Well, with mystery worshipers. What the church really needs are OCD consultants traveling across the country secretly grading churches on all the really important things like the quality of the parking lot stripes and the stains on the carpet. No kidding.
Mr. Harrison, a 51-year-old former Assemblies of God minister who launched his secret-shopper service in 2006, charges about $1,500 plus travel expenses for a site inspection, worship-service evaluation and detailed report.
And in true corporate model fashion, churches are graded on all the crucial matters Jesus would be thinking about if he walked into your church.
"Thomas [Harrison] hits you with the faded stripes in the parking lot," says Stan Toler, pastor of Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, who hires a secret shopper every quarter. "If you've got cobwebs, if you've got ceiling panels that leak, he's going to find it."
Hold on—it gets even more incisive:
One weekend this past summer, Mr. Harrison drove up to Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, in a bright-red rented Chevrolet. Armed with a digital camera, he trolled the church's grounds and its new $13 million sanctuary, snapping shots of weeds growing in the parking lot, loose lighting fixtures and a fuse box missing a lid. "Please cover as soon as possible," he wrote in his 67-page report.
Lest I accidentally insinuate this is a trite profession, Harrison does get to the heart of the matter when grading the sermon. After all, churches safeguard the things once and for all delivered to the saints. I don’t think I could describe the average evangelical sermon better than he does in this report:
The message is appropriate and meaningful. It is challenging and inspiring.
The weeds in the concrete received more attention.
I don’t want to accidentally insinuate this is a trite activity—I want to be as obvious as possible. Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have both bad and ridiculous consequences. With the advent of secret worship shoppers, the corporate model of meeting the felt needs of the culture fast-food style has finally reached a new height on the mountain of ridiculousness. Who in the world needs to hire self-important and overly critical worship shoppers? I get those on almost a weekly basis for free.
Here’s another idea. How about, instead of hiring a man who got his start in the secret shopper business trolling pizza joints in Oklahoma (true!), a church hire a trusted theologian from their denomination’s seminary to show up in their Ph.D. regalia, sit on the front row, and make sure that what is said from behind the pulpit coheres with say, Scripture.
Radical, I know. But then, this consumer-driven church world needs a few more iconoclasts.
HT: Between Two Worlds