November 28, 2014

Outing Joel Osteen: A Challenge to the Evangelical Blogosphere

joel.jpg Before you read this post, I want to ask you to read two interviews with Joel Osteen and the first part of his book.

The first is at Beliefnet.com. The second is at FaithfulReader.com.

Here is the book excerpt at Amazon.

Here is a long excerpt from the first chapter of Your Best Life Now at Parable.com

Here are Osteen sermons. (Check dates. More recent ones reflect the concerns of this post.) Also, this is the closest thing we can find to a Confession of Faith.

Update 16: Here is Osteen’s recent apology for his interview on Larry King, where he did exactly what I told you he does. Included are my recations. And here is a long letter from Bob Ross at Pigrim Publications, who says Osteen is personally committed to the Gospel. I have no trouble with that. It’s his books, sermons and STATUS that are the problems.

Update 15: Here’s a commenter at the BHT defending Osteen and calling me out as too rash.

Update 14: The Detroit News Feature story. They are right on target: A New Age Gospel of Motivational Messages.

Update 13: Best Osteen post ever. Alex Arnold. Thank you, Alex.

Update 12: 2/7/05 I have decided to close the comment threads on the Osteen posts. Thanks to all who have commented, and I hope raising this issue has contributed to a better understanding of Mr. Osteen and what he represents in American Christianity.

Go directly to the “Outing Osteen” post.

UPDATE: The Faithful Reader site went down for a while. So just in case that interview may disappear, here’s the cached copy of the page.

UPDATE 2: I have made a list of all the current Osteen resources I could find in 20 pages of googling. I will add to the list.

UPDATE 3: Should I be seeking personal reconciliation with Osteen according to Matthew 18?

UPDATE 4: My response to some BHT questions, including my speculation about why Osteen won’t name books or influences in interviews.

UPDATE 5: It’s been quite a weekend. Record traffic. Biggest month in IM history, mostly off the last two days. Some wonderful blog posts have been forwarded to me. Thanks to everyone. This post on the Sacraments at Lakewood is a good one. (I am not about debating theology with Osteen. I don’t hear any theology from him. What is said at his web site or from the phone center is not what you will read in Osteen’s book.) Things are happening. Stay tuned.

UPDATE 6: My response to the objection “You should never criticize people who are winning others to Christ.” From a longer IM essay on Criticism.

UPDATE 7:Here’s another answer to a commenter: Is Osteen Ok for those who already know the Gospel, and just need a lift?

UPDATE 8: A MUST READ! Tim Challies does the grunt work of comparing the rhetoric of New Ager Marianne Williamson and motivational speaker Tony Robbins with Rick Warren. Why post that here? Do you need to ask? I said it at the BHT: There is a reason Osteen doesn’t name books and influences. Could this be why?

UPDATE 9 Osteen on MSNBC 2/1/05. He’s ok with being called a motivational speaker. Meanwhile, Michael Horton says what Osteen’s message really is: Fortune cookies.

UPDATE 10: Relevant scripture, and a story where “There really is a cliff!”

UPDATE 11: Amazon.com reviews of Osteen’s book, compiled by Byron Harvey. Also, Get Religion’s Osteen piece.

And for those who don’t care for what I am up to here, try this and this. Someone asked me if I wanted to pastor 30,000? Any church that cannot provide a meaningful interaction between pastor/elders and the entire congregation, in the homes of the members, regularly, personally, is too big. Megachurch numbers don’t represent churches, but denominations that gather in one room occasionally. I say this to everyone from Piper to whomever: Keep it small enough for shepherds to know the sheep.

UPDATE 12: Many excellent posts are out there, but few better than the BHT’s Richard. Updated: Tim Challies does a 5 star post on Osteen. Thanks, Tim. Updated again: Razorkiss has one of the best posts I’ve read. Very good information and quotes.

This is the pastor of America’s largest church. This will soon be the leading spokesperson for evangelical Christianity. This is the face and voice that will be heard speaking for the heirs of the Reformation. If you missed Jesus and the Gospel entirely, it’s because they weren’t there.

I want to know if anyone thinks we ought to try speaking up about this, at least once.

For those who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this.

John Osteen starts Lakewood Church. Osteen is a Baptist preacher, Texas style, who’s gone Pentecostal/Charismatic. The church grows to 10,000 members. Osteen preaches the Gospel, preaches missions, and is a respected “classic” Pentecostal/Charismatic leader. He isn’t, however, preparing for what happened next.

