#180 (08/05/05)
50th Anniversary Celebration Sunday

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

A billion years ago, a young man joined this church and he had the vision and the dream and the desire to become a sportscaster in Southern California. And lo and behold, he did and he is, I think he’s one of the #1 philanthropists in Southern California. He told me once that he does about 300 charities a year as an MC. He has given his profession to us, here at the Crystal Cathedral, and has been one of the volunteers since 1970, we went on the air. His name is Ed Arnold.

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" O God, Our Help in Ages Past "

" The Heaven’s are Telling "

DANIEL RODRIGUEZ - “Fill the World with Love”
DANIEL RODRIGUEZ - "Impossible Dream"

The Message

Today, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our ministry here at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, we are honored to receive a special greeting from the President of the United States, George W. Bush:

"Congratulations as you celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Crystal Cathedral. In 1955 a young minister named Robert Schuller came to Garden Grove with a dream ... a new congregation for the Reformed Church in America. He and his wife, Arvella, had two children and just $500 to their names. So they rented the Orange drive-in theater and Dr. Schuller conducted Sunday services from the roof of the snack bar. Eventually a drive-in theater in California was not big enough to handle the growing flock.

In 1980 the stunning Crystal Cathedral was opened, built with more than 10,000 panes of silver tempered glass, the Crystal Cathedral is the home base for Dr. Schuller・s ministry and is known around the world through the internationally televised Hour of Power. From its glass doors, the Crystal Cathedral sends its people out into the world with a simple ministry: find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.

I appreciate the work of the Crystal Cathedral・s armies of compassion to fill these needs across America and throughout the world and I・m glad to hear that this important work will continue when Dr. Schuller・s son, Robert, takes over as senior pastor later this year. Laura and I send our best wishes to Dr. Schuller, Arvella and the whole Schuller family as you celebrate the jubilee at the Crystal Cathedral. May God continue to bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America."

Thank you, President George W. Bush. I・m very, very honored. And thank you, Laura Bush for the wonderful letter you sent. I also thank our Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But most of all, to all of you, my friends and beloved church members, thanks to all of you for recognizing that this ministry is a God movement as we attempt to be a living, loving witness to God.

I have something I want to show you. It・s no secret to you who are here in the Cathedral that today is time-change Sunday, when we move our clocks one hour ahead in the springtime. It is a special effort to make sure our clocks are all set ahead the night before. So last night I asked Mrs. Schuller, as we went to bed, "Do you have all the clocks set?" She said, "Yes." "Good." But I woke up at one o・clock in the morning, I thought, ohhh, my clock! My clock that is at my bed stand was still one hour behind. It hadn・t moved ahead. (Now it's a crazy clock because I don・t know where to turn the hands to move the clock ahead.) I put the clock down, but one and a half hours later I woke up again. I put my little flashlight on, looked at the clock ... oh my, it still had not moved ahead. I hope I won・t look at it tomorrow and be late for church. I woke up again at 3:30 AM, I looked at the clock and it had moved ahead one hour all by itself. Wow! This clock has no knobs to turn the hands, there is no knob to wind it up and every year on time-change Sunday, when I wake up the next morning the clock has moved forward or backward one hour. It never fails and it also keeps the date correctly. It has no electricity. If it has a battery, I can・t find it. Now I ask you, what keeps this clock on time? What moves it forward? There is literally a higher power. This clock is kind of a metaphor of my life. There is a Higher Power who keeps me on the right track. I really can・t take credit for that. Yes, there is a God who knows you in the same way a higher power sends its signal through radio messages to keep this clock on time ... always V every day, month after month, year after year. This is my testimony ... God; the Higher Power of holiness and love motivates you, then continues to support you.

How can I say thank you to everybody on this 50th Anniversary? I think that is impossible, and I don・t use that word lightly. So when something is impossible for me to handle, I go to God and give that responsibility back to Him and say, "God, please thank them for me. I don・t know how."

Now there is one sad note to me on this 50th Anniversary day and that is because so many of the people who I would like to thank are not here. A few thousand of them in the past 50 years have gone on to glory and God.

