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Gerardo Martí: What Pastors Need to Learn From the Collapse of Robert H. Schuller’s Megachurch

“The church ended up wobbling and wobbling out of control so that the capital expenditures could no longer be met. The charisma challenges of the successors that he tried between the son and daughter and moving on that didn’t take in the constituency went down. It just couldn’t recover.”

“I have great respect for the work of pastors today. I think that pastors have constant strains. Not only do they have to somehow look to the future at the sustainability of their ministries, but they’re constantly on demand 24/7 for their pastoral needs of their congregation.”

“Schuller shifted our understanding of the management of church. He didn’t just say, ‘Look, we just need to trust Jesus and pray together.’ He really believed that you needed to have a strategic plan and to think further out. But I think what he got caught in was that he believed that people gave only when things look good.”

“Schuller really believed that he was building the modern pyramids…and I think that what he may have lost sight of is what’s happening with people right in front of him. The other thing that he had difficulty with is that he himself confessed that he did not really know how to minister to people who did not have a Christian background.”

“I think that all of us really want to treasure growth, and so many people are being pushed towards growth. What we need to do is we need to remind people of what the church can be for the people who are right there with you right now. And we also need to be willing to do things that are uncomfortable and may actually not keep people.”

“For example, of issues of racial justice. There are many people who are allergic to this kind of conversation, and yet the church may be one of the core institutions in our society that can help people to deal with issues of prejudice and discrimination and the impact that they can have in their churches and their workplaces, in their schools. But a lot of pastors will not work with that. They will not touch it because they don’t believe that it will lead to growth.”

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“I think a lot of pastors also feel like they have to put themselves online, and they have to find a way to appeal to people who are thousands of miles away. I think that’s also a different kind of thing that very much ties into Schuller’s desire to expand the scope of his charisma, but may not necessarily meet the needs of the local church. So ‘What is your ecclesiology?’ is part of the question that all of us have to re-ask in our ministries.”

“I think the challenge is that really nobody knows how to pastor a church. We all have to learn somewhere. And because most people have had some experience with megachurches, that becomes the model. Also, megachurches have been the most explicit in creating the workshops and creating the networks.”

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Jessica is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past five years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.