#129 What Will Be The Future of This Ministry? (16/05/04)

Message by: Robert H. Schuller

This is a very special anniversary Sunday for me. It was exactly 49 years ago today that we held our first church service on the snack-bar rooftop of the Orange Drive-In Theater. And I didn't know if anybody would be there. So I imported a choir from Los Angeles and told them, "Please, if you could all come in individual cars ..." and there were perhaps 50 cars and about as many more people as that.

So it was the beginning of something significant. I had a calling to reach people who didn't go to church, or didn't believe in the Bible, or Jesus Christ, because I assumed that the Christians were in their own churches in the area, and the only people who would come to a drive-in theater would be people who weren't religious. And that proved to be correct most of the time.

When it came time for the offering, two volunteers went from car to car to receive the offering. And that first offering in dollar bills and coins was $83.75. It was an unusual way to begin a church, but I just knew we were going to impact the world!

Why did I feel that way? I had no reason to believe in that destiny. Where did that dream come from? I believe the dream came from the God I believe in, the God that we read about in the Bible, and the God that Jesus Christ came to tell us about. I believe in a big, almighty God! Wow!

God Has A Dream For You

And so this morning to celebrate the 49th anniversary of that event, I ask you, "Do you have a dream?" I ask that question especially to the young people in our audience. You don’t need a great amount of high IQ (intelligence) to be a success. You don't need a lot of money to be a success. You don't have to have straight A's on your report cards to be a success. But you do need a dream, and a desire and a passion for the dream. I pray that this message this morning will impress you in your heart and in your life to believe in a God who has a dream for you. Whether you're 8 years old, or 10 years old, 12, 14, 18, 19 or in your 20’s.

I want you to know that God has a plan for your life too! Pray it out. A dream will come. Grasp it. Go for it. And one word will tie it all together and that's the word faithfulness. All you need is faithfulness.

There is a wonderful parable that Jesus taught. It's called the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-29. In my own words, let me share it with you:

A man, very wealthy, went on a far journey and so he called his servants and delivered his goods to them. To one servant, he gave 5 talents. To another 2. To another 1. He gave to each servant according to his ability and then he left on a long journey. The servant who had received the 5 talents went and traded with them and made another 5 talents. And the servant who had received 2 talents gained 2 more also. But the servant who received one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his lord’s money.

After a long time, the lord of those servants came to settle the accounts. The servant who had received 5 talents brought 5 more talents, saying, "Lord, you delivered to me 5 talents, look, I've gained 5 more talents beside them." His lord replied,

"Well done, good and faithful servant. You are faithful over a few things, I'll make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:21)

Then the servant to whom was given 2 talents came and said, "Lord, you delivered to me 2 talents. Look, I have gained 2 more talents beside them." And his lord said to him. "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things. I’ll make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:23)

Then the servant who received only 1 talent came and said, "Lord, I know you to be a hard man so I was afraid! I went and hid your talent in the ground and here, lord, I give it back to you." Then his lord answered, "Oh, why did you not at least put it in the bank so it could earn interest? You are an unfaithful servant." Then the lord turned to his companion and said, "Take the talent from him and give it to the one who delivered 10 talents back to me." "For to everyone who has, more will be given. And he will have abundance." (Matthew 25:29) Wow!

What Does God Require of You?

What was Jesus teaching from this Parable? I believe that He was teaching that every single living human being is given a talent, a capability, a gift! And it applies to every area of life, and not just to the financial area of your life. But God gives each of us talents. To some 5, others 2, and all of us are given at least one talent that God wants us to invest in His work. Discover the possibilities given to you by God. Believe in them. When you get them, they seem impossible, but we will all meet God someday, and then He will ask us for an accounting of the dream He has given us.

So today as we excitedly plan the 50th anniversary celebration of this church next year, 2005, then we will need to make an account to God, and give back to Him what He gave us. Forty-nine years ago God gave us $83.75 to invest in His work. And we have been faithful. All of you who believed in the dream God gave this church have been faithful for 49 years. What God has done in this ministry is an amazing thing. Yes, He has tested us in amazing ways. One of the most "impossible" assignments was when we outgrew our first buildings, and had to build a larger place. So this cathedral was God’s idea. For 6 years I preached from the rooftop in a drive-in theater and I loved preaching under the sky, watching the trees sway gently in the breeze and hear the birds sing. So I didn’t want to build a cathedral unless I could see the sun, the sky, the trees, and the birds. So today we have an all-glass cathedral. One man, John Crean believed in the dream God had given us and gave us one million dollars. That was a big push from God to have faith. It will happen! But when the costs went out of sight, I called John Crean and said, "I’m giving you your money back, the cathedral costs too much." He objected, "I can't take it back." I gave you one million dollars so you owe me. Get started! At least dig a hole! I mean that, dig a hole!" I think in all the 49 years of this ministry that was the moment of greatest pressure for me. "Dig a hole." I don’t even want to remember the feeling. But we dug a hole! We didn't know what we'd do with it unless more money came and then people kept giving more money, enough to put in the foundation. Then a few months later, I’ll never forget the day, the general contractor came and said, "We need to have 3 million dollars in the next 30 days or we will have to stop construction." But we didn’t have the money and we had no loan capability.

So what would I tell my people when they came to church on Sunday? What would they say when they heard we were quitting construction? Every Sunday, they scrambled to get a seat. Even the 1,000 chairs on the lawn - and the drive-in worship center was crowded to capacity. So we had our morning program printed. The headlines read, "Crystal Cathedral Construction Temporarily Halted." ... But it was never used!

