June 5, 2020

The Method In The Madness: The Mystery of Joel Osteen

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This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name.”– Congregational Confession led by Joel Osteen at the beginning of each sermon.

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Acts 20:29-30 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.


Every week, Joel Osteen leads thousands of his flock and millions of his viewers in the confession that they are whatever the Bible says they are, and I assume that goes for him as well.

Now we get to figure out just what he is.

There’s Joel the smiling preacher, pastor of America’s largest church. The boy who didn’t want to preach, but wound up in his daddy’s shoes, doing greater things than daddy ever did. The humble, compassionate, ever-positive preacher with the great sense of humor. The best selling author with practical wisdom for everyone, Christian or not.

Or there’s evil Joel, the epitome of all that’s wrong with the Word-faith movement. A multi-million dollar shyster selling the snake oil of name-it, claim-it and the lie of positive confession. The Joel you meet on dozens of web-sites where Hannegraf wannabes catalog the loony promises of Kenneth Hagin and his brood.

Or there’s church growth genius Joel, the man who has found the secret to turning congregations into arenas full of paying ticket holders and basketball venues into churches: eliminate the traditional Gospel and talk about success principles. Combine Tony Robbins with a hot worship band and the thinnest veneer of Pentecostal revivalism and America will beat a path to your door. Tell people God is waiting to give them their best life now and they will believe- and buy- it. Leave out sin, the cross and “all that stuff” that smells of serious religion and even Buddhists will love you.

Or how about Joel the clueless? The preacher without an education who couldn”t teach an actual Bible class or handle a theological topic if his life depended on it? The guy who looks good, but is just plain lucky. The man whose interviews sound like the college freshman youth director has just become the senior pastor, and has stocked his brain with enough cliches to last through an hour’s talk.

Maybe he is Joel the apostate? The man who avoids any mention of Jesus with such dedication that you can’t help but wonder what’s going on? The man who sees the Christian faith as a nice introduction to positive thinking, but too much of it is obviously a bad thing? The man who is more Oprah than Oprah, and mentions Christ less than Marrianne Williamson? While new agers and Eastern cults want Jesus “in,” Osteen has thrown Jesus to credits in the last thirty seconds, and won’t speak his name otherwise.

What other hats will we see Joel wear? He’s been endorsed by Max Lucado and John Maxwell, so Christian publishers and authors can be expected to hail him as the next big thing. He’s a hit in the positive thinking community, where his revved up version of Norman Vincent Peale is a best seller. When Lakewood takes over the former Compaq center and turns it into a massive community center, Osteen might as well run for mayor of Houston. I see crossovers into the world of business and finance prefigured in much of the church’s plan.

I doubt that Osteen is any one of these persons, but I have no doubt that he is, and will be, on some level, ALL of them.

I believe Osteen is entirely aware of what he is doing. From deemphasizing the Gospel to buying an arena, he’s a man with a marketing method that makes sense in America today. Yet, I still imagine the sudden success of his Lakewood has happened in a way that surprised him, and as he rides the wave he will never totally lose the nervous look of the guy who doesn’t know how to fly the plane.

I don’t doubt that he is a very sincere person. He doesn’t seem complicated, but I believe he is ambitous, and the opportunity to make more and more money won’t be overlooked. Expect more books- without the ghost writer’s name on the cover. Expect increasing levels of approval from anyone who likes numbers, and increasing amounts of condemnation from those who love the Gospel and care about orthodox Christian belief.

Is Osteen a sheep? A shepherd? Or a spiritual wolf in sheep’s clothing? The Bible speaks of all three. Which is he? Maybe in a way unlike anyone we’ve seen lately, he’s all of the above.

I don’t think he really knows, and it won’t be easy for us to ever agree that we know. Still, the fact remains, Osteen has left the Gospel of Jesus behind and is moving away from it faster with every sermon. Those who haven’t accepted that fact can defend him all they want, but he won’t be joining the case. He’s moved on.

Osteen couldn’t give a Gospel presentation in an interview when asked directly, because he didn’t want to. He will do all he can to never say the words of the Apostle’s Creed or even a modest Southern Baptist evangelistic presentation. Somehow, after two years of echoing his dad’s word-faith preaching, something new started coming from Joel Osteen. His brother calls it the “unchurch.” I agree, and it is based on the “unGospel” and the “unChrist.” He’s going with it as far as he can go, and I expect that will be far beyond anyone’s expectation. Joel is, if nothing else, an over-achiever.

