This past year our offerings declined noticeably at our rural church, yet such a decrease in giving hit many churches in a down economy. It even hit the mighty Crystal Cathedral, the 10,000-member shrine of Dr. Robert Schuller. After decades of seemingly unlimited growth and outward success, the Cathedral is now forced to tighten its financial belt to ride out the economic slump. Lay offs, selling of property, and cutbacks in the airing of the once popular Hour of Power all signal a turn in the fortunes of a ministry many once looked upon as the model church growth congregation. According to a recent AP article the Rev. Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman, Dr. Robert Schuller's daughter and the church's recently appointed leader, admitted that "the era of blockbuster televangelists is fading and viewership is declining even as the age of the average viewer creeps upward." "I can't imagine anybody younger than 40 watching some sort of televangelist," she said.
Indeed, it is the passing of an era. In some respects one might applaud such a passing, considering the incredible impact these televangelists had on the rank and file membership of our churches streaming into the privacy of their homes through their TV sets. Consider the countless Lutherans, for example, who had their personal outlook on faith shaped by such TV giants as Baptist Billy Graham and his signature altar call with "Just As I Am" lilting gently through the massive stadium. Dr. Schuller's impact on Lutherans was equally damaging as he preached pop psychology and led so many from the arms of Christ to trust instead in their own confused hearts. Synergism and Pelagianism replaced good theology at every turn. It was virturally impossible to stem the tide of their influence.