He’s one of the most offensive preachers in the world. His message sparks controversy everywhere he goes. Yet he packs out football stadiums and leads one of America’s largest churches. So who is this preacher? An extremist? A militant? A raving mad man? Nop…he’s Joel Osteen. He is THE most positive preacher on the planet. And that’s what offends so many people…his positivity.
For his critics, Osteen is a spiritual lightweight who lacks authenticity and only focuses on the joy of blessing without acknowledging the pain of suffering. Is there validity in such criticisms? Not really. How can anyone judge someone else as being inauthentic without actually knowing them? Interestingly, a friend of mine who spent time with Osteen observed how the man is no different off the platform to when he’s on stage. Surely that is authentic? Perhaps his critics might prefer it if he became grumpy Joel instead? But then that would lack authenticity because that would not be the real Joel Osteen. So, you can’t really have it both ways. Yes, Joel really is THAT chirpy (even though he has been through his own fair share of challenges). So to dismiss Joel Osteen is to completely miss the heart of an important message.
Truth is, we live in an incredibly cynical culture. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the trends of sniping, sarcasm and negativism. On a personal level, I know myself only too well. You see, I’m a natural introvert whose default inclination leans more towards pessimism than optimism. While there can be strengths in this, there are also huge weaknesses too. So for people like me, it does us no good to spend all our time around others who are just like us. That’s exactly why we need people like Joel Osteen in our lives, who graciously challenge us not to completely pander to negative vibes.
God never intended His Church to just go along with the tide of cynical culture. We’re meant to be counter cultural. That’s why Paul said in Romans 12: 2 ‘Don’t conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind‘. It’s only when we grasp this that we’ll truly become an alternative that makes a real difference.
Interestingly, I read a secular publication recently which mentioned the Junction Church. It was written by someone who is not a Christian but who was glowing about their experience. They were struck by the warmth and positivity of our community…and have even started coming along on Sunday’s. As I read this, I was reminded yet again WHY we do what we do. Our mission, as believers, is to carry the culture of God’s Kingdom everywhere we go. It’s a powerful alternative to the smothering cynicism that is so prevalent in our world.
So, thank you Joel Osteen. You challenge us. You annoy us. You stir our faith. Keep doing what you do sir. We need it!