“I try to leave them better off than they were before,” is how Joel Osteen defined the endgame for his multi-million dollar ministry of self-help and empowerment during a recent twelve minute segment on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” The title of the segment was “Joel Osteen Answers His Critics.” Ironically, the segment may have only bolstered his critics while adding more.
In twelve short minutes Osteen managed to admit that his ministry is more about show than substance, that he has an aversion to doctrine and theology, that he has little gifting as a teacher of God’s word, that he would rather inspire and motivate people than fulfill the biblical mandate given to pastors to reprove and rebuke, and that what he teaches is closer to Dr. Phil and Oprah than it is to Jesus or St. Paul. In other words, Joel Osteen, by his own admission, may be well-qualified as a motivational speaker, but lacks many of the qualifications to be considered a pastor of God’s people.
Byron Pitts, the correspondent for CBS News who interviewed Osteen, was relentless in pointing out where Osteen’s teaching diverges from Scripture and historic orthodoxy. At one point Pitts read for Osteen an extended excerpt from Osteen’s just released, Become a Better You, after which Pitts noted, “[There’s] not one mention of God in that. Not one mention of Jesus Christ in that.” To which Osteen responded, “There is Scripture in there that backs it all up,” a response which betrays the dangerous way in which Osteen handles Holy Scripture.
Osteen doesn’t seem to understand that we don’t bring our conclusions about life and living to the Bible and seek Scripture to support them. We start with the Bible, allowing the Holy Spirit, the author of the text, to give us His conclusions about life and living. The Bible isn’t supporting documentation for principles you’ve dreamed up to produce “your best life now.”
Osteen readily admits that he is ill-equipped to handle Scripture properly, telling Pitts, “…there’s a lot better people qualified to say, 'Here’s a book that’s going to explain the Scriptures to you.' I don’t think that’s my gifting.” He spends Wednesday through Saturday in his study at home preparing his weekly message. One might imagine that he is diligently studying the Scriptures. Not so. He told Byron Pitts, “.…when I think about it, Sunday’s in a few days and I gotta get back up here and feed everybody and be my best and inspire them and have some good stories, keep them listening.…”