Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faith, Family, and Fame

Here's a great read about what's going on at the Crystal Cathedral, including this section about Robert Schuller's grandson:

Bobby Schuller is an innovator like his grandfather, but the way he delivers his message of Christianity is drastically different. The stereotypical church, he said, is about a perfect building filled with perfect people, music and a perfect preacher.

"In other words, it's not like life," he said.

He ponders his vision in his office — located in his garage. A bookshelf lines one wall, and a large jug of home-brewed beer (inspired by Harry Potter's butter beer) sits in the corner. Parked on the street, there's his gold Toyota Camry, which has clocked more than 200,000 miles.

He wants his church to be about community — and something "messy people with messy lives" can relate to.

Volunteers set up for the service each Sunday and take down the chairs and tables that afternoon. When the work is done, they all go out for pizza. More than 90% of church funds go toward social justice issues such as homelessness and domestic violence.

"Our goal is to make big Christians, not big churches," he said.

I echo Bobby's perspectives, and wonder (once again) if church renewal is truly possible...or if there is a natural life-and-death cycle that needs to be tended to more faithfully.  Thoughts?


  1. I read the same article and noticed with interest how Bobby's church differed from his grandfather's. I once worked with a pastor - just eleven years ago - who thought that the Crystal Cathedral was the model for American Christianity.

    Still, I wonder how a church like Bobby's is financially viable. The article notes that 90% of his church's income is sent out toward social justice issues - which is great - but I couldn't help but wonder how Bobby gets paid, and how the church's overhead costs are covered. Perhaps he has family wealth, or perhaps he has a side business or speaking gigs or publishing, or perhaps a more established church provides funding for his ministry, or ...

    This kind of church model doesn't seem to be self-sustaining, at least not in the full-time pastor with benefits, dedicated building, programming budget kind of church that most of us are accustomed to. If it is supported through a tent-making model or other funding models, great ... and perhaps that is something that we in the Lutheran church should consider.

  2. It started with our annual fall gathering of "professional leaders." One of the presenters called attention to the NT evidence about the offering: it was taken up after worship, to care for and support orphans and widows.

    How did we wander so far from our beginnings? How much of what is collected on Sunday (or by direct deposit) goes to maintaining the institution and how much actually makes it to those who are in need?

    I have to commend Bobby Schuler for what he's doing, in terms of helping others. Like Chris said, applying the biblical concept to our day is tough.

  3. It's interesting - of late the anxiety-causing element of my call revolves around maintaining our facility and overhead, while the actual hands-on ministry is by far the most rewarding. This is not, of course, surprising to note, but in commenting on it to a colleague, another colleague who was listening in said he'd love to get his mission congregation out of the coffee shops and into an actual physical facility. To each their own, I suppose.

  4. Bobby seems to be right on. I think much of our attention needs to be focused on this life-death cycle, being careful to discern if a church is merely sick and needs healing, or if God is calling the church to be put do death for the sake of the greater Church.

  5. With regard to money for outside mission being detrimental to the organization called church, recent studies show offerings to GOD average between 1-3% of income. Convince people that an offering of our first fruits to God is as important as the lexus payment, and I wonder if more churches would find themselves giving 30/50/90 percent of offerings to mission. I believe if the brick and morter church spent more time honoring God by encouraging sacrificial giving for the betterment of mankind (loving neighbor as self) then we could simultaneously grow the internal and external church...simplistic, yeah...but on paper the math works...


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