Monday, July 18, 2005

Good Morning, Joel Osteen

[NOTE: A number of visitors have arrived here as the result of searching for information about Joel Osteen's October 15, 2007 appearance on Good Morning America. If that is what you are seeking, go here.]

Watching Good Morning America while sipping coffee is a daily ritual for me. This morning's program highlighted Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, the largest in the United States. The segment focused on the church's recent move into the Compaq Center (after $75 million in renovation), former home of the Houston Rockets. (By the way, the unveiling of Lakewood's new facility is GMA's free video clip of the day.) Osteen's message was described as "motivational Christianity" and of course, mention was made of his bestseller, Your Best Life Now. A clip from an interview with Pastor and Mrs. Osteen answers why this man is so popular. Osteen said, "Today, people aren't so much looking for doctrine. They want to know how to live their lives." So, if you're not looking for biblical doctrine, look no further than Joel Osteen. You won't be disappointed. You won't find what you're not looking for. But, if what you're after is biblical instruction about how to live, then you should also stay clear of Osteen since that too is a matter of doctrine.

This morning I also received an email from a friend who recently discovered this post about Osteen written earlier this year by Michael Spencer. An excerpt:
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.

If, like me, you missed this when it was originally published, I encourage you to make time to read it and consider taking up MIchael's challenge.
UPDATE: Did someone declare this Joel Osteen Day and forget to tell me about it? I just found out that even the New York Times has a story on the megachurch pastor. Dr. Alan Wolfe, one of the people quoted in the article, describes Osteen as being very telegenic and "in the tradition of Jim Bakker, but focused less on financial prosperity than psychological well-being." The article also illustrates Joel's ecumenical appeal. A self-described "hard-core Catholic" testifies that he was drawn by Mr. Osteen's motivational messages. Concerning this point the article states:
If not for the religious references, Mr. Osteen's sermons, on topics like procrastination, submitting to authority and staying positive, could be secular motivational speeches. This is by design. "The principles in the Bible will work for anybody," he said. "If you give, you will be blessed. I talk about things for everyday life. I don't get deep and theological."
If you too would like to preach to an arena-sized crowd each week, just follow Osteen's sermonic formula:
Mr. Osteen begins each sermon with a joke and follows with anecdotes from his own life, about how through faith he received a house, a parking space, a happy marriage. There is no time to ruminate on theological puzzles, like why God allows people to suffer.


Anonymous said...

"So, if you're not looking for biblical doctrine, look no further than Joel Osteen" - grin

Jeff Burton said...

It's Lakewood, not Lakeland.

KP said...

Thanks for the correction, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

nice, comfy place you got here :)..

KP said...

Why, thank you, guile. Can I get you something to drink? :-)

Matt Mitchell said...


There is still a Lakeland reference in your posting. Should be Lakewood.

KP said...

Doh! Thanks, Matt. There's a Lakeland in my vicinity and I must have been thinking of it.

Right to Life of Michigan said...

I read in one AP article that there aren't many usual Christian symbols at Lakewood (such as the cross). Instead there is an enormous rotating globe behind Osteen during his talks.

Anonymous said...

You missed the whole point of what Osteen said in the interview. People are tired of "religion" that only makes them feel good or relieves them of some guilt once a month or year, but doesn't actually have any affect in their every day lives. What Osteen does is teach people how to apply principles from God's Word to their every day lives. Sure, that is quite practical, but what is better--making sure congregants can succintly recite something like the Westminster confession or seeing congregants whose lives--in every area--embody what it means to live as a child of God? Doctrine is important but if pastors don't teach and show congregants how to live their lives, then doctrine has little value. Some accuse Osteen of being a false prophet; yet, who did God judge during the day of Ezekiel--the prophet who actually lived for God or the prophets who falsely prophesied, yet knew the Law quite well?

Spencer's analysis is hardly honest. I've watched Joel countless times and he talks about Jesus again and again, and he always gives an altar call at the end of every service. Sure, he doesn't give a Jonathan Edwards type sermon every Sunday; however, if a pastor were simply to talk about sin and hell every Sunday, then how could congregants who were already saved grow?

