What do you think

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Servent, May 24, 2005.

  1. Servent

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    Outing Joel Osteen: A Challenge to the Evangelical Blogosphere
    Michael Spencer
    Nailing my thoughts on the door of the world.
    « The iMonk Weekend File: 1/29/05 | Main | Those Know-Nothing Evangelicals »

    This is the pastor of America's largest church. This will soon be the leading spokesperson for evangelical Christianity. This is the face and voice that will be heard speaking for the heirs of the Reformation. If you missed Jesus and the Gospel entirely, it's because they weren't there.

    I want to know if anyone thinks we ought to try speaking up about this, at least once.

    For those who haven't heard the story, it goes like this.

    John Osteen starts Lakewood Church. Osteen is a Baptist preacher, Texas style, who's gone Pentecostal/Charismatic. The church grows to 10,000 members. Osteen preaches the Gospel, preaches missions, and is a respected "classic" Pentecostal/Charismatic leader. He isn't, however, preparing for what happened next.

    He died suddenly. Pentecostal churches the size of Lakewood are usually family dynasties, but Osteen didn't lay the groundwork for his succession. His wife preaches for a while, and then his son Joel, who had been working with (I believe) the church's media ministries. In other words, behind the scenes, apparently not planning to be pastor.

    Joel tries out the pulpit. He's not much of a preacher at first. He's nervous, but the congregation is cheering for him. He's cute, appealling and, eventually, funny. He's got a beautiul wife. He's charming, and tells a good story. He's disarmingly vulnerable. He makes you feel good. He's not like the usual ranting, angry preachers. He's a nice guy.

    Before long, Joel is comfortable in the role of pastor, and the church begins to grow. He's preaching the usual word-faith stuff and things go well. But then Joel changes his emphasis....and things explode. In fact, in just over a decade, it triples to 30,000 and becomes the largest church in America. They buy the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA Houston Rockets. 18,000 seats. He's on TBN, PAX and CNBC overseas.

    What happened? 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.

    This Joel Osteen, a young man who stumbled into his father's shoes, now is the most successful pastor in America, and will soon be a best selling author, seen and heard around the world standing in a pulpit, preaching pragmatic positive thinking, pure and simple, out of an open Bible. He will represent evangelicalism with his big smile and a message that would make Screwtape shout "Amen! Preach it brother."

    This is where evangelicalism has come to in 2005. This is what the heirs of the Reformation have come to accept as acceptable. This is what can be endorsed and advertised to evangelicals and be sure to sell millions of copies.

    It makes me angry and I want to do something.

    I have a simple question.

    Is this going to happen with the silence of evangelicals, or will someone speak up? Will Osteen continue his arc to fame and leadership with little or no comment from those in evangelicalism who have the responsiblity of discernment? Are we going to sit still and just shake our heads, or might we do more?

    I wonder how many of our churches are already populated by Osteen fans. How many deacons, elders, teachers and worship leaders are enamored with the adorable Osteen and his positive message? How many young people are going to be pointed to Osteen as a true shepherd of Jesus Christ? I know a lot of people in my world are lining up for the Osteen message as if he were just another version of Rick Warren. He's not. He's not one of us.

    Make no mistake about this: Osteen isn't confused about Jesus like many of the prosperity preachers you hear on TBN. Osteen is intentionally avoiding irrtiating language about sin because he wants to keep it positive every week. He is not just avoiding mentioning Jesus, the cross and the Gospel just because he is seeker sensitive. Joel Osteen is preaching the no-Gospel, no-Jesus message because it's filling the church with thousands of people who want to hear it. Osteen will ignore his critics because the common people are voting every week- in book sales, ratings numbers and attendance- for his message.

    At the biggest church in the country, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week -- and sin is not on the menu. Osteen said his goal is to "give people a boost for the week."

    "I think for years there's been a lot of hellfire and damnation. You go to church to figure out what you're doing wrong and you leave feeling bad like you're not going to make it," Osteen said. "We believe in focusing on the goodness of God."

