January 21, 2021

Dear CBD: Why the endorsement of Joel Osteen?

joel_blink.gifUPDATE III: While we wait for CBD to apologize, we can all play Oprah or Osteen.

UPDATE II: Can anyone in a Lifeway Store or working for Lifeway confirm that Lifeway is selling this book? Please tell me it isn’t true. If TIME Magazine can tell us this fraud is a prosperity preaching wolf in sheep’s clothing, what does CBD know that TIME doesn’t? UPDATE: Ed Stetzer is in the comments with a response. Short version: They will order it, but they want to recommend customers avoid it. That’s about a C+, but I’m glad it’s not what I was afraid I’d hear. Thanks Dr. Stetzer.

UPDATE: My infamous Joel Osteen post. With lots and lots of links. Read the Harry Smith Interview. Also, read Ben Witherington on Osteen. Here’s Osteen from the Harry Smith interview:

Smith compared Osteen’s preaching to Norman Vincent Peale’s, and Osteen agreed.

“It’s amazing,” Osteen said. “I was preaching two or three years when someone gave me one of his books. I was going to say, ‘He thinks like me.’ I think like him. It seems like it’s the same base there. God is on our side and if you think right, I believe, like Norman Vincent Peale did, that your life follows your thoughts. You get up negative, oppressive, you’re (sic) day will go that way.”

Did someone once say “I find Peale appalling and Paul appealing?” Not Osteen.

Dear CBD,

I just received your September-October 2007 catalog, and on the front cover, top of the first column, is the new book by Joel Osteen, Become a Better You. Forty percent off. You obviously want a lot of people to buy it.

On your web site, you feature Mr. Osteen’s new book with a video, an endorsement from Osteen himself and the following endorsement from you.

How often have you said to yourself “I can do better” and yet, for some reason you never seem to achieve the “better”. Instead you settle for what you have and refuse to let go of the disappointments and failures that seem to plague you. Well Joel Osteen is here to help. In his much anticipated book Become a Better You he reminds us that God does not want us to settle. His plan is to have us continually rise to new levels even if we are thriving and enjoying life. Using 7 simple keys, devotions and personal testimonies, Joel will show you how to discover your unique purpose and destiny so you can leave a lasting impression on generations to come.

I wonder if you have noticed that Mr. Osteen is not a teacher of the Gospel of Jesus, but a motivational speaker and the primary promoter of the American prosperity Gospel that is poisoning millions of minds all over the world?

Why is Mr. Osteen pre-featured on your front page? Why is his book highlighted? Is it because Mr. Osteen’s power to create sales is the “golden goose” in publishing and you are going to ride his sales as far as possible? I can’t believe it’s because, as a business serving Christians, you actually believe that what’s best for us is the teaching of Mr. Osteen, who has said that the cross of Jesus and the historic orthodox Christian message are of no interest to him. I can’t believe it’s because Mr. Osteen represents a message that should be heard in every pulpit in America. I can’t believe it’s because Mr. Osteen’s prosperity Gospel is what we should be giving to our children and to new believers.

No, it must be because it’s going to make you a lot of money.

If CBD now believes that motivational speakers are communicating the Gospel, please say so, because millions of people trust your business and endorsement. If you believe Mr. Osteen is good for evangelicalism, despite his devotion to materialism, prosperity and self-improvement, perhaps you should explain who the “evangelicals” are that you are seeking to serve? I would assume that a whole warehouse of motivational, positive thinking, New Age books would now find a way to fit into CBD’s definition of “helpful.”

In your endorsement, you are quite specific about this book and how it will help us. How do we know God wants us to “rise to new levels?” I thought the Gospel was about stepping down to serve, not stepping up to prosperity and wealth? Was I wrong? Where does Jesus talk about 7 Simple Keys to understanding my destiny? Do you really mean to say that disappointments and failures occur because we “hold on to them?” Could you explain this to the parents sitting in the children’s ICU?

I guess I’m more disappointed with your endorsement of the book than I am your decision to sell the book. I like to think that organizations like yours don’t fall under the mantle of “sell anything for the profits, even if it’s spiritual poison,” but it seems you will not only sell anything, you’ll cook up an endorsement and say whatever it takes to lure in the hurting, the poor and the disadvantaged to the book. False hope is a small price to pay for big sales.

