an evening with Joel Osteen

12 06 2006

This is referring to Joel Osteen’s tour.  And yes, I went this past weekend.  But before you cast any stones or quit reading, hear me out.  I was invited to go with a friend, and so it was a good opportunity to see what all the hype and condemnation was about.  I had heard a little about him, but you can’t always believe what you hear, so now I have an opinion based on first-hand experience.  And that is what I intend to share, both the good and the bad.

The worship band was really “tight” (meaning they played well together and were good).  The videos on the big screens looked professional.  They had the lyrics to the songs on the screens timed with the music, and they switched between a video and live shots of the praise team.  That looked impressive, but to me it was distracting from the purpose of worship.  I know this wasn’t a church service, but it was kinda similar.  I embrace the use of technology and I think we should do a good job on our “presentation”, but we must not forget the focus during praise and worship should be on God.

There were testimonies by Joel Osteen’s mom, brother, and wife, which told of God working in their lives and a miracle concerning his mom.  I thought those were encouraging.

The “sermon” was encouraging and uplifting, which I expected.  For someone who is already a Christian and understands having to repent of sins, the sermon worked well.  It made me want to expect more in my ministry and to aim higher (which I already wanted to do, but it reinforced that).  And I agree that we shouldn’t focus on our negative circumstances or think negative thoughts all the time — we should focus on God (which means more than just thinking positive thoughts).

But I did have a problem with one part of the meeting, and it is a big problem.  He gave a call for salvation, but never explained what we needed to be saved from.  I wondered if the non-Christians there might think they were to be “saved” from doubt or unhappiness or the lack of peace.  That was bad, because many people did raise their hands, signifying they wanted to get saved.  While salvation is a great thing, it must be understood by the person receiving it or it can be based on false doctrines and thus not be authentic.  The purpose of Christianity is not just to be happy and have peace and have a good life.  The reason we need salvation is because we’ve sinned against God, and the penalty for that is death.  Jesus died in our place, paying the penalty for us.  And since He was perfect (without sin), He qualified to do that.  That is the foundation of Christianity.  You have to accept that or you cannot be a Christian.  And so some people at the meeting might’ve wanted to have the good life Joel Osteen talked about, but in ignorance didn’t accept Jesus for who He is.  There’s already a big problem (especially in the U.S.) of many people thinking they’re a Christian when they’re not, because of bad teaching (even in many churches).  And then this problem snowballs, because these people who claim to be Christians but don’t live the life are a bad witness for God, causing people to not take Christianity seriously (which is a big problem these days).

If Joel Osteen was a self-help type teacher, it would work much better for the people he helps.  But as a pastor / evangelistic speaker, he needs to lead people to the Kingdom of God (as described in the Bible) and not just to a good life.  I don’t mean this as condemnation of who he is, but as a warning to those who listen to him.  Presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a very serious thing, and it’s a serious issue if part of the message is left out or compromised in some way.

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6 responses

13 06 2006
MzMobo

I had listened to another tv minister’s Good Friday message and I noticed the same thing; she asked for a response to the abundant life Christ promises, but there was no mention of sin, the cross, or the blood. You know, Satan really doesn’t care if we believe in God Almighty or if we are staunch creationists. If he can keep us from the cross and simultaneously out from under the blood he’s won.

14 06 2006
Beppo

Below are a few excerpts from the Larry King interview with Joel Osteen.  You can decide for yourself if he represented God well.  (Or was he even talking about God?  I think he mentioned Him a couple of times throughout the whole interview.)

OSTEEN: I don’t have it in my heart to condemn people. I’m there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us.

OSTEEN: I’m going to be who I feel like I’m supposed to be. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

KING: Where were you ordained?
OSTEEN: I was ordained from the church there, Lakewood, under my dad’s ministry.
KING: So you didn’t go to seminary?
OSTEEN: No, sir, I didn’t.
KING: They can just make you a minister?
OSTEEN: You can, you can.