We are sad at the loss of the Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church. I was with him on several occasions and three were private. I saw and felt the living Christ living in his heart and life and I loved him, respected him and thank God for him. I wondered if we should, in respect, postpone the celebration planned this morning, but two days ago he said, "Do not grieve for me, I・m happy, have joy." So, this too is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and celebrate.

On that first Sunday, March 27, 1955, I couldn・t find a place to begin holding church services, until God gave me the idea of a drive-in theater. When I inquired, Norman Miner, the manager, raised his eyebrows, shocked, stuttered, "A... a church in a drive-in theater?" But even though he was skeptical, he said I could use it for $10 a week. He wouldn・t give me a lease; it was week-to-week. Two years later he said, "I・ve got to see you." I thought, "Oh my, I・ll have to move out of here." But when he came and met with me privately he got a tear in his eye. I thought, "What・s going on?" And he said, "You know when you started here, I didn・t believe in God. But I listened to you every week. I had to make sure you wouldn・t do anything to damage the reputation of the theater." He said, "But I・ve changed. I really have changed. I now believe in Jesus Christ. Can you baptize me? May I join your church?" Norman Miner became a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ and faithful volunteer for many years until his death.

So now I had a place. Through the Reformed Church in America, my denomination, I had been provided $500 to start a new church so when I drove from Chicago to California in February, I stopped in Sioux City, Iowa, at the music store of Howard Duven. I knew him because he was from my hometown in Orange City, Iowa and he sold organs. I said, "Howard, I・m going to start a church. I don・t know where, hopefully some building, and my wife is an organist. So I need an organ. With an organ, an organist, and the Bible I・m going to succeed in building a great church. He showed me a small Conn organ (that・s the name of it). He named the price; I think it was $1,700. He said, "I can sell it to you for $400 down and about $30 a month." I had, in my pocket, $400 cash and our monthly tithe could cover the monthly payment. The little church in Chicago where I had served for four years, gave me a farewell offering. They said, "Go buy your wife and yourself a nice trip someplace." So with that $400 cash, I said, "I・ll buy it!" And that still left me with the $500 from the denomination for other start up costs. I laid the $400 down and he said, "Okay, it will take about a week for the organ to arrive in California." The organ arrived. We left it in the original packing crate. Wow! I was enthused.

Now that I got the okay to use the drive-in theater I said, "How am I going to transport that organ to the drive-in theater, back and forth? It・s so bulky? I need to buy a trailer." So I looked in the used want-ads of the Santa Ana Register and believe it or not, I found an ad for a used trailer.

This is a God-thing.

The fact that I had $400 was a God-thing.

The fact that now I could buy a used trailer was a God-thing.

When I went to see the trailer, the man said to me, "This is a great trailer. It・s custom made." And he kicked the back wheel to prove to me how solid it was. I said, "How much?" He said, "$25." I pulled out a $20 bill. He grabbed it. I pulled the trailer home, and then I asked my neighbor to help me put the organ on the trailer. We hooked it up to the car. That first Sunday my neighbor next door said, "We should get a picture of this since you・re starting a new church" and he took a picture of our car, the trailer with the organ, in its packing crate to protect it. Then he looked at the trailer and said, "Schuller, this is an unusual trailer." I said, "Oh yes, it・s custom made." He said, "I can see that, but did you know the wheel is welded to the axle? How do you expect to change a flat? I groaned and he said, "You better pray." I did.

For five years we pulled the trailer, with organ, chairs, offering plates, etc., all to the Orange drive-in theater. Every Sunday I prayed, "Please Lord, don・t let me get a flat tire." The tires were so smooth. Guess what? No, I didn・t get a flat. After five years, we had built a little chapel, so I sold the trailer. I put an ad in the paper. Yes! $25!" A guy came to look at it, so I kicked the back wheel. "This is solid." ... "Sure looks like it," was his response. He pulled out a $20 bill and said, "I・ll give you $20." I said, "I・m sorry, I・m giving it away at $25." He gave me another $5 bill. I pocketed the $25. He drove off with it. I wonder what happened to it. I have no idea.

