The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking

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I just read an article in my recent copy of The Christian Century about the changing of the guard (once again) at the Crystal Cathedral---the Southern California megachurch that Rev. Robert Schuller (now 83 years old) has spent the better part of his life building. 

In 2006, Schuller's son Robert took over as the senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral.  The younger Schuller was a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, and seemed to be on course to filling his father's shoes for many years to come.  The Hour of Power broadcast of the Crystal Cathedral's worship services was viewed by millions of viewers. Schuller the younger even had his father's looks, preaching cadence and mannerisms.

But then a year ago, everything fell apart, and the elder Schuller replaced his son with his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, who was installed as interim pastor.  Coleman has little or no theological training but has worked in education and administration for many years.  She also edited her father's books and even wrote some of her own.  Coleman recently completed a doctorate in administrative leadership from the University of California. 

Why would Robert Schuller make such a move?  Why would he replace his son, who by all intents and purposes was carrying on the family business quite ably, and who was trained and qualified to do so?  Even casual observers of the program can tell that Sheila Schuller Coleman is not half the preacher or speaker that her brother was, and has little experience or training to be the senior pastor of one of the nation's largest Christian churches.

According to the Christian Century it all comes down to too much Jesus.

Schuller the younger was publicly criticized by his father for having too much Jesus talk in his sermons, and for preaching too much from the Bible.  The older Schuller is a long-time admirer of Norman Vincent Peale and the "power of positive thinking."  Coleman Schuller purportedly will move away from Jesus-filled and Biblically-based sermons and back to "focusing on the positives" as her father did before her brother took the reins. "Sheila will be doing what I would be doing if I were in her shoes," Schuller recently was quoted as saying.

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  1. It may also be a factor of the whole "ministry as family business" element that seems so prevalent in big churches. Too many of these ministries end up revolving around what appears to be the evangelical equivalent of the Levites, in which heredity trumps call.

  2. I've been meaning to post a response to this for a while. I was closely involved at the Cathedral and saw a lot of this go down from the inside. I can say that it had nothing to do with preaching more from the Bible.

    I just posted some reflections on the Cathedral and its recent bankruptcy on my blog:


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