Fellowship in the Woodlands|
January 4, 2012
Most of America's problems are cultural. Even our economic problems stem from
the cultural rejection of personal responsibility and the acceptance of
collective responsibility. And none of our problems would be as bad if the
church was still shaping the culture instead of merely responding to it. I was
reminded of this during my annual holiday trip home to The Woodlands, Texas.
I've attended Christmas Eve services four out of the last six years at the
Woodlands Church (formerly Fellowship of the Woodlands), which is a Southern
Baptist mega church that keeps its Baptist affiliation well hidden from the
general public. That is symptomatic of what ails the church in 21st Century
America. Production and marketing take center stage. Core beliefs are lost
somewhere in the process.
Make no mistake about it; the production is good at The Woodlands Church. The
set is grand and the music is wonderful. Pastor Kerry Shook and his wife Chris
are largely responsible for that. Their son, a musician living in Nashville,
comes home to perform in the Christmas services every year. I've seldom heard a
more talented young singer and guitarist.
Couched in the musical productions of these mega churches, one sees an
overwhelming desire to deliver a product that demonstrates the cultural
relevance of the church. This is especially true on holidays when the church has
more visitors than usual. This Christmas Eve, one of the singers was dressed
like Michael Jackson and was moon walking around the stage as others sang. I
didn't see a likeness of baby Jesus in a manger. But I saw a likeness of Michael
Jackson in a sequin outfit.
Many people dispute whether Jackson was a pedophile. No one disputes that he is
still culturally relevant. Nonetheless, it was strange seeing Michael Jackson's
likeness on stage just minutes after the church staff assured parents that the
church nursery provided a safe environment for their young children. Mega
churches are seldom short on cash or irony.
After the music, an enormous train engine (actually, it was a life size model)
appeared in the middle of the stage. It was slowly moved in on a set of make
shift tracks in the midst of smoke and accompanied by the sound of a real train
whistle. The pastor boasted that the whistle could be heard all the way over on
highway 242. I agreed that the set was impressive. It probably took the church
staff as much time to build it as would have been required to build a medium
sized home for an impoverished Houston family
The crowd at Woodlands Church also got to see a YouTube video of a man watching
an old train pull into a station. I still don't understand the point of showing
the video, which featured a man so excited to see an old train that he took the
Lord's name in vain three times. Let that sink in for a minute: The Woodlands
Church played (in church, mind you) a video in which a man was taking the Lord's
name in vain three times. And they did it as part of a Christmas Eve service
celebrating the birth of our Lord.
It reminded me of the time I took the Lord's name in vain in a lecture at Summit
Ministries in 2010. I didn't mean to do it. But it didn't matter. The kids at
the ministry let me have it - and rightfully so. I was absolutely in the wrong.
My question for the mega church is simple: how did the commandment-violating
video get past the entire staff at the Woodlands Church without someone catching
it and correcting it? It's pretty easy to do an overdub on "oh my God" to turn
it into "oh my." But the entire staff missed it. Or perhaps they didn't care.
Unlike my teenaged Summit students, senior pastor Kerry Shook couldn't see
anything wrong with playing that video in church on Christmas Eve - even though
its narrator took the Lord's name in vain three times. He just laughed at it.
And that was all that mattered. The service wasn't meant to honor God. It was
meant to entertain.
Kerry and Chris delivered a joint sermon, which had a broad general theme
connected to the giant locomotive that stood behind them. The thesis was that we
need to relinquish our need to control people and circumstances and instead let
God direct our lives. But during the short sermon, Kerry's wife said something
rather unusual. It had to do with holy moments in our lives. It was as morally
confused a statement as I have ever heard inside a place calling itself a
Without batting an eye, Chris Shook stated that all of the moments in our lives
are equally holy no matter what we are doing because they were all created by
God. So she insisted that we must learn to live in the moment, rather than seek
a holy moment - because, once again, all moments are holy, and equally so.
To illustrate the error of Chris Shook's statement, consider these "equally
holy" moments, which were "all created by God":
-A man sees a woman being raped and intervenes to stop the attack.
-A man sees a woman being raped and decides to join in.
-A man gives his wife a dozen roses.
-A man gives his wife herpes.
-A man tells his grandmother she is a saint.
-A man tells his grandmother she is a whore.
Obviously, not every moment in our lives is equally holy or God honoring "no
matter what we are doing." It matters very much what we are doing. Everyone
knows that, including Chris' husband Kerry who contradicted his wife about five
minutes later. Near the end of their joint sermon, Kerry thanked people for
coming to The Woodlands Church on "Christmas Eve, one of the holiest nights of
Put simply, there can be no holier or holiest night if every moment in our lives
is equally holy. Either Kerry was right or his wife Chris was right. A cannot be
not-A. The law of non-contradiction matters.
Every right thinking person knows that Kerry was right. His wife needed to sit
down and let her husband the senior pastor deliver the correct message
unencumbered by contradictions steeped in moral relativism. The culture teaches
moral relativism. The church needs to correct it.
Of course, having Chris up there was the most important thing because it shows
that The Woodlands Church really isn't a Baptist Church after all. They let
women preach and that shows they are culturally relevant. A little bad theology
never hurt anyone.
In our holiest moments, we recognize that sound theology must defer to the
secular doctrine of feminism. Some doctrines are holier than others. And
relativism is culturally relevant even when it isn't logically consistent.
Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina
Wilmington and author of
Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting
Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand, due out in