In the last few days, I’ve read that Osteen’s teaching is good for Christians, unbelievers, those with strong Biblical foundations, those who don’t know the Bible, new believers, mature believers and, of course, anyone who has been beaten down and confused by what Osteen’s brother calls “goofy” traditional preaching. I think Osteen would agree with all those assessments. Just don’t ask him what it all means. He would just smile.

Whatever it means, it works, and this is the most pragmatic of cultures. Osteen’s unGospel is born in a mind that understands advertising, image making and identification with a brand. Content doesn’t matter much, and it will probably matter less the longer Osteen ascends. Osteen has hit the pulse of our burned out, preached out, ears itching, success starved, emotionally thinking, celebrity worshiping, marginally Christian culture. He’s found a winner and he’s going to ride it. He may be a sheep, a shepherd, a wolf or a clueless clown. He may have on so many suits, he doesn’t really know which one he’s wearing or what he believes. What he does know, is how it is all going to look and sound to the audience.

One thing I can assure you: while a sovereign God may use him, you will never get to know Jesus listening to him. Never. And if Jesus is important, then Osteen shouldn’t be. His confusion may be a version of our own confusion, but his rejection of the Gospel and the Jesus of the New Testament doesn’t need to become ours.

Comments

  1. Great article! If people are not called on the carpet, their deception is not revealed.
    Christ never said that all of the world is going to love his principles, he said the opposite. I have had about enough of today’s preachers taking bits and pieces out of the bible and forming whole worldviews around it without taking in the whole of scripture. There are many that do this (TBN, Falwell, etc.) but the same thing is happening all over, the message of sin, judgment, redemption by Christ alone, and salvation by faith are being left behind.
    Without those four things, Christianity does not exist. The brand of thinking taught by Olsteen is decidedly not Christian. It only gets called this because he takes scripture out of context and applies it to his already preconceived ideas about prosperity.

    Everyone loves the God that wants to bless them but does not make any demands on them: The all-powerful puppet. This is not the biblical God, but the god of our own minds who submits to our will not the other way around.

    Sad, Sad, Sad…

  2. One time while with my 14 year old daughter in a Barnes & Noble bookstore, never wanting to pass up on an opportunity to teach when I am reminded to do so, I grabbed Joel’s book off the shelf of new releases and had her read the inside flap (or it may have been the back cover). I then asked her what she thought may be wrong for a book that is supposed to be written by a Christian. And she quickly said, “It isn’t relly about Jesus or God.”

    If my 14 year old daughter can spot the glaring problems with this self-help mentality, why can’t more of us?

    Perhaps it is the fact that the Evangelical church has bought into the pragmatic, seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven mentality so much so that we are no longer able to distinqish truth from heresy.

    All the natural outcome of making the audience king. Thanks for calling this to our attention.

  3. He shoots…He scores!

  4. Yes, good article.

  5. It’s so sad that Max Lucado has endorsed Osteen. More than a good story-teller, he really shares the Gospel, but perhaps not everyone has the gift of discernment. As sad failing in a shepherd.

  6. What the hell kind of confession is that? Pardon the expression (although quite possibly accurate).

  7. Dolan McKnight says

    The following is from an interview touting Osteen’s new book.

    BRC: Do you need to have a personal relationship with Christ or even be a Christian to benefit from what you write?
    Joel: I think that these principles will work in anybody’s life. I think principles are principles for life.

    BRC: You put the prayer to accept Christ, or the “salvation prayer,” on the very last page of your book. What went into this decision to put it at the very end?
    Joel: I feel my calling in life is to encourage people to help them live their lives better, to just be who God made them to be. Most of my ministry is not necessarily Evangelistic. Mine is to help people to live, but I do believe the Great Commission is to go into all the world and to teach and make disciples. I believe I’m helping to make disciples, to train people how to live.

    http://www.bookreporter,com/authors/au-osteen-joel.asp

    There you have it. Osteen is not “necessarily Evangelistic,” and thinks that both the saved and the unsaved will benefit from his teaching. He fulfills the Great Commission by “train[ing] people how to live.”

