December 14, 2017

Spurgeon and Osteen: The Tale of Inaugural Sermons

Charles Spurgeon preached two sermons at key moments in his ministry. The first was his first sermon at New Park Street. Just a boy, he had come to the old church of John Gill, determined that the God of the Gospel would once again be heard. His topic was “The Immutability of God.”

The second, and in many ways more important, was the first sermon in the new Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon knew he was sounding a keynote. No longer a boy preacher, but a man with undreamed of success in his hand, Spurgeon sounded out a clear note on what would be heard at the new Tabernacle:

I would propose (and O may the Lord grant us grace to carry out that proposition, from which no Christian can dissent), I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist, although I claim to be rather a Calvinist according to Calvin, than after the modern debased fashion. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. You have there (pointing to the baptistery) substantial evidence that I am not ashamed of that ordinance of our Lord Jesus Christ; but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply: “It is Jesus Christ.” My venerable predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself for ever, God helping me, is not his system of divinity or any other human treatise, but Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel; who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.


This past Sunday, Joel Osteen, the most successful pastor in America, with the largest congregation in America, inaugurated his ministry’s new beginning in a renovated stadium that formerly housed the Houston Rockets. It was a key point in Osteen’s ministry; an opportunity for the world to hear what Lakewood’s pulpit would proclaim to the world.

For those who heard the sermon, I hardly need to make the point. For those who haven’t heard the sermon, I recommend the excerpts available at Issues, Etc. at KFUO radio for July 18.

Osteen talked about his father. A lot. A whole lot. He talked about dreams. He talked about dating his wife. He talked about a church that would teach people to be champions. He said God’s favor is on Lakewood and on all those who attend there. He talked about Lakewood’s diversity. He told, again, how he didn’t want to be the pastor. He was positive. Funny. Grateful to God. Likeable. Upbeat. He made you feel good.

Jesus Christ, the savior of sinners? The Gospel of salvation? The cross of Jesus Christ? Salvation by grace, through faith by Christ? As usual, Osteen had nothing to say about these matters. Once again, he sounded like a motivational speaker, encouraging his audience to stay tuned to Lakewood and get in on the miracle favor of God that is obviously on tap.

Spurgeon talked about the Gospel and the Savior. Osteen talked about turning out champions in life.

No Gospel. No need for a mediator. Success by way of God’s favor by way of Lakewood. If you can’t see what’s going on here, you’re just not listening.

Now the blogosphere is echoing with evangelicals tilting their hats Osteen’s way, telling us the good things we can all learn from his success. Did you know there are politicians who appreciate Lakewood? What a surprise, with 30,000 members and millions watching in TV. Did you know Joel makes people feel good so they want to come to church? Did you know he’s the kind of preacher unbelievers like to hear?

Listen brothers, sisters and friends. If you would like to judge Mr. Osteen by his nice-ness, cute-ness, pleasant-ness and helpful attitude, I’ll applaud with you. If you want to note his incredible success and obvious ability to gain the ear of the culture, I agree…he’s the tops.

But those of us who call ourselves- or are called- pastors, have one job. One and only one:

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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tmothy 4:1-7)

Or to put it in a way that applies to Osteen:

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:14-17)

I have no doubt that Joel Osteen is a Christian, but as a pastor, as a minister of the Gospel, as a preacher of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace through faith, he is a zero. Non-existent. Invisible.

And his first sermon in the era of Lakewood’s dominance of evangelicalism shows what he is: a motivational speaker with a 15 second prayer at the end of the talk.

Comments

  1. Ouch! The difference between the two men could not be greater when presented in this way.

    I suppose only God and the test of time really know what their respective legacies will be. For mine, Spurgeon’s 150-odd year effort will be hard to beat–even with Osteen’s big smile and $95 million mortgage.

  2. Awesome, no better way to bring the opening of Lakewood Land into perspective. I do disagree with one thing; I doubt if Joel Osteen is a true believer and if he is he is incredibly ignorant especially if he allows the likes of Jesse Duplantis and his ilk to stand behind his pulpit. I will get hammered for the comparison but I don’t care; Jim Jones had a large church as well.

  3. Amen.

  4. Brian Pendell says:

    Question:

    To what extent does Lakewood resemble Saddleback and “the Purpose Driven Church”? From what I’ve seen, The Rev. Warren has some of these tendencies but he is far more Biblically centered then the Rev. Osteen.

    At least, from what I’ve heard. I’ve never heard the Rev. Osteen in person.

    Heh … I know pastors who look to Saddleback for it’s success, and now that Lakewood is so successful, I’m sure pastors will be looking to Osteen too. Perhaps if he puts out a book called “Forty days of [fill in the blank]”, his approach too will be coming soon to a church near you, where the membership is small and the pastor is desperate.

    But is that really success? Does God truly measure success by any of our metrics? Does he really care how many people warm our pews, or how much we take in at the weekly offering?

    It seems like far too many pastors are far too keen to shake the dust off their feet of any church that isn’t “what’s happening now”. Rather than do the work of pastoring a flock, no matter how small, it seems that far too many would rather plant a new Saddleback clone, where the implicit message is, “If you don’t like our music or our teaching, find someplace else!” Rather than working to be a shepherd to ALL the sheep, young and old, it seems as if new churches are aiming solely at a particular demographic, and the rest of us can go get stuffed. Go to another church, or go to Hell. Except there aren’t that many churches for us .. most of them are trying to be Saddleback clones, too!

