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Chris Thompson

This year will see a growing rush by retailers to advance the sales and eventual profits of Black Friday by what is termed “Black Friday creep,” opening stores on Thanksgiving Day itself. A list of retailers opening on Thanksgiving was published this week by Huffington Post . It included Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Macy's, Best Buy, Kohl's, J.C. Penney, Target, Staples, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Toys R Us, Office Max/Office Depot and Radio Shack. This comes on top of retailers featuring online and in-store pre-Black Friday sales in order to get consumers to buy yet earlier this year.

The Huffington Post article also listed retailers that will honor family and Thanksgiving by not opening on Thanksgiving, headed up by Costco and Sam’s...

Chris Thompson

Last week’s column featured 10 ways churches may drive away first-time guests based on a Twitter poll church researcher Tom Rainer performed with those who indicated they would not return to that church. The number one issue keeping first-time guests away was the "meet 'n' greet" or as Rainer describes, "stand and greet time." In a later post, Rainer expressed continued surprise this was such a contentious topic, and the source of much discontent by guests, even members. In fact, it’s gone viral in the church community...

Chris Thompson

After visiting Alaska churches constantly over the past 10 years, I’ve come to the conclusion many of them just don’t understand how to retain those guests, visitors, church shoppers, or however churches call them. Takeaway: They should always be called guests.

Last weekend, noted church consultant and author Thom Rainer shared the results of a Twitter poll he conducted of first-time church guests who did not return to a particular church. He summarized the 10 ways churches drive away first-time guests as self-reported by them. Trust me; I’ve seen them all here in Anchorage and across Alaska...

Chris Thompson

The Presbyterian denomination traces its roots to the Protestant reformation in the 16th century. Reformers like John Calvin of France and Switzerland, and John Knox helped frame the theological framework of a movement which reached America’s shores in the early 1700s . Key principles included strict interpretations of scripture, a doctrine of predestination and austerity in the lives of the godly. It’s often said that what Martin Luther started, Calvin refined. These beginnings birthed the religious underpinnings of the Presbyterian, Reformed, and Congregational denominational movements...

Chris Thompson

What would you do if invited to participate in the unrolling of a 100-foot Torah scroll and an Israeli-style dinner at a synagogue? Don’t know about you, but I eagerly accepted the invitation from Rabbi Michael Oblath from Congregation Beth Shalom in East Anchorage. In the past, I’ve participated in several Seder celebrations here, finding this community to be warm and welcoming. Relatively small in number, their friendliness, generosity, and willingness to talk always take me by surprise. Many Anchorage congregations I visit are not outgoing, even downright unfriendly, and fail to welcome strangers. Not true at Temple Beth Shalom...

Chris Thompson

Last Sunday I witnessed a full-immersion water baptism when attending Chugach Covenant Church’s service at Begich Middle School. CCC is a relatively new church using convenient but inexpensive meeting places. Although this article won’t describe their service, I will comment on the baptism. Early in the service, a CCC pastor announced the baptism -- a “dunking” as he termed it. Two younger men had each indicated a desire to be baptized. A stock tank filled with water awaited in front of the audience. Coming out, one by one, the men were baptized by a pastor. One man, it was explained, was wearing an ankle monitor needing to be kept out of the water, an unusual juxtaposition for any pastor. The congregation was encouraged to whoop and holler after each of these men were baptized....

Chris Thompson

Visiting churches here, I hear all types of sermons. Some have good points, even great points, but many miss because they are theologically weak, not practical, or follow pastoral biases. An example of such sermons might be perennial “giving” or “stewardship” sermons warning all that God is cheated if various percentages of our income are not given (dubious from a true biblical perspective), along with annual pledges for church support. Often the endless and currently trendy “series sermons,” where some pastors preach three-point messages for weeks on end, amaze me. Some are good, but some are grounds for endless pontificating by pastors who can’t come to the point...

Chris Thompson

Often it appears I’m critical of everything going on in the church community. But I’m just as eager to highlight ways churches and religious organizations support local communities throughout Alaska. Here are some examples of ways churches support community organizations to show their love for God and others...

Chris Thompson

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther objected to issues promoted by the Roman Catholic Church. One was the sale of indulgences, freeing the holder from purgatory, and his belief the merits of the saints were without gospel foundation. From this bold beginning sprang the Protestant Reformation. Following Luther, John Calvin, a French theologian added his thoughts and ideas strengthening the Reformation. Lutheranism and Calvinism sprang from them...

Chris Thompson

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...

Chris Thompson

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