By Warren Bird, LeadNet, 7/27/15.
“Possibility thinker” and pioneering pastor Robert H. Schuller died April 2, 2015, at age 88. Bold, creative, charismatic and controversial, his life and legacy drew immediate major coverage in both the mainstream press and evangelical stalwarts like Christianity Today.
What most people don’t realize is how much Schuller influenced today’s church, not just the megachurch movement, but churches of all sizes and styles. Few congregations today offer church services in drive-in theaters, where Schuller started, nor do many build architectural wonders like Schuller’s inspirational Crystal Cathedral, yet Schuller’s impact is significant and widespread. As Leadership journal pointed out back in 1997, Schuller was the first in the modern era to:
• Call his denominational church a “community church,” since he felt most seekers didn’t understand or relate to a denominational label.
• Rename a sermon as a “message.”
• Use a nontraditional setting for church worship—in his case, a drive-in theater, followed by a drive-in church.
• Conduct door-to-door research, asking, “Why don’t you go to church?” and “What do you want in a church?” (which Schuller describes in his book, Your Church Has Real Possibilities).
• Use marketing strategies to reach nonchurched people (he did so about the time George Barna was born).
• Train pastors in leadership (Institute for Successful Church Leadership, 1969, later named the Robert H. Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership).
• Televise a weekly church service, the “Hour of Power,” starting in 1970 and not missing a week for decades, a program which conducted many format experiments such as interviews with high-visibility guests…