THE ABSENSE OF SCRIPTURE
One of the first things Mintz noticed about the church was that Osteen's book was everywhere. He writes:
Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, has replaced all the soda and popcorn at the concession stands. That book was freaking everywhere...
But then adds:
...but perfectly enough there were no Bibles. Bibles are so passe. The Bible is angry, judgmental and condemns everything fun in life — but not Osteen. Even after the ushers led me to my seat, I could not find any Bibles for those biblically impaired like myself. Apparently, Lakewood is BYOB — Bring Your Own Bible.
Enter problem number 1, the lack of Biblical exposition creates of church of ignorant, so-called Christians. Osteen's lack of Biblical discernment and knowledge is apparent not only in his preaching, but also in his congregation. Here is a great example of why godly, Bible believing preachers are imperative in every church. The congregation reflects the preacher. Those who care more for modern psychology and Dr. Phil-ism will have a church more concerned about "how I feel?" than "am I being obedient to God's will?"
Whenever one strips their church of Scripture, it ceases to be a church. For where else does one find the origin of church but Scripture? It would be hard to imagine the apostle Paul being pleased with the lack of Bible exposition from the preacher and his congregation. In the last letters of his life, Paul repeatedly reminded Timothy constently concerning God's Word, false doctrine, Biblical theology, etc:
- 1 Timothy 1:3-4 - As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith.
- 1 Timothy 4:1-6 - The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
- 1 Timothy 4:16 - Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers
- 2 Timothy 2:15 - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth
- 2 Timothy 3:14-17 - But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
- 2 Timothy 4:1-5 - In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry
Now I would not for a second expect an unbeliever to understand the imperative of worship, but I would expect a church to emphasize it's importance. For the most part, I belive that Lakewood is decent whenever it comes to it's worship. However, according to Mr. Mintz, who is anything but interested in Christianity, the time of music and song was worship, but a rock concert. He notes:
Without a hymnal, people were free to rock out to the blastin’ band that stood on a moving platform between rows of gospel singers, all framed by fake stone waterfalls and a giant spinning globe. Now that is what I call religion —goodbye flying buttresses, hello Universal Studios. No crosses, though — that would be a downer.
Old ladies were shaking their groove thing to the beat of the goateed guy on the bass guitar, and with the smoke machine and lighting straight out of a discotheque, I don’t blame them.
Here is my biggest problem with the modern defintion of worship: we care more about the music and the scenery than we do the words or what they mean. We're fine and content with singing love songs that are directed towards God that are so watered down that they mean nothing, just as long as the rock band in the front are in tune and on key.
I believe that Lakewood, for the most part, do sing decent worship songs, but my fear is that their worship is more of a concert than it is about Christ and Him crucified. The fact is, once we learn to appreciate the words, we couldn't care less about the music.
SERMON NUMBER 1: OOPS I FORGOT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Mantz goes on to describe how after the worship, a woman came up to give somewhat of a mini-sermon. This is how he described it:
As the singing ended, a woman with big blonde hair and what looked like Juicy Couture track pants started a sermon. Usually, sermons are bad because they make you feel ashamed both for sinning and for being ignorant of the Bible. But not at Lakewood. The woman just talked about how parents should raise their kids well. And apparently she knew even less about the Bible than I, considering her trouble recounting the story of Mary and Joseph.
Notice two things about this paragraph. First, the lack of dealing with the issue of sin. Instead of exhorting parents to be god-fearing parents who have been given a charge to raise their kids, they are simply encouraged to "raise their kids well." Whatever that means. Secondly, notice that Biblical ignorance of the church. If what Mantz says is true, it is scarey that one of the ministers at a church would have "trouble recounting the story of Mary and Joseph," who gave birth and raise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!!! How do yo forget about them?
To tell you the truth, I dont' have time to deal with everthing Mintz has to say concerning Osteen's "sermon." But here are some of the highlights. First:
Then came the big show: Joel Osteen. With the audience cheering as he ran on stage, I could have sworn he bore a distinct resemblance to former Rockets forward Matt Maloney. As I saw it, his sermon consisted of three sections: Give money to Lakewood Church, if you’re good you will get money and Joel is awesome. No surrender, no sacrifice, no sin.
And here is Osteen's definition of Christianity: prosperity and favor from God if you do the right things. Though Osteen may deny it, he is the postchild of the prosperity gospel (of which I have already written about). Though he may deny it, his hearers are picking up on it from the very beginning, and Mantz is evidence of it.
Simply put: You can't! Osteen may call it Christianity, but this feel good, hug your inner child garbage spewing from his pulpit is anything but Christianity and it certainly isn't the gospel!
The gospel is about us feeling hopeless and then seeing the cross and finding the only source for hope. The gospel is about us feel lost and then seeing Christ on the cross and being found. The gospel is about us being broken because we are failures in God's eyes, deserving of judgment, death, and hell, and nonetheless He redeems us though we do not deserve it! That is the gospel. And Osteen has left it far behind!
And it was amazing. All those Christian themes of giving into the will of God and begging forgiveness that make me so angry were replaced by prayers for money and success. Heck, even I prayed for my mutual fund to double, and I don’t believe in God.
Osteen continued to wax about how we should not condemn people for sin but be nice to them because that is the only way to change them. Also, he said, if you do this, God will reward you with a job promotion. Apparently, everything is related to money. From the begging for charity — not for the poor, but for Lakewood’s first $10 million loan payment — to being a good person for the economic reward, Lakewood made it seem like God was just one big ATM.
Call me crazy, but I don't think this unbeliever left the service understanding the gospel.
Mintz cocludes his experience as:
After visiting Lakewood Church, I did not feel condemned for my sinful ways, damned for rejecting Jesus or even uncomfortable, considering the lack of crosses and Bibles. This atheist felt good.
In the end, the only problem was that I forgot where I parked my car.
In other words, Mintz is remains condemned living in his sins destined for a godless, torterous hell. Those aren't my words, those are Chrsts'. Christ spoke of hell more than he did about how church is one big ATM. One cannot be redeemed unless they first realize that they stand condemned!
It is a sad description of the American church whenever an atheist can leave one of our services with the response, "this atheist felt good."
"Woe to you, teachers..., you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."
No other phrase could better decribe Osteen's ministry than those. But don't get mad at me, those aren't my words, those are the words of Jesus Christ. Something tells me Osteen won't be preaching on this passage anytime soon. It might offend the Jewish atheist who are still on their way to Hell!