Tag Archives: Cornerstone

Church Signs Tell Strong Stories…Or Do They? Part 1

I’ve written about church signage in Anchorage several times over the years. When I was being published in the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage Daily News), I was unable to get my photos of church signs included with my columns. I’ve decided to regularly give examples of great signs and those needing improvement. Signs are needed to identify your church, service times, and hopefully your website where more information about the church can be found. They should be readable when passing at the posted speed limit for that roadway. It is not necessary to put the name of the pastor on church signs, a vanity sign of bygone days.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral – Wisconsin Sign

I enjoy visiting Catholic services and find them of value to people of that faith and others. Many Catholics and Catholic clergy are close personal friends of mine. While the sign in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an improvement from the previous sign, it still cannot be read by someone driving by at the posted speed limit. It’s unfortunate it’s not posted perpendicular to their beautiful cathedral. It also contains too much information to digest. This information should be available by referring to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s website, the address of which is missing from the sign.

Faith Christian Community – Wisconsin Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two blocks south of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Faith Christian Community’s sign is simple, can easily be read on both sides while passing at the posted speed limit. It contains worship times and the church website address. I’m always amazed how efficiently and inexpensively this church has used the same sign for dozens of years to great effect.

Cornerstone Church – Seward Highway (Brayton Drive entrance)

For many years, Cornerstone Church has prominently displayed their sign along Brayton Drive and the Seward Highway. Easily viewed when passing at 65 mph, their signage is often changed as the seasons dictate, e.g. Easter, Christmas, etc. What a cost-effective and efficient way to communicate their presence, website, and service times to travelers on a busy thoroughfare.

Churches need not dedicate tremendous sums of money to have effective signage.

Chris Thompson
churchvisits@gmail.com

 

Three church visits on the first Sunday in Advent

Last Sunday was the first in the season of Advent. That morning I visited three churches along the O’Malley Road corridor. In last Saturday’s column, I mentioned that not all churches observe Advent, and on Sunday, I set out to visit several services to see what different congregations do during this liturgical season.

Amazing Grace Lutheran Church

My visits to Amazing Grace over the years have been satisfying, providing deep spiritual experiences. This time of year they offer three services: 8:15, 9:30 and 11 a.m. The sanctuary was decorated with white poinsettias, especially massed around a rough-hewn altar. An Advent wreath with four blue candles and one white one was positioned on the left. A trimmed Christmas tree was on the right side. Five banners hung from the large sanctuary cross, each spelling out one letter of the word “peace.”

The gathering song was “Prepare the Royal Highway,” a message of waiting for the Messiah. Not all music was traditional Advent music, but it offered distinctly strong theology.

The Advent candle for the day was lit early in the service, which was strongly liturgical; the first and second Gospel readings were from Luke 1, while the third reading was from Luke 2. Pastor Adam Barnhart’s message explored the readings from Luke within a personal story about how he asked his wife to marry him.

Communion was celebrated with the entire congregation present in a circle around the altar. At the conclusion of the Holy Eucharist, he prayed for all while hands were joined. Amazing Grace has always underscored the amazing grace we have. I enjoyed my visit immensely.

Cornerstone Church

My visits to Cornerstone have been pleasant and memorable. I especially enjoy the Rev. Brad Sutter’s preaching and I was welcomed warmly by greeter Mary Bolin. The 9:30 a.m. service started with the church’s talented praise band. They sang five contemporary Christian songs for about 40 minutes before the sermon. I felt the group’s volume — about 100-105 decibels, like many contemporary praise band churches — was unnecessary. Churches are responsible for the well-being of their congregants, and loud music threatens to damage listeners’ hearing. Congregational singing was drowned out, a common occurrence with loud church music. I estimated about half the congregants were not singing or were merely mouthing the words, in contrast with Amazing Grace, where everyone sang. The music was no different from any other time of year, with no Advent or pre-Christmas messages.

