[@] Criticizing Joel Osteen

OK: so what exactly is going on at Lakewood? I don't mean doctrinally -- I mean practically. If you follow the link, the Compaq Center went for about $95 million, and it apparently has "three stories, 16,000 seats, two waterfalls, a coffee shop, myriad wireless hotspots, 32 video game kiosks, a nursery, a bookstore and a vault to hold donations."

Well, we have a "safe" to hold donations at my church, and if Lakewood really did take in $55 million last year then they prolly need a vault -- they take in about $1 million a week, and you can't just drive that to the drop box at the corner bank branch.

They average 30,000 in services on Sunday -- making them the largest church in America. Personally, I think that's amazing -- most churches cannot survive having 500 on Sunday without splitting over the building program.

So what's my beef? If I'm not going to take Pastor Osteen out and beat him for soft-soaking the Gospel (see the other post), what am I going to do?

Well, I'm going to ask why, exactly, it is important for Lakewood not to split. It seems that the Compaq center was available, and they apparently had either the cash or the credit to close the deal, so if they get 30,000 on Sunday while cent's church in the boonies only gets about 300, why complain? Isn't God glorified by a sell-out crowd as much as he's glorified by a handful of people gathered in his name?

Well, God is certainly glorified. The question is if He's glorified because the wicked are being exposed or because his name is being lifted up. And the funny thing is that I don't think it's Osteen who's being exposed as wicked, per se.

There's a very funny link at the Lakewood website which you can find here. Boy, there are pages of stuff about the bookstore, how to make a donation, the fellowship groups, the services, the new campus, the ministries (which I would call "in-reach" as opposed to "outreach") -- but open up that missions page. It's empty. Excuse me: under "local outreach" it says, "Lakewood Church encourages its members to share the love of Christ with the Houston community through volunteerism, evangelism, and ministry. Regardless of your interests, spiritual gifts or talents, there is a place for you."

Where are they? 30,000 people come to hear someone who believes God's word is true and Christ died for sin speak every week -- and then the rest of the time, what? What do they do after they brave the traffic out of the campus? Obviously, they give their money -- and there's something to be said for that. But was it as important to renovate the Compaq center as it might be to have, say, feed 400 people dinner every day for a year? (My guess is that this would have cost about $750,000 -- about 1% of what they spent to buy the Compaq center)

This is why it is important to have a church which is smaller than 30,000 people: accountability and personal relationships. There is no doubt that I can name 5 churches inside a 10 mile radius of my home that are small and are dying because they are exhibiting the same kind of church mentality as Lakewood is -- which is that what they have is good, and they have to protect it by making it (the physical stuff) safe, clean and neat. But when people can come to a church service in the same way they can come to a basketball game or a football game -- which is to saym anonymously and vicariously -- they are missing the point of the Gospel, the consequences of the Gospel.

Sorry. I might stand up to those who call Osteen a heretic, but his church demonstrates a low view of what the Gospel calls us to by the way it uses its resources. He's the pastor there. He should do something about it.