If you consider yourself a faithful follower of – or have an affinity toward – Mega Church Pastor Joel Osteen, then please be aware that you might be offended by this article. However, after considerable reflection on the ministry trust of Pastor Joel Osteen (someone I used to follow quite regularly at some point), I came to the conclusion that his teachings are some of the most dangerous ones we are receiving today regarding the Gospel of Christ. He is not the only one in that mold, but this is beside the point we are making here. In addition, we are not attacking the person here. We are only focused on his teachings, and I really would like to read your reaction according to the scriptures.
It is understandable if someone does not see Pastor Osteen’s teachings as fitting squarely under the “prosperity” gospel umbrella. “Prosperity” gospel refers essentially to the “give and you should receive” message mantra with the objective of collecting as much money as possible from followers. In contrast to such, Pastor Osteen very rarely (if at all) ever teach about tithing for example. I personally never heard him teach on tithing or even on the giving of money in general. His messages are not focused on giving to his church. Matter of fact, and perhaps what I have always found most appealing about his sermons (even now), is that, at the end of each sermon, he always encourages people to find a Bible-based church – not necessarily “his” church; just a Bible-based church. I have always and continue to think that this is remarkable and to be admired.
But let us now focus on the central thesis of his message. In essence, Joel Osteen tells us about how to think in order to obtain those things we desire. In that thinking sphere, God is absolutely central. He is the Provider. Whether you desire a better job, good health for your family, a promotion at work, or to be out of debt, the key is to confess the positive, claiming that you have received those things that you want. God is “key” in this process. He is the One who provides and will provide for you. He is our Father and His supply is unlimited. He is, after all, the creator of the universe. You did not get selected for the Disctrict Manager position? Do not despair because it only means that God has something better in store for you . Who knows, you may find out later that you did not get that position because God was really placing you for Senior VP. You want good health for your children? You want to get out of debt? Then confess that it is done, be focused on the desired result, and thank God for already having it…claim it to be yours.
This is in essence Joel Osteen’s ministry. And I might add that there are plenty of verses one may use to support this approach. So what is possibly wrong with a message where God is absolutely central, and where I am encouraged to think positively and expect Him to supply all my needs?
This is where, in my opinion, a little analysis pays great dividend. The scriptures are about “precision”!
Think “very” clearly about it: What happens over time as one heeds and acts on such teachings? The person starts to look at his or her life more intensely. Especially when the message appears to work, what these teachings encourage is for each of us to concentrate on each aspect of our lives, searching for every area that can be “improved” in some way, and claiming God’s abundance for that desired improvement. Living in an apartment but would like to be a homeowner…here is an area of my life I need to focus on and address. This-needs-to-change. In debt? This-needs-to-change. My children could be in a better school…this-needs-to-change. I rightfully deserve to be better compensated for the job I am doing… this-needs-to-change. My marriage should improve. This-needs-to-change. More and more areas of our lives fall under our scrutiny. Our lives have our undivided attention.
Where is our focus therefore? On our lives…on OUR business! And when we make God the central piece in our solution, what are we now consumed with? Making OUR business God’s business. But is this what the scriptures teach…to make our business God’s business?
Let’s see a few passages
Our Lord Jesus-Christ: John 4:34 – “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work.
The Lord Jesus-Christ at the end of His life: John 19:28,29 – Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” …30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Paul toward the end of his life: 2 Timothy 4:7 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.
The statement of work from our Lord could not be more clear and emphatic! His FOOD was to do God’s business and to finish it! NOT to make His business God’s business, but to make God’s business His business! And He confirmed the completion of the work on the cross: It is Finished!
What fight is the Apostle Paul referring to? God’s business of course! See Ephesians 6.
Ephesians 6:18-20 – Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…19 And for me…to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
How does an ambassador…in bonds (a slave!) have time to focus on his own affairs? Should not a slave be completely devoted to His master? How can he effectively take care of the Master’s business if he is consumed with satisfying his own desires? The Lord says:
Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
When the Lord says No one, He means No one! Not even Himself!
