Monday, May 30, 2011
Shallow Men Sharing A Shallow Gospel: The Glass Cathedral Shatters
Men are always drawn to the easy way. We sometimes make the gospel so easy it becomes no gospel at all. Conversion is so easy it is no conversion at all. John MacArthur tells of a mega-church that had 28,000 conversions in the last year, they baptized 9,600 people and they only added 123 to the church! There is something wrong with this picture. A man on the staff of that church looked at that and said, “There is something very wrong with this.” He left and learned how to do it right.
It’s easier to go the way of the flesh. It’s a lot easier to build a big mega-church and ride the prosperity gospel into a mega-mansion and drive a mega-car and go on mega-vacations and give jobs to your mega-families than it is to build the church on the solid rock foundation of Jesus Christ. The easy way doesn’t include hours on your knees praying and interceding for the lost. The easy way doesn’t include going out into the streets and among the hedges attempting to minister to the lost and dying. It’s much easier to put on your silk robe and climb into your pulpit and spout forth a humanistic gospel that offends no one and promises everyone who is present a place in the kingdom if they will only write a check to the church.
Robert Schuller, pastor of the mega-church Crystal Cathedral, criticized his own daughter, Pastor Sheila Schuller-Coleman, as being intolerant because she tried to protect the sanctity of God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman by asking members of the choir to agree to a covenant declaring as much. Her father’s reply to this attempt to protect traditional marriage was: “I have a reputation worldwide of being tolerant of all people and their views. I’m too well-educated to criticize a certain religion or group of people for what they believe in. It’s called freedom.”
Though Schuller seems to have a conscience about criticizing some sin, he certainly has no conscience about criticizing the major doctrine of sin embraced by traditional Christians: “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” This statement is just stunning in its blatant misdirection. Can you imagine the Savior coming to earth and declaring, “I don’t want to offend anyone by pointing out they might actually be sinning”?
I am aware that one statement taken out of context may be a misrepresentation of what a man actually believes. I would like to give Schuller the benefit of the doubt. He is also known for believing that “sin is a condition before sin is an action.” This statement seems to indicate his belief in original sin but it doesn’t eliminate the impression that Schuller lacks backbone when addressing sin, the greatest enemy of the God he claims to love.
Schuller’s new age Christianity is a shallow substitute for the real, genuine message of God’s Word. Jesus isn’t just a psychotherapist or a life coach who has come to make people feel good. He isn’t in the business of building a shallow self-esteem in weak-minded, wimpy people looking for a crutch to lean on only when they go through hard times. Christ came to die on a cross so that we might be genuinely saved and he will come again, not as a sacrificial lamb, but as a warrior to drive his sword into the heart of Satan.
The rock upon which Christ will build a new kingdom will not be those who have lived some superficial, shallow life based on principles that run a mile wide and an inch deep. He will build his kingdom on those who have invested the time and energy to achieve a deep and lasting relationship with him.
When Jesus had harsh words of admonition for Peter he wasn’t too concerned about his self-esteem. He was concerned about the destination of his eternal soul. The account is found in the book of Matthew chapter 16. Jesus had been explaining to the disciples how he must suffer persecution and finally die. Verse 22 records that “Peter took him aside.” Can you imagine, “taking aside” the very Son of God. “Jesus, would you please step in my office. I need to have a few words with you.” Peter had the gall to begin rebuking the Son of God. No wonder Jesus’ words were harsh, “Get behind me, Satan!”
It was Jesus next sentence that seems to address the striking truth of what is happening to many of our mega-popular pastors as they build shallow churches. “You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Many of our Christian leaders are so frightened they might offend the frail minds of men but they don’t hesitate to dress down the very God of the universe as if they are his equal.
Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy in the fall of 2010 claiming to be drowning in $46 million of debt. The 84 year old leader had planned for ten years to pass the baton on to his son. But in 2008 the mega-pastor fired his son. The ministry now lay in ashes as creditors demand they be compensated for their lost investments.
It is not uncommon for ministries built on the names of men to falter and die. When the frailties of these men are discovered or when they die their ministries generally crack and crumble. Jim Baker, Oral Roberts and Ted Haggard come to mind. The church must be built on the Rock, Jesus Christ. He must increase and we must decrease. A ministry built on Christ is eternal, a ministry built on the name of a single man is sure to die.
Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.