Dear Mr. Osteen

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Dear Mr. Osteen,

This blog isn’t really about you. You might find that surprising since your name is in the blog title. But, I’ll get to that in a moment. I find that you to have an engaging personality, Mr. Osteen, and I admire your ability to connect with your audience. The church you pastor is one of America’s largest congregations, if not the largest. Lakewood Church has an annual budget of $80 million. You yourself are worth an estimated $40 million. Your home is appraised at $10.5 million. Gaudy numbers for sure. God has truly prospered you financially. I do not begrudge you for being monetarily successful. There is nothing unscriptural about being rich.

Mr. Osteen, I admire your positive attitude. The world needs more people with a positive attitude. Thank you for reminding us of the need for positivity. I respect that you always say things to inspire people to better themselves. I appreciate that you often appear on television and you’re always gracious, and you publicly state that you believe Jesus is the Son of God and the only hope for this world. Those things are commendable.

This blog isn’t about you as a person. It isn’t about your church. It isn’t about your personal success and wealth. It is, however, about a theology you preach and teach. That theology is often called “prosperity theology.“ Some call it the “health and wealth gospel.“ I chose to address this blog at you, Mr. Osteen, because you are the face most closely associated with prosperity theology. Whether you like it or not, you are.

Mr. Osteen, you teach that it’s God’s ultimate will for all Christians to be successful, wealthy, prosperous, and without sickness and disease.

But is it?

The basic teaching of the prosperity gospel is that God desires all his people to be wealthy, prosperous, successful, and free from sickness. Likewise, it teaches that if one is not wealthy, prosperous, successful, or healthy, then there must be sin in the person’s life, or the person lacks enough faith to be blessed by God with health and wealth. This gospel draws heavily from Old Testament promises God made to individuals and the nation of Israel. Prosperity theology is also guilty of severe proof texting, which takes numerous verses and passages out of context, as well as eisegesis, which is the practice of reading meaning into the text that isn’t there.

Though you shun being aligned with the prosperity gospel, you still teach it. Your father before you also taught it. You are his successor at Lakewood Church, and you teach the same message he did. He once said in a sermon, “It’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty. It’s God’s will for you to pay your bills and not be in debt. It’s God’s will for you to live in health and not in sickness all the days of your life.” He called this “the gospel.” You’ve never once refuted this.

Mr. Osteen, the prosperity gospel leans heavily on ‘word of faith’ theology. WOF theology teaches that your words hold the power to make things happen, or to stop things from happening. In other words, the words you speak determines your destiny. WOF teaches that Jesus Christ is not the object of faith, but faith is the object of faith. By having faith (in your faith), you can coerce God into doing anything you want him to do. This teaching has been around for some time, and has its roots in men like E.W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, and Kenneth Copeland – men who all held a suspect orthodoxy.

In addition, you’ve incorporated the “positive confession” theology of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller into your message. You believe that if a person makes the same “confession” over and over, it’ll become reality. While it is no sin to be positive and speak positively (or to not speak negatively) there is no biblical foundation for the theology of positive confession.

While names are being named, your contemporaries Joyce Myer, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, John Hagee, and Creflo Dollar – men and women who all have successful ministries – each subscribe to some variant of the prosperity gospel. They, too, are responsible for its dissemination through television, video, radio, and the internet. They bring it into the homes and hearts of millions of people weekly. This frightens me, Mr. Osteen. You write and say things like, “If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory” (Your Best Life Now, p. 132). And in a Christian Post interview, you said, “I think prosperity. . . it’s being healthy, it’s having great children, it’s having peace of mind. Money is part of it; and yes, I believe God wants us to excel.”

Again, I have no judgment against the rich. God chooses whom he will prosper materially. But remember, you have been prospered materially and monetarily, but so have other men who hate God and who have no relationship with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Because you are wealthy, because your church is large, because you are healthy is no final indicator that you’re doing God’s work in teaching prosperity theology.

One of my biggest concerns with the prosperity gospel is that it is irrelevant to the Christian family who will live and die in a trash dump outside Mexico City. It offers no hope for the nine year old sex slave in Calcutta, India. It promises no redemption to the life sentence-serving political prisoner in North Korea. The prosperity gospel is uniquely American: it’s all about you, what you possess, and what you can acquire. Jesus never preached such a gospel. The biblical gospel, the one that Jesus preached, is indeed good news. It doesn’t seek to take you out of a bad situation and set you on the path of worldly success. It promises you peace in this life and hope for the life to come – even when this world has seemingly dealt you the worst of hands. Money, success, possessions, and power are not included in the offer.

I can’t compare how radically different the gospel of Jesus Christ is to the prosperity gospel. I’ve searched the Bible over and over only to find many of God’s servants were not very wealthy, healthy, and successful in this life. Indeed, by following Jesus there’s a good chance you’ll lose more in this life than you’ll gain (Matthew 19:21, 29). Suffering, persecution, and lack are more a rule for believers than the exception (1 Peter 4:12-13; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:12). I wonder what hope the prosperity gospel holds for them? What about the persecuted church? Persecuted Christians are often derided, denied health care, mocked, imprisoned, starved, stripped of rights, tortured, and killed. Does the prosperity gospel give them peace in their time of persecution and affliction? An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer persecution. [3] The prosperity “gospel” teaches that if anything “bad” is happening to you, you must have sin in your life, or you lack real faith. It only serves to stomp and crush and destroy the hope and faith of the believer.

How does the prosperity gospel speak to the poor? I’m sure you already know this Mr. Osteen, but most of the world lives below the poverty line. Overall, Americans have it pretty good compared to everyone else. We have poverty in this country, yes, but we aren’t as poor as the rest of the world. Statistics show that 870 million people, or 1 in every 8, suffers from hunger and malnutrition. 80% of humanity lives on an average $10 a day. [1] 22,000 children die each day due to poverty (or “lack” as the prosperity gospel calls it), who according to UNICEF “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” [2]

I believe those who hold to the prosperity gospel are by and large preaching to themselves. The message isn’t for everyone, in fact, it’s irrelevant to most. It isn’t a gospel at all.

The prosperity gospel is an opiate to the masses. It’s religious capitalism. It’s a manifest destiny that is never truly manifested. It robs. It breeds greed and materialism. It is a false hope in a fleeting fantasy.

Dear Mr. Osteen, the prosperity gospel is poison.

_________________________________________________

Other Links and Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/26/americas-biggest-megachurches-business-megachurches.html

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/21/religion.mega.church.christian/index.html

http://www.xpastor.org/money/budgets/how-vision-sets-the-budget-a-glimpse-at-the-largest-church-in-america/

[1] http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm

[2] http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

[3] http://www.suntimes.com/news/huntley/19145247-452/persecution-of-christians-grows.html

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One thought on “Dear Mr. Osteen

  1. and yet he has one of the largest congregations in the world. I know the Bible says there are those that will align themselves with what they want to hear so that part doesn’t shock me…but it does sadden me…deeply

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