He died suddenly. Pentecostal churches the size of Lakewood are usually family dynasties, but Osteen didn’t lay the groundwork for his succession. His wife preaches for a while, and then his son Joel, who had been working with (I believe) the church’s media ministries. In other words, behind the scenes, apparently not planning to be pastor.

Joel tries out the pulpit. He’s not much of a preacher at first. He’s nervous, but the congregation is cheering for him. He’s cute, appealling and, eventually, funny. He’s got a beautiul wife. He’s charming, and tells a good story. He’s disarmingly vulnerable. He makes you feel good. He’s not like the usual ranting, angry preachers. He’s a nice guy.

Before long, Joel is comfortable in the role of pastor, and the church begins to grow. He’s preaching the usual word-faith stuff and things go well. But then Joel changes his emphasis….and things explode. In fact, in just over a decade, it triples to 30,000 and becomes the largest church in America. They buy the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA Houston Rockets. 18,000 seats. He’s on TBN, PAX and CNBC overseas.

What happened? Joel makes a remarkable shift away from his father’s style of more traditional Pentecostal/Charismatic preaching. He becomes a positive thinker- Peale and Schuller style. A preacher of “think positive and be blessed” principles. Prosperity preaching, but not with some tangled version of the Gospel at the center like so many on TBN (take Kenneth Copeland as an example.) It’s “have a better attitude and be blessed” motivational talks that have no relation to the essentials of the Christian Gospel. You rarely hear any theology or Gospel preaching. God is good and wants to bless you. Period. That’s it. Instead, Osteen’s messages are about “God’s Favor” on marriage, finances and career. Sin is never mentioned. In well over 25 hours of preaching that I listened to this year, Jesus was almost never mentioned, and when he was mentioned, it was in a perfunctory prayer in the last minute. Sin, the Cross, the atonement? Not there.

Osteen preaches about positive thinking, being blessed, resurrecting dreams and taking risks. His book is called “Your Best Life Now.” Despite endorsements from at least one preacher who supposedly understands the Gospel, the message of the Cross of Jesus Christ isn’t the focus of Osteen’s message- ever. It’s positive thinking. Good advice for people who need a lift relationally or financially. It’s the message of a good God who wants to bless you with a bigger house, a better job and, of course, a better attitude.

This Joel Osteen, a young man who stumbled into his father’s shoes, now is the most successful pastor in America, and will soon be a best selling author, seen and heard around the world standing in a pulpit, preaching pragmatic positive thinking, pure and simple, out of an open Bible. He will represent evangelicalism with his big smile and a message that would make Screwtape shout “Amen! Preach it brother.”

This is where evangelicalism has come to in 2005. This is what the heirs of the Reformation have come to accept as acceptable. This is what can be endorsed and advertised to evangelicals and be sure to sell millions of copies.

It makes me angry and I want to do something.

I have a simple question.

Is this going to happen with the silence of evangelicals, or will someone speak up? Will Osteen continue his arc to fame and leadership with little or no comment from those in evangelicalism who have the responsiblity of discernment? Are we going to sit still and just shake our heads, or might we do more?

I wonder how many of our churches are already populated by Osteen fans. How many deacons, elders, teachers and worship leaders are enamored with the adorable Osteen and his positive message? How many young people are going to be pointed to Osteen as a true shepherd of Jesus Christ? I know a lot of people in my world are lining up for the Osteen message as if he were just another version of Rick Warren. He’s not. He’s not one of us.

Make no mistake about this: Osteen isn’t confused about Jesus like many of the prosperity preachers you hear on TBN. Osteen is intentionally avoiding irrtiating language about sin because he wants to keep it positive every week. He is not just avoiding mentioning Jesus, the cross and the Gospel just because he is seeker sensitive. Joel Osteen is preaching the no-Gospel, no-Jesus message because it’s filling the church with thousands of people who want to hear it. Osteen will ignore his critics because the common people are voting every week- in book sales, ratings numbers and attendance- for his message.

At the biggest church in the country, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week — and sin is not on the menu. Osteen said his goal is to “give people a boost for the week.”

“I think for years there’s been a lot of hellfire and damnation. You go to church to figure out what you’re doing wrong and you leave feeling bad like you’re not going to make it,” Osteen said. “We believe in focusing on the goodness of God.”

Osteen defends Lakewood’s ways, saying the lively and inclusive atmosphere is attracting a whole new generation of parishioners.

“I have parents tell me all the time that their kids will sit down and watch us on TV or that they want to come to the service because it’s simple and something they can understand,” he said.

