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

Crosspoint Community Church Revisit – May 11, 2014

Sunday, May 11 found me entering Crosspoint Community Church for a revisit. My last visit to Crosspoint was posted over 5 ½ years ago. That visit review can be accessed HERE . When I have a less than satisfying visit, longer intervals creep into my revisits. This of course is what happens to church guests with unsatisfactory visits, except they’re unlikely to ever revisit. My revisits sometimes feel like a tedious job, but occasionally I find there have been miraculous changes in congregational behaviors.

What Greeting?
The sole door greeter cheerily greeted me with “Happy Mother’s Day”, an unhappy reminder my mother is no longer here, passing several years ago. In need of a strong cup of coffee, I went to their coffee stand and paid for an Americano with a couple of espresso shots. The nice woman working the stand basically said nothing to me, a missed vital connection to the church. I was reminded of this humorous video where coffee and churches was linked. For a good, but introspective laugh, watch it: If Churches Marketed Like Starbucks.

Conspicuous Seat
Going in and finding a front row seat in order to be conspicuous to the congregation, I sat a couple of chairs away from the pastor. At no time did he greet or acknowledge me. Crosspoint Praise Group Performing - May 11, 2014Crosspoint Praise Group Performing - May 11, 2014

Whatever Became of "We Invite You to Stand and Join Us in Praise to God in Song"?
The service started a few minutes late with the command “Please stand up”. This church believes that you must stand for the music. The praise group of seven worked their way through seven songs while we were standing. As with my previous visit, they were basically unsmiling through their music set, as if they were doing a job instead of conveying Good News. Many in the congregation were not singing, just listening. The sound level was initially 85-100 db but at the end was consistently hitting 105 db. That’s a bit loud for any music in a confined space.

My Mother is Gone
The audience was then told to say Happy Mother’s Day to those around you. A little general for me, considering many were not mothers or had lost their mothers.

All Were Asked to Give
The morning offering was taken and no one was excepted from giving. Excepting guests from giving is one of the most guest-friendly actions any church can do, but one I rarely hear. Asking for money turns out to be one of the greatest turn-off’s for guests.

Sermon Impersonal
Pastor Dave Van Berkel delivered the sermon. You can listen to it HERE. Be sure to select May 11 as the sermon date. Warning, any clips he played cannot be heard as the sound is not tied into the recording. This was sermon 3 in a series called 'Transformed'. Van Berkel was tied to his notes and it didn't seem as though he was talking to me. Essentially the sermon was a meditation based on Psalm 23. One good thing was that he spoke of the Sabbath in a detailed manner, a first for my 15 years of living in Anchorage and attending local churches. Van Berkel’s sermon ran 35 minutes.

Sole Contact Departing
Leaving the church, no one said anything to me except Pastor Dave Kuiper who has gone on to other roles in the community. During my two visits, Pastor Kuiper was the only one who spoke to me both times. One might conclude this is an unfriendly church not eager for guests. I suspect it will be another five years or so before I visit this church again.

Website Needs Work
Their website is functional, containing scrolling marquees, but no information about where they worship without scrolling to the bottom of the page and finding it inconspicuously hidden in tiny print down there, hard to read. If one does not know how to enlarge web pages, they wouldn't know where to go. Two things every potential guest wants to know is where to meet and when. The "when" is supplied by one of the scrolling marquee pages but the "where" is not. This could and should be quickly remedied.

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