I don’t want to be mean and I especially don’t want to be mean to a guy who seems really nice. But, this nice guy is influential and his influence is beginning to impact me and the people I minister to.
I am talking about Joel Osteen, America’s smiling pastor. Now before you push back and say that he has already become a sufficiently pounded pastoral piñata and is now on the sidelines of the evangelical discussion, I remind you that in his face is everywhere. The news media is turning to him for a Christian take on Gay marriage, the upcoming presidential election and theological questions about the exclusivity of Christ. Whether you like it or not, he is speaking for evangelicals.
So here’s my unsolicited advice to Joel Osteen:
1) Stop it. If you are really as uncomfortable as you seem when you are asked these questions, please do yourself and us a favor, stop taking the interviews. To be honest, you are hurting yourself and us. Just decline the interviews or refer them to talk to Al Mohler. He’ll keep the Southern accent going but won’t dribble the theological ball off his leg.
2) Knock off this ‘no seminary’ stuff. Just because you didn’t go to seminary doesn’t mean you don’t have to think or be consistent. People are asking you basic questions like, “Are Momons Christians?” or “What does the Bible say about Gay marriage?” they are not asking you to break down theodicy, the hypostatic union, whether or not you are supra or infralapsarian. As someone who has also not gone to seminary I resent the low bar you are setting for pastors who are not trained in an institution. You make it sound like we don’t know how to tie our shoes theologically. The requirement to know doctrine is not a requirement only for seminary trained pastors but for all ministers of the gospel. (1 Tim. 4.16; Titus 1.9)
3) Come clean. Listen, you are very effective at what you do. You are a motivational speaker. You encourage people to feel better about themselves. I really think that you are trying to help people. But, come on, let’s stop with all of this Christianity business. You no longer need Jesus’ bandwith to catapult yourself into national prominence. You are there. Now be yourself. Be a younger, nicer, and far less follically challenged version of Dr Phil. I think this would help everyone out; you could be yourself and evangelicals would stop calling you out.
4) Think. Why did you name your new book, “Every Day a Friday“? Do you not see the glaring issue here? The premise of your book and ministry is that people should be very happy regardless of circumstances. Of course you use Christianity as the explanation of this. Has it ever occurred to you that the leader of the Christian movement was crucified on a Friday? Looking back at the pages of the gospel narratives Good Friday is not good because it comes with popcorn, candy, a movie and a snuggie, but because God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself! Good Friday is “Good” because Jesus died for our sin! We can be forgiven in Christ. Regrettably your new book highlighting Friday living omits the truth of Friday dying.
5) Repent. Even if you do all of the above you still need to deal with the fact that you are not faithfully handling God’s word (2 Tim. 2.15). You should read what God says and does to lying prophets who claim to speak in God’s name but actually speak on their own authority (Jer. 14). If you really want to see people’s lives change, true healing, and genuine joy, then by all means preach the soul-satisfying truth of the glory of Christ! When the treasure of this gospel is uncorked then people truly have abiding happiness not the temporal buzz that accompanies a knock off gospel.
Again, I don’t want to be mean (especially to apparently nice people), but Joel Osteen is confusing and embarrassing Christians as he misrepresents us and Christ to the world. I pray for God honoring change in Joel Osteen’s ministry.