Well, who was at the church that first Sunday? Ann Orrs (who died only a few weeks ago) came that first Sunday, fifty years ago. Her husband, Larry, was in the back seat wrapped in blankets. He was dying of cancer. When they saw the ad of a drive-in church, they cried and they came. They became special friends. I was a pastor to Larry in his dying days.

Then there was a very famous actress and singer who opened many shows for Bob Hope. She came because she needed privacy, no autographs. Her name is Kaye Stevens, who remains a dear friend today.

Then there was one of the most sophisticated ladies in Orange County. Her name was Grace Rankin. She and her late husband owned the Rankin Department Store in downtown Santa Ana. How come the first lady of Orange County, wealthy, sophisticated would come to a tacky drive-in church? She saw the ad and it was the answer for her, because her son was a severe epileptic. She couldn・t leave him with anybody else, so she hadn・t been able to go to church for a long time. The drive-in church became her church until her son and she died, and I was the pastor who officiated at the funerals.

There was one person that first Sunday that I want to pay special tribute to. That person・s name was known to very few people. One day I got a telephone call and the caller said, "My name is Warren Gray. My wife, Rosie, and I have been attending the drive-in church service. You don・t know us, but we come in the green Buick. (I knew my people by their cars.) And he said, "We・ve been coming since the first Sunday and we want to join the church. We found Christ in your church. Would you call on us?" Of course, so I drove the twenty-one miles to El Toro and he met me on the porch of their home. He said, "Before I introduce you to Rosie, I have to tell you that Rosie had a stroke many yeas ago. She can・t talk, she can・t walk. But she can understand." So when I met Rosie, "I asked her, "Would you like to join the church?" She got a tear in her eye and I knew that was a yes. The next Sunday I baptized them both through the window of their car. Two years later we were ready to dedicate our first church building, a lovely chapel in Garden Grove. It was a beautiful building with carpet, stained glass windows and, as we planned the opening service, someone on the church board asked, "You are vacating the drive-in, so what is going to happen to Rosie Gray?" Oooh. No one had an answer, so I said, "The only solution is for me to have a 9:30 church service in the new chapel, then we can drive to the drive-in theater for our regular 11:00 service there. Rosie is not going to live much longer, so I・ll hold services both places until she passes away.

So Sunday after Sunday, I jumped into my car and our faithful volunteer choir followed in their cars and we were a regular procession on Chapman Avenue, across town to the drive-in theater. Meanwhile, Rosie Gray seemed to be doing pretty well. She even lived to Christmas. Then until Easter. She seemed to be improving. Warren and Rosie Gray were there Sunday after Sunday ... another Christmas. I wasn・t praying that she・d die, but I did wonder how long would she live? Then the next Easter ... the next Christmas ... one year ... two years ... three years ... four years ... she just would not die. How long could I continue a walk-in church and a drive-in church several miles apart? I had problems. So I prayed about it and God got the idea into my thinking brain ... let・s build a walk-in/drive-in church! A place where people can sit inside, slide the windows open or they can be in their cars. So we planned the world・s first walk-in/drive-in church and today it is a piece of architectural history.

The day arrived when on Sunday we held the groundbreaking ceremony for this property where you and I are worshipping today. The next day I had a funeral! God used Rosie Gray to get us to think big enough to do what He wanted us to do. Rosie Gray is the one and only person, if it had not been for her, this Crystal Cathedral would not be here. This ministry would never have taken off. She could not walk, she could not talk, her chin rested on her chest. In the five years she lived, when I prayed with her, once in a while a tear would fall out of her eye, but that was all, and occasionally a noise would come from her throat. But I learned that the most handicapped person can be used for unbelievable good. And so today, on our 50th Anniversary, the last person I thank and salute is Rosie Gray. Thank you, Rosie Gray!

Thank you, Lord, for being our Higher Power. You communicate with us. You have a dream for each of us. It・s impossible, but that is Your way to come to us so that we know we can・t pull it off without You. Amen.

Thank you, Lord. And to all of you, my beloved church members, this is your church, this is your ministry. Happy anniversary to you!

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