“Shun, as you would the plague, a cleric who from being poor has become wealthy, or who, from being nobody has become a celebrity.”
Robert Schuller had a profound effect on how church is practiced. However, for many years, he was the only game in town. But, the popularity of positive preaching would come to surpass even Schuller’s “me” oriented pitch. This month, Schuller’s ministry filed for bankruptcy protection. This may protect him from having to shell out money but it does not protect him from criticism And, in this writer’s opinion, he deserves it.
1.The prosperity gospel/other churches compete
We have written extensively on the prosperity gospel pimps who tell the faithful the Jesus was actually rich and He wants His faithful to be rolling in dough as well. So, now you not only were supposed to focus on old Number One but you were also supposed to be rich old Number One. Churches morphed quickly from prayer, service and Biblical teaching to an outright circus, looking more like an Amway convention than a gathering of the faithful.
Instead of John 3:16, people we memorizing slogans based on ancient Egyptian metaphysical constructs repackaged for modern audiences. “If you confess it, you will possess it.” Faith morphed from a daily of dying to one’s self to a “speaking what you want into existence.”
The new boys rode into town. Joel Osteen was hipper. Benny Hinn promised more bang for your prayer. Joyce Meyer promised a life of blessings, which meant big houses, big cars and big cash.
Soon, churches in the other denomination such as the SBC took notice and started building their Crystal Cathedrals (see FBC Dallas) with popular, television ready pastors.
Schuller’s game morphed from a cutting edge “ministry” to just another same old, same old, with an aging, has been pastor.
2.Overbuilding, without money
Schuller had a peculiar habit of building fancy digs without having money in hand. He was “positive” that the money would come in. Religious broadcasting was changing and Hour of Power lost over half of its audience. This program actually provided the bulk of the church’s income. From the NY Times we learn:
This information apparently came from Robert Schuller Jr. who was supposed to succeed his father and was forced to step down.
“His father, he said, had believed that striking new buildings attracted donors who would continue giving. It worked with the Crystal Cathedral sanctuary dedicated in 1980, designed by the famed architect Philip Johnson and quickly paid off by thousands of donors who had their names inscribed on windows, seats and even the struts that support the glass. But the strategy failed with the church’s “welcoming center,” designed by Richard Meier. It was finished in 2003, and when some major donations fell through, the church still owed $40 million for it, according to the younger Mr. Schuller.”
3. Unrealistic numbers (Shades of the SBC!)
Once again from the same NY Times article we learn :
“Mr. Schuller said that when he came on board, a meticulous effort to straighten out the membership rolls found only 900 to 1,100 regular congregants at Crystal Cathedral — which would mean that it was about 1,500 people short of even qualifying as a mega church. (The church spokesman, Mr. Charles, said Mr. Schuller’s figures were misleadingly low because he counted only those who attended every week. He said the church currently has about 10,000 congregation members."
4. Extravagant programming.
From the Wall Street Journal, October 23-24, 2010, we learn the following.
“The church’s debt underscores the elaborate style that came to define the Crystal Cathedral, often cited as progenitor (what did TWW tell you?) of the American mega church. For example, Holiday pageants featured live animals, hundreds of performers and live music. “They had the top choreographers come in and work with the dancers, the top make-up artists, too.” said Joe Branam, owner of Branam Enterprises in Compton Calif., which builds stages for rock concerts and movies and did work for the church. “I’d say the Christmas show in many ways could be more elaborate than a KISS concert.” (They owe Branam a mere few hundred dollars).
5. Whatever Sally Seeker wants, Sally Seeker gets. After all it’s about the Gospel, right?
I found this quote in the same Wall St Journal priceless. Brett Judson who is a church member and paid pipe organ performer who is owed money as well said the following.
“The church’s style might seem extravagant, but it brought worship to life. Pageantry is something the congregation wants. All the musical and dramatic outlets are a way to open people up to a positive Christian message.”
I have looked for a listing of the actual cost of this pageant but had trouble finding any numbers. This item in the Huffington Post should give us some idea that the costs were high.
“Kristina Oliver, who owns Oliver Livestock Co. in Hemet, says the cathedral owes her more than $56,000. For 29 years, her family has been supplying the pageants with live animals – camels, goats, sheep, horses and donkeys – a much-touted feature of the Glory pageants”.Also Crystal Cathedral is so financially strapped it has failed to pay nearly $100,000 to the vendors responsible for producing the mega-church's mega-popular Christmas and Easter pageants. (Both shows have been canceled for this year; it would have been the Christmas show's 30th anniversary)."