Our Lord describes doing and finishing His Father’s business as His food! Doing the Father’s business was an “everyday” endeavor! When you do not eat for a day, it is called a fast…but the scripture does not tell us to fast regarding God’s business. Matter of fact, what did the Lord do on the one day of week God had ordained for resting (i.e. the Sabbath)? He still did his Father’s business!
Luke 14:3,4 – And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;
***The following paragraphs have been edited since this article was first posted***
Although appearing truly sound on the surface, I am afraid that teachings which lead us toward focusing on our own lives go against what God is expecting of us; that is, to focus on His Kingdom. I believe this is what the Apostle Paul was warning Timothy about.
2 Timothy 4:3 – …the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:3 is not saying that all our desires are negative (e.g. There is nothing wrong with desiring my children to be in a better school). Yet this verse condemns “focusing” on our desires…period…good and bad; and that, even if the strategy to obtain them is to put God at the very center of them! Paul’s warning should be contrasted with his advice to Timothy…“endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”. In other words…Be focused on God’s business! I do not think it is a stretch to postulate that it is understood by this advice that God would obviously take care of Timothy’s needs.
I believe it is important for you and me to realize that the mere fact of being conscious of God, of His existence, of His goodness and of His abundant grace is not equivalent to doing His will, but merely a prerequisite to it. Satan is very much conscious of God’s existence, goodness and abundant grace as he sees every day what God does for mankind in general, and for His children in particular. Yet, Satan is not at all in fellowship with the Father because He does not “do” His will.
Matthew 24:42-46 – “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.
My dear people, our God is NOT a cow. Our Father is NOT a cow that is just waiting to be milked whenever we have a need. No my people! NO! We are supposed to be soldiers for His Kingdom! We are supposed to be watchmen! We are supposed to fight the good fight! Instead of focusing on our lives and attempting to milk God for each of our desires, we should be setting our eyes on our Lord, praying to always have the strength to do HIS business, and to do it well, and to finish it. I am Christ’s ambassador, I am Christ’s servant, I am Christ’s slave…My Father is NOT my cow. My dear people, may our Lord Jesus-Christ enlighten all of us, that we may be found worthy when He returns. To our God be the Glory, and may His Christ, our King live forever!
Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me”. Where does this fit
in with many of today’s church’ teachings.
My greatest concern with Joel is his lack of focus on a personal
relationship with Jesus. I know He has one but we need to pass
the Jesus that lives in our heart on to others. That is Christ’
ministry for us in a nutshell no matter where we are ambassadors
Well said. This is also what deplore in the church today. A son or daughter in a family has responsibilities to fulfill. I will always be my father’s son and he will always love me despite my shortcomings “many”. But he also expect a certain behavior on my part. He does expect me to do certain things and to give my very best to them. I am afraid we do not stress that aspect enough today.
I do like Joel Osteen very much, but I deplore his teachings overall.
I would agree that there is an erroneous perspective in “prosperity” doctrine that leads people to think of prayer as a button, and when we press that button our need should be met. It degrades what should be a relationship into a mechanism. But, we are not servants or slaves any longer. We do not work for our bread. In fact God made Christ into our bread and wine, and He was made our salvation, our provision, our brother long before any of us were able to do anything to earn it or deserve it. When we cultivate a relationship with Jesus and with God we find that we are not obliged to do “good works”, rather we find that time in His presence inspires us “to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13 KJV).
Our faith is not centered around a God that exists only to meet our emotional and physical desires, but it is centered around a beautiful family relationship that we can cultivate. When we seek Him for no other purpose than His sweet presence, we will find that we’ve opened our lives up to the physical, emotional, and spiritual blessings that He so deeply desires to give us. His grace is sufficient. A mechanism can be confusing and ultimately break down, but a relationship with Him will eternally self sustain.
Gid bless and thank you for bringing this tremendous insight. Amen!
