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Robert Schuller Empire Collapsing

Sunday, February 1, 2009 3 comments

I posted about Rev. Robert Schuller back in October when he decided that his son would not be his successor (post). Now the 82 year old pastor is watching his work fall apart. This included the Hour of Power broadcast which has been on the air for over three decades.

The church is in financial turmoil: It plans to sell more than $65 million worth of its Orange County property to pay off debt. Revenue dropped by nearly $5 million last year, according to a recent letter from the elder Schuller to elite donors. In the letter, Schuller Sr. implored the Eagle's Club members - who supply 30 percent of the church's revenue - for donations and hinted that the show might go off the air without their support.

The church blames the recession for its woes. But it's clear that the elder Schuller's carefully orchestrated leadership transition, planned over a decade, has stumbled badly.It's a problem common to personality driven ministries. Most have collapsed or been greatly diminished after their founders left the pulpit or died.

Members often tie their donations to the pastor, not the institution, said Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University. "Viewers are probably much less likely to give when it's not their preacher they're giving to," she said. "There's something about these televised programs where people develop a certain loyalty."

The elder Schuller, who called his weekly show "America's Television Church," founded his ministry in a drive-in theater after moving to Southern California in 1955. He studied marketing strategies to attract worshippers and preached a feel-good Christianity, describing himself as a "possibility thinker" and spinning his upbeat style into a 10,000-member church and a broadcast watched by millions worldwide.

In between my last post and this news the church announced on Nov. 29 that Schuller Jr. had resigned as senior pastor, just a month after he was removed from the church's syndicated broadcasts. In a news release, Schuller Sr. said: "Robert and I have been struggling as we each have different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry."

The church has since instituted a rotating roster of high-profile guest preachers, including Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago-area megachurch, and evangelist Luis Palau.

On the church Web site, concerned members and TV fans have posted hundreds of comments protesting the upheaval, with some indicating they have stopped giving or will leave altogether. Several angry viewers have launched petitions to get the younger Schuller back. Others said they felt betrayed that the Schullers couldn't put God before their family spat.


3 comments: to “ Robert Schuller Empire Collapsing so far...

  • steve martin February 1, 2009 at 5:57 PM

    I have been to his church before.

    The gospel was there...barely.

    But it was a good show...something I'd might enjoy after I had gone to worship in a church where God'a law and His gospel were the spotlight...and not the personalities and entertainment.

  • Anonymous February 11, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    I am saddened by the whole episode..especially since a recent news report indicated that the son was right and the siblings and others tried to stop him from seeking transparency. I think the son was much more in tune with Biblical principles.

  • Anonymous November 18, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    This church looks good from the outside but it stinks on the inside. No biblical teaching, no spirit. A big show for entertainment. It's not surprising it collapsed

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