Tag Archives: City Church

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.

Anchorage City Church…Charismatically Quiet

[img_assist|nid=128596|title=City Church – Sign on Side of Church – (Main Sign Missing)|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=180]I’ve long intended to attend Anchorage City Church. I was intrigued during my Abbott Loop visit when Dick Iverson mentioned he needed to finish his sermon as he was due to speak at City Church that day at 12. The City Church main webpage used to describe what one might expect during a visit. However, it had been removed prior to my visit. A charismatic church experience was suggested in the previous verbiage on the website. Not having a charismatic background, but prepared to be a witness in worship, I was traveling blind. I arrived at 11:50 A.M. July 27 for the 12 p.m. service.

No Welcome
Walking in the front door, expecting to be greeted by the dozens of people sipping coffee and chit chatting in the foyer, I finally realized something. This church was going to be no different in this respect than most of the other Anchorage churches I’ve visited over the past 6 months. No greeting or recognition was given. No one was handing out bulletins at the door to the worship room. I found a seat in the back to facilitate a quick exit should it be required (my normal habit during church visits). The worship venue resembled a gymnasium and had many flags hanging down from the ceiling. Dual large screens were hanging above the stage to facilitate display of song lyrics, and as it happened that day, a wonderfully entertaining children’s ministry video. As 12 o’clock neared it was obvious that less than half of the seats would be filled.

Strong Beat
At 12 p.m. the nine person band and musical group assembled commencing to play and sing. I found the music quite loud and in praise style. Over the course of the service the band played about 40 minutes which I personally felt was a bit long. The bass volume was so intense I felt it in my chest more than any other service I’d attended in recent memory. I wondered if this would present a medical challenge for a person with heart issues. As noted in previous posts, I’ll be posting well-researched information about the use and misuse of religious music and musical beat in a future blog.

Although City Church is charismatic, there were just a few evidences of it. Charismatic worship is often accompanied by speaking in tongues, raised hands, “holy laughter”, dancing, and other manifestations. Clicking on the bolded charismatic words in this blog entry will take you to a explanatory Wikipedia entry.

Visitors in a Box
My favorite part of the program is always the “Meet n’ Greet”. (Just kidding here.) This is the moment most churches, in my experience, try to get their members to extend themselves to each other and outsiders. Most everyone around me seemed to do their best to avoid me, greeting the ones they did know, despite the pastor’s request to welcome someone “you don’t know”. I extended welcomes to others around me and finally gave up due to low interest, which is a term for when a person turns their back to you when you head in their direction. City Church also has this wonderful moment (I’m also kidding here.) when visitors are asked to stand and make themselves known. The visitors are recognized and are told to go to the information counter at the end of the service. I dropped by to pick up a bulletin but the sole person attending the booth was so busy with another she didn’t seem to notice I was there so I left.

Unusual Start to the Sermon
The pastor, Dick Irwin?, (remember, I didn’t have a bulletin), finally came out to center stage with two questions, “How is everyone? Groovy?” and sat down on a stool behind a stand for his notes. He stayed there for the entire time of his remarks; another FIRST for this church visitor. I only learned the title of his talk because during the offering, which you took to the front of the church to deposit in attended offering containers; sermon notes were offered on the stage. The title was CONFLICT: Keeping God’s Purpose in Mind. I will not describe the sermon. You can listen to the 10 a.m. version of it here. Irwin closed by inviting people up front for prayer groups and it was over.

Suffice it to say, Anchorage City Church was not a great experience for me. A very casual church that outwardly appears to love the Lord, but they also seemed to be a contradiction in terms, somewhat closed, and clearly not welcoming to visitors.

[img_assist|nid=128597|title=City Church – View from Minnesota|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=106]