The one thing or two I will say however is that God never had slaves. He never had and never will, yet Paul calls himself such to emphasize his devotion…not some sort of sorry state he was in. And if we agree that we are still in the same age the Apostle Paul lived, then there is nothing wrong or inaccurate about this expression…it only brings to focus our part in the beautiful relationship with can have with Christ and our Father. Just like in other situation…”son” would be a better fit. With respect to good works, “to will and to do of His good pleasures” “are” precisely the good works. Correct me if I am wrong but the passage in phil. you quoted alludes precisely to us submitting and surrendering to Him so that He can works with us as He pleases.
Thank you again dear sister for bringing such a clear insight!
I agree that the section of scripture alludes to our surrendering to Him so that He can work in us. But the motivation of our surrender is important. Is the surrender a sense of obligation, a sense of indebtedness? or is it borne out of a deep appreciation for the love He has shown, most importantly through the sacrifice of His son, and through countless other ways?
I will also say, I think we accomplish so much more by meditating on our Lord and Savior and the love in that relationship to knit His body back together (speaking of the Church) than we ever will by finding fault in each other’s doctrine. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be discerning and identify the doctrine’s that are not truly based in scripture, and more importantly identify the ones that are not based in Love. However, I think we accomplish more by making Jesus the center of our lives, the center of our studies, the center of our speech. When we live this way we do two things: we make the brilliance of His love so attractive to others that they cannot help but see the darkness of their doctrine in comparison to the light of His goodness, and we simply starve the bad doctrine by denying it attention.
I truly long to see Christians more excited about who Christ is, and how that daily saves us, and more excited about what we DO believe than putting so much energy into examining the doctrines that we disagree with or the social practices that we think violate the teachings in the Bible.
Thank you for replying and for bringing even more clarity to your position. To which, I respond as follow.
First, when you say:
“I truly long to see Christians more excited about who Christ is, …than putting so much energy into examining the doctrines that we disagree with or the social practices that we think violate the teachings in the Bible”
Are you suggesting that those who examine the biblical doctrine of others are not really excited about who Christ is? I hope not. While it is true there are certainly bad people out there, many Christians, “precisely” because of their Love for Christ, are irritated by false doctrines. And will denounce them as soon as they identify them. Isn’t that part of being a watchman?
Second; I agree with the powerful impact that making Jesus the center of our lives, the center of our studies, the center of our speech has on advancing the Kingdom and our relationship with Him.
But I disagree with your view regarding how it is of little value to highlight fault in each other’s doctrine. If it is, then not only the Apostles, but Jesus-Christ too, should have been taught a thing or two.
The scriptures clearly show that both the Apostles and Jesus-Christ did it. Jesus-Christ’s ministry involved both part heavily: Showing the Love of the Father AND denouncing false doctrine (the Pharisee, etc.). He did BOTH everyday! We do not have a problem with that when we read the scriptures.
Neither do we have a problem with the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:17,18, or 2 Timothy 4:10 and others place. Matter of fact, we do not even have a problem of Paul denouncing Peter!
Look at all the places where Jesus publicly denounce the Church leadership of the time. If Jesus judged it necessary to denounce false doctrine, then it means that it is not only OK to do it…it is actually necessary! Just like He responded to the Devil tempting by the scriptures (it is written…), we should have the courage to state (Sorry…but it is written…). Therefore, I think your assessment is not exactly on point regarding this subject.
However, interestingly you stated:
“That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be discerning and identify the doctrine’s that are not truly based in scripture, and more importantly identify the ones that are not based in Love.”
My question is: Once you identify the doctrine’s that are not truly based in scripture, what do you do? Shouldn’t you denounce it and share it with your brothers and sister whom you love? What is wrong with describing that doctrine specifically in order to highlight what is wrong with it? And if such doctrine is maintained by a figure (especially a well known), what is wrong with identify the said figure?
Wasn’t the Lord doing the same in order to help people see the difference between the truth and the lie?
These are some of my concerns with the Church. We learn by examples of what is right, and we learn by knowing what is incorrect. The scriptures tell us not be ignorant of Satan devices. Let us help each other not being ignorant. If I have been following a wrong doctrine, then I long for someone to come and show me distinctly why that doctrine is wrong (which can only be done with the scriptures). I need that!
