Joel Osteen has been described as the ‘latest and greatest rock star’ in Christendom.
There are some things I like and agree about how he does what he does, like:
1. Trying to maintain a non-denominational image
2. No traditional Christian ‘imagery’ like crosses in his mega-church building (seriously, its mega – costing close to 100 million in renovations to house approx 30k people)
3. Not being quick to condemn people when they come to church.
Incidentally, what he’s doing is nothing new.
New testament local assemblies all around the world, like the one I am a part of, have been practicing the above for ages. Non-denomination, simple, open to meet and speak to anyone. The only difference is maybe the lavish spending on temporal premises.
However having read some of his preaching transcripts and watched his TV interviews, after a while it seemed like I just watched an episode of Barney. Its all very ‘feel-good’, ‘positive thinking’, ‘believe in yourself’ and very ‘it will be alright’.
In Barney shows, you never see the kids there having differences, nobody fights with one another, everyone’s sharing, family problems are not explained and dealt with. Its the ‘happy ever after’ on earth. Its not very ‘real world’, and I’m not surprised it isn’t, given its a kids show…
But should this be the same in a church – the local testimony of God, the lightposts of heaven on earth? I’m not sure.
In church, we’re dealing with real problems. Husbands and wives with problems, families with difficult children, jobless people who have mouths to feed, people who are struggling to manage with the stresses of life. This is the real world, and we must take it seriously.
Paul wrote to Titus to deal very sternly with the Cretans and tell them of their wrong.
Jesus, through His letters to the seven churches in Asia through John, speaks very strongly about sin and departure from the truth in the assemblies.
The New Testament is very strong against sin, and the need for people to be warned ‘of the wrath to come’, and to repent, and be saved, and that through the Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of this post, is a video of Joel on Larry King – notice how he sidesteps the issue of how one should go to heaven.
Biblical ministry has to be balanced – on the truth, and the whole truth, and that truth is the Word of God. Even then, the Word of God must be ‘rightly divided’. The bible does not mince its words on the end of sinners, and neither should we. At the same time, the bible does not fall short of explaining and pleading with sinners that they should be saved – and we should either.
That is barely found in Pastor Joel’s ministry. He – like Barney – either skates around the real issues in people’s life, or, downplays the seriousness of the problems is people’s lives. His solution – have faith, now lets sing a song.
He himself confesses that he is not a teacher, but the bible says that ‘Elders… should be apt to teach’. Of course, the ‘teach’ mentioned refers to teaching the bible – which I don’t think Joel is very good at. But he is good at teaching self help and positive thinking methods which the world (that hates Jesus) has in abundance.
I believe what we are seeing in Mr. Joel’s ministry is nothing new to Christendom. He’s not the first mega-church pastor who is giving out a feel good message while raking in millions on the way, and he won’t be the last.
I also came across some other websites that were really bashing and criticising Joel and his wife, and throwing all sort of bad language at them. Some even question his salvation. This is something we should not do.
I hope the creators of Barney never get any ideas about starting a church. They would be a real success.
I agree with Joel on one thing – its not for us to go around concluding who’s going to heaven or to hell, but I do believe in telling others how they can know if they’re going to heaven or hell – and that is if they believe in Jesus or not.