The Crystal Cathedral and “Hour of Prayer,” made famous by Rev. Robert Schuller, are in the process of crumbling and declared bankruptcy this week. The attendance has declined and they have a multimillion-dollar debt. Programs have been cancelled and staff laid off and salaries reduced. The recession is largely responsible for the problem but there are other factors. The aging Schuller turned the operation over to his son and this didn’t work. His daughter is now apparently in charge of management. Others claim that Schuller has not embraced all the modern technology and the new wave of worship, including rock bands.
It’s ironic that the new generation of worshipers has deserted him. Schuller was initially considered a radical in his approach to worship. He was an innovator in presenting a new worship style when he started back in the Eisenhower years. He started by preaching in drive-in movies where folks could listen to him through speakers inside the car. He progressed to build a megachurch made of glass, which became a tourist attraction in California. He also possessed charisma with his big smile, aviator glasses and flowing robes. The new generation doesn’t like robes or organ music. The modern church service now rings with amplified guitars, drums and rock and roll. No hymnals are allowed. Dress for the modern service is casual and ties are forbidden. The new ministers preach that we must diversify and offer all these methods in order to attract the young folks. Schuller is accused of failing to adopt these new methods of worship.
The same things are happening in the church I attend. The pastor and church staff is certainly moving to the new age with rock bands and praise music. Casual is the word and the minister doesn’t even wear a tie most of the time. The recent youth director looks like he is dressed for yard work. Our church was lucky enough for an arsonist to burn down the sanctuary so that the congregation can now move to a newer part of town where the most recent community expansion is occurring. Some of us who appreciate quiet, reverence, hymnals, organs, choir robes and order in the service are being driven away. Some of us old folks even like to hear a good sermon, but that’s now an unimportant part of the service and it is usually about tithing. I think tithing is the new way to salvation. As I have said before, the porch is one of the most reverent places I know and where I am removed from all these distractions.
So, it’s goodbye to Robert Schuller, Billy Graham and that era of evangelism. Perhaps another star will appear on the stage in a cloud of smoke and bright flashing lights as is customary for rock stars.