Some Lakewood qualities that appeal to a younger set are “the best lighting and the best sound system,” a youth ministry program that attracts hundreds, and every service kicks off with 30 minutes of upbeat contemporary music — not hymns — played by a live band.

“It’s not a churchy feel,” Osteen, 40, said. “We don’t have crosses up there. We believe in all that, but I like to take the barriers down that have kept people from coming. A lot of people who come now are people that haven’t been to church in 20 to 30 years.”

…Lakewood’s attendance has grown so massive that the church recently bought the Compaq Center, a former sports arena, which is being remodeled to hold an even larger congregation.

“This will be the first church in the country to see 35,000 people,” Vaughan said.

He’s being sold to us by people who want to make money off his success, and they are counting on us to be sheep, “baaing” quietly, but going along to the slaughter.

Any analysis of Joel Osteen’s theology is going to have a hard time saying he is proclaiming the Christian message. The most popular preacher in Christianity is proclaiming a theology that is neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim, but is pragmatically pagan. Pagan in the sense of finding ways to gain the favor of god so he will do good things for you. Manipulating the deity to give you blessings. This is the ultimate example of Luther’s “theology of glory” chosen over the “theology of the cross.” I would rather a non-Christian hear John Shelby Spong a hundred times than hear this. Spong denies it all- outright. Osteen is presented as a Christian, but his message isn’t going to bring you to Christ, the Kingdom or heaven. It’s spiritual cyanide disguised as candy. If there is a hell, Osteen’s message won’t stop you or the people you love from going there, because the savior in his messages is YOU and the salvation he offers is a NEW ATTITUDE, and some resulting real estate.

The question becomes, will evangelicals do anything? Will they say anything? Will they register their objections to Osteen’s reshaping of the Reformation gospel into a positive thinking message that makes Robert Schuller look like John Calvin in comparison?

I have a challenge for one segment of the evangelical community: The Blogosphere. My fellow bloggers.

I want to challenge the Christian Blogosphere to devote at least one substantial post to outing Joel Osteen. Why is a man who doesn’t preach the gospel the most popular preacher in America? Are we going to take note of what kind of message is going to be identified as building the largest church in America? In short, who in the blogosphere is willing to stand up and say “Joel Osteen’s message of positive thinking as a way to God’s favor isn’t the Christian Gospel.”

I want to challenge my fellow bloggers to do something most evangelicals won’t do: speak up. I want you to post something. I want you to send that post to other bloggers. Send those posts to evangelical leaders, magazines and reporters. Send them to the publisher of Osteen’s book. Send them to pastors, elders and staff members. Send them to World and ask why Joel Osteen’s abandonment of the Gospel of Christ and the cross isn’t front page news. Send those posts to Max Lucado and John Maxwell and ask why they have endorsed a ministry that purposely avoids mentioning Jesus Christ, but eagerly embraces a different message. Send those posts to Christianity Today, Relevant, Boundless, Discipleship Journal and anyplace else you can think of.

Let’s ask the questions:

Is Joel Osteen a representative of the evangelical Gospel if he believes that Christianity is about getting blessings from God in this life?
In a time of suffering, AIDS, persecution and sacrifice by Christians around the world, is Joel Osteen the person who should speak for Christians who believe in the message that is being suffered for and died for by thousands?
When evangelicals have been represented by John Stott and Billy Graham, are we going to be silent while Osteen becomes the new voice of evangelicalism?
Is Osteen preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or are these “lifts for the week” something else entirely?
Why are evangelicals embracing this man, his message and his ministry? What’s wrong with us?

My challenge:

1. Write a post about Osteen.
2. Encourage other bloggers to do the same. (Forward this link if you wish.)
3. Send it out. Raise the questions, speak the truth. Nail something on the door of the world.

I can’t bear to think of those who have come before us handing us the Gospel through all their faithfulness and sacrifice, and we give it to a man like Osteen; a man who doesn’t want to preach the glory of Christ, but the possibilities of a positive attitude. A man who has betrayed the gospel and is growing rich and powerful on that betrayal.

Will you join me?

Comments

  1. i agree with pjlr in that many here speak big and haven’t even heard him speak.

    those of you need to think for yourselves before you tag along with loud voices just because they are loud.

  2. As an Evangelical (specifically a “Willowcreeker”), “outing” Joel Osteen is not my problem. To think otherwise is to imply Almighty God isn’t able to safeguard His Message. Anyone who fears that may not be much of an Evangelical, but I’m not called to judge them either.

