Monthly Archives: April 2013

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.

Central Christian Finally Updates Website Worship Times

Well, finally it happened! After months of being in error, Central Christian Church, a primarily electronic-based church out of Las Vegas, has updated their website for Anchorage to actually display the correct service times. Congratulations for doing what virtually any church website coordinator should have done immediately.

I’ll probably not revisit this church anytime soon, due to their one-Sunday-per-month “live” pastor’s outrageous reference to communion as being merely a “snack”, in deference to the “real meal”, the BBQ after the service. This grievous error still needs to be explained to the Anchorage church community. Personally, I consider that statement to be a sacrilege.

I also believe it’s problematic to try to offer church via a “live” video broadcast with a distant Las Vegas pastor, when a number of Anchorage churches offer decent services not offering the “snack”, but real communion with true meaning and life-giving Bible-based services, outside of a cold, sterile, high-school setting. If you don’t believe me, write me at and I’ll give you a list of five good choices for your consideration.

Beer & Hymns: Great Fun & Successful Fundraiser

From the opening notes of I Love to Tell the Story, to the closing notes of We Are Marching in the Light of God, Beer & Hymns this past Sunday proved to be a wonderful experience of singing, dining, and raising funds for LSSA.

Over $5,000 was raised with additional funds yet to be counted. According to my calculations, around 100 people attended this inaugural event at Mo’s O’Brady’s. Sponsored by Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, Beer & Hymns was widely attended with representatives from many Anchorage congregations. Entire families enjoyed the food, fun, and fellowship at Beer & Hymns. O’Brady’s staff, and owner Mo, clearly outdid themselves with fast service, excellent food, and great humor.

COSLC’s keyboardist Jamie Berge did an awesome job of playing each hymn on the church’s Clavinova. Playing for the majority of two hours, she nailed it while Pastor Dan Bollerud sang and directed the group assembled the entire two hours. Pastor Dan has a pleasing bass voice which kept us all on track. If you love good, old-fashioned hymn singing, this event was for you (and can be in the future)!

LSSA Director Allan Budahl shared how the need for food aid in our community has outstripped the supply. Underscoring this need, LSSAalso sent food and funds East after hurricane Sandy. I’m so impressed with what LSSA does in our local community.

Moneywise, as a frame of reference, the amount of contributions donated to LSSA Sunday night equals the cost of one person going overseas on the average short-term mission trip. Many short-term missioners essentially are taking a mission’s tourism trip and not significantly helping solve the true needs of their target trips. It’s reassuring the funds collected Sunday night will be distributed in direct aid, mostly for food, to help those in our community in desperate need of assistance.

COSLC’s pastor, Dan Bollerud, shared three reasons for the success of this event.
1. Beer and hymns…How can you go wrong?
2. It is a way to be the church out in the world, and to show a different side of the church to the world.
3. It is a fun way to have a fundraiser for a great organization like Lutheran Social Services Food Bank.

My congratulations to a solid church and community-spirited attendees for a job well done! I can’t wait until the next Beer & Hymns.

UPDATE: Central Christian’s Posted Worship Time on Website Still Wrong!

]If a church organization is trying to start and grow a church, I’m curious as to why they would allow the wrong worship time being posted on their website long after they’ve been told it’s wrong. A commercial business would not long survive if key pieces of business information were missing from their website.

According to the church member I talked with on Palm Sunday at Central Christian – Dimond High, they changed to the 11:00 a.m. worship time much earlier in the year. By choosing to ignore an incorrect worship time posted on their website, one wonders what other things might be being ignored in their ministry and operations. Two weeks have passed since they heard personally from me, and five days have passed since I posted my review of my visit to Central Christian on this blog.

If Central Christian is trying to reach the younger set, an acknowledged user of internet and social media, they are failing in their mission by announcing incorrect worship times.

A regular business would not tolerate an incorrectly posted time on their website. Customers who are disadvantaged by incorrectly posted times on a website are unlikely to come back at the correct time, due to the sting of the inconvenience of arriving at wrongly posted time.

Central Christian Disappoints — BIG TIME!

This church disappointed me in the following ways:
-Wrong service time posted on website (and still is as of 4/2/13) although alerted 1 1/2 wks ago
-Pastor outrageously referred to Communion as only the SNACK, while the after church BBQ was the real meal
-Interested in Anchorage numbers only: projected 24,000 members which is similar to Vegas
-Little reference to scripture
-No acknowledgement of Palm Sunday
-Huge mention of the after church entertainment for the kids on Easter.

I’ve been a big fan of the messaging in the videos released by Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Recently I was told Central Christian had opened a satellite church in Anchorage because many of their Las Vegas demographics mirror our own community. Looking them up on the internet, I discovered they were meeting Sundays at Dimond High.

The Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, found me trudging through the snow to the Dimond High multipurpose room for the 10:30 service, the time posted on the internet. No one greeted me as I walked in. Noting several people setting up children’s church, I asked someone where the adults met and was shown the direction. A musical group was practicing at fairly high sound levels. Few people were in the audience. After about 15 minutes a woman came by, introduced herself, and asked me a number of questions about myself. First visit, how I heard about them, etc.? I asked why church was late and she said it didn’t start until 11:00. After telling her their website said it started at 10:30, she said that changed months ago and she would tell someone about it. The picture below was just captured on my iPhone this afternoon from Central’s website.

The service was heavy on Central’s own evangelistic activities, and very light on the gospel other than to emphasize they were open to anyone, regardless of where the person’s life was. The pastor seemed nervous and his language appeared somewhat unrefined. For instance, he spoke of doing services for the “guys” at Hiland Correctional Center, interesting as it’s a women’s facility. Could have been for the guards but he didn’t say. The audience was a younger crowd, of 50 or so people. Average age was 25-30.

There’s very heavy reliance on electronics here which failed as they started to run a key video. The band was ok but it was announced they were from Las Vegas too. Las Vegas is obviously investing heavily in this enterprise. The format appears to be 3 weeks of video sermons by Las Vegas pastor Judd Wilhite and 1 week live sermons by a local pastor as a typical month of Sundays.

When the pastor finally got around to his sermon or remarks, he focused on Communion. He did use a few verses from Corinthians in support and then to my surprise, announced Communion by saying it was the SNACK! And…that the real meal would be the BBQ after church!

I spoke with a friendly gentleman after church and registered a few concerns, something I rarely do after a church visit. I mentioned the website church times issue and the scripture light service. He said the pastor was young and new, and that he was better in a 1 on 1 basis.

I do not think this church will achieve much traction in the Anchorage church market, as it is purely Christianity lite. In all my years of officially blogging church visits, I’ve never heard one of the central ordinances of God’s church referred to as a SNACK. I hope I never do!

Most churches acknowledge Holy Week, and surely Palm Sunday, even if they do not observe it. This was Palm Sunday but Central made no reference to it. They did mention Easter Sunday and festivities, especially for the kiddies. But it’s a package. People need to hear the whole story, not just Easter but the events leading up to it.

Oh, and no one spoke to me as I left when church dismissed around noon. I trudged out in the snow to my car and felt my time had been poorly spent visiting this church. I wonder if any other visitors have felt the same thing?