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

4th Advent 2013 – Anchorage Presbyterian Fellowship – Disappointing Visit

Earlier in 2013, I experienced an encouraging visit to Anchorage Presbyterian Fellowship, a breakaway group from one of Anchorages major churches, posting that visit HERE. I revisited APF on 4th Advent 2013, December 22, as I always emphasize visiting Advent observing churches during December.Candles at APF - 4th Advent 2013Candles at APF - 4th Advent 2013

Still meeting at UAA, APF had moved to a larger recital hall, but the group appeared to be about the same size. This time no one greeted me, so I picked up a bulletin, and walked inside. To get to my seat I walked across the front of the hall, in full sight of everyone present, taking a seat on the right side. I joined in and experienced AFP’s worship service. All five Advent candles were already lit. Surprisingly, nothing was said about any of them or the significance of 4th Advent. For a former Advent –observing group, it was a bit of a shock to discover they’d dropped the Advent emphasis. They also appeared to have dropped use of the lectionary, the chronicle of Biblical texts and observations used throughout the church year.Pastor Dave Bacher PreachingPastor Dave Bacher Preaching

The preacher that day was Rev Dave Bacher, one of ChangePoint’s ministerial staff. He delivered a fine sermon on the Parable of the Sower as described in Mark 4:1-20, titled “Four Types of People”. Although it was an excellent sermon, it did not tie to Advent in any way. Dave has been one of a number of visiting pastors APF has been using as interim preachers during their pastoral search. They were fortunate in assembling a number of good ones from various pastoral backgrounds and religions which appear to have served them well.

However, emanating from a major Anchorage church, APF members appears to have brought some of the same problems with them I formerly observed and blogged about, especially unfriendliness to guests. Their old church never demonstrated warmth or hospitality to me during any of my many previous visits. Churches that are warm and welcoming to guests generally have a track record of fast growth. This may be why it appeared the same number of worshipers were present during my 2nd visit to APF.

I hope their new pastor focuses on what makes a church outstanding and help APF members understand the value of extending oneself personally to guests as a church growth strategy.

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