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Joel Osteen, Pop Christianity and the Teachings of Jesus


In recent years we have witnessed a rash of neo-evangelical preachers visiting us here in Northern Ireland. We have had Reinhard Bonnke & Benny Hinn. We have had the very personification of American pop Christianity celebrity preachers when some time ago we had a visit from Joel Osteen at the Odyssey Centre in Belfast. (Mind you he was scrabbling around for people to attend on the Monday of the event – phoning ministers and offering free tickets! Normally you have to pay to hear Joel!) Now Joel is the pastor of Lakewood Church – the largest congregation in the USA. Every Sunday, 24,000 people come to listen to Joel. Now, what’s the difference between the sermons of Joel and the sermons of Jesus?

Joel never mentions hell! After all, that would make the people uncomfortable, and Joel doesn’t do discomfort in church. Everybody who comes to hear him will be affirmed as a person, and given good advice about how to enjoy a better way of life right NOW in this life! In an interview with Larry King, Joel was asked, But you’re not fire and brimstone, right…not…hell and damnation? OSTEEN: No. That’s not me. It’s never been me. I’ve always been an encourager at heart. And when I took over from my father he came from the Southern Baptist background and back 40, 50 years ago there was a lot more of that. But, you know, I just — I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe — maybe it was for a time. But I don’t have it in my heart to condemn people. I’m there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us. Jesus was the opposite. It was the loving Saviour who said, “The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Joel never mentions sin! Joel’s sermons build up your self-esteem and make you feel good. One writer said that ‘Osteen’s message is described as “. . . simple self-help message that congregants say is both uplifting and accessible. . .” Osteen proudly wears the title of “the smiling preacher.” His theology has been described as “cotton candy” theology – tastes good – but no substance.’ Jesus spoke continually about his mission being to call sinners to repentance!

Joel never mentions Jesus! He looks nice, and his wife looks nice, and he tells a lot of stories about his daddy, But he never tells people that Jesus is the only way to heaven! In that interview with Larry King, the interviewer asked him if he believed that a good, sincere atheist would go to heaven. Joel couldn’t answer the question – he couldn’t give a straight answer! Listen to what Jesus said, in a very famous quotation, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh to the Father, but by me!”

Joel believes in false church growth! Now there is a modern church movement in pop Christianity called the ‘Church Growth Movement.’ Joel is the icon of that movement. Osteen claims the nation’s largest congregation with over 30,000 members. Lakewood recently purchased the colossal Compaq Center, formerly home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. After a whopping $95 million in renovations, the Compaq Center now houses Osteen’s empire called Lakewood Church. Osteen continually sells out huge arenas (at $10 a ticket) across the country.

Now compare that with Jesus. In Luke 14 we are told that a great multitude of people was following Jesus. What did he do? Did he build a great arena for them? Did he build up the self esteem and give them life-coaching lessons? No, the very opposite is the case. He told them that the Christian path was no easy path, and that anyone who follows Him would suffer persecution, and would have to take up their cross and follow Him! The Bible tells us that from that time many went back, and followed him to more. One preacher called this Jesus’s “Church Shrinkage Seminar” Jesus wouldn’t have been very welcome at a Church Growth meeting Lakewood, – or perhaps even at Willow Creek!

It’s easy to see that there is a great difference between the preaching of Jesus and the peaching of the modern pop-Christians, like Joel Osteen.

What do you think?

From → Editorial

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