I also read on some older advertisements that they had thousands of people attending these shows at an average cost per ticket of $25.00
Hold it….I need to pontificate. Let me get this straight. Our Lord was born in the direst of circumstances, in a cave stable surrounded by animals and muck. His mother and earthly father had little money. Rough shepherds attended Him and angels provided music for the shepherds. In order to reproduce poverty for authenticity, it costs how much???!!!!!!!!!! I guess it might be a negative Christian message if we accurately portrayed the living conditions present that evening. Manure doesn’t smell as nice as apple and cinnamon. Maybe Mary should have hit the shepherds up for some coinage to view the Baby? Good Night!!!!!!!
Just so our dear readers can get the feel of really being at the “The Glory of Christmas” at the Crystal Cathedral, we have included a picture of the camel which had the audacity to sneeze on one reporter, John Shore, who attended the pageant. The reporter was covered in camel snot and did not enjoy the rest of the pageant. How could the Schullers let Sneezy (his name) starve????!!! Poor Sneezy.
6. Schuller is the type of guy who spends more time being a celebrity than a pastor.
I found this following quote to be interesting. Even though I found this on a Christian site by Paul Wilkinson, it was written by a self-professed non-Christian. Isn’t it interesting that outsiders can see us more clearly sometimes? Does this remind our readers of any other pastors who spend more time going to conferences than pursuing their pastoral duties.
“But another Orange County publication, the OC Journal, has columnist Gustavo Arellano inferring that Schuller, Sr. “had it coming.”
…”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. 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 mega church 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.”
7. Schuller has relied on his immediate family in the business and did not have a definitive plan for succession.
Schuller is now 84 years old. He planned to have his son, Robert Schuller Jr., take over the pulpit. A few years ago, he began as lead pastor. However, after three years in the pulpit, daddy removed Junior. At which point one daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, took over the pulpit while other immediate progeny and spouses ran the rest of the ministry.
The reason for Junior’s removal is vague. I couldn’t find any source that gave a definitive answer. Questions were raised about his more subdued manner, his supposed lack of interest in the “positive preaching” style, and his wish to remove family members from the church board due to conflict of interest. The New York Times reports that his father said his son “wasn’t anointed.” This is a “spiritually sounding” excuse that does not ring true.
Of course all of that is speculation. But, allow me one further rant. I have observed many successful preachers turning blind eyes to the lack of talent in their own family members. Preaching is a matter of calling. There is nothing in Scripture that seems to indicate that kids should take over daddy’s pulpit. In fact Jesus said that we are not to regard our own family members above the call. He would often tell people to leave their family to follow Him.
There should not be family members on the payroll of any church. The potential for conflict is far too strong. I deplore the hiring of spouses as employees in churches. For example, Debbie Brunson is a paid staff member of FBC Jacksonville. Can you imagine if old Mac had to tell his wife to shape up or ship out? It just won’t happen. It is high time for this practice to cease.
8.The recession added to the woes and the church has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows them to stay open for business.
The same Wall Street Journal article from above reports that revenues fell from $26.6 million in 2008 to $18.8 million in 2009.
I would like to leave you with some idea of unpaid creditors. The church has filed Chapter 11. They have vowed to pay back all of their creditors. Is it just me or has the church strayed a bit from its mission? I wonder if Jesus would need a media consultant or telemarketing services. How would Christmas ties work with tunics??
Lloyd Daniel Corp (media consultant) $318,500
Infocision Management (telemarketing services) $359,788
Eagle Wings (religious themed neckties) $2000
Lutzger and Lutzger (Legal services-Washington DC) $147,225
Cincinatti based bank which financed sound and stage equipment for the church’s TV productions $2,000,000
A MAJOR SUGGESTION FOR THE SCHULLER FAMILY AT THE FANCY CATHEDRAL
I would like to leave you with a thought. Can you imagine how people who are outside of the faith view this debacle? What about the witness to the vendor? Here is an example found in the OC Register. Oliver is the supplier of the camels mentioned above.
“On Wednesday, Oliver said she and her family were locked out of their house in the rain by the bank that acquired the property after foreclosure. Oliver has two young children and a husband who is recovering from cancer.
"We had no jackets, no medication…it was awful,'' she said. The Oliver family will get one last opportunity to pack up their things and move to a trailer.”
Why don’t the Schullers put on a positive grin and do something that matters? They should sell their fancy houses, give their money to Oliver and then they should move into a trailer. Maybe, then,their crocodile tears for their creditors would be believable. Until they do, this writer believes that this ministry is all about SCHULLER. Maybe they should read their Bibles instead of self help psychobabble.Or is this all a game to them?
Twelve disciples, with no money and few possessions, yet armed with a zeal born of a witnessed Resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit began a movement that changed the face of the world and converted an empire in short order. No telemarketers, no legal services, and certainly no Christmas themed neckties were necessary. Perchance we aren’t behaving like Jesus after all. Conceivably we are merely running a business and doing so quite badly at that. Its time to call a moratorium on fancy pageants and impressing the well-heeled seeker and revisit a poor little cave in Bethlehem.