Joel Osteen’s Hurricane Haters Are Exactly The People That Need His Message Most
With the endless Hurricane Harvey problems we could (and really should) be focused on, many have decided to instead channel their energy from helpful endeavors to hating on Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church — because that clearly doesn’t happen enough; not even in the middle of Houston’s greatest crisis.
Every tragedy needs a villain and somehow the man that never stops telling people to hold on to hope in tough times is just that.
People across the spectrum are outraged that Lakewood’s building isn’t already housing displaced families.
On that last one…I won’t get tangled in the tangent of debating ‘how wealthy is too wealthy’ for ministers to be, but I will say — even apart from the Osteen instance — I pity the pastor whose congregation desires to see him broke and financially struggling while they get to save for retirement and avoid having to buy everything used. After all, selling stocks or developing property or whatever you get paid doing should definitely be more generously rewarded than the work of saving souls and walking people through their darkest trials, right??? I digress…
Let’s ignore the fact that Lakewood’s parking garages are underground and flooded. Let’s ignore the fact that the facility has permanent seats throughout the entire sanctuary making it nearly impossible to put up bedding in that largest area of the building. Let’s ignore the fact that many of Lakewood’s own staff are themselves displaced and stranded. Let’s ignore the fact that current shelters are not yet at capacity and there is no great demand for additional space in that area (Houston’s massive convention-center-turned-shelter isn’t far from Lakewood’s property). Let’s ignore the fact that we have no idea what kind of plans are being discussed behind the scenes or what non-public action is already taking place.
Instead, let’s focus on the fact that one Houston church hasn’t publicly pledged within the first 48-hours that their congregation made up of the same Harvey flood victims will immediately meet every need in the city.
Many of these complaining Houstonians (and elsewhere) angry that Joel didn’t meet their official Biblically-approved-crisis-response-deadline have not personally been impacted by the flood. With homes perfectly suitable to house those in need of shelter, doors are locked. If you’re going to denounce Lakewood’s to-be-determined building-availability-status at least do it with a poor and needy stranger sleeping in your bed so you can avoid hypocrisy. As you say, “That’s what Jesus would do!”
Hypocrisy is no stranger to the average Osteen hater. Not all, but most:
- Accuse Joel of heresy but have never personally listened to an entire message of his and instead make judgments based on a few, selectively-chosen YouTube soundbites meant to demonize him.
(I could easily find a 30-second snippet of words leaving your mouth that misrepresent what you actually believe if a mic was in your face at all times held by predators hoping you have a mishap.)
- Blast Joel for not preaching the true Gospel, but have never once preached the Gospel to anyone else and have led zero people to Jesus.
(I personally know several people that are transformed, born-again followers of Christ because of Joel’s ministry. And, no, you don’t get to dismiss their testimony just because it doesn’t fit your bias.)
- Slander Joel for selling a book based on Biblical principles that encourages people to live their best life instead of writing strict theology books. At the same time, they buy books from their favorite Christian leaders on a wide variety of topics like culture, leadership, careers, and everything else unrelated to systematic theology.
(As an aside: Joel hasn’t taken a dime from the church in over a decade. These books make up the bulk of his income and they’re not required reading in any form at Lakewood.”)
- Complain that Joel focuses too narrowly only on certain aspects of Christianity while, themselves, narrowly focusing on certain areas of Christianity that wrongly skew the breadth of the Biblical perspective in the opposite direction.
(I believe in preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word. Contrary to the accusations of many that have been misinformed, Joel consistently speaks about trials and hardship being unavoidable for believers.)
- Gossip about all the things they dislike about him, but have never uttered a single prayer for him.
(If you are one that believes he is hell-bound for his “false teachings”, why haven’t you pleaded with God to save him and bring him to truth?)
I get it, Joel pastors the largest single-congregation church in America which literally makes him the biggest target. Though it’s interesting how quickly believers find themselves huddled in the same corner with those that hate Christianity and all it represents whenever they start picking out the perfect stone to throw at a face that does nothing but smile and offer hope to hurting people.
Let me issue this clear warning: before you publicly denounce someone as being a false prophet, you had better do thorough research, investigate the fruit of their ministry, pray diligently, and be willing to give an account of your proclamation to God himself. Because, if you’re wrong, at best you’re bringing division to the Body and at worst you are an enemy to the work of the Holy Spirit drawing people to Jesus through a man’s obedience — like satan. Caution, friends.
A few people you look up to jabbing at Joel doesn’t justify it. I urge you to reconsider your position. Maybe you haven’t given it much thought until now. Maybe I’m offering a new perspective. Maybe it’s time to soften your stance a bit and ask God if you’re looking at it with His eyes. Guess who will be first to forgive you? Joel.
I am closely connected with some that have been behind closed doors with Joel and observed his private life for years. I have heard first-hand the behind-the-scenes stories. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no juicy gossip to pass along. The witnesses all share the same experience: Joel is the same person in private as on stage, he practices what he preaches, he never speaks negatively of anyone, he is generous beyond belief, he loves people, he is pure-hearted, and he loves God more than anything else.
Is Joel perfect? No. Is he closer than you? Probably.
Will he rebuild every flood-damage home and feed every hungry child? No. Will he do way more than you? Definitely.
In this devastating time for the city of Houston, Joel’s message of hope will have an even bigger impact than his means of help.
His unwavering belief that you can have hope regardless of your circumstances if you depend on God is the best Gospel-truth anyone can offer in this moment.
I’m believing his Jesus-like love for people and refusal to engage with toxic negativity will eventually soften his haters’ hearts. They could learn a lot from his example and are the ones that need his message the most.