  3. One Salient Oversight says:

    This is my Bible.

    I have no idea what is in it but I know it must be darn important.

    I can only understand what is in it by listening to Pastor Joel.

    Today would be a really nice day to hear the Word of God – but only if it makes me happy.

    My mind is inert.

    My heart is deceptive.

    I am about to receive the unchallenged, authoritative words of Pastor Joel.

    I will probably remain the same but just feel good about it all.

    I will never, never, never, ask any tough questions at all.

  4. One Salient Oversight says:

    Joel Osteen preaches the gospel here:

    http://www.lakewood.cc/sermons/cs_001.htm

    But that was over four years ago – just when he began to pastor the church.

  5. Middle man,

    So is Almighty God also able to win the lost to Himself without our aid? So why do we go out and evangelize?

    Yes, God will defend His Gospel – but God does work *through means*. Imperfect means, yes, but He does work through them. He expects *His people* to go out and preach the Gospel, not sit around and wait for the lost to come to them. And He expects *His people* to cherish and defend that Gospel, even if people arise from our own numbers who divert from it. Will we do so perfectly? Hardly. But we are called to do both, wherever and whenever the need arises.

    I never thought to hear hypercalvinist arguments from a Willow Creeker… ;-}

  6. Man in the Middle:

    Then explain this passage:

    2 Peter 2:1-3 2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

    2 Timothy 4:1-4 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

    1 Timothy 1:3 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,

    1 Timothy 6:3-5 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

    Titus 1:9-11 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

    Just tell me what is being commanded in these passages and if it isn’t clearly pointing out, as Gal 1:8-9 says, the abandonment of the Gospel AND THE MEN WHO DO IT, I’ll put up shop.

  7. One Salient Oversight says:

    “Man in the Middle” sort of reminds me of a hypercalvinist – but without anything really important to believe in.

  8. One Salient Oversight says:

    Doug! Nice to see we were of the same mind there!

  9. Jim Gieseke says:

    Michael Spencer is dead on with regards to Osteen. Osteen is a dangerous, false teacher and Spencer rightly warns others.

    I don’t know about the “evangelical blogosphere”, but some have been writing about and warning against Osteen at various discernment web sites for some time.

    Of course “mainstream” evangelical leaders will do nothing but fall over one another in an attempt to get on Osteen’s bandwagon and endorse his books.

    This should not be surprising given the times.

    Jim Gieseke
    Houston, Texas

  10. Rasselsas says:

    can the brothers here defending Osteen do me a favor? please give your definition of a heretic also a definition of Antichrist

    thanks!

  11. Joseph Goebbels says:

    I read all your negative comments and I just can’t understand what is wrong with you people. The man is a born leader. People follow him because they are inspired by his words and motivated by his actions.

    Think back a few years. What was going on? We had high unemployment and business failures… not to mention those foreign powers who were jealous of our values and acted accordingly.

    The man preaches a message and he is loved. When you go to one of his meetings you leave with a great positive feeling – the singing, the message, everything. Surely that is what our country needs? Surely this is how we will pull together as a nation?

    I challenge all you naysayers out there to go to one of this man’s meetings. You have no idea what is truly going on and the wonderful effect that it is having upon people.

    And as far as his messages and books are concerned – you just don’t know the man! All you focus on are the words! Stop focusing upon areas of the intellect and instead focus upon the heart!

    History will be his vindicator. In years to come people will study his work and will ask “How was all this possible?”, “Why were so many people affected?”, “What can we learn from this man’s work?”.

    You’re all pathetic.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Joseph Goebbels,
    Berlin, 1938.

  12. One Salient Oversight says:

    Now technically I did not run into Godwin’s law here!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

  13. I never used the term antiChrist but it refers in I John to the denier of the incarnation. Those who make the incarnation of no use in the faith and make Jesus into an example of positive thinking are close.

    Heretic is one who denies or significantly perverts an essential while confessing to be a Christian.

    Joel refuses to do theology, so he thinks he’s safe. But to all appearances, he has abandoned the Gospel and replaced it with another.

    I would call him- technically- an apostate.

    But motivational speaker is all I want evangelical to say, because that’s what he says.

  14. Has he really, technically, replaced the gospel with another gospel? I keep seeing Galatians 1 brought up but what those Judaizers were doing with perverting the Gospel to the point that a person had to be circumcised and carry out the Law in order to insure their salvation. Joel, based on my (limited) experience, doesn’t touch the Gospel until the last 30 seconds as a sign off. If anything, he has minimized the Gospel and the cross…not perverted it.

