What’s the Problem with Joel Osteen?
Last year Joel Osteen was conducting an evangelistic crusade at Dodger Stadium. Since the Dodgers are in our home city, Los Angeles – I wanted to support the effort. I mentioned to our congregation about the upcoming crusade and helping out so we could be a part of reaching thousands of people who would make decisions to follow Christ.
A few days later someone said to me,
“We’re supporting Joel Osteen? He is pretty controversial you know.”
I was surprised.
I thought to myself, “Joel Osteen, controversial? How could that be? He preaches the most clear and simple gospel message a person could hear.”
I had not been keeping up with what people and other leaders were saying on the Internet.
One local pastor said to me later, “I hear you are supporting the Joel Osteen Crusade.”
I said, “Yes I am. He reaches thousands of people for Jesus Christ, he’s in our city, I want to be a part of it.”
The pastor responded, “I’m not going to, I can’t go for all that ‘positive gospel stuff’.”
I don’t know what that means!??!
Are we supposed to be preaching the ‘negative gospel?’
What is the positive gospel?
Our sins are forgiven?
God loves us – just like we are?
God has something special for each of us to do?
Just sounds like the ‘regular-amazing-outstanding-full of mercy- gospel’ to me!
You know… ‘Amazing Grace’ and all that.
So in the last year I’ve discovered there are many outspoken Christians & leaders who don’t like Joel Osteen.
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion – even if it is ill informed.
The disappointing thing to me is that Christian leaders speak out publically against Joel and thereby encouraging other Christians not to respect him or to doubt his authenticity. They feel the liberty to publically attack those whom they don’t really understand or know. It’s embarrassing.
As a Christian, I’m discouraged by the behavior of leaders who criticize, attack or diminish the significance of other Christian ministers.
This behavior and attitude is why many people do not want to be a part of Christianity or go to church because they feel that when they go to church they will be criticized the way our leaders do to each other.
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Gal 5:14-15 NIV
I believe the main thing leaders should be “called out for” is the arrogance and the divisive example they promote by publically dismissing the relevance of another person’s ministry.
Have these very public leaders, who take the liberty to bring these unfair assessments of Joel Osteen, spoken to him or one of his pastors in private about their concerns?
I may be wrong – but I don’t think they have.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. Matthew 18:15 NIV
Look at this situation that the disciples brought to Jesus and notice His response.
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them? 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.
(But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of – NKJV) Luke 9:49-55 NIV
What’s the problem with Joel Osteen?
“He’s a phony.”
“He’s a liar.”
“He’s not really a pastor.”“He presents an easy, feel-good gospel.”
I know Joel Osteen.
I consider him a friend.
I’m not a ‘Joel Osteen fan’ – I’m a friend.
I know him to be a genuine man, a humble man and know that he has a desire to lead people to become followers of Jesus Christ. He believes the same fundamental truths about the Bible and Christianity that main stream Christianity teaches and preaches from the pulpits of America.
The problem is not with Joel Osteen – the problem is in the hearts of the ‘Christian critics’ (which sounds a bit like an oxi-moron) that speak without thinking.
Joel is focused on reaching the lost and the unchurched.
He does it really well.
In interviews with Larry King or Piers Morgan and others – they are always trying to get him into controversial or divisive topics, (homosexuals, politics, Mormonism, who’s going to hell etc) and Joel avoids answering those questions with much detail. His focus is reaching those who have been alienated and are not being reached for Christ with the message of God’s grace. He tries to stay on point.
Why is this so hard to understand?
Joel is criticized for everything.
What he says. What he does not say. (That’s my favorite one)
What he ‘really’ believes. What he is thinking. How he should do things. How he would be better at what he does.
While looking at YouTube I found a video posted by a well-known pastor in Seattle, that shows this pastor addressing an audience (not sure if it was his congregation or a leadership meeting or something else) but it was public. He took time on his platform to show a video clip of a few minutes of Osteen preaching – and then proceeded to tear apart what he said and what he did not say.
This pastor is a good leader, a quality speaker and an influential man.
He took the platform God has given him to tear Joel apart with an arrogant, condescending grin on his face. Why? It would be easy for us all to take a ‘portion’ of a anyone’s sermon and criticize what they ‘did not say.’
It doesn’t even make sense.
A Christian blogger criticized the title of Joel’s recent book ‘Every Day a Friday’ – by saying that Friday is not the important day for Christians, Sunday is because that’s when Jesus rose from the dead.”
Are you kidding me?? Really?