  8. Great, insightful, helpful post!

  9. Clark Bunch says

    I read that interview, and Osteen does consider himself to be carrying out the great commision in that he is “making desciples of all men.” The great commision passage I quoted in my response to the first IM article (Outing Joel Osteen…) was from Mark 16:15, and includes the phrase “preach the gospel to every creature.”

  10. OK. Just one comment in regards to Osteen’s desire to “go into all the world and to teach and make disciples. I believe I’m helping to make disciples, to train people how to live.” I might of missed it but I didn’t see whose disciples he is making…His own? Tony Robbins’? Nah, that would be aiding the competition…

  11. Jim Gieseke says

    Mr Spencer writes:

    “… The Joel you meet on dozens of web-sites where Hannegraf wannabes catalog the loony promises of Kenneth Hagin and his brood.”

    This is not a fair characterization of the men and women who have created discernment web sites. Some of the sites are of very uneven quality, but many show a real love for the sheep and a love for God’s truth. Many of those you characterize as “wannabes” are doing real service to the kingdom, and some of them put the Bible Answer man to shame.

    Mr. Spencer further writes of Joel Osteen:
    “I don’t think he really knows, …”

    Perhaps not. The Word says of some false teachers that they are both deceiving and being deceived. Scarier still is the passage which speaks of the judgment of false teachers as being foreordained.

    Other than that, thank you, Mr. Spencer, for your penetrating writing and for pointing out that Emporer Osteen is in fact buck naked. He is on several local television stations here in Houston, and I know people who go to Lakewood. My wife and I have difficulty listening through an entire Osteen sermon. After a few minutes, you have to turn it off and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    Jim Gieseke
    Houston, Texas

  12. I’ll admit I liked listening to the guy, but when I found out he lives in a house worth $2,254,700, it’s been kinda hard to watch him anymore without wondering how some poor folks could keep tithing to the church knowing it’s funding what I think is a lifestyle too extravagant for a humble servant of God.

    See his property tax record here:
    http://www.hcad.org/cgi-bin/AV/AVDetail.asp?taxyear=2004&acct=0752020270011

  13. Jim,

    There are different kinds of discernment sites, and my comment is talking about one kind, not the other.

    Thanks for the comment though 🙂 I appreciate it.

  14. My first inclination was to agree with your observations about Osteen, but a little homework leads me uncertain. This was prompted by a fellow student at the seminary I attend who expressed her own interest in Osteen and amazement that anyone would be against him. This student is not one who strikes me as easily deceived, and her own service for Christ is real. For her to respect Osteen doesn’t mean I will, but it gives me pause to consider more than initial reactions.

    So I’ve gone to the lakewood site and read some of the sermons. There’s a lot in them I disagree with, but not outside the bounds of reason. As for his teachings on sin and Jesus, while I am still waiting for him to explain a bit more of the atonement he does nonetheless teach sin to be real and wrong, and teach the need for Jesus. A fairly common end to his sermons goes along the lines of the following taken from one of his “winning the battle of the mind” series (which, there’s certainly agreement there is a battle of the mind we must struggle with):

    If you will, bow your heads in prayer. Let me just talk to those of you that are viewing by television just for a moment. I always like to give you the opportunity to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If youÂ’ve never made a profession of faith, then you need to do it today. The bible says, “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    ItÂ’s not hard. You just have to pray a simple prayer and mean it. Just say, Oh God, come into my heart. Jesus be my Lord, be my Savior. IÂ’ll serve You all the days of my life.

    —-
    The atonement is not mentioned, but the need for Jesus is. The need for salvation is clear here, and the Lordship of Christ is emphasized. A life of service is taught, which he goes on in other sermons to talk about the need for evangelism and for service to those in need.

    Again, I disagree with much of what he says but I think an honest examination of him will at least lead to more serious consideration than he has been given on this website. The problem with the role of the critic is too often the critic wants to find something to point out, and sometimes that means going too far in being critical.

  15. Columcille

    1. Look at the dates. You need to read what he has been preaching since early 04. It’s different. NO THEOLOGY OF SALVATION AT ALL.

    2. In his book, he has 300+ pages of positive thinking, and a Jesus prayer.

    C’mon! How can we say that passes the test? Just saying “Jesus” balances out the 300 pages of lies?

  16. Columcille

    One other thing to keep in mind; A profession of faith doesn’t mean the possesion of faith. There seems to be to much emphasis on just saying a prayer and your saved. Instead of actually realizing your sinfulness, repenting and surrendering your life to Christ. You don’t have to say a prayer, you have to have faith.

