Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review: The Promise, Woodland, WA

The Promise is a charismatic church in Woodland, WA. I had visited and reviewed Grace Community Church in Woodland last year, and I wanted to see what the other churches in the area were like.

I found on The Promise's website that they have prayer at 9:45 and the worship service at 10:00, so I planned to be there at ten. I had brought some paper with me to draw or write on while I was there, because I often have a hard time paying attention in church. However, I used up three sides of paper just on writing notes down about what the church was like, the music, the sermon, etc.

When I arrived, they were still having their prayer session, which involved the laying on of hands and prayer (which I feel is a good thing), while at the same time the guy playing the piano repeated the words "Signs, wonders, and miracles" over and over again (which I did not feel comfortable with). At the end of the prayer session, the person in charge said to say "Signs, wonders and miracles to you" to another person before sitting down. Quite a bit different than saying "Jesus be with you", or "Peace be with you"... "miracles be with you"? This right away put me in a defensive mood, because we are supposed to be focusing on Jesus and praising him, not praising or seeking the "signs, wonders and miracles".

The church itself was built like a small gymnasium, with a basketball hoop on each of the opposite walls, yet with a large stage set into the long wall opposite the entry doors. The stage had a black background, with a projection screen in the top center, and three large stars hanging on each side of it, lit up by blue lights. To the left side of the stage there was a large, abstract painting of raised hands, with the person in the middle holding up an open Bible. The chairs had comfortable padding on the back and seat, and they were a tasteful green.

As I waited for the service to start, there was music playing softly on the speakers that sounded an awful lot like "Gimme Some Lovin'", by the Spencer Davis Group, especially the guitar-riffs from it. dun-dun-dun-dun-DUN-da... and so forth.

They announced for those who were new that they have nurseries and children's church available.

Then the music started, and lasted for roughly an hour and 13 minutes; a loud, rumbling type of music, with the drummer rocking out in his small room with a plastic window, at least three people on guitars, one keyboard, and one piano.

More than half of the congregation went to the front and joined in raising their hands and singing, jumping up and down and dancing, and waving their hands.

I am pretty comfortable with people raising their hands in worship and praising God, but with the dancing and jumping it resembled a mosh pit rather than a worship service. Naturally I was still sitting in my chair in the back row.

The songs went like this: "I can't hold my love back from you, I gotta sing, sing my love to you..."- about 10 minutes. Then the music got much louder and you couldn't hear the singing. I began to get a headache. Then they added in "praise the Lord, Oh my soul" here and there, and continued for 15 more minutes.

As the music just seemed to go on and on without any singable rhythm to it, I decided to use this time to visit the restroom. It was spacious and somewhere between the colors of lavender and violet, with a shower stall at the end and a "mother's lounge" off the side of it, which had a comfy couch and a glider-rocker. They had sanitary paper toilet covers and an automatic paper towel dispenser (both which I value in a restroom).

I returned at 10:32 and the girl up front was now repeatedly singing the words "heavenly places", and then moved into singing "Can you feel the spirit of heaven here? (repeat many times ), then "It's surrounding you" (repeat) "It's brushing against you" (repeat) "Can you taste it? Can you smell it?" (repeat) "Heaven is here"... and then she hummed for a while.. then some more statements like the same, and "There are angels all around".. "Heaven is all around".. then repeated over and over "Wake up my senses".

Me:  Shouldn't it be "Jesus is here"? "Can you feel his presence?" Are we worshiping heaven or the one who created it? And as far as I understand it from the Bible, the Kingdom of Heaven is in our hearts and in the realm that God resides (and the actual place of Heaven that we ourselves with live in has not been created yet, and it will descend out of heaven to the earth after Christ returns), but it is not something that exists just floating around us here on earth. There could easily be Angels around us, but focusing on feeling their presence would be quite contrary to the worship of God or Jesus. It may be okay for the Unitarians and the Pagans, who feel that everything is one big flow of nature to be sensed and meditated into, and we are all the same and everyone will go to heaven, but my feet are planted firmly on what it says in the Bible.

I asked the pastor about this afterward, and he said that one basis for this "heaven on earth" is the Lord's prayer, where it says "Your (God's) will be done on earth as it is in heaven", and he explained that it is their belief that we as Christians are to bring heaven to earth. This didn't jive with what I have known the Kingdom of Heaven to mean, and when my soul feels troubled about a doctrine, it usually means that something is out of place. I'm sure it would be just as remarkable to say that we are Christ's hands and feet in the world, doing His work and carrying out his will, but this it actually says in the Bible. It does not say that heaven itself will be brought to earth through the believers.

But I digress.

At 10:46 The music got softer, and a girl was speaking, saying things like "Jesus says 'Set your mind on me today'... Set your eyes on him and he will give you the desires of your heart" (This last bit did not sound right, so I looked it up when I got home; the correct verse is "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." - Psalm 37:4 ... looking at something and delighting in something are two different things.)

A new song started up, sing-speaking "Set our eyes on heaven, because that's where we are." As the music got poundingly louder, and almost everyone was clapping and jumping up and down up front, it became what can only be described as a frenzy.

