Anchorage Church of Christ: Good Service…Welcome Needs Work

[img_assist|nid=143224|title=Anchorage Church of Chris Sign on Debarr|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=141]Summary
Invited by a member, I visited Anchorage Church of Christ on August 2 for their 10 a.m. service. Warmly greeted by their sole greeter that day, he did enquire if I was visiting, a sometimes uncomfortable question to be asked. However, no bulletin was handed to me and no further greetings were made. The singing was wonderful, acapella, i.e. without instrumental accompaniment. The preaching was great, a relevant message, and understandable. The service proceeded mostly without explanation. To a visitor it might have been difficult to follow. For instance, communion was served early in the service without comment. A visitor might wonder if they should partake or not. However, on the whole, this was a meaningful visit and one that might easily accomodate a visitor looking for a good church.

Why This Church?
Despite anxieties about being proselytized, many church visitors will come because they’ve been invited. I made this visit to Anchorage Church of Christ because of a member invitation. Last spring I became acquainted with a special needs teacher while helping in her classroom. She further helped me understand some correspondence I received from a reader who had experienced un-Christian treatment in her church with respect to her children with special needs. Subsequently, this teacher invited me to attend her church. The result of these special needs discussions was the recent three part series about special needs emphasis (or lack thereof) in the Anchorage church community.

First Impressions Count
I place significant weight on the greeting, hospitality, and warmth expressed by a church. The very first impression was mixed, not negative, just mixed. The sole male greeter was warm and friendly but immediately asked if I was visiting. This question puts a visitor on guard. Usually visitors don’t like to be singled out, so I queried him if I looked like a visitor. A better approach is to say, “Hi, I’m Chris. Welcome to Anchorage Church of Christ. We’re glad you’re here with us today. Enjoy the service.” Usually the visitor, once the ice is broken will offer their name. For a church this size, one greeter was woefully inadequate. They needed at least six. There were several sanctuary door people but not effectively greeting. I was not offered a bulletin and went without one during the service

Well Dressed but Noisy
I was surprised by the din before the service with much noisy talking in evidence. Quite different from other churches I’ve visited. A screen in the front of the auditorium had repeated displays of all types of announcements, much like a movie theater before the main attraction. The worshipers were well-dressed, above average for a church today. The service did start a few minutes late with a churchman saying “Good Morning Everyone”. He had to repeat this twice before people quieted down, waiting patiently for over a minute for a worshipful quiet. (click here for the entire service recording where you can hear this for yourself). There was negligible mention of visitors during the service, a serious omission in my opinion.

Great Singing
As a churchgoer who appreciates great singing and wonderful musical accompanyment, I’m always stunned by attending a church that does not believe in using musical instruments. However, it is a joy to actually hear people singing and note the words of the songs. Many churches with praise teams and praise bands in this town, successfully drown out the singing with their musical volume. This was not the case this day and was pleasant to experience. They did sing many songs however. I counted six at the beginning, and usually all or most of the verses sung.

A young man came onstage as a witness, sharing the story of his conversion and baptism. He urged people to “remember your story”. Communion was served by an energetic and dedicated group of men. No mention was made of the service or church thinking about sharing communion, a telling omission. If a visitor doesn’t know the rules, they can easily be stressed by the experience. In a quest for a seamless service, I feel this church ignores people who are new. The only mention of visitors was in asking them to fill out a registration card, but little welcome. I filled out a card, putting it in the offering plate (see photo of duplicate). I’m not sure why I completed it as I’ve never received an acknowledgement of my visit. This is quite typical of churches. Rarely, in my church visits, do I complete a requested visitor card and receive a note from the church. I’ll devote a future blog to this.[img_assist|nid=143226|title=Ignored ACC Visitor Registration Card|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=228]

Good Preaching
Mike Shero is ACC’s preacher and a good one at that. His message, starting 40 minutes after church started, was titled Armour of God and based on Ephesians 6:10. Extemporaneous and bible-based it was fully of surety and conviction. Preacher Shero had excellent eye contact with his audience. PowerPoint slides were used but not abused. They were short and to the point. Shero did not read them but they augmented his excellent preaching. I noted he tended to preach more to the left side of the audience (Shero’s right). You can listen to his sermon and the entire service here. The offering was taken without visitors being advised they were under no obligation to give. This tends to pressure visitors. Visitors were finally briefly welcomed at the very end of the service.

Final Thoughts
This is a good and active congregation. They have many notable ministries including deaf, prision, and substance abuse ministries. I was comfortable attending this church. However, it could benefit from understanding the Christian’s role to be hospitable and welcoming to the stranger in their midst. Studies indicate the more churches do to welcome visitors, setting them at ease, the more those visitors will gain from the worship and message, becoming more likely to return. For the most part, this was a good visit. Thank you Kathy for inviting me. I can recommend your church to other visitors.[img_assist|nid=143225|title=Anchorage Church of Christ Exterior|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=120]

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