    Osteen defends Lakewood's ways, saying the lively and inclusive atmosphere is attracting a whole new generation of parishioners.

    "I have parents tell me all the time that their kids will sit down and watch us on TV or that they want to come to the service because it's simple and something they can understand," he said.

    Some Lakewood qualities that appeal to a younger set are "the best lighting and the best sound system," a youth ministry program that attracts hundreds, and every service kicks off with 30 minutes of upbeat contemporary music -- not hymns -- played by a live band.

    "It's not a churchy feel," Osteen, 40, said. "We don't have crosses up there. We believe in all that, but I like to take the barriers down that have kept people from coming. A lot of people who come now are people that haven't been to church in 20 to 30 years."

    ...Lakewood's attendance has grown so massive that the church recently bought the Compaq Center, a former sports arena, which is being remodeled to hold an even larger congregation.

    "This will be the first church in the country to see 35,000 people," Vaughan said.

    He's being sold to us by people who want to make money off his success, and they are counting on us to be sheep, "baaing" quietly, but going along to the slaughter.

    Any analysis of Joel Osteen's theology is going to have a hard time saying he is proclaiming the Christian message. The most popular preacher in Christianity is proclaiming a theology that is neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim, but is pragmatically pagan. Pagan in the sense of finding ways to gain the favor of god so he will do good things for you. Manipulating the deity to give you blessings. This is the ultimate example of Luther's "theology of glory" chosen over the "theology of the cross." I would rather a non-Christian hear John Shelby Spong a hundred times than hear this. Spong denies it all- outright. Osteen is presented as a Christian, but his message isn't going to bring you to Christ, the Kingdom or heaven. It's spiritual cyanide disguised as candy. If there is a hell, Osteen's message won't stop you or the people you love from going there, because the savior in his messages is YOU and the salvation he offers is a NEW ATTITUDE, and some resulting real estate.

    The question becomes, will evangelicals do anything? Will they say anything? Will they register their objections to Osteen's reshaping of the Reformation gospel into a positive thinking message that makes Robert Schuller look like John Calvin in comparison?

    I have a challenge for one segment of the evangelical community: The Blogosphere. My fellow bloggers.

    I want to challenge the Christian Blogosphere to devote at least one substantial post to outing Joel Osteen. Why is a man who doesn't preach the gospel the most popular preacher in America? Are we going to take note of what kind of message is going to be identified as building the largest church in America? In short, who in the blogosphere is willing to stand up and say "Joel Osteen's message of positive thinking as a way to God's favor isn't the Christian Gospel."

    I want to challenge my fellow bloggers to do something most evangelicals won't do: speak up. I want you to post something. I want you to send that post to other bloggers. Send those posts to evangelical leaders, magazines and reporters. Send them to the publisher of Osteen's book. Send them to pastors, elders and staff members. Send them to World and ask why Joel Osteen's abandonment of the Gospel of Christ and the cross isn't front page news. Send those posts to Max Lucado and John Maxwell and ask why they have endorsed a ministry that purposely avoids mentioning Jesus Christ, but eagerly embraces a different message. Send those posts to Christianity Today, Relevant, Boundless, Discipleship Journal and anyplace else you can think of.

    Let's ask the questions:

    Is Joel Osteen a representative of the evangelical Gospel if he believes that Christianity is about getting blessings from God in this life?

    In a time of suffering, AIDS, persecution and sacrifice by Christians around the world, is Joel Osteen the person who should speak for Christians who believe in the message that is being suffered for and died for by thousands?

    When evangelicals have been represented by John Stott and Billy Graham, are we going to be silent while Osteen becomes the new voice of evangelicalism?

    Is Osteen preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or are these "lifts for the week" something else entirely?
    Why are evangelicals embracing this man, his message and his ministry? What's wrong with us?

    My challenge:

    1. Write a post about Osteen.
    2. Encourage other bloggers to do the same. (Forward this link if you wish.)
    3. Send it out. Raise the questions, speak the truth. Nail something on the door of the world.

