When the Power of Positive Thinking Crashes and Burns
In the press today is the story of Crystal Cathedral megachurch founder Robert Schuller being ousted from his own board of directors. And this news comes on the heels of the financial bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral itself.
Why has it spiraled downward to this point? Because the Crystal Cathedral has been built on a foundation other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Schuller championed a gospel of self-esteem that refuses to address sin as the Bible does. Schuller asserts that man’s main problem is that he doesn’t believe in himself enough. However, Jesus taught that man thinks too highly of himself and needs to repent (Luke 18:9-14).
So what happens when a church has no standards or requirements in an specific attempt to draw in the maximum number of people possible? Even though you can redefine sin, the real thing has a nasty habit of rearing its ugly head. As told in part by the OC Register article, family feuding, in-fighting, and backlash when someone wanted to set a standard were lurking just under the surface of the Crystal Catedral’s positive-thinking inclusive exterior. When you fail to understand the wickedness of man’s heart, and deal with it biblically, that wickedness will attack and destroy you unaware because you were not prepared. As the Scripture says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Peter 5:8).
The Crystal Cathedral is a great example of a church compromising with the values of the culture around it, resulting in a very American but a very syncretistic church. Back in 1992, Michael Horton did a very revealing interview with Robert Schuller that shows just how far from Scripture he has gone. We are now seeing the fruit of Schuller’s work.
The application here is that pastors, church planters, and missionaries need to lay a solid foundation of the Gospel and Biblical doctrine if the church is to grow healthily and endure over the long run. As the Crystal Cathedral shows, it is possible to see phenomenal church growth and success without the Gospel. But eventually the storm comes, and the glass house is washed away.
When the truth of Scripture is taught and holy living is required, people WILL leave your church. But people will also come because the Lord Jesus will bring them. The question for us to ask ourselves is this, “Will we trust God’s plan for growing his church? Or will we modify the Gospel in an attempt to stay relevant?"