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

Central Christian Disappoints -- BIG TIME!

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This church disappointed me in the following ways:
-Wrong service time posted on website (and still is as of 4/2/13) although alerted 1 1/2 wks ago
-Pastor outrageously referred to Communion as only the SNACK, while the after church BBQ was the real meal
-Interested in Anchorage numbers only: projected 24,000 members which is similar to Vegas
-Little reference to scripture
-No acknowledgement of Palm Sunday
-Huge mention of the after church entertainment for the kids on Easter.

I've been a big fan of the messaging in the videos released by Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Recently I was told Central Christian had opened a satellite church in Anchorage because many of their Las Vegas demographics mirror our own community. Looking them up on the internet, I discovered they were meeting Sundays at Dimond High.

The Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, found me trudging through the snow to the Dimond High multipurpose room for the 10:30 service, the time posted on the internet. No one greeted me as I walked in. Noting several people setting up children's church, I asked someone where the adults met and was shown the direction. A musical group was practicing at fairly high sound levels. Few people were in the audience. After about 15 minutes a woman came by, introduced herself, and asked me a number of questions about myself. First visit, how I heard about them, etc.? I asked why church was late and she said it didn't start until 11:00. After telling her their website said it started at 10:30, she said that changed months ago and she would tell someone about it. The picture below was just captured on my iPhone this afternoon from Central's website.Central Christian Website Wrong Service TimeCentral Christian Website Wrong Service Time

The service was heavy on Central's own evangelistic activities, and very light on the gospel other than to emphasize they were open to anyone, regardless of where the person's life was. The pastor seemed nervous and his language appeared somewhat unrefined. For instance, he spoke of doing services for the "guys" at Hiland Correctional Center, interesting as it's a women's facility. Could have been for the guards but he didn't say. The audience was a younger crowd, of 50 or so people. Average age was 25-30.

There's very heavy reliance on electronics here which failed as they started to run a key video. The band was ok but it was announced they were from Las Vegas too. Las Vegas is obviously investing heavily in this enterprise. The format appears to be 3 weeks of video sermons by Las Vegas pastor Judd Wilhite and 1 week live sermons by a local pastor as a typical month of Sundays.

When the pastor finally got around to his sermon or remarks, he focused on Communion. He did use a few verses from Corinthians in support and then to my surprise, announced Communion by saying it was the SNACK! And...that the real meal would be the BBQ after church!

I spoke with a friendly gentleman after church and registered a few concerns, something I rarely do after a church visit. I mentioned the website church times issue and the scripture light service. He said the pastor was young and new, and that he was better in a 1 on 1 basis.

I do not think this church will achieve much traction in the Anchorage church market, as it is purely Christianity lite. In all my years of officially blogging church visits, I've never heard one of the central ordinances of God's church referred to as a SNACK. I hope I never do!

Most churches acknowledge Holy Week, and surely Palm Sunday, even if they do not observe it. This was Palm Sunday but Central made no reference to it. They did mention Easter Sunday and festivities, especially for the kiddies. But it's a package. People need to hear the whole story, not just Easter but the events leading up to it.

Oh, and no one spoke to me as I left when church dismissed around noon. I trudged out in the snow to my car and felt my time had been poorly spent visiting this church. I wonder if any other visitors have felt the same thing?

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