Friday, June 01, 2012

Don't Be A Church Hater, Be A Church Rater

Not long ago, I learned about a web site called Church Rater ( is another similar web site.

The idea is that if people are able to rate products and services via web sites such as (, one should also be able to rate churches one has attended. (And in fact Yelp does offer the ability to rate churches.)

In some circles, the existence of such websites may be deemed as a sign that the apocolypse is nearly upon us. Presumably, it's one thing for people to publicly state their opinions about such seemingly trivial matters as the best pizza joint or the best lawyer in town, but when it comes to things considered by many people to be sacred and beyond reproach, we are supposed to be silent.

I don't know how we are supposed to prevent tragedies such as the many which have tainted the church throughout its history, if we do not publicly hold people accountable. The story of how power can corrupt alleged men and women of God is a long, sad and sordid tale. Burying such things under the rug is NOT in the best interest of the church.

Websites like are badly needed, in my opinion, which is based on a lifetime of personal experiences in the church --- the good, the bad and the truly ugly.

When a church is good, it can be a real blessing. I've had churches and pastors who filled my life with great joy, especially because I sometimes had to search for a long time before finding such churches.

One pastor I'll always remember fondly was a man in the Boston area, at a Missionary Alliance church in Jamaica Plain.  His name was Jordan Greely. I developed a close friendship with an assistant pastor there named Ed Williams.

Jordan and Ed came into my life just at a time when I was feeling really burned and burned out by previous church experiences in the city. (When I'd complained to my mother about the unfriendliness of one of those churches, the guy who'd been pastor there before being relocated to a church in my hometown in Missouri had told my mother that what I needed was a good kick in the behind! Nice, huh? Ironically, that man, named Cal Le Mon, had later been kicked out of the Springfield church he "served", having been accused of adultery. If you're reading this, Cal, it seems to me that YOU were the one who needed a kick in the behind. You still owe me an apology, several decades after the fact. Yes, Christians ought to practice forgiveness, but receiving such forgiveness is predicated on one's willingness to humbly confess one's sins and ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness and arrogantly demanding forgiveness as if it's one's birthright are two entirely different things. God requires genuine repentance, he does not arbitrarily dole out "forgiveness indulgences" like so many lollypops.)

Back in the 80s, Jordan Greely knew that I could be trusted after we'd only talked for a brief time period about my desperate need for a piano where I could keep my chops in shape, and he actually gave me the key to the church, asking only that I respect their need for order with regard to other meetings there, and that I clean and lock the place each time before I left at the end of a practice session. Over the next year, I became very close to him and his wife, and when I heard that he had been assigned to another church, I openly wept. Now he's the pastor at Westfield Alliance Church ( Maybe I'll get to see him again one day, although we're currently at opposite ends of the continent.

I've had other similarly cherished relationships with pastors, and I count myself fortunate that I am now in what seems to be a good relationship with a Bellingham pastor named Matt Atkins (Pastor of Mosaic Church.)

But I have to be candid and say that I've also had to deal with my share of jerks. (Jerks for Jesus, I like to call them.)

There was the Springfield, MO pastor who actually called me "no better than a prostitute on the streets" because I dared to express disagreement with his policy of not paying musicians or even helping them with "love offerings" when they were struggling with the expenses which are a well known aspect of the lives of most Christian musicians, who are not usually "in it for the money".

There was the Chicago Bible study teacher who misquoted King David when David said he wouldn't "touch the head of God's anointed". (David was saying he would charitably refrain from murdering Saul, he wasn't saying he wouldn't even criticize Saul, for crying out loud.)

Pastors too full of themselves to read the Bible in the proper context can always find out a way to imply that they ought to be regarded as exempt from criticism, even though Jesus' criticisms of the spiritual leaders were pointed, to the point where he even drove out the money changers with a little whip! (Funny, I can't even recall using any such methods myself. But apparently we now live in a day and age when some pastors think it's appropriate to excommunicate people for committing the "offense" of criticm which is expressed via e-mail or voice mail messages.)

One online article I found which addresses this kind of arrogance in the name of faith can be found at, but I suspect that there are many others if I just wanted to take the time to look them up.

A position of church authority ought not to be regarded as a blank check to do anything one wants to do to members of "the flock". Jesus said "To whom much is given, much will be required."

If bad online reviews is the worst thing which happens to some abusive pastors, they ought to count themselves fortunate indeed.

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