KING: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …
KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They’re wrong, aren’t they?
OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

KING: How about issues that the church has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages?
OSTEEN: Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don’t go there. I just …
KING: You have thoughts, though.
OSTEEN: I have thoughts. I just, you know, I don’t think that a same-sex marriage is the way God intended it to be. I don’t think abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better way to live your life. But I’m not going to condemn those people. I tell them all the time our church is open for everybody.
KING: You don’t call them sinners?
OSTEEN: I don’t.
KING: Is that a word you don’t use?
OSTEEN: I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don’t. But most people already know what they’re doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don’t go down the road of condemning.
KING: You believe in the Bible literally?
OSTEEN: I do, I do.

KING: All right, what makes a good evangelist?
OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know that I really know, but I think that you have a sincere heart, that you’re pure before God and that you’ve got a relevant, practical message. And I think that’s one reason the church has grown is because we’ve changed with the times. I mean, the music is upbeat. My message is what’s going to help you during the week and things like that.

If you want to read more, here is the complete transcript of the interview.  At this site someone has already analyzed what Joel Osteen said, so I won’t take the time to rehash all that.  But I would like to point out that telling someone a “hard” truth that might offend them is not the same as condemning them.  You can love the person even though you talk about dealing with sin.  Besides, a person cannot get saved unless they know what they are being saved from.  We must not confuse salvation with getting a good life.  We need salvation because we have sinned against God and the penalty for that is death.  Either we pay the penalty and spend eternity apart from God or we accept Jesus’ payment of it on our behalf and spend eternity with God.

29 07 2006
Rich

This is the error with US ‘christianity.’ We can use all the verbage but not be the thing itself. And the watering down has made us weak and ineffective. Many ‘evangelists’ do not want to offend but that is not love. Love is the love of God that sent His Son, to die a brutal death and become an offense himself. He is the rock that all who stumble over will be broken, but on whom it falls will be ground to powder. There is a telling of the truth that is in love that crumples a person with conviction. This is the truth we need to speak in love, that all who remain in sin are separate from God and have not the truth, which is Jesus himself.
That is the few words I wanted to share.
humbly, Christ’s follower,
Rich

30 07 2006
Fab

Well said, Rich! This touchy-feely, warm fuzzy “christianity” isn’t what changes lives. What changes lives is the whole counsel of God’s Word. If all we hear are the benefits of God promises without hearing about the fact that He judges sin, how do we know what we’re being saved from? If we don’t hear that the only way to be pardoned from this sinfulness is by the blood of Jesus that He shed after dying a gruesome death, is the “salvation” even legitimate? A bloodless, what’s-in-it-for-me-pseudo-christianity is rampant in America while other countries are having true revival where souls are being legitimately saved. We need to stop worrying about offending people and start “offending” them into the arms of the Real Savior, Jesus Christ by telling them about their sinfulness and their need for His grace. Being given grace without the recognition of the need for it is useless, but once we see how lost we are, we not only see the need for grace, but we desire it and seek after it with all of our strength.

14 07 2009
Beppo

Here’s an update, in case anyone finds this page. Joel Osteen did issue an apology for what he said on Larry King, and it was more specific than most celebrity apologies. Apparently it’s no longer on his website, but you can find a copy of it here.

18 07 2009
Curious Observer

So why did Jesus have to die for the sins of the world? I hear this a lot from christians but I don’t know why it was important for him to die. I understand that the world is messed up (no surprise there) but God should take it out on the world, not on a good man. Seems unfair if you think about it.

This concept of salvation is a little fuzzy for me. Could you explain the need that God has for a good man to die a horrible death in order to “save” the world from…..what???

Sin? I hear from christians that after you become a christian people still make mistakes in life. what gives?

Death? I watch cable news t.v. so I can see that we all continue to die despite our moral character. I do not see any christian immortals running around.

what did jesus do in life (besides being a nice fellow) that made is death worthy to “save” billions of people?? I am a nice guy. I try to be good and respect those around me. I am sure there were folks like me when jesus was alive. So what makes him so different?

And finally, if God loved the world and jesus so much then why on earth does he feel the need to allow us to suffer horrors beyond the realm of imagination? Being all powerful, he could fix a lot of our current woes right now. This planet could use a good god to make all the wrong things right.

I did not mean to spam your blog. But I was just wondering…and I figured I should ask.

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