Last night, Joel Osteen, Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, was interviewed. The full story on CBS News can be found HERE. My aim is to pull just a few statements made by Osteen, compare them with scripture and briefly comment.
“You said ‘I like to see myself as a life coach, a motivator to help them experience the life of God that God has for them. People don’t like to be beat down and told ‘You’ve done wrong.’ What do you mean?” Pitts asks.
“Well, I think that most people already know what they’re doing wrong. And for me to get in here and just beat ‘em down and talk down to ‘em, I just don’t think that inspires anybody to rise higher. But I want to motivate. I wanna motivate every person to leave here to be a better father, a better husband, to break addictions to come up higher in their walk with the Lord,” Osteen says.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Paul is instructing Titus in what an elder / overseer / pastor should do in his preaching. Verse 15 makes plain that we are to “declare these things” to the body “with all authority.” What are “these things”? He mentions them in verses 11-14. Essentially he says it is the gospel and in that we are to learn (be trained) to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, etc… I have stated many times, I believe in line with the Reformers, that in order to know the depth of God’s grace and faithfully proclaim the Word of God as a faithful steward, sin must be preached and addressed. We actually do need to be “beat down” (Osteen’s words) a bit with God’s convicting truth and cannot trust that we already know what we do wrong, otherwise the Law was without purpose and what a waste of time and the burning finger of God on that mountain!
For Osteen, the way around this is that he just doesn’t believe that he is that kind of pastor. Here’s what he says…
“That’s just my message. There is scripture in there that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I’m called to help people…how do we walk out the Christian life? How do we live it? And these are principles that can help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified to say, ‘Here’s a book that going to explain the scriptures to you.’ I don’t think that’s my gifting,” Osteen says
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
According to Osteen’s own words he doesn’t feel qualified enough to say “Here’s a book that’s going to explain the scriptures to you.” According to the passage above, that is exactly what a pastor is to do. Apart from a scripture-focused, Christ-centered message, believers will be incompetant and ill-equipped for every good work. And that’s just it, there may be uniqueness in our personalities and philosophies of ministry, but the Word of God seems plain that the core calling of ALL pastors is to rightly divide the Word of God and proclaim it to his flock, for whom he will give an accounting (Hebrews 13:17).
I do not hesitate in my thoughts regarding this, but I am hesitatant to publish it, simply because with every sinful thought, expression of anger or lazy parenting (all outright sin) I feel disqualified. So, there is trepidation with me, yet my confidence and authority does not reside with me, it is in Christ.
May God help us all discern and seek to live as scripture says we are to live. If you make it your ambition to live in opposition to false teachers like Osteen, you’d miss it. As an under-shepherd and elder, I am to give oversight and spiritually guard your life and doctrine. That’s why I write this. However, even for myself, along with you all, I must seek to live out the truth and grace of God’s Word; otherwise, we will be guilty of what the Ephesian church was guilty of by Christ’s own estimation:
2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’