Church Visits

Visiting Churches: Chris Thompson (stainedglass) is an amateur Alaskan biblical scholar and student of religion, especially as it relates to popular culture. He regularly attends national and regional American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature events to interact with and learn from worldwide religion scholars. Through unannounced mystery visits to churches in Anchorage and South-Central Alaska, he observes how guests (visitors) are treated during this initial church visit. Research indicates guests first visit perceptions affects further spiritual growth and religious attitudes as they search for a church home. Chris' church visits focus primarily on Christian churches. This blog contains accounts of those visits, and related posts about religion in culture. Chris looks for the following in his visits:

•Genuine welcome, true Christian hospitality

•Friendliness and warmth

•Effective, well-delivered, Bible-based, main teaching

•Music deepening the worship, not just entertainment

Google map of churches Chris Thompson has visited.

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Significant 2013 Church Visits Posts

Top Ten Issues Local Churches Must Address in 2013

Ten Things Churches Did That Blew Me Away In 2012

Guest Post: Why Theology Matters to Musicians

Church Visits: What's it like visiting a church with a guest-friendly service? - 7/5/2014 2:08 pm

Church Visits: 10 excuses people give for not attending church - 6/28/2014 11:21 am

Church Visits: Religious pluralism in Alaska here to stay - 6/21/2014 8:28 am

Church Visits: Welcoming churches can reverse attendance slump - 6/14/2014 9:21 am

Crosspoint Community Church Revisit – May 11, 2014 - 6/13/2014 1:44 pm

Church Visits: 5 easy ways to increase your biblical literacy - 6/7/2014 5:23 pm

Church Visits: Cardinal Dolan discusses the pastoral challenges facing Pope Francis - 5/31/2014 1:07 pm

Beast Feast: Great Food and Conversation - 5/30/2014 10:10 pm

ChangePoint Hosts Ed Stetzer - Noted Church Growth Expert

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September 23, 2012 found me at ChangePoint in response to an invitation to hear author, researcher, pastor Ed Stetzer of Nashville.

Stetzer's primary responsibility is Vice President of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the world's largest Christian Resource Providers, and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville.Ed StetzerEd Stetzer

I'll spare readers the pain of my description of ChangePoint's lengthy and loud (105+ db*) musical service which I've commented upon before, except to note the first of five musical selections, " I Am a Friend of God", lasted 8-10 minutes.

Stetzer, in town at the request of the local Southern Baptist Convention to do a training conference, spoke with a strong message titled Engaging All Gods People in Mission. He opened his remarks with a reading from 1 Peter 4 using it as a template for his remarks.

He shared that according to a study of 7,000 churches, most people who come to church are passive spectators rather than active participants in the mission of God, further noting that in large churches many people come for the 'show' but don't come for the 'serve'. They come to watch but not to be a part. "God has called all to be a part of meaningful ministry and mission", he said. These are brave remarks and would likely get him driven out the pulpit in some Anchorage churches I've visited.

Stetzer followed this up with four key points.

1. All have gifts. 1 Peter 4 v. 10
He cautioned serving won't make you a Christian but that Christians serve. Citing the 80/20 rule he observed that 80% of the work of the church is done by 20% of the people. Noting that large churches like ChangePoint can fill up the church with customers or consumers, who consume religious goods and services. He pointed out that his is not what this verse says. Each is given a gift to use, but the "passage and practice are not aligned". Churches set clergy apart from the laypeople. He further opined that when churches build theater-like spaces to worship in, we should not be surprised if people act like 'show goers'. Our language, terminology, and worship places work against this Biblical principle of God-given gifts.

2. God intends all to use these gifts. 1 Peter 4 v. 10 - 2nd part
All called to the ministry. Where and among whom is your ministry? God has called you to be a co-laborer not customer at ChangePoint, good managers of the grace of God. What does it look like to be a missional community in the service of God? Don't have the attitude that you come to pay, pray, and stay out of the way so other people can do the work.

3. For which he empowers us. 1 Peter 4 v. 11
Gift of the Holy Spirit empowers our speech, a spiritual gift. All believers are chosen, gifted, and called. We are to speak AND to serve by the strength God supplies. Too many people are riding in the wagon instead of pulling it.

4. To bring God glory. 1 Peter 4 v. 11 - 2nd part
The church should be filled by people who are gifted by God and are using those gifts for his glory. God has called all of you to make a difference for His kingdom. We can't do it under our own power. God will provide the strength. 80% of people are spending their time being the object of the ministry. God is to be glorified by the use of these gifts in service.

To listen to this entire well-delivered Bible-based message, click HERE and select the September 23 message.

My brief synopsis here does not give just attention to Stetzer's remarks and delivery. Please take the time to listen to this well-delivered and much-needed sermon. I applaud ChangePoint's courage in asking Stetzer to speak. Some mega-churches in America are experiencing significant declines, due in part to many of the issues Stetzer outlined. Whatever you think about ChangePoint, I feel they are a brave church to address this very real and thorny issue. Virtually every church in Alaska has this problem.

* At the ABBA and Anchorage Symphony performance last night at the PAC, I took a sound meter reading during a typical rock number. It was 95 db! 2,500 concert goers were hearing the music perfectly at significantly lower and less punishing levels than many Anchorage churches deliver every Sunday.

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