Sutter’s sermon was based on Romans 12:6-8, dealing with the gifts of grace. He noted he was following an outline he’d used before. Although well-delivered, it seemed repetitive and ran much longer than I expected. I had to leave before his remarks were completed to attend an 11 a.m. service in a nearby church. To watch his sermon, go to akcornerstone.org and click on “sermons.” Cornerstone does not observe the Advent tradition. When I asked Sutter, the church pastor, about this, he said, “We are flexible regarding the Sundays leading up to Christmas each year. Last year, during each of the Sundays of Advent, we did focus on a theme related to Christ’s coming.” This year, Sutter said, the church plans to explore the theme “Why Did Jesus Come?” over a series of services in December.

Christian Church of Anchorage

I attended Christian Church of Anchorage after hearing they planned to sing hymns. Indeed, when I arrived just after 11 a.m., they were singing hymns. Six hymns and a sending song were sung during the service. A group of four women, two men (one with a guitar) and pianist helped bring them alive. Unlike Cornerstone, you could clearly hear people joining in and singing these hymns. It was a pleasant experience and included some of the most recognizable music I’d heard that day.

The Rev. Deryl Titus’ sermon was based on the “60 Days of Celebration,” and drew from Matthew 1:18-25.

“Since Thanksgiving and Christmas are only a day each and they come and fade so rapidly, I chose to use the whole months of November and December” for the 60 days of celebration theme, Titus wrote in a subsequent note. “Every week we are realizing how to celebrate not two days but two months.”

At the conclusion of his sermon, Communion was served. I was greeted before and after service by a number of people. While not an Advent service, it offered symbolism prefiguring Advent. The service and sermon can be watched on the church’s website.

This trio of services on the first Sunday of Advent made for an interesting mix. I’d be interested in hearing about your Advent experiences.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, churchvisits.com.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, emailcommentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

The changing ways churches use websites

Since moving to Alaska 15 years ago, I’ve seen Anchorage’s faith community rapidly adopt digital media — especially in the past five to seven years. Some churches have been slow adopters, a frustration to those who stay current with technology. Others have rushed headlong into digital media trying to adopt everything in sight with no clear strategy for doing so. A few churches have meaningfully adopted digital media, adeptly providing clear benefits to members and visitors. This column today explores the growing importance of one type of such media — church websites — locally.

Church websites provide basic church information and are an important digital medium. A 2012 Duke University study found only 55.7 percent of U.S. congregations had websites. Today, it’s estimated that closer to 60 to 65 percent have websites. Even in Anchorage there are a number of churches without websites or with only a minimal presence via a mention on their national denominational websites. Churches without websites, nationally and locally, tend to be smaller, and fewer in members.

Three years ago, Grey Matter Research in a study of church website use revealed a number of key findings. They noted three types of visitors to church websites: those who attend that church, those who regularly attend services but at other congregations and those who do not attend services regularly in any congregation.

What church website visitors look for is revealing. Most frequently (43 percent) they look for times of services. Twenty-nine percent are looking for activities offered, such as youth groups, studies or events. Twenty-eight percent looked for maps or church location. Twenty-six percent watched streaming video, and 26 percent listened to streaming audio. Twenty-two percent were checking out the church’s beliefs, 18 percent were requesting prayer and 15 percent downloaded a podcast. The study authors noted that the most basic items looked for, time of worship and location or map, were missing in approximately half of the church websites checked in sample areas of Memphis, Tennessee and Grants Pass, Oregon. The same is true in Anchorage. I’ve written about it many times.

The study also noted that, in the previous 12 months, more than 17 million adults who do not regularly attend worship services visited the website of a church or other place of worship. In other words, if churches don’t do a great job on their websites, they won’t be found or visited — both a huge challenge and wonderful opportunity.

I’ve visited and written about St. Benedict’s Catholic Church several times. From the first time I looked at their website (www.stbenedictsak.com), it made sense. Commonly sought items are there, on their main website page: service times, location, youth ministry information, bulletin and homily podcasts are all there and constantly up-to-date. Also included are statements about what they believe. It’s clean, functional and certainly satisfies demand for the commonly searched information noted previously. It does not have all the bells and whistles some contemporary Christian churches add to make their websites look extremely modern.