Cheers and blessing to both of us:)
I enjoyed this article; I appreciate most of its content in the sense that we should keep our gaze on Christ and doing our master’s business. I don’t approve of scrutinizing Joel Osteen or any pastor’s approach (just as long as it is scriptural based), that is not what our master has called us to do either. This article would have been better if it was generalized rather than solely critiquing Joel Osteen’s ministry. We are blessed and filled with many talents and as disciples we are to use those talents and gifts in winning souls for Christ. Joel Osteen is using his, are we?
Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. It is much appreciated. I love posting in a public environment like this precisely because it is an open forum for us Christians to discuss views, opinions and difference on interpretations, freely. I understand your concern regarding this article speaking directly of Pastor Joel Osteen, and to those concerns I shall respond as follows.
1. One point in the article where I concede that my article looks like a direct attack to the Pastor is at end where I mentioned him just before 2 Timothy 4:3. It was not intended to attack him directly, but I can understand if it is seen as such. Because of that I shall revise that portion of the article.
2. On the other hand, I do not see a problem with making a specific reference to someone’s ministry. In research and the published literature in general, it is common practice to identify authors of previous work by name in order to critique their work and provide an argument for that critique. No one sees an issue with that process, as we all understand that it is the work, not the person we are after. Matter of fact, the person who openly counteract the points of someone else is willingly submitting himself to the same scrutiny, as I am doing here. If we do not have a problem with this in the secular world, I do not understand why we have such a problem regarding God’s matters.
In Galatians 2:11, the Apostle recounts how he rebuked the Apostle Peter publicly. He mentioned Peter by name for everyone to read. Should he not have done so, especially since Peter was a public figure? I think he did it precisely because Peter was a pubic figure. Therefore, in my opinion (I could be wrong), mentioning someone by name is not a problem in and of itself. What is being said about that person is what matters. And if anything I said about him is false, I take full responsibility. On the other hand, it is also true that I did not personally confront Pastor Joel Osteen first.
I do hold Pastor Osteen in high regards as a brother in Christ, but I do not approve (at least at this point) to the thesis of his teachings.
I will guarantee you that if I am shown from the scriptures that something I wrote in this article is incorrect, I will make the necessary changes immediately (say perhaps via another article) and acknowledge it.
Lastly, it brings to mind a question: Is it improper to review a brother’s work and to openly disagree with it, especially if the brother is known of all (a public figure)?
Thank you for your input dear sister! It is very much appreciated!
It’s really sad that in this day in age we are scared to hit the nail on the head. There are many times in the Word I hear things that I don’t like, yet I obey. We agree with this article. We agree on the biblical basis of this article. Yet, when someone doesn’t have biblical based teachings (even if it is on occasion) we are not allowed to mention the teacher by name? The mega pastor teacher, who decided that he would be held to a higher regard should not be mentioned by name? No one is perfect here and no one is above reproach or correction. If he is wrong it is up to us to share the better way and it’s up to Joel to decide if he wants to teach the difficult principles. Who’s Appolos! We will be faced with the things we don’t like. If I am wrong please don’t dance around my nail…hit the nail on the head because I want to be my best for God.
Thank you for taking the time to comment on this article. This article is understandably quite shocking in its style, and as I wrote in the beginning of it, it may offend. I do believe that it has become almost taboo today to identify anyone when making a critique. Pastor Osteen is a widely recognized figure, loved by many (including myself). But if the scriptures does not prevent itself from identifying by name someone who may not be in the right, then it is my opinion that we should not be ashamed or afraid to do the same when trying to make a point. The end goal is to provoke us to think deeply and consider our ways in light of what we are being taught and what we are reading for ourselves in the scriptures.
Thank you for dropping by! I very much appreciated it!
