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

Esteem for Clergy Low – Pew Research

Lastest Pew Forum Findings Not Encouraging for Clergy
Recently released Pew Research from the Religion and Public Life Project has disclosed discouraging results for clergy. Survey respondents were asked to rate whether or not ten professions contributed “a lot” to society’s well-being. The professions were Military, Teachers, Medical Doctors, Scientists, Engineers, Clergy, Artists, Journalists, Business Execs, and Lawyers.Pew Research - Clergy ContributionPew Research - Clergy Contribution

The military came out on top with over three-fourths (78%) of U.S. adults saying armed services members contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being. For clergy, only 37% felt clergy makes a big contribution to society. Regular churchgoers are more positive about clergy, but even among weekly church service attenders only 52 % rate clergy as contributing “a lot” to society. 29% rate clergy as making “some” contribution, and 11% say clergy contribute “not very much” or “nothing at all”. Click HERE to view this report on the Pew site or download the full report in PDF at the bottom of the page.Pew Research - Contribution Perception by Total GroupPew Research - Contribution Perception by Total Group

Gallup Poll Mirrors Pew
A Gallup poll released in November 2012 mirrored Pew results. In it they asked the question of respondents for various career groups, “Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, low, or very low?” Clergy was rated as being honest and ethical by only 52% of respondents.

What Do These Results Mean?
In my 5+ years of blogging about churches in Anchorage, and from my first-hand observations of churches and clergy, I believe low clergy contribution ratings may be influenced, in part, by:
• Sermons lacking in biblical educational value, even though studies indicate most church visitors show up at church to find out what a church believes, their doctrine. Often intensive book studies become the focus of sermons instead of clear, understandable, biblical instruction.
• Services jammed with musical entertainment, often longer than the sermon, entry level Christian sermons, lots of fluffy fillers, and little positive Christian education.
• Pastors trying to promote or recapture a new form of worship going back centuries, often filled with mysticism and attempts to recast scripture in new forms.
• Clergy supporting expensive short-term missions while failing to organize and lead members in addressing urgent local needs for our neighbors in need.
• Clergy dabbling in politics, social issues like gay rights, and digging far into social justice issues in an unbalanced manner.
• Huge financial requirements for expensive churches, large staffs to support them, but little-used over the course of a week.
• The pastoral position has become merely a job instead of a passion or calling.

In closing, national commenters point to many churches defecting from their roles in providing quality Christian education in a consistent manner. In reality, part of the blame extends to the family level for this. The church and pastor cannot work miracles where parents have abdicated their role in the home. This of course mirrors what we commonly hear in education. Many parents blame teachers and poor curricula, expecting teachers and schools to do the work they avoid.

Meanwhile seekers in America, overall, are migrating to a "spiritual but not religious" mindset. Often this means assembling a belief system from little pieces of a number of belief systems. A few pastors out there in U.S. Christendom are expertly addressing these issues but most aren’t. These results are especially hurtful for Alaska which ends up at the bottom of Pew Research in membership and attendance per capita vs. the rest of the U.S. I’m eager to hear what my readers think these numbers mean.

Public Esteem for Military Still High _ Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project.pdf126.13 KB

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