Another church website providing much of what website visitors look for is Baxter Road Bible Church’s (www.baxterroad.org). It’s clean, high-energy and refreshing. Recently updated, it provides worship times, location, sermon replays and information about activities, all on the first page. Like St. Benedict’s, BRBC also allows members to contribute online. This rapidly growing church has used their website to provide much of the same information for years, but have changed the look and feel to enhance its utility.

Cornerstone Church (www.akcornerstone.org/) has maintained an excellent, current website for years. They are also one of the few churches that allow visitors to watch recent sermons. If a website doesn’t offer watching, a church might still provide a way to listen to a recent sermon. A growing number of Alaska churches now offer apps for the iPhone or Android platforms. Cornerstone’s app offers the ability to listen to sermons or download them. Some church apps only allow you to listen. Few church apps currently offer the ability to watch sermons. I’ll deal with the benefits of church apps in a future column in this series. Clearly, apps are a powerful tool, for much more than just listening to sermons.

If you are a prospective visitor looking for a church, I suggest looking for the following things on church websites. First, look for location and service times. Driving is time-consuming and costs money. Try to locate a congregation that might satisfy your needs in the immediate vicinity. If you do become involved in that church, you are more apt to enjoy a wide array of activities if you live closer to it. That first visit is also a lot closer so you’re more apt to go. Next, peruse their statement of beliefs, which should be located on their first page or one click away from it. Does it align what you are looking for? A virtual visit might be a good next step. You should be able to listen to or watch a recent sermon. Sermons are important as they occupy one-third to one-half of the time of an average church visit.

The churches and websites mentioned above illustrate a cross-section of churches in Anchorage that offer the information on which visitors can rely when seeking a church. There are many churches not offering enough quality information through their websites to allow potential guests an opportunity to assess them for a visit. No slight was intended by not mentioning other churches. I believe each of the mentioned churches do a great service by providing quality websites for potential guests, and for their members. The aforementioned study addressing members says, “Among online Americans who attend worship services once a month or more, 28 percent have visited their own congregation’s website in the last thirty days, 44 percent have done so in the past six months, 57 percent have done so in the past year, and a total of 68 percent have done so at some point while attending that place of worship.”

Happy churching!

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

Alaska church apps can have huge impacts – 9/20/14

Apps have revolutionized the ways we access information, play games, or use various utilities to change and improve our lives. Churches have adopted this rich technology. Alaska churches were not the earliest adopters of apps but have jumped in nevertheless.

In July 2008, over 800 apps were available for the iPhone. As of September, that number had exploded to 1.3 million. A much smaller number of apps are available for Android devices. Alaska churches with apps report the majority of their downloads are for the iPhone app. Using the search term “church” in Apple’s iPhone App store, 2,199 apps are found. Some are Bible apps, but the majority are apps for churches across the U.S.

Early Alaska Church App Adopters

On April 20, 2011, Adam Legg, ChangePoint’s creative arts and communications pastor, showed me the functionality of their just-released app. Adam was excited about this huge step forward. I was astounded at the range of information ChangePoint now provided with this new app, and its potential to expand their ministry far beyond their walls. It offered replays of sermons, an online Bible, blogs, church calendars, schedules and more. Adam showed me app download numbers and hours of use by users.

In the years since, a slowly growing number of Alaska churches have seen potential in releasing apps. Currently, 10 Alaska churches have their own apps. Churches as far south as Juneau and far north as Fairbanks have adopted this exciting technology, but most are Anchorage-area churches.

Another early adopter of this exciting technology was Anchorage’s TrueNorth Church. TrueNorth’s app was designed locally by Michael Blakeny of Acts 1:8 Technology. Blakeny also functions as a youth minister at Grandview Baptist Church. Commenting on the app, TrueNorth’s Pastor Brent Williams shared “Our app enhances our ministry by making the gospel accessible to a culture entrenched in technology. We are a culture on the move. The app allows those inside the church and those not yet a part of the church to stay connected to the weekly teaching and updates of True North Church.” Initially, I was surprised that a smaller, fairly new church like TrueNorth Church had deployed this amazing technology, when most churches, especially large ones, don’t deploy it, citing cost, and concerns this technology is not here to stay. Now I fully understand the wisdom of Williams’ statements.

