Mystery Worshipers Go Online |

TBC Staff

'Mystery worshippers' go online [Excerpts]

The help-wanted ad going live this week on Craigslist might raise some eyebrows. If not tempers.

"Need people who aren't Christians to review church service," it says.

It goes on. "Who: Age 20-35. Do not currently believe Jesus Christ is God. Not mad at Christians.

"What: Attend a church service (anonymously) and complete a survey."

The pay for this odd job? $50. To go, once, to the Sunday service at North Sound Church in Edmonds and rate it on everything from whether the music is tedious to if the sermon seems sincere.

It's the inspiration of Jim Henderson, a Seattle evangelical Christian, former pastor and self-described "spiritual anthropologist" who says it's past time Christians found out "what our true customers really think."

"We say it's our mission to reach out, including to nonbelievers," Henderson, 62, says. "So why would we not want them to tell us what they think of our efforts to influence, change or even convert them?"

His Web site is free and open to believers and doubters alike, to say whatever they want. You can post reviews and one- to five-star ratings of churches…

A church in Everett got one star because someone found the pastor too self-absorbed.

"All his stories are centered around his perfect life," it says, citing a "perfect blonde wife" and Hallmark kids. "And if we sign up for Jesus, we'll be perfect, too. Uhhhh ... is this really what Jesus told you to do?"

About a Kirkland church: "The service feels like a late night talk show gone bad."

And at a Seattle church, a whiff of scandal: "Moved my family when pastor and his wife had marital problems, which divided the church. Church fell apart."

Henderson had to take the site offline for a time because of "slanderous stuff about some pastors." He relaunched a few months ago with more stringent monitoring.

(Westneat, “'Mystery worshippers' go online,” Seattle Times, February 6, 2010).