I totally agree brother. That particular gospel is very misleading, our God is no more than a genie in a bottle that you can rub on and all your needs and desires are met. It also gives the notion that once you become a Christian everything will go well with you. The brand new red truck you’ve always wanted, the new home, beautiful wife and children, you will hit more home runs, touchdowns and slam dunks. This same leader if I recall was on a televised talk show and was asked if Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven and he could not answer. His response was that his ministry doesn’t focus on that. The bible says if we deny Him before man He will deny us before the Father. In my opinion a wolf is still a wolf even if he is well groomed and his teeth have been filed down. The appetite for devouring sheep is still there. Intentionally or not it is the wolf’s nature.
Thank you for commenting. You and I, like everyone readying these articles are here to develop a genuine relationship with our Father and our Lord Jesus-Christ. It is heartbreaking for me to see the many different ways we may led into focusing on something else than the Kingdom of God.
Frankly, this is one of those articles where I really wish I am wrong. But so far, the evidences are quite strong that this kind of ministry is indeed very dangerous.
Who knows, if Pastor Joel Osteen reads this, he might just make the decision to make some adjustment and teach us how to set our focus on the Kingdom of God rather than our own lives.
Not to sound negative or skeptic but I am a realist so I have to say that I doubt it.
You can’t really be faulted for that. There is a need for the truth, and a need to unmask false doctrine. I need both to learn.
Here are my thoughts: Joel Olsteen and Pastor Rick Warren are like rice cereal you give to a young baby. Young believers can only stomach so much at first. But as a child grows so does their appetite.
I see the concern though because many people never dig deeper then the surface. There needs to be a change for sure.
I remember Melissa Scott being on television. One of the best teachers. I would sit in total silence. Amazed at her connections and love of Christ. But I guess not enough people were hungry for her because I haven’t seen her on TV for a long time.
I think I’m just rambling here. Can I pose this question to you? And if you read my last post you’ll understand why, what is it with God, food, hunger, and thirst? I feel that it is the best way to compare our relationship with Him and there are of course several examples in the bible of this as well.
I read your excellent post earlier today, and I would encourage everyone to do the same. The analogy you gave is just spot on in my opinion regarding what should be our response to the love God has for us.
You are absolutely right about us not digging deeper. Speaking of popularity, I regularly have advertising of my Facebook page of popular figures like Pastor Osteen stating….”Do you like this man?”, or even his wife “Do you like this woman?”. I find it very sad…who is Paul, who is Apollos the scripture says!
Regarding what you said concerning Pastor Joel Osteen, it is very interesting that I had a discussion a few days ago, and the person also saw Pastor Osteen as catering to spiritual babies if you will.
Catering to spiritual babies (I am probably one mysefl) is perfectly scriptural and absolutely necessary. The Apostle Paul made it quite clear.
If I thought this is what he was doing, I would not have written this post (at least not mentioned his name), because the scriptures tell us that 1) we all have our own calling and 2) we should run our own race.
But if I have to use the food analogy, whereby we feed milk to spiritual babies, then it is my view that “overall”, he is not serving good milk, but fake milk (one that taste like it but is not designed to make you grow).
I know it sounds extremely harsh. But think about it…we serve good milk to babies because the “anticipated” result is that it will help them grow, to the point where they will “naturally” hunger for meat.
But from the issues I pointed in my articles, I believe that is teaching do the opposite. I believe his teachings overall cause us to focus on their own lives, rather than on God, by using God to serve our own desires. This is not to say that everyone who ascribe to his teaching is doomed, that would be foolish. But I think we ought to be aware of the dangers of such doctrine, and should proclaim these dangers. If what I stated in incorrect, then it will be easy to show from the scriptures that I am in the wrong.
In essence, whether we speak of milk, snacks, meat, it needs to be true. The teaching we receive, whatever its level, cannot contradict the rest of the scriptures. And the scriptures are scalable enough to cater to whatever spiritual level we might be at. But something that is not true is not scriptural.
I love your article because your analogy encourage us to think about what pleases GOD…not us! I really love it. Because we are aware of what He loves, we want to do those very things that He loves. In my opinion, your exhortation is in the same direction of my article, that is…let us learn to focus on God, not on ourselves. It is a journey, and I hope to be on it myself.
Long answer, but I hope I did respond:)
Your right about the fake milk. What you do serve children is usually very little but it must be nutritional!