ACF Church in Eagle River was also an early adopter. The Rev. Brian Cook noted the app’s popularity with ACF military members. “We have a high military population at our church. The app is one of the key ways deployed church members follow ACF Church,” says Cook. “Our app is intended to give people ‘one touch’ access to life at ACF Church.” he added, “one of many ways we use technology to help members engage in our community.”

Anchorage City Church released their app close to two years ago. Melissa Parkhouse, who oversees their app and church website development, was most pragmatic about why City Church deploys an app. “A 2013 study stated that 74 percent of cellphone users in the USA use smartphones, and predicted 2014 would see that number rise to 80 percent. One would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a cellphone these days, so a smartphone app is a simple way for us to connect with people on a platform they are already using,” she said. (http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/study-u-s-smartphone-penetration-is-a…)

Although I approached all 10 Alaska churches offering apps for more information, only the four mentioned above responded to my request. Other churches with apps include Cornerstone Church, Apostolics of Fairbanks, Juneau Apostolic Church, Soldotna Bible Chapel, Abbott Loop Community Church, and Church on the Rock – Homer. Too often churches think sharing this information is hush-hush or highly confidential requiring pastoral or trustee approval before releasing any details. The spread of the Christian gospel is a joyful job, one we all should do without fear of anyone appropriating “proprietary information.” Then too, several churches feel it’s a “prideful thing” to reflect on how well apps help churches grow. Information sharing is a fact of life in science, and should be with churches too.

Church app success stories

Those churches responding to my request for information indicated numerous app success stories.

City Church mentioned that members missing sermons can stay current with them and replay them. They also are excited about their Bible reading plans, recommending them to members. TrueNorth Church noted a story of healing and restoration in a divorced couple through the husband’s listening to sermons via TrueNorth’s app, and of their eventual reconciliation. ChangePoint shared the story of a member who couldn’t recently attend due to recovery from surgery, who watched each missed sermon. Yes, you read that right. She watched. Changepoint’s app gives you the option to listen or watch. Amazing. ACF Church mentioned people outside Alaska also connect with their church and messages finding they meet their needs.

Churches with apps often find their congregation size can double, virtually, through app usage. I’m excited about churches who have adopted this exciting technology. It’s one more example of how churches can grow by offering hand-held connections to their ministry.

Mary Bolin – Cornerstone’s Greeter Extraordinaire

As long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve emphasized warm greetings, conveying a sense of hospitality, and friendliness and warmth as two of the four criteria I look for in my church visits. Greeting members and guests appropriately is one of the most critical things a church can do. It sets the tone for the time people spend at church. Unfortunately most Anchorage churches fail to understand the importance of training and maintaining effective greeters in their churches. A few churches have them and this blog post highlights one such extraordinary church greeter.

Early in my visits, I visited Cornerstone Church and discovered Mary Bolin, a key part of their highly effective greeter ministry. I was shocked when I returned some months later to find she greeted me by name. In the intervening years, I’ve made a number of visits to Cornerstone and have observed Mary at work. I could use many superlatives to describe Mary, but the key one would ultimately be the result. She’s effective!

One Sunday I visited Cornerstone. As Mary warmly greeted me I asked if Pastor Brad was speaking. She indicated that he wasn’t as there was a guest speaker instead. I mentioned I was leaving because I’d come to hear Pastor Brad. Mary countered saying the guest speaker had delivered a wonderful message in the earlier service and that it was powerful. She was so right as it turned out to be one of the most memorable sermons I’ve ever heard in an Anchorage church.

I’m pleased to present this interview with Mary Bolin. The bolded text text are my questions of her. Mary’s responses are non-bolded.

