In Defense of Joel Osteen
One of the most well-known and controversial ministers today is Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Pastor Joel oversees the largest congregation in the United States plus reaches millions through television, satellite radio, and has written several best-selling books. Some Christians criticize Osteen’s motivational messages because they think he needs to preach more about repentance. Others disapprove of Joel’s lack of theological training. Then again, some of the early apostles were considered “unlearned and ignorant men.” (Acts 4:13)
Eight years ago in Washington, DC, I attended one of Joel Osteen’s outreach events called “A Night of Hope.” Joel ministered that night on “detoxifying” our thought life. The service concluded with an invitation for salvation that was much longer than what Joel does on TV. That gave me a greater respect for him.
A Facebook friend once posted the above photo of Joel Osteen’s first book “Your Best Life Now” side-by-side with a parody featuring another minister named Paul Washer who preaches very confrontational sermons. Certainly I agree heaven will be a better place for believers. However, it’s not a sin to enjoy life on earth as long as the kingdom of God is our top priority (Matthew 6:33).
I also agree there’s a place for “fire and brimstone” preaching (see Jude 23) but not everyone will respond to messages like that. Romans 2:4 says it’s the goodness of God that leads one to repentance. Non-believers need to hear about a God who can deliver them from their drug addictions, health issues, financial problems, and other bondages. I got saved 25 years ago not because someone told me I was a rotten sinner but that God loves me and wants me to have a fulfilling life on earth as well as eternal life in heaven.
Here’s a challenge for all the critics who accuse Joel Osteen of being a false teacher: Take a minute to log onto Lakewood Church’s web site and review the page “What We Believe.” I couldn’t find anything in there contrary to Scripture. Since my Facebook friend thinks Osteen’s messages lack biblical content, I exhorted him to do better himself. My friend responded by sharing a YouTube video in which Joel supposedly “denies Jesus.” Joel has stated that Jesus is the only way to God but there are many ways to get to Jesus.
One thing I would like to see is Joel Osteen demonstrate more boldness when challenged with questions by the secular media. Nevertheless, self-appointed watchdogs should stop bringing division within the Body of Christ and pray for Brother Joel. He is reaching multitudes that normally wouldn’t attend a church service. Just at Lakewood Church alone, Pastor Osteen ministers to over 40,000 people weekly. How many people do you reach for Christ each week?
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” - 1 Peter 2:15