  17. >a fellow student at the seminary I attend who expressed her own interest in Osteen and amazement that anyone would be against him.

    What seminary might this be?

  18. Columcille,

    Compare Osteen’s sermons to those, say, of Charles Spurgeon (look them up on the web, or your friend in seminary should be able to find some for you – if not, she is in the wrong seminary), and you tell me which is the clearer exposition of the Gospel and salvation.

    Is it unfair to hold Osteen to this standard? Admittedly, many pastors in churches large and small have gotten a pass for preaching such a watered-down message. But perhaps the time has come to draw a line in the virtual sand and say, “Enough! If you are minister preaching to the Church and the world, preach the *whole* Gospel, or get out of the way of those who will!” Not that this will ever happen in real life, but that ought to be the attitude of *every* Christian worthy of the Name.

  19. Even in that little prayer there’s no mention of “I repent” or acknowledging sinfulness or asking for forgiveness of sins. Yes, it asks Jesus to be “my Savior,” but a Savior from what? Not living up to my potential?

  20. The absence of material regarding the gospel is no way to go about condemning men for not preaching the gospel.

    I’m not a fan of O’Steen’s preaching (or generally any ‘televangelist’) but his stuff is a far cry from heresy. You are being critical without demonstrating biblically that he is in fact a false teacher. Last time I checked that was a Ninth Commandment issue–but not for Mr. O’Steen.

    Further, the Bible does not say that we need mention of the atonement in the prayer of a sinner to God. The Bible says ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’.

    God saves men in spite of their imperfections even when acknowledging Him as their Savior.

    I just don’t think you’ve made your case. And there is nothing wrong with O’Steen putting forth biblical principles in a way that makes them palatable to the average person (shudder!!!).

    As Reformed or semi-Reformed people we may not like the lack of specificity or the broad way in which Mr. O’Steen presents himself and his message, but you have yet to demonstrate biblically that it is somehow a non-Christian message.

  21. Mr. Johnson,

    Please note the post below:

    https://internetmonk.com/archives/2005/01/019842.html

    There really is a cliff, Mr. Johnson.

  22. I’ve been reading (and posting) with this topic since it started last weekend. One thing I’ve noticed as a recurring theme in the defenses of Joel Osteen is a sort of defense of “bare-minimalism”. IOW, the typical response is, “OK, he’s not preaching *everything* we’d like, but he’s not preaching outright heresy. He’s saying enough for people to get something out of it. What’s the big deal?”

    Martin Luther once said something to the effect that if you defend the Gospel at every single point, except the point that the world most objects to at that moment, you aren’t really defending the Gospel. I’d say the same thing here. If there are points to the Gospel that modern people have the most trouble with, then *those* are the points that most need preaching!

    I won’t even mention all the New Testament passages that insist on our preaching the *whole* Gospel, in season or out.

    My real question, I guess, is why should we settle for anything *less* than the whole Gospel, whatever the circumstances?

  23. Ummm…okay…I already read that post. What I missed as I said was your demonstration that the words of Mr. O’Steen do in fact constitute heresy. And where is that biblical case anyway?

  24. Oh, and by the way, universalizing the statements of a man like Martin Luther and acting as if his comment on the matter is appropriate is not only anachronistic but hardly justifiable.

    I prefer your accusations and the accusations of those who would trouble other ministers to be based on biblical principles at the very least and if someone is going to go so far as to label a man a false teacher publicly, he ought to be able to back that up not only with clear examples of heresy but also with the biblical arguments enjoined to condemn it.

    Maybe you do have such arguments, but I haven’t seen that in this instance. Accusations are by no means demonstrable proof no matter how many historical theologians you can quote.

  25. Well Mr. Johnson I never accused him of heresy. You need to read closer. Commenters did. I didn’t.

    I accused him of

    1. Not being an evangelical Christian
    2. Abandoning the gospel as his message
    3. proclaiming a motivational/positive thinking message instead

    If he believes what he preaches, and no more, he’s an apostate. Not a heretic.

    You are beating the wrong horse.

  26. I smell red herrings.

    OK, if you don’t like the fact that Martin Luther said it (and why is that, I wonder?), *I’ll* say it.

