identifying the real problem

by now, everyone has heard about the chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by robert schuller’s baby, the crystal cathedral.  while i do not claim to know what happened, and i certainly have no interest in trashing another ministry, i think crystal cathedral’s failure is instructive.

and i will studiously refrain from saying, “i told you so.”

current pastor, sheila schuller coleman (robert schuller’s daughter) said, “budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue due to the recession.”  may i humbly suggest, please, that the recession had little to do with this fiasco?

columnist gustavo arellano writes in the orange county journal:

…The world will see that Schuller ultimately influenced American Christianity the most of any pastor in OC–at the expense of his own flock and for personal benefit.

While Chuck Smith revitalized American evangelicalism via Calvary Chapel, the Crouches revolutionized broadcasting the words of Christ (including Schuller’s own Hour of Power) and Rick Warren built a global megachurch without peer, Schuller put too much of his church’s focus on himself–the best-selling books, the television program, the many lectures. His message of possibility thinking and seminars for pastors made Warren possible, created the megachurch movement, and brought in millions to build his Crystal Cathedral–but while Schuller mugged for the cameras, he never did set a course of succession for his flock. If I was more up-to-date on my Scripture, this is the part where I’d quote Jesus or some prophet about vanity–oh, Ecclesiastes!–and say Schuller didn’t learn.

the first lesson we should learn is that the method that god promotes (and is, thus, failure-proof) for kingdom growth is raising up and equipping young disciples to do ministry.

the most glaring deficiency, however, seems to be in robert schuller’s character.  i realize that i am relying on the perspective of a news reporter, but the fact that he said, “schuller put too much of his church’s focus on himself” is very telling.  we (church leaders) desperately need to learn that the kingdom is not our corporate ladder.  architecture and attendance and affluence are not accurate standards for success.  true spiritual success can only be measured by our faithfulness in following god’s direction and laying down our lives for god’s people.

jesus said, “i will build my church.”  it is not my church, it is his.

my only responsibility in the process is to cooperate with him.


(thanks to paul wilkinson at “thinking out loud” for the arellano quote)


3 thoughts on “identifying the real problem

  1. The rattling of the Crystal Cathedral (Recession indeed!) is evidence of God’s grace in willingly shaking some of the silliness out of the Visible church…at the risk of shameless self-promotion, see my post about being encouraged by 21st Century Christianity:

    There, Randy, as promised is my comment. Don’t leave us, Pastor.
    BTW, I want to leave a comment soon about my sad & hilarious experience with AG in my very early Christian life around 1971.

    • i love your post about “the invisible church,” ed, and have in fact quoted you in this space. i am gratified and humbled by your friendship, virtual though it may be.

  2. It is sad and another black mark on the “church” but it is also needed. A needed reminder to you and me that this thing we do is not about us. A needed reminder to the church that it is not about buildings or flash. A needed reminder that it can happen to any of us. A needed reminder that anything but preaching the gospel of Christ will tire and get old and burn up. I am still amazed they owed $38 mil on the building after all these years. But this is a lesson I hope we all learn.

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