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.

Follow my Church Visits posts on Twitter

Chris Thompson’s email: churchvisits@gmail.com

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

Great Land Christian - Awesome Revisit!

My History With GLCC
More than ten years ago, long before I began blogging Church Visits for ADN, I was witnessed to by a college age member of Great Land Christian Church while on a Seattle-Anchorage flight. She was most enthusiastic about so many aspects of GLCC, that I decided to take up her offer to attend a Sunday service.

I attended but was put off by the former pastor bragging about being out duck hunting that morning before coming to church. While I enjoyed many aspects of that early experience with GLCC, listening to killing ducks before church was not one of them. Years later I finally revisited GLCC (click HERE and HERE for blog posts of my previous visits). What I discovered was the same younger crowd, a capella singing, bible-based teaching, and friendly people. After outgrowing their Korean SDA Church meeting place of many years, GLCC has begun meeting at ASD's Central Middle School.

I attended GLCC's services last Sunday, October 27, as one of my local church revisit updates. To me, things have gotten even better at GLCC. They're friendlier, the music is still great, the preaching is inspired, and there are many more members.

Now these people don't know me, but I was approached by many members who greeted me, extending true Christian hospitality, without smothering me. This experience was truly rare among all the Anchorage church visits I make. In many churches I'm left with the feeling I'm a leper not to be touched, and certainly avoided. I effortlessly slip in and out without a nod or touch in many churches. If you're a regular reader you already know this.GLCC's Musical Team - Look Ma, No Instruments!GLCC's Musical Team - Look Ma, No Instruments!

Music the Way it Should be
The music was truly a delight; Just congregational singing led by a group of five singers on the platform. No 105+ decibel instrumental music to blast the eardrums as is so common in most Anchorage contemporary worship churches. At GLCC, it seemed as though everyone was singing, and...you could hear the words. The loud music at so many churches drowns out most individual's singing. Those who choose to sing the complicated rhythms and harmonies seem to be in "entertainment mode", carried along by the 30-45 minute standing concert. For the first time in years, it was enjoyable to sing in church, singing lyrics that made spiritual and theological sense without vain repetition of meaningless verses.

The songs sung were:

Run to the Fight
Jesus Will Fix It
Holy, Holy, Holy
Encourage My Soul
I Tried and I Tried
What a Fellowship
Whose Side Are You Fighting On?

Bulletins Anyone?
GLCC's bulletin (sheetlet) covered the basics of the service, including an Order of Service, announcements, and prayer requests. Many contemporary churches have pages and pages of fodder, but absolutely no information about what is going to occur at the service despite survey results showing members want more. Even though it was brief, I like what I got and what they are doing. It contained many of the basics those surveys indicate members want (click HERE for my recent post on bulletins).GLCC's Pastor Ray Nadon Making a PointGLCC's Pastor Ray Nadon Making a Point

Inspiring, Well-Delivered Sermon
Pastor Ray Nadon had a wonderful, encouraging sermon based on Luke 14. His observations about the tower in v.28 were excellent coupled with Christian admonition about counting the cost. He's a very good speaker with excellent stage presence, preaches extemporaneously, and makes the application clear. Too many of today's Christian preachers tiptoe around the information their position dictates they should be delivering to worshipers. Current research on church guests indicates they come to visit your church for mainly one thing; They want to know what you believe, i.e., your doctrine. No pussyfooting around at GLCC. It's too bad they don't record their sermons, and make them available to the public for replay. During Ray's sermon, people were busy taking notes and consulting their bibles, a sure fire indication of how much GLCC members immerse themselves in the word, a marked contrast to most other Anchorage churches. I've commented before on the sound of bible pages being flipped while Ray preaches. Last of all, I love to hear members shouting out words of encouragement to Ray or other participants during the service such as "Come on!", "Say it!", etc. It shows me these worshipers are hungry for participation and really enjoy their church-going experience.Notebooks and Bibles Evident during Pastor Nadon's SermonNotebooks and Bibles Evident during Pastor Nadon's Sermon

Suggestions
If I had any suggestions for GLCC, they would embrace putting true greeters at the front door instead of bulletin passers. There were no directional signs posted showing the way to the service, so I had to find my way. The entry is also an excellent place for a staffed guest table, but none was seen. The offering call did not offer guests a pass on the collection plate, a very guest-friendly gesture. With so much criticism about money in churches, this is an easy fix.

Communion was served very early in the service without comment. The early church considered communion to be a special ordinance reserved for those who clearly knew about the significance of the rite. Basically, nothing was said about communion, but that's the way it's always been when I've visited GLCC. It's in their DNA. There was a joyful baptism that day, a introduced by younger members who said nice things about the young man being baptized. Nothing was really said, however, about the rite of baptism, how it happens, and its significance in the Christian life. There were several references to concerns the young man might back out before the baptism which raised a red flag in my mind. Full immersion open water baptism has full credence according to scripture. I really didn't understand what happened Sunday at that baptism.

The website, being redone, is painfully short on the critical information GLCC needs to augment its community mission. It needs to be fixed immediately. The main things the public wants from a church website is (1) where do you meet, and (2) when? Neither of these were apparent on the initial splash screen.

Lots of Good Things at GLCC
On the whole, I can happily say this church is full of amazing people, doing amazing things, and practicing their faith in awesome ways. It tends to be a younger church, but there were grey hairs in evidence too. I give this church a hearty two thumbs up and highly recommend it to potential guests. As we're now in the church season of compelling members to pony up hefty dollars or pledges for the year to come, it must be reassuring for GLCC members to know a small weekly rental fee for the use of Central Middle School is going for a great cause, instead of payments for hefty mortgages, bricks and mortar, and upkeep for a really nice, underutilized facility.

If you want to know what happened to the 18-29 year-old "lost generation" we keep hearing about, go to GLCC. They're worshiping there. Keep up the good Christian work you do GLCC!

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