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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Suprising Locale Where New Converts are Flocking

It seems that a church that was a mainstay for so many years, Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral (above) is, financially speaking, currently on the proverbial ropes...

"This past October, the megachurch prototype of the late 20th century filed for bankruptcy. A 24 percent drop in donations and a $50-$100 million debt owed to more than 550 creditors forced the Crystal Cathedral to file. It was a poignant moment in the history of modern evangelicalism...

Today both the Crystal Cathedral and the theology that undergird it seem woefully inadequate buildings in which to house the gospel. In an age deeply sensitive to energy conservation, a glass house of worship is a sinful extravagance. In a culture increasingly addicted to the self, the gospel of self-esteem is clearly part of the problem. In short, the Schuller enterprise is filing for bankruptcy on more than one front."

Here is the link to the entire article appearing in Christianity Today. For whatever reason, I never really connected with Schuller or his message despite checking out his Hour of Power television program on numerous occaisions. It just didn't click for me personally, although it seems that it did for many other people given the size that his ministry eventually grew to.

If people are leaving these types of churches, then where are the newer converts going? I blogged before that, according to author Dinesh D'Souza "The traditional churches, not the liberal churches, are growing in America. In 1960, for example, the churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention had 8.7 million members. Now they have 16.4 million." In this week's article in the Houston Chronicle, we see another example of a growing Christian church in the West where people are increasingly looking for stability and steadfastness in their faith as they look for answers...

"Like many of his parishioners, Father Richard Petranek came to the Orthodox church in search of the past.

After 30 years as an Episcopalian priest, Petranek converted to the Antiochian Orthodox Church and leads a new but growing parish in west Houston, filled almost entirely with converts to the ancient faith.

"Most people come for the stability," he said. "The same thing that is taught today in the Orthodox church was taught 500 years ago, was taught 1,000 years ago, was taught 1,500 years ago."

At a time when most mainline Christian churches are losing members, Eastern Orthodox churches — which trace their beliefs to the church described in the New Testament - are growing, both in Houston and across the United States.

The numbers are still small: the 2010 U.S. Orthodox census estimates there are about 32,000 active Orthodox churchgoers in Texas and just more than 1 million nationally, although other estimates are higher. But the number of U.S. Orthodox parishes grew 16 percent over the past decade."

I attended Orthodox services numerous times in the past, whether it be through friends or due to the convenience of the hour that worship time was scheduled. If nothing else, one could say that they definately are "litugical". I think that the traditions enshrined in such worship practices are, on net balance, a good thing. They are a reminder of a time in the past, before we got so caught up in our hectic, busy lives in the Information Age. And of a time when worship was so much more integral to the life of a Christian.

It's good to know that after all of the "countless other theological fads and isms over the last half century" that some things stay the same.


Tracy said...


I've had the same response to Schuller as it sound like you have; no real criticism, just no connection for me.

I'm not surprised that the traditional churches are growing. God has used my oldest son to teach me a lot about the value of tradition. Of course it's that balance; I don't want to be involved in meaningless activities; yet I do not want to throw out activities that were inspired by God and His word that can provide a rich heritage to pass on to those who follow us.

photogr said...

I think Schuller's church is suffering from the onventional economic woes of the current administration and times. I am sure this church did focus mostly on salvation in earlier times but it became a business empire focusing on revenue tactics to survive and became impersonal to it's flock.

What is tradition for churches? Are we feeding the hungry and helping the poor and widows?
Do we show love to all that walk through the church doors or do we judge them by dollar signs as they walk in?

Sure many churches do provide a food pantry when the people walk in for help but do they also feed the soul too?

Ross said...

On principle I refuse to watch any televangelists. The Crystal Cathedral's Hour of Power program is broadcast 5 am Sunday mornings on Australian TV, but I've never seen it. If I record anything at this time of the day, it's usually the music video show, Rage.