Crystal Chaos – The Cathedral's Spiral
Selling off more than the Family Silver to cover debts of millions
By Lance Goodall
Robert H. Schuller's Hour of Power has been on air for over 35 years. Back in 1974, there were only 40 stations carrying the telecasts. There were no cable network stations or internet websites at that time. That meant that the Crystal Cathedral had only 40 bills to pay. But now there is no money!
The church, and its internationally known telecast have been bleeding dollars and members for years.
Once one of the nation's most popular televangelists, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller is now watching his life's work crumble.The Crystal Cathedralblames the recession for its woes. But it's clear that the elder Schuller's carefully orchestrated leadership transition to his son, planned over a decade ago, has stumbled badly.It's a problem common to personality driven ministries. Most have collapsed or been greatly diminished after their founders left the pulpit or died.“Members often tie their donations to the pastor, not the institution,” said Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University. Schuller, with a style that blends pop psychology and theology, has a particularly devoted following, she said.“Today's increasingly fragmented media landscape is also to blame,” said Quentin Schultze, a Calvin College professor who specializes in Christian media.“Church-based televangelism led by powerful personalities filled TV in the 1980s, but now only a handful of shows remain”, he said.The elder Schuller, who called his weekly show America's Television Church, founded his ministry in a drive-in theatre after moving to Southern California in 1955.He studied marketing strategies to attract worshippers and preached a feel-good Christianity, describing himself as a "possibility thinker" and spinning his upbeat style into a 10,000-member church and a broadcast watched by millions worldwide.
The Schullers consider the church a family business and the younger Schuller's 2006 appointment was sanctioned by the Crystal Cathedral's parent denomination, the Reformed Church in America.But the church announced on Nov. 29, 2009 that Schuller Jr. had resigned as senior pastor, just a month after he was removed from the church's syndicated broadcasts. In a news release, Schuller Sr. said:
Robert and I have been struggling as we each have different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry.
The church has since instituted a rotating roster of high-profile guest preachers, including Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago-area mega-church and evangelist Luis Palau. Through the last couple of years the Crystal Cathedral has seen a 27 percent drop in revenue – from $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009 – and with a drop in this year's revenue anticipated.Crystal Cathedral administrators announced in May 2010 that they have started shutting down all operations at their 20-acre campus in Rancho Capistrano, closing a church, preschool, retreat area, soccer fields, camping grounds and a conference and wedding centre. In an effort to dig its way out of a $55 million debt, the mega-church has put its office building on Chapman Avenue for sale. The cathedral has also been seeking a buyer for the 20-acre retreat centre at Rancho Capistrano. The remaining 150 acres are in escrow to be sold to Continuing Life Communities, a developer that plans to build senior homes, as well as the city of San Juan Capistrano. City officials have said that they are looking at a variety of options for that property including a luxury hotel and a winery.Saddleback Church members are calling the possible acquisition of the retreat centre property visionary and miraculous. They have been leasing it from Schuller since May this year. The church said it was cancelling its annual Glory of Easter pageant, the renowned live stage production that the church has presented every year for nearly three decades. In addition to the setbacks announced, Crystal Cathedral is also reportedly laying off workers and may pull its once-popular Hour of Power television show in up to eight markets.In July 2010, as part of the changes taking place at Garden Grove's Crystal Cathedral, Rev. Sheila Schuller Coleman, was appointed as the lead pastor.
The church has seen some of its biggest challenges under Coleman's leadership.Crystal Cathedral faces legal action from more than 100 vendors who are owed millions for their work on the church's Glory of Christmas pageant and other projects.
