Crystal Cathedral Mega Church Goes Bankrupt

Considering that Robert Schuller pioneered the current mega church movement, the recent bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral is no small issue. Are we getting a glimpse into the near future for those megachurches that have followed Schuller's same paradigm for ministry? Just what is the current state of the megachurch movement? If the Crystal Cathedral is any gage of what is to come, what might we learn from the current bankruptcy of the granddaddy of all mega churches in this country?
If you read the article linked above, you will notice that the Crystal Cathedral explains away their current financial meltdown by blaming the hard economic times people are facing. Sheila Schuller states that the message people need to hear right now is that “tough times never last, every storm will come to an end.” Really? Is that the message we need “right now”? So let me understand this, this situation has nothing to do with the leadership’s reckless spending in amassing of a debt of over forty-three million? It is, by implication, the people’s fault because their "storms" are preventing them from funding what apparently has become a major corporate enterprise, no longer able to line the pockets of those who built the empire? Who primarily is facing the tough times Schuller is talking about?

Schuller's answer in blaming the current economic “storm” cannot be separated from his message, and that is precisely the problem. Their faulty answer is bound up with their faulty message. Robert Schuller has been preaching a “New Reformation” of self-esteem for years. “To be born again means that we must be changed from a negative to a positive self-image - from inferiority to self-esteem, from fear to love”, writes Schuller. He is the grandfather of the current prosperity, positive thinking paradigm that has infiltrated this country. Think positive, God wants to pour out upon you material blessing. And how many rising stars have emulated this iconic like hero of the American church?

For the past two decades, Schuller has redefined the Christian message to build what is before us today, a spectacular crystal kingdom driven by a correlating message of glory now. But the tide of prosperity, economically speaking, was bound to end at some point and now the message just doesn't work.  Economists provide business cycles for a reason, there will be periods of peak and trough and people need to think through the consequences of their actions in the present cycle anticipating that which is to come.  Taking these economic principles into account, what happens when the churches' message is something, for instance, that only fits into the business cycle of expansion or peak? What becomes of the periods of trough? The message is not designed to provide an answer. This is exactly what is happening to the megachurch movement—it has provided a theology of glory in the present that only fits at the proper moment in a given business cycle. Is it any coincidence that we have seen this megachurch phenomenon rise at just the right moment in American history, the moment of unprecedented expansion and peak? The movement is roughly thirty-thirty five years old. So now that we have peaked, economically, what does this mean for our mega church gurus? Their message will crumble along with the economy.

So think of the scenario. Schuller has promised prosperity, wealth, and positive happiness, and how does such prosperity transfer to forty-three million dollars of debt? Is it not appropriate to be reminded that prophets are determined to be true or false depending upon the outcome of their message (Deut. 18:22)? Sure, such a message has been great for earthly-minded churchgoers until the sufferings that accompany this present evil age have failed to be overcome with what Schuller has been offering as the solution. In other words, what happens when my hour of trial has failed to be overcome by a promised “hour of power”? You have been set up for a huge fall.

The greatest tragedy here is not that Schuller's message fails provide happiness amidst periods of economic trough and hardship, but that his message fails to provide an answer to the misery of man. In redefining our problem, Schuller has redefined the solution, and we are left with the wholesale abandonment of anything that can legitimately be called Christian. Schuller’s message cannot fit into the Bible’s gospel of a crucified savior impaled on the cross to save sinners from death. If our problem is merely a bad attitude, of what purpose is it to proclaim that Christ "humbled himself" in assuming our human nature, "suffered" throughout his whole life, and "endured", in body and soul, the wrath of God to atone for our "sin"?

The fact remains that this present age is characterized by tribulation and suffering because of sin. But a real answer has been provided in the announcement of Christ's sufferrings in the sinner's place. This truth does not compel Christians to force the final realization and glory of God's promises in the now, but rather, as the saints patiently wait, they are given deep consolation knowing that "the sufferings of Christ" abound in them (2 Cor. 1:5). Understanding this truth allows us, in times of great trial, sorrow, and turmoil, to fix our eyes upon the one who endured the cross in our place, knowing that the glory will come in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness shall dwell. To want glory now becomes a denial of the very thing that defines us as the body of Christ, a people characterized by suffering, tribulation, trials and tests in the wilderness, that the Spirit of glory may rest upon us in our weaknesses.

So what should we learn from the bankruptcy of the pioneer of the prosperity megachurch movement? As the first domino has been tipped, we shouldn’t be surprised if the rest begin to fall. It’s easy to squawk at times like this. My question goes something like this: Why does the Lord allow such chicanery to go on, and why not put a stop to this mockery right away?  While I may not have an answer to this, I am reminded of what Jesus said should be my great concern. In Jesus’ day, a tower had fallen and killed a bunch of people. The multitudes thought that this must have occurred because these people were really bad sinners. Why didn't that tower fall down on them sooner, was the thought. Any correlation? Jesus' answer is one to consider: "And Jesus answered and said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:2-3)." Jesus called people to look at the plank in their own eyes. 

Since judgment begins in the house of God, it should cause all of those in positions of church leadership, including me, to seriously evaluate if there is any tampering with the ministry of Christ beyond his design, and repent if so. Further still, we should all be reminded that the Lord has promised to free his people from cruel shepherds who refuse to “heal the sick, bind up the broken and bring back what has been driven away”(Ezek. 34:4ff). We would do well to remember that God’s message of salvation came in the past through those who were in weakness, fear, and in much trembling, that the recipient's faith would not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God—a power not merely by the hour, but one that remains forever.


  1. "It's God's will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty. It's God's will for you to pay your bills and not be in debt."
    Joel Osteen

    Thank you for your blog, pastor.