    The bottom line is there seem to be a lot of sheep without a shepherd out there. And I’m not persuaded that the “target demographic” sheep are getting the best care either.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

  5. Brian Pendell says:

    Question:

    To what extent does Lakewood resemble Saddleback and “the Purpose Driven Church”? From what I’ve seen, The Rev. Warren has some of these tendencies but he is far more Biblically centered then the Rev. Osteen.

    At least, from what I’ve heard. I’ve never heard the Rev. Osteen in person.

    Heh … I know pastors who look to Saddleback for it’s success, and now that Lakewood is so successful, I’m sure pastors will be looking to Osteen too. Perhaps if he puts out a book called “Forty days of [fill in the blank]”, his approach too will be coming soon to a church near you, where the membership is small and the pastor is desperate.

    But is that really success? Does God truly measure success by any of our metrics? Does he really care how many people warm our pews, or how much we take in at the weekly offering?

    It seems like far too many pastors are far too keen to shake the dust off their feet of any church that isn’t “what’s happening now”. Rather than do the work of pastoring a flock, no matter how small, it seems that far too many would rather plant a new Saddleback clone, where the implicit message is, “If you don’t like our music or our teaching, find someplace else!” Rather than working to be a shepherd to ALL the sheep, young and old, it seems as if new churches are aiming solely at a particular demographic, and the rest of us can go get stuffed. Go to another church, or go to Hell. Except there aren’t that many churches for us .. most of them are trying to be Saddleback clones, too!

    The bottom line is there seem to be a lot of sheep without a shepherd out there. And I’m not persuaded that the “target demographic” sheep are getting the best care either.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

  6. Brian Pendell says:

    Darn! Double post! I got an “internal error 500” and thought the first one didn’t go through, but apparently it did!

    *Bangs head on tree*

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

  7. A resounding “Amen!”

  8. Dan Crawford says:

    Thank you, Pastor. In the lengthy story appearing in Monday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one feature of the new “facility” stood out. There was no cross, but there was a truly beautiful (and expensive) waterfall.

  9. As a young pastor in the Houston area…I must wholeheartedly say I agree. I read with great interest the ‘outing’ Osteen comments in the past. They were very helpful…When a Christian minister doesn’t talk about Christ in any overt way..something is seriously and obviously off–and it ticks me off that so few Christian see that obvious point…The gospel is just simply not about finding a champion in me…

    One of the amazing and frustrating things that I see here and across the board in evangelicalism, is the startling lack of discernment and, thanks Rick Warren…”Gospel Drivenness”…

    It is driving me nuts…in all the best ways…

    Anyway…never written before…I love the site…feel a good bit of brotherhood here…happy to be a part of the posse…

    Grace and peace…

  10. I’m not surprised at some of the harsh comments, nor do I completely disagree. I, too, have been troubled by what comes out of Joel Osteen’s mouth. I don’t think his message is necessarily wrong, in and of itself. I just don’t think it is the Gospel, nor should it be the sole diet of Christians who are seeking teaching from a “pastor.”

    Having said that, I do want to sound a voice of caution to those who are speaking incredibly harshly and making comments similar to “david” who wrote that he doubts Joel Osteen is actually saved. I think Michael was more balanced in his comment that he doesn’t doubt that Osteen is a Christian, and I applaud that way of putting it.

    Say what you will about his “ministry” (and boy, could I say a lot that I will withhold because it’s already been said here!) and say what you will about a “ministry” incurring such a huge debt in the name of Christ. I have serious issues with all of that. But I think, to be fair, we need to leave the determination of “saved” or “unsaved” to God alone. We can know them by their fruits, but I’m not sure that we can honestly point to Osteen’s life and say it’s bad fruit. It’s evident that he is not a “pastor”, nor a preacher of the Gospel. But that in and of itself does not require a question of his personal salvation.

    Personally, I think Joel Osteen is just very misinformed as to what ministry is all about. But that’s ignorance, not being heathen!! 🙂

    God bless,
    steve 🙂

  11. jim, i’m also a young pastor in houston. (just turned 26 yesterday). i’d love to get to know you a bit more – always looking for like minded people in our great city. email me sometime and we can talk!

  12. I have to agree with you steve and admit that my post was a little harsh and I apologize. The Word of Faith movement is a great irritation to me and I have seen it destroy peoples lives and I hear the utter unbiblical statements and false hope from the likes of Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, John Avanzini, R. W. Shambach, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch and Joel Osteen leading so many people down the path of destruction it makes me very annoyed. It is not too difficult to deduce, from his own mouth and actions, that Joel Osteen should not be a preacher and whether he is saved or not God only knows. If he is then he needs to repent and start preaching the Word instead of a weekly dose of prozac, if he is not then God help his deceived congregation. This thing Osteen has created, Lakewood Land, can easily get out of control, in my opinion it already has when he allows the same men above mentioned preach from his pulpit. It will be interesting to follow the development of Lakewood Land in the future.

  13. Gospel lacking aside, the guy is just too damn peppy for me.

  14. Kevin G. says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the article. I have yet to hear Osteen preach the gospel. When he was on Larry King Live, he made mention that he is not to rebuke. However, what he fails to realize is that God’s word rebukes, and he is not preaching it!

    On a lighter note–
    Warren has Hawian shirts in California. Osteen has the mullet in Texas. Maybe I need to wear the rebel flag while in Georgia. Maybe that would attract.

  15. I hadn’t heard about his inaugural sermon, but a friend of mine and I were discussing his responses on Larry King to Bono’s interview in “Bono in Conversation.” Not to debate the validity of Bono’s faith, but when his answer is clearer than the pastor of America’s largest church, there is a problem. I pray that pastor Osteen learns from this experience and isn’t as quick to fall prey to “fear of man” in the future.

