Lakewood Church is home to the largest Christian congregation in America. It includes child care services, a café with wireless internet, video game kiosks and a first class book store that features Joel's best-selling books.
After the worship service, Joel provides a nice, uplifting message about trusting in the Lord and He will provide what is lacking in your life – such as a stable job, adequate transportation and even that nice raise you deserve. He stresses that life can be a lot better with God. I feel inspired and refreshed by listening to Joel.
Toward the end of the service, an announcement is made that Joel will be signing copies of his new book titled Break Out!: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life. In his book, Joel encourages his readers by saying, "When you break though in your mind, believing you can rise higher and overcome obstacles, then God will unleash the power within that will enable you to go beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary life you were designed to live."
We rush upstairs and buy two copies of Joel’s new book then head to the line for the book signing - forcing our way through a mob of admirers, hell-bent on getting that signature. While waiting in line, we are instructed to have our books open, ready for Joel’s signature. We are also encouraged to have our bibles signed if we wish. As I reach Joel, I have him sign his book for me. He is upbeat and smiling. I feel like I am meeting a superstar – a rock star for Christianity as Glenn Beck, a conservative talk show host calls him.
I offer my bible to Joel and he signs that as well. He looks at me, eye to eye and says, “I am very glad you are here today. Very glad!” My wife and I walk away, winding through the crowded church toward the exit. Slowly, my feeling of awe and stardom turns into melancholic regret. I just had my bible autographed as if I were a desperate groupie at a rock concert. This is the Word of God. How could I do this?
Joel Osteen is a spiritual man who has brought many to the Lord. He effectively inspires his congregation to attend church and provide charity in the community. Joel has been very successful in selling his books which offer hope and encouragement to many.
The Lakewood Church website describes his core message being, “That our God is a good God who desires to bless those who are obedient and faithful to Him through Jesus Christ.” It is true that God is pleased with the obedient and faithful. But is that the core message of Christianity?
There are those who believe Joel is a part of a controversial movement called the Prosperity Gospel. This teaching uses faith and doing good works to gain material blessings from God – to use God to get things from Him. Preacher and author Rick Henderson says, “Joel teaches that we open ourselves to God to get more from God. He teaches that we use our words to speak into existence a better reality. This is straight from the Word of Faith Movement. This is not the focus throughout the New
The Word of Faith movement teaches financial prosperity and physical - spiritual healing for any who choose to verbally declare what is desired. This involves an act of
faith that it coincides with God's purpose. This movement references Mark 11:22-23, when Jesus said believers shall have whatsoever they speak and pray with faith.
Jesus did not die on the cross so we can ask God to provide for us. He died for us as a payment for all the past, present and future sins of the world. And by making a choice to accept this gift from God, we are to develop a warm and personal relationship with Him. We are saved from ourselves and will spend eternity with Him. Just knowing the facts is not enough. Having a feel good Sunday service is not enough.
It involves a willingness to submit, as Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (NRSV). This means to deny your own wishes and worldly desires - take up your “cross” and be willing to “die” to follow Christ. He expects an absolute surrender to Him.
The Christian faith is based on Salvation, not on personal accomplishments or things that make you feel warm and fuzzy. As stated in Luke 9:24-25, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (NIV).
True happiness does not come from material things or success. It comes from knowing God on an intimate level - having a personal relationship with God. This means to deny yourself of worldly desires, take up your cross of struggles and sorrow daily and follow Him through his examples and teachings.
Although the message of Joel Osteen is uplifting and inspiring, I believe it misses the mark. Many of his congregation may be lost in the spectacle and missing out on the true meaning of the Gospel - Salvation. There is nothing wrong with being successful or striving for personal excellence but those actions are not priority in life. It is the choice to love and walk with God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – not expecting favors in return. The rest will come naturally, according to His will.