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

Easter Without the Trimmings at Cornerstone Church

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It’s always difficult for me to pick Easter services to attend as they are generally intended to be larger than life to satisfy the larger than normal crowd of worshipers, i.e. it’s not a normal form of worship.

Most churches find that Christmas Eve and Easter are their most attended days. I like a large boisterous service, because Easter is something to celebrate every day and every year. I enjoy being “Eastered”!

This year I decided to attend Easter services at Cornerstone Church, a church I’ve found to be dependable in effectively dealing with first time attendees as well with more established worshipers. I was thrilled they had parking attendants to guide cars to appropriate places to maximize their parking lot due to the multiple services that morning.

I received my customary warm greeting from Mary Bolin, but had to seek it out as some of the younger greeters at the doors scarcely took notice of me. Every church in Anchorage could benefit from having a greeter such as Mary at their doors. Sadly, few churches truly greet, unless you consider a handed worship guide or bulletin a good substitute.

Going into their sanctuary, I was struck by the conspicuous absence of any of the normal trimmings of Easter. Flowers and other reminders of the resurrection were totally absent, although I did notice a enormous crown of thorns hanging from the ceiling over the front rows. Menacing Crown of ThornsMenacing Crown of Thorns

Cornerstone’s music is performed by an excellent praise and worship group. They started on time and played for 25 minutes. It was difficult to know what they had planned for the service as their 12-page worship guide had no order of service in it. Instead, there were forms, announcements, and updates for their various ministries, but no clues as to the service. A highlight was the singing of a song by a choir composed of a huge number of the children.Cornerstone Children's ChoirCornerstone Children's Choir

Pastor Brad Sutter started preaching after 25-minutes. His sermon was well-thought out, and effectively delivered. Dealing with the resurrection, he quoted a number of biblical authorities and historians who attested the resurrection is the distinctive that sets Christianity apart from all other world religions. You can listen to his fine 45-minute sermon titled "Four Great Truths Seen in Christ's Crucifixion" by clicking here. Pastor Brad PreachingPastor Brad Preaching

Upon completion Sutter walked offstage invoking a sharing time for declarations of faith in the resurrection. Certain hand-picked individuals got up and walked onstage holding large boards with faith-based words on them. This continued until the stage was full of people and the boards. Phrases such as A NEW CREATION were displayed on one side and later turned around and RAISED was shown on the other. It was an effective display. Pastor Brad then asked individuals to respond by dealing with God, asking all to stand and respond appropriately. It was a kind of Altar Call, something I’ve never seen in this church. After Sermon SignsAfter Sermon Signs

The musical group concluded by playing and singing three more songs. It was a good service but just didn’t feel like Easter to me. Not one talked to me while inside the church auditorium which I considered a bit unusual. The normal Easter finery seen in other churches was not on display at Cornerstone. If you visit anytime, don’t overdress as they dress casually at Cornerstone; I only saw three ties and was also wearing one. Cornerstone is a good safe church to visit. I often recommend them, along with a few other great area churches, to people looking for a solid church. I still plan on recommending them in the future.

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