    There are many Christians who refuse to do theology and others who go on, day by day, barely making mention of the Gospel of God. If anything, Joel’s example should be making us introspective…examining where we have fallen short in the presentation of God’s revealed truth and thinking of those times that we’ve danced around the subject.

  15. Reading through these posts reminds me of why i don’t usually waste my time on blogs! But i couldn’t sleep last night and was perusing this thread, so i can’t resist a quick post:

    So far we’ve learned (from various posts) that Joel Osteen, Dr. Dobson, Bruce Wilkinson, Benny Hinn, Ted Haggard, Rick Warren, George Barna, Robert Schuller, Max Lucado, Catholics, & Rabid Pentecostals (of which there are more than 500 million) are all heretics (or at least semi-heretical- depending on the generosity of the person posting). If you don’t agree with this then you’re likened to a Nazi (Joseph Goebbels). But we shouldn’t despair because all the truly elect of God will be redeemed anyways and evangelicalism is going to be saved by “an informal, loose affiliation of theologically sound individuals and organizations (imonk, John Hendryx at moneregism.com, Modern Reformation, ACE and Al Mohler).”

    Wow- i feel much more theologically safe.

    Anyways- thanks for reminding me why these blogs are such a distraction and waste of time and energy. i need to get back to work that matters (planning a week long outreach to teens in our city for March, a two week evangelistic mission trip to India in June and a week long outreach into the inner city of Miami in July). i’ll leave the truly important stuff to you theological heavyweights.

  16. That’s quite the good work. I’ll post up a prayer request on my site.

  17. Thanks for sharing all those events you’re working on, PT. You’ve received your reward.

  18. Yes, thankfully he isn’t like other men. Applause please.

    What is the mental disorder that causes me to write that writing this post is why I don’t write this post, or reading this blog is why I don’t read blogs, or carping at people is why I don’t have time to carp at people?

  19. We’re still living with the repurcussions of the Kantian curse (where head *must* by definition be divided from the heart). PT, deeds are shaped by our beliefs. Beliefs provoke deeds. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your *mind*.” What God hath joined together, let no man separate.

    You say we shouldn’t judge on ideas if the deeds are good. Well, both the *deeds* and *ideas* of Joel are on the table here – there’s plenty of material here (or by reference) on both. *You* are the one judging *us* on our ideas, with no idea of our deeds. Were you aware that the Monk is a pastor and a teacher and an evangelist?

    Physician, heal thyself.

  20. Those of whom Jesus has called to serve His Church as pastors have an important duty. It is very clear that we are personally responsible for protecting the Church against doctrinal error that would harm believers and produce divisions within the local congregations.

    Joel Osteen is one of those threats.

    And it is a responsibility we should all take seriously.

  21. Thanks again, iMonk. It is incredible to me that to some of these folks, simple Biblical discernment doesn’t qualify as a work that “matters”. If we lose the ability to discern, or the will to discern, as it seems obvious some have, with what are we left? Some of the posts here are sadly indicative of the poor state of affairs in evangelical circles. And you’re right in something that was said earlier: this isn’t about little intramural disputes we have over Calvinism and Arminianism; it isn’t about a little bit of poor exegesis here (Wilkinson) or a fairly vapid work by a fellow believer (PDL) or anything of that nature. This is about the embrace by evangelicals of a man whose message, happy and upbeat though it may be, is categorically not the gospel.

    What I wonder is at what point we hold Christian publishers accountable (and how). At what point (and how) do we say to “Family Christian Stores” that if you wouldn’t carry Dr. Phil (who knows, maybe they WOULD) or Oprah, then how can you carry Joel Osteen (and Osteen isn’t the only one–how can they carry Amy Grant’s music? Sorry, topic for another day)? A big pastors’ wives conference in Orlando (don’t tell me you didn’t get 1000 mailings on it) featured Osteen and his pretty wife alongside some solid men and their wives. At what point do we (gently!) ask these men to refrain from giving this tacit endorsement? More questions than answers at this point…

  22. PT, brother in Christ, check yourself… that was really arrogant on a few levels.

  23. Thanks for calling me super spiritual. I have been called many things, but that is not one of them. Thank You!

    My point still stands, where is the prayer for this guy and those who follow him? So he is wrong, the spiritual gift of discernment has worked. Now that the Holy Spirit has revealed something to you where is the intercession, which is also a spiritual weapon. We are to put on the whole armor of God. Even when God had Paul write to the Corinthians about their faults, and they were many, He also had Paul write that he was praying for them.

