Just when you thought it could not get any worse – it did! Joel Osteen had a pitiful interview on Larry King Live in 2005, and now he and his wife Victoria appeared on Larry King Live for another sad spectacle of watered down religiosity. Mr. Osteen continued to promote his new book while blundering the mission of the church. It is an admirable thing he has done to try to take over his father’s church after his death, but is Joel Osteen actually called to be a gospel preacher? I appreciate his desire to “help” people. That is what all Christians should be doing in their communities, but is Joel Osteen helping people or hurting people spiritually? I can appreciate his desire to be positive and uplifting, but in doing so has Joel Osteen lost the gospel? Is it possible for Joel Osteen to tell people the gospel without the message of sin? These are very big issues that need to be considered in regard to Joel Osteen and his ministry at Lakewood Church in Houston Texas.Joel Osteen and the Word “Church”Joel Osteen has admitted several times that he has no formal training for the ministry. While formal education is not required in order to be called into the ministry, a basic understanding of what the church is would be very helpful before one steps into the pulpit as the pastor of a local congregation. The Word translated “church” in our Greek New Testament is ekklesia. This word means, “A called-out assembly.” The church as it is pictured in the New Testament and specifically in Acts 2 is a group of people who have been saved by Grace, baptized, and gather together to worship God through His Word and through the Lord’s Supper. As we examine the text in Acts 2, it does not take long to see that the people loved and cared for one another – even to the point of selling goods to make sure those in need were taken care of.The problem with Joel Osteen and his understanding of the church is that he does not put any boundaries up in regard to those who are “members” of his congregation. In the interview with Larry King on October 16th 2007, Joel Osteen made a very troubling statement.
KING: Do you have any particular position on — I’m sure there’s gay members of your church.J. OSTEEN: Oh, I’m sure there are. Our church is open to anybody.I mean, we are there to help them and give them encouragement and hope. I think the last thing we’re supposed to do is put up walls and say, if you’re not perfect, you can’t come to my church.While Osteen’s desire to help people is admirable, if he allows homosexuals to be “members” of his church he is hurting the church! At some point, the pastor of a church has to put up walls and boundaries and actually define what a church is! Without boundaries – the church will become another hang-out for the world. The church is defined in Scripture as a body of believers (called-out assembly). Therefore, we must be strict in this area and construct boundaries that keep the church pure for the glory of God. For Joel Osteen to allow homosexuals to attend his church for the purpose of hearing the gospel is a good thing, but the interview suggests that he has no boundaries at all. Osteen’s reply was, “Our church is open to anybody.” Yes, Billy Graham and other evangelists have always sought out all types of people in order to preach to large gatherings for the purpose of salvation, but Osteen admitted that there was a difference between what Billy Graham was doing and what he is doing. He is the pastor of a church while Graham is an evangelist.Joel Osteen and the Word “Gospel”Joel Osteen is a man who seems to be full of smiles and positive energy. This is attractive to a world who seems to be negative by default. While there is nothing wrong with Osteen’s desire to help people be positive and have a “good day” – there is a real problem when he equates overcoming negativity with being delivered from sin. Could it be that Joel Osteen and his wife have sought to equate a positive message of “hope” with what the gospel is? Yes, at the root – the gospel is hope and good news, but is it the same message that is being proclaimed at Lakewood Church in Houston Texas?
