On Sunday I took some time to watch the focus on Joel Osteen on 60 Minutes. I’m kind of torn with this guy. I already said that he is polarizing and 60 Minutes did a good job of portraying this.
Many theology buffs say his theology is distorted. This might be because he went to college for a semester and has no theological schooling. His positive message seems very self reliant which is a bad theology. It is saying that God has empowered me to take care of myself, instead of thinking that I need to rely on God to provide in my life. He himself says that he tries to give a positive message because people already deal with so much negative in life. I think Kurt is right when he said that better to be positive than negative. Joel also said he tries to avoid using Scripture until the end of his message to emphasize his point.
I talked with my dad about some of this and we both kind of agreed that only in the South could someone like Joel Osteen thrive. Is it ironic that in the Bible belt that the biggest church is trying to avoid the Bible except to emphasize a point? In his big building there are no crosses or other familiar references to Christianity. In the end, better for people to come to church than not come to church. But Osteen would not make it on the West Coast in just about any church here. My dad said churches that are successful on the left coast are either fundamental or relevant and Osteen is really neither. There is no way he could reach a postmodern audience and you certainly see an older crowd at his church which seems to confirm this.
I don’t see a lot of reason to banter about whether or not we like him, because there will always be some people who are attracted to a message no matter what it is, and clearly he is making a difference. But I won’t be going out and buying his new book on how to be positive, and his message certainly does not bring me closer to Jesus. If I were in Texas I would never think to go to Lakewood to see Joel…I’d rather see Chris Tomlin or David Crowder.