The Crystal Cathedral has filed for bankruptcy protection. Trustees of the glass megachurch in Orange County decided to file for Chapter 11 after some of its creditors sued for payment. Creditors could be owed between $50 million and $100 million.
The church was started by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller in a rented drive-in movie theater in 1955. Schuller’s ministry rose to national prominence through his television broadcast, “Hour of Power.” But faced with a $55-million budget deficit and a 27% drop in revenue over the last two years, in January the church began cutting programs and selling property around the church’s sprawling 40-acre Garden Grove campus. Chapter 11 is their latest strategy to attempt to recover the ministry.
In some ways the plight of the Crystal Cathedral exemplifies the status of what some call the “Christendom” expression of Christianity. All over the western world signs of “post-Christendom” are glaringly evident. In small town America, many church buildings are just half full at best on Sunday morning. In urban centers hundreds of Christian churches are converting to daycare centers or restaurants… or mosques. The massive, ancient cathedrals of Europe are mostly vacant at traditional times of worship. The signs of a decaying tradition are too stark to miss.
But… even while Christendom fades, a new season of faith is rising. New forms of Christian faith are taking root in the very shadows of the declining edifice of an old order. Coffee shop churches, fellowships in homes and college dorms and yes, even on line are opening new forms of and fashions for followers of Jesus to gather, worship, seek and learn and serve in the name of their Lord.
I am sad for the decline of ministries like Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller was a pioneer and bold visionary who sought to bring Jesus in a new way to his generation. I am sad to see it struggle. I am sad, but not in despair. The message of Jesus may move through seasons of change, but Jesus always rises to meet the needs and necessities of each generation. Many through history have pronounced Jesus and his teachings “dead and buried.” But always, he rises again! It’s happening now once again. Look around!
“God we thank you for the ministry of Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral. We pray that they will recover from this crisis and continue to find ways to minister to their world. We pray for the creditors who extended trust to this church. Help them recover as well. We pray too for all the many other churches struggling for survival in this new day. We pray as well for the many, many new communities of Jesus-followers finding new ways to express their faith in you. Give them courage and creativity, as Robert Schuller had for his era. Nothing is sacred but you. Church structures come and go, but THE CHURCH never fades. Bless your Church today, Jesus!”