Osteen in context

BestLifeNow 02I’m down in Florida for the week to watch a friend of the family take the next space shuttle into orbit, which means two things. One, I get to read different papers. Two, I’ll be preparing to watch Atlantis lift off when Mitt Romney gives the speech heard ’round the world. I’m sure we’ll be looking at media coverage of one of those two events as we progress through the week.

So the local paper down here is The Orlando Sentinel, which has religion reporter Mark Pinsky on staff. He wrote the best-selling The Gospel According to The Simpsons and highly praised A Jew Among the Evangelicals, among other books, and has written religion stories for years.

Last week, the perpetually upbeat Joel Osteen visited Orlando and the Sentinel covered it from many different angles. Pinsky previewed the visit with an article contrasting Osteen with the televangelists currently under Senate scrutiny:

He has not taken a salary from his Houston megachurch for two years. He owns one house — the same one he and his wife, Victoria, have lived in for 13 years — and until recently he drove a 9-year-old car he inherited from his late father. Osteen pays his own hotel bills, and there is no private jet.

Although the upbeat minister does take collections at services, netting an estimated $43 million a year, Osteen does not ask for money on his broadcasts, which reach an estimated 7 million viewers weekly in the U.S. and 100 other countries. Nonetheless, an additional $30 million comes through the mail. His most recent book deal earned him a $13 million advance.

“We make plenty of money from our books,” said Osteen, 44. “But we just live normal lives. We try to be conservative and honor God with our life and with our example.”

Osteen refuses to condemn the targets of [Sen. Charles] Grassley’s inquiry, or Richard Roberts, who quit as president of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., amid charges that he used school funds and facilities for his family.

“While I never like to hear negative things about friends and other ministers, I choose to believe the very best in them,” Osteen said.

Osteen leads the 48,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston. Services border on the nonsectarian, with no crosses in evidence. Osteen’s theology is more inspirational than theological, with a strong emphasis on self-help, in the feel-good tradition of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. Osteen speaks from a lectern he prefers to call a “podium,” rather than a “pulpit.” His books are filled with lots of exclamation points, but the word Jesus rarely appears.

Pinsky’s story is favorable but balanced. I still remember Pinsky’s 2004 profile that fleshed out Osteen’s views in more detail. The most interesting thing about the Sentinel‘s coverage, in my view, were the myriad posts on its self-help blog run by Kris Hey. In many ways, that’s where a lot of coverage of someone like Osteen belongs. There were 15 posts in a two-day period, ranging from updates about the weather hampering attendance at Osteen’s Amway Arena show to how many people were in line at the next day’s book signing.

I also liked this relevant bit from a story about the book signing by Wes Smith and Pinsky:

Fundamentalist preachers may speak of hellfire and brimstone, but Osteen offers warm encouragement and images of God as a loving father figure.

“Joel doesn’t follow the usual preacher’s routine,” said Joyce Kellenberger, 48, of Jacksonville. “It comes from his heart.”

Some hail Osteen as “the next Billy Graham,” but Naples nurse Angela Miller, 39, said at the book-signing that Graham is “like a CEO, while Joel is like one of your co-workers.”

Marsha Berning of Seminole offered that you can take the religious references out of Joel’s message and it is still the same message.

“You don’t have to be a Christian to get his message of hope — that no matter where you are in life, you can be better and do better,” said Berning, 51.

A quote like that last one makes a lot more sense when placed in the context of Pinsky’s earlier reporting about Osteen and his lack of theological distinctives.

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  • Pastor Mike Grady/Toronto

    I think it is High Time that men of God STAND UP and speak the truth in love in response to what the Bible says about proper Christian conduct and how a Man of God should be an example to the Church and the unbeliever.First of all I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,That Jesus was born of a Virgin,That Jesus died on the cross of Calvary to provide redemption from sin,and that Jesus rose on the 3rd. day.And I also believe that Jesus Christ is THE ONLY WAY in which a man can find Salvation and eternal life and apart from faith in Jesus Christ men will be judged by God who is Holy to an eternity in Hell for their wickedness and sin.I also believe what the Lord said in
    John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Only those who are Born Again will be saved form God’s wrath and eternal torment in hell.