They moved into another song which repeated "King of Glory, have your glory" for quite some time. "We are the carriers of your glory"

11:02 - Me:  Let's have a sermon already.
11:05 - No sign of stopping, a couple of people speaking in tongues at random times.
11:08 - New song. "I walk with miracles in my hands, to heal the sick and raise the dead. God's power moves through me bringing heaven to earth and making devils flee. Holy Spirit reign down on me, with tongues of fire consume me."
11:13 -- "I lay my life at your feet with open hands. I am yours. You are glorious, You are beautiful."

11:15 - Missionary statement, offering basket at front of church.

Next they had a laying on of hands and prayer for a lady who has been diagnosed with cancer. Most of the congregation went up front to participate. I prayed from my seat. The pastor introduced the prayer time by saying that the woman had been "diagnosed with a lie, and we would like to speak truth into her body." I am familiar with the concept of the devil planting lies in our mind, but I don't remember anything about him planting "lies" in our physical body. I will have to ask R about this.

11:36 - Testimonies. After 20 years of pain medication, exercises, and massage therapy, a man had prayer said over him by a member of the congregation, and now he has been pain-free for 5 months. Then a lady spoke about how God was working in her life to pray with people in wheelchairs. Both of these testimonies worked to ease a small amount of my negative feelings built up so far against the church.

11:52 - The pastor began speaking. He was comfortable to listen to, very open and energetic. He reminded me of an older version of R's best friend, possibly because he had on rectangular glasses.

Here are some points from the sermon:

- Our source of reality should be God's presence changing us on the inside.
- He is creating in us a spiritual reality, an eternal reality.
- We need to release others from the expectation of defining our life and being.
- We burden others by depending on them to define our existence and meet our needs.
- If our resource center is not focused completely on Jesus, it is focused on something material and transient, something faulty.
- The material things, the cares of the world choke out the Word inside of us and prevent us from bearing fruit.
- What makes up our being, our center, our core, needs to be supernatural, because the natural world (creation) is not able to create in us a spiritual reality.
- In the book of Acts, when Peter and John met the crippled beggar, Peter said "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6) In the Greek, the word "have" in "what I have", comes from the word "to be", so what Peter was saying was "what I 'be' I give to you". In other words, his "being" was Christ living in him, and that was all he had to give, but what he had to give was priceless beyond gold or silver.

Quietschie's translation of it: "I won't give you gold or silver, which will last only for a little while, but I will give you something infinitely better, what is living inside of me - Jesus Christ, who can heal you and give you not only a good life on earth, but an eternal existence in the next life."

So this concludes my review. The jury is still out on the "bringing heaven to earth" bit, but if I had come in around 11:00 and missed most of it, I probably wouldn't have noticed it in the next-to-last song, and would have felt more comfortable and less on the defense, like the Bereans checking everything against Scripture. Then I would have enjoyed the sermon more and felt more connected during it. There were some points in the testimonies and prayer and sermon that I felt God nudging me about areas that I need to give to Him. I'll talk about that in another post, since this is just the review.

[ ADDENDUM 1.4.2016 — Roughly 7 years later, I'd like to add an addendum: This post may have felt a bit clinical, but I was at a difficult stage in life seven years ago, and limited in my flexibility and grace. I love worship, and I loved it then, and I could easily enjoy an hour-long worship session — when properly informed and prepared for it. I love to worship with my hands raised to praise God, and I appreciate the exuberant freedom that some have in their worship of God.

However, there are still some areas of contention in my soul concerning musical discord (for example, drums louder than the singing, so those who don't know the songs are unable to participate) and lyrics that seem unscriptural, like worship of anything other than God. But would it be accurate to say that the words don't matter, as long as your heart is in the right spirit of worship? I'm not sure what the answer is yet. ]


Melissa said...

Very interesting review.

On another subject, I encourage you to get your artwork online and for sale. I like your style. I would buy the one with the line of trees - the blue/green one.

ammaka said...

Thank you for your encouragement.. But alas! The "Autumn Glade" painting is only in digital form as of yet. Maybe I could give it a go with real paint....

Melissa said...

This artist has some beautiful work on display at WSU Vancouver. Her paintings remind me of yours in their use of color and their simplicity.

Check out her work:

ammaka said...

Thanks for the link -- I like her colors and designs.

Anonymous said...

I have been to this church once before and I do enjoy the charismatic style (pentacostal)
My parents are now going to this church, however i have yet to go with them. I plan on attending, but i have kept my distance for a reason, I do not want my reactions to discourage a new believer in this church, who by the way, was on your list of testimonies. I have been praying for a long while that they would get saved. I know 2 things:
Romans 8:28-Or works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who
Proverbs 15:14-The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
I rest in truth to know that the lord works in mysterious ways, as i am a witness to.

Anonymous said...

I have been to this church many times and I know that they belive that God does want to work though us as he (Jesus) says "John 14:12
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.(New International Version)

And Jesus also says in Matthew 18:18 I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will bebound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."(New International Version)do you think that they are tring to bring heaven to earth to do what Jesus says because if heaven is here then it sets the stage for God to do whatever and he wants to and how ever he wants to do it? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Come back again and hear more, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. (I remember when raising your hands used to be a big, oh, my look what they are doing) The enemy would want you to miss what God is doing.

Katie LaPierre said...

Thank you for this insightful post. I would enjoy hearing what you have to say aobut Woodland Christian Church :0) My husband and I moved here about 3 months ago from California and he got a pastor position here. Check out our website for more info: