My Thoughts on Joel Osteen and his 60 Minutes Interview

UPDATE: My Joel Osteen posts are at this point 7 YEARS OLD! I am closing the comments on them all.

Joel OsteenI recorded Sunday evening’s (October 14, 2007) edition of 60 minutes for one simple reason. They were profiling Joel Osteen. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog regularly that I am not a fan of Osteen or his version of the Gospel. Now, I do wonder if there was some bad editing in parts, or if Osteen was seriously fumbling answers as badly as it looked. I have yet to track down an embeddable video of the interview online, but you can go here to watch it yourself. Here are some of my thoughts on the interview:

  • Osteen refers to the message as “My message is…” and proceeds to only focus on the positives. I have read and seen many of his sermons, and I have yet to see one that does not paint a “peachy, fluffy, nicey” picture of Christianity. It is incomplete.
  • The message of God prospering people here on earth is not a promise to ANYONE! There is no reminder that even though God does promise prosperity, it will come on the other side of eternity, not here on earth in a few days, weeks, years, etc.
  • When confronted about whether or not he feels that he is misleading people with such a positive message, Osteen claims that he also teaches that people need to embrace where they are and remain positive… which really contradicts the constant need to strive for more prosperity, doesn’t it?
  • When asked why the (former) Compaq center doesn’t look more like a church, Osteen is visibly confused and unsure how to answer and his wife jumps in to answer for him (not a criticism, merely an observation).
  • What does Osteen do with his money… especially the $13 million that he received in advance for his second book?
  • For that matter, what does the church do with the money that it brings in (yes, I know that there are tremendous operating costs, but they are bringing in around $1 million a week)?
  • When confronted about the “self-help” nature of his book, Osteen counters “That’s just my message. There is scripture in there that backs it up.” Why is scripture backing up his message, in stead of his message preaching scripture?
  • If Osteen’s book is truly to help others know how to walk the Christian life, why is he signing books and taking the credit for what he claims is God’s message? Even deeper, why does he (on camera) accept credit for saving and changing people’s lives if it was God’s message through him that helped them?
  • I enjoyed the fact that CBS brought in a differing opinion on Osteen’s message, and the response by Horton is a pretty Biblically grounded response. Even in a climate where the word sin has lost it’s original meaning and depth, how can one preach salvation from sin without mentioning it? He raises other good questions.
  • Osteen claims that there is no danger in what he preaches. Hmmm… giving people hope? sure no problem. But giving them hope in prosperity where God probably has not called them to prosper (in that way, i.e. financially)? Big danger there.
  • When confronted with accusations that he is diluting and dumbing down the Christian message, Osteen fires back that sometimes you have to keep it simple and not make it so complicated that people don’t understand. But how can you make people understand that there is sin to be atoned for? Hmm…
  • The crying seems forced. I don’t know, maybe I am just a little too cynical…
  • I chuckled a little when they showed his monitor when he was writing a sermon. It was actually titled “Joel Osteen Sermon #…” I just found that amusing. Heh.
  • Why is Osteen so concerned with having to have entertaining stories to keep people listening? Or do his best? Yes, we who are entrusted with the preaching of God’s Word on a regular basis to congregations need to strive for the best, but our desire should be that the Spirit moves through us and uses His words no matter what we say or do on stage.
  • The house? A little too extravagant in my opinion from what little we saw in the piece. I think I might have found where that $13 million went… I would be very interested in seeing where and how he tithes and gives.
  • Why are the books written and titled to improve the person? Why not truly be about a better walk with Christ instead of self-improvement?
  • There is no Christian iconography in the “church” at all. But there is at least one American flag. I know that they do not want to scare people away with crosses, etc., but I have a serious problem with putting up a flag in a place of worship but nothing to help aid the direction of congregants’ hearts toward God. (And the screens could be used, but they do not seem to be).
  • People do seem to be joyful in the service. But what are they joyful for?
  • It is admirable that Osteen desires to teach how to forgive and bring them back into a life in(with) the church.

All in all, I do believe that large churches have a place and a calling in ministry to people. But a big problem that I have is that Lakewood does not seem to be carrying out the real mission of the church. If the leadership cannot interpret Scripture correctly (for one example, go here and look around the 1:55 mark. I checked several translations, and the second half that Osteen reads is not in any Bible I own…), how can I expect smaller groups to interpret properly? I am a firm believer that once we enter into relationship with Christ, we are accepted into a restorative and justification-centered relationship, but it is a process we have to work through with much fear and trembling. Not something where we become perfect and God will grant all our wishes. I am also a believer in meeting people where they are at and not using “Christianeese” in evangelism, but to completely drop any and all “sin language” is misrepresenting the Gospel! How can we expect people to truly follow Christ when they are not taught what Christ saved them from and to?!

Please weigh in. I would love to hear some more thoughts on this one. And if you are weighing in on the side in favor of Osteen, and want to call me out on “criticizing” another Christian, remember the Bereans who were exhorted for double-checking instead of blindly believing, and that we are all called to “test everything and hold onto the good (1 Thessalonians 5.21, corrected from some bad number transposing earlier in the life of this post).” Let’s have well-thought out conversation.