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

Ten Things Churches Did That Blew Me Away In 2012

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When I post my annual Top Ten list of things I urge churches to address in the coming year, I inevitably hear from individuals complaining I never find anything right with the local church scene. Not true! The Church Visits blog is full of references to churches who do wonderful things for our community, resonating well with guests too. This week’s post summarizes Ten Things, for the year just ended that were superb, showing what Anchorage churches are capable of doing.

Robin Meyers’ Presentations at St Mary’s Episcopal
I, along with many others in our community, was challenged to think about the way we "do church" by Robin Meyers, pastor, author, and theologian. Author of The Underground Church, Meyers delivered strongly assertive thinking to reexamine the way our churches fulfill the mission of Christ, and what it would really be like to “do church” today as the early Christian church did. These forward-thinking but under-attended presentations were funded by the Caroline Pennimann Wohlforth Lecture Series.
Originally blogged here.

Ed Stetzer Presentations at ChangePoint
Pastor/Researcher Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeways Research, presented a research-driven message to all of ChangePoint’s services in September. His pointed messages about doing church and doing mission, were surprising to hear in Alaska’s largest church, or in any Anchorage church for that matter. It is uncommon to hear pastors challenge any aspect of doing church or doing mission in Anchorage and was refreshing to hear.
Originally blogged here.

Moravian Church Evening Meeting
I attended a Sunday evening singing meeting at the Anchorage Moravian Church early in 2012. What a feast of heartfelt singing and testimonies I've never heard in an Anchorage church! Pastor William Nicholson gave a brief but meaningful sermon as well. It seemed as though all members present participated once or twice during the service. If you want a real lift to your life, visit this church; you’ll never forget it.
Originally blogged here.

JBER Chaplains Providing Multi-Faceted Ministries
Chaplain Rick Cavens of the Alaska Air National Guard provided me with two Sunday opportunities to attend multiple worship sessions, a yellow ribbon event, and a commanders meeting. I was impressed with the caliber of the services, the interest and participation of the officers and enlisted men, and the caring attitudes of the entire staff of the chaplain’s office on behalf of the 1,400 personnel comprising the 176th Air Wing. Our service men and women are well cared for here. I’ll be blogging more of this story in an upcoming post.

Baxter Road Bible Church Gives to Anchorage!! Wow!
In December 2011, I became aware of a December giving program where this 350 member eastside church, motivated by Biblical principles and a love for God, gave all of its December church income, approximately $55,000, to local charitable causes. Under the theme “It’s Not Your Birthday”, they did it again this year, raising over $68,000 for causes such as Love, Inc., Gospel Rescue Center, Kid’s Kitchen, Northern Frontier Ministry, AWAIC, and more. God’s Spirit truly motivates this dedicated group of Christians. They don’t do much in the way of short-term missions. Instead individuals in the church send $150/month to native missionaries in India who support their entire family and ministry on these amounts for an entire year. Over 30 families of this church support a similar number of missionaries in India this way. That’s about the same amount each short-term missionary spends going abroad on a 2-week “mission trip”.
2011 Blogpost here 2012 Story yet to come.

Advent Reflections by 14 Anchorage Pastors
14 Anchorage pastors answered my call to share their thinking on the theme of Advent as an Antidote to Acquisitiveness or Consumerism. They were shared each day during 2012 Advent in this Church Visits blog. What beautiful writing and reflections from the heart were shared! They were made available in a free eBook last week and available by clicking here. Sad to say, many Anchorage “name” pastors did not respond to my requests, were too busy, or totally ignored my invitation to share. Another reason for this blog! But I thank God for this dedicated group of fine Christians who shared the contents of their hearts.

St. John UMC’s Vivaldi Gloria
Under the direction of Karen Horton, retiring long-time choir director and organist of St. John UMC’s choral department, a musical gift to the community was given for the last time. With a 35 voice choir, harpsichord, and 7 piece chamber orchestra, this free gift, beautifully rendered, shared Vivaldi’s praise to God, sung in Latin, but translated thematically means “Glory to God In the Highest”.

Gospel According to John Mark
This portrayal of John Mark touched my heart. Presented by Hope: worldwide and Great Land Christian Church, it was performed at the Wendy Williamson in March. As I’ve said many times before, some of the very best spiritual presentations in Anchorage are presented without broad multi-church support. Sadly, the audience that night was a mere shadow of what it truly deserved to be. I’ll never forget this performance which brought me into touch with New Testament events as related by a “first-person witness”.
Originally blogged here.

Caring Ministry of Christ Our Savior Lutheran
I found myself at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church many times this year. This under-attended South Anchorage church offers so much. A warm congregation and a pastor who cares is a good starter. The Superbowl Sunday service rocked my boat with its 4 quarters of worship service, cheerleaders, and closing anthem of “Dropkick Me Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life)”. Easter Sunrise Service was sparsely attended but rich with meaning. Foodstock’s IV and V brought evenings of folk entertainment, food and donations for Lutheran Social Services and friendly members getting better acquainted. Weekly, Pastor Dan Bollerud produces fabulous electronic church newsletters and 10W, a 10 minute dose of liturgy and music to give you that church connection if you missed church, or just need something spiritual to savor during your commute. I wish there were more Anchorage churches like this who built true community, have fun, nourish real relationships with God, and help the less fortunate in our community consistently.
Originally blogged here and here.

Dimond Grace Fellowship
My visit to this little church on the upper floor of the Dimond Center made a big impression on me. They had it all. Warm welcome, coffee and donuts, good music, a great sermon! It doesn’t take a multimillion dollar budget to “do church” in this town. It takes heart, a bit of caring, some talent, and people are being blessed. Their lives are being changed too! Dimond Grace Fellowship, I’ll never forget you. Try them. It works!
Originally blogged here.

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