Monday, December 10, 2007

"America's Most Popular Preacher"

i don't know what i'm about to say...or how i'm really going to begin but...my heart feels like it's going to explode with an outpouring that i hope is articulated in a manner well-received, by my brothers and sisters in Christ. i have no expectation whatsoever for any unbelievers to take this very well, however.

i've approached this topic before -- and it didn't go over very well -- so since then i decided to keep some of my more controversial thoughts to myself.

until.
...this week's
People Magazine.

full knowing how i would respond, my husband jokingly left the magazine open to THE ARTICLE at hand, on the stair case, so i'd run into it as i returned to the house. he simply refused to even read it. period.

that was yesterday.
i feel my anger has subsided somewhat, toward the contents, and after pulling together whatever coherent thoughts i have on this, and after brushing up on WHY i feel so strongly - it's only fair to vomit it all out for my readers. :)

besides -- what better reason to have a discussion! ...welcomed by none other than People Magazine. if it's in the public arena -- it's fair game -- i assume.

oh dear...this is gonna be a doozy-long blog....this is coming all the way up from my toes...

PEOPLE MAGAZINE
December 17, 2007

Page 94


Title: "Joel Osteen: Counts His Blessings"
Sub-title:
"He lives in a mansion, travels by private jet, and with his latest bestseller, has already earned $13 million. How does America's Most Popular Pastor keep it real?"

(italics inserted by me...which should more or less give an oversight of today's blog -- so close out of this screen right now if this topic isn't for you. you know who you are :))

I read the article while squinting through my fingers.
It was painful.
I can start by telling you why it's NOT painful.
It's not painful that he's wealthy.
It's not painful to me that he's wildly successful.
It's not painful for me that he's got a beautiful family.
It's not even necessarily painful for me that he only flies in private jets.

It's excruciating for me because he is "shepherding" a flock of 47,000 people with alot of good intentions that will only prove empty in the end.
It's heartbreaking for me because Mr. Osteen is going to stand before Jesus Christ one day and give an account to Him on why the 'narrow path' wasn't interesting enough for him. Mr. Osteen needed a path wide enough for nearly 50K people to be pleased with. we know where that leads.

I mean, you can read the article yourself -- many of you are People Mag fanatics with me -- and pull his deceit right from the pages.

here are a few of the worst tidbits:

"He is pastor of Lakewood Church, with attendance at 47K (twice as big as his nearest competitor); ...author of two bestselling books (his first, 2006, outsold Billy Graham's latest); the headliner of touring motivational-meets-worship shows that sell out venues like NYC's Madison Square Garden."

....twice as big as his nearest competitor? outsold Billy Graham? motivational-meets-worship show?

"At one of his many booksignings, a retired teacher, the first in line, calls out from behind her big sunglasses, "Thank you for making religion a pleasure...""

...thank Mr. Osteen?! ...religion...a simple pleasure!?...

"That notion -- the positive, feel-good aspects of Christianity -- is the core of Osteen's appeal."

...how sad that People either deducted that from Osteen's message OR that Osteen would verbalize that himself....

"Osteen describes his calling as this: to give hope. "Most people are beaten down by life already, he says in his soothing southern accent. "They don't come to hear me say, 'You know what? You're all sinners.....I'd rather say, 'You know what? God's on your side.' "

double cringe.

"....spent less than a year at Oral Roberts University - before dropping out."

...so what exactly is he teaching them? you don't let surgeon's without a medical license operate on you. you don't allow a lawyer without a degree represent you.....don't get me wrong, being Holy-Spirit led is necessary for ALL teachers of the gospel....but i question how fully equipped you can be, to lead thousands of people, in the WORD without some formal education IN IT.

As a Christian, Osteen believes sin lives in every man and woman. He just doesn't like to dwell on it. "There is an awful lot of doom and gloom and uncertainty in the world...So if you have someone out there saying, 'Look on the bright side, God wants things to go well,' that's attractive."

...attractive to who? and when? ....doesn't like to dwell on it!?


"He was paid $13 million for his latest book. He lives in a 5000 sq ft house...Staff help Victoria (his wife) with the cooking, cleaning and driving and the kids (all two of them) all have private tutors. Does it bother him to see people less fortunate? "I don't know if it bothers me, but my whole heart...is to help people and empower them to rise higher...I do think God wants us all to be blessed."

we will come back to this statement later....

"His lesson to his kids is this: Love God, Love Yourself, Love Others - in that order. 'I feel like you have to feel good about what God has made you - your looks, so on. You can't show compassion if you don't love yourself. Everything else falls into place.' "

.....your LOOKS? that's his first example?! ...can't show compassion if you don't LOVE YOURSELF? ....omg.

"And a lesson in living with fame, he adds, 'When you're in the public eye, it's a different story...You become a target."

...so you're a target because of your fame...not your message? hmm..interesting....

