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Schuller, Robert Harold (1926– ), Minister, Televangelist

Schuller, Robert Harold
(1926– ), minister, televangelist.

An ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America, Robert Schuller has been an influential megachurch pastor, a popular televangelist, and a prominent proponent of "possibility thinking."

Nurtured by a Dutch Calvinist family in northwestern Iowa, Schuller attended Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, denominational schools located in Holland, Michigan. During his seminary years he met and married Arvella DeHaan who, along with their five children, would play a significant role in the development of his ministry. Following a five-year pastorate near Chicago, in 1955 Schuller moved to Orange County, California, where he organized the Garden Grove Community Church (Reformed Church in America). Stymied in his attempts to find a traditional worship center in burgeoning post–World War II California, Schuller boldly initiated holding Sunday services in the open air from the top of a refreshment stand at the Orange Drive-in Theater. Demonstrating marketing savvy, he took out newspaper ads with a clever invitation: "Come as you are, in the family car." The congregation outgrew two buildings before the architect Philip Johnson was commissioned to design a twenty-million-dollar, three-thousand-seat, glass and steel sanctuary. Completed in 1980, this magnificent worship center, named the Crystal Cathedral of the Reformed Church in America, has become a popular tourist attraction.

A visionary leader, Schuller has always regarded his congregation as an experiment in church growth. With the establishment of the Robert H. Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership in 1969, he began to share the secrets of his success. During the last three decades of the twentieth century, thousands of church leaders, including many American mega-church pastors, have been influenced by this type of institute, which mixes how-to formulas and practical principles with a heavy dose of success stories. In an effort to help preachers hone their speaking styles, in 1992 Schuller opened the Fuqua International School of Christian Communications.

In 1970 Schuller introduced the Hour of Power, one of the most popular and long-standing television ministries produced in America. Featuring upbeat mainstream Protestant music, interviews with famous guests, and Schuller's dynamic messages, the Hour of Power has gradually gained millions of international viewers, with broadcasts carried to countries such as Korea, Japan, and Russia.

Schuller has authored more than thirty books, most of which promote "possibility thinking," the ideological drive wheel of his ministry. Closely related to the "positive thinking" of Norman Vincent Peale, a friend and mentor who served Marble Collegiate Church (Reformed Church in America) in New York City, Schuller's message is an amalgam of therapeutic psychology, mind conditioning, New Thought, and positive biblical texts. While "possibility thinking" provides practical prescriptions for health, wealth, and happiness, this popular message is undergirded by what Schuller has called the theology of self-esteem. In Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (1982), Schuller argues that, in an increasingly secularized culture, a theocentric message fails to gain a hearing from the unchurched. Schuller offers an anthropocentric approach that begins with the human condition and human needs. Suggesting that the essential human problem is not arrogance or pride but lack of self-esteem, Schuller proposes that the "new reformation" is one that restores human dignity and self-worth. While his attempt to reconstruct reformed theology generally has been rejected or neglected by established theologians from both ends of the theological spectrum, it has influenced Christian psychologists and missiologists.

Robert H. Schuller has had an enormous impact upon popular American religion since 1960. His Hour of Power, church leadership institutes, and popular motivational books have given him broad visibility. Moreover, his positive message of individual pluck, persistence, and positive thinking has struck a rich and abiding strain of popular American religion.


See alsoMegachurch; New Thought; Peale, Norman Vincent; Televangelism.

Bibliography

Nason, Michael, and Donald Nason. Robert Schuller:The Inside Story. 1985.

Schuller, Robert H. Move Ahead with PossibilityThinking. 1967.

Schuller, Robert H. Self-Esteem: The New Reformation. 1982.

Schuller, Robert H. Turning Hurts into Halos andScarsinto Stars. 1999.

Voskuil, Dennis N. Mountains into Goldmines:RobertSchuller and the Gospel of Success. 1983.

Dennis N. Voskuil

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