What lessons can we draw from the demise of the Crystal Cathedral?
No matter what you think of that congregation, know that at one time it was a thriving model on the American landscape of churches. It was an amazing, trend-setting place that was super creative.
Things slowly changed however. Mostly the Cathedral stopped defining itself to the public, both locally and nationally. For whatever reason her leaders assumed that the public knew all about this place. That was a common but poor assumption. They were forgotten.
Church plants usually do a good job of defining themselves to their community in their initial phase. It’s imperative that a new church clarify why they exist and how they are distinct in their community. I’m not too worried about new plants, but I am quite concerned about the next phase most plants go through. It’s easy to forget those initial lessons learned and fall into a pattern of an inward focused on money, facilities, staff – and forget what got us to that point of initial momentum. Then BOOM! We become stuck in a cycle of irrelevancy.
If we don’t regularly, clearly define ourselves to our community – through strong acts of generosity, love and service – those around us will have no idea that we even exist. We will soon have no worries about our facilities, money or staff because there will be no one coming!
The church I lead in Oregon has been in Newberg for over 100 years (just SW of Portland). It is well-known to other Christians (18% of the city) but virtually camouflaged to the rest of the people for whom God so loves that he sent Jesus to suffer and die.
Things are beginning to change. We have taken to serving the city in a variety of ways. We are going door to door with hamburgers – squeegeeing windshields at gas stations – cleaning toilets at public places – and using the doors those projects create as connections to share Christ at whatever level fits.
To get back to where we started – if we do a bang up job of defining ourselves by serving we will soon become relevant. We need to make a profound impression on those around us in a truckload of ways. The ways you serve can vary greatly according to your community’s needs. God will speak to you are you pray a famous biblical prayer, “Here we are. Send us!” He absolutely loves to answer that prayer. Count on it. He will speak to you. You will not be forgotten.
Photo by Sarah Mount