If you haven’t heard, the Crystal Cathedral, long pastored by Robert H. Shuller and now pastored by his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, recently filed for bankruptcy—apparently more than 550 creditors are owed $50 to $100 million. This is not surprising, given that while the church was supposedly in the process of cutting back, the continued to build and continued to put on multimillion dollar productions. The Crystal Cathedral with its 10,000 glass panes now stands as a testament to the churches own opulence and failed trust in health, wealth, and prosperity principles.
I don’t mean to be overly harsh on the Crystal Cathedral, but I do often wonder how many missionaries or how many children in need could be fed for the price of those 10,000 glass panels of which the impressive structure is made. Further, Schuller is well known for preaching a comfortable gospel and denying essential tenants of the Christian faith. That is why I was surprised to read that only 3 miles away from the Crystal Cathedral, Bobby Schuller, grandson of Robert H. Schuller, is preaching at a church called The Gathering.
I found this interesting because in the LA Times article, young Bobby Schuller was articulating a far different vision for his church than his grandfather. He said he wants his church to be about community and something “messy people with messy lives” can relate to. Volunteers arrive before each service each Sunday and take down the chairs and tables that that afternoon. More than 90% of the church funds go toward social justice issues such as homelessness and domestic violence. Young Schuller has set up his office in his garage and drives a Toyota Camry with over 200,000 miles on it.
Schuller says in short, their goal is “to make big Christians, not big churches.” In so much as that is true, I commend Bobby and his church, The Gathering, as the church’s calling is to make disciples not build big buildings. Of course the job o f the pastor is to lead his church in disciple making by preaching God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). I don’t know what young Schuller preaches—whether he preaches the Bible or not, I don’t know what he believes exactly, but I was encouraged to hear this story. Its encouraging to hear about churches giving more and concerned more about people than they are about numbers, big buildings and impressive productions.
So today, I prayed for Bobby Schuller, that he would preach the word, that he would continue to stand out from his father and his grandfather before him whose ministries, at least on the outside, did not always seem properly focused. I prayed that he would preach the word and I also prayed for my church. I prayed that we would be a church centered on the glory of God and focused on helping people trust wholeheartedly in a big God. I also prayed that God would help me be a more giving person and that God would make us a church known for giving to those in need.