At least three businesses and two television stations have filed lawsuits alleging the church never paid them, and a handful of musicians have already won their cases in the small claims court. And now, just recently announced, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral, and his family are taking a voluntary 50 percent pay cut to meet the demands of businesses that have sued the mega-church for more than $2 million in unpaid bills.Employees will also face a pay cut of between 5 and 10 percent.In recent days a new chapter for the Crystal Cathedral has begun. Recent financial reports indicate the best cash flow the Ministry has experienced in 10 years. But, the Crystal Cathedral has just filed for bankruptcy protection, under chapter 11. The church established by Robert Schuller, the very prophet of Possibility Thinking, is now forced to seek protection from its creditors, listing $55 million in debt, including a $36 million mortgage. The irony is that on page 86 of his 1986 book Move ahead with Possibility Thinking, Schuller wrote “Responsible debt is a badge of belief.” Now it's becoming a badge of bad management. The most significant problem at the Crystal Cathedral is not financial, but theological.Robert Schuller was born in 1926 to an Iowan family of Dutch descent, and was reared in theReformed Church in America (RCA). He entered the pastorate in 1951 at Hope Church in Chicago, which over the next four years grew from 38 to 400 members. In 1955, his denomination sent him to Orange County, California to establish a new church there.
Schuller went door-to-door inviting people to come to his church, and asking them what type of church they would like to attend. He began to see his church as a mission, a place where non-Christians would feel comfortable enough to come in and then later "accept Jesus."
How would he do this? By preaching only positive things! Schuller credits close friend Norman Vincent Peale with fine- tuning his own positive faith and laying the foundation for his own Possibility Thinking that was to come. Schuller's false teaching is an extremely serious matter in the light of his wide influence. His "self-esteem Christianity" has been adopted by multitudes. These believe they are Christians and attend churches; but in reality, they worship a false Christ and follow a false gospel. Robert Schuller and his mentor, the late Norman Vincent Peale, are two of the key culprits in promoting this error.Schuller reinterprets the doctrines of the Word of God to conform to his self-esteem philosophy. His “gospel” is the replacement of negative self concepts with positive ones. To Schuller, sin is merely the lack of self-esteem. He claims that the greatest evil is to call men sinners in a biblical fashion and thereby injure their self-esteem. Schuller is a Universalist, who believes that all people are the children of God. His goal is to help each person understand and enjoy this "fact." Bottom line, Schuller's message is that there is no need for one to recognize his own personal sin, no need for repentance, and no need for the crucifixion of self. In fact, concerning the latter point, Schuller teaches just the opposite philosophy -- that self is to be exalted -- which is nothing less than an outright denial of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ:For one who doesn't use the Bible much, it shouldn't surprise us when we realise how Schuller has distorted it in order to justify his theological positions.Schuller is guilty of blatant distortion when he equates the "rivers of living water" that Jesus referred to in John 7:38 with self-esteem:
And I can feel the self-esteem rising all around me and within me, 'Rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me' (John 7:38, TLB). I'll really feel good about myself (Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, p. 80).
The prime focus of Schuller's ministry continues today to be the self-esteem of the individual. Schuller believes that virtually every problem a person has, every ill that plagues society, all sin and evil in the world, is a result of people having low self-esteem. Therefore, our greatest need is to have our self-esteem increased.As Let Us Reason observes from a review of Robert Schuller's book, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation,
“I [i.e. Robert Schuller] contend that his unfulfilled need for self-esteem underlies every act ...over and over again that the core of man's sin is not his depravity but a 'lack of self- dignity', Self-esteem is ... the single greatest need facing the human race today.” (p. 15) He calls this esteem “divine self-esteem” (p. 95). “If the gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed as a theology of self- esteem, imagine the health this could generate in society!” (p. 47)
In contrast to and total contradiction of this heresy, the early Church followed the example of Paul, and preached "Christ and Him crucified," not a gospel of self- esteem (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:2; 1:18, 23; Rom. 3:10-18). We find no examples in the preaching of the apostles that man's basic problem was a low self-esteem. Instead we find that it is a need for forgiveness of his sins.Robert Schuller has proudly said:
What sets me apart from fundamentalists [is that they] are trying to convert everybody to believe how they believe. ... We know the things the major faiths can agree on. We try to focus on those without offending those with different view- points.
