I’ve never been a fan of mega-churches. Some see them as the success of Christianity in America but I see them as a multi-billion dollar offense to everything historic Christianity stands for. Sorry about that little outburst, but I’m switching coffee brands. The millions of dollars spent on the upkeep of these properties would equal the GDP of some developed nations, and as such the image that goes along with that kind of spiritual bling-bling is not a good one.
So in case you haven’t heard, Crystal Cathedral is going through bankruptcy proceedings. Some say it’s a shocking event. I say it was inevitable. In a world where indigenous Christian missionaries in India walk with Wonder-Bread bags on their feet to a remote village only to get beaten with sticks by an angry mob, you have to be at least somewhat disgusted by the mere existence of the Crystal Cathedral. The comfort. The immensity. The freaking moola. I can only imagine what John the Baptist would say if he were here to see it.
Having Christianity associated with so much concentrated opulence is well, somewhat tacky from a Biblical perspective. Unbelievers look upon it as a sign that the church is just a place to “pass the offering plate”. Can’t say I blame them when I look at mega-structures like the Crystal Cathedral. Their weekly power bill could probably feed Ethiopia for a year, or at least buy one decent pair of front row tickets to a U2 concert.
The irony is that while the Christian church thinks that they need to connect with culture more and try to shoehorn the gospel into a postmodern world, the results are always failures. Unless a solid foundation of Biblical principles is in place ( that includes money management BTW ), going the flashy route can never have enough wind to win the race. Crystal Cathedral shone for a time due to a polished image. The friendly old man who loved wearing graduation ceremony robes, Robert H. Schuller was a comforting sight on “Hour of Power”. He was like the Bob Vila fix-it guy.
But once he tried to make an exit and power struggles began between him and his kids, people began looking closer at the Crystal Cathedral and found it pretty much watered down American style “self-help Christianity” that has no lasting value. Then they began contemplating the multi-million dollar structure and finally went, “Holy….!”.
So people stopped giving.
The conundrum of wealth is a tricky one. While God doesn’t ask Christians to be poor, He’s also not interested in us living the lifestyles of the Christian Rich and Famous. Consider this: Even though the world doesn’t like Christians, they nonetheless expect us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and care for those less fortunate. They hate us, but they need us around. And they make no qualms about letting us know that we spent a crap-load of money on the same big-screen TV they did…but WE should have instead given the money away to help those in need. Yeah, I know it’s a double standard. But it’s a good one and we should accept it with pride.
Like any bankrupt company, Crystal Cathedral will likely be sold off in chunks. The church will most certainly still operate under a leaseholders agreement or something similar. In truth, they should simply let it all go. Sell the property and give a stink-load of money to starting churches worldwide. Let people find smaller, closer knit churches to be a part of and not just disappear into unnoticed.
I doubt that would willingly happen though. Even in a bad relationship, the hardest part is letting go.