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A letter To Joel Osteen by John Pavlovitz
August 31, 2017

"Dear Joel Osteen,

Over the past few days you’ve faced an unrelenting wave of Internet shaming, and you’ve experienced the wrath of millions of people who watched the week unfold and determined they were witnessing in you and your megachurch’s response to the hurricane—everything they believe is wrong about organized Christianity; its self-serving greed, its callousness, its tone-deafness in the face of a hurting multitude, its lack of something that looks like Jesus.

They questioned your initial silence and your closed doors.
They watched with disdain as local Mosques and furniture stores and Jewish temples and Chabad houses rushed to receive newly homeless victims while you seemingly waited.
They shook their heads at the conflicting stories of a flooded church and impassable roads.
They lamented you tweeting out that “God was still on his Throne,” while thousands of your neighbors were literally under water.
They saw your social media expressions of “thoughts and prayers” as hollow and disingenuous, knowing the stockpile of other resources at your disposal.
They witnessed with disgust what they deemed as your late and underwhelming act of kindness performed under duress.
They raged at your excuse that Houston didn’t ask you to receive victims—because (whether Christian or not) they realized that Jesus’ life was marked by an overflow of generosity and compassion and sacrifice that rarely required official invitation.

As a result of the push-back and condemnation you received, I imagine you feel like this has been a rough week. It hasn’t. You’ve had the week you probably should have had, all this considered. You’ve had the week that was coming long before rain ever started falling in Houston.

For quite a while, Pastor, many people have concluded that the kind of opulence you sit nestled in no way resembles the homeless, itinerant street preacher Jesus who relied on the goodness of ordinary people to provide his daily needs. They rightly recognized that mansions are not places that servant leaders emulating this humble, foot-washing Jesus occupy. They correctly saw the massive chasm between the ever-grinning, your ship is coming in, name it and claim it prosperity promise that is your bread and butter—and the difficult, painful, sacrificial “you will have trouble” life that Jesus and those who followed him lived in the Gospels. They expected the most open-handed giving would come from such overflow.

They also see the great disparity between your coddled, cozy, stock photo existence—and the sleep-deprived, paycheck to paycheck, perpetually behind struggle that is their daily life.

And yet despite their difficulties and their deficits and their lack (the kind you have been well insulated from for a long, long time), these same folks understand that when people around you are in peril—you respond. You don’t wait for an invitation, you don’t wait to be shamed by strangers, and you don’t make excuses.

That’s why many of these ordinary, exhausted, pressed to the edge people, lined up as human chains in filthy, rushing, waist-high water to pull people out of submerged vehicles. It’s why they came from hundreds of miles with boats and at their own expense and using vacation days, to pluck strangers from rooftops. It’s why they gave money and clothing and food and blood (and some of them like Officer Steve Perez)—their very lives acting in the way Jesus said was the tangible fruit of their faith.

Many of the people whose very dollars helped build the massive, tricked out arena you call home every week, showed you how decent people respond to need. I hope you were paying attention. I hope you’re different today than you were a week ago. I really hope something penetrated that seemingly disconnected exterior and found a home in your heart.

Because someday, Pastor, the waters in Houston will recede and homes will be rebuilt and normalcy will eventually return there. And to a large degree the attention and the pressure you’ve received this week will find other places to reside, and you will return to the work and the life you’ve had before, relatively unaffected.

It’s then that I hope you’ll remember this week. It’s then I hope you’ll recall the parable Jesus tells of the Good Samaritan, who though a despised pariah in the place he found myself, responded to a stranger’s need with immediacy and vigor while the religious people walked right by. This Samaritan showed mercy, not because he was guilted into it or because he was asked—but simply because he knew that we are one another’s keepers; that we each have resources we are entrusted with, and the way we share or hoard those resources reflect our hearts. 

I hope you’ll remember Jesus on the hillside feeding the multitude, not because they petitioned him and not because it was in his job description—but because they were hungry and he wasn’t okay with that.

I don’t know you and I don’t believe you’re a bad person. You’re quite likely a good, loving, and decent man—but good, loving, and decent people lose the plot, they get distracted, they get it wrong, they need to recover their why. If none of that has happened, then I apologize for misreading things, but that’s what it looks like. I’m trying to help you understand how many people feel so you can understand their anger this week.

Scripture says we can’t judge another person’s heart, and I won’t at all suggest I know yours. Jesus says that we should not make moral judgments from a distance and I won’t make ones about you. He does say, however, that we can look at the tangible things we see and evaluate them—the visible fruit of one’s faith. Many people have questioned that fruit in the past few days and that’s especially necessary when someone has the platform and influence you have. 