Schuller's connections include or have included Soviet sycophant Armand Hammer; the cult of Unity; media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who is financing Schuller TV in Europe. Every Sunday morning, just after dawn, The Hour of Power is broadcasted all over Europe on Sky One, courtesy of Rupert Murdoch. Napolean Hill's associate W. Clement Stone, who put up the funds to send out over 250,000 copies of Self- Esteem: The New Reformation to pastors and seminary professors;Course In Miracles promoter, Gerald Jampolsky; Amway; etc. Evidence of Schuller's promotion of New Age teachings and teachers is his article in the Summer 1986 issue of Possibilities magazine. As well as the central message being that 'all is God and God is all,' the article also declared,
The Christ Spirit dwells in every human being, whether the person knows it or not (p. 12).
Schuller has hosted on his Hour of Power show a long list of New Agers, cultists, and occultists, ranging from Gerald Jampolsky (who uses A Course in Miracles, dictated by a demon posing as Jesus), to influential Mormon leader, Jack Anderson. Schuller clearly sympathizes with Roman Catholicism. During the Pope's visit to Los Angeles in 1987, he "played the papal hoopla on [his church's] giant-sized screen for people to come watch."(David Beale, S.B.C. House on the Sand, p. 144) Schuller said: "It's time for Protestants to go to the shepherd [Pope] and say, 'What do we have to do to come home?" (11/15/87, The Calvary Contender). When Schuller was planning for the building of his Crystal Cathedral, he made a special trip to Rome to ask the Pope's blessing on the building plans (Foundation, March-April 1990).
In 1985, the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association and Tyndale House Publishers jointly published What Christians Can Learn from One Another about Evangelizing Adults, which contained a chapter by Billy Graham. The book called for greater cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics in so-called evangelism, and also included articles by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Robert Schuller, Bill Bright, Jack Wyrtzen, and others (Flirting With Rome, p. 31).The idea that people need to "find God in their own way" because "God lives in people" is completely contrary to Scripture. Schuller's universalistic theology, while popular today among the majority of liberal churches and even many so-called evangelical churches, is an abomination to God and is a false gospel. The Word of God teaches that all men are sinners and in rebellion against God, and that Jesus Christ is, exclusively "the way, the truth, and the life" - John 14:6In January 2007, Schuller held an all-star “Re – Think” conference at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.The guest list included:Former President George H.W. Bush; Chuck Colson; Larry King; Rupert Murdoch; Ben Stein and Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback mega-church pastor Rick Warren.
“Robert Schuller's mission has always been to 'rethink' and 'change' biblical Christianity into something 'new' – as in New Age/New Spirituality," says Warren Smith.
All of this has had a profound influence on what is going on within “Christendom”, including the Australian brand of it. For example at the 2006 Hillsong conference in Sydney, Rick Warren was a guest speaker. That year along with Warren, were Bill Hybels, Reinhardt Bonnke, Jentezen Franklin, and Rick Godwin. Speaking on the area of Stewardship of Affluence and Influence, Warren encouraged people to recognise that with God's blessing, comes great responsibility to live lives focussed on benefiting others. The Purpose Driven Church, written by Rick Warren is a development of Robert Schuller's Church Growth Marketing methods.The first pastor to 'make it big' using modern church growth techniques was in fact Robert Schuller. Schuller says proudly:
An undisputed fact is that I am the founder, really, of the church-growth movement in this country...I advocated and launched what has become known as the marketing approach in Christianity.
Schuller applauding Warren, said in his Hour of Power sermon on April 4, 2004,
And there's Rick Warren, a pastor who today is phenomenal. He came to our institute time after time.
Schuller's landmark 1975 book Your Church Has Real Possibilities impressed Warren and Hybels who both visited Schuller to learn more.Hybels called his first meeting with Schuller a “divine encounter.” Kay Warren, Rick's wife, said that Schuller had a “profound influence” on Rick, who was “captivated by his positive appeal to unbelievers.”Warren has since shared the platform at several of Schuller's leadership conferences and an endorsement by Schuller appears at the beginning of Rick Warren's book:
I'm praying that every pastor will read this book...Rick Warren is the one all of us should listen to and learn from - The Purpose Driven Church.