  2. So Osteen doesn't agree with Schuller here. My domino theory may be in question?

  3. It is not necessarily a bad thing when a false church built upon a false gospel is finally exposed. Let this be a warning, when you build your house on the sand, it should not come as a great surprise, when the house comes crashing down with the first serious storm.

    Rev Mark J. Stromberg Belgrade URC

  4. Kinda takes the credibility out of their current series, "How to Manage Your Finances"!

    (Mark! how the heck are ya?)

  5. Mark you used the term "False church".
    And I agree.
    Here is a conversation, Billy Graham had with Robert Schiller, ...
    Very revealing ...

    SCHULLER: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?

    GRAHAM: Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there's the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they're conscious of it or not, they're members of the Body of Christ. And I don't think that we're going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time.
    I think James answered that; the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God's purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that's what God is doing today, He's calling people out Of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they've been called by God.
    They may not even know the name of JESUS but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have,
    And I think that they are saved, and that they're going to be with us in heaven.

    SCHULLER: What!......what I hear you saying is that it's possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they've been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible.
    Is that a correct interpretation of what you're saying? ....

    GRAHAM: Yes, it is, because I believe that.
    I've met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of JESUS, but they've believed in their hearts that there was a GOD, and they've TRIED to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.

    SCHULLER: .....I'am so thrilled to hear you say this.
    There's a wideness in GODs mercy.

    GRAHAM : There is. There DEFINITELY IS.

    Well what do you think of that?
    Is Graham, who is the Christian community poster boy, hold some unorthodox views in His Theology? ???
    Do we worship the same GOD?

    Smoking flax...

  6. Smoking's last comment,

    I think we are getting into some real deep waters here, for which I don't pretend to have all the answers, nor a complete knowledge of all the will of God.

    But, to ask a corresponding question, Did the Israelites understand the exact mechanism by which the Messiah would save the people of Israel? Did they know that he would atone for them by death on the cross? Did they know that he would be the Son of God? Did they know that He would rise from the dead, on earth? Did their knowledge or lack of knowledge of these details prevent them from being saved by God?

    Regardless of the answers to the above, I think that it is completely counterproductive to dwell on what God might do beyond what is specifically revealed in scripture on this particular issue. Graham is speculating, and has no proof of what he says. Our duty, and our response is to spread the gospel, not to go around talking about how God could or might save some who may never have heard about Christ. Whatever God may or may not choose to do (and He has power to do what pleases Him), does not remove or change or replace what we are commanded to do by Him.


  7. Mark, it's a great thing! I pray for the destruction of all false teachings, and that the false teachers themselves would repent. I could have been much stronger with this. I praise the Lord for the fall of false teachers, but in asking the Lord for that, we should also ask for fidelity in our ministries. Thanks for your comments. Chris

  8. Josh, how is that series going? :)

  9. Smoking and John,

    John, you write, "Did the Israelites understand the exact mechanism by which the Messiah would save the people of Israel? Did they know that he would atone for them by death on the cross?"

    What do you mean by "mechanism"? The cross? Absolutely, what do you think the whole sacrifical system pointed to? What gospel was preached to father Abraham that Gal. 3 references? What did Israel have preached to them in the wilderness, see Heb 4?

    But you are absolutely right, God has told us that the only way anyone can be saved is by the blood and rightousness of Christ. There is no other way. So, as Romans 1 says, all are guilty merely by what is made as the eternal power and Godhead is revealed in general revelation, but unless God gives special revelation in declaring the glory of God in the face of jesus Christ, all will be lost. If Billy Graham believes someone can be saved apart from faith in Christ, that is another gospel. THAT is revealed very clearly.

  10. I agree there were signs pointing to the cross. However, even Jesus disciples who lived and walked with Jesus for three years prior to the crucifixion, did not really understand that He was to die for them. Did Jesus then choose only for disciples those who did not believe the prophecies?

    At the time of Elijah, there were still a remnant of 7000 who did not bow the knee to Baal. These were mentioned by God Himself, with every indication that God kept them for Himself. Do you think then that they understood the sacrifice of Christ better than the disciples did?

  11. Why would GRAHAM associate himself with Schuller?
    Chris, would you accept a invitation to be in the crystal Cathedral?
    Or why not?
    .....Regardless of where GRAHAM stands, one thing is certain.
    BILLY is the highest profile evangelist of our time, and when he makes statements about the Gospel, people listen.
    and because he wields so much influence, when those statements are unclear or contradictory, problems arise.
    The Church must be clear about what it means to be saved!
    By believing that God will save people who don't follow Christ attacks the inerrancy of Scripture.
    Christ's teaching on Salvation is clear.
    The only way to the Father is through HIM!
    He is the door, not one of many.
    Peter preached that there is no other name by which men can be saved!
    To believe that God will deliver men and women who have never named Christ is to make a liar out of Christ and His Apostles.
    It undermines the very foundation on which we build our Faith....
    If we are all Christian, how can we believe so many different theologies?
    How can we be okay, listening to so called "Christian " music, like " Philip Craig and Dean" played often on our "Christian " station.
    They believe in oneness Theology.
    Which is contrary to the belief in the Trinity.
    So again,# is that a different God?
    Or how about "Jenifer Knapp" sings beautiful songs about Gods refineing fire, does it matter that she is a Lesbian?
    All this tends to make me very syndical.
    Are we to not worry about such things?
    And just preach Jesus loves you. Or always a place for you!
    How does 1 Corinthians 5 apply to all this???

    Smoking flax...

  12. all of this very interesting.however,if we are truly born again,then for us the word is the only authority and not what any man says or thinks,not to bea spiritual prude,scripture and verse please!

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