    Secondly the Bible clearly states that we are to consider all things by the Word of God so that we know how the Man of God should conduct himself.And the word of God says in 2 Timothy 2:15: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

    And the word of truth is what we are to use to conduct our lifes.And if one studies God word they will find In 2nd Timothy 3:16-17:
    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    17: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    Gods word is profitable for many wonderful things and here in particular 4 Things. 1-For doctrine 2-For reproof 3-For correction 4-For instruction in righteousness

    And these 4 Things are provided by God to us for a reason because without sound doctrine,without reproof,without correction and without instruction in rightousness
    Then v:17 would not be correct which says:
    17: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    So when some suggest that someone is judging by agreeing with what Senator Grassley is bringing out in the open about these Pastors lifestyles.It has been reported in the US press that some of these 6 ministries Pastors under public scrunity that they fly in Cessana Jets,drive Rolls Royces and Bentley Convertables,live in Mansions worth from 2 Million Dollars up to 10 Million Dollars,stay in Presidentalial Suites for a sum of one Thousand Dollars up to Ten Thousand Dollars a night.One of these 6 Pastors when asked on CNN IF THEY BELIEVED JESUS WOULD AGREE TO THEM HAVING A ROLLS ROYCE? HE SAID “YES Jesus would agree”

    So when we look at what is taking place with Senator Grassley,s requested inquiry on ministries such as Benny Hinn,Keneth Copeland,Crefflo Dollar Joyce Myers and others and in light of the scandal at Oral Roberts University where as even the President Richard Roberts resigned on Friday after his accountant informed the world that he was instructed to “cook the books” by Richard Roberts himself and the accountant was Fired.

    And when you take into account that these 6 ministries teach false teachings that I Quote..”We are all little gods” and that we have the power to create through our words,and the Properity Gospel.Perhaps one is being judgemental if you think that Doctrine Reproof,Correction and Instruction in Rightousness is not an appropiate measure to be guided by not only in these 6 Pastors ministries but in any Christian ministries.And let me ask have you really dug into what The Word of Faith Movement teaches?I suggest that any one reading this finds out and become aware of what these ministries teach.The choice is yours.

    It’s about time that MEN OF GOD STAND UP and speak the word of truth in love and through Gods Word find Doctrine and Reproof false teachers and bring Correction so that people are not mislead and bring Instruction in righteousness so that people wiil be aware of what is happening.

    I am an ordained Pentecostal minister in Regent Park -St. Jamestown Toronto.And I have a duty as a watchman of the church God has called me to lead.Here are some scriptures to that warn us of the very things we are talking about.

    2nd.Peter 2:1-3 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
    2: And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
    3: And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

    1 Timothy 4:1: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

    1rst Timothy 6:3-11 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
    4: He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
    5: Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
    6: But godliness with contentment is great gain.
    7: For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
    8: And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
    9: But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    10: For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
    11: But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

    1rst Peter 5:2: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
    3: Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

    If anyone would like to discuss what My views are on any of the above statements or on the bible in general,please feel free to respond to this email… Pastor Mike Grady info@mgrady.net

  • http://lowly.blogspot.com/ Undergroundpewster

    Keep firing fastballs Pastor Mike! This Pewster has never heard of Joel Osteen outside of these pages. I am amazed at the millions he is reported to take in each year. What ever happened to a pledge of poverty?

  • Stephen A.

    Some hail Osteen as “the next Billy Graham,” but Naples nurse Angela Miller, 39, said at the book-signing that Graham is “like a CEO, while Joel is like one of your co-workers.”

    No offense to Osteen, but WHAT??

