Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Osteen Dialogue

Someone posted this comment about my Osteen posts. I have responded below. Become part of the dialogue by clicking on the comments link under the post. I will moderate them before they go out, but as long as they remain respectful and decent, I'll leave them up. I think you'll enjoy this dialogue, and I was afraid it might get buried in other posts. I'm glad to finally have some interaction on this dead site!

Anonymous said...

Seriously?!?!?! Is Joel Osteen and his preaching such a big issue that we must spend our time cutting his message down with over exaggerated words of disdain? Is there really merit in making these criticisms to begin with? I don't believe so.

Yes, Joel Osteen shares a message of hope, joy, and God's love for us that may seem overly simplistic for the "deep" Christians of today. And yes, I feel that our churches are filled with more motivation rather than God's true proclamation. However, to bash a man who has CLEARLY led thousands (if not more) to Christ is outrageous. If you don't like him, or his style of ministry, then don't watch him. Lord knows there are MILLIONS of authors, preachers, and teachers to choose from. But to belittle a Godly man who's message, while not preferred by you, but who actually ministers to millions worldwide, is completely unnecessary. Can you disagree with him? Absolutely! To seek him out on television and watch for your perception of his "flaws", however, is a little much for me.

Why cut down people who are making a difference in the world for Christ? Why look for things that unnerve or annoy you? While I can't speak for God, I don't believe that He is sitting on his thrown judging the methods of ministers who are leading people to Him. And if He is, I think we should let Him criticize and give His thoughts to Joel once he gets to heaven, as opposed to filling internet blogs with our limited and close minded perceptions of him.

I work with lost, hurting, and damaged people on a daily basis; people looking for a glimmer of hope...people who have never experienced true love or compassion from anyone....people who have little, if any, exposer to Christ and His church. So if someone as "simplistic" and "surface" as Joel Osteen gives them an ounce of understanding on God's amazing grace and love, then I say, good work Joel! There is a place in hearts that are being filled by God's words through Joel....even if it is not your heart. I suggest spending you time watching/reading authors and preachers that you actually like....men and women who minister to you, as opposed to seeking out the ones who fill you with a sense of accomplishment through perceived literary inspiration.
1:31 PM

Trevor Williams said...
In response to the last comment, let me first of all say that you should at least leave your name if you want to comment on this blog. I've put my name on here, and my reputation's at stake. I expect the same from you if you want to challenge my words.

Second of all, let me also say that I agree with you, at least on parts of what you said. You say that I shouldn't spend my time cutting down pastors. This is half right. Yes, as I read today in the words of Jesus, I should look at the plank in my own eye before looking at the speck in Osteen's. I should really evaluate why I'm watching these preachers. If it's only to bash them, then I should change the channel immediately and never type a word about them. That's something I have to work on, so please forgive my arrogance on a subject where humility is so desperately needed.

But I won't change my desire to have a dialogue about church leaders and whether their methods are damaging to the church in America. Just the fact that you responded shows that this is an issue that can create dialogue within the body of Christ, dialogue that has the potential to go beneath the surface, somewhere down deep where Osteen doesn't want to go.

You say God doesn't judge methods, but there are numerous times in scripture where God judges the motivation behind an action, or even an emotion as a precursor to an action. And sometimes, righteous actions are negated by the state of mind in which they were done (Lord, Lord, did we not drive out demons? Heal the sick?... Depart from me, I never knew you). You might use Paul's statement, "Some preach for their own personal gain, but just as long as the Gospel is preached...," as justification for your point that the message, not the vessel, is what we should focus on.

But here's the point you missed entirely: Osteen doesn't preach the Gospel. His message is not complete. He's been asked on TV numerous times whether those who don't believe in Jesus will go eternally suffering, and he hasn't made a clear answer. Jesus CHRIST was pretty clear on this point, and I don't know how you can be a CHRISTian pastor, a supposed shepherd, and not be bold enough to defend your Lord's most basic tenets.