  16. screvato says:

    Thank you for a great article. If you think Osteen is bad (and he is), you need to check out Ed Young, Jr (I believe he is the son of the legendary Ed Young of The Winning Walk), every Sunday morning at 7 AM CST on either the USA Network or TBN. Watching this guy shows evangelism sunk to a newer low than Osteen has done.

  17. This comment thread made me think back about 20 years ago. I’ll never forget once hearing a So Cal radio show hosted by the son of Robert Schuller. Junior Schuller pastored a church in the San Juan Capistrano area (not sure if he still does). Anyways, his show was almost always about health and fitness matters, or positive thinking…errr….possibility thinking. He presented himself as a real expert on all these things. Well, one day, for some reason, he has a guest on talking about how to study your Bible. And young Schuller is just blown away! The man is explaining the simplest of concepts about time in the Word, and Schuller is responding as if he’s never heard any of it before.

    I knew one the guys who served on young Schuller’s ordination team. He told me it was a crying shame that a guy like that would enter ministry, but that Dad Schuller was insistent his son had “the call”. Never mind the divorce!

    The Osteens of the world are making legitimate ministry more and more difficult. But God is in control, and our calling remains the same…Feed my sheep, tend my lambs, feed my sheep.

  18. Very interesting comparision. What we need is a Priscilla and Aquila to come along side young Apollos (Osteen) and tell him the better way!

  19. In reference to blogger Screvato post, Ed Young Jr. last weekend had a Ferrari on stage and talked about relationships, had a book under his arm pit (don’t know if it was a Bible) most of the time and threw it in the car, and did not use any scripture in his sermon.

  20. Claude Crider says:

    What a shame to put down a man who has influenced the lives of so many people around the world. I am from the Houston area and have attended Lakewood on several occasions. Upon leaving the service I have felt better about myself than I have when leaving my own church where I am a member.

    While it is everyones right to feel the way they do I think that it is important to understand that Joel Osteen with his inspirational messages has led many people to Christ. It then becomes the responsibility of the born again Christian to continue to grow in his walk with Christ through the Sunday School program and their own personal studies. While he may not deliver the message the way people want him to he does lead people to Christ and they do go on to live a fruitful and joyful life. Lakewood has changed the lives of thousands of people.

    As for the Larry King interview, You people should go online to Lakewoods website and hear what Joel says about that. He plainly states that he was not happy with the way he expressed himself and that if he had it to do all over again he would say that the only way to heaven is through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The thing is Larry King was trying to put him in the box that would cause confrontation and he was not willing to fall in that trap.

    Also, over 57,000 people attended services his first weekend and I have never seen his ministry ask for one cent from anyone on television or radio. This in it self says alot. How many televngelst today ask for money? Everyone with the exception of Joel Osteen!

    Last, I can remember when Tropical Storm Allison came through and the whole city of Houston was flooded his church was the only one that became a shelter immediatly and also a place to go and get food. One more thing most of you don’t know that Joel does not even draw a salary from his church. He has given the annual 200,000 dollar salary back to his church and he is the single largest tither to his church. He also drives a car that is 9 years old and refuses to buy a new one. Can’t say that about the other ministers on tv who always dress in flashy clothes, drive fancy cars and have vacation homes and yachts all around the world.

    While his messages are inspirational so are his actions. Keep going Joel!!!

  21. “It then becomes the responsibility of the born again Christian to continue to grow in his walk with Christ through the Sunday School program and their own personal studies.”

    WRONG!, it is the responsibilty of the believer to disciple the new believer in the ways of scripture. Gee, I wonder how we ever did anything without Sunday School? Sending them to Sunday School for discipleship is like allowing the TV to babysit your kids!

    In regards to Osteen’s “charity” big deal, the Muslims have the Red Crescent, the Buddhists have their own charities just like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and then there is the government as well. In regards to Osteens salary, the only reason why he differed his salary is because he has made millions on his book sales, if this didn’t happen you can bet that he would take his salary.

    Another thing; since when did it ever become the churches responsibilty to make you “feel good”? I thought church was where you gathered to worship God in spirit and truth and to feed on the Word, not to make me feel good.
    Last time I checked this was the will of God for you 1 Thess. 4:1-8. I didn’t find anything in there about “feeling good.”

  22. “While it is everyones right to feel the way they do I think that it is important to understand that Joel Osteen with his inspirational messages has led many people to Christ. It then becomes the responsibility of the born again Christian to continue to grow in his walk with Christ through the Sunday School program and their own personal studies.”

    Let me try to respond to this.

    You say Osteen leads people to Christ. When? How? At what point in his messages does he proclaim the Gospel as laid out in Scripture – the incarnation, life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus – and call on people to believe that? The Gospel must be *explicit*, and the nature (and cost) of discipleship must be explicit. Being made to feel better is fine, if one is already on the right path. What is being questioned is whether Osteen is pointing people towards the right path. And a little more explicit Gospel preaching on Osteen’s part would go a long way towards silencing the critics.

    Second, discipleship is more than just reading and classwork. Discipleship is prayer, confession, worship, service. You ought to see discipleship as being worked out in your worship (what kind of songs do you sing? what kind of messages are preached? what does your church do about communion?), in your service (what do you do for your church?), just as much as when you take notes in Sunday School. The Church is not primarily about making you feel good. It’s about building a Kingdom community around the Risen Lord, to serve Him and the dying world.