    I almost hope someone who worked with Graham pulls a “Lloyd Bentsen” comment on this statement (“I know Billy Graham. Billy Graham is a friend of mine. Joel, you’re no Billy Graham.”) Even a cursory analysis of the preaching of both men will show that Graham, agree or disagree, preached from the Gospel and never watered down his message to the point of self-help chatter. And Osteen rarely mentions Jesus’ name?

    I don’t see the similarities. I really don’t.

    I do think the ‘distinctives’ of Osteen’s church are hinted at, if not spelled out, quite well here, mainly in the last paragraph of the final quote posted here. I’d like to have seen some more give-and-take, especially from those who disagree with his theology, but this was a bit of a puff piece, after all.

    Sidenote: Let’s not have any more full-length sermons here in the reply section, okay guys? Just call him a heretic and give us a bulleted list of facts explaining why it’s so.

  • Don in Texas

    Pastor Mike: I think you have hit upon one of the reasons Joel Osteen is so popular. He speaks in uncomplicated terms (like Jesus did). While your sermon was thorough it was like trying to crawl through a doctoral thesis. Like most people, I am busy and was browsing this site while having lunch at my desk. Your thesis was excruciating. If you could learn… yes, learn… to be succinct and to speak in words that are simpler to understand, more people might actually begin listening (and I mean more people than the dozen or two who read this blog). I think you could learn a thing or two from Joel Osteen. You may want to pick up his book. Oh, and another thing… Joel Osteen urges people each week to find and faithfully attend good Bible-based churches in their areas and to support their pastors. When someone heeds his call in your area and visits your church, I am sure you’ll tell them that while Joel Osteen may be the reason they are now attending church, he’s really a bad man who preaches false doctrine. And while that in itself is rather ironic, if you turn on the condemnation language right away, I am sure you’ll drive them right back out into the world again. Try speaking a simpler message of God’s love and tell people how He so loved the world that he sacrificed Himself to save it.

  • Hans

    Try speaking a simpler message of God’s love and tell people how He so loved the world that he sacrificed Himself to save it.

    Leave a Reply

    What a novel idea! Maybe Joel Osteen himself should actually try doing something like that.

  • danr

    Lakewood’s beliefs seem orthodox enough… so, not sure how a pastor who believes in a Bible “without error” preaches/writes books where Jesus “rarely appears” and religion could be subtracted without losing the meaning. Try THAT with the Bible, where Jesus is mentioned thousands of times and is the resounding Theme of the whole book…

    In fairness to Osteen, how frequent is “rarely”? And would everyone agree with the woman’s comments about religion being secondary/non-essential to his message(s)? Agreed with Stephen A., any counterquotes?

    Also gotta love that last “story”:
    “Fundamentalist preachers may speak of hellfire and brimstone, but Osteen offers warm encouragement and images of God as a loving father figure.”
    Oh those cold, discouraging Fundamentalists… never preaching encouraging, salvation-offering, God-as-loving-Father messages… I’m not necessarily an apologist for “fundamentalism”, however one defines, but Jesus did mention hell more than heaven.

    Quote from Osteen from Pinsky’s 2004 profile:
    “I have never felt it was necessary to explain the Bible.”
    Wow. Perhaps consider stepping down from the “podium” and allowing someone who will at least try?

  • Pastor Mike Grady/Toronto

    In reply to Don in Texas:
    Don Regarding my comment which is comment number 1 above and you’re comment which is comment number 4 above,I’d like to respond to a couple of things you said and
    I Quote “Pastor Mike: I think you have hit upon one of the reasons Joel Osteen is so popular. He speaks in uncomplicated terms (like Jesus did). While your sermon was thorough it was like trying to crawl through a doctoral thesis. Like most people, I am busy and was browsing this site while having lunch at my desk. Your thesis was excruciating. If you could learn. . . yes, learn. . . to be succinct and to speak in words that are simpler to understand, more people might actually begin listening (and I mean more people than the dozen or two who read this blog). I think you could learn a thing or two from Joel Osteen. You may want to pick up his book.

