Joel Osteen And His Controversial ‘Feel Good’ Message

Joel Osteen is possibly one of the most controversial Christian pastors in our country. Say what you will about him, but Joel Osteen evokes strong emotion in people. Some hail Osteen as a great and loving man of God, while others criticize his “feel good” messages. Osteen has even been ridiculed for his big smile. Although Joel jokes about these things, the comments still must hurt.

Every minister has his or her own unique way of preaching, and Joel Osteen is no different. He prefers to teach of the love and kindness of Jesus rather than the frightening hell and brimstone approach that many others take. According to Charisma News, Joel Osteen does not agree with those who believe he is not giving his followers the whole truth.

“You know, it’s not hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. They’re not doing what they should, raising their kids—we can all find reasons. So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, ‘You know what? I may not be perfect, but I’m moving forward. I’m doing better.’ And I think that motivates you to do better.”

Joel Osteen has been accused of only teaching part of the Bible. Life-long Christians may disagree with his methods, but one thing is for certain: Joel Osteen brings people to Jesus. While Lakeside Church has members in every stage in their journey with the Lord, Joel’s target audience is the person sitting alone in the middle of the night, hopelessly staring at the TV screen and wondering if life is worth living. It is the young single mother who cannot pay her bills, wondering if her child would be better off with a more financially comfortable family. The drug addict fighting the urge to use again but not possessing the strength to make the change.

I grew up as a Catholic. I went to Catholic schools all the way through high school graduation. It wasn’t until I heard the teachings of a pastor similar to Joel Osteen that I learned about having a relationship with Jesus. It changed my life. Although I am now at a church that does teach a more balanced message, I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t first been drawn to the Lord with the “feel good” message.

Life is hard. Joel Osteen is certainly correct about that. How likely is it that a hopeless person would be encouraged to follow Jesus when hearing a hellfire and brimstone message? Not likely at all. Is it more important that a person is taught the entire message right away? Is it more important to learn to love and accept Jesus Christ and receive hope and salvation? I believe Jesus would say it is the latter. Jesus died to give all sinners the hope of salvation.

I agree that hell is real. I do not agree that Joel Osteen is somehow doing his followers a disservice by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. That is, after all, what Jesus asks us to do.

The Huffington Post reports Joel’s father, John Osteen, who originally grew Lakeside Church into a huge following, was the type to teach in the hellfire and brimstone manner. He wanted Joel to preach as well, but Osteen did not feel comfortable with public speaking. On what turned out to be the Sunday prior to his father’s death, Joel taught his first message. This is the way Joel Osteen remembers feeling during the transition of taking over the role of John Osteen.

“He went to be with the Lord. I thought, ‘What are the coincidences of me speaking the last Sunday of his life?’ Because he was healthy, for the most part.

“I felt that same feeling that said, ‘I’m supposed to step up and pastor the church.’ And, again, every thought said, ‘Are you crazy? You’ve spoken one time. You think you’re gonna get up there and pastor it?’ But I knew I was supposed to do it.

“One day about three or four months in I realized, I’m not good at being my dad. He’s more fiery… I’m laid back. I’m good at encouraging people. Talking about life.

“I read a scripture that said, ‘David fulfilled his purpose for his generation.’ I felt like I heard something here. I said, ‘Joel, your dad fulfilled his purpose. Go be you.'”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Joel Osteen may concentrate on the positive message of the Bible, but this is not necessarily wrong. We all have our own calling. This is Joel Osteen’s calling, and he rocks it.

[Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press]