Robert H. Shuller started the church by buying an abandoned drive-in theater and turning it into a drive-in church. Quite novel. You could go, sit in your car, listen to the sermon and drop your money on the way out, or in, I don’t know which. Out of that came the one-of-a-kind Crystal Cathedral, a landmark and tourist attraction.
I remember a family telling me they had attended the Easter pageant at the Cathedral and they were sure it was even better than the real thing.
Robert Shuller was a mixture of Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie. His sermons were all filled with the power of God and positive thinking. His success attracted preacher after preacher to try to emulate him.
When he preached, he was high above the audience, almost as if in heaven itself. Live birds flew here and there and fruit-bearing tress grew in the natural greenhouse light of the Cathedral. It was the Garden of Eden all over again, if not better. After all, the Cathedral was air conditioned and heated.
When Robert H. died, his son, Robert A. received the mantel. Things seemed to have gone well enough until there was a family feud between he and his sister, Sheila. Robert resigned in 2008. Sheila Shuller Coleman is now the head pastor of the church.
She believes they can pull out of the over 40 million they are in debt by scaling down. But what if the scaled down version is too disappointing to those who go there? What if it doesn’t attract new attendees? Any sign of failure today is a death sentence. If the parking lot is not full, it matters not what is taught inside, the sign “failure” is hanging on the building. It’s been that way for a long time and it’s not about to change. What has happened is that the institution of church has become something other than that with which many of us grew up.
Several years ago Carroll Osburn said to me, “Doctrine doesn’t matter anymore.” I heard the same thing while listening to a church historian who was in town recently. He said that membership in churches today can be as fragile as the smile or lack thereof on the minister’s face. The laughter from ministers of several different denominations backed up his claim. He went on to say that people of his age (he looked to be in his seventies) inherited their religious affiliation from their parents, but that is no longer true. Today it is about what a particular group can do for them. That was not new to me. But then he said that the question is no longer, “What does the Bible say?” It is “How can I know God?” “How can I have a relationship with God?” The particular church or church doctrine does not matter, at least among what we would call Protestant churches. We of the Churches of Christ are not immune. More and more, people who have grown up in the Church of Christ, graduated from one of our universities or colleges, are becoming part of some other group. To deny the change is like the woman with the broom trying to sweep the flood waters away from her door.
If the modern searcher is looking for a relationship with God as a first priority, I think that’s a good thing. I’ve been preaching that for about thirty years. However, if everyone who heard me say it’s all about relationship had gone out and told everyone that’s what we were about, that should have made this the largest church in Roanoke. So I don’t think that’s all of it. That’s where the Crystal Cathedral comes in, as well as other mega-churches.
I don’t want to criticize success, but neither do I think bigness necessarily validates God. So I would ask the question: What concept of God does the person have who believes the big, entertaining church is the best place to find and have relationship with God? The answer to that seems obvious; relationship with God is about being big and successful. Of course, the opposite of that could also be true.
All churches have a doctrine, a view of what scripture says. A person can find relationship with God in a large or small church. But relationship means being related to something, to God. It means whatever we do and say as God’s relatives, it will reflect the teachings and actions of Jesus. That alone identifies the one, or the thing, with which we have relationship.
Three families were helped from the food pantry recently. It will be restocked soon.
Monday: Matthew 18:10-20
Tuesday: Romans 14:1-18
Wednesday: II Thessalonians 3:1-16
Thursday: Genesis 45:4-28
Friday: Mark 10:17-31
Saturday: Psalm 105:1-45
Monday: John 17:1-26
Tuesday: Revelation 19:1-16
Wednesday: Luke 16:19-31
Thursday: Matthew 9:1-13
Friday: I Corinthians 10:1-13
Saturday: Psalm 106:1-48
Since many of you receive the bulletin before the date on the back, it might be a good time to remind you that Daylight Saving Time ends early on Sunday morning, Nov. 7. So set your clocks back an hour before going to bed on Saturday.
Following is the translation of a letter from one of the children we sponsor with our ABC work via Health Talents Int.
I write you this letter hoping you are enjoying of good health next to your dear family. After my brief greeting I want to say the following, the reason for this letter is to let you know I am very grateful for all you have done for me. I wish the best in everything you do daily. God bless you
Luis Alexander Perez Nicolas
The card is on the downstairs bulletin board.
With summer vacations we have not yet decide on a Sunday to have a special collection for the ongoing work in Haiti. We have several hundred dollars the young people raised and we want to add to that this month. Set aside what you plan to give now for when the time comes.
This is also the time of year the budget for next year is developed. We have had a good year and have been able to make several costly improvements and repairs. All this is due to your generosity and commitment to the work we do here.
Next week the “up date” sheets will be on the cry room window for you to check. We will also start taking pictures in the near future, perhaps starting on Super Sunday. We hope to have the directory ready in December.
It seems early, but it is only about a month before the available dates for the adult Christmas Party roll around. Take a look at the first three Saturdays in December and be ready to let the best date for you to attend to be known. The children’s party will be on Super Sunday in December.
Be thinking about anyone you would like to receive a fruit basket from the church.