"The nation's largest church offers more than a prayer: a Disney-styled daycare center; worship areas for people spread over 4 floors, a cafe, a video arcade; a state-of-the-art recording studio; and a suite where Osteen's services, captured by eight cameras, are edited..."

....did the Bride of Christ and DISNEY just get put in the same sentence? nuff said.

i'll stop there.
if you're Osteen fans, please just hear me out.
this is hard for me.
really hard.
because the unbelievers closest to me, thrive on this man.
they won't come to church with me.
....because they prefer the "nicer" message they find from this man on TV.
besides, "i'd rather watch it on TV...it's just like going to church...less effort."
and what should i say to them?
how should i respond?
can the good in his message outweigh the bad?
can salvation be a process that starts with loving ourselves and can redemption do a work in our hearts by us empowering ourselves and trying to "Become a Better You," and by striving for "Your Best Life Now."

i wonder how Jesus, bleeding from Calvary for my transgressions and those of this entire world, responds when He hears His mission being boiled down to something so simplistic and....malleable.

and this is exactly why i feel so strongly, and i'll try to stick with my main grievances above:

1)
"He is pastor of Lakewood Church, with attendance at 47K (twice as big as his nearest competitor); ...author of two bestselling books (his first, 2006, outsold Billy Graham's latest); the headliner of touring motivational-meets-worship shows that sell out venues like NYC's Madison Square Garden."

gosh. attendance of 47,000 people. let's start there. i'm not certain what your definition of church is...but the Bible says the church is not a spiritual service provider, it's a people - a new covanent, blood-bought people of God. That's why Paul said, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." The universal 'church' are a people group who have been purchased by the blood of the eternal Son, King of kings and Lord of lords. Entering into a local community church setting should involve entering into a "spiritual family."

let's say johnny was adopted by the SMITH family. he would take on the smith name. he would sleep with the other smith children. the smith parents would teach, admonish, encourage, spend time with and help grow all of their children. mr and mrs smith are responsible for their children. and the children are certainly responsible to their elders.

my question is: how does mr. osteen oversee the spiritual guidance of 47,000 people? does he know his sheep by name? does he understand the depth of his eternal responsibility for the people who claim him as their shepherd?
if not -- wouldn't that make for a rather dysfunctional family?
the adopted children come and go as they please, never answering to any authority above them, no accountability or constant fellowship.

all of scripture refers to "one another" just as, love, service, encouragement...and should be encapsulated in the healthy church family. this is uncomfortable and counter-cultural -- but Biblical nonetheless.

no, church membership, per se, was never overtly mentioned in the New Testament - but, the churches in the NT apparently kept lists (such as of all their widows - I Tim 5) and a number of passages in the NT suggest that churches did delineate their members. they definitely KNEW who belonged to their assembly and who did not.

2) motivational-meets-worship shows that sell out NYC theaters:

definition of MOTIVATE: stimulate...provoke to move.
definition of worship: to feel an adoring reverence.

stimulate...and feeling....
he's selling out theaters by catering to the emotional needs of a desperate world, while withholding the truth about their spiritual death and offering SCRIPTURE.
(why on earth do you think his books outsell Billy Grahams? the truth is often times no fun to hear.)
we'll hit on this later.

3) "thank you for making religion a pleasure."

"...you're welcome...anytime..."

!!??

is that what osteen is offerring? a pleasurable religion?
and they're thanking him for it. thanking him - a fallen human being - for twisting the salvation message enough, so that it's ...a pleasure? whoa.

a Christian is somebody who has reached the end of themselves and his OWN MORAL RESOURCES. he recognizes that he, in defiance of God's revealed law, has given his life over to worshiping and loving things other than GOD -- things like career, family, the stuff money can buy, the opinions of others, the honor of his family and community, even his own goods. a true Christian who died RIGHT NOW would stand before God and say, "You shouldn't let me in, I owe a debt I cannot repay, but because of YOUR great promise and mercy, I depend ONLY on the blood of Christ shed as my substitutionary death, moving your wrath away from me."

a non-Christian who died right now would stand before God and say, "but i was good enough, i'm a good person. i loved myself and everybody around me. i was motivated by all the feel good blessings God wants to give me and by emotional worship services...and told God loves me despite my sin...."

do you understand the responsibility osteen has to speak DIVINE TRUTH to these lost souls? they are desperately searching for ETERNAL DIRECTION and being filled up with all the logic this earthly world can provide and appealing to their senses of pride and positivity in their fallen state.

4)
"Osteen describes his calling as this: to give hope. "Most people are beaten down by life already, he says in his soothing southern accent. "They don't come to hear me say, 'You know what? You're all sinners.....I'd rather say, 'You know what? God's on your side.' "

God is NOT on your side BECAUSE OF YOUR SIN. how can you disconnect them? the difference between Christians and non-Christians is NOT that non-Christians sin and Christians don't...but it's their RESPONSE TO SIN. the side we take in the battle. a healthy church strives to take God's side in the war against sin. the Bride of Christ must conform continually to the example set in God's Word. Jesus took sin so seriously and the fact that some pastors want to brush it under the rug to spare the emotionally exhausted is terrifying.

