Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"Pastor" Joel Osteen?

Michael Spencer, "The Internet Monk," has posted an alarm concerning Joel Osteen, pastor of a church of something like 30,000 people, titled Outing Joel Osteen: A Challenge to the Evangelical Blogosphere. In it, he spells out his concerns about Osteen, gives a number of substantiating links, and asks that Christian bloggers join him in raising the alarm.

I'll approach it by asking, What is a pastor? And What is a pastor to do?

The Greek word translated "pastor" means shepherd. The well-known Psalm 23, in painting Yahweh as our Shepherd, shows the shepherd at work. He makes sure his sheep are led, fed, and protected. This is what the Christian pastor is to do as well: he is to lead, feed, and protect his sheep.

First he must be the sort of person who can lead. This is why Paul is at pains to set out the requirements for the character and training of a pastor in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9. His character must literally be exemplary. However, in most of these traits, he is nothing other than what a Christian man should be -- with one exception: he must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9). He must be soaked in the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-17). This is because he is called to teach, teach, teach the Word of God with power and patience and persistence, regardless of the inclement weather of his culture (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

In fact, in a striking passage, Paul shows us that God values his ability to labor hard in teaching the Word above everything else (1 Timothy 5:17). He must hold out this Word -- the whole Word, with its thundering judgments, non-negotiable commands, and wondrous promises alike -- if he is to be free of the blood of his hearers (Acts 20:26, 27; cf. Ezekiel 3:17-21).

And what does any of that have to do with Joel Osteen? As far as I can tell, not much.

If I am reading the sources right, his qualification and training for being a pastor was that his dad was one, and he worked with the media ministry. That, seemingly, is it. No Hebrew, no Greek, no nothing.

Now, look: I in no way believe seminary is a requirement for being a pastor. But training is. And if one is trained, the fruit will show in one's preaching and writing and conversation.

Osteen has written; in fact, he wrote a best-seller. Listen to what he says about it in this Faithful Reader interview:
FR: Do you need to have a personal relationship with Christ or even be a Christian to benefit from what you write?

JO: I think that these principles will work in anybody's life. I think Bible principles are principles for life. I was reading today about one of the wealthiest men in the world. Every week he gives away homes and cars and surgery for the poor in his country of Saudi Arabia, and he continues his business and continues to be one of the wealthiest men in the world. I thought about it and that's just right out of the principles of the Bible. When you give, God is going to give back to you. I think that having a positive attitude and expecting good things is just what the Bible says. The answers I think will work for anybody.

FR: You put the prayer to accept Christ, or the "salvation prayer," on the very last page of your book. What went into this decision to put it at the very end?

JO: I feel my calling in life is to encourage people to help them live their lives better, to just be who God made them to be. Most of my ministry is not necessarily Evangelistic. Mine is to help people to live, but I do believe the Great Commission is to go into all the world and to teach and make disciples. I believe I'm helping to make disciples, to train people how to live.I could have put the salvation prayer on the first page: that would have been great too. It's just that in my weekly broadcast I always give the message, and then at the end I take the 30 seconds and I say that prayer. I guess it's just a habit thing.
Thirty seconds at the end... "a habit thing." An endnote.

Contrast this with the apostle Paul, who said that, if Christ had not risen from the dead, his life made no sense whatever, and he (with all Christians) was the most pitiable of all (1 Corinthians 15:19). Paul, who said that for him to live was Christ (Philippians 1:21). Paul, who abominated the very thought that he could boast in anything but the cross of Christ, by which the world had been crucified to him, and he to the world (Galatians 6:14).

Yet Osteen says his book is great help from God, whether a person is saved or not. Salvation is optional. Christ is optional.

And apparently it is, as this page shows a self-admitted "secular person" and a Buddhist both saying how great they think Osteen is. To them as they are. Outside of Christ, under the wrath of God -- but feeling happy and optimistic, because "Pastor" Osteen tells them to be.

It is a shame that a person who offers, apparently, no Evangel, can be a rising leader in so-called Evangelicalism.

Check out the links, see for yourself, form your own judgments on the basis of facts and of Scripture. For my part, I think again and again of Paul's sobering counsel to Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 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, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)


The Chairman said...

Very interesting post...I hadn't heard of this guy until recently.

Christian R said...


Are you a fan of Joel Osteen at all? In the site above the guy points out that he wouldnt even know who the Osteens are if they weren't in trouble with the FAA and the FBI. That is NOT the "spreading of the word" as I understand it.