From the Ordinary Pastor:
To the surprise of no one, Joel Osteen is on the cover of another magazine and the author of another book. The life-coach with a million dollar smile continues to be widely popular. To be clear: I am not against life-coaches or good smiles. I even have a personal soft-spot for a mullet and a well fitting suit. However, what I am against is a guy who continues to use Jesus’ bandwidth to broadcast his message.
Our church building is right next to a high school. Several months ago we noticed our wi-fi was ridiculously slow. After some investigation we found out that many of the students were cutting class and sitting on our stoop watching movies and other network demanding activities. The ministry of the church was being slowed by the student’s entertainment. I feel like this is what Joel Osteen does. He just kind of hangs out on the stoop of Christianity with his God-talk giving hat-tips to Jesus and a Bible story every now and then. But you know what? He is dragging down our bandwith. He is convoluting the message. He is hindering communication.
In the article from Success Magazine Osteen says, “What you focus on, you magnify.” This is adapted from his new book Break Out! This is actually an extremely perceptive and helpful biblical principle. The natural inclination of our hearts is to focus on and as a result magnify ourselves. “True North” on all of our natural compasses is self. We are navel gazers by nature. As a result we dwell on and magnify ourselves. Joel Osteen is able to (cleverly) capitalize on this. His entire ministry is about focusing on ourselves (our hopes, our dreams, our goals, our potential). It has very little to say about God. When God is brought in it simply to be the divine butler to bring in life’s fortune cookies . . . .
Christianity is about dying to self (Lk. 9:23) that we might live to God in Christ (Gal. 2:20). Osteen is about Breaking Out to realize all we can be. God is reduced to a supporting character in the great story of me. Osteen’s message is the spiritual equivalent to a basketball player scoring on the wrong hoop. Except this is not a game. People actually listen, buy, and believe this stuff. Lives and souls do depend on it.
We see this also in an earlier book we see the regrettable irony of his God-eclipsing theology. Osteen wrote Every Day a Friday. This book was marketed to everyone but particularly towards Christians. Think about this: Friday? Remember we follow someone who had a really bad Friday. Jesus was crucified because we were so consumed with ourselves and unimpressed with God (Rom. 1:18-25; Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:3-8).
My prayer is that Joel Osteen would either repent or stop using God’s bandwidth. Either repent or go be a life coach. Enough weighing down of the gospel signal.