I’m not an agent of God’s judgement, but I’m fairly certain that when God judges the works and deeds of all persons in the light of Jesus, the words you’ve placed in the service of Joel Osteen, and the credibility you’re giving to him and his motivational, non-Gospel message of prosperity, will come back to you. I’m also modestly sure you know that, and it doesn’t matter much, because you’re going to sell some books in the meantime. It’s your best life NOW, so to speak. Hang the “later.”

Joel Osteen on the front page of your catalog says volumes about your business and what you love. If you believe Jesus has a neutral view of a message that hides the cross behind promises of real estate and American-style prosperity, you should revise your version of Jesus.

What an embarrassment to your business and to all of us who have purchased from you.


Michael Spencer

P.S. I count 6 grammatical errors in the endorsement. Become A Better Proofreader might be a book to look for.


  1. Although I’m not a fan of fluff and I have never even seen Osteen on TV or read his books, my question is do authors like this have a “pre-Christian” role? My Jewish neighbour loves him and it has been the stimulus for much deep conversation about faith and Jesus.

  2. I agree Michael. Many non-Christian co-workers and neighbors of mine have seen Osteen on television and have begun asking questions. The last thing I’m gonna do is belittle him and his message.

  3. Tirzah Luczynski says

    This thread is an interesting read. Yes, compromise is everywhere. It is amazing how we justify ourselves based on opinions.

    Also, Mort, you didn’t mention if the “little old Jewish lady” at Zondervan who “runs things” is a believer in Jesus. Just curious if you understand that there are some of us “Jews” out there that are? You know, like Paul, Peter, Matthew, John..etc.

    Oy vey.

    Tirzah L.

  4. Sherrill Noel says

    Hi There…are you the same Michael Spencer that has a mother in Ringe, NH and goes to Monadnock Full Gospel? If you are, my husband and I did praise and worship for you a couple of times when you came and held meetings at a fellowship hall at a resturant. The last I heard you were pastoring in New York, are you still there?
    If this is not you then….good article. 🙂

  5. Hi webmaster!

  6. For Rebecca re: “the last thing I’m gonna do is belittle him (Joel Osteen) and his message (in reference to the Jews??), Michael Krause re: “My Jewish neighbor loves him”, and Tirzah Luczynski “Jewish believers”. Don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but what about ministries such as *’CrossTalk International’ with Rabbi Randy Weiss*, *’Discovering The Jewish Jesus’ with Rabbi Kirt Schneider*, and ‘Jewish Voice Ministries Internal with Rabbi Jonathan Bernis’? Rather then ‘pointing anyone to Osteen’ who is in serious error when it comes to the scriptures, why not point your Jewish friends, neighbors, etc. towards “real ministries” who have the Word of God and Jesus in their mouths, and who have a “true, heart and mind for spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom”?
    Why is it when someone ‘tells the truth about Joel’ (and a few other ministers and ministries as well) via the example of the Bible, it’s seen as “putting him down or slamming him”? When does Bible truth take presidence over a lie that can destroy many lives and put them on the road to hell?
    I’ve also heard from many ‘Christians’ that “Joel means well, is helping to lift people’s spirits (thought that was the job of the Holy Spirit in some part?), and who wants to ‘always’ hear about sin? Seems like the “itching ears” and ‘non-gospel’ of prosperity has gotten a running start, and sadly some don’t seem to have a problem with it. When so-called ‘Christians’ go to places like Africa and other areas that need food, water, clothing, etc. to teach this prosperity crap, it shows me just which way our world is headed and that we’d better wake up before and stop playing thses foolish games, before Christ returns to this earth.

    I deeply apologize for this extremely long letter my brothers and sisters, and lastly ‘who’ exactly are these bookstores, publishers, etc. looking to for the ‘help’ they need in selling their items, other than those who buy the books? Why not ‘consult’ God and Jesus “ultimately” for ‘theirs’ help, by not having to sell books or anything else that work against the kingdom of God?

    P.S. As for Joyce Meyer, I’m earnestly praying for her (Osteen and the rest), as at the very least, she does know the Word, talk about Jesus, and mentions sin and hell while Osteen seems to refuse to do so. Which shows there is some ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ if they wish to receive it.

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