I have wrestled within myself for days as to whether or not to address this issue, because I know it is going to be controversial, but as a pastor and minister of the Gospel of Jesus, I feel the alarm has to be sounded. Let me begin with this passage of scripture found in 2 Timothy 4: 1 - 5
1) Therefore I solemnly witness before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is going to judge the living and the dead according to His appearance and His kingdom,
2) preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
3) For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but they will heap up teachers to themselves according to their own lusts, tickling the ear.
4) And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to myths.
5) But you watch in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fully carry out your ministry.
What is it?
There is a TV preacher, author and speaker who is becoming increasingly more and more popular, and I know that many in our church listen to the man and read his books. His name is Joel Osteen.
So, what's the problem?
Basically, I am becoming more and more alarmed at what Osteen is saying... or more precisely what he is not saying.
I have read his book and enjoyed it... although it is a little shallow when it comes to presenting the message of Jesus. I have listened to his preaching, and I hear a message of "You can do it!" "You can win!" and there is nothing wrong with that... but where is Jesus? Where is the cross?
I have watched and listened now for several years, but the events of the last few weeks have caused the flags to wave, the sirens to sound and it is time to speak up.
Let me address the main issue at this time:
First; just a few weeks ago (June 20, 2005) on the Larry King show, Osteen was asked by King if Jesus was the only way, and he side stepped the issue.
King asked Osteen where Jews or Muslims would go if they don't accept Christ.
Here is a direct quote from the transcript of that show:
KING: “What if you're Jewish or Muslim, you don't accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: “You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know ...
KING: “If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They're wrong, aren't they?
OSTEEN: “Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person's heart. ... I don't know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know. I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know.
Later when there began to be an uproar from Evangelical pastors; Osteen issued an apology for his remarks on his website.
OK, I can let that go. He made a mistake. So he learns from it.
But does he?
In the past week Osteen appeared on ABC's Good Morning America and was asked the exact same question, and again he gave a similar response! Later in the week he was on CBS's The Early Morning Show, and was asked if he would consider himself an Evangelical preacher. He stumbled around an answer and final said, "I guess you could call me one."
You guess? Well, are you or not?
As I began to examine him closer, I found and article with the following quote from a Fox News story on Osteen.
“At the biggest church in the country, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week -- and sin is not on the menu. Osteen said his goal is to “give people a boost for the week.” “I think for years there's been a lot of hellfire and damnation. You go to church to figure out what you're doing wrong and you leave feeling bad like you're not going to make it,” Osteen said. ”We believe in focusing on the goodness of God.” (Fox News, February 03, 2004 By Amy C. Sims)
I believe in God's goodness for sure... but the Gospel, or the "Good News" is that when we discover that we are sinners, we don't have to leave feeling bad... but SET FREE!
Am I saying that we should tune out Joel Osteen, cross him off our lists and condemn him?
But I do believe the warning must be sounded. Care must be used.
I believe it is time to pray for this man with great sincerity.
Joel Osteen has been propelled to a place of International recognition and he has a voice to the nations. He reaches millions each week by television and through his books.
He has an opportunity to advance the Kingdom of Christ in ways that most of us will never have.
He also has the opportunity to bring great damage.
The choice is his.
But it is clear, he must make a choice.
He is either for Jesus or against him. No one can sit on the edge as he is currently trying to do, using careful wording so as to not offend anyone.
The Gospel of Christ is going to be offensive. The Bible tells us so.
Osteen, nor anyone else, can change that without perverting the Gospel.
My advice as a pastor and minister of the Gospel?
Pray for Joel Osteen, watch him carefully, and if he continues down the road he is traveling...
run as fast as you can in the opposite direction, because it is a road that leads to destruction.