Also, before you mock Lakewood for not making much use of religious imagery, I suggest you study the reform tradition of not using religious imagery in churches, due to the potential for such imagery to be idolatrous. Just take a look at the Swiss reformers.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matt Mitchell said...


Yeah, I know about the Lakeland in your area. I'm friends with Dan W. That's a big reason why I'd hate to see Lakeland get confused with Lakewood.

I enjoy "The Christian Mind." I read you every day. Thanks!

Doc said...

Someone above said "...if a pastor were simply to talk about sin and hell every Sunday, then how could congregants who were already saved grow?"

If by 'simply' we mean just keep talking about sin, and keep talking about Hell, no argument: no growth there. But if by 'sin and Hell' we mean shorthand for Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and all that means for the payment for our sins, and our redemption from Hell, then that IS what makes congregations grow, not 'how to be a better' [fill-in-the-blank] 'sermons'. Christ crucified convicts the elect sinner to salvation, and inspires the elect saint to sanctification.

I've never listened to Osteen, so I won't say anything about his preaching per se. I've heard him mentioned both ways. Certainly a 'name-it-claim-it', no-mention-of-sin-and-salvation style of preaching is rampant in the churches today, so whether he's guilty of it or not, we all should be wary of it wherever it's found.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. My thoughts on this can be found here:

Jeff said...

Thanks for your great blog.

At our church, I recently have been inundated with questions about Mr. Osteen. After some cursory research, I realized I was hopelessly out of touch.

So I read his book and I've watched a few telecasts of his preaching. But I still wasn't sure.

But I've known you for a long time and I trust your opinion. So thanks for pointing out your concerns.

KP said...

Jeff, thanks for your kind words of gratitude. I'm glad to have you among the readers and am pleased that the blog is of some use to you in your ministry.

When people ask you about Osteen just tell them, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

JM said...

While visiting the US from Africa, I attended Joel Osteen's church for almost 2 months and I am glad I did.

He does preach Jesus, and salvation, and how to apply the principles of the scriptures in our everyday lives. There is praise and worship (to God, the father and Jesus) before every service. There are alter calls after every service. There is commemoration of the Lord's supper once a month. There are deliverances from demons. etc. etc.

It is true he may not emphasize on the "other" aspect of christianity, like being persecuted for the truth, like going to "hell" if you don't follow christ, etc, but...which is better? To motivate people to live Godly lives or to scare them to live godly lives? I take the former.

When he says people don't need doctrine today, in a sense he is right. After centuries of doctrine by mainstream churches, what has been the fruit? By their fruits, by their results, you will know them.

I may not agree with everything he preaches, just like I don't agree with everything my pastor preaches (unfortunately), but the essentials of christianity are there. And just like no person is perfect, in the same way no church or organization run by men can be perfect.

Gayle said...

Jorges is correct in all points of his blog.

I may think sometimes Joel Osteen takes his point to the extreme, but then some people have always needed points taken to such.

I do wish Joel could add a little more of a sense of repentance, of consequences for sin, and final judgment, but that is the Catholic in me and I recognize we Catholics march to a whole different beat than the rest of the Christian world.

Like everything in life, Joel Osteen should be taken with a measure of common sense of gut instinct; but overall, he is a good man, an honest man, a sincere and geniune man who really only means to help others find peace, joy, happiness and things we should all be hoping to pass along to one-another

Jeremy said...

Joel Osteen leaves out some esential points that make Christianity Christianity.God showering us with blessings is only half of the Gospel. Christianity in a nutshell is Jesus creating a way to be cleaned of our sins. We are hopless with out him. So if people hear Joel Osteen and say they are saved will they get into heaven? It could do more harm than its worth.

Joy said...

You are all missing the point for objections to Mr. Osteen's lack of clear gospel and the plan of salvation. Christians who have accepted Christ as their Savior do not walk the rest of the journey alone. Man does not "pull himself up by his own bootstraps." Thank God he doesn't have to. We have the Holy Spirit who leads us into holy living. Anyone who tries on his own will fail and fall short of the admonition of "be Holy for
I am Holy."