Earlier this week Hurricane Harvey his the Gulf Shore of Texas. This storm has caused major damage and flooding to the city of Houston. Harvey is being called a once in five hundred year storm. After the hurricane weakened Houston received record rainfall. Roads are impassable, homes are damaged and people have been displaced.
Houston is the home of televangelist Joel Osteen’s church. The church was closed for the storm and upcoming services were cancelled. Shortly after Harvey hit a young man went to Lakewood church and made a video which posed the question as to why the church was not open to the public. It is unclear to me why the young man made the video. I can’t tell if he was there seeking shelter or just there to complain.
The video circulated the internet and Twitter user spent the evening casting stones on Joel Osteen and his ministry. The internet was mad that a church as prosperous as Lakewood was not open to serve the public during such a time. They felt like it was hypocritical that the church would not be anxious to serve during a natural disaster and they were not buying that the church was flooded.
I think the criticism of Osteen and his church is unfair. I am not a Joel Osteen fan and I don’t know much about his ministry. But I think people need to give the man a break. For goodness sakes he was in the same hurricane. Do people think that the wealthy or pastors don’t get rained on? Besides that churches are volunteer organizations. All of those people were hit with a hurricane and flood. So there may not have been adequate staff to serve anyone seeking refuge.
I also think it may have been unsafe to have a facility as large as Lakewood Church open during a big storm because it would draw a lot of traffic to it’s location. It wouldn’t be wise to put a bunch of people on the roads when some roads are flooded. There are logistics to be considered when trying to organize a relief effort.
I haven’t followed Osteen’s ministry over the years but from what I hear about him he is Christianity lite. He’s all of the feel good, come as you are stuff and none of the discipline or fire and brimstone stuff which is pretty typical of modern American Christianity. Modern Christianity treats Jesus Christ as if He were a genie in a bottle that is here to serve us. When we are asked to served Him many of us think that the church is being too pushy and demanding. If we are asked to discipline ourselves and be obedient many of us think that we are being controlled and that our freedom is being restricted.
This is why I think Osteen is a victim of his own success. It sounds to me like he preaches a self centered gospel that does not ask worshipper for a sacrifice. That creates self centered Christians that feel that they need to be served by the church but the church shouldn’t ask service of the community.
And that’s what we’ve seen this week from people that have bashed Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church. They instantly became angry when the community’s needs weren’t being met by this church but very few people asked what they could do to help the church. No one asked it the pastor and his staff was OK. The criticism was very self centered.
But I have to wonder if Osteen caused his own problem by preaching a gospel that is acceptable to the masses. If churches are going to preach a me, me, me gospel be prepared to serve a demanding self focused congregation.