    When you say If you could learn to speak in words that are simpler to understand Don, the majotiy of what I said is directly from the Holy Bible and if you can not understand God’s Word perhaps you should try reading the Bible more instead of Word of Faith preachers like Joel Olsteen and maybe you could look into what these Word of Faith preachers such as Joel Olsteen,Benny Hinn,Kenneth Copeland,Crefflo Dollar Joyce Myers, Richard and Oral Roberts and more…
    They teach I Quote “We are all little gods” and that we have the power to create through our words,and the Properity Gospel. Don let me ask you 2 question:
    #1 Don are you a little god?
    #2 Don do you have the power to create?Are you a Creator? If you honestly answer no to any of these question than Don I sincerely suggest that you check out the teachings of the above Word of Faith teachers because that is exactly what they teach Don and that is NOT WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES.THAT IS NOT WHAT JESUS TAUGHT EITHER.

    And Don you also suggested and I Quote:Try speaking a simpler message of God’s love and tell people how He so loved the world that he sacrificed Himself to save it.

    Don when you speak of “God’s love” there is more to that statement then perhaps what you are hearing from Joel Olsteen and the Word of Faith crowd.They teach “God’s Unconditional Love” Could The Phrase “Gods Unconditional Love” be Satan’s latest repackaging of an ancient lie to deceive many who are in rebellion?
    And Don “Yes”
    God’s love is truly amazing… God’s love is unilateral: He loves the unlovable. God’s love is completely undeserved. God’s love is unfailing for those in whom He delights: who respond to Him and receive His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

    But, God’s love is clearly not “unconditional”; for wrath and eternal damnation will come to those who live in Sin and reject Jesus Christ and and His Gospel.
    For the Bible clearly states that God will send all Sinners to eternal Hell and that God who is Holy through Christ will Judge Sinners.
    Let us be sure to be found in the position of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by
    1-Admitting to God that we are Sinners and ask Him to have mercy upon us–We are to confess our sin to God
    #-2 We are to turn from our sin and turn to God–in other words we are to Repent.So if a person confesses their Sin but does not turn away from that sin and turn to God then thier is no True Repentance
    3-Beleive that Jesus is Lord and that He died on the cross for the redemption of sin and that He rose on the 3rd. day and asking Jesus Christ to come into your heart to be your Lord and Savior.Here is a wonderful scripture from the book of Romans 10:9-10 that states:
    9: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
    10: For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

    Without faith in Jesus Christ ,Without asking God to forgive you of all your sins,Without true repentance by turning from sin and turning to God,Without beleiving that Jesus died on the cross for the redemption of sin and rose from the dead on the 3rd. day
    Without being Born Again by receivnig Jesus as your Lord and Savior then Gods word is very clear when it says.
    John 3:36 (NIV) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
    So when death does come be certain of this that without faith in Jesus
    Hebrews 10:31 states
    31: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    So the choice is yours.I hope you choose Jesus.
    But, God’s love is clearly not “unconditional”; for wrath and eternal damnation will come to those who reject Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
    Let us be sure to be found in the position of receiving God’s love, and not His judgment.

    If anyone reading this has never received Jesus as Lord perhaps now is the time you should.Consider what has been said and respond to God’s free gift of salvation today by following the steps above.The bible in Romans 10:9-10 above confirm this to be true.

    Could The Phrase “Gods Unconditional Love” be Satan’s latest repackaging of an ancient lie to deceive many who are in rebellion?

    Here are a few verses to wet your appetite for considering this false pop phraseology of “Gods unconditional Love”.

    Eph 5:6 (NIV) Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

    Jer. 5:12-13 (NIV) “They have lied about the Lord; they said, ‘He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.’ The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them…”

    John 3:36 (NIV) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

    Rom 2:5,8 (NIV) But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed… For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.


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