Magazine article The Christian Century

Schuller's Glass Act

Magazine article The Christian Century

Schuller's Glass Act

Article excerpt

THE EVER-EFFERVESCENT Robert H. Schuller--who says he invented the megachurch--was bubbling about the architectural atmosphere of the Crystal Cathedral, which is replete with statuary, greenery and fountains. He said the architectural plan ensures that the nearly 10,000-member church he founded will last for years, regardless of who is in the pulpit.

"After I am dead and gone, the development will outshine the preacher," he said. "The real preacher that attracts people and ministry is going to be the structures, the grounds and the landscaping." Never one to shilly-shally about his projects, Schuller added that once a final building is completed the complex will be unique in architectural history and something that none of the other megachurch pastors ever thought of doing.

Pointing from his 12th-floor Tower of Hope office to the mirrored, 236-foot-tall steeple that houses a carillon and prayer chapel, Schuller said, "That tower has emotional intercourse with the sun ... It's different every five minutes of the day. Architecture for humans ... that's biorealism," he said, citing a term used by architect Richard Neutra. You can't communicate with people unless they feel relaxed enough to listen, Schuller explained.

Bronze statues representing "four of the greatest communicators of the Word of God" stand in the glass-walled, nearly 3,000-seat Crystal Cathedral. The four are Bishop Fulton Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale, Billy Graham and Schuller himself.

Schuller claims that the idea of the megachurch began with him. "I have been credited or blamed--both are correct--as the founder of the megachurch." He began a Reformed Church in America congregation modestly by preaching from atop a snack stand at an Orange County drive-in theater in 1955. The next year, Schuller said, he outlined a megachurch concept of some 6,000 members "to generate enough revenue" to support a staff of ten to 12 people. It was revolutionary, he said, because in those days mainline denominations planned only small churches--"no more than 400 members because that was all one pastor could accommodate."

"I launched the megachurch movement through the Institute for Successful Church Leadership in 1970," he said, referring to his annual pastors conference at the Garden Grove church. …

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