Skip to comments.A rising star in the new Culture of Christianity
Posted on 08/10/2005 7:54:28 AM PDT by TBP
On any given Sunday, 100 million households from Australia, Europe, and across the USA will tune in to view Joel Osteen broadcasting from the 30,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Rated as the #1 inspirational television program by Nielson Media Research, Joel Osteen is preaching a message that certainly seems to be touching home with people all over America. In his much respected best selling book, Your Best Life Now-7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, Osteen outlines a seven-step process for effecting profound change in your life. He speaks in terms of the positive in everyday life. Expect God's favor, live your full potential, realize your God-given right to prosperity, including being happy, building a good marriage, and having good relationships. Accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative are really the basis of Osteen's message. His true gift is in speaking directly to the viewer, almost to the point that the viewer feels that Osteen knows him personally. He talks about everyday real-life issues, using self disclosure from his own experiences and subsequent lessons learned in order to relay a powerful message.
Osteen's story has been often told in recent years. His father was the much-loved and revered Reverend John Osteen, founder and longtime pastor of the Lakewood Church. Father John authored 45 books and was know as the "pastor's pastor," leading seminars and conferences around the country along with running a successful television ministry. Joel Osteen's first experiences were in business and media, becoming a successful producer of his father's television ministry. Upon his father's untimely death in 1999, Joel humbly stepped up to fill his father's shoes, and the rest is recent history.
The amazing phenomenon that we are witnessing with the rise of Osteen is that he has seamlessly incorporated and integrated the long-practiced prosperity principles of the century-old New Thought movement (principles derived from the teachings of Jesus and even earlier teachings) into a mainstream Christian message. A mere decade ago, most of the TV preachers and hometown pastors delivered a message that those in the flock are sinners, undeserving, dust-of-the-earth folks, who could not expect much from God other than a beautiful afterlife. The common teaching did not recognize that we are empowered with making a good life for ourselves. In fact, many would have called Osteen's teachings blasphemy. And some very vocal mainstream Christianity proponents are saying just that. The internet is littered with "outing Joel Osteen" messages, stating that he is card carrying metaphysical teacher not unlike Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Neale Donald Walsch. They say that he speaks the same lingo as the well known self empowerment gurus of today, adding a Christian tint and point of view.
When Osteen is asked who inspires him, he is vague in his responses. When asked which books he reads, he replies that he reads many books and has no particular favorites. When interviewed about gay marriage and other liberal ideas, he has replied that he doesn't get into that. Regardless of where the basis of his message comes from, it is powerful and fulfilling to his large audience. It is quite apparent to any knowledgeable viewer who may have studied New Thought and other metaphysical writings, that Osteen is preaching what philosopher William James called "the religion og healthy-mindedness." He is delving far beyond the power of positive thinking of the Sixties and Seventies. He discusses our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and belief systems. Some metaphysical teachers are feeling cheated, for Joel Osteen is bringing mainstream Christianity down a parallel path of teachings. But what does it really matter? If mainstream Christianity can transform its ages-old "fire and brimstone" fear-based message into one of self empowerment and practical positive living , then it is all the better for humanity. The world's Christians can now feel empowered and happy without the prerequisite guilt that was so prominent in the past.
Joel Osteen is touching a chord in the human spirit in teaching empowerment, betterment, positive thinking, optimism, and gratitude toward God. The overwhelming response is evidenced by blockbuster book sales and skyrocketing television ratings. And this very same phenomenal response is commensurate with the need of the seekers that he is reaching out to.
On a more reflective note, the melding of practical spirituality and Christianity may not be good for the long-term "brand" equity of Christianity. If you can watch presentations by Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson and Joel Osteen side by side and see little difference in the teachings other than terminology, what will be the outcome of the loyalty to one particular religion? All of these teachers are offering a similar message in different packaging. The real outcome of Osteen's rise is yet to be seen. The present conclusion is that he is greatly helping to uplift humanity by teaching self-empowerment, negating victim-hood, and relieving people of the propensity for guilt in striving for prosperity and abundance.
Joel Osteen is definitely a mover and a shaker of the highest nature. His charm and charisma packaged with a succinctly delivered message will only propel him to even greater heights. Expect his to be a household name around the world in the coming years. Whereas Billy Graham delivered a powerful sermon and saved millions of "sinners," Joel Osteen is sure to uplift and elevate the lives of many millions more.
Genuine Christianity is about self-denial, not self-empowerment.
Religion is supposed to be about uplifting us. How does self-denial promote that?
And to that I would add, it is about being filled with the Holy Spirit. A self-empowered human is a speck of dust compared to the most ordinary person who is filled with the H.S.
Talk about real power!
I will never understand the charismatic movement. It's really quite a cultural phenomenon.
In Christianity, you win by losing and you live by dying. Click on my name and read a quote by John MacArthur. He says it better than I ever could.
A saint of many centuries ago got it right with this prayer:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to posses everyting, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive. Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, thy riches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley, thy life in my death.
The charismatic movement is an attempt to get back to the fulness of the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Some of it is a little off the track, but the intention is good. As far as Joel Osteen, I think he's blessed because he's one of very few that preaches that God is for you and not against you. If you want proof of that, just check out what people on this website post far more often than not. I thank God that I came to know Him as accepting me. Had I learned from most of those on this website, I'd think God was an unreasonable, unpleasable, hating ogre. But He's not that. He's perfect love.
Christianity is definitely not about self-empowerment. It's about total reliance upon God and seeking to serve and advance His Kingdom in this world until Christ returns to fully consumate it. Osteen's message seems very anthropocentric.
I was recently taken to task by some posters here who were evidently embarrassed by Osteen representing Arminians. Your article is interesting and I think that Osteen represents a very large segment of current non-Denomination Arminian thought.
Matthew 16: 24 & 25: If anyone desires to follow after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
It's all a part of the great mystery. We just have to believe and follow Him. I have visited Lakewood Church and have found all the TV related things going on to be very distracting to worship. The message bothers me inasmuch as the Lord is not some cosmic grandpa who is there to grant my every wish. I am here to worship him and to dedicate my life to Him and that involves sacrifice on my part.
Which is, at bottom, nonsense.
"I come that you may have life and have it more abundantly."
That's what they think. Self-deluded people....
That is the truth. The presence of Almighty God in someone is an awesome thing to behold.
You are both right!
One must die to himself and be reborn of the Holy Spirit, a new creature in God. Then and only then will life be infinitely abundant...and, I might add, eternal.
Not really. Having life abundantly does not imply abundant
material gains. Life especially eternal life involves giving up more than enjoying "life".
Uh huh. Okay. And, um, just so I know, what is it exactly that the Lord is doing through your life, that is coming from your absolutely fantastic "self sacrifice"? I'd really like to know. Because, for knowing that God my Father is FOR ME and not AGAINST ME, I have had countless things done through my life, FREELY, by His grace, not because I'm so adept at "self sacrifice".
So really, fill me in, let me know about the far-reaching ABUNDANT FRUIT that Christ GUARANTEED to come through our lives, that you find in your life, solely because of your fantastic self-sacrifice....
I have no doubts the intentions are good, I'm just not set on the same frequency as they are I guess.
That's funny, because I got filled with the Holy Spirit before I did ANYTHING. ANYTHING. I think that's because, the Bible calls the Holy Spirit a GIFT. That means, you can't earn it with your works or "denying of self". He is granted freely to all believers.
Not entirely, but that is part of it. "It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom."