The news is traveling across the wires right now that the Crystal Cathedral, that iconic Garden Grove congregation that started the modern-day megachurch movement, has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The best coverage of this story has happened in the pages of theOrange County Register
, specifically Garden Grove reporter Deepa Bharath—she deserves a raise, given that religion isn't her beat but she's still been able to be on top of the story.
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But, given that few daily papers have religion reporters anymore, I wonder if anyone will put the downfall of the Rev. Robert Schuller's Bible-promoting baby in its proper context. Because, when all of OC's titans of Christianity eventually meet Charles E. Fuller in the afterlife, 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 evangelicism 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.
I've brought this point up before, but it demands repeating: maybe if Schuller had ditched the endless tours and paid more attention to his church, the Crystal Cathedral wouldn't be in this situation today. Or maybe he understood that it's Christ's message that's more important, not so much paying bills on time. But what do I know? I'm just a pissed-off Papist...