My Response to Some Flak from My View on Joel Osteen

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

Joel OsteenSome of you have noticed that I have posted my thoughts on Joel Osteen’s 60 Minutes interview this past Sunday night. An interesting note for regular readers as well, I expected a small surge in traffic simply from the popularity of the search term, but was not prepared for this little factoid: this post alone has been read 177 times in the span of about 3 days. It is single-handedly responsible for making my best day ever jumping from about 70 hits in a day to 220. Wow. (Not that I am about numbers, but it really intrigues me that there is this much interest in the story at hand). For those of you who have not seen it or my post, go here. You can read my thoughts and link into the interview itself at CBS’s news article on the piece.

Anyway, there was a comment made that really did not fit into my request for intelligent discussion on the subject, as it merely accused me of being jealous and made some poor arguments, assuming things about both my character and my experience in ministry that a lot of new readers may fall into the pit of making. I wrote a reply and wanted to put it up as a post itself so that anyone else who stumbles across my random thoughts will hopefully be able to read this and know exactly where I am coming from. I do know that there will continue to be a starkly divided line between Osteen supporters and detractors, but please allow me to make my viewpoint clear. (for those of you who have not read the earlier post, please do so now). The comment read like this:

why dont you get a real life instead of taping an interview and tearing it apart?]look at the number of people that listen to him and to the people that he has given hope to without them having to take a penny out of their pocket. im interested in knowing the number of people that listen or follow you or perhaps the number of people you pastor…i can probably guess right…NONE. jealousy will get you no where.

And my response:

let me first reiterate, i asked for intelligent discussion, not mudslinging. with that said, allow me to address your comments:

  • I taped the interview because I was genuinely interested in what osteen had to say. He is in a position of great influence in our culture and i would love to see him use that platform for more than offering a “feel good” faith.
  •  I think that it is great that osteen is conscious of not asking for money on air. This is one of the things that is known to turn people off to Chrisitanity the most. But what comes after hope? I guarantee you that were I to spend the money for his book, and follow the principals, I would fail, and that would be attributed to me not having enough faith, which is neither true, nor truly Biblical.
  • If you take a few minutes to look around at some of my posts about youth ministry you will find that i am not concerned with numbers at all. They are not a great way to judge effectiveness. But if you really wanted to know, I have been in youth ministry for over 8 years, either as the main leader or as a volunteer. I still have strong relationships with students from just about every ministry I have worked with over the years and take pleasure in seeing them grow. I am currently serving as the youth pastor for a church in northwestern PA, and have the pleasure of being able to disciple the students here on a very regular basis. And, I feel that this needs said, not every person will listen to me when I teach or preach. I have had many people walk out wishing they had not been there after a sermon or two at previous churches because the sermons called them out on sins that they were guilty of. (I did not call anyone in specific out, and did not chastise anyone personally, merely called attention to a few areas our church was sorely failing in). Yet interestingly enough, I used one of those sermons my first weekend here in my current position (I filled in for our vacationing senior pastor), and not only did the congregation listen, but many came back to let me know how they had put some of those principals into practice, or how they were already doing so. It is not about how many people listen, it is about giving the message that God calls you to give, and there will be times in EVERY pastor’s life when they are called to give more prophetic messages, not just the feel-good stuff.
  • Finally (this could have been a blog post. hmm…), I will admit that there are times when I long to be more financially secure. And you could call this jealousy. Yes, there are times when i find myself being weak and wanting to have people pay attention to me on a larger level. But in the end, I am reminded that my reward, my best life, if you will, is not going to come here. Sure, God calls me to live my life to the fullest and to give my all to Him, but it cannot all come here on earth because we have not been fully restored to God. I am okay with having to pay on a mortgage for a house I no longer live in. I am okay with the fact that I will be paying off college loans until i am well into my 50’s. I am okay with the fact that i will not be getting a $13 million advance for my next book. (and if you nose around a little, you will also find out that I am a bit of a champion for open-source ministry materials, and have been a frequent contributor to another youth ministry blog where I receive no compensation for the materials I have prepared. This is not me putting Osteen down for making a profit off of his materials, merely pointing out that this is not where God calls me to make my living). I know that my life to the full can come only in part here, and that it will be complete once I meet Jesus face to face. It is true that jealousy will get you nowhere, and when I see it in my life, I ask that Christ and those that I trust to assist me in eliminating it. But this post was not written out of jealousy. It was written out of a genuine desire to simply share my thoughts on what is a church (and a minister) with great potential, but are getting the message wrong… or at the very least, getting it only part of the way.

I hope that this will clear up any misconceptions for future readers about where I am coming from on this topic. I like the fact that Osteen is able to share with so many people each week, it truly is a powerful platform. But I am very wary of the message, as Christianity is not about warm fuzzy feelings (yes there are many good feeling involved), but is a very tough road to follow, and people need to know that from the start.  I have seen far too many people walk away from God and the Church because they were not made aware of just how hard the Christian life can be and is.