    If you do not uphold and emphasize those aspects of the Gospel that are most rejected by the culture at large, you are not doing a service to the Gospel *or* the culture at large.

    There. No “anachronistic” theologians, no mention of heresy. The basic issue is on the table. Now, let’s discuss *that*. Is my premise above valid, or no? If no, why?

  27. I love this. An apostate and not a heretic. Well I’m glad you’ve cleared that up.

    What church, incidentally, has declared him an apostate? What church court gave him any sort of due process in this regard? I imagine there hasn’t been such a church court or church body that has actually inquired with any level of fairness or specificity to determine that the man is apostate. No, the blogosphere is sufficient in all things to make things clear!

    Merely having a potential to be an apostate is not enough to be so condemnatory. Again I ask you, where is the evidence that what you say is indeed true?

    O’Steen hasn’t denied the gospel, he offers men salvation in Christ (however infrequently said), and he professes faith in the Christian message.

    Offering men and women a positive way to think of their circumstances is not in and of itself a denial of the gospel or the actions of an apostate. Just because he doesn’t preach with the emphasis you feel is important doesn’t mean he’s not Christian or evangelical. That doesn’t make his overall message correct, but I just don’t see any biblical basis for condemning him.

    Again, please provide us with a biblical basis for condemning him either as an apostate or someone who has denied the faith in word or deed.

  28. What church is he accountable to other than his own?

    I wrote because of his visibility in evangelicalism.

    By your theory only those who explicity deny the faith and own up to it are apostates. So he can abandon the Gospel, but as long as he doesn’t say he did it, it doesn’t matter.

    New Agers who talk about Jesus are Christians by your accounting.

    CHURCH COURTS? What independent Pentecostal/Charismatic church is accountable to a church court? Good grief.

    If you think he is preaching the gospel, good for you. I don’t. The end. Go write about me elsewhere.

  29. You write:
    “By your theory only those who explicity deny the faith and own up to it are apostates. So he can abandon the Gospel, but as long as he doesn’t say he did it, it doesn’t matter.”

    No. But how do you establish from the Bible that the blogosphere is the place to “out” those you feel are apostates–especially when you haven’t provided the requisite evidence that this is the case?

    You also write:
    “New Agers who talk about Jesus are Christians by your accounting.”

    Untrue. Mr. O’Steen is in a Christian church, not some wacko on a street corner chanting mindlessly. This simply is not an accurate reflection of my view.

    But, I’m sorry your opinion on the matter is so unassailable. What if you are wrong?

  30. Then I’m wrong. I frequently am wrong.

    You want me to take you on a personal tour of what I spent a week writing and linking. No dice.

    What did I post first Mr. Johnson? His interviews. His chapters. His sermons (which are mostly pre-the current change) I watched the man, I read the interviews, I wrote my opinion on my piece of paper and posted it on my blog and suggested that other concerned people do the same.

    I am not God. I haven’t sent him to hell. I haven’t denounced his character. I said in the post we are currently discussing that he is a mystery.

    If it pisses you off that I am reading a guy who says he is a motivational speaker and refuses to mention anything about Jesus or the Gospel, and I conclude he is not one of us, then I am sorry.

    I won’t be changing my mind, even if really smart guys like you tell me I should.

  31. Fair enough. I just think we are often too quick to condemn–especially those that hail from a tradition different than our own.

    On the other hand, much of your writing I very much enjoy.

    I just think here you are being a bit too narrow at the very least and you haven’t made your case.

    But that’s just *my* opinion. 🙂

  32. I note on your blog you say that perhaps if we can’t say anything nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all.

    Of course, Paul wished his opponents emasculated, and there is that Matthew 23 tirade.

    Where do passages like these fit into the life of the Christian?

    2 Peter 2:1-3 2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

    2 Timothy 4:1-4 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

    1 Timothy 1:3 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,

    1 Timothy 6:3-5 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

    Titus 1:9-11 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

  33. Actually, my blog entry is saying that silence is not really an option and I am in general agreement with what you have written in your “Hard Talk” article. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    The passages you mention are of course appropriate as it applies to false teachers and other such individuals condemned in Scripture. What you have not established, as I previously pointed out, is that these passages *necessarily* apply to Mr. O’Steen.

    Is there a more charitable way to take Mr. O’Steen’s work? If there is then I doubt he is a candidate for apostasy.

