I’m sure that all of us by now realize we live in a review-centric society. I’m sure that many of you reading this have left a review. While I don’t typically write reviews (I may have written one or two in the last 10 years) I do look at reviews on Amazon before making a product purchase—like my latest Hey Dude shoes 🙂 —as well as TripAdvisor or Yelp before trying a restaurant.
But what about reviews about churches? Should Christians write a review about a church? Moreover, how should Christians process reviews they read about churches?
These questions have risen over the years as I’ve read reviews of churches that I’ve pastored, churches that I’ve attended, and churches that I have looked up. While most reviews have been positive, my heart has been angered, grieved, and saddened one too many times over the kinds of negative reviews I’ve come across. Truthfully, I believe Christians can and should do better, which is what has prompted me to write this post.
Here are some guidelines or questions you should consider before posting that review about a church on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or other review platforms.
What do you have to say?
Before composing a review for a church, think to yourself, “What do I want to say?” Is it positive and encouraging? Is it constructive feedback? Is it negative? What does what you want to say reveal about what you think about church? Does it reveal that you see church the way you would see the local Burger King down the road?
Most people who post reviews do not think about what they want to say or how they will say it through the written word—they just write (say) it. Rather than it being well thought out and rational, many reviews tend to be emotional and experiential. For many, what they say or how their review is interpreted isn’t what they meant.
Another thought you might want to consider before writing a review—what would this review reveal about you? What you have to say reveals a lot about who you are.
Before leaving a review, remember words are weighty; therefore, think twice before writing a review once.
Why do you want to say it?
Go back to what you want to say. If you’ve at least given some consideration to what you want to say about one of the Lord’s churches, ask yourself this next question, “Why do I want to say it? In other words, what is your motive behind writing a review?
Do you want to encourage the church? Do you want to market or promote the church to others?
If you are wanting to post something negative, what’s the motive? Are you wanting to shame the church? Are you wanting to vent? Are you wanting to express your personal disappointment or discouragement how this church didn’t meet your need or your stylistic preference? Are you wanting to hurt the church and possibly her leaders? Are you wanting to warn others about theological concerns you have about this church?
For those wanting to post negative reviews, here are a couple of questions you might want to consider.
First, would the review be considered slander, filthy language (unhelpful, dirty, garbage, non-edifying), complaining, or grumbling? If so, you might want to reconsider the review especially if you are a Christian. The apostle Paul talks about not letting in unwholesome talk come out of our mouth (Ephesians 4:29) and to let our conversations be full of grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). These truths not only apply to the words we would use in-person but online as well.
Second, is leaving a review on a public platform the best medium for your message? If you’ve been hurt, or you feel like the church has wronged you, or if you’re mad at something the church has done—the best thing to do would be go to the church leaders first. It’s passive aggressive and cowardly to write a negative review without having reached out and voiced it to a church leader. The Bible is clear: if you have a problem with a brother or sister, go to them and let them know.
Especially for negative reviews, this may be a good exercise: pray before positing.
How important is it?
Before posting a review, ascribe to it a level of importance. In other words, how important is what you have written from a biblical perspective?
In the theological world we have theological topics that are given levels of importance. For instance, what we believe about the Bible, God (the Trinity), humanity, and salvation would be considered primary theologies. Theologies such as mode of baptism, communion (Lord’s Supper), church governance would be considered secondary theological issues. They are important, but they are not to the level of the theologies above. Then there are tertiary issues such as eschatological positions, models of church, styles of worship, dress, drinking alcohol, etc. Simply put, these are matters of personal conviction and preference.
For those leaving positive reviews. I do realize that many such reviews contain stylistic and methodological elements that you like. I would just encourage you, if possible, to tie those stylistic things you like to more substantive things. For instance, if you love the worship music your review might look something like, “The worship team is amazing. I love the songs they sing. What they do points me to Jesus.”
I would encourage anyone to refrain from leaving a bad review about a church because it doesn’t meet your tertiary issues of style or model. That would be like me going to a Vietnamese restaurant and leaving a bad review because I don’t like Vietnamese food. I don’t need to judge a place because of my personal taste buds. Don’t judge churches because they don’t meet your personal preferences.
Ultimately judgment against churches should be judged and reviewed from the perspective of our Savior rather than the personal preferences of sinners.
Would Jesus be pleased by it?
This last point shouldn’t need an explanation. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “Would Jesus be pleased by my review?” Or better yet, “Would Jesus write this review about one of His churches.” If Jesus wouldn’t write it, neither should you!
In short, let your Master moderate your message.
In closing, I’m all for people writing reviews on churches. Whether writing or reading reviews, Christians should think deeply about them in a way that honors Jesus and that protects, respects, and believes the best about His local churches.
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