Joel Osteen is the pastor of the largest church in the United States, Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas.
His wife, Victoria, is a co-pastor. The Osteen’s teach a message of “hope, healing, and forgiveness” (from Lakewood Church’s official website). Osteen’s television show is watched by 20 million people each month in nearly 100 countries around the world. In 2004, Joel published the bestselling book His Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living His Full Potential. Joel Osteen’s parents, John and Dodie Osteen, founded Lakewood Church in 1959 and promoted the ministry through a television broadcast. Joel became involved in media production, overseeing church broadcasts since 1982, but when John died in 1999, Joel accepted the position of Lakewood’s senior pastor.
Joel Osteen’s basic doctrine, as summarized on his church website, is quite orthodox: it affirms the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible, the triune nature of God, and salvation by faith in Christ. Doctrinal problems come in other areas.
Although the Lakewood Church is nondenominational, Osteen’s teachings are rooted in Pentecostalism, and he teaches that physical healing and well-being were provided in the Atonement of Christ. “Jesus came so we could have a more abundant life. He came to carry our weaknesses, our sickness, our pain, so that we can walk in complete freedom, peace, power, and purpose” (from the official Lakewood Church website).
All that Joel and Victoria Osteen teach is the prosperity gospel: God’s will is that we be blessed with material things, a view that contradicts 1 Timothy 6: 6. As the Lakewood Church website says: “To be successful on your way with God, commit to honoring God with your finances. When you commit to giving the Lord the first 10% of your income, God promises that He will pour out blessings. you won’t be able to contain. Tithing is the first key to financial prosperity. ” The Lakewood website then quotes the favorite proof text for this teaching, Malachi 3:10. It is an excellent example of taking Old Covenant promises to Israel out of context and applying them to New Covenant believers.
Another problem with Osteen’s message is that he promotes the theology of the word of faith – declare it and claim it: “We have to conceive it on the inside before we receive it on the outside,” Osteen writes. “If you don’t believe that you can have a good thing, then you never will. The barrier is in your mind…. Your own wrong thinking can lead you away from God’s best…. To experience [God’s] immeasurable favor, you must get rid of that petty thought and begin to receive the blessings of God, begin to seek the supernatural ascent and increase. You must conceive it in your heart before you can receive it. In other words, you must create an increase in your own thinking, and then God will make those things happen “(from the book Your Best Life Now, chapter 1). There is nothing biblical about that teaching. There is no inherent power in positive thinking, and we don’t create our own realities. God is not our servant, waiting for us to ignite our imagination so that he can fill us with material goods. Jesus told his followers to “give up everything you have” (Luke 14:33), not to seek more.
Osteen often sounds like an inspiring life coach, rather than a gospel preacher. He many times he preaches on how people can improve their lives, be prosperous and experience happiness. Sin or repentance is not mentioned in Osteen’s upbeat message. Christ’s Atonement provides us with healing and abundant life, according to Osteen, but apparently receiving forgiveness from a holy God is not necessary.
In many interviews and writings, Osteen has not proclaimed that Jesus is the only way to heaven. He has repeatedly refused to agree with the teachings of the Bible that certain behaviors are sinful. The interviewee is not a new convert; he is the leader of a church of tens of thousands of people. Osteen dares not endorse the fundamental doctrines of the faith that he claims to preach. His words convey relativism and demonstrate a poor understanding of the Bible.
When you don’t talk about sin – and Osteen doesn’t do it on purpose – you aren’t preaching the whole gospel. When sin is sometimes or rarely called by its name, he is helping no one, least of all the sinner who is enslaved to sin (John 8:34; 2 Corinthians 4: 3). Joel Osteen’s teaching would lead us to believe that we are being saved from unhappiness and failure in life, not from sin and God’s wrath. Osteen does not teach that we need a divine rescue from judgment, but simply a plan for self-improvement.