    I can't bear to think of those who have come before us handing us the Gospel through all their faithfulness and sacrifice, and we give it to a man like Osteen; a man who doesn't want to preach the glory of Christ, but the possibilities of a positive attitude. A man who has betrayed the gospel and is growing rich and powerful on that betrayal.

    Will you join me?
     
  2. guitarpreacher

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    I don't watch t.v. preachers and the only exposure I've had to J.O. is small bits while channel surfing.

    I do have some close friends in the Houston area who are familiar with Lakewood, and they tell me that Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen are the real deal. The Sunday Morning service at Lakewood (what you see on the tube) is very much a seeker service and is by design not for you deep theological thinkers/debaters. If you are a mature Christian, you are not the intended audience. However, the service you see on t.v. is only a small fraction of the ministry and discipleship going on at Lakewood.

    So Don't judge Lakewood Church or Joel Osteen based only on what makes it on the t.v. In fact, it's safe to say that you would be far more productive worrying about what God has called you to do.
     
  3. Servent

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    Dont get me wrong Im not judging anyone that is why I titled the post what do you think, this was sent to me via e-mail.I do live in the houston area, however I dont know much about lakewood, just what Ive seen on the tube,and as many times as I have seen him he has never given a gospel message. There are many many people that do watch him that believe that is all there is to being a christian that my friend I know for a fact, some of my family have fallen for it.


    Now may I ask if you are judging me, By your last statment I would say so. You have no idea what God has called me to do or what I do.
     
  4. All about Grace

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    I say it is hard to know and judge one's motives.

    And I agree with Paul: "Whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice" (Phil 1.15-19).

    Osteen believes the Bible is the Word of God. He believes salvation is through Jesus Christ. He believes in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Therefore, I rejoice the message of Christ is being preached. Whether or not his preferred style is mine is simply irrelevant.

    Christians should be known by what they are for far more than they are known for what they are against.
     
  5. Pastor Larry

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    What I have seen and heard from Osteen, in both his messages and articles about him, render him very suspect at the very least. He does not preach much of a gospel, if any at all. He is a motivational speaker. I have seen no evidence of a biblical gospel in his presentation.
     
  6. USN2Pulpit

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    Based on what I heard from him, for a long time I didn't even know he was a pastor. That is, until I saw his latest book in the religious books section at Wal-Mart.
     
  7. guitarpreacher

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    Hey Servant,

    Not judging you at all. I re-read what I wrote and I can see where it came across that way. Not my intent at all. That was intended as a general statement and was not directed to you at all.

    Instead of the word judging I'll use "making an asessment". And the point I was making is don't make an assessment of Lakewood Church or Joel Osteen based only on what you see on t.v. As stated before, my total listening time to J.O. is probably 15 minutes max. I have read a few things he has written and so far have not heard anything I have disagreed with.

    I'm guessing, based on what my friends have told me about Lakewood is that the sermon is not intended to be the final Gospel presentation, but rather a hook (for lack of a better word) that begins the discussion that leads to the Gospel presentation. That ministry time does not end when the camaras stop rolling.

    That's not the way it's done in most Baptist churches, but that doesn't make it wrong. It's also not wrong that he chooses to fish using the benefits of a relationship with Christ for bait as oppposed to using the negative results of not knowing Christ.

    I also wonder why we as Baptist get so upset when someone makes the presention of the Gospel simple. The truth of the matter is it is simple. The Good News of Jesus Christ is very simple. Why do we feel compelled to make it complicated? Jesus said that the way is narrow. We read that and we think that Narrow has to mean hard. Narrow doesn't mean hard, doesn't mean steep, doesn't mean difficult. It simply means - it's narrow.

    Jesus invites us to take his yoke. And then he says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. In Jesus day young students would choose a rabbi and attach themselves to that rabbi to learn their doctrine. The particular doctrine, or view of doctrine taught by a rabbi was known as his yoke. When a student attached himself to a rabbi he was taking that rabbi's yoke. That makes so much sense when Jesus says "Take up my yoke and learn from me" And when he says his yoke is easy, he's saying his doctrine is easy, his theology is easy. It takes a bunch of preachers to make this thing complicated. And if Joel O. has the ability to make the Gospel presentation simple and easy and grow his church to over 30k, I pray God will continue blessing him and Lakewood reaches 60k as soon as possible.
     
