Meanwhile this week, ironically, Robert Schuller's ministry, the "Crystal Cathedral" declared bankruptcy. The Wartburg Watch has two very insightful articles on their ministry, here and here.
About the demolition, FBC Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said:
"No longer is there going to be any debate about whether we ought to do this or not," he said to laughter. "The new question is how quickly are we going to build this thing for the glory of God."They're building magnficent buildings "to the glory of God".
That is the question really in the Southern Baptist Convention and in evangelical Christianity in the U.S. Are we American Christians to give sacrificially to build state-of-the-art buildings and worship auditoriums and beautiful downtown campuses? Is that what will be "to the glory of God"? Is God really glorified in this, or are we building to glorify ourselves and our personal religious affiliations?
Read what Jon Zens says in his book "A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile":
"Have we ever asked ourselves if Jesus - the Head of the church - would be pleased with the off-the-chart expenditure of money and resources on church structures? Are expensive buildings in line with the Kingdom of the One who had no place to lay his head? Shouldn't our financial resources be poured into helping people in need, rather than into erecting and maintaining institutions that perpetuate our unique beliefs which separate us from other believers?" Jon Zens
Don't like what Jon Zens says? Then definitely do not read Chapter 2 of Frank Viola's book "Pagan Christianity", and what he has to say about our devotion to church buildings in modern Christianity. It will disturb you, but it is something I urge my readers all to read. It is a book that your mega church pastor most certainly does NOT want you to read.It seems that the Southern Baptists have an identity crisis. On one hand convention leaders are telling us there is nothing more important than raising money for missions through NAMB and IMB to send missionaries around the world to save souls before Jesus comes, and we need to start churches in parts of our country with little evangelical influence. Yet our flagship churches like FBC Jacksonville and FBC Dallas are asking people to dig deep to finance renovations of their campuses. New buildings, new pews, new carpet - for the "glory of God", of course.
Now, what does the implosion of the FBC Dallas buildings have to do with the Crystal Cathedral financial implosion? Plenty.
To understand, you need to read this New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein in which she writes about what led to this financial disaster at the Crystal Cathedral:
"Mr. Schuller [the younger Schuler who was ousted out of leadership in 2008] said he also inherited a sizable debt. His father, he said, had believed that striking new buildings attracted donors who would continue giving. It worked with the church’s original building, designed by the midcentury modern architect Richard Neutra, which enabled Mr. Schuller to preach from a balcony to people sitting in their cars in the parking lot below. It worked with the Crystal Cathedral sanctuary dedicated in 1980, designed by the famed architectThere you have it. The elder Schuler believed that if it worked in the past, that magnificent buildings will attract worshippers, that it would work in the future. Apparently their "Welcoming Center" costing millions put them in financial straits. Notice it was "major donations" that fell through that contributed to the problem. One of the things I was critical of in FBC Dallas project was the reliance on several major donors who committed large sums of money to the $115 million project.
Philip Johnson and quickly paid off by thousands of donors who had their names
inscribed on windows, seats and even the struts that support the glass.
But the strategy failed with the church’s “welcoming center,” designed
by Richard Meier. It was finished in 2003, and when some major donations fell through, the church still owed $40 million for it, according to the younger Mr. Schuller."
Whether Jeffress is successful in their $115 million building program or not, I think the great disservice that preachers like Mac Brunson and Robert Jeffress do to Christianity is they actually try to connect Christians' spiritual condition and growth to their willingness to give money to a building project. Robert Jeffress did it during the capital fund raising campaign as I blogged here, and Mac Brunson did it last month when preaching out of Hagai connecting the unwillingness of the Jews to rebuilding of the temple to Christians not wanting to help renovate the auditorium of FBC Jax.
That is dangerous ground, and is just a modern day form of indulgences that were marketed and sold by the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for alms given to help rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in the early 1500s. And we know how that turned out, a little thing called the "Reformation".
Perhaps another "reformation" in evangelical Christianity is just around the corner. And maybe the Crystal Cathedral financial implosion is a sign of things to come.