Monthly Archives: July 2011

ChangePoint’s App Hitting Stride – 3 Months Along

I’ve been intrigued with ChangePoint’s introduction of their app. Not only are they the first Alaska church to introduce their own app, but they clearly struck a nerve that is radically extending their ministry. Their app is probably one of the most cost-effective endeavors in their ministry.[img_assist|nid=157735|title=ChangePoint App Splash Screen|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=227|height=390]

Adam Legg, ChangePoint’s communications director, shared the three-month statistics with me last week.

After 3 months, they’ve seen:
– 8,572 uses of the app
– Over ¼ of a million minutes of usage in the first 3 months
– 1,783 people have downloaded the app
– No day without at least one new download
– Their “Digital Campus” grew again last month with no evidence the increased online and mobile listening is affecting weekend attendance. They are seeing a significantly larger number of people connecting with us and hearing the grace-based, Bible centered Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Adam affirmed “Our vision at ChangePoint is Life in Christ for Every Alaskan and the world beyond. It is incredibly encouraging to see that God is allowing us to use technology to help accomplish that vision!”

I say “right on”. As stated before; While I do not agree with every aspect of ChangePoint’s ministry, I love their sense of vision and using today’s technology to act on that vision.

As a businessman, I’ve noted there are three types of people in the world.

1. People who make things happen
2. People who watch things happen
3. People who wonder what happened

Clearly ChangePoint leaders are in the first instance.[img_assist|nid=157736|title=ChangePoint App Sermon Screen|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=227|height=390]

Amazing Grace: Still Amazing Me

I popped in to Amazing Grace Lutheran this morning for their 10 a.m. service. This hillside church has, from my first visit, exemplified the four criteria I look for and have noted as my key visit criteria for this blog since the beginning. I visit here irregularly, so don’t think I was recognized by anyone but the pastor today. I was greeted warmly by six or seven individuals as I entered.

The Lutheran liturgy is comforting in that one always knows where they are in the service and what’s coming next. The music clearly was not entertainment but each song contributed to the service as a whole.

Pastor Martin Dasler gave a wonderfully extemporaneous sermon, i.e. not read, in an engaging manner. The “meet n’ greet” here is replaced by the “Passing of the Peace”, a warm acknowledgement and spiritual greeting time that does not allow for non-spiritual chit-chat. I was greeted by about ten individuals in a warm and friendly manner. The hospitality truly flows at Amazing Grace. Communion is served as a portion of the congregation forms a circle around the altar, a four square table made of rough-hewn squared wooden timbers. The congregants finally join hands for a prayer of blessing. Returning to their seats, they’re replaced by the remainder of the congregation to be served.

I was especially touched by four things today. After the congregation had been served, the servers and pastor went to the piano, to serve the pianist and each other, ending in prayer. It was a touching reminder that no one should be left out from the blessings of the Lord’s Table. I was also moved by the warmth of this congregation when Pastor Marty asked for those with birthdays to identify themselves. One woman did so and came forward. He put his hand on her and prayed for the Lord’s blessing on her life. Bartoleme de las Casas was a profoundly pertinent and interesting focus for Pastor Marty’s remarks. As a historian, especially of the conquest, it’s going to drive me back to my books. Finally, Pastor Marty used a found stone, from their parking lot excavation, to further illustrate today’s First Reading from the Old Testament regarding the story of Jacob, wrestling with the Angel, and placing a stone monument to the Lord, Beth-El. No fru-fru here. This is all heart stuff and very uncommon in churches today.

In the three years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve observed that truly great church visit destinations are consistent and unvarying. Amazing Grace is one of those churches in Anchorage for which I’m proud to say this. I’m glad I visited them again today.

True North: A New Anchorage Church

A friend recently told me about a new Anchorage church, True North, which meets in the Loussac Library’s Wilda Marston Theater on Sunday’s at 10 a.m. Last Sunday I visited True North and these are my impressions.

What Greeting?
When a friend and I walked into the lobby, people were sitting or standing around drinking coffee, and talking with each other. No one noticed us or acknowledged our presence in any way. We proceeded into the theater to find a seat, discovering there was a service in progress. It appeared they were having communion.

We sat down and after they had completed their service, Pastor Brent Williams came to where we were sitting. He welcomed us and answered some questions we had. Asking if we were from Anchorage, we responded affirmatively. Personally I don’t like to be greeted with questions, and neither do most other church guests. Where I come from is really not the issue. However, where the pastor and church comes from is my, and most other guests, key concern. Nonetheless, Williams was quite personable and shared that the church is affiliated with the local Southern Baptist convention. He also said they held communion at 9:30 because, as a new church, they did not want to explain the requirements for taking communion to many new people who may not be members yet.[img_assist|nid=157596|title=True North’s Music Group|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=175]

Musically Speaking
The musical group of two men (guitars) and one woman (keyboard) was quite good. They started the service with a pleasing musical selection sung in harmony. Usually one does not hear the praise group singing in harmony either because the music is too loud, or they don’t even try. This was a pleasant surprise for me. The music was unfamiliar to me but solid theologically. It may be they are attempting to create their own church musical DNA that parishioners will know and relate to. The one traditional hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation”, was a contemporary rewrite with a modern arrangement, extremely long, and seemingly interminable. The group played close to 45 minutes, before and after the service, something I consider to be excessive. Of course, all were invited to stand both times, which I considered to be an unnecessarily long time to stand.[img_assist|nid=157597|title=Pastor Brent Williams Making a Point|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