    What kind of “kingdom community” is Osteen building?

  23. david, I appreciate your response to my post and your humility. That was a blessing to me to see that response since I was quite concerned about stepping on the toes of someone I don’t even know.

    I also have to agree with your responses to Claude for the most part. The problem that I see so often in these debates is “the end justifies the means”. In other words, if many people are being “led to Christ” (would someone define what that means in Joel Osteen’s terms, please??), then the ministry must be valid and above criticism. Well, I couldn’t disagree more.

    As a motivational speaker, Joel Osteen is incredible! He is a gifted speaker, great story-teller, charismatic personality — he should be traveling with Zig Ziglar doing seminars. But instead, he’s leading something that calls itself a church and his stated purpose is to make people feel better about themselves. I don’t get that.

    And just to re-emphasize the point: The ONLY reason Osteen gave for foregoing his $200K salary this year (let’s not even ask why he was being paid $200K a year to begin with!!) is because of profits from his book sales. Now, for all we want to say about Rick Warren in these discussions, please note that Rick Warren PAID BACK ALL of the salary that he had EVER earned from Saddleback when his book profits went through the roof. I’m not a fan of Warren or his book, but I do respect that move.

    And finally, lest I rave on and on here (I should probably limit this to my own blog and not piggyback on Michael’s here!), the statement that Joel Osteen is “the single largest tither to his church” just gets me all upset. Since when is giving supposed to be done publicly??? Sounds quite a bit like the “qualifications” the Pharisees were flaunting to Jesus as to why they should be considered so “spiritual”.

    Sigh…..I wonder what topic I’ll write about in my own blog today? 😉 hehe

    steve 🙂

  24. Mr Spencer,
    Just a curious question, how can you have no doubt that Olsteen is a christian?

  25. When you can say that Rick Warren is more biblical in his preaching than someone – well, do you really have to say any more?

  26. Rasselas says:

    From Larry Crabb – Regent College Radio
    http://www.regentbookstore.com/radio/speaker_info.php?speakerID=lcrabb

    I have observe in myself and many other fellow journeyers…
    people who are aware that maternity is bankrupt and have turned
    to a different understanding of lifeÂ…and have said there is a spiritual
    dimension that we can not master ..and we’re seeking some sort
    of deep connection with that which is larger than ourselves. As
    those of us that are walking on that journey I observe a tendency

    The tendency is to be shaped by our self obsessed cultureÂ… to the point
    that we no longer regard God, as a God of fiery fierce passionate holiness
    which results in justice and WRATH….but that God has pretty well
    disappeared from the scene and now we have reduced God to a God
    of “helpful principles”…a God who wants more than anything else for all
    his children to have a really good time and has offered a variety of
    “suggestions” on how to make that happen…we call them “Biblical Principles”

    …we no longer see ourselves as people who are under wrath but we see ourselves
    rather as “hurting strugglers” …as nothing more than strugglers who need to be
    understood. Who are selfish enough to occasionally perhaps deserve a
    good slap on the wrist ..but nothing more than that…

    the result of “hurting strugglers” seeking to encounter a “useful” God
    is spiritual narcissism

  27. Thank you Rasselas for that spot-on quote. It truly seems the emphasis has shifted from humanity being fallen, dead in sins, and worthy of God’s wrath…to a bunch of ragamuffins, wayfarers and and wayward misfits who just need some tlc. Thanks for the Crabb quote!

  28. Alright guys, lets see here. Where do I start. I know several “Chrisrians” who have punlicly said one thing and privately led an entire different life. For example Jimmy Swaggert, Jim amd Tammy Baker, and people in my own community. While I do not personally know Mr. Osteen I can tell that his heart is pure and he is sincere. I know that there are several instances in which a person has attended church maybe for the first time in thier life and what they heard was a messagage that said if you keep living the way you are you will go to Hell. So in turn they get turned off by that, but when they hear a message of even though you have had problems in your life, you can be saved by accepting our Lord and Saviour. Alot of times it is motivation and inspiration that a person needs to understand this.

    “Gee, I wonder how we ever did anything without Sunday School? Sending them to Sunday School for discipleship is like allowing the TV to babysit your kids!”

    I will tell you how we did it! We relied on our parents and ourselves to indulge in the word and learn as much as we could. We asked questions when we needed to understand something and we studied. Just like when we were in school and we did our homework and asked our parents for help. While Joels message is usually 20 minutes long and has only one point of view, The Sunday School classer are over an hour and is an opportunity to discuss in open your thought and learn from others. If you are going to say that a 20 meinute message one time a week makes you a “CHRISTIAN” and you don’t need to do anything else than you are sadly mistaken my friend. To sum up my analogy to you Iose a question, If you had only attended school and listened to what your teacher said and never did any homework or studied for test would you have completed school or gone on to higher learning? While I am not as educated as most of you on this blog I can assure you that had I not taken the iniative and studied on my own I would not have been able to complete high school.

    Now, whle it is true to that he is rich because of his very successful book it is of no consequence. If you became rich today would you immediatly give back your salary to your employer today? Why do doctors make hundreds of thousand of dollars a year? So they can heal sick people. I understand that without doctors people wouold be dieing all over the world and therefor they should be compensated for thier work. However, if they did not desire to be rich only, the cost of medical care would be greatly reduced and more people could afford it. When was the last time you went to your daoctor and said sorry doc i have no insurance nor money could you still see me today. For me that has never happened because i never made it past the receptionist.