If this does not reveal his critical intention and bring into question the rest of his comments – maybe the title of his blog “The Insufferable Joel Osteen” should?
Joel’s book is not a study on theology or Christian history. It just a book to encourage the millions of discouraged in our country.
Is that wrong?
It would not take long for one of these self appointed ‘judges of all other ministries’ to listen to one of my messages and find flaws.
I leave things out.
I mis- speak.
I don’t say what I was going to say and sometimes say what I should not.
But that does not make me a liar, a hypocrite, a fake or a false prophet.
It just makes me human; doing the best I can to do my part in reaching our city for Jesus Christ.
In a recent interview on Fox News, they asked Joel questions about his thoughts on Mitt Romney and then Mormonism- saying it’s a big issue in the election. (It’s not.)
Joel said “Mitt Romney says that Jesus Christ is his Savior and that’s what I believe, I’m not the one to judge the other details.”
Joel was saying if a person (even a Mormon) believes that Jesus Christ is their savior – it does not seem right to doubt them.
He also said, “I can’t say that I believe everything I’ve heard about (Mormonism)” this last line is not quoted by his critics.
Have you ever been on National TV being put in an awkward position to answer questions off the point of what your message is? Have you ever been on TV?
Is this difficult to understand? If you are an “Osteen-hater” then everything is wrong. Many Mormons have come to Jesus Christ through his ministry. People don’t receive Jesus if your sermon title is “Mormons and gays or (insert your issue here…) are going to hell and here’s why!!”
Our church has a ‘shallow end of the pool’ - it’s an entry point- we don’t teach everything we believe every time we speak. There is a ‘deep end of the pool’ as well – it’s discipleship. Much more is taught to people in those areas of our church ministry.
Joel does not teach classes on theology, the differences of Mormonism and Christianity or a thorough presentation of the foundational beliefs of Christianity.
He’s a pastor with an evangelism gift.
Pastors at Joel Osteen’s church, Lakewood Church, disciple people, teach doctrinal truths of the Bible and train people for ministry. They teach people truth from error.
It reminds me of how much criticism Billy Graham took from evangelical leaders who criticized him and questioned his faith and integrity because of how he conducted his evangelistic efforts. Now most people hold him in high regard and an example to be followed.
We pray for the lost in America and then when God is using someone to reach the people that other ministers have not been able to reach – we tear them down. God forgive us.
Have we considered that fact that TV hosts like Larry King, interview Joel and not the leaders who attack him, because Joel communicates the grace that others do not.
So what’s the problem – really?
Is it jealousy? Is it arrogance and self-righteousness?
I’m not sure.
But I do know that Joel reaches people others do not reach. I see that Joel gets interviewed by new reporters who won’t interview other pastors and leaders. And Joel sells books about hope and faith to the thousands who will not buy the critics books. Hmmm?
I recently read a blog by Joel E. Miller, the vice president of editorial and acquisitions for Thomas Nelson, who wrote
“Osteen parades himself around as a minister of the gospel.” Nice.
He posted a photo of Joel with a ‘Joker face’ (as in Batman) ‘photo-shopped’ on his face.
This horribly embarrassing blog was tweeted by Michael Hyatt, The Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers on a couple of occasions, obviously lending his support and endorsement to these self indulgent and reckless assessments.
I was shocked, saddened, disappointed and discouraged by the attitudes of these Christian influencers.
I have read many of Michael Hyatt’s blogs. I like him and his writing. But this is just not right and should not be overlooked because of his stature and position.
Do these publishers know everything their authors believe? Everything? Do they know when their authors have ‘mis spoken’ or not articulated something correctly or made a mistake?
Does Thomas Nelson write blogs to publically ridicule and humiliate their authors who have their own flaws? The comments that Joel J. Miller makes are not intellectually honest nor are they spiritually appropriate.
As I stated earlier, the main thing leaders should be “called out for” is publically attacking the authenticity of another’s ministry.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:29-31 NIV
Arrogance is really hard to see in the mirror.
I don’t know that those who have spoken from arrogance would apologize or recognize their error – but I’m hoping that you – the reader - will be more aware of what is appropriate and Christ like.
Christians Please!! Don’t follow this example and criticize publically those ministers whose methods you don’t agree with or understand.
Leaders – this has got to stop. Please, Please – it’s not your job to judge everyone publically.
Let’s encourage each other, lets pray for one another and teach those you influence - to have more grace.
It is difficult enough to be a minister because of the challenges we face – the spiritual warfare we encounter! We don’t need our own brothers needlessly attacking.
Let’s preach what we are FOR not what we are AGAINST.