Blessed are those who HEAR the word of God...and OBEY IT....(they have to HEAR IT, though)
Paul taught the Corinthians the MESSAGE of the CROSS in the power of God unto SALVATION....he later told the same church to NOT "distort the word of God, but to set forth the truth plainly for their eternal benefit." 2 Cor 2.
not for their temporal emotional stability ...or personal motivation...but as though their eternal destiny is weighing in the balance.

a CORRECT view of conversion will show up in a church's willingness to view and handle known sin seriously. accountability, encouragement, and occasional rebuke are ordinary, not extraordinary.

churches that increasingly reflect the character of God as it's revealed in his Word, are not always the easiest places to be. expectations may be high, talk of sin may be feel overdone to many, fellowship may feel somewhat intrusive -- but the point is to increasingly reflect GOD'S character.

5)
"His lesson to his kids is this: Love God, Love Yourself, Love Others - in that order. 'I feel like you have to feel good about what God has made you - your looks, so on. You can't show compassion if you don't love yourself. Everything else falls into place.' "

wow.
i thought the lesson read like this:
Matt 22:34
All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.

osteen wants us to love ourselves right before we love others. as if law #2 was forgotten and he needed to put it in there between law #1 and law #3.

as christians, we are to ESTEEM OURSELVES as last among men. washing other people's feet. service to others, sacrificing ourselves. i think it's this thread in his thinking that REALLY throws off his entire ministry.
the me factor.
what is going on here? i don't think the church was ever meant to become moralistic and me-centered, with the gospel recast as little more than spiritual "self-help." how will we ever distinguish the culture of the church from the secular culture around it -- when we follow THE WORLD'S theology to put OURSELVES before others? how will LOVING OURSELVES ever result in us loving others well? it devastates God's plan and turns His desire completely upsidedown.

6) finally...and i'll stop here because i need to cook dinner:
As a Christian, Osteen believes sin lives in every man and woman. He just doesn't like to dwell on it. "There is an awful lot of doom and gloom and uncertainty in the world...So if you have someone out there saying, 'Look on the bright side, God wants things to go well,' that's attractive."

doesn't...wanna...dwell on it. wow.
get this.
God is a Judge.
The Judge will become our Father ONLY if we repent and believe.

sometimes it's really tempting to present some of salvation's benefits AS the gospel itself. these benefits tend to be things that non-believers naturally want. joy, peace, happiness, fulfillment, self-esteem, love. presenting them AS THE GOSPEL is presenting partial truth. and as J.I. Packer says, "half truth masquerading as whole truth becomes complete untruth."

fundamentally, we don't need a pep rally. we don't need JUST joy...or peace...or PURPOSE. we need GOD HIMSELF. we need FORGIVENESS above all else. we need spiritual rebirth. if you present the gospel as anything else -- you end up with half-converts, meaningless church stats -- only serving to make world evangelism all the more difficult.

Mr. Osteen:
The gospel is NOT news that we're ok.
it's not news that God is love.
it's not news that Jesus wants to be our friend.
it's not news that he has a wonderful plan or purpose for our BEST LIFE NOW.
the gospel IS the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a sacrificial substitute for sinners and rose again, making a way for us to be reconciled to God.
that's it.

you know -- unless i'm way off here -- Mr Osteen is not fully drinking from the comprehensive Word of God. Nor is he washing his congregation - The Bride - with the cleansing (and sometimes painful) Word of God.

i read this article and it only confirms the lack of deep conviction of guilt. no notation of danger in human helplessness. where is the contrition? confession? supplication for mercy?

but we have arcades.
and we have cafes.
and we have 47,000 attendees.

and it's for those forty seven thousand souls that i ache.
we all will face Christ one day.
all of Christendom is headed somewhere.
but we are not all equal in our graves.
we have an account we will all give.
it's not Mr Osteen i feel anguish for....

....it's for the forty seven thousand sheep who are following a misguided shepherd.

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God." 1 Peter 2:12

Peter adds:
"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise you??! (Matt 5:16)

no.
"...and praise your Father in heaven."

when the world applauses a preacher and places him on a pedestal -- praising him for making religion a pleasure....you simply have to wonder....

"Wide are the gates...."

"
If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
John 15:19

.....i wonder if America's Most Popular Preacher ever thinks about that....

**********************************
(all thanks to yesterday's sermon and references/thoughts pulled from "What is a Healthy Church?")

11 comments:

n8andbumber said...