    As far as the worship that goes on at Lakewood i see the thousands of people in attendance raising thier hands singing and praying. I guess because thier leader is only a motivational speaker thier faith is false? I bet that if you were you to voice this concern to them you would be badly embarrassed. Again I say that if you wish to question Joels beliefs you really need to check out his statement to his congregation about the Larry King interview. While some may not agree with his style, it is not our right to question his heart or intergrity. Where does it state in the Bible that one must place a cross over the pulpit or hang a plaque that says “IN REMEMBRENCE OF ME” in the church. The waterfalls in his church resemble the peace that one can have and the globe resembles how far his ministry reaches. That my friend is what is important. The fact that people not only in Houston but around the world are being inspired to learn about Jesus and live an abundant life.

    Last, I will share something that I personally witnessed. The Baptist church that I was attending face a time in which to of its member were arrested. While they were incarcerated they wrote several letters to the senior pastor, associate pastor and members of the congreration begging for a visit or at the very least some kind of correspondence. None of whom, from the pastor on down would so much as even take the time to write them a letter much less visit. The church in a time of crisis turned thier back on them. Now, is this pastor or church acting in a christian manner, and whould we question thier hearts? It is the people who make up the church not the building and i would not dare question the integrity of that church (Lakewood).

    Last, Mr. Spencer I am glad that I have found this website and look forward to learning lots. Hope all is well at OBI.

  29. she_pondered says:

    There has to be a middle ground.

    There has to be a point where we’re between puffing ourselves up and dragging ourselves through the mud. And that’s the incomprehensible thing about God – that He is love/patience/kindness and wrath/judgment/fury all at the same time. One doesn’t begin where the other ends.

    I suppose it goes back to the person who came to teach us how to live – how did he treat people? What else does it mean to be a Christian than to live like Jesus lived? If I’m going to show anyone what God is like, then I’d better be living like it – waterfalls or no waterfalls.

  30. I know that there are several instances in which a person has attended church maybe for the first time in thier life and what they heard was a messagage that said if you keep living the way you are you will go to Hell. So in turn they get turned off by that, but when they hear a message of even though you have had problems in your life, you can be saved by accepting our Lord and Saviour.

    Seeker sensitive churches, ARRGGGHHHH!!!! Jonathon Edwards didnÂ’t believe that.

    http://www.jonathanedwards.com/sermons/Warnings/sinners.htm

    “Alot of times it is motivation and inspiration that a person needs to understand this.”

    WRONG: 1 Cor 2:14. This is what it takes John 6:44. I didn’t realize that Osteen had taken the place of the Holy Spirit, wait he does say that your “words have power”

    JoelÂ’s sermons are only 20 minute long!! Thought that was only for the TV audience, not in the actual sermon before his parishioners near the waterfall. Sheesh, no wonder they rely on Sunday School to really teach their people, shame. I believe Jonathon Edwards preached a little longer than 20 minutes. If Osteen had any theology at all maybe he could stretch it to at least 30. I don’t see how any believer could stand it, give me MEAT from the Word, not milk, actually you have to give the Word to even give milk, not really sure what Osteen gives.

    “As far as the worship that goes on at Lakewood i see the thousands of people in attendance raising thier hands singing and praying.”

    That happens at Benny Hinn crusades too and Benny believes there are NINE persons in the Trinity not only three.

    “While some may not agree with his style, it is not our right to question his heart or intergrity.”

    WRONG! WAY WRONG! I could use this verse 2 Cor. 13:5 this one may be more applicable 1 Thess 5: 20, 21 especially this one 1 John 4:1 also this one Titus 2:15. I believe Jim Jones’ congregation didn’t question his heart and integrity and look where many of them ended up.

    About Larry King: It seems to me that the only reason Osteen came out with his little apology is because he was hammered with calls and emails from people all over the place. Remember, on the show he had numerous opportunities to finally nail down what he believed but he didn’t, even after a caller to the show called him on it he was still trying to dodge the true answer

  31. David,

    I am so excited that I have been able to have this very incredible experience to carry on a debate with someone who is obviously more informed of the written text in the Bible than I. I must tell you though that if i had to listen to you always tearing down a person and trying to remove the needle from thier eye, I would surely be turned off by your log sticking out of yours.

    I am not trying to say that we need to be a sensitive to ones feeling type of society, but as times change so do the people in this troubled world. The hearts of people are more hardened today and sometimes a soft approach is what it take. While I do respect your belief about Joel I do completely respectfully disagree with you.

    While I do not agree with the way Benny Hinn works, i do have faith that the vast majority of his followers are Christians and again I would dare you to judge them in thier relationship with God. For none of us really no the other persons heart. We do have faith in those who lead us. I ask you that if your pastor was found guilty of a crime would you then tell all those who became Christians under him that they need to check sincerity?

    True i might have been off on the time, but I think that you know what I am saying. If we only relied on the one weekly bible study on Wednesday nights and the Sunday morning sermon then how could we possible grow in the Lord. I guess since it is only the pastors responsibility to teach we should only read our bibles at church and we definitely should go to Sunday School much less have a Sunday School program. Just like i guess we should tell our children to only read thier text books at school and for gosh sakes don’t do any homework we wouldn;t want them to take that iniative.

    I have never said that He takes the place of the Holy Spirit. What i will say is that if Joel can help a person feel good about himself Whats Wrong with that? Next time while you criticize all the good Joel is doing take time to evaluate your life and ask yourself if you are doing the right thing by questioning the integrity of his followers. The people who go to Lakewood are not held captive there, they are not told they have to give thier life savings to be a Christian and they are not told that the only way to heaven is through JOEL OSTEEN.