How long have you been a greeter at Cornerstone?
I do not remember when I started to greet officially. I think I started in the ‘90’s. I do, however, remember my motive, and that was to make anyone who came through our doors feel welcome; newcomers and regular attendees alike, early, on time or late arrivers. Most people like to see someone who is obviously glad to see them.

Have you received any special training to be a greeter? Are you or Cornerstone providing any training to keep filling the ranks of qualified greeters?
I have not received any special training. At some point I was on the email list of a famous greeter who put out greeting tips. I forget now who he is, but he did have some good points that I may or may not be using. For me, greeting is not a technique; it is a state of mind, a welcoming state of mind. Even when I goof up and call folks by the wrong names, or put couples together who are not couples (as I did with you the first time we met!), if people perceive the sincerity of a welcome and a genuine interest in them as people, much is forgiven.

My single criterion for anyone with an interest in being a greeter is this: SHOW UP. I do not set up lists, I do not call and remind the greeters, if they say they will greet, I expect they will. Greeting is a wonderful privilege, it is not a task, it is not a duty. It is the best ministry in the whole hierarchy of church ministries. I have been a part of other ministries like teaching Sunday school, heading up women’s groups, serving on church council, serving on pulpit committees, and so forth. This is the best. I do have my new greeters greet with me for a couple of Sundays just to get a notion of my philosophy, but as individuals, each of them will greet in the manner than suits them best.

What kinds of things are guests looking for when they first visit your church and how do you help them find them?
A broad spectrum of things people are looking for: Do you have classes for my children? Youth groups? Women’s bible studies? Small Groups? Prayer teams? Men’s groups? Occasionally someone will ask about the kind of music we have or wonder what denomination we are, but not often. I will answer the questions I can and direct them to others for answers I do not know. Frequently folks will have found us online and will have read our statement of faith. Lots of times people say, “I drive by here every day and just decided to come.”

I understand you are a chaplain in Anchorage. Would you share the nature of your work with our readers? Does your work as a chaplain have any bearing on your mission at Cornerstone?
I am a Police and Fire Chaplain. That ministry is one of the greatest joys in my life. In that capacity, we Chaplains minister to the officers and staff of the Police and Fire Departments, as well as some associated entities such as the Medical Examiner’s Office. We are part of the police team in that we are dispatched, along with the officers, to incidents where we assist victims or friends and family members of persons who are injured or deceased. This allows the officers to conduct their investigations while the chaplains care for the others.

Being a Police Chaplain is kind of a cousin to a “Greeter Chaplain”. Many times, as greeter, I have the opportunity to minister to, pray with, and listen to individuals who come my way.

Some readers maintain the friendliness of the welcome of guests to a church has nothing to do with whether or not they will choose to return for another visit at that church? Do you agree with this statement?
Well, I think it is in the nature of human beings that we desire to be in relationship. A warm welcome can be the start of a relationship. Whether or not a person returns to our particular church does not concern me, other than if they do not return I miss out on getting to know him or her. I do not greet in order to attract people to Cornerstone Church. I greet because of what I said earlier. I want people to know someone is glad to see them who are interested in them as individuals valuable to God. Often I have said to people who say they are church shopping,”There are a lot of good churches in Anchorage. Try not to be swayed by your feelings, the music, the preaching or the youth programs. Rather, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit places you in a church body, not only will you be fed, but the wonderful gifts God has given you will be used in ministry to others.”

Greeters in some churches ask seemingly endless questions of guests. “How did you find us? What church do you normally attend? etc.” Would you comment on the relevance of these questions?
It is helpful to me to know how someone has found Cornerstone. It is not an easy place to get to, at least for first timers. So I often do ask that question. It is a nice point of engagement for further conversation and helps me (sometimes) remember them the next time I see them. I deliberately do not ask about other churches because that is information not relevant to me. I wouldn’t want to participate in hearing anything bad about another church. Usually I ask people their names and try to connect in a way that I might remember them, as well as give them the lay of the land, i.e., “We have coffee, tea and water here in the foyer and you are welcome to take it into the auditorium during the service”.

