Monday, July 23, 2012

Worship at Woodland Hills

Yesterday was the second Sunday this summer that I wasn’t responsible for leading worship at Chain of Lakes on a Sunday. I used the opportunity to worship at Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood. I’ve wanted to worship there for a long time as I’ve admired Greg Boyd’s ministry for a very long time. I’ve heard him speak, read many of his books, and admired his honesty and intellectual abilities.

The web site for the church is:

Hannah wanted to sleep in, so we didn’t go to worship until 11:00 a.m. I took a wrong turn, so we turned into the parking lot a little after 11. I had asked Hannah to share with me two things she liked and didn’t like about worship. When we pulled into the parking lot she asked me why the church was in a warehouse building.

I was impressed by the many different races that were walking into the building. I saw many Hispanics, Africans, African-Americans, Caucasians, and Asians. It looked and felt like Pentecost.

We walked into the building and into their sanctuary. The place is a huge room that had a stage in front and a cross on each side of the front. Two big screens were adjacent to the crosses. Since we were late in arriving the singing had already started. The band was made up of ten folks—five singers and five instrumentalists. It was also racially diverse. There must have been at least 500 people in the sanctuary. This was one of three worship services on the weekend.

We sang three or four songs. Each song was led by a different song leader. Before one song we took the offering. The congregation was very enthusiastic about the singing. Many people were raising their hands and responding to the short faith stories that some of the song leaders shared.
Hannah didn’t like the music and asked if she could walk around. I gave her my phone and she hung out in the lobby for the rest of the service.

After the singing, Greg Boyd jumped up on the stage to preach. He was dressed in a polo shirt, shorts, and didn’t have shoes. He sat on a stool the entire sermon. He is sharing a series called, “God’s Shadow Activity.” He’s looking at the image of God and asking the question how this is reconciled with the Jesus of the cross.

The sermon was academic and felt like an academic lecture. Many people took notes. I wish I had taken notes as I got a bit lost. My getting lost had more to be with me than with the sermon. I wasn’t at my sharpest attention.

It’s obvious that Greg uses the sermons to engage people in conversation. He encouraged people to text questions to him. On the web page for each sermon is a place for conversation. Last week many people talked to each other via the web site about the sermon. The link is here:

The sermon must have gone about 45 minutes. When it was done, Greg prayed for the congregation and we left.

Hannah didn’t enjoy the experience as she didn’t like the music, the building, and the sermon was over her head. I do know she enjoyed texting her friends as she sat in the lobby.

I would have enjoyed a little more liturgy and beauty.

I was very impressed by the spiritual vitality of the people at Woodland Hills. They take their faith very seriously. This is not a congregation of entertainment—a frequent criticism of mega-churches. There weren’t any videos shown (though I’m guessing that videos are shown), or easy sermon illustrations, or a lot of glitz. This was an experience where people were encouraged in many ways to take their faith very seriously.

We in the main-line have a lot to learn from Woodland Hills!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been attending Woodland Hills Church since 1998.

Funny, like Hannah, I attended Woodland Hills for the first time with my mother and father and did not like it. I was 19. It was in a high school and the music was really funky. Too out there for my taste. What I did like though was the quality of the worship music.

It took about 5 times of my parents forcing (yes forcing ha ha)me to attend with them before the Holy Spirit really started to move. I didn't see it for what it was at the time but some 13+ years later it is very obvious God was so present even back then.

Anyway I ended up loving it there! The music, the sermons, EVERYTHING. I even met my husband there and we have been married for 11 years. But the most beautiful and ironic part of it all is now I am on the Worship Team and have been for a little over 5 years.

At Woodland Hills each weekend has a different type of worship music so while we are encouraged to worship our King in all music, I of all people understand the need for truly enjoying the music one worships to. If one particular weekend doesn't tickle ones' fancy I would encourage them to visit another weekend...noone ever knows just when and how our God will move. : )
Thank you for your insight!Blessings.