This week, over 10 million people from around the world will sit under the ministry of Joel Osteen. Thousands will be in attendance in Houston, Texas during one of their weekend services. Millions will watch through Internet and television broadcasts. Recently, Joel Osteen appeared on the Stephen Colbert show to promote his latest book titled, The Power of I Am where he basically points people to the power of positive thinking rather than the power of God. You can view the short interview below.
In the interview with Colbert, Osteen was asked if he has any desire to form a religious denomination. He denied any desire to form an official denomination, but if the truth were known, more people watch Osteen each weekend than are professing members of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America (TEC). In 2014, the membership of the TEC was 1,504,273 communicant members and 1,956,042 baptized members.
In this interview with Colbert, Osteen was handed another opportunity to speak for God and to articulate the gospel, and he fumbled the ball – again. If this were a game, Joel Osteen would need to be planted on the bench long before now. However, this is by no means a game. This is much more serious, and souls are at stake.
In this short clip from The Late Show, Joel Osteen misinterpreted the I AM statement of God from Exodus 3:14. Osteen claimed that the statement means that God is everything, completely missing the point of God’s name. Beyond that, Osteen went on to describe his “Word of Faith” theology on how he believes that there is actual power in the words that we speak. What he means by this is far more than the impact the words may have upon a person (good or bad). He embraces a specific theological position known as the Word of Faith movement whereby spoken words have creative power. Every word is a pronouncement of blessing or curse.
If there was a group known as Osteenians, their belief system would be centered on the power of positive thinking, speaking, and pronouncing. This theological system is filled with many classic errors dating back to Balaam in Numbers 22. There have been different feathers of this type of prosperity teacher surface through time, such as Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8) and other false teachers of the New Testament. The Word of Faith theology of Joel Osteen is heretical because it misses the gospel. It under values the good news of salvation. The Word of Faith movement reduces the work of Jesus on the cross down to a prosperity ticket whereby the chief end of man is to glorify self and enjoy our toys for a temporary life.
Really, this is nothing new from Joel Osteen. He isn’t charting new territory in his spiritual journey. He said very similar things in his book titled, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day where he writes the following:
One of the best ways that we can improve our self-image is with our words. Words are like seeds. They have creative power. It says in Isaiah that “We will eat the fruit of our words.” That’s amazing when you stop to consider that truth: Our words tend to produce what we’re saying…Every day we should make positive declarations over our lives. We should say things such as, “I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy. I am talented. I am creative. I am wise.” When we do that, we are building up our self-image. As those words permeate your heart and mind, and especially your subconscious mind, eventually they will begin to change the way you see yourself. The Scripture says “With our tongue, we can either bless our life or we can curse our life.” Some individuals curse their own future by saying things such as “I don’t have what it takes. I’m so clumsy I can’t get anything right. I’m so undisciplined. I’ll probably never lose this weight.” We must be extremely careful what we allow out of our mouth. Our words set the direction for our lives. 
Joel Osteen would fit much better within the realm of secular self-esteem and self-help psychology, rather than masquerading as a pastor who shepherds souls for the glory of God. I realize that many Osteen fans become angry with statements like that, but time and again Joel Osteen blows it when it comes to theology. How many times will you take your car to a mechanic who consistently makes errors in repairs? As a skill and profession, the mechanic should take seriously his ability to diagnose and repair your automobile. What about heart surgery? How many times will you allow an incompetent heart surgeon to repair heart valves in your aging parent or spouse? Why should we give pastors a free pass when it comes to incompetence in the study of God’s Word? Souls are at stake.
As Joel Osteen states in his interview with Colbert, his message is “a little bit different.” At this point, Joel Osteen speaks the truth. But, in his attempt to state the truth, he understates it. His message is far from the biblical teachings of Christianity. He doesn’t want to focus on the negative. Instead, he wants to tell people that “God is for you.” Should pastors consistently tell every person that God is for them? How will a person be brought to repentance without first hearing that God is their enemy (James 4:4)? Was God for Pharaoh? Was God for the Ninevites? Was God for Goliath? What about Saul of Tarsus? Was God for Saul or in opposition to Saul as he made his way toward Damascus (Acts 9)?
In short, Joel Osteen is a heretic. He is a wolf who comes with a smile, but behind that smile and southern accent lurks a deadly bite of soul damning heresy. Joel Osteen has been afforded many different platforms to preach the truth, but he consistently demonstrates a woefully deficient knowledge of theology, sin, salvation, and God’s purpose in redemption. At the end of each interview I watch with Osteen, I end by asking myself all over again – does Joel Osteen know the gospel? A.W. Pink wrote the following about false teachers:
False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. 
If you know people who are consistently sitting under the teaching ministry of Joel Osteen (on campus, online, or through his books), you must sound the warning. Many have debated whether or not Osteen is a wolf or merely a confused megachurch pastor and successful author. I think by now we can accurately say that Joel Osteen is no accident. His success is calculated and his message is heretical.
Beware of Joel Osteen.
- Joel Osteen, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, (Brentwood, TN: Howard Books, 2009), 109-110.
- Arthur Waddington Pink, Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 344.
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