You say that Osteen has CLEARLY led thousands to Christ. How is it so clear? Because he's sold so many books? Because he has the largest church in America? Last time I checked, popularity didn't equal faithfulness to God's call or the presence of real, lasting fruit. In fact, the opposite seems to be true in scripture. It seems that the less popular Christians became, the more effective they were in spreading the Gospel. Take the unbridled growth of the early church and today's Chinese church as examples.

Osteen may fill thousands of hearts with hope, but judging by his words, the hope he sells is shallow and circumstantial, not based on the solid rock of Christ's blood. And what's better? To not give people hope, or to give them false hope based on a fantasy God?

You say that Osteen "ministers" to people. That may be true, but what does that mean? Does it mean they like his words because he feeds their desire to rely on themselves? It is messy to get down to the nitty-gritty and confront how despicably sinful we are and how much we need Christ, not to be used as a pick-me-up like we use a Starbucks latte in mid-afternoon, but for a dynamic transformation of character based on HIS STRENGTH, not our own.

I applaud your work with the hurting people in this world. I myself need to stop being so lazy and get out there and do some of that work too. Let's just make sure that the message of hope we preach to them is true grace. Here's what I mean: You said in your comment that if Joel gives people and ounce of God's grace and love, then we should applaud him. (If you'll check my blog posts, you'll see that I didn't belittle his every accomplishment.) But grace is not shown as grace if there is no knowledge of sin. You can't tell someone that God has grace for them if you don't first tell them they're sinful, which is not the most welcome thing to say to someone. The grace comes from the fact that we are SO UNDESERVING, not because we're "a child of the king."

And God's love is NOT in his ability to make our lives run smoothly, or to get people to go out of their way to give us "favor" (as Joel suggests in his first book). The love of Christ is IN THE CROSS. "God showed his love for us in this: That while we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us."

From pastors like Joel, we need the whole story. We need them to preach the hope of Christ and the positive things about his love and grace, but we don't need them to do it as salesmen of a false Gospel of happiness and ease, or in a way that makes us rely on ourselves, our ability, our know-how and our desires.

Really the question is: Which Christ is Osteen leading people to? And what is he filling hearts with? Is Osteen's Christ the one of the scriptures? Is the positive, self-reliant message Osteen talks about something that the world (Tony Robbins, maybe?) couldn't offer these people? If I take your advice, I can't watch Osteen anymore to find out. I guess I'll remain unconvinced, because I've still never seen a sermon on sin or even on the cross. Please email me a transcript if you can find one. Thanks so much for engaging my blog.

Join the conversation...


Anonymous said...
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Drew said...

Let me first say that I agree with you that as Christians, we should not judge others. We should only build up our brothers and not tear them down. I will confess that I do not know much about Joel Osteen. However, I believe what is really at issue in this debate is the state of Christianity in America today.

Let me begin by stating a few points about what I believe to be central tenets of Christianity, which hopefully you will agree with:

First, as Christians were to be disciples of Christ and followers of "the way." We are called into an intimate relationship with the God of the Universe and this relationship is to define/direct every aspect of our life. God prefers for us to be either hot or cold in this relationship because the lukewarm will be spit out of his mouth. We must repent of our sin and pursue righteousness.

Secondly, in this relationship, our lives on earth should be hard. God intended that we would have to sacrifice everything to follow him. That means money, family, anything that is important to us and especially to the world.

Thirdly, God wants good things for us and has good plans for our lives. However, the treasures that he offers are the fruit of the spirit. He does not promise financial prosperity or anything that the world would consider a measure of a good life.

Assuming you agree with these tenets, I wonder if you would not also agree with my estimation of the state of the church in America today. Essentially, I believe that America is filled with "nominal Christians" (I would have considered myself one up until about a year ago). We treat Christianity as just another trait, like our love for the Dallas Cowboys, Dale Earnhart, or the Dave Matthews Band. We are members of the church (which can sometimes be confused for the local country club), we may attend regularly, and we may confess that Jesus is our Savior. Christianity is seen as a positive moral code that teaches people how to be good, it is a something that we can lean on for blessings, etc.

