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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.

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24 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice to Joel Osteen”

  1. Rae Whitlock says:

    Amen to every word of this.

    1. Erik says:

      Appreciate it Rae. Good to hear from you.

  2. Very well said and couldn’t agree with you more. The man needs to stop what he is doing and people need to wakeup to the falsities he is spreading. It is sad that the media tends to pick out the Joel Osteen’s of the world to interview on Christian issues.

    1. Erik says:

      My opinion is that the media likes him because of his inconsistencies and lack of clarity. They will keep him talking.

      1. John says:

        I think the media likes him because he gives them exactly the answers they want to hear: a nebulous mush of nothingness.

        When one’s “gospel” is what CNN, ABC, etc. want to hear, that ought to tell you all you need to know about that “gospel”.

        Matt. 7:21-23

      2. Johnnie says:

        Amen, Amen and another Amen

  3. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

    Excellent. Not only was every word needing to be said, every bit of it was well said!

    1. Erik says:

      Still conscious that it comes across wrong. A blog tone is tough to pick up. I really wish he would change.

  4. This is fantastic. As you wrote, it is easy to pile on Joel. But I also think it is vitally important to keep pointing out the problems.

    His unwillingness to change really demonstrates the major problems with how he seems to view the world. He thinks he’s helping people.

    1. Erik says:

      You are exactly right. I’m not sure what he is thinking. Dr Mohler’s article was great on this.”

  5. Louis Tullo says:

    Erik, I completely get where you’re coming form with this. On one hand, I couldn’t help but laughing when reading this because Joel Olsteen has become more of a caricature than a real person. However, on the other hand the fact that he is speaking, so poorly I would add, for evangelical Christians is very disturbing.

    He really should quit while he’s ahead and stop using the name of Jesus to turn a profit. While I admire the fact you don’t want to be mean to him, the fact is I think behind his smile his endgame is wrapped up in money. We’re all sinners in need of God’s grace, and I will be the first to admit I am completely and utterly depraved and their is no hope for me to live a godly life without Christ. However, the way he carelessly throws around the name of Jesus is upsetting and should be to all Christians. My prayer is that he sees the truth and takes a firm stand for Jesus, no matter what the cost is – to his organization and reputation. A stand for the genuine Christ from a man of that esteem in today’s world is so needed today.

    Thanks Erik!

  6. donsands says:

    Good word Erik. Thanks for the encouragement, and shing your heart in love and grace. Joel needs to talk with other Christians such as yourself, and perhaps he will take it to heart.
    I say he is a wolf. Maybe that is too harsh. I shall have to back off a bit. Thanks again bro.

    I was just thinking this morning of our Savior’s wrists being hammered through with iron spikes. And then His incredible feet being hammered through with iron spikes as well. And He certainly could have called His servants (His angels) to wipe us out, and go back to His Father. Yet, He sweat blood in that dark garden on the holiest night of all time, and the darkest night of all time.
    How I love our Lord for what He did on “Good Friday”!

    Have a blessed day in Jesus’ love and grace as you walk with Him today; and He walks with you Erik.

  7. Adam says:

    Good post, man. The thing that I wonder most about Osteen is this: does he know that he’s teaching falsely, and just does it anyways for monetary (or some other) gain? Or does he actually think he’s teaching real Christianity?

  8. Peter says:

    Erik, it is like you are reading my mind. Great post.

  9. Jeff says:

    BOOOO-YEAH!!! #3 – in particular – everyone should be who they are. If you are not in Christ, then don’t act like you are.

    Excellent, Erik. You just saved most of us a lot of unnecessary writing.



  10. Bill Weber says:

    I agree with you completely on Osteen. What is scary about Osteen is his popularity. These verses from 2 Timothy 4 point to the problem: “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, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

    I wonder, however, if more sound Evangelicals have their own areas where they are being unfaithful. One of the biggest changes I have seen among Evangelicals since the 1970s is our uncritical adoption of a Charismatic theology of worship. It used to be back in the early 70’s that there was a basic liturgy that was a dialogue between God and us. Songs were sung one at a time and picked for their response to the Lord or some biblical truth emphasized. Now it seems like we have taken over the dialogue of the liturgy. Basically we all stand and sing (play?) non-stop for 20 minutes expressing ourselves. God’s dialogue of sin and grace, law and gospel, judgment and mercy is entirely lost as we’ve jettisoned the call to worship, confession and assurance, the pastoral prayer, Old Testament and New Testament readings. This loss, accompanied with our failure to take seriously the biblical case for the weekly Lord’s Supper, leaves worshippers in a difficult place, and it has weakened not just liberal churches, but conservative ones as well. We seem to have forgotten that sound biblical theology must be applied to the liturgy, and right now we are uncritically following the Charismatic belief that God draws near to us through a particular musical feel we create by stringing together songs with a contemporary feel. But the truth is the Lord draws near to us through Word and sacrament that exalt his Son crucified and risen for us as we receive his gifts by faith.

    So while I agree about Osteen’s heresy, it seems to me that we are blind to our own unfaithfulness at this moment in church history.

    1. Tfree says:


      You’re outa line! Commenting on how others aught to do worship is as taboo as giving unsolicited advice to a parent on how to raise their kids better. It is not allowed in polite society!

      1. Daniel Rossouw says:

        But is in Scripture!

      2. Bill Weber says:

        I bet Nadab and Abihu would’ve appreciated some unsolicited advice in hindsight!

  11. Chip says:


    As one who is seminary trained I especially applaud #2. My “aha” moment in seminary was the realization that everything I was learning was stuff I should have already learned in my 20-plus years of growing up in the church. I become frustrated with those who defer to my “expertise” in matters of theology, as though they, themselves, are not responsible for knowing and practicing sound doctrine.

    I long for a church that takes seriously the concept of the priesthood of believers.

  12. Marvin Torgeson says:

    It seems to me that Joel Osteen is the go-to guy for interviews is because his success level is appealing to the viewers. His simple-minded approach to things is a safe and sane (carnally thinking) way of getting soft-touch pastoral answers. Its just my opinion, but I believe Pastor Joel is the prime candidate for interviews is because he represents the moral-mindset of the Christian conservative. It seems to me that the secular news and information services do not care 1 iota about the in-house disagreement over Joel’s theological positions. Bible hair-splitting and exegesis is the lowest on the medias interest list. What is on the top I believe is presenting a safe and defeated moral majority to the public. I believe they read Joel’s books too, and they understand what kind of man is writing them. This is why Joel is the safe-bet and the last one that they would fear getting all “prophetic” on them and launching into an inclusive-you-must-be-born-again diatribe. To me its offering a well with no water, a tree with no fruit and to the media its offering a religious position with no God to fear.

  13. Jon says:

    AMEN to all, #5 was best advice and # 2 shoud be passed onto all.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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