Christianity has been recently buzzing with with what some people call a “prosperity” gospel. Over simplified, this gospel refers to a leader (preacher) calling on his people to becomes saved and everything will be taken care of (to the extreme, become saved and you will become rich). In Christendom, certain preachers have been labeled as “prosperity preachers.” People like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren have been assigned this label and ridiculed in areas of Christendom for their messages and actions. However, is this ridicule really due them?
I wish to make my argument in defense of many preachers (and specifically these two) through three different avenues. I want show you that these preachers preach a relevant gospel, not a traditional gospel. They use Christ as the backbone of their gospel, and their efforts are supported by scripture.
Many people easily despise the like of Joel Osteen and Rick Warren but have not listened to their message and heard they were “liberal” from someone else. Recently, I actually sat down and watched a Joel Osteen sermon. Guess what he was talking about? Self-Esteem. What topic could be more relevant to today’s needs? Honestly, there are so many people who struggle day to day with the ins and outs of insecurity and self esteem and here was a preacher giving them God’s perspective on the subject. Sure, this isn’t a traditional topic like the beatitudes, or Hell’s hot flames . . . but it is what people today need to hear. However, because people like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen are not preaching a line by line gospel, they are often ridiculed and despised by the traditional establishment. However, they aren’t teaching the words of the gospel (line-by-line), but the heart of the the gospel.
Not only is their teaching more relevant, their actions are more relevant. I remember Rick Warren sitting down with Barack Obama before the general election to promote AIDS awareness. At first I was taken back by this. What in the world is a Christian pastor doing associating with a secular agenda (that is originally linked to a sinful lifestyle)? However, I was soon convicted that, this is what we are supposed to be doing. As Christians we should be promoting AIDS awareness, we should be looking for the cure, we should be concerned because God LOVES the people with AIDS. Who better in Christendom is there to promote AIDS? Charlie Hunt (the head of the Southern Baptist Convention)? No one knows of him and he is stuck in an old establishment that is trying to splice syllables of scripture but can’t tell the laity its relevance to every day life. There is no one better than Rick Warren. His name is out there. He is respected even on the West Coast (a very hard thing to do). All that these preachers are doing in exemplifying the true gospel of Christ. A gospel that meets people where they are and addresses their direct needs in basic, simple, and easy to identify with ways.
However, there is still the argument that many people throw out the Joel Osteen doesn’t hardly use the scriptures in his messages. Once again, I am compelled to ask, how you ever watched him? A Christian survey service recently compared the average references to scripture in a “standard message” from a “normal” pastor to Joel Osteen. It was found that the normal message will contain between 7-15 references to scripture while Joel Osteen regularly references the scriptures between 25-35 times a message. Sure, it might not be an exact quotation, but is the Bible about the words, or about the heart behind the words? In fact, I recently sat down with my mentor and counted the number of times Joel Osteen references scripture. We were only watching for about 20 minutes and had counted well over 20 references. Joel Osteen and Rick Warren look the the scriptures for a message, not a recitation, and this is what they present. They give preach a gospel that speaks through the heart of the text to the current needs of our society.
However, there is still a further defence of these prosperity gospel preachers. I wish to direct your attention to Philippians. Specifically Philippians 1:15-18
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, no sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.?
Did you hear that? The important notes are here “The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely . . . But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from falses motices or true, Christ is preached.” What is that? It doesn’t matter how it is presented, it just matters that the gospel is preached. This is the true defense of the prosperity gospel. God is being taught and his name is being lifted up.
Sure, I have my issues with some churches and some Christians actions, but, as Paul said, “What does it matter? Christ is preached” and that is all we are called to do, however that looks