Saturday, June 27, 2009

Family Dynasties in the Church

I find it interesting that many large churches become family dynasties -- not always successfully. I also find interesting that in many of these large churches, the founding pastors find it difficult to let go.

A while back we learned that there had been a rift between father and son at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. Dad had anointed his son as successor, but never really let go of it. I was always a bit perplexed why Schuller Sr. decided to keep the church in the family, and why the son decided to take the job. You would have thought that when Schuller, Sr. retired that the board would look for a pastor who had the requisite credentials and abilities to lead a large church. Schuller, Jr. had been, earlier on, pastoring a smaller satellite congregation in San Juan Capistrano. As far as I know it never really became much of anything. I also always found it interesting that once the younger Schuller took the pulpit he tried to sound like and look like his father -- rather than try to develop his own style.

So, with Robert Schuller, now 82, back in control, it appears that he's passing the baton on to his daughter. According to an LA Times story, Sheila Schuller Coleman, the director of the church's family ministries, will now run the show, though she'll not be the primary preacher (she says she'll preach every 4-6 weeks, while they look for an evangelist to pick up the slack and get the ministry righted). Apparently in these past few years, giving down, viewership is down, and attendance is down. I would venture to guess that part of this is due to an aging congregation that is unable to adapt to the times as quickly as it might need to.

So, in light of this story, I'd like to pose a couple of questions:

1) Do you believe that a church should be in the control of one family (the pastor's family in this case)?

2) Can a megachurch survive into a second or third generation?

As you consider these questions, look around and see what has happened when the baton has been passed. There are many formerly large churches across the country that now are nearly empty, have gone out of business or they're a shadow of their former selves. Is this inevitable? As the pastor of a once large urban congregation, I can attest to its difficulty. Central Woodward was able to sustain itself at least into the second generation, but after that it became more difficult. Part of the issue was a changing community, but can a church sustain itself as a large church over time? I invite your thoughts.

H/T to Call and Response Blog; picture from LA Times article.


The Prophet said...


"So Jehovah sent a plague on Israel, and died of Israel seventy thousand men. And the angel of Jehovah send Jerusalem to destroy it, but when he was destroying, and Jehovah repented look that bad, and said to the angel that destroyed: Stop, stop your hand. The angel of the Lord was with the age of jebuseo Oman. And David lifting up his eyes, he saw the angel of the Lord, that was between heaven and earth, with a naked sword in his hand, extended to Jerusalem. Then David and the elders fell on their faces, covered with sackcloth. "(1 Chronicles 21,14-16)

The remarkable progress that has AH1N1 flu around the world is proving that mankind has no weapons to combat this sudden illness.
The World Health Organization declared in June by the pandemic influenza AH1N1, the first pandemic in this century, and giving that appears posibiblidad others.
So far the cases recorded throughout the world are approaching the 60,000 people, the deaths from this disease is close to 200 people and affected countries are more than 110, America remains one of the most vulnerable continents.
Given this new scenario is presented to humanity, the church of Christ can not dodge, but even if this disease does not differentiate between believers and unbelievers.
But I think many Christians would agree with me that this "modern plague" is a punishment that God has unleashed on humanity that is increasingly turning away from Him Therefore the root of the disease that ravages the world is spiritual.
Indeed, one could say that the instrument that God is using to whip through the earth of this disease is "an angel".
In the Bible we see that God uses the angels as the instruments responsible for destroying a rebellious humanity. A clear example of this is seen in Los Angeles that destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19,1-25).
But in the passage from 1 Chronicles 21,14-15, is that God sends a plague on the nation of Israel which killed 70,000 people, and it is "an angel" destructive instrument.
It is not the first time that God does this, as it did on Pharaoh and on all the people of Egypt, sending a plague of death on their firstborn (Exodus 12,29-30).
We did against the Philistines, when they captured the ark of the God of Israel, wounding with a plague of tumors throughout the nation of the Philistines (1 Samuel 5, 8-12).
Later God punished the city of Bet-semes killing of Israel for having dared to 50,000 people to watch the ark of the LORD (1 Samuel 6.19).
In all these cases, the divine punishment occurred because the vulnerable human holiness of God, and only ceased when they repented of having sinned against God. The situation of the humanity of the twenty-first century is no different from the humanity of biblical times, and God has not changed his approach today.
God expects repentance of mankind, and if our generation is not to humiliate him, then the angels of God are always ready to make the Justice of God.
This scenario is where the Church of Christ throughout the world must be to pray and intercede for these poor humanity, and pray to God in his mercy to stop their destructive angel, nicknamed by the men as AH1N1 virus.
Example that we pray for Moses and Pharaoh Egypt, and God stopped her plagues.
Also King David Gold repenting of their sin, and the angel stopped destroying the city of Jerusalem.
What will the Church of Christ before this scourge of humanity suffers today?
"Christianity" is doomed to denominational apostasy.
But I believe that true Christians guided by the Holy Spirit to act to rescue and liberate all that can save humanity. This is the true Church of Christ, and you can stop the advance of this evil. Finally, the book of Revelation speaks to the angels will remain the executors of the trials of God (Revelation 15.1), and although God will continue to act with love and mercy to those who repent, God will also be released at this Humanity as the Judge of all the earth.

Simon Cozens said...

I looked at dynastic leadership as part of a study I did on Japanese church leadership. An interesting data point is that every indigenous Japanese church has passed leadership down the generations. This doesn't always work, as family members are expected to lead a church whose precepts they don't always agree with - in some cases they aren't even Christians themselves.

But I made a comparison with the leadership of the Levite priesthood. God fairly obviously ordained a dynamic leadership in this case. So although it's not been our general practice in the Western church, I don't dismiss this kind of dynamic leadership out of hand. It's not theologically wrong, you could even say it has Biblical justification, but it is difficult to manage well.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Simon, Thank you for sharing this insight about the Japanese church. Eastern culture likely has a different sense of things, than Western churches. Part of that may be due to the decision by the Catholic Church to embrace celibacy as part of reforms around 1000 AD -- part of the reason was concern about passing on property from one generation to another.

Biblically, you have the Levitical priesthood, as you mentioned. There is also the leadership of James the brother of Jesus in Jerusalem. That has a dynastic element, though we don't know if it continued past James.

Here in the States it has worked less well!