I believe what is truly at issue here is whether men like Joel Osteen are encouraging people to become devoted followers of the way/disciples of Christ, or encouraging them to be content/joyful in their "nominal Christianity." I agree that there is something to be said for meeting people where there at. However, I agree with Trevor that people with as much influence/attention as Joel Osteen should use every opportunity to talk about the tenets of Christianity that I described above instead of topics such as self help, unity, and worldly prosperity.

Sadly, I don't think that men like Osteen would get nearly as much attention if they didn't tell people what they wanted to hear (such as God wants you to be materially rich or solve all of your family problems, etc.) I believe this is the state of Christianity in America today. Frankly, I applaud Christians like Trevor for being willing to stand up against what is popular and feels good (wide is the path that leads to destruction) and cry out like the prophets of old for people to take the narrow path that leads to abundant life. Ultimately, Christianity is about God and His glory, not about us and our comfort or worldly existence.

Anonymous said...

When speaking on how Joel O. has clearly led thousands to Christ, I say this because I have seen hundreds saved in person. I have seen Joel on a number of occasions...outside of his church in Texas. SO many people came to the Lord there...and it would be ridiculous to believe that it isn't happening other places....not because of his book selling or church square footage.

And to say that he never speaks on sin and the harsh realities of life is outlandish as well. While many of his sermons are about living your best life THROUGH Christ, he also preaches messages of sin and redemption....of our need to rely on Christ...on Christ's undeniable sacrifice for us. I have heard it on many occasions (on tv and in person) with my own two ears...and if I weren't insanely busy, I would find you the transcript.

When listening to Joel's message from your perspective, it is easy to pick out the simplicity of it all. But to say that he is a cheesy and surface preacher who only promotes personal prosperity while neglecting the gospel is offensive to me...as a believer and someone who dives deeply into the word daily. Joel is one of many preachers, authors, and teachers I listen to and respect. I gain a greater insight into myself and of the God I serve through listening to him. And for you to belittle him felt as though you were belittling me...as though I am a "surface" Christian for listening to him and liking him. When you put him down in most every way....you put down the individuals who feel moved by his preaching.

Please just think on these things before you throw out negative words about preachers you do not prefer. You and I both know there are many other offensive and atrocious things to give negative attention and words to.

Joseph Davis said...

Definately an interesting conversation topic. Since its pretty late at night, and I would like to make it to church tommorow, there is one point that I thought was worthwhile talking about.

I think we would all agree that Joel doesn't sped a lot of time talking about sin. He might mention that we are all sinners, but, from my listening of his sermons, its not something that is articulated or emphasized, the reason most likely being that dwelling on the topic of sin would creates negativity. I mean, as a sinner, listening to a long sermon about sin, doesn't do a whole lot for me. I don't feel particularly encouraged after listening to how bad I am for an hour, not without a serious degree of hope at the end.

I believe that if Joel wants to have a happier, more positive congregation, he will discuss sin, in detail, more than any other pastor in America. He probably will no longer be pastor of the largest church in American, but his congregation will have a freedom that is not experienced by a large majority of churches.

Why is this? Because sin points us to Jesus. Low self esteem points us to the need to have higher self esteem. Being a person who frequently makes mistakes necessitates the need for more wisdom or accountability. Being a sinful person, well, the only remedy is the Gospel of Jesus. In our sin, we find the need for Jesus. Tony Campolo once said, "If your sin is small, your Savior is small." The more hopeless we are in relying on our own righteouness, the more precious and essential our Savior will be.

If you cannot find sin in your life, you will not have room for a Savior. If a pastor in not preaching sin, he will find little reason to preach the Savior.

Point: I'd like to see Joel talk about the nitty gritty, dangerously exposing, repentance calling, God glorifying truth of how bad we are. Only then, will we be able to see the preciousness of the Savior. How essential He is! Our sin is so filthy we would be ruined without Him! He is that good. His gospel is that good. Preach it.