Pop Culture Church

1 decade 2 years 3 weeks ago Monday, May 21 2007 May 21, 2007 Monday, May 21, 2007 11:04:34 PM CDT May 21, 2007 in News

He rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, wears a diamond stud earring, and is also a pastor at one of Columbia's largest churches.

"I'm pretty active in the community and most people, when I actually get to know them a little bit, they go 'So now what do you do?' I'm like, 'Well, actually I'm the pastor at Woodcrest.' And they go, 'Nah!,'" said Pieter Van Waarde, pastor.

Van Waarde has been a pastor at Woodcrest for 13 years, and he says one visit could change the way people think about church. Churches like Woodcrest use pop culture to make their message hit home.

"I think when you actually use culturally familiar subjects, songs, icons, that it kinda helps people say 'Wow maybe there is a connection between what I do on the weekends and the rest of my life,'" said Van Waarde.

A University of Missouri sociologist researched churches' use of pop culture and says the worship services connect with a unique audience.

"The people that I've talked to like it because it is relevant and contemporary. There's a feeling that they don't have to have a big church background in their personal history in order to understand and know what's going on and be able to get something out of it," said Kevin McElmurry, Department of Sociology.

Woodcrest began 20 years ago, and now more than 2,000 people attend services each week. Besides having services in the main auditorium, Woodcrest also has video cafes in the building and another campus in Jefferson City. Over the next ten years, it hopes to start even more throughout mid-Missouri.

Woodcrest records its Saturday night service and shows it to 150 people on Sunday mornings at the Capitol Mall in Jefferson City.

"Sometimes people come to a church like this and it's too big and impersonal. But at a video cafe it has the small church feel, but you have the band and kind of all the things that people seem to appreciate about our weekend services," said Van Waarde.

McElmurry says religion is always changing as churches find ways to connect with members.

"It always has been and will continue to be a kind of project for churches to figure out how to make their traditions and history relevant for the current generations, whether it's now or 20 years from now or 100 years from now," said McElmurry.

And churches like Woodcrest hope they're set to ride into that future.

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