What the Demise of the Crystal Cathedral Means for Church in America

The Crystal Cathedral: Not so full anymore

Richard Flory, one of my favorite observers of Christianity in America, weighs in on the bankruptcy of the “first” mega-church:

Megachurches like the Crystal Cathedral have become successful by doing two things really well. First, they use professional-quality entertainment and familiar (and often secular) cultural themes in their services to make their members more comfortable. Second, through these programs, megachurches have turned themselves into a destination for their members on days besides Sunday, and this creates a distinct sense of community. One result has been the creation of a huge market in Christian consumer goods like T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and music. The church grounds are often campus-like, with bookstores, public gathering areas, and food courts—which of course serve Starbucks coffee.

Yet this large-scale consumerist model also entails immense costs: not only employees to run and track the many ministries and programs but also maintenance of the physical plants that support all these activities. Just think, for example, of the cost of maintaining a building made entirely of glass.

via For Sale: 10,000 Panes of Glass and an Organ « Zócalo Public Square.

HT: Dan Yim

Tom Arthur: Denominations Are Like Multi-Site Churches

Tom Arthur, pastor of a small UMC church, is “haunted” by the foreclosure of the Crystal Cathedral. They weren’t diversified enough, he posits, and he wonders how many mega-churches are. He also wonders how his church compares to Mars Hill:

But what if I thought about comparing the West Michigan Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to Willow Creek? Or how about just the Lansing District of the West Michigan Annual Conference? Suddenly the perspective changes. Now we’re talking about a church with fifty-two campuses in the greater Lansing area and some seriously well-trained campus pastors, and while the conference and district are in decline and losing members and attendance every year, it’s highly unlikely that they will have such a dramatic disappearing act as a megachurch like the Crystal Cathedral. We’re way too diversified for that.

via Duke Divinity Call & Response Blog | Faith & Leadership | Tom Arthur: Ego cathedral.

Five Religious Predictions for 2011

I’ll be on Doug Pagitt Radio tomorrow (Sunday, December 19), going over my predictions for the year in religion from last year, recapping the big stories, and making my predictions for next year.

You can read my Five Predictions for 2010,

  1. Political correctness toward Islam will decrease
  2. The pope will not say or do anything particularly controversial
  3. Universalism will become a hot topic among evangelicals
  4. Rick Warren’s influence will wane and new evangelical leaders will emerge
  5. A handful of evangelical leaders will come out in support of GLBT marriage/ordination

And here are the top ten religion stories for 2010, according to the Religion News Service:

  1. NYC mosque
  2. Religious response to the Haiti earthquake
  3. Catholic clergy sex abuse and cover-up
  4. Rise of the Tea Party
  5. Obama health care bill
  6. Denominational debates on GLBT issues
  7. Bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral
  8. Gay teen suicides
  9. Pew Forum survey showing atheists know more about Christianity than Christians
  10. No Protestant on the Supreme Court

So, how did I do?

What you you think is in store for 2011 in religious news? Help me make my list, and be sure to listen in tomorrow!