What do you think when you approach a new guest(s)?
Usually I’m thinking, “Have I met this person/family before?” I usually approach that situation pretty directly by asking, if I’m not sure, Have I met you before? It would be unusual for me to ask, Is this your first time here? People are very gracious and whether I have met them before (several times, even) or it is a first time meeting, they are kindly to me and friendly back.

Cornerstone is unique in that guests are offered a gift. Would you comment on your welcome gift and what is given?
For a few years we did give gifts, and good stuff too like chocolate bars (large and good quality), coffee mugs, travel mugs, good books. Now we do not. The idea behind the gifts was to meet the newcomers. However, it became apparent that the gifts started to become the focus, and the meeting of someone was not important. Sometimes I would be talking to a person, turn around to find all of the gifts had disappeared, while I had not met any of the persons who had them! Enough with the gifts.

Thank you Mary for sharing your thoughts with Church Visits readers. It is my hope your insights might take root in more Anchorage churches, giving a new dimension to the proclamation of the Gospel. The “Field of Dreams” philosophy no longer works in churchianity. Many Christians and their churches have lost their sense of uniqueness that marked them, effectively, for hundreds of years. Effective greetings and conveying hospitality go back to Abram, thousands of years ago. God bless you as you continue to touch guests and members at Cornerstone.

Easter Without the Trimmings at Cornerstone Church

It’s always difficult for me to pick Easter services to attend as they are generally intended to be larger than life to satisfy the larger than normal crowd of worshipers, i.e. it’s not a normal form of worship.

Most churches find that Christmas Eve and Easter are their most attended days. I like a large boisterous service, because Easter is something to celebrate every day and every year. I enjoy being “Eastered”!

This year I decided to attend Easter services at Cornerstone Church, a church I’ve found to be dependable in effectively dealing with first time attendees as well with more established worshipers. I was thrilled they had parking attendants to guide cars to appropriate places to maximize their parking lot due to the multiple services that morning.

I received my customary warm greeting from Mary Bolin, but had to seek it out as some of the younger greeters at the doors scarcely took notice of me. Every church in Anchorage could benefit from having a greeter such as Mary at their doors. Sadly, few churches truly greet, unless you consider a handed worship guide or bulletin a good substitute.

Going into their sanctuary, I was struck by the conspicuous absence of any of the normal trimmings of Easter. Flowers and other reminders of the resurrection were totally absent, although I did notice a enormous crown of thorns hanging from the ceiling over the front rows.

Cornerstone’s music is performed by an excellent praise and worship group. They started on time and played for 25 minutes. It was difficult to know what they had planned for the service as their 12-page worship guide had no order of service in it. Instead, there were forms, announcements, and updates for their various ministries, but no clues as to the service. A highlight was the singing of a song by a choir composed of a huge number of the children.

Pastor Brad Sutter started preaching after 25-minutes. His sermon was well-thought out, and effectively delivered. Dealing with the resurrection, he quoted a number of biblical authorities and historians who attested the resurrection is the distinctive that sets Christianity apart from all other world religions. You can listen to his fine 45-minute sermon titled “Four Great Truths Seen in Christ’s Crucifixion” by clicking here. [img_assist|nid=163409|title=Pastor Brad Preaching|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

Upon completion Sutter walked offstage invoking a sharing time for declarations of faith in the resurrection. Certain hand-picked individuals got up and walked onstage holding large boards with faith-based words on them. This continued until the stage was full of people and the boards. Phrases such as A NEW CREATION were displayed on one side and later turned around and RAISED was shown on the other. It was an effective display. Pastor Brad then asked individuals to respond by dealing with God, asking all to stand and respond appropriately. It was a kind of Altar Call, something I’ve never seen in this church.

The musical group concluded by playing and singing three more songs. It was a good service but just didn’t feel like Easter to me. Not one talked to me while inside the church auditorium which I considered a bit unusual. The normal Easter finery seen in other churches was not on display at Cornerstone. If you visit anytime, don’t overdress as they dress casually at Cornerstone; I only saw three ties and was also wearing one. Cornerstone is a good safe church to visit. I often recommend them, along with a few other great area churches, to people looking for a solid church. I still plan on recommending them in the future.