You had a difficult week, but you are safe and dry, and despite the criticism and pushback, blessed with more abundance than most people will ever know. That’s good news for you. I don’t hold any of that against you. I don’t wish you any kind of ill will.

The even better news than that, Pastor Osteen, is that you are alive. You are still here and you have a chance now to show people that Christianity is far more than their greatest fears about it, much better than the worst they’ve seen of Christians, and more beautiful than the ugliness they’ve experienced in the Church.

You have the chance to leverage your incredible resources and your platform and your influence to show a watching world something that truly resembles Jesus.

Don’t wait for an invitation.

Jesus already gave us one.

BWV Comment 

Jesus told us we could identity a tree (Christian) by the kind of fruit it bears. Apple trees do not bear thorns nor do thorns bear apples. Anyone who reads the articles on this website know that I view Mr. Osteen as a false minister of the gospel because he does not preach and teach the whole council of God.  

The gospel message begins with the Holy Spirit convicting the lost world (that is everyone on the planet) of SIN (John 16:7-11) yet Mr. Osteen brags that he does not deal with sin as that is not his thing, which proves my point. He does not deal with the first thing the Holy Spirit does in this world - to convict and convince SINNERS of their lost condition, and second to reveal to them their lack of RIGHTEOUSNESS and thirdly of the JUDGMENT TO COME. However, those who accept the Lord Jesus as Lord and Savior shall not come into any condemnation for Jesus took our just judgment upon Himself.  This is the pure unadulterated gospel and without making the SIN situation clear to lost people so they know HOW and WHAT is their true condition before God, then the so-called minister is by biblical definition a Charlatan and needs to get out of the pulpit. 

I probably receive two or three emails a month from Osteen supporters and I can tell from their comments they have not truly read and checked out the FACTS I have put forth about Osteen's syrupy speeches (not messages) and weak impotent appearances on TV with obvious lost host's who ask him the typical questions - do you believe homosexuals will go to hell?; do you believe Jews will go to hell?; do you believe you have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven?; are all other religions wrong?; why don't you preach about sin?; (Note: I always ask Osteen supporters who write me to take their Bibles, read the entire New Testament and underline every word and passage that deals with SIN. Then ask themselves, with this plethora of evidence for SIN in the bible, why does Mr. Osteen ignore it? I have yet to have any of his supporters do that).  

His comments are always the same - "Awh, no, I don't judge anyone that is not my business". "I believe if anyone is sincere in their heart they will go to heaven"  "Sin is not my thing, that is not what I do". He is on record of actually making these comments.

Appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres TV show (she is a practicing lesbian), she asked him if he believed homosexuals and gays would go to hell. He comment was astounding. His words always the same - Awh, no, I believe God looks upon the heart and if they are sincere they will go to heaven.  In fact, he said he had many practicing homosexuals attending his church. Not surprising as they will not hear the gospel that requires them to repent and turn from that lifestyle. Osteen will just make them feel more comfortable in their sin. 

On another occasion, he was asked if he believed all Muslims would go to hell. Same old worn-out response, "Awh, no, I don't judge anyone that is up to God. But notice the first words out his mouth are always, "Awh no." In using that repeated phrase, he has just told the TV host he does not believe Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, gays and other religious will go to hell when they die. Is that the truth and did he make it clear to Larry King (a lost Jew) and Ellen DeGeneres (has appeared on their programs several times) that unless a Jew, a homosexual or a Muslim repents of their sin, accepts the Lord Jesus, and turns from their wicked ways they will die in their sins and go to hell. They will not go to heaven. The answer is NO HE DID NOT!  

Now suppose Franklin Graham had appeared on these TV shows what would have been his response?  That is easy to answer for he always directs his interviewer to the cross and shed blood of Jesus Christ as the only means of forgiveness and acceptance into the Kingdom of God. He never back-petals or shrinks from making the gospel plain to all those who invite him on their programs. That is why he is seldom invited by TV hosts that do not want to hear the truth. They had rather have a Joel Osteen on their programs for they know he will not condemn their lifestyle or lost condition. Mr. Osteen will one day stand before the Lord Jesus at the Bema Judgment Seat to give an account of his life. The blood of Larry King and Ellen DeGeneres plus a host of many more who have never heard him preach the whole council of God and to make the gospel plain will be on his hands. 

When I was a pastor, the greatest compliment I ever received was by a deacon who told me in every message or teaching, I always presented the gospel and made it so clear an 8-year could understand it. There is not a better compliment than that for a minister. 

I could easily have written the same letter to Mr. Osteen that John Pavlovitz wrote for I totally agree with it.