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Rev. Dan Safarik: Church satisfaction hard to determine

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Dan Safarik

Satisfaction is very subjective.

It’s a moving target companies spend billions to try to hit. Market surveys abound with phone calls to get our opinions. The American Consumer Satisfaction Institute polls thousands of people trying to get a snapshot of how satisfied we are with the 43 industries they work with.

Things that once were considered incredible can quickly lose their luster. Take flying for example. Manned flight is over 100 years old. Flying was considered impossible for a long time. Over 5,000 flights take off every day from airports in the United States alone. As amazing as flight is, the commercial airlines industry is usually near the very bottom of the 43 industries that are constantly evaluated.

An airline pilot really landed hard on the runway. It was quite a jolt. It was the captain’s job to greet people and thank them for flying with their airlines. No one mentioned the hard landing. Until the last passenger was left to still get off. It was a little elderly lady. She asked the pilot, ”Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?”

“Of course not,” he said.

The little old lady asked, “Did we land or were we shot down?”

Today we need to ask, “How satisfied are people with their churches?” If the church were one of the 43 industries polled regarding satisfaction, how would it do? For some churches the satisfaction level would be seriously low.

Take the church in Corinth, Greece. Paul wrote several letters to this church — First and Second Corinthians in the Bible. The letters could easily be subtitled “Christians Gone Wild.” Paul had to address a boatload of church dysfunctions. The church had people fighting for power, abusing the Sacraments, sleeping around, suing each other and marriages melting down. If a survey went around the church, chances were the members would have rated it just above the Department of Motor Vehicles and just below jury duty. It was a mess.

When you lift the hood on many congregations today, you’ll see leaks and cracks, you’ll hear thumps and rattles. All of us today need to hear what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in First Corinthians 1:1-9. In this passage, Paul reminds the Corinthians of three reasons why he is so thankful for and satisfied with their church. To Paul, the Corinthian church was still something to marvel over because it had three things: grace, gifts and a guarantee.

First, grace. What makes a body of believers great is not the great things done by them, but the great mercy shown to them. Paul was overjoyed for the gift of faith and the flood of forgiveness that washed over them.

Second, gifts. In this passage, Paul says they were not lacking in any gifts. (v. 7) I like the way the author of my Homiletics Magazine put it. “Sure, every church is a ragtag bunch of broken believers. But God promised it’s also gifted and equipped to be the church.”

Third, guarantee. Paul found great joy in the struggling church because of the bright and glorious future guarantee to each and every dysfunctional but deeply loved church member.

Prayer: Our Lord, we’re glad to know even churches in the Bible had struggles. Help us to see the grace, gifts and guarantees in our home church. Amen.

The Rev. Dan Safarik retired as a full-time pastor at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lincoln and now serves part time at St. Mark’s UMC in Lincoln. Email him at

The Rev. Dan Safarik serves St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lincoln. Email him at


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