  8. Pastor Larry

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    I am not upset that someone makes a presentation fo the gospel simple. What bothers me is that Osteen doesn't appear to have much of a gospel at all. I heard a message from him in which he referenced only one verse (out of context), misquoted another verse (and gave the reference for neither), talked about "letting go of the past" without ever talking about sin and selfishness, the love and forgiveness of God which enables us to forgive. He mentioned in his closing something about repentance without ever talking about what repentance was or why it was needed. It was a truly pathetic message for which there can be excuse.
     
  9. TexasSky

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    I don't know the particular church or minister referred to here, but it sounds like a church in my city that has caused me great concern.

    I preach a lot about love, but I don't think love requires .... "accepting everything". I think it requires a loving spirit when you correct. In many of these super large churches I see things that concern me in that they seem to send a message that they accept anything.

    For instance, I really, really, really dislike churches having classes for certain "issues". I'll pick on the classes for divorced because I think every SBC church offers them now. I think they need to go away.

    I have heard a thousand reasons for them, but they just come across like "dating clubs to me." God's message is God's message. Whether I am single, married, widowed or divorced - I should be in God's house to hear God's word, not to "feel better about myself," and I am there to fellowship with other Christians, not a certain social group.

    The message in that particular group is, I'm told, meant to be, "God loves you, and we love you, and we're here to help you get past what happened to you." Well, God and hopefully your church, loves you in that regular class with Christians whose marriages held up too. And the message that comes across seems to be, "Hey, divorce is fine," and that isn't what God taught. If you need proof of that, look at the huge number of Baptist who have divorced since we started offering divorced classes. You can love the person who is divorced without pretending God condones divorce.
     
  10. Servent

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    .Guitarpreacher,Thank you and your right the gospel message is very simple, the problem is that he does not give a gospel message.
     
  11. guitarpreacher

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    Well, I couldn't say for sure what J.O. preaches, so I decided to go straight to the horses mouth for the truth. From a sermon titled "The Truth Of The Resurrection"

    QUOTE: "See, the Bible says in Hebrews that Jesus took His own blood and He didn't go to the Holy of Holies, but He went into the very heavens itself. And He presented His own blood in the high court of heaven as a sacrifice for all of our sins, past, present, and future.
    And see, friends, the good news of Resurrection Sunday, the reason we can celebrate today, is because God gladly, with great joy and pleasure, He accepted the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. And now no longer do we have sin to hang on us and to drag us down to hell. The price has already been paid once and for all. Isn't that good news? (Congregation applauds)

    See, and the Bible says that Jesus obtained an eternal redemption for our sins. One translation says, "an eternal release from our sins." See, friends, we don't have to be redeemed once a year anymore. We have been eternally redeemed not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by the blood--the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    See you can't get any better than that. And that's why I can get up here today with great joy and enthusiasm. Because I've got good news to tell you, you don't have to go to hell. Your sins have already been forgiven. All you've got to do is accept this forgiveness and make Jesus the Lord of your life."
     
  12. guitarpreacher

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    From a sermon titled "The Great Commission"

    QUOTE: But sometimes we live in this fantasy world where we think we're going to come to this place in life, you know, somewhere over the rainbow, just like the movies, we're going to live happily ever after with no more problems. But friends, if we're not careful, we will allow the enemy to deceive us into waiting around and doing nothing for God until this so called problem free life exists. Satan loves for God's people to procrastinate. Friends, what we do for God, we must do now. And the hour is too late for any of us to live with an inward focus where we're only concerned about our own needs. That's so shortsighted. That's such small thinking. God's already promised us that He's going to take care of us. He's promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. There's a whole world out there that has never even felt the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Millions and millions of people are hurting, they're lonely, they're in pain. They don't even know what real love is. And the only way we're going to really shake this city and make a positive, powerful impact on people all over this world is for every single one of us to do our part and go out of here like flames of fire and share God's love and mercy and forgiveness with people in need.

