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

Lenten Reflection: By Non-Observing Pastor

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I asked a couple of Anchorage pastors, who do not traditionally observe Lent, to share their thoughts about Lent. Some warm, insightful, and surprising words are being received from them.

Rick Benjamin, former Sr. Pastor at Abbott Loop Community Church, and currently Director of Organizational and Spiritual Wellness at Hope Community Resources is the first to share his thoughts.
Pastor Rick BenjaminPastor Rick Benjamin

A Lenten Reflection from a “Non-Lenter”

Our church and my heritage are in the Protestant/Evangelical/Pentecostal tradition of the Christian faith. We did not follow the liturgical calendar; we didn’t even have services on Good Friday. I remember hearing expressions like “I gave it up for Lent,” but I had no real understanding what it was all about.

One spiritual discipline that was similar to Lent was fasting and prayer. For many years, every Wednesday was our church’s day of fasting, and we began most New Year's with three-day church-wide fasts. Many important decisions in our church’s history, and in my own life, came out of times of dedicated prayer and fasting.

Along the way God has blessed me with many new friends and colleagues in the broader body of Christ. Through these relationships I became aware and intrigued by the liturgical calendar and Lent in particular. I learned that Lent was based on the 40 days Jesus fasted in the Gospels. I learned that Lent was similar to fasting, sort of an extended semi-fast, and a time of self-denial and preparation for Resurrection Sunday.

So several years (but not every year) I have followed the discipline of Lent. I drink Diet Coke every day, so that was an obvious choice for self-denial. From Ash Wednesday till Easter, every time I thought of a Diet Coke, I prayed “Lord, I am glad to give this up for you,” and then go into a brief time of prayer with him. In the first few weeks especially, this would happen many times every day! My prayer life definitely increased during these seasons. Then after church on Easter, I bought a 52-ounce Diet Coke and rejoiced in the Lord! I learned that Lent is actually 47 days (not just 40), because it includes seven Sundays, which are not counted because every Sunday is a Resurrection Day.

I have benefitted from Lent, even though my understanding and observance are admittedly incomplete. And to all the other “non-lenters” like me out there, I suggest you give Lent a try. But you’ll have to wait till next year.

Thank you Pastor Rick for your insightful words. I'm beginning to see other non-Lent observing denominations or churches examine the benefits of observing Lent. Before Lent ends, we'll hear from a few other community pastors, like Rick, who enjoy the discipline Lent offers believers.

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