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

Two Theater Churches Failed Me Today

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Theater Churches
A church trend across the U.S. I really like and generally endorse is the practice for start-up churches to rent space in movie theaters to conduct their worship services in them.

Some of these churches have become so popular they hold many services on the weekend, and have members in the thousands. The advantages of these churches is they’re not hard to find, have lots of parking, and do not require the pricey mortgages so many members hate to take on. Rather these church's income is used to pay for clergy, and to become involved with practical local and foreign missions.

Church #1 - Confusion at C3
Chugach Covenant Church [C3] meets at Muldoon 8, the esteemed 2nd run, low-priced theater in East Anchorage. I showed up this morning at 9:55 to attend their 10 a.m. service. Entering through a knot of 10-15 people at the entrance, many in black C3 t-shirts, only one person said “good morning” to me.

There was an even larger crowd in the lobby with no direction and lots of kids. Once again, no one recognized or talked to me. It appeared they were waiting for something. At 10:07 the crowd was told to go to Theater 3 where someone flipped on, front and rear, blinding halogen emergency lights. (See pictures below) At this time, the crowd of thirty or forty was told this was what the pastor hoped would be C3’s annual day of caring. They were told their mission was going to Alaska Native Charter School to unload pallets of supplies for teachers followed by a potluck. C3 Crowd Waiting in Muldoon 8 LobbyC3 Crowd Waiting in Muldoon 8 Lobby
Dark Theater - Glaring Light - Muldoon 8 Theater 3Dark Theater - Glaring Light - Muldoon 8 Theater 3

I couldn’t recall seeing a notice on C3’s website about this day of caring, so checked it again and still could find no reference to it. (See pictures bottom of post) To eliminate confusion, churches should post any non-normal church activity prominently on their website in advance. Not every guest to this church would be able or interested for such an activity, no matter how worthy it is, and might give a visit a pass until a "normal" service.

Unfortunately, C3 clearly lacks in guest greetings and hospitality, something a start-up church avoids at all costs. I generally do not recommend churches that are inhospitable to guests. Guests decide in 5-8 minutes whether they would make a 2nd visit to a church.

Church #2 – Resonate…Missing in Action
After the unfortunate experience at C3, I figured I could catch the Resonate Church 10 a.m. service. They meet at the Regal Tikahtnu Stadium 16 after recently moving from Creekside Elementary School. I got there just around 10:20 a.m. Inquiring of where Resonate met, the ticket taker pointed to a table (see picture below) with literature on it and said there had been someone there. I left my card on the table and went home. Whatever buzz Resonate has been trying to generate to attract the public failed me this morning.Resonate Church - Empty Guest Table at TikahtnuResonate Church - Empty Guest Table at Tikahtnu

Moral of the Story
Starting a new church is hard work. It takes a strong devotion to the Word of God, a strong caring ethic, and a willingness to connect with members and guests. Neither of these two churches showed their pastors or members were willing to extend themselves to this end. I’m further amazed with the number of Anchorage churches whose pastors have never said a word to me, a casual visitor who becomes a one-time visitor. Usually in these churches the members emulate the pastor’s attitude to visitors as well.C3's Website - Mainpage - No Notice of Day of Caring - #1C3's Website - Mainpage - No Notice of Day of Caring - #1C3's Website - Mainpage - No Notice of Day of Caring - #2C3's Website - Mainpage - No Notice of Day of Caring - #2C3's Website - Mainpage - No Notice of Day of Caring - #3C3's Website - Mainpage - No Notice of Day of Caring - #3

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