Hurtful Not Helpful Part 5: Joel Osteen
When I tell people about my time living in the South, the assumption is that everyone is Christian. There are a billion churches in the Bible Belt so the assumption has some merit, but the truth is that it is just as secular as most parts of the United States. The only difference is that everyone in the South thinks they know God.
They have just enough Jesus to send them to Hell.
They go to church every Sunday and their family has always gone to church. They've prayed a prayer, raised a hand, and they know some worship songs. They do all these activities but they neglect the only thing that matters: an actual relationship with Jesus Christ.
And that's the issue with Joel Osteen. He is giving people just enough Jesus to convince them they are good with God but there is no actual relationship with Him.
If you are living under a rock, Joel Osteen is mega church pastor in Houston, Texas. Lakewood Church is one of the largest congregations in the world and averages somewhere in the 50,000+ range each weekend. He also broadcasts his messages all over the world and is well-known as the author of "Your Best Life Now" which topped the charts upon its publishing.
However, Joel Osteen isn't a preacher. He isn't even really a teacher. I would say that, at best, he's a spiritual motivational speaker because his messages are all about you. What you think. What you do. Your actions. It's all about you and rarely about Jesus.
For example, in THIS MESSAGE from Joel, it's about self-talk. He makes a lot of great points that I agree with. Things about dwelling on the past and repeating your mistakes. How you talk to yourself will shape how you view yourself. That's 100% correct. If I think I suck at public speaking, then I will focus on my mistakes when I speak publicly, which will reinforce the idea that I'm bad at public speaking. This goes on and on in a vicious spiral. It's a rinse, lather, re-think cycle if you will.
That's helpful because it's true, but it goes from helpful to hurtful by neglecting the Bible. at the beginning of his messages, he has the congregation repeat a phrase, "I am who [the Bible] says I am, yet in that sermon he references some biblical stories, but never actually cites a verse. He says that "your faith is made effective by acknowledging the good" which sounds like Philemon 1:6 taken out of context because "the good" Paul is referring to is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, not our own actions. He doesn't actually lead people to a deeper understanding of Jesus, only a more spiritual understanding of themselves.
The hurtful part is that people assume because he has the title of "Pastor" and works at a church, that he is a trusted authority on the divine. They listen to a message or quote him on instagram, but never actually delve into their Bibles to find out what Jesus was here for.
I've had conversations with Christians about their non-Christian friends who listen to Joel Osteen that eventually came down to "well at least their trying to think spiritually" or "Joel at least mentions Jesus" as if that's some kind of consolation prize. That by some miracle these people will come to have a real and loving relationship with Jesus because of his teaching alone. Preaching is not something that can be afforded to have an "at least" part.
At least the doctor washed his hands.
At least the pilot didn't drink.
At least the lawyer wore a tie to court.
At least the pastor mentioned Jesus.
These are things that have no room for unacceptable adequacy.
Joel Osteen is not helpful. He is hurtful because a little Jesus is not enough Jesus.