    Again I say KEEP IT UP JOEL, you have my support and I am confident that your FEEL GOOD messages are bringing out the Chanpions in thousands.

    Claude

  32. Betty Elder says:

    Animal’s by instinct see the weak and either kill it and eat it or eat it. It’s not supposed to be that way in God’s Kingdom. My question would have to be, “Is the fruit of the Spirit at work in Osteen’s church? The Blood of Jesus has a wonderful marvelous power to save while man can’t.

    We live in the H8Generation.

  33. Amazing…I’m listenting to a message by Mark Driscoll from Itunes. Just so happened to look at the length of the message. Whaddya think. 30 minutes? 40 minutes? No, he clocks in at ONE HOUR straight instructional teaching! You know why he does it (IMHO)? He LOVES his flock!!!

  34. Claude

    I am happy you called me a hypocrite when you don’t even know me. Maybe we should both remove the logs from our eyes.

    About the Benny Hinn comparison, the raising of hands in worship is not a barometer on the health of a church or its pastor

    I was questioning the content of Joel’s sermons and some of his actions, and as I showed in scripture, we have every right to do that, I was not questioning the integrity of his followers.

    “The hearts of people are more hardened today and sometimes a soft approach is what it take.”

    totally disagree with this statement. People’s hearts are not any harder today than they were in the time of Noah. What does a “soft approach” mean? Not telling someone that they are dead in their sin so they will not be turned off and will come back is definitly the wrong approach. Also, since when is a pastor supposed to structure his sermons around the lost? The pastor is supposed to preach the Word and feed his flock, flock being born again believers, that is what a church body is, and turn his flock loose to evangelize and bring others to Christ then bringing the new believers into the church for discipleship by other believers.

    Claude, I am not capping on you personally, if you like Joel and think he is preaching the Word then that is your business but always “test” to make sure it is happening. To many people, Joel is not passing the test.

  35. Hi Claude,

    I must tell you that your recent response to David concerns me – not on the grounds that he may be too harsh or critical (he does read a bit abrasive), but on some deep fallacies that you have employed here in your responses:

    “The hearts of people are more hardened today and sometimes a soft approach is what it take. While I do respect your belief about Joel I do completely respectfully disagree with you.”

    This is true, Claude. But equally true, is the amount of error within the church preying upon those who are ignorant of GodÂ’s Word and who solely rely on their pastor and other church leaders for a weekly instruction in the Word of God. Instead of daily readings on their own, these place their confidence in their pastor and then take a diluted teaching as justification for the pursuit of worldly pleasures.

    “I ask you that if your pastor was found guilty of a crime would you then tell all those who became Christians under him that they need to check sincerity?”

    This is a fallacy in that you are comparing some crime to failure to heed to the most fundamental charge of us all who call ourselves disciples of Jesus – to spread the Gospel. Above all, pastors have a higher calling to Christ’s command to go and preach the Gospel. By the way, how do you know they are Christians? By the number who gather for service, or by the fruit the produce in response to the Good News? I would say that if you look hard at the fruit that the church is producing today, you might indeed change your mind from such a broad-brush assumption as I read here.

    “If we only relied on the one weekly bible study on Wednesday nights and the Sunday morning sermon then how could we possible grow in the Lord. I guess since it is only the pastors responsibility to teach we should only read our bibles at church and we definitely should go to Sunday School much less have a Sunday School program.”

    That is not what is being advocated at all. In fact, rarely you will see a seeker friendly church imploring members to read the Bible with any fervor. Instead, we encourage books, tapes and DVDs of this pastor or that. But the greater problem is that seeker friendly churches do not preach the Gospel at all or they do not preach it in totality. Jesus did not shy from talking about repentance, hell or sin and yet these are rare subjects in such churches today. Within WoF churches, all subjects of the Gospel are rarely taught, even rarer would be a teaching with any great depth.

  36. I was thinking through the posts some more today and trying to determine if and what I would post next. Specks and logs came to mind as we are all tempted by pride, the higher standard of a pastor came to mind, application came to mind, and then a question hit me that drove home application (i think). My heart was grieved when this question hit me. How many in that church think they are saved and are not? Not debating that some are and some are not because obviously both will be true. But how many having not heard a clear presentation of the doctrine of sin and of salvation think they are born again but have not actually been regenerated? True the gospel offends, but it needs to be preached because that is what leads people to reconciliation with God.

    We each should examine our hearts, (better yet ask your closest friend), for pride; and correction should certainly be sought by an errant brother and seen as a gift when offered. Beyond this, I’m wondering how I might participate in God’s drawing of those around me whether or not they are receiving the teaching they ought. Face it, not many of us are comparable to Spurgeon or Edwards, but if each of us does what God has called us to do, it would at least be more difficult for our friends and acquaintances to make it to hell.

    respecfully,
    bill

  37. Claude,
    Did you ever consider that it’s really not all about YOU, all the time? The Gospel is not about you having some positive self-image or about you feeling good about yourself in a fallen world. A huge problem in our country today is that people selfishly seek their own good and glory over Gods glory and others. Claude, your statements make it painfully obvious that you do not spend time reading the Word of God AND that you are obviously NOT taught the Word of God. Your own words condemn you.
    What Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church do are entertainment. They entertain people into feeling good. It is clear that people as yourself as well as many other faithful attenders of Lakewood Entertainment Park have sought a teacher to scratch your itching ears. Have you ever repented for your selfishness and sin? I have to wonder.

  38. Oh, one more thing…Claude. You forgot to mention the multi-million dollar mansion that Joel Osteen lives in while poverty abounds in the Houston area. Could he not move to a more humble location to reach the truly needy?

