The sons are rising. They’re here. The sons of great American televangelists. You know the names: Swaggart, Shuller, Robertson, Roberts, and then there’s Osteen.
I used to watch his father John Osteen. I remember switching after 15 minutes or so. He reminded of a little chipmunk on two pots of coffee chattering a prosperity gospel message. His son has the same message packaged differently. His son is on decaf, less scary--he’s Mr. Cool—I like him.
Click to watch Joel Osteen's 60 Minutes episode.
He is the pinnacle of pastoral success. He has 7,000,000 viewers in over 100 foreign countries listening to his message of hope, of his telling people the forgotten elementary principle “God is good”. Those viewers give $30 million in contributions. He never asks for them for money unlike the way televangelists are known for.
His church is nothing to sneeze at either. 10-15,000 worship in his Houston stadium converted into a church. They put $43 million per year into KFC-looking offering buckets. They don’t look like a dead church either. Pastor Osteen considers himself a motivator, an inspirer. His hypo-optimism, different from his father’s hyper-optimism, is contagious. He believes all people are born to prosper and he is just a life-coach of sorts. Interesting.
More than the TV and stadium church, his books are where the big money is. 60 Minutes didn’t say how much cabbage that brings in, but they did mention he received a $13 million advance for his yet printed book Become a Better You. 60 Minutes also mentioned Jesus, God, and the Gospel are not mentioned in his text. In fact, Rev. Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary labeled his message “heresy”. He called it a “Cotton Candy Gospel” that says “God is nice, you’re nice, I’m nice”. Something one would expect as a benediction before snack time at Romper Room Nursery School.
What does a pastor like me say to all this. Believe me, he has a glorious church, a great following, and reaching a mass of people where few pastors have gone before. He’s a good guy. He’s a family man and he works hard. He cries in gratitude and humility for how God is using him. To boot, the guy can bench press 300 pounds, and plays basketball really well. All that is good; but what about the gospel?
Only 1 passage comes to mind from the Apostle Paul’s writings, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). I need to probe deeper to make sure 60 Minutes didn’t portray Osteen negatively, but if he isn’t preaching the gospel and teaching his people to do that too, he is neither doing his job nor what Jesus commissioned. I will probe deeper. I am actually surprised they painted him so well.