Move over Robert Schuller, the Church of Laodicea has a new star on the rise in the world of positive motivational Christianity. It's Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston , whose motto is "Discover the Champion in You." He is the son of Pentecostal preacher the late John Osteen. But where his dad lacked in charm and charisma the 39-year-old son makes up for it in the style of a Tony Robbins with the looks of a Richard Gere.
Osteen made the list of the Top 20 Influencers of the Pentecostal/charismatic community in the Jan/Feb 2003 Issue of Ministries Today magazine. He was listed with other notables such as Kenneth Hagin Sr., Tommy Tenney, C. Peter Wagner, and Joyce Meyer. "There is no arguing that the following 20 leaders have inspired us, challenged us and in many ways caused us to rethink what it means to "do church" in today's culture," the article boasted.
The younger Osteen lives the life of prosperity that he preaches. A 2001 Real Estate Guide ( http://north-valley.com/realestate_board/messages/157.html) valued his home at $1,265,500. His sermon titles give clues as to the focus of Osteen's ministry:
ENLARGE YOUR VISION
HOLDING ONTO YOUR DREAMS
HOW VALUABLE YOU ARE IN GOD'S EYES
OVERCOMING THE GREATEST HINDRANCE TO HEALING
DEVELOPING MIRACLE-WORKING FAITH
FAITH TO CHANGE YOUR WORLD
BELIEVE GOD FOR THE GREATER WORKS
DO ALL YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE
LIVING A LIFE OF EXCELLENCE
DEVELOPING YOUR POTENTIAL
His boyish charm and good looks no doubt have added to his success. He took over his father's church in 1999 when John Osteen died of high blood pressure complications. The senior Osteen had made his mark by hosting a weekly television program and authored 45 books. He founded Lakewood Church and built a 7,500 seat auditorium. However the size of the congregation has more than doubled since Joel Osteen became senior pastor and he has now outgrown his father's facility.
Now with his super-star celebrity status Osteen is moving Lakewood Church into the Compaq Center , the 18,000-seat arena where Houston 's basketball team has played. They have entered into a lease and are busy remodeling the entire center which they will rename "the Lakewood International Center ." A fund-raising campaign to raise the $70 million dollars for the improvements is asking supporters to sponsor a seat for $2500 each.
Their promos boast that the Lakewood International Center "will become a focal point for the entire city of Houston . The ice rink and basketball facilities will remain open for families and city leagues. Concerts, sporting events, family conferences, conventions, business workshops, receptions and personal growth seminars will bring in people from all races, backgrounds, and walks of life."
"The International Broadcast and Production Studio will tape programs, and seminars throughout the world via television, radio, books, tapes and the internet," the promo continues. "Our Health and Wellness Center will provide back- to-school programs while assisting the community with personal fitness and health related issues. A Dining and Retail Plaza will be a gathering place for surrounding businesses and provide a variety of resources to our congregation. Lakewood 's Conference and Convention Center will attract organizations from around the world and present programs and seminars that will meet the diverse needs of an international city. "
On Lakewood Church 's website, a video presentation is given to announce the building project. Osteen gives the new vision of his ministry: "We're all about building people up. We're all about helping people reach their full potential. We don't push some kind of religion.:all we push is joy and peace and victory through Jesus Christ. :Our message every single week -is through faith in God you can live an overcoming life of victory : I believe that's the message this generation needs to hear. We've heard a lot about the judgment of God and what we can't do and what's going to keep us out of heaven. But it's time people start hearing about the goodness of God, about a God that loves them. A God that believes in them. A God that wants to help them. That's our message here at Lakewood ."
Osteen preaches the new modernized gospel that is increasing the number of tares and goats in the visible church. "It's the goodness of God that leads people to repentance," Osteen asserts carefully avoiding the dreaded word 'sin.' "That's why over 18,000 people walked down our aisles last year to receive Jesus. That's why we receive hundreds of thousands of letters, e-mails, and phone calls from our television viewers."
INCREASING IN FAVOR
"See the Bible says that we can grow in favor," said Osteen in his sermon "Increasing in Favor" (available in RealAudio at http://www.lakewood.cc/a_v_library.htm). "I believe one of the main ways that we grow in favor is by declaring it. It's not enough to just read it it's not enough to just believe it. You've got to speak it out. Your words have creative power. And one of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. And there is a divine connection between you declaring God's favor and you seeing God's favor manifest in your life:You've got to give life to your faith by speaking it out."
In keeping with the erroneous idea of using some positive thinking to get what you want in life, Osteen preaches the Kenneth Hagin/Charles Capps idea that we can get what we want from God by our faith-filled words. This entire sermon was on how as a child of God we should be receiving "preferential treatment" by everyone. He testified about how he had been pulled over a couple of times for speeding but when the officer saw his last name was Osteen, no ticket was issued. He said the same can happen for every Christian who wakes up declaring they have God's favor. By following this method Osteen says he has been able to get the best parking spot in a crowded parking lot, a first class seat on a crowded airplane with no boarding pass, and priority seating at restaurants.
This is a far cry from what the treatment the Bible says true believers will receive from the world. Jesus warned in John 15:18-19, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
The Bible also seems to quote these new prosperity "Christians" word for word in Revelation 3:17 -- "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." But Jesus responds, "you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked."
And yet that is the cry of the prosperity gospel -- one whose god is the goods of this world -- what the Bible calls "lovers of mammon." The apostle John in his first epistle reiterates his warning against chasing after this world's favor:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15) Lakewood Church 's suitable theme song for their "Discover the Champion in You" slogan: "We Are the Champions" I've paid my dues Time after time I've done my sentence But committed no crime And bad mistakes I've made a few I've had my share of sand Kicked in my face But I ain't gonna lose We are the champions-my friends And we'll keep on fighting Till the end We are the champions We are the champions No time for losers 'Cause we are the champions of the World' (A lot of good it did for Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991)