  34. So (dog spots his own tail) If the guy refuses to speak about Jesus and the Gospel, and chooses to tell me how God wants to bless me with a great house, what is that?

  35. What do I call it? Wrong, incorrect, and potentially stupid.

    But that in and of itself is not a denial of the gospel. And besides, even in the material you have referred to or provided on your website, Osteen (I see I have been spelling his name wrong?) has positively affirmed belief in traditional evangelical Christianity albeit of the Pentecostal variety in more than one place.

    So, I am not sure your description above is necessarily being as fair and gracious as possible in interpreting his work.

  36. Mr. Johnson,

    His church has a five statement confession. To call it heretical when compared to classic orthodoxy would be an understatement, but I can leave that alone. He’s from The Word Faith gang, and they are all heretics, and that has been documented by all sorts of people in large, footnoted volumes.

    So if he just believes what his dad preached most of the time, he’s a garden variety TBN gnostic.

    But about a year+ ago, he stopped talking about the Gospel at all. He waves the Bible at the beginning. He has a prayer in Jesus name at the end. And the rest of the time he sounds like Tony Robbins or Oprah.

    How do I compare that to the Bible? Hmmmm. Let me do it this way: It’s another Gospel. See Gal 1:8-9.

    To boot, he calls HIMSELF a motivational speaker. Read the interviews. The TRY to get him to talk about Jesus. He refuses.

    Then just read the first chapter of the book. It’s linked.

    I guess I could wait for him to call a press conference and announce that he’s gone Wiccan, but they usually don’t do that.

    It’s been a nice conversation. Hope you continue to read. I’ll blog on something else soon. I promise.

  37. So how do we “establish from the Bible” that the blogosphere is the place to “out” apostates….hmmmm, might I suggest Luke 20: 39,40?

    The Church has been silent so long, now we have Blog-Stones.

  38. Luke 20:39-40

    39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

    ??

  39. Oh, so sorry, that’s Luke 19: 39, 40.

    39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.

    40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

    Hence, Blog-Stones. It’s time to speak out; long overdue in fact. There are real souls in real peril, lest anyone out there forget.

  40. Cool. Had me going there for a minute.

  41. One Salient Oversight says

    We have a new assistant pastor at our church. He’s been around for about 6-7 months but hasn’t had any theological training. Our eventual goal is that after 2-3 years with us he’ll go to theological college, get ordained and pastor a church somewhere else.

    The guy is a nice guy. He is godly, humble, if a little bit too low in confidence. He used to be a school teacher and before he came to our church as AP he was out in the country and attended a local Baptist church where he occasionally preached while working in the local school.

    The guy is only a moderately gifted preacher, however. He is still learning his trade but I reckon that he just does not have the gifts to be a brilliant preacher. That’s okay – not everyone in ministry is like that – so long as he is faithful to God I’m happy with him.

    The problem is that throughout his entire Christian life he has attended churches that rarely had expositions of scripture – preaching through Bible passages. Moreover, the churches he attended didn’t have a great understanding of the Old Testament.

    In the last few weeks our Head Pastor was away and the AP preached. He preached three sermons on Genesis 12:1-3. What was really concerning to me and a friend was that he did not explain the gospel once during the three sermons.

    So when our head pastor came back, my friend and I spoke to him after church about the lack of Gospel in the AP’s preaching. I asked him if it was reasonable to expect that any sermon that expounded a text should contain the gospel. He wholeheartedly agreed. He qualified his agreement though – “You don’t just tack the gospel onto a sermon. The Bible is ultimately all about Christ. When you preach a sermon based on a biblical text, you have to discover what the link is between the text and Christ, and draw that out for the congregation to hear.” When we spoke of the lack of Gospel in the AP’s sermon, our Pastor was genuinely surprised. He defended the AP’s Christian character (which was unnecessary because we both like and respect the AP as a Christian), spoke about how difficult it has been for him to get his mind around expository preaching and Biblical/Covenant theology, as well as his basic struggling in learning the basics of preaching. But he also thanked us for our honesty and concern and told us that he would make it top priority to speak to the AP about our concerns.

    (BTW. Our senior pastor isn’t a great preacher either, but every week without fail he faithfully expounds scripture and preaches the gospel. So I trust that he will do this.)

