So my girls and I were watching a movie the other night and when it was over, the girls went to bed. I was about ready to go too when suddenly a bright smiling happy face was on the screen - none other than Joel Osteen. Now to be honest, I've heard tons about him, have read some of the things he's said, have seen him on Larry King and such but I've never watched an entire broadcast service by him so I figured "Why not??" and started watching. The first thing that struck me was this little thing he says before he starts preaching where everyone stands up, holds up their Bibles and recites:
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 will be taught the Word of God. I'll boldly confess. My mind is alert; my heart is receptive; I will never be the same. I am about to receive the incorruptible, indestructible, ever-living Seed of the Word of God. I'll never be the same - never, never, never! I'll never be the same, in Jesus' Name.
So, some of that gave me pause but I'd give him the benefit of the doubt. So I watched on.
The message was titled "Stay Open for Something New". A few of the things I could almost agree on - with clarifying what was said (because I have a strong feeling that his meanings on things are different than my meanings on things), but overall, the message was so weak. He said that, of course, God has a plan for you and wants you to prosper (and where does "take up your cross" and "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds," does that fit?). Don't ever turn down a promotion at work - don't ever say that you can't do it. You can. That's God blessing you. If you fail at something, move on because God has something else for you. When you find it, you will succeed (don't tell that to Paul in prison).
You know what REALLY struck me though? He used 2 Scriptures in total in the message and they were really almost token Scriptures, totally taken out of context (ex. "Arise shine for your light has come" means that God's best is here for you now. HUH???). The ONLY time he held his Bible was to lift it for the pledge. Now, I know he probably has it on his teleprompter or even committed those large portions of Scripture to his mind, but still - SHOW your congregation your use of the Bible. In our church, we're told to "circle that word", "write in your margin this....." etc. Our Bibles are active and growing tools for us - not something that will be your writing surface as you write the neat little sayings your pastor says.
I was quite saddened by watching him. Yes, he's a wonderful motivational speaker - there's no question on that point. He's charasmatic, engaging, handsome (although to me, it's a creepy handsome - like what Satan would look like if he walked the earth), and flashy. But that doesn't mean that he's a good pastor, good minister of the Word or one who preaches the Gospel. Sin is not a happy thing to think about but if we do not know what our illness is, we will not be able to get well. I'd rather walk into the doctor and hear "You've got cancer. It's going to be a long road but I think we can get you well." rather than "You're fine! Nothing is wrong with you that a little happiness and good feelings won't fix!" Ummm - I'm dying, I want to know about it so I can go through the suffering of the treatment and maybe get well. The wishy-washy, feel good diagnosis will do nothing to save my life - or my soul.
So now I've seen it with my own two eyes and ears. Joel Osteen is at best a good motivational speaker and at worse a false prophet. I'm not sure which yet since I haven't studied him fully but I can safely say that he's not going to lead you to a faith in Christ. It will be a faith in yourself.