The Message
Pastor Brent was continuing a series of messages on his prayer for the community. He has an animated presentation style, but is somewhat tied to his notes. For this crowd of 100, he might have communicated more effectively by a more extemporaneous style of speaking. For a newbie, I was somewhat lost from the beginning as he did not, for me, establish the context for the series of messages. He could have taken a few minutes to review each of the prayers he’d previously discovered, as a memory jogger for members, and as a courtesy for his guests. Instead, he jumped in without establishing the context ual flow of the series. I also felt he covered scripture without citing each reference assuming all were following him implicitly. Pastor Brent is Bible-based but assumes more Bible-awareness on the part of each attendee than may be there. You can listen to Pastor Brent’s message here.
A first for me was he had a text number posted on the screen to text questions to be answered at the end of the message. This is unique and commendable. Three or four questions were answered. He’s only human, but I felt he misunderstood or possibly misread the intent of a couple of them, leading to questions not being accurately answered, something he himself acknowledged might be his issue. I applaud his honesty. I was quite surprised with his response to one question regarding a personal issue a member was dealing with. He referred the questioner to other members of the congregation rather than asking the person to discuss the issue personally with him. A shepherd should be able to handle the issues of individual sheep rather than turn them over to others to resolve.

Not “About An Hour”
After the questions, Pastor Brent asked the musical group to come back and close the service. They proceeded to play several lengthy selections. True North’s website says…
Our services last about an hour and there is no need to dress up. Come as you are and enjoy your time with our church.
In fact, their service lasted over 1 ½ hours. I suggest they either change the website or shorten the service as it is currently misleading. As much as I love music, it should not be the focus of the service and could easily be shortened without damaging the impact of the service or service flow. They did not seem to take an offering, which I considered unusual for any church.

I applaud True North’s bold approach of meeting in public space and not trying to build yet another structure. This town has a penchant for building churches, something one cannot find is called for anywhere in the New Testament. This article in today’s Christianity Today online edition questions the wisdom of church planting vs. a true missionary approach. (Click here to read.)

No one spoke with us on the way out, clearly ignoring a golden opportunity to invite us back. The pastor was stuck in a corner handing out books he promised to those who wanted them, their gift to new attendees. Marketing-based churches want you to seek them out, and for you to pursue them. A church with true Christian hospitality cares intensely about every one who walks in their doors, and ensures everyone is touched. True Christianity is a hands-on religion.

Finally, it was recently brought to my attention True North also has an app, joining ChangePoint as the only churches in Alaska I’ve been able to identify as having apps. It can be downloaded from the iTunes store.

Despite the noted shortcomings, I enjoyed many elements of my visit and wish them well as they grow.[img_assist|nid=157598|title=True North Church During Singing|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

Two Month Update on ChangePoint’s App

While I’ve been somewhat critical of ChangePoint’s direction in the past, I’ve been intrigued with their leadership in electronic media, especially their recently released app.

I sat down earlier this week with Adam Legg, ChangePoint Communications Director, to take stock at the close of the 2nd month of their app’s availability. Adam was very excited as he shared the app’s numbers.

• downloaded over 1,500 times
• used almost 7,000 times
• 200,000+ minutes (3,300+ hrs.) of use

Adam also shared his delight at seeing huge increases in the number of people listening to their messages online. In May alone, they experienced an increase of over 500 people per week listening this way. He further noted “During May we had more people listen to our messages online through our app, website, and blog, than live at ChangePoint. Our ‘Digital Campus’ is becoming larger than our physical campus in terms of reach. The release of our app has exceeded every possible expectation I had for it.”

ChangePoint’s blog, in which Teaching Pastor Dan Jarrell, and other leaders in their church community share their thoughts, is also seeing goodly use. As an example, Adam shared that the blog posted last Saturday has been viewed by close to 500 people. He also noted there are now over 1,800 in their Facebook community. Finally, he said their metrics indicate that 46% of their website visitors are new. ChangePoint is clearly doing something right with their use of electronic media.

ChangePoint recently announced a new church plant which will commence operating at Bartlett High in the fall. It will be pastored by Greg McCormack.

In summary, in a period when many churches are ignoring, poorly using, or decrying the use of electronic media, ChangePoint is clearly leading the way with effective websites, blogs, and apps. They also encourage the use, in and out of church, of iPads, iPhones, iTouch and related smart devices. To them, it’s all consistent with the spread of the Word. Their messaging is consistent and clearly identifiable. (See the screenshot of the app’s sermon page below) I look forward to talking with Adam next month as they wind up their third month of the app’s release. Why? As the only church in Alaska with an app, ChangePoint’s vision excites me. I’m reasonably certain their app will show a quickening of the pace of it’s acceptance and use. [img_assist|nid=157489|title=Sermon Page – ChangePoint’s App|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=327|height=490]