    I’m hoping and praying that our AP will learn from his mistakes and become a better preacher in future. I’m fairly confident that he will. If, however, after 6 months he is still not preaching the Gospel I would have to speak to him and the pastor and express my doubts over his suitability for ministry.

    I’m writing this story because I think it is vital that all preachers preach the gospel all the time when they preach. I don’t want our AP to go the way of Joel Osteen.

  42. I’m with Monsieur Oversight. I reckon that the gospel must come out in each message, because someone who attends might never come back.

    I don’t at all mean that every sermon must say the same thing in the same way!

    But I do think that every sermon must point to Christ and mention Christ. Christ is the subject of the bible. If a sermon fails to even mention Christ, it has failed to grasp the central theme of the bible, and has failed to be faithful to the bible.

    As a negative illustration, I once heard an excellent preacher do a series on Ecclesiastes. He was trying to be faithful to Ecclesiastes, and he sensed our impatience [he had a question and answer session at the end] but I think it should have been structured to point to Christ in each sermon.

  43. First I admit to being lazy, I skimmed most of the posts and skipped the rest, but what I caught prompted this response.

    The thing often repeated in this thread and other of your posts is the need for Christians to “speak out”. We are to decry the wrongs of other so-called believers. To back this up certain passages are pulled from their setting and thrown together to say, “See! People in the Bible did this too!”

    What I don’t see much of is the other thing that took place in the Bible, and actually the main thing done by Christ and His followers. While they challenged those they encountered with false teachings, the bulk of the writings were teaching truth, not pointing out falsehood. Even with Paul who wrote many of his letters in response to problems faced within churches he spends more time building the truth than pointing out all the ways the opposition was wrong.

    For someone like Osteen I see a lack of Biblical depth, but I don’t see heresy or apostasy. My hope would be that those who might grow in faith under Osteens preaching would go on to realize the need for greater depth. And I hope to me someone who can help provide that depth. I mentioned previously the person I know who sees Osteen as a great preacher. My words to her was that while my impressions of Osteen are negative, if God can use him to help her grow closer to Him, then that is a good thing. (By the way, I’m at Beeson Divinity School)

    Even in the midst of challenging those who were misleading believers Paul still praises God that His name is proclaimed, even if badly so:

    Phil 1:15-18

    15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
    NIV

    He did not ignore where they were wrong, neither did he engage in a smear campaign against them. The approach I see here would tear down those disagreed with and leave a vacuum since nothing is said of what is then the truth. The modern critic, full of problems but largely avoiding solutions. Don’t just say he ignores sin, salvation, and the cross – tell us what those things are. Don’t label his mistakes, speak to us the truth.

    I had something of this in mind when I first started my blog, and I had this to say:

    I want to shine light. I want to show hope. I want my life to give people a reason to believe in something good. I want my words to fill the air with freshness. I want my limbs to move and do those things that lead to wonder. I want my eyes to shine with the vision of mystery. I want my ears to hear the words of the hurting and the needy, and my heart to respond as I can. I want my mind to be shaped in such a way that every thought is captive to the will of Jesus Christ.

    How to become a person who builds up, instead of tears down? How to become a person who sees the flower growing out of the mud? How to become a person who rejoices in pain?

    We are to be as Christ, for we are re-made in His image. What a journey we are on.

  44. One Salient Oversight says

    Columcille,

    I’m not sure if you fully understand everything that is going on regarding Osteen. We need to balance out the Bible’s teachings about loving others and bearing with their mistakes, alongside the clear messages to denounce what offends God.

    Sadly, your quotation of Philippians 1:15-18 does not actually help the argument that we should accept Osteen. Why is that?

    The fact is that in Philippians Paul is speaking of people who preach THE GOSPEL, but who may do so out of selfish ambition or for the wrong motives. While Paul naturally criticises these people, he also recognises that such people are still preaching the Gospel.

    But this is where Osteen’s situation is different. He is NOT like these people that Paul mentions in Philippians. And the reason is simple – he does NOT preach the Gospel. Look at his books, look at his TV broadcasts. You will not find Osteen preaching the gospel.

    You see, while Paul was annoyed about these selfish Gospel preachers in Philippians, he could tolerate them knowing that God would be working through them simply because they were preaching the Gospel.