    If the only thing we do is find fault what good is it? We have the power to agree in the Name of Jesus and change things! We are suppose to be known as a people of prayer! So together why don’t we all take some time and ask the God reveal His Truth to these people and to this Joel, so that they might be set free!

    Love

    Brad

  24. One Salient Oversight says:

    “We have the power to agree in the Name of Jesus and change things! We are suppose to be known as a people of prayer! So together why don’t we all take some time and ask the God reveal His Truth to these people and to this Joel, so that they might be set free!”

    That’s quite a strange comment Brad and it probably highlights many of the differences in thinking that divide us as Christians.

    For starters, I would probably assume that many, if not most, of Lakewood church would pray for Joel Osteen. I’m not so arrogant as to assume that Lakewood church is full of apostate unbelievers – so given the fact that these believers are praying for him, don’t you think that God would listen to them? It might just be that it is all part of God’s plan that this whole “outing” business be brought up as an answer to the prayers of his church. Maybe this “outing” may be used by God to change Osteen’s heart and lead him into preaching the gospel. At the very least I’m hoping that Osteen would realise his mistake and return to the truth.

    Secondly, I am not one of these people who believe that “We have the power to agree in the Name of Jesus and change things!”. It is not we who change things, it is God. We have no power at all, brother.

    Thirdly, your point about us praying for Osteen and his church assumes that we don’t. We’re not doing this to be disruptive or destructive. We’re doing this to help. It may not be a nice thing – but it has to be done. SOMEONE has to take out the garbage.

  25. We are supposed to be known as ______________________ (Fill in blank with whatever you want that the Bible says do, but the other guy isn’t doing.)

    Let’s play Brad.

    Why aren’t you feeding the hungry instead of blogging?
    Why aren’t you out street preaching instead of reading blogs?
    Why aren’t you visiting nursing homes instead of arguing with me?

    This is fun.

    Why aren’t you praying for missionaries, instead of correcting me?
    Why aren’t you on a mission trip?
    Why aren’t you putting gospel tracts in mailboxes on your street?
    In fact, since I am wasting my time not praying but correcting, where did you get a note from God to correct me? Shouldn’t you be praying for me?

    I need to call Zondervan. This could be a board game. We’ll call it…

    Wretched Urgency II
    http://www.internetmonk.com/guilty.html

  26. Shannon Richey says:

    Wow, this was certainly entertaining.

    I don’t know that I would consider myself an evangelical anymore but I do remember watching John Osteen on Sunday nights…I would enjoy it but I would learn things too. I was a very new Christian at that time…

    I will say that while Joel is every bit as energetic as his father, he is completely different, and I have absolutely no problem referring to him as a motivational speaker. One reason I don’t want to call myself an evangelical anymore is that much of the evangelicalism I have seen (at least in my area of the country) is very similar to what Osteen preaches-very low on theology or Christ, very high on ‘ear tickling’.

    Being someone who has been immersed in the ‘prosperity gospel’ sort of faith and has been harmed a good deal by it, I am very suspicious of any minister or church that has the idea that everything is going to come up roses simply if you think positively. Yes, praying and thinking positively can help out and all but real life tells you that there *will* be trials, there *will* be tribulations, and (gasp!) you *wont* always get everything you want. Oh, and guess what. The Bible says that too. But telling people that doesn’t pack people into megachurches and raise a whole lot of money..better to either tell them what they want to hear and about how happy-happy-joy-joy life with Christ is, or better to make them feel better about themselves by talking about how horribly awful everyone else in the world is and how the US MUST become a theocracy as soon as possible (the other thing from my old group/TBN disciples, but that is another post, another time).

    So, Osteen might say some nice things and is interesting to listen to…and I don’t doubt his sincerity at all, but I see him more as a motivational speaker.

    Michael, does that help?:)

  27. Clark Bunch says:

    If nothing else, my comment will be number 127. I’m reminded of a command to take up our cross and follow. Jesus “embraced” his cross. What cross does Osteen embrace? Paul promised we would suffer for the cause of Christ. When I preach I am conscience of a cerain responsibility to the gospel, and to the Word of God to be true to it. Right after the Bible says “Study to show thyself approved” which could alone mean a lot of different things, it clarifies “a workman rightly dividing the word of truth.” I hope that I am never so disillusioned that I enter the pulpit and forsake the gospel. If we are now ashamed of Jesus and his name, will he not be ashamed of us?

