- Christ-centered (We believe that people are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.)
- Mission-driven (We believe that Jesus has sent us to go and make disciples of all nations.)
- Traditionally-grounded (We reject presentism that presumes wisdom from past generations of Christian history must be automatically wrong or suspect.)
- Congregationally-focused (We aren't waiting for our denominational leadership to give us permission to do the ministries to which God's Holy Spirit may be calling us and the denominational apparatus exists to facilitate the ministries of the local congregation.)
Last night, we had a free evening and the four of us from Living Water Lutheran Church attending Luther Week decided to take a 1.2 mile walk to what was once The Crystal Cathedral of Garden Grove, California. The name was given to what had formerly been Garden Grove Community Church, a congregation of the Reformed Church of America, founded by the late Robert Schuller, after the congregation--with lots of financial help from viewers of Schuller's Hour of Power broadcast, erected a building designed by eminent architect Philip Johnson.
There were rumors for years that the Crystal Cathedral was a financially overextended institution, less invested in being a congregation making disciples in its community than in keeping an institution with a large TV studio afloat. After Schuller retired and his son took over as pastor of the congregation, including offering the Biblical call to repentance and new life through faith in Jesus Christ, global support for the Crystal Cathedral shrunk.
Under the elder Schuller, viewers tuned in for a kind of sub-Christian message that rarely mentioned, as Jesus taught, the need for repentance and surrendering faith in Jesus Christ. The son, trained at Wheaton College, a solid Christian institution, taught a gospel more like what we see in the New Testament.
With that, the tourist church shrunk. So did giving from around the world. The Crystal Cathedral's ministries fell apart, victim of a founder's ego and his consequent edifice complex. Schuller may well have had positive and godly motivations for his approach. But as his ministry fell apart with family members suing each other amid recriminations and taking sides, the Crystal Community Church died.
But now, the six buildings in this Hispanic neighborhood, will not become ignored or vandalized abandoned urban buildings, like some oversized Sears store.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has purchased the campus, renaming it Christ Cathedral. I like the name, because it points to the only One Who can save us from sin, death, and futility, rather than to the architectural innovations involved in the design and erection of the building itself.
While the Crystal Cathedral sanctuary will not be fully remodeled for two years, other buildings are being used. We noted that in one building, a youth group was gathered, a group of adults were studying Scripture, and a choir rehearsed. One building has been dedicated to pastoral care.
It's exciting to see this place being repurposed by a Christian denomination. But the Crystal Cathedral is also a cautionary parable.
The first priority of Christ's Church is not to build empires or even impressive buildings. (In fact, there wasn't any such thing as a permanent church building structure in the Christian movement until the fourth-century AD.)
The Church is charged by Jesus with one mission only, to, in the power of the Holy Spirit, call people to become disciples of Jesus so that they can live each day with the freeing forgiveness of God and can look forward to an eternity with God. Buildings can be used as tools to facilitate that mission of the Church. But they are only tools, not ends. To think otherwise, is really faithless to Jesus Christ.
Below are some pictures I took on the Christ Cathedral campus last night.
To the left in the picture above is the frequently-televised "cathedral" itself. On the right, if the famed tower.
Here, a sign explains plans for turning Crystal Cathedral into Christ Cathedral. I wonder whether several nearby businesses will change their names. That includes the Crystal View Apartments and the Crystal Car Wash.
This statue portrays Matthew 19:14, when Jesus said, "Let the children come to me."
I liked this shot showing the Prayer Tower, SoCal palm trees, and the moon clearly visible on a cool night. It's hard not to love southern California.
This statue portrays the Good Shepherd, which is how Jesus describes Himself in John 10:11-17.
This statue's subject is the flight to Egypt by Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus to Egypt. You'll find that bit of history portrayed in Matthew's gospel.
This sculpture portrays Moses bringing the Ten Commandments given to him by God on Mount Sinai (Exodus)
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]