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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Joel Osteen's new church building

I wasn't sure if I wanted to address this topic right out of the gate, but it's getting some press and other bloggers are talking about it, so I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts...

The Internet Monk (Michael Spencer), one of the blogs I read, had
this article the other day in which he compared Charles Spurgeon's "inaugural sermon" in a new building to Joel Osteen's first service at Lakewood Church's new stadium home. (If you're not familiar with Joel Osteen or Lakewood Church, you might want to read this NY Times article for as long as it's accessible on the web.)

Here is a guy (Osteen) who calls himself a "pastor", who runs a "church", and "preaches" to millions world-wide. But if you've ever watched Joel Osteen's TV show (I've never visited his church in person, but I have watched many times on TV), you would eventually have to agree that his messages are no different from most motivational speeches you might hear at a business seminar. Last summer, I attended a one-day motivational seminar that included speakers such as Zig Ziglar. Mr. Ziglar is actually quite open about his faith in Christ, and I almost felt like I heard more Gospel coming from that speech than from Joel Osteen's "sermons" on TV! And yet, Joel Osteen is touted as the "pastor of the nation's largest church", etc.

Already, I can see this blog entry is going to be too long, and I'll probably have to take it in chunks if I want to say everything that's on my mind. But for now, let me touch on two points:

1. If we are going to go to all the trouble of organizing a "church" and having a church building, etc., then the least we can do is present the Gospel clearly in our messages, and take the time to disciple believers into true maturity in their faith. This does not mean merely telling them how to "be successful" in their life. It means teaching them through word (and THE Word) and actions exactly what it means to have Christ living in to walk in the Spirit...that kind of "stuff"! :)

2. Some of the responses to Michael's post defend Osteen's "ministry" by pointing out that many have "come to Christ" through Lakewood Church. I'm not going to try to deny that point, because the reality is, I just don't know the facts. But, my burning question is, what is the definition of the phrase "come to Christ" in Osteen's terms? And another burning question: Do the ends really justify the means? Do conversions (even if they are honest-to-goodness salvation conversions) mean that a preacher can't be criticized for what they are doing?

I used to wonder about Paul's statement that, even if Christ was being preached out of selfish ambition, "at least Christ is being preached." I thought for the longest time that meant that I shouldn't criticize any selfish, wrongly-motivated ministry because "at least Christ is being preached." A dear friend of mine recently made a very good point, though. Paul was glad when Christ was actually being preached. Are ministries such as Osteen's preaching Christ? From my perspective, I would have to say no.

Making people "feel good about themselves" is not preaching Christ. Christ actually being preached will ultimately help people find out who they truly are in Christ, and that will naturally (in my opinion) result in a sense of what we may define as "feeling good about themselves" (because they will see themselves through God's eyes, and there's a lot to "feel good" about in that!), but if the goal is to make them feel good about themselves apart from the truth about Christ, then we have put the cart before the horse.

Until next time,
steve :)

5 comment(s):

amen. thanks for the great thoughts!

By Anonymous bill, at Thursday, July 21, 2005 3:33:00 PM  

I see value in Joel Osteen's preaching, albeit his sermons begin to sound similar to each other. What he provides to the believer is a picture of a joyful ministering life free of criticism and judgement. To the unsaved, I cannot imagine what it seems, but they, too, need to hear that life with Christ can be full of joy in spite of daily problems and hassles of life.

So, although Joel Osteen doesn't prepare "meat," he prepares a practical appetizer that should woo others to check into such possibilities for their lives!

By Anonymous Jane, at Friday, July 22, 2005 1:42:00 PM  

I've thought a lot about what you wrote, jane. Here's where it breaks down for me, though: If Joel Osteen is serving appetizers (with which I don't necessarily argue), then he should make sure to let people know that once they have tasted of his hors d'oeuvres, they should seek deeper teaching by a chef who will prepare a steak! As it is, Joel is wanting to keep everyone there and reach that oh-so-impressive number of 100,000. He's not interested in just being one small part in the buffet line. At least that's the impression I get from his comments.

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, July 27, 2005 8:18:00 AM  

Brother Steve i totally understand your concern. I have watched our brother Joel's feel good preaching also. But is now that I can say I do understand why it is such a thorn. My question to all who read this is Why should you feel good about YOURSELF? By the grace of God He has shown me I have no reason to feel good about myself. I am totally corrupt, bless the Lord!! I am corrupt. But the thing is I no longer live by MY life any more. I live by the LIFE OF CHRIST. Bless the Lord we live by the Life of Christ. I think the problem with the feel good sermons is that it makes provision for the flesh. Still gives the flesh some hope. But there is no hope in the flesh it had to be crucified.

By Anonymous ruck1b, at Friday, January 27, 2006 11:58:00 PM  

Have to say I have read a few of your blogs here and at H2H Forum and on this one have to agree.

Big does not mean better. Some( many) may COME to Jesus, but how many stay, are taught, are disciplined , discipled etc etc.

Why don't these guys tell us how many stay instead of how many come?
Probably because the leaving number I guess may be more then the coming number! The Sermonator

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, July 20, 2006 5:03:00 PM  

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