Rick Warren's message, and methodology has been taught in count less numbers of churches worldwide, including Hillsong. The theories and principles of that book were born in the bowels of the Crystal Cathedral.Warren has merely made them more palatable. And in so doing he has achieved a place of prominence by repackaging the gospel into a glib and dumbed-down marketing book.What we have now, throughout Christendom, is pastors believing that if Warren has achieved this kind of growth and success, then “God”, must be blessing it. It's the blind leading the blind.The Church of Christ should be God Directed, not Purpose Driven.Hillsong's pastor Brian Houston follows, to the letter, the ideas of Warren and Hybels. It's Kingdom Now replacing the Kingdom of God within. It's the visible in the form of carnal goals and objectives. Instead of seeking “first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness”, Brian Houston gives us his version of “purpose” –it's his take on Warren's The Purpose Driven Life.The following quote is from Houston's book - For this I was born – aligning your vision to God's cause:
What follows you is determined by what you choose to follow. Follow God's Purposes, and his nature and character will follow you….Purpose is not one-dimensional. When you live with a divinely implanted sense of purpose, you experience a new dimension to salvation, the Holy Spirit, God's provision, your own transformation, and healing and the church.When it comes to Salvation, purpose gives you a revelation that being saved is bigger than you and heaven….Provision also takes on an extra dimension when linked to purpose. Purpose adds a fresh dimension to transformation and healing….. Purpose makes the difference between a deliverance mentality – “God please take this away” – and one of overcoming – “God help me with the victory”. Being purpose- driven will give you the spirit of an overcomer. A revelation of purpose helps us understand the importance of change….purpose causes us to want to change…. Finally purpose adds a new dimension to church….purpose gives church and your commitment to the House of God a new element. “
Try finding a scripture verse for any one of these statements! In fact try replacing every mention of the word 'purpose' with “God”, and see how different the two versions are, and then you will understand why we stand up against these manglers of God's Word.Brian Houston's purpose is to be a carbon copy of Rick Warren. Yet Rick Warren has been under the mentorship of Robert Schuller, and business guru Peter Drucker for over 20 years. Unwittingly or with knowledge each of these men has “branded” what turns out to be a new form of “Christian Existentialism.”Existentialism, was developed by the early 19th century philosopher Soren Kierkgaard, posthumously regarded as the father of existentialism, who maintained that the individual is solely responsible for giving his or her own life meaning and for living that life passionately and sincerely in spite of many existential obstacles and distractions. Sound familiar? Schuller says:
Is there any possibility of a person being, quote--Saved --unquote, without accepting Jesus Christ in a way evangelicals preach it today? My answer is, I don't know. That's the honest to God truth. But I believe in the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. I hope so. Is it possible to be saved without making public repentance? I think so. On the cross, Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.' He didn't say, 'Father, forgive them because they repented.' Jesus has a different theology of salvation than most preachers. (from O' Timothy .)
In contrast my Bible says:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - 1 Timothy 1:15.
Like it or not we all fit this category.Schuller's non-offensive positive gospel of "believe in SELF" is hardly new. It is found in the Garden of Eden as the first lie to man.Schuller writes in – Self Esteem the New Reformation, pp. 22, 117-19.
The classical interpretation of this teaching of Christ on 'bearing our cross' desperately needs reformation....The cross Christ calls us to bear will be offered as a dream... an inspiring idea that would incarnate itself in a form of ministry that helps the self-esteem- impoverished persons to discover their self-worth through salvation and subsequent social service in our Savior's name...So the proclamation of possibility thinking is the positive proclamation of the cross!
Schuller has been forced to pay overdue bills, begin clearing a long list of debts, pulling regular TV spots, laying off his staff, and selling off church property. But Schuller willingly sold off his evangelical birthright, long ago cf. Genesis 25:29–34.