"There Are Too Many Camels on the Carpet "
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
Not too long ago, the Crystal Cathedral located in Garden Grove, CA closed and terminated their services due to financial losses resulting in bankruptcy. The church had been the creation of the late Rev. Robert H. Schuler who was a Reformed Church In America (RCA) minister and who was known for his "Hour Of Power " television ministry program which was broadcast from 1970 through 2010. The Crystal Cathedral building was eventually sold to the Archdiocese of Orange County, CA
During its heyday in the 1970's,1980's, 1990's and beyond the Crystal Cathedral was known for its " spectacular " holiday pageants that were staged at Easter and Christmas.
The Christmas pageant particularly was extraordinary because it featured the use of live animals. The newspaper ads for the Christmas pageant at the Crystal Cathedral would include:
"See live nativity with shepherds and camels "
Now, here we have a challenge; when you have camels in a church sanctuary for an elongated period of time, on a carpet, you get the predictable consequences.
Thus, every year after the Christmas pageant, the carpet in the Crystal Cathedral would have to be replaced.
I visited with a good friend of mine who has attended a local Mega-Church here in San Antonio, TX. He told me that one Sunday the minister of this church announced from the pulpit that the church holds a debt of $18,000,000 dollars.
This big congregation is known for buying property in advance in preparation for planting and starting new satellite branch congregations.
My friend said that at the end of the worship service a man in the congregation came up to the minister and gave him a check for 1,000,000 dollars.
I then began to think what would 1,000,000 dollars do for the poor and the needy of San Antonio or elsewhere? What could you do with this amount of money to help alleviate or eradicate hunger, those who are homeless who lack appropriate housing and education, those who are elderly and others who need assistance paying utilities and who are trying to survive with basic dignity ?
Of course, there will be those who will say how wonderful it was for this man to give 1,000,000 dollars to this church in its time of need in order to further " the work of the Lord. " But what is the real "work of the Lord "in this instance, alleviating suffering or building a new church complex? Even The Rolling Stones gave $ 1,000,000 dollars to the City Of New Orleans to help with the restoration and recovery after Hurricane Katrina.
When grandiosity in religious ministry and worship, here in regards to non-denominational church systems, becomes so elevated in its importance that it supersedes the mission of your ministry ( see previous blog " Big Box Religion " ), then it worthy to raise the question " Why are you doing this and what is your goal ? "
Religious communities ideally want to be welcoming and supportive to the people who attend church. They need to provide that "Balm of Gilead "to those who hunger for friendship, association, companionship and human emotional, spiritual connection. They also need to commit themselves to providing healing for those who suffer instead of focusing and building new "cathedrals".
There are too many camels on the carpet.
It's time to clean out the temples.