So some friends and I went to the Joel Osteen event in Atlanta last Friday night to see what kinds of people go to Joel Osteen events.
We didn’t go inside. We were more interested in finding out whether Atlantans who went to see him believed the Gospel any more than he did. I was really sad to find out that for the most part they did not. Less than a third of the people I met could articulate how someone has their sins forgiven at all. I got lots of other responses like there was no such place as hell, people who have never thought about why you would want to be a Christian, and one person who – after telling me Christianity is just like everything else – said a person might decide to be a Christian for the same reason they would decide to rent an apartment instead of buy a house.
I was surprised how many people who seemed to know the Gospel didn’t care that Joel never talked about sin. One lady said “well, what if all 15,000 people who go to his church are already Christians.” After pointing out how unlikely that was and that it was even less likely that his television audience was all saved I pointed them to Hebrews 3:12-14. Christians need to hear about sin also, so we can help each other be protected from its deceitfulness.
Perhaps the most interesting exchange was with four very pleasant ladies. When I asked the first two what was the best thing about being a Christian, they immediately replied with Biblical answers regarding the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. I asked the same thing to the third and she said she wasn’t a Christian at all. She was just coming to Joel because he was so motivational. She said she could listen to him forever. I couldn’t help myself so I asked the first two ladies how they felt about the fact that their cousin, who they agreed would be in hell if she died today, could be so comfortable listening to Joel Osteen that she would do it “forever”. They didn’t really have an answer so I asked them whether they ever heard him say anything about sin or repentance. They didn’t but they were genuinely interested in learning more and I gave them some information, including details on the Larry King interview (very convenient being next to CNN Center and quoting Larry King). I believe these two will have a much less favorable view of Joel very soon.
Overall, I was struck by the absence of both Bibles and men. At least 2/3 of those in attendance were women, most of them coming in pairs or groups of only women. I couldn’t help but wonder whether this was the kind of thing Paul warned about in 2 Tim 3:6.
I left praying for Joel, the believers we met and the unbelievers. Especially for the believers I pray that their love would abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment. Pray with me – they desperately need it.