KING: What about the critics who say where is the fire and brimstone?Why don’t you pound the lectern — the devil is coming?J. OSTEEN: Yes, you know, I don’t know, Larry. It’s just, you know, it’s different ways to present it. The gospel is translated good news. And to me, good news is letting people know that God loves them, that Jesus came, that we can overcome any obstacle, that we can — we can be forgiven for our mistakes. And I don’t see how beating people down every, you know, every time they get in front of me how that helps them to grow closer to God.And so, you know, there’s a scripture that says it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. And even though we don’t beat people down, we see thousands of people come to know the Lord.Osteen seems to miss the point of the gospel just as he missed the issue of the church. Osteen has defined the gospel as good news which is the message, “that God loves them, that Jesus came, that we can overcome any obstacle, that we can — we can be forgiven for our mistakes.” Is the gospel really something that allows us to overcome our obstacles and mistakes in life? If so, why was the death of Christ so brutal and bloody? If God just wanted us to overcome our obstacles and mistakes – why did the death of Christ have to be such a horrible event? It seems that the Holy Scriptures picture Christ delivering us out of the chains of darkness and the bondage of sin. Why does Osteen skip over this important fact? Could it be that Osteen does not believe that people are in bondage to sin?
KING: And, OK, would Britney Spears be helped by this book? What do you make of that whole — that culture thing?J. OSTEEN: Well, I think it’s easy to get delusioned maybe is the word just with all of that fame and notoriety at such an early age. And sure, I think Britney Spears can be helped by that — by this book.I think anybody could because it’s the principles of the bible. And I think that she’s — these are good people at heart. And they just need some good guidance and good people speaking into their lives.They have got so much pressure and so much, you know, confusion in their lives. But, you know, anybody — anybody can come up higher, and I believe she can come out of this and still live a great life.KING: Yes. That’s what many think, that this whole group, these youngsters, are basically good.V. OSTEEN: Oh, yes.J. OSTEEN: Oh, yes.KING: They’ve just had too much, too soon.J. OSTEEN: Well, I think so. I know Britney’s been to church before. I’ve heard reports. And I believe down deep they love the lord. It’s just, you know, things pull you away, and it’s easy to make bad decisions in life.Notice how Osteen speaks of Britney Spears “loving” God. Does Spears really love God? The Bible never pictures people living the type of lifestyle that Spears lives as those who love God! Osteen seems to minimize the depravity of sin while watering down the gospel as a self help formula to a better life and a better you!Joel Osteen and the “Will of God”Many of Osteen’s critics have accused him of being a “closet” prosperity gospel preacher. In the interview Osteen pulled back the curtain and seemed to identify himself with that genre of preachers.
KING: Do you think there’s too much emphasis on me in the church, you know, what some call the prosperity gospel?And you’re — you’re going to make money. You’re going to be well. You’re going to do good.J. OSTEEN: Well, I think there needs to be a balance. I think there has been and there can be. But I think the whole prosperity thing is, you know, if somebody asks do I believe God wants you to be well and happy and whole and have good relationships and have beautiful children, my answer would be yes. Because I’m a father and I want the best for my children. I don’t want to spoil them. And I’m not talking about, you know, all this money. But I want them to have a good life.Well, God is our heavenly father. And I do think some people take it — you know, some people can blow anything out of proportion. It’s not all about money. I mean we all know people who have all the money in the world but can’t sleep at night. So it’s about — I do believe God wants you to be blessed and he wants you to increase. He wants you to be successful in your career. God never wanted us to drag through life.What would Joel Osteen say about John Bunyan or those who suffered and died for the sake of the gospel? Where is their increase? Where is their “blessed” life? Like the prosperity preachers, Osteen has finally become more clear with his position – He believes that God has a purpose to bless all people with increase, and if we do not increase, it is our own fault! At some point we must ask serious questions about Stephen, Paul, and all of the disciples who have died brutal deaths for the sake of the gospel. Was that the will of God or was it simply their own failed life and purpose?Conclusion:Where has preaching and preachers gone in our day? Joel Osteen would make a great positive life counselor or motivational speaker if he would simply depart from the “church” and leave the Bible alone as he seeks to point people to a more positive life! The world does not need another person telling them they are alright in their sin. The world needs a true prophet to stand and preach the Word of God and tell people the truth about their sin! Nobody wants a doctor who refuses to tell them the truth about their sickness and nobody really wants a preacher who refuses to tell them the truth about their sinfulness. What the world needs is a true gospel preacher rather than a positive life coach!Rev. Josh Buice