I’ve got a confession to make. Something that some of you reading this will be able to relate too, but as a quick internet search or even a five minute conversation with a cross section of Christians will tell you, some of you will be mortified and appalled. I suspect some will feel compelled to send me all manner of comments and emails (feel free I moderate them anyway), several will pray for my soul and salvation (I’m already saved but still love your prayers), others still will unsubscribe from A Million Points of Grace all together (all the cool stuff is still to come).
So what’s my big confession? I’m a fan of Joel Osteen. There I said it, the cats out of the bag, the elephant in the room has a name, and I like Joel Osteen.
Joel Osteen the pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest church in America and author of a whole new genre of spiritual books and related programs. His style of positive approached preaching has sparked a nerve with millions around the world.
Osteen is not without his critics, I dare say he likely has as many critics as he has fans. Some folks dislike his message. As one Christian once said to me about him “I hear him talk about God a lot, but I never hear him mention Jesus”. Some dislike that he is not ordained formally as a pastor nor did he attend a seminary, others still feel he is a heretic who preaches an unbiblical message. I’m sure some don’t like his hair and teeth. I’m not going to debate the whole concept of “prosperity gospel” as I find that label tossed onto more than one pastor or evangelist who sermons don’t seem to fit someone else’s idea of what a sermon should be. All I can comment on is what the messages of Joel Osteen have done for me and for people I know.
Joel Osteen reminded me of a simple, yet often overlooked, principal about God. That He is a God of love, grace, mercy and blessing. There used to be a saying that was popular when I was a kid “I’m a child of God and God don’t make no junk”. Osteen reminds us that we are not junk, in fact we are precious in God’s sight and He has put us here on earth for a reason and a purpose. Sometimes we get so caught up in the dogma and denominational debating that we forgot the simple, yet perfectly complex to actually do, commandment given more than once in the Bible to us who are believers.
“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,'” he replied, “‘with thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole strength, and thy whole mind; and thy fellow man as much as thyself.'” Luke 10:27 (Weymouth New Testament)
That is the Great Commandment. It’s not “thou shalt only use the King James Version” or “thou shalt not have contemporary worship songs” or even “thou must use the actual word Jesus when talking about spiritual matters”. Nope – love the Lord your God, with your whole heart, soul, strength and mind and oh by the way – love everyone else just as much as you love yourself. No easy task to be sure, our human nature gets in the way of being nice. This is why we need God and his blessings to help us in turn be a blessing to others in our lives. Once you strip away the various rules, regulations and quirks of each of the modern denominations should we not all be working with the same goal in mind?
A close friend of mine from when we were kids once put it this way. “God is a hotdog, what you choose to put on top of yours is a personal choice”. Not a bad analogy if you think about it. Let’s agree on what’s important and leave the condiments to personal choice. I’ve had the privilege of worshiping with just about all of the mainstream traditions at some point or another in my life and can tell you that there are just a many dedicated and committed Christians in the Methodist church as there is in the Lutheran or Episcopal traditions. I’ve met some amazing Presbyterians and had my faith strengthened by Baptists, Pentecostals and even Catholics. I could go on but you get my point. While each of us came from different traditions with different worship services and styles, we all could unite in a common faith belief and commitment to service for the kingdom.
So if God is the proverbial hotdog I’ll take mine with a side of Joel Osteen, oh yea and a sweet tea (must be the Southern Baptist in me talking).