    Think about what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 10. "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." See, the Good News is that your sins have already been forgiven. The price has already been paid. Jesus willingly died on that cross and shed His own blood as a sacrifice for all your mistakes and all your failures and all your shortcomings. And now all you have to do is accept this free gift of salvation and make Jesus the Lord of your life. God made it so easy. But sometimes religion with all its rules and regulations and do's and don'ts, it gives us a false idea of what God is really like." END QUOTE

    Wow! I may have a new favorite preacher!

    [ May 24, 2005, 01:28 PM: Message edited by: guitarpreacher ]
     
  13. All about Grace

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    It does not matter what Osteen says or does - enough is never "enough" for some people.

    Again, his style and method may be different than yours, but it does not make him any less evangelical or orthodox.

    I am glad that we are not the determiners of how much is enough gospel. I would say the quote above by Osteen sums it up well.

    I do an awesome Osteen impression by the way [​IMG]
     
  14. guitarpreacher

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    The ending to a sermone titled "The Battle For Your Mind" I read most of this one and it was a very good teaching on spiritual warfare and the reality of the devil and his infuence in our world.

    QUOTE: "Well y’all are so easy to talk to. And it’s a joy for me to share with you. If you’d bow your heads in prayer? And I never like to close the broadcast until we give you an opportunity to give your life to Jesus. You know one of the biggest tragedies is for Satan to blind your mind of really accepting Jesus as your Lord. And it’s not something hard to do. All you’ve got to do is call upon the name of the Lord. And I just want to pray a simple prayer with you. If you’ll repeat it after me and mean it, God will change your life.

    Just say, Jesus, come into my heart and save me. Be my Lord. Be my Savior. I repent of my old sins, my former sins. God, I’m going to serve You all the days of my life.

    Listen, I believe you prayed that prayer. Listen, what you need to do is get in a good church that teaches the Bible. If you can come to Lakewood, we’d love to have you. If you can’t come here, go to a church in your neighborhood, one that believes the Bible. Support that church. You know, be a disciple there. Learn the things of God and you’ll never regret giving your life to God. He’ll do you nothing but good. I’m not saying you’re not going to have some challenges. But He will show you how to overcome in every one of them. God bless you.
     
  15. guitarpreacher

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    Servant said, "Dont get me wrong Im not judging anyone that is why I titled the post what do you think,"

    Then Servant said, "the problem is that he does not give a gospel message."

    I can't reconcile those two. It sounds to me like your mind is already made up.
     
  16. Servent

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    I also said (as many times as I have seen him) he has not preached a gospel message. If Im wrong then I apologize.
     
  17. guitarpreacher

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    So I understand where you're coming from, what would he have to say in order for it to be considered a Gospel message?

    Again, I don't watch tv preachers. None. But when I went to the Lakewood Church website, the transcripts are there for free, and I only looked at three and all three had a pretty clear presentation of the Gospel.

    (Okay, I'll confess. I do from time to time see a particularly energetic preacher as I'm channel surfing and I'll turn the sound off just watch the gestures and mannerisms. Now that's entertainment [​IMG] Robert Tilton was by far the best. I sure miss him.)
     
  18. Servent

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  19. gb93433

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    I lived in Houston for a few years and I don't remember much of an alternative to an SBC church. There are over 500 SBC churches Houston.

    That may be part of the reason why the growth. Not everyone wants to go to a Southern Baptist Church.
     
  20. Pastor Larry

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    Osteen is a prosperity preacher, something contradictory to the gospel of Scripture. Studying Hebrews 11:32-40 reminds once again of how far off Osteen's "gospel" is. He intentionally does not talk about sin, and he says so. He wants to be positive and upbeat. The fact that people are defending him is a sad statement on modern day biblical literacy.
     

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