  28. Clark Bunch says:

    …And another thing (I feel like Columbo).

    The Great Commision: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel unto every creature.” Mark 16:15, KJV

    That’s the final thing Christ said before his accension. After 3 1/2 years of public ministy, teaching in the temple, preaching to thousands, mentoring his desciples personally, his very last command was evangelical. Preaching the gospel was his last request. But what’s the use of quoting the words of Christ to a guy who isn’t preaching Christ at all in the first place, right?

  29. I think it is sinful how you people are shaming Joel for teaching the world how to live as Christians live….In nearly every sermon, he teaches how to love people the way CHRIST loves…how to forgive the way CHRIST forgives…Every sermon is backed with meaningful scripture. I am just thankful that this meaningless webboard and your angry views could never stop what God has planned….May Joel keep winning souls and I hope that you all check your hearts with the Holy Spirit

  30. How is the world going to live as Christians, if the world will not acknowledge the power and the Life that must undergird a Christian’s life? Heck, Joel doesn’t even focus on that power (the power and wisdom of God hidden in the foolishness of the Cruifixion, I Cor 1:18-25) in his preaching, so how can his congregation know it?

    Is the fact that 30,000 people show up every week and that he has a television show, and people write in saying what great messages he gives, mean that God is at work? Then God is working through the Mormons and the Muslims too, I guess, because they can make the same claims. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” What seems more foolish – a sharp guy with an easy message gathering a large crowd, or a crusty pastor on a plain-text web diary trying to call that man (and the evangelical attitudes that gave birth to him) into account?

    You’ve made your case as to where God is most at work – I’ve made mine.

  31. The Lord works in strange ways to bring about His will. I’ve wondered why God doesn’t eliminate false teachers like a Joel Osteen? The answer might be that we, as Christians, are accountable for what we believe. Joel Osteen “exposes” himself as either a “clueless Christian” or a knowingly false pretender to Christianity. It the latter, he’s not the first and won’t be the last. Christian’s have the Scripture, and we are admonished in the strictest terms to test the teaching presented against it as The Standard of Truth. Olsteen’s “flock” is accountable to stop behaving like sheep and begin reading and using their Bibles.

  32. Reading the exchanges here, it seems that “outing” JO is not only difficult and unpleasant, but largely pointless. Don’t you think that he already gets a steady stream of “discernment” mail pointing out the flaws in his message? Maybe he listens to them, but it seems doubtful. For all we know, JO might be a thoughtful man, often pondering his strategy and hoping for the best. As has been (rightly) pointed out here, that doesn’t get him off the hook for his actions.

    I have a friend who is a pastor in a large church. He belongs to a group who regularly meets at big churches and discusses what they are doing right. At one church, its “signature ministry” was something called “raising the standard and lowering the bar.” The basic idea of this is that we need to demand constant spiritual growth from our members (“raising the standard,”) but in order to grow we need to make it easier to begin that process as a member (“lowering the bar.”)

    The problem with this approach in practice, according to my friend, is that it is much easier to lower the bar than to raise the standard. This large church, whose signature ministry it was to raise the standard, had very quickly lowered the bar–making a declaration of membership about as easy as joining Sam’s Club. OTOH, their progress in raising the standard had not yet gotten them quite to an eighth grade catechumen’s level of knowledge.

    Isn’t that really what JO has done, reductio ad absurdum? How do you “out” this? You’ll either wind up preaching to the choir or annoying people who follow JO because he is a “great leader” but don’t want to engage his ideas seriously. Either alternative has its dangers. I’m continually troubled by narcissitic tendencies among those with refined doctrinal sensibilities; anyone who actually enjoys outing someone like JO should take a good look inward as well, IMHO. I wouldn’t want to make JO a martyr either; that would be nauseating to watch, if nothing else.

    In actual fact, JO has done us a service by showing, in reality, what was previously available only as a thought experiment. We now know how large a church can grow if the bar is lowered right to the ground, and the standard stays somewhere on the level of “Think and grow rich.” We also know how such a church will be received, and how enthusiastically some folks will defend a message that could be plunked into a buddhist setting without significant alteration.

    Some things should be done because they are the right thing to do. Pointing out that the JO is not preaching the gospel might be one of those. Just be prepared to deal with a lot of grief from people who really don’t know what the gospel is. Judging from the traffic on this thread, I’d say that might include a pastor or two.