Hey hon! I'm not afraid to comment! AMEN SISTA!! I didn't have time to read the second half of your post, but I'm sure it sums up EXACTLY how I feel about the whole Osteen movement. What a sham and a sad excuse for a pastor.

Thank you for putting all my thoughts into words...

p.s. and about your comment, I'll get around to updating my X eventually. not much going on :(

Terri said...

God tells us we will know other believers by their fruits, clearly we see no scriptural fruits in this mans life or ministry. He also warns us of false prophets. We may one day come across one of these 47,000 and all the other millions of lost people who will look at us and want to see what God looks like. What we can do is pray for these people who follow him and be a living testimony of an unseen God to all the lost that we come in contact with. Keep our testimony pure, thats OUR responsibility.

ckuretich said...

can't...even...muster up the right words to say after this. this was perfect. there is nothing else to add.

as i read along with you, so much anger and hurt and frustration and utter sadness permeated my heart...that this is celebrated, that this is allowed to continue, that well-meaning people will follow this man into, at best, lukewarm Christ-following, and at worst, eternal separation from a God they never knew or fully understood. Because their leader didn't want to "dwell on it".

doesn't the Bible instruct us to do just that? DWELL on the things of God? DWELL on His word, His instruction, His character?

that must be too much for Osteen.

i have forwarded this on to David, as he will be completely outraged along with us.

Heather said...

anger...mounting...I must be living under a rock to not know who this guy is - or any of his 47.000 peeps (although - is this like the TRBC membership numbers where they count everyone who's ever watched the service or attended?).

you covered a lot in your post, so i don't feel like i have much else to add.

except.

i would like to reiterate that he is not preaching the gospel of JESUS.

Jesus says, "take up your cross and follow me."

your CROSS.

you will die to yourself and to this life over and over again if you choose to walk in his path - the narrow one. DIE. Life with God in Christ makes me increasingly UNCOMFORTABLE in this world, not comfortable and safe. And I'm not talking about possessions.

I may have more to comment later once this stews.

I would also like to hear from the Osteen supporter(s) that allison is referring to - I would like to hear the other side of this, though I can't imagine there being much of one...

Nikki said...

this post made me cringe and shout amen all at the same time. you are so right allison - there really isn't much more to be added on. this movement is sad. i know people, especially of the older generations like my grandmother, who love him. he feeds on people's unmet needs - a good old health and wealth gospel.

This passage immediately comes to mind - Mark 10:17-31

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother."

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it isto enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

Lanier said...

I didn't get a chance to read this entire post, but you know where I stand on this - and you also know my biggest concern doesn't end with Six Flags Over Jesus (Osteen's "church"). What saddens me most is that this is not an isolated problem. Churches like that exist all over; very nearby. Pastors that water down Truth so as not to "offend." Newsflash: the gospel is offensive. Our sin is offensive. Christ's death is not COMFORTABLE to think about. Why can't pastors just preach SCRIPTURE and call it a day!? At any rate - I fear this is only going to get more out of hand. The more "comfortable" you make church, the more "popular" you become. And People magazine covers...and all the other pop culture rags...celebrate pastors who make Christianity seem "fun."

Not to say we Christians don't have fun ...

...you get the point.

I don't want to be entertained at church. I want to be challenged. Convicted. Reminded why I am a great sinner and why Christ is a great savior. I don't want to hear about best selling books, the latest movie, or anything else. I just want to hear about Jesus.

I've got to stop before I say something I'll regret ;)

Chrissy said...

yep. whereas i don't wanna publicly defame the man (because i don't think that's my responsibility), i can say this: i could NOT agree more. he is right in about 1/3 of what he says. and God IS LOVE. we know this. but, if that is what you're preaching........along with this insane version of the health & wealth gospel........you are so missing the forest for the trees. he has totally missed the point. totally. and he is guiding a very large flock, to boot. sigh. anger. anger.

Glenna Marshall said...

You. said. it.

Totally agree.

Becky Barber said...

wow. i hadn't seen that article. this is so so so sad. i agree with all of this.

did you see his interview with larry king a couple years ago?? he refused to acknowledge that Christ was the ONLY way to heaven. what kind of gospel IS that???? so so sad.

Zie said...

This is all so sad... and I'm struck by one thing in particular - "twice the size of his COMPETITION"?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Do I even NEED to voice my opinion on that?! The mere concept that church size is the most important thing is devastating.

I think this kind of sums it up for me... 1 John 2:16-29

"For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.

I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.

And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything—and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you—abide in him.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him."

JJ said...

I totally agree with you. Check out these two videos of Joel dancing around the gospel, and when confronted with God's Word by a caller, he continues to dance. Essentially denying the Truth of God's Word.

Larry King asks him about Jesus being the only way to heaven:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfwYU2pmWYQ

Then a caller confronting Joel with Scripture, and Joel denying the Truth of God's Word.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPeYUXuuRUM