Monday, April 16, 2012

Yelp and The Church

If you have ever visited, you know that it's a web site where people are allowed, even encouraged, to post reviews of local restaurants, retail stores and more. Read this article on Wikipedia to learn more.

No one who operates in the business world likes getting a bad review on Yelp, or even in a person's private blog post. But business people know that anyone who wants the benefit of good word of mouth recommendations has to be willing to take the bad with the good. And actually, such feedback benefits such companies, not just the people they serve. Without such feedback, how are they supposed to know how to make their products and services more appealing? Smart business people covet such feedback, even to the point that they actively and regularly solicit such feedback by means of online surveys for which they offer incentives to participants.

Too bad that concept seems to elude the minds of a lot of leaders of that organization known as the church, a/k/a the Body of Christ. Too often, pastors' attitude mimics the attitude of a poster I once saw. It showed a guy dressed as a mafia "don", and looking as if he would love nothing more than to break someone's leg. He was saying, "When I want your opinion, I will give it to you."

Of course, one would never hear such pastors admit that that's their attitude, at least not in a forum where large numbers of people could catch them in the act of saying such things. But many act as if they can make such statements in secret or when they only have a few present witnesses. Apparently they have forgotten that on Judgment Day, there will be no secrets.

I have observed a strange dynamic, among many church leaders, who talk a good game with regard to "service" but who act as if that is the last thing on their minds. The phrase "cognitive dissonance" can best explain the discrepancy. The term "hypocrisy" also seems applicable.

The phenomenon is not a particularly new one. Jesus observed that same phenomenon when he entered Jerusalem on what we now call  Palm Sunday. It must have really made him mad, since he was observed to turn over the tables of the money changers, and even to wield a small whip. (This is a link to just one of the many classic pieces of art which have portrayed that incident.) gives pretty detailed information about that episode, but anyone who reads his or her Bible can verify that Jesus was not always "meek and mild", at least not as such terms are commonly understood by some people. A book entitled "Hard Sayings of Jesus" could be (and in fact is) a pretty thick book.

What do you think? If there had been an Internet, and a place like, do you think that Jesus would have written and posted a bad review of the practices at the Temple? Compared with what he actually did, I think that a bad online review would have been a mild response indeed! And what Jesus did in the Temple on that day was mild in comparison with what he said he would do to unfaithful servants when he returned. See Luke 12:48.

Some people might think that it would set a bad precedent if we started publishing reviews of individual churches, but I personally think it's a great idea for which there is a crying need. A lot of tragedies in the history of the church might have been averted if there had been a means of regularly holding abusive church leaders accountable. Maybe the evils we now think of when we hear the term "Inquisition" would never have existed.

Some say that the modern church has become too ensnared with a "consumers' mentality". In the minds of some people, lack of "submission" to church authorities indicates lack of submission to Christ.

To that, I say "poppycock".

Such people need to read and understand what Christ himself thought about the church (or rather, what then passed for "church" among the Jewish people). Mark 2:27 makes it clear (as explained in this article) that the sabbath was not an end in itself, but rather, it was intended to function as a means to an end. When the Jewish pharisees and other leaders acted as if subservience to their nit-picky rules was more important than helping hurting people, Jesus made a point of violating their rules, not because he was opposed to rules per se, but because he genuinely loved people and he came to liberate them, not to bind them in more legalistic rules.

If indeed a Yelp-style site is appropriate for shining the light on bad service at a local restaurant, how much more appropriate would it be to use such a site for the purpose of shining the light on church leaders who are clueless about the meaning of true Christian service? I wish I could honestly say that such pastors and Christian leaders were rare, but I cannot. The blog post I wrote and published here yesterday ought to make that very clear. Ditto for a number of other articles I've published here over the years since I began this blog.

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