Home > Church, Faith, God Project > Pretend This Says Something About Woodside Bible Church

Pretend This Says Something About Woodside Bible Church

Let’s talk about espresso and cappuccinos again.  The reason most church-type bars fail is because they use the equivalent to consumer espresso machine.  Try as you might, it won’t taste good.  A really good professional espresso machine will run you about 15 grand.  This was the crux of my argument is my last Kensington post: the Church unsuccessfully trying to imitate popular culture to draw people away instead of going out and influencing people by living in the culture.

Let’s start with Woodside, and my prejudices.  I attended a Woodside service at White Lake a few weeks before starting this project.  We got the time wrong, arrived late, but still caught the message.  Wasn’t overly impressed, but not immediately turned off.  The newsletter was a trip: movie reviews that totally missed the point, a science column that pimped a “creationist USA tour”, and a column to review Christian fiction.  I know, I laughed really hard at someone actually wanting to read Christian fiction, too.  The newsletter—a whopping 44-pages this month—details the ongoings of the 5 Woodside campuses and various aspects of Christian livelihood.  They even have their own TV show, “Get Real: A Christian Take on Current Events” which is pretty self-explanatory.  So, walking into Woodside in Troy Sunday I mentally prepped myself for the worst.

Then, Mike Wenland took the stage.  And started talking about influencing the community, as in actually going out into the community and helping.  Showing the people the love of Christ through our actions as Christians.  At Woodside.  In Troy.  I’m not gonna lie—I was taken aback.  I was reeling.  Had I judged a church so wrongly based on one visit?  Did I completely miss the point?  This brought up a lot of questions on the nature of the Project and of my own views.  This message was exactly what I wanted to hear at a Church.  You help just to help.  Not with an ulterior motive, not with the intention of making a convert, because you know better, or just to pull them into your church.  You help because you can.  At Woodside.  This message was at Woodside.

Then, Mike Wenland asked a woman who made a missions trip to South Africa to take the stage.  She started talking about their trip and the work they did.  The horrors she saw, “Some woman had abortions (gasps from the audience), some were single mothers (gasps from the audience), and some had AIDS (really? That’s what you put last).”  Um, people, have you looked outside?  This isn’t a phenomenon specific to Africa, you could go 20 minutes to Detroit, or 20 minutes to Waterford and get the same thing.  I was willing to discount this until she started talking about they told people if they accepted Jesus they’d have a better life.  Trust us, we know. (True story: following Jesus cures AIDs.)  At the end, the woman asked us to pray for a single mother who had AIDs to come to know Christ, “because she didn’t make a confession of faith when we were there.”  Really?  Who cares, lets pray for her well-being and that of her kid. Unintentionally, her presentation highlighted a very freakish colonial attitude in Woodside.  Then, Mike Wenland continued it.  The conversation turned from helping just to help, to helping to bring people to a Woodside event.  To influence people but not be influenced.

Let’s stop here for a second because this is where the sermon fell apart.  We go out into the world to influence people, make contacts and connections with the sinners (their words not mine) but resolve not to be influenced by them.  Why?  Because we’re Christians and we know better.  Get to know them, but don’t really get to know them until they’re a notch on our bedpost.  Woodside talked about not insulating ourselves from the world, but don’t you dare become apart of it.  I don’t see it’s possible.  We don’t have to accept every aspect of the culture—and nobody, even atheists conform with every bit of culture—but we don’t stand aloofly over it.  You can’t tell me a non-Christian hasn’t a good idea.  If that’s true, we need to dismiss anything Ghandi ever talked about; or countless ideas from scientists and artists.  If we walk around like we have all the answers, we end up doing something stupid, offensive, and damaging.  Confidence is good, overconfidence is bad.  We have to be willing to discuss and exchange ideas and be influenced by the thoughts of others—especially if we want anyone to take Christians seriously.

Woodside seems to miss this point, promoting a culture that just keeps trying to help people because they know better.  This message is damning enough, but when it comes from middle-aged, well off, white people it’s just damn uncomfortable.  Woodside’s arrogance showcases itself in their building, specifically “Bridges Café”, their coffee shop.  We showed on the day of their grand re-opening.  I thought it was just cute lingo, everyone uses grand opening to describe anything, “It’s the grand opening of my laundry room!”  But when I walked in with Stu I was floored.  Remember how I used Kensington’s coffee shop to accent the church imitating poorly?  Remember how I said you need at least a 15 grand espresso machine to be good, like, 5 paragraphs ago?  Yeah, Woodside has a machine by La Marazocco—a professional espresso machine manufacturers used by almost every coffee shop—that clocks in around 15 grand.  They had two touch screen registers, a really nice stainless steel fridge to host milk, and some good coffee brewers.  Stu and I ballparked the cost for the coffee shop alone and we can to the figure of $50,000.  50 grand for a coffee shop that’s only open Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.  50 grand.  That’s the budget for some churches for 6 months.  That’s a yearly salary.  That’s 50 grand that could be donated anywhere in one of the struggling cities and townships within a 20 minutes of the campus.  50-fuckin-grand.  I could write a totally different article on this.  But  50-fuckin-grand because you know better.  Nothing accents a superior, “trust me, I know better” attitude in a church then walking into their 50-fuckin-grand coffee shop.  I almost gave Woodside a pass, and wrote a lengthy apology about how wrong I was.  Then I walked into a 50-fuckin-grand coffee shop after being told “to influence, but not be influenced” by the sinners in the world.  I set out to never, ever write this about a church during the Project, but after one week at Woodside I’m gonna break my own rule: Woodside is a church that totally misses the point, completely misses the point of what we should be doing.

Trust me on this.

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  1. David Swanson
    July 28, 2011 at 6:10 am

    I write the Bible quiz for Woodside’s monthly newspaper. I studied the Bible at Woodside for over ten years before becoming a member.
    You are evaluating Woodside by the Coffee Cafe? I spent over 50 hours volunteering to build that Cafe. Volunteer craftsmen designed and built that cafe. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians and painters worked together on their own time.
    Woodside outgrew the former building because of the worship style and small group projects. Woodside was projected to outgrow the new building in a few years. Rather than expand to another building, Woodside bailed out failing churches and made them grow in those communities.
    Woodside members contributed around $60,000 to Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. They gave over $100,000 to Haiti and Indonesia after the tragedies that struck them recently.
    You call The Woodside News, a 40 page newspaper that has been awarded the Evangelical Press Association’s excellence award two years in a row; a newsletter.
    I hope you enjoyed your week of worship at Woodside’s Troy campus.
    Are you church hopping to evaluate churches on effectiveness in communicating God’s message?

    • August 6, 2011 at 9:30 am

      I’m surprised this post is still drawing comments. The Woodside and Jesus is my Boyfriend series have drawn the most reaction from people. Sorry, I didn’t approve this earlier, David, I don’t do much upkeep with this blog anymore. I’m going to point you over to the ChurchRater review I wrote on Woodside (which is my two reviews from here synthesized) that had a very active comment section after it hit. I, and a few other people, address similar comments you made. Here’s the link: http://churchrater.com/churches/woodside-bible-church

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