Cornerstone: Solid as a Rock and Welcoming

[img_assist|nid=139445|title=Cornerstone Church Sign – Brayton Drive|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=159]
Summary
During my March 8 visit to Cornerstone Church, I was treated to a warm greeting, a cup of coffee, a praying praise team, and a great Bible-based sermon. These things are not what I usually experience when visiting Anchorage churches, but this day they were present. Cornerstone offers easy access with their South Anchorage location on Brayton Drive just north of the convenient O’Malley Road. Pastor Brad Sutter and his church are clearly sharing their faith in a positive way.

Great Location
I’ve been by Cornerstone Church’s location many times over the past few years and wondered what type of people met there. The facility is modern looking and easily seen from the Seward Highway. Looking them up on the internet, I quickly found their website with service times prominently displayed on the first screen. They offer plenty of parking close to the church.
[img_assist|nid=139446|title=Cornerstone Church Exterior|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=96]
Great Greeting!
Walking into the church I was cheerfully greeted by a warmly dressed woman who also opened the door for me which is unusual for my Anchorage church visits. It wasn’t a fluke as she continued to open the door for arriving guests and members. Spotting an array of coffee urns straight ahead I made a beeline for them. I asked the coffee tending volunteer what brand of coffee they used, expecting to hear the name of one of our great local roasters, but was told it was one of the mass-market brands that comes in a tin. The coffee was so-so, but many churches either do not offer it, or charge for it at their coffee bar.

Mistaken Identity
Preparing to enter the church and not yet having a bulletin, I spotted those responsible for them, standing facing toward, not away from, the doors into the sanctuary. This odd position forced me to go around them and turn back facing them. The woman with the bulletin had the right idea when she said, “I don’t think I’ve met you two…”. I was by myself but the greeter had mistaken a woman standing close by as coming in with me. Her greeting was on the mark though, because it doesn’t put the visitor in the position of feeling they’ve been singled out as a new face. The worst of all things to say are, “Is this your first visit…” or “What is your name?”. With these great greetings I later queried Pastor Sutter as to whether or not they offer training for their greeters. He responded “No.” This natural greeting behavior is to be commended.

Music Fitting-Not Just Entertainment
The musical praise team was preparing to take the stage when I entered. The eight persons in the group formed a circle, joined hands, and prayed, an unseen behavior in many churches but spoke volumes to me. Most of the group played some instrument and also sang. Several fairly short contemporary Christian songs were sung just before the sermon. Well performed and a great complement to the service, the music was not entertainment but a blessing. Preceding the sermon was the obligatory “meet n’ greet” which I don’t particularly like nor do many other worshipers from my visiting experience. I asked Pastor Sutter why Cornerstone does this and he said it was to “Encourage people to begin to engage with each other in the hopes of further connection in the future.” Personally, I feel there are more natural ways to engage attendees.

Outstanding Sermon
Sutter preached from the Word. I’m reasonably certain he had notes tucked into his Bible, but the casual observer probably saw just the Bible. PowerPoint slides displayed the texts so there was limited page rustling, a quibble but an effective way to discourage regular attendees from bringing their Bibles to church. The focus of his remarks was 1 Peter 4:1-6. In an explanatory fashion and extemporaneous manner, he drew meaning from this passage of scripture. He began the sermon with an illustration about how Ermine were trapped, showing that to this animal, purity was more important than life itself, a quite fitting start to the sermon. No title for the sermon was given in the bulletin but later Pastor Sutter shared that the title was “Developing the Attitude of Christ”. According to Sutter, his style is suited to going through books or sections of the Bible. This sermon was certainly meaningful and appropriate and may be listened to here. This blog is not about theology but I will say that this pastor excels in making the Word easily understood.

The service closed with the pastor leaving the platform to replaced by the musical group for several more songs. I enjoyed my visit to this church and believe they offer a meaningful and relevant way of worshiping for an active group of Christians here in Anchorage.