    But in Galatians, Paul takes a different tack. In Galatians, Paul EXCORIATES those who preach a DIFFERENT Gospel. He rips apart their teaching, warns the Galatian church in no uncertain terms that they’d get their act together “or else”, and asserts that anyone who brings a different gospel (including obviously the false teachers) is eternally condemned.

    Paul and John both spent considerable time in their letters both teaching truth and decrying falsehood. Paul even goes so far as to recount his argument with Peter (Galatians 2) and doesn’t even qualify himself and say how nice Pete actually is despite the argument. Peter obviously didn’t mind – he had a high opinion of Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16).

    You ask “How to become a person who builds up, instead of tears down?”. Because Joel Osteen does not preach the gospel (along with an uncountable number of other pastors), he is tearing down the church. By not teaching the word of God, he is making the church weaker. He does it with a smile and some well chosen words – poison wrapped in chocolate.

    My Mother-in-law had bowel cancer removed last year. It was a horrible experience for her and she is now undergoing chemotherapy. The only option open for her is to undergo suffering and pain. The preaching of the Gospel and of God’s word is similar – it is sometimes like painful surgery. It hurts, it is often messy, but without it a person may never get better.

  45. >(By the way, I’m at Beeson Divinity School)

    Go ask my mentor and friend Dr. George what he thinks of Osteen. Maybe you would trust him.

    The absence of the Gospel is the absence of the Gospel. If abandoning the Gospel isn’t apostasy, what is apostasy?

    Yes, leaders are to build up. YES, leaders are to warn. You saw the scriptures I listed that specifically tell leaders to warn the flock and correct the false teachers. There is no refuting them.

    We simply disagree on Osteen. Your generosity to him personally is Christian teaching. Your generosity to his teaching is unfortunate. When you study theology at that fine school, ask what Luther would have thought of Osteen.

    He is identical to Oprah and Tony Robbins. He’s just in a church using some Christian terms. Don’t be taken in by the smile. You are confirming my thesis that women are the primary ones supporting him because they like him.

  46. We’ve been warned in the bible that things such as the popularity of a Joel Osteen would happen. It’s only gonna get worse and I would just suggest that we take some instruction from Revelation 22:11, letting him who does wrong continue to do wrong, etc., and from John 10:28-29 where Jesus tells us that the ones the Father has given him cannot be snatched out of his hand. I’m not responsible for the souls that attend Lakewood Church. Their blood will not be on my hands. Yes, we have a duty to warn people about such heretics, but if we get too crazy about it we lose focus and drift away from what we’re supposed to be doing – carrying out the Great Commission. Satan already has the job of full-time critic and we shouldn’t try too hard to compete with him. We should be careful not to get distracted because the distractions are definitely gonna increase as the Day approaches. If this discussion hasn’t changed one person’s mind it doesn’t matter. Jesus is more than able to save whom He will and He can do it without any assistance from us.

  47. Women are the primary ones supporting him? Just to clear it up in case it was assumed, I’m a guy. 🙂

    As for Dr. George and Luther, I don’t agree with either on every issue and have been known to disagree with both on several issues.

    As for Osteen’s smile, that’s one thing I don’t like about him, always having that goofy smile which to me looks fake.

    But whether I like him or not, his words overall don’t go against Scripture. His teachings are not false. When I picked Beeson Divinity School one of my major reasons for doing so is to have a place I could attend where the students and staff are free to disagree with one another. I didn’t want a cookie cutter seminary. I wanted one where a variety of views were represented while the base remained a conservative one, and where we would often find people we disagree with, requiring us to engage ourselves in getting along with those in the Church who in thought, belief, appearance, etc are different than us. What that means for Osteen is that while I disagree with him on some things, I don’t condemn him for that. I see his message primarily lining up with Scripture, even if he doesn’t say everything I’d like him to say.

  48. Whoa. Sorry for the gender error. My bad. (I am starting to crack under the stress.)

    George is never wrong. That’s the only reason to go to Beeson. That and Birmingham food. (It’s a joke.)

  49. Dr. George would tell you he’s never wrong. 🙂 And who knows, he might be right, but this imputent (U not O) student thinks he’s wrong at least part of the time. 🙂

    And Birmingham food is a good incentive. My wife and I have been spoiled, moving here from a small town where the nearest good restaurant is a 20 minute drive.

  50. Well I had him at SBTS for 5 classes and we became friends. He’s never wrong in my book 🙂 I owe him an incalculable debt.