One of our pastors, Howard Kelley, called me and said, "Why don't we pray for a miracle and believe that we can have a million dollar offering?" A million dollars? Our normal offering was $50,000.00 or less! That will take a miracle, so that Sunday, we asked everyone to pray for a million dollar offering. We needed it! And that million dollar offering was received, plus 2 to 3 hundred thousand dollars more. The next day, the "Orange County Register", our local newspaper, came out with this headline: "Miracle in G. G. – A million dollars for church in one day. Offering by the Schuller flock sets a record." Yes, the money came and the cathedral was built. It's a miracle!

What Will Be The Future of This Ministry?

Now we’re planning our 50th anniversary celebration, by preparing for the next 50 years. Often times people do not think so far into the future... 40 or 50 years. But, I’ve been thinking into the next one hundred year period most of my life. I came to this church to be a pastor here for my entire lifetime, and we planned the buildings and grounds to last for hundreds of years, and to make sure that this ministry stays strong. What will the next 50 years be for this ministry? To begin, my one and only son has been called by God and has been chosen by the board of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries to be my successor. For that I praise and thank God.

People ask the question, "Who's going to succeed me?" But they must also ask, "Who’s going to succeed my successor?" Will it be Robert Schuller III, or another grandchild, such as Chris Coleman who is also in pre-ministerial studies at Biola University. I have 18 grandchildren, girls and boys and there will be great grandchildren who might become the pastors in the future of this church. That remains to be determined by God. But I feel a tremendous emotion, because God has planned this church to be impacting the world for the next 50, 100, 200 years!

What has been accomplished already through this church is phenomenal because of the dedicated members and friends we have. I see the results today of the Institute for Successful Church Leadership which we dared to launch 35 years ago and it is still going strong. Here ministers are inspired to believe in their dreams and to present the good news of the gospel in positive terms. And some of those students are well-known. Bill Hybels now pastors the largest church, I think, in the United States, the Willow Creek Community Church. Bill has often said that there probably would not be a Willow Creek Church if he hadn’t been able to come to our pastor’s institute here. I’m so proud of him.

And there’s Rick Warren, a pastor who today is phenomenal. He came to our institute time after time. And in "Christianity Today," his wife was quoted as saying, "When we came to that institute, we were blown away." How God has blessed him. And today Rick Warren is blessing millions of people. There is also the world’s largest Methodist Church in Seoul, Korea. The list goes on; Bishop Blake from downtown Los Angeles. In the current issue of "Time Magazine," there’s a picture of his church, where his parishioners include Denzel Washington, Magic Johnson, and other celebrities from that community. He's changing that part of the city.
Not only has this ministry impacted churches around the world, but also God called us into a television ministry. Again I had no funds. Not even $83.75 to begin that new ministry. But I announced it to you and you prayed, and made a decision to go for it. Today the Hour of Power is the longest running televised church service in the world. It’s seen and translated in the Russian language, the Chinese language, the German language, the Dutch language, the English language and Arabic language.

The future of this ministry has been planned by God to literally shape the world and you make it possible! It all started 49 years ago when we said, "Yes" to God, and strangers came and gave an offering of $83.75.

So, today, as we launch the next 50 years of ministry, we are announcing a campaign that will endow this ministry. The goal is one hundred million dollars! Impossible? No, I believe that we can raise a hundred million dollars because when we were a tiny church we raised one million dollars.

I believe it will come, some in 7 figure gifts because some of you will leave a gift to us in your final will and estate. Perhaps a tithe of your entire estate or more. Some of you are going to double your contributions, even double tithe, because you know that your gift will shape the future. The next century will need this Hour of Power with the gospel more than it’s ever needed it before!

A couple of large gifts have already been received. A 2 million dollar cash gift from a family that sits in this church every week, Frank Freed and his wife, Evelyn Freed. They are dedicated to this ministry. Evelyn sits on our ministry Board.

And my son and I have been meeting our Eagle Club members in different cities and 800 people already have pledged $5,000.00. How do they plan to give that amount? If they give $83.75 a month x 12 months x five years, it equals exactly $5,000.00! That amazing! Is that why God allowed the offering on the first Sunday to be $83.75? I never bothered to multiply it x 52 weeks and 12 months until now. This is a God thing. You and I are a part of this ministry and its future is going to be phenomenal.

Your Gift Will Shape the Future of This Ministry

This is your church. This is your ministry. And what did Christ say about the servants who were faithful with their talents? "Well done! Good and faithful servants." Young people, and old people, alike. When you and I stand before Jesus and give an account of what we did with the talents that He gave us, and we have multiplied them and returned them to Him. He will not say to you, "Well done, brilliant servant..." He will not say, "Well done, wealthy servant ... " He will not say, "Well done, my powerful political servant." He will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matthew 25:21)

The key word is faithfulness.

What God can do with what you give Him is amazing.

Let each of us be faithful until our last breath in using the talents and multiplying them for God’s honor and glory.

Oh, God, there’s an amazing future ahead for this church around the world. And I thank all the people who made this ministry what it has been for the past 49 years. What an anniversary this day is. You give us just an idea. An impossible dream. Then You test us to see if we will dare to go for the dream, even when we know it’s impossible. Then the miracles start flowing, and "Unto whom much is given, much more will be added." Hallelujah. All of us together, young and old, rich and poor give You a chance today to multiply the opportunities that come before us.
So, now may the Lord bless you with a dream, with a call, with an idea that can multiply the resources empowering this church for the next 50 years. Amen.


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