A Questionable Easter Service

One pastor who receives a lot of flak is Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Many Christians I know dismiss him as a false teacher for not talking more about sin and repentance. On the other hand, I have friends edified by his motivational messages. Previously, I defended Joel despite not agreeing with everything he says to the media. In recent years, I’ve heard of him doing things considered questionable.

Last year, a New York Daily News article claimed Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria attended a Lady Gaga concert. During a pre-concert reception, the Osteens posed on the carpet for a photograph with SiriusXM, Pandora, and Lady Gaga logos in the background. I was disturbed when first seeing this. So I sent emails to Joel Osteen Ministries requesting more information but didn’t receive a response. I had hoped Joel would release a statement explaining his intentions and what really happened. He might have simply attended the reception since he has a channel on SiriusXM but didn’t go to the concert. 

Either way, what if Joel prayed with someone at that event to receive Jesus? I’ve met fellow evangelists who were led by the Lord to walk into gay bars to minister to people there. In his autobiography “Just As I Am”, Billy Graham wrote about appearing on TV shows like “Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In” as a way of reaching the lost. Billy compared it to Jesus dining with tax collectors and sinners. Christians are to be in the world but not of it. We must avoid having a monastery mentality but “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15)

Some of my Facebook friends have been up in arms about Joel Osteen having a virtual Easter service today featuring appearances by singer Mariah Carey and actor/director Tyler Perry. Rapper Kanye West had also planned on being part of this event with his Sunday Service Choir but canceled due to social distancing concerns. Last November, Kanye (who recently became an outspoken Christian) made an appearance at Lakewood Church along with his choir. I have no problem with that. God is using Kanye to reach people who might not go to church otherwise.

I can understand why some Christians question the appearances of Mariah Carey and Tyler Perry. During her career, Mariah has displayed an increasingly sexualized image. Nevertheless, Mariah reached out to Joel about joining today’s service. She will perform her song “Hero” as a salute to medical professionals and first responders working during the coronavirus pandemic. That is admirable but I hope she encourages viewers to focus on the ultimate Hero…our risen Savior.

Mariah is an Episcopalian and has credited God with helping her career plus occasionally recorded gospel songs. Her ex-husband Nick Cannon revealed to the Christian Post she was “deep into the Bible” and made him wait until they were married before having sex. As of this writing, I’m not aware of Mariah making any public declaration of knowing Jesus Christ. Performers thanking God for their success don’t give them free passes through the Pearly Gates. They might hear Jesus say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23)

Tyler Perry has spoken at Lakewood Church before. While I commend him for his generosity and promoting Christian values in his productions, his personal life concerns me. For over a decade, Tyler has been in an unmarried relationship with a woman with whom they had a son out of wedlock. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 warns that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some Christians have criticized Tyler for acting as the “mad black woman” Madea (though he has since retired the character). While I’m against transvestism, there’s a difference between men acting as women and living as women. Once I attended a service where during a skit, a young man pretended to be the church secretary. He wore a wig, dress, high heels, and pantyhose. It was a one-time performance I didn’t find offensive.

I don’t plan on watching Joel Osteen’s Easter service but will be praying God uses that to reach more people with the gospel. Keep in mind that Joel offers a prayer for salvation at the end of every telecast. If God can use a donkey, He can use anybody for His purposes.

“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”  
- 1 Corinthians 9:22

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