    Joel’s gaffe on Larry King was dishonoring to Christ and gave evidence to the true sham that he is. No amount of apologizing later will change what he said before the many that will never view his website. What he says on his website are more words to try and dupe the lost sheep that are following after him and worshipping him like a cult leader. No doubt that he is leading people astry, such as yourself…Claude!

  39. Christ said that if you are not for Him, then you were against Him. It was Christ who drew that line in the sand. Mr. Osteen testified on Larry King that he not only knows nothing of God’s Word but that He has chosen to take a path opposing the teaching of Christ thus choosing to be against Christ. Isn’t it something how such a pretty face can lead many astray. Perhaps people need to look beyond Mr. Osteen’s good looks and mild manners and examine what his heart believes. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak.

  40. intowner says:

    Claude

    Please permit me to commend you for your willingness to engage in conversation with people in this setting, and apologize if you’ve been wrongly offended by anyone’s attitudes/criticisms. It is apparent that most here dislike Osteen for his teaching and apparent influence, and are inclined, therefore, to pounce violently on anyone or anything resembling a defense of Osteen.

    That said, I agree that Osteen is bad for the church. You must understand that what makes him appear so appealing is exactly why we are to be wary of him. He is nice, and makes you feel good about him and yourself. This SEEMS good (why shouldn’t it?), but the truth is that he is not good (even if he preached the best gospel in the world). He’s a sinner, just like you and me and everyone else who ever lived besides Jesus.

    The problem is he never persuades anyone of his sinfulness, or of anyone else’s. We need to be convinced that we’re not okay, and that nothing/nobody is going to make us okay except Jesus. If he would only set forth Christ regularly for the masses to appreciate, then we’d have no problem with his niceness. But it is clear that his agenda is not the straight proclamation of the gospel (whatever else it may be, it is not that, or you would know it). Since his agenda is not in line with the gospel’s agenda, his influence is more damaging than beneficial to the church.

    It is clear that he is a Christian–he desires to be associated with the body of Christ. Plenty of people are thus part of the visible church. The question they alone must ask is whether they’re part of the invisible church (truly saved by grace through faith in Christ).

    The best thing that could happen for the people in his church/influence would be that he would be overwhelmed with his inability to do what he’s been admonishing others to do for years. If that happened, he just might preach Christ as the solution to all problems (rather than trying a little harder to choose joy and be nice).

    The problem is, if that did happen, he would lose thousands of people and television ratings, because no one wants to hear the bad news of their sinfulness, and they can’t stand the idea of needing a Savior for all aspects of their life.

  41. I appreciate all the fed back that i have gotten to my post. In no way have I been offended by anyone and I accept what has been said as constructive.

    Craig,

    You do not know me and your words have fallen on deaf ears. I am and you need to hear me, A BORN AGAIM CHRISTIAN WHO HAS REPENTED AND BEEN BAPTISED. I DO NOT QUESTION YOUR CHRISTIANITY NOR SHOULD YOU QUESTION MINE. YOU MY FRIEND ARE COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE AND SHOULD BE CAREFUL. FOR THE PLACE THAT YOU ARE CALLING AN ENTERTAIMMENT CENTER HAS AND WILL CONTINUE TO LEAD PEOPLE TO CHRIST, WHETHER OR NOT YOU AGREE WITH THE WAY IT IS TAUGHT. I WILL NOT CONDEMN A MAN BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN FORTUNATE IN LIFE. WHAERE DO YOU LIVE MY FRIEND? ARE YOU IN A POVERTY STRICKEN AREA? DO YOU LAY DOWN AT NIGHT TO SOUNDS OF GUN FIRE? I WOULD VENTURE TO SAY THAT YOU PROBABLY DO NOT BECAUSE YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. I DON’T KNOW IF YOU REALIZE IT OR NOT BUT THE OLD LAKEWOOD CHURCH WAS LOCATED IN ONE OF THE POOREST AREAS OF HOUSTON. MAYBE ALL THE DOCTORS IN THIS GREAT COUNTRY SHOULD MOVE INTO THE PROJECTS SO THAT THEY CAN PROVIDE THE MILLIONS OF UNINSURED FREE MEDICAL CARE.

    WITH THAT SAID, I WILL PRAY FOR YOU CRAIG SO THAT YOU MIGHT REFRAIN FROM ANY FUTURE DEFAMATION OF A MANS CHARACHTER WITHOUT PERSONALLY KNOWING HIM. THE VIEWS THAT I HAVE EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF MY OWN AND I WILL STAND BY THEM.

    ONCE AGAIN I ASSURE YOU THAT I AM CONFIDENT OF WHRE I STAND IN MY WALK WITH MY LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST! ARE YOU?

    I WILL CONTINUE TO VISIT THIS SITE AND LEARN FROM OTHERS AS I AM HUNGRY TO KEEP GROWING IN THE WORD.

    David,

    I have sent you an email and hope that it explains a few things.

    Very Respectfully,

    Claude

  42. Rasselas says:

    Green Day – American Idiot – are we the waiting
    “The Jesus of suburbia is a lie” BINGO

    The motto
    “Discover the Champion in You” makes me smirk, laugh
    and shake my head everytime (how does he get away with it?)
    Folks should’nt it be the first OBVIOUS sign to run for cover
    and never look back???

    da na na naaaaaaa, da na na na nant!
    “calling out to Idiot Evangelcal America”

  43. This thread has gotten very heated, and I have had to stop myself several times from jumping in again. But it’s hard to stay silent.