  33. My purpose has never been to change JO. That’s hilarious. My purpose has been to simply encourage the Christian Blogosphere to say that he isn’t an evangelical.

    CT is doing a piece on Osteen that will raise the questions, and I look forward to it.

  34. >My purpose has never been to change JO. That’s hilarious.

    That sounds a trifle condescending. It’s an odd tone to take with someone who is basically agreeing with you.

    >My purpose has simply been to encourage the Christian blogosphere to say that he isn’t evangelical.

    This is in direct contradiction to the questions you raise in your post, where you say “let’s ask the questions.” These clearly imply an intention beyond mere proclamation–things like, for instance, a public censure of JO and externally imposed limits on his influence.

  35. I never intended any condescenion. Ahhh for a world were emoticons weren’t needed :-) Apologies if condescension were implied.

    As to questions….identifying him correctly is a matter of asking the right questions.

    Is he an evangelical?
    Does he preach the Gospel?
    Why have evangelicals embraced him?
    etc.

    > a public censure of JO and externally imposed limits on his influence.

    No. Never thought of it. Does somethng in either one of my posts imply it? I mean he’s on his own. He’s not accountable to me or any other Christians except Lakewood. It’s a free country. Hence the need for Christian communicators to make it clear that whatever he is, he isn’t one of us.

    Again, no condescension implied. Sorry.

  36. My thesis (which tracks back to this post, I believe) is that he does preach Jesus… sometimes. However, that does not make him an evangelical? No. A “milk and water” charismatic? Probably. Who I want to be a “voice of Evangelicalism”? Oh, no, no, no.

    He preaches milk. Skim, with a trace of Bible. Nothing more. He preaches no meat, no substance, no nothing. Only a bare-bones gospel, with a minimum of sin, and a minimum of gospel, and a minimum of Jesus.

    So.. the answer is no. I also have a second-hand (it’s my parents, and they DID visit, and speak to their staff, so it’s as reliable a second-hand as you can get.) information of what exactly it’s like there.

    So… it’s interesting.

  37. Razorkiss (what a cool name)

    You have the best WordPress blog I’ve ever seen. I desire it. Sell it to me.

    Preaches Jesus? Preaches? How about mentions or refers to minimally? How about mentions Jesus in almost an identical way to motivational New Agers?

    Imagine I invite Osteen to my church for a conference. He shows up, and I say, “We want you to do an exposition of Mark 8. Verse by verse, with context, introduction and application.”

    Do you think he could do it? I think he would be utterly incapable of doing it at all. I don’t think he would have the first idea.

    And as for the Easter sermon, I guess we have to admit that twice a day, every clock is right :-)

  38. I enjoyed listening to Joel Osteen quite a bit. then one day, while doing research, I came across his property record (http://www.hcad.org/cgi-bin/AV/AVDetail.asp?taxyear=2004&acct=0752020270011) listing his house as being valued at $2,254,700.

    I have a hard time watching him now. I don’t begrudge the guy for being successful, but it’s hard to take his preaching seriously when his lifestyle is so far beyond the average parishoner. I mean, how does he ask people to tithe to the church when the church funds are used to pay for a $2 million house??? Is the house a mission tool? Does he provide shelter to the homeless with it? Does he use it for promoting faith? Or does he simply relax in an extraordinarily lavish lifestyle when he hops form behind the pulpit???

  39. Oops, last comment had a bad URL (paren got in the way. Here’s the link to his property record:

    http://www.hcad.org/cgi-bin/AV/AVDetail.asp?taxyear=2004&acct=0752020270011

  40. I have read your article. I have also read Joel Osteen’s book (among many other evangelical publications). I also visited the sites you suggested. It would seem to me that anyone who could bring someone back to the Lord is blessed. Whether it be from a optimistic, positive standpoint or not. As far as not mentioning Jesus Christ, God and the Father have certainly been mentioned repeatedly both in his book and in his sermons. I am not condoning his style, but to me, anyone that can bring someone back to God or have a positive view of religion deserves recognition. As for the many scripture quotations by your respondents, even Satan himself quoted scripture………

  41. Yeah, I know imonk. I’m not advocating him at all.

    I’m not going to give any sort of “he’s not going to heaven” thing, either. I surely don’t think he _really_ preaches Jesus.

    He does mention him… sometimes. But that’s about it.

    Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I really, really need to clean it up, though. Make it sharper, less… “graphics intensive”. I like the graphics – but they’re almost too big. I’ll probably work on that today, actually.