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Fiscally insolvent, Crystal Cathedral losing cultural relevance too

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 16, 2011 | 10:17 pm

The Crystal Cathedral is in a lot of trouble. Which makes this story from NPR about the church’s bankruptcy and sale of church property for apartment construction feel a lot like a retrospective on the life of a megachurch.

NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates reports:

Scott Thumma, who teaches at the Hartford Seminary and is an expert on mega churches, says he isn’t shocked by the disclosure of this church’s recent financial troubles.

“The Crystal Cathedral has been having trouble for several years, and I figured it would be only a matter of time before it had to change its financial structure,” he said.

And it’s not just the money: Thumma says changing its style of worship and broadening the demographics — not only of Schuller’s congregation but the staff that serves it — is critical.

“Culture and society and worship styles have changed, but because his brand, in essence, was defined by TV for decades, it was very difficult to shift away from that,” he said.

The question is whether the Crystal Cathedral can change or whether its slow demise will continue, only now under bankruptcy protection.

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