    Just for the record, I do not write my thoughts with any personal vendetta against Joel Osteen or Lakewood Church. But it baffles me that others stand behind that work and applaud it with no strong arguments from a biblical standpoint.

    This isn’t about (or shouldn’t be about) questioning anyone’s salvation. But Christians must, must, MUST be discerning before supporting anything in any way!

    The question I posed earlier has gone unanswered. How does Lakewood define “coming to Christ”? Reading transcripts of Larry King’s interview, reading the introductory chapter to Joel’s best-selling book….I don’t see anything presented that would lead anyone to believe that they must come to grips with who Jesus Christ is and what their relationship to Him is.

    Joel Osteen has said that the principles he teaches will “work” for anyone because they’re “law”. So, he is acknowledging that people can get a lot out of his teaching without ever embracing Christ. Let me ask this question: Why would you want to spend millions of dollars and devote so much energy to telling people how they can be successful in this life, if it only leaves them hopeless in the life to follow???

  44. Hey Claude,

    Craig is just one of those guys that God has entrusted with the Book of Life. He is privy to who is in it. Such people are everywhere. Unfortunately, when you post in public like this the keepers of the Book of Life are sure to”check” and see if you meet the qualifications of having your name written in the book.

    I am no Joel Osteen fan. I think his preaching is shallow. I think his preaching is atypical of MOST preaching in America. But, that does not mean he is not a Christian. I am in no position to judge him in regards to his relationship with Christ. I have hard enough time keeping myself on the straight and narrow.

    By Craig’s standard the Apostle Peter was not saved. Peter fellowshipped with, and supported, those who preached a false gospel-you must be circumcised to be saved. It doesn’t matter what we read later about Peter…………we must judge him on his Larry King moment found in Galatians.

    Bruce Gerencser

  45. amocappucio says:

    I doubt the Lakewood church is filled with the Spirit of God simply because if it was, it would have a HUGE impact on Houston. A church of 52,000 Christ-followers should contantly be in the media, not for new facilities being built, but bec of the masses of prisoners being visited, hungry being fed, poor being clothed, thirsty being given drink, strangers being invited in, sick being looked after. In a very quick google news search, all I found were articles about how many were attending services.

  46. I too find it most interesting that the people on the pro-Osteen side only reply to the most virulent and easily caricatured of their critics.

    The questions that Steve, amo, and I have asked deserve answers. What Gospel does Osteen preach? How often? What impact does it have on his listeners (other than emotional boosts)? What impact is his church having in the area (and within his own congregation)? What does Osteen’s preaching and methods have in relation to the historical message of the Christian faith?

    We are still waiting for the answers…

  47. Gentlemen,

    I haven’t got much time right now to post a msg, but promise to do so later, for I am a single father of 2 ages 5 and 6. I do however, wish to tell you that I have had some things take place in my life that has molded me into my way of thinking. While I will refrain from posting that here I will send to you in an email. If you would like to have the opportunity to TEACH someone in a more personal way feel free to email me directly at cldcrider@yahoo.com

    Very Respectfully,

    Claude

  48. I’ve been looking over your site and I must say it sounds as if you might be a bit jealous at the great success enjoyed by Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Ministry. It is obvious from all your writings that you are a Christian, know your bible, and know the foundation of your religion. However, I am not. I was raised catholic, but am no longer practicing. I have had NO religion, No faith, and no cause for any in over 20 years. I caught Joel Osteen one night while running the channels on the tv and the phone rang as I got to the TBN. I was talking on the phone and not even paying attention to the tv but was hearing a little of his sermon here and there. When my phone call ended, I was getting ready to turn the channel when I heard him mention something about positive thinking. I am a firm believer in positive thinking, as it has worked wonders in my own life. This peaked my interest so I watched on. His sermon left me thinking that maybe I was not all that far off base all these years. I have always been vehemently opposed to religion and preachers spouting off bible verses, only to find out that they want your Love Offering at the end of the show.

    I borrowed his new book from a friend of my wifes and I’ve read it. It is a common sense approach to religion as I see it. It may step on the toes of other Evangelicals, but for someone like myself, with very little to no faith, it opened a door. Im proud to say that I made my way to church this past sunday for the first time in over 20 years. I dont know if I am “saved” or going to heaven when I die, but I’m finding an aspect of my life that has been missing for over 20 years. I am very content taking my baby steps to repair my relationship with God. If for no other reason to become whole. I know that the positive attitudes of Joel Osteen work, Ive used them through out my adult life, but never linked them to God or religion.

  49. I’m about to close this thread, so thanks to everyone for contributing. The Osteeniacs made the previous threads unbearable after a while, and the same is going here.

    I DO NOT agree with the verdict that Osteen is not a Christian, etc. I’ve been very focused and plain about what I think. I’m a very, very tolerant Christian and have been persecuted on the web for being so, but Osteen is the pastor of the largest church in America and he despises the Gospel.

    Want to know what Osteen is producing? Read this letter from an Osteen supporter:
    http://internetmonk.com/underground/index.php?p=30

    I have said this many times and I will say it again: The New Testament instructs pastors to warn about men like Osteen. It is not being mean. I am not jealous. (What a desperate and ad hominem comment.) Those evangelicals who have decided that God must like Osteen because he has a big church and they must find a way to support his “no Gospel” approach are pathetic, and prove that evangelicals are on the way to the same condition as the mainline liberal churches. United Churches of Christ, keep the doors open. The Oprah-Osteen Evangelcials are headed your way.