The commentary, “What happens to Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel when prosperity is lost?” said that the public was asking Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, some tough questions about the church’s response during Hurricane Harvey. But the author said the question in the headline reflects a more important question to be asked.
I guess I am a member of the public; Pastor Osteen is my friend. I will attempt to answer.
I can speak only to my experience. Around 2008, my best friend thought it might help my outlook on life to start listening to Osteen and he let me borrow one of his books. I had a belief in God but was really struggling with my faith. Osteen’s message of “getting into a good Bible-based church” drew me back to the Catholic Church.
I was unable to complete Catechism classes when I was 13 (my parents divorcing) and had always felt drawn to the religion. I joined the church and was able to take communion. I was also blessed to see Osteen in 2011 in Cincinnati and at the Yum Center later with minimal costs.
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Through Lakewood, I was able to get CDs shipped to me for minimal donations ($5 to $10 with shipping included) and listened to them in the car when I traveled for work. Currently, I am now also able to listen to free podcasts, free YouTube videos and free messages on an app on my iPhone.
I am not sure if Osteen preaches prosperity, in the sense that I will be rich one day. The prosperity he preaches to me is overcoming everyday challenges: taming my tongue, seeking to overcome my vices, forgiving myself, forgiving others, exhibiting a strong work ethic and trusting God and ways to improve myself in everyday living.
I mean no disrespect to the pastor who wrote the commentary, but I am a better person after listening to Osteen. I am also prosperous.
I have two paid-for cars worth $11,000 combined and live in a paid-for house worth $40,000. I am warm and dry after the last of Harvey went through Kentucky. I have wonderful friends, a masters degree, a better relationship with my mother and a woman who loves me. I also earn a little under $50,000 a year. I have a sense of ease and well-being. I have food on the table.
Point blank: God has been good to me. Do I deserve it? No. In comparison to good Christians around the world (or a mile away from me), I am marginal at best.
I am not a theologian, but I agree with the author’s description of the power of the Christian gospel: “This is the gospel that has sustained the church through centuries of persecution; this is the gospel audaciously proclaimed in Negro spirituals that filled the cotton fields of slavery; this is the gospel that today comforts underground churches in China, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan and throughout the Middle East. And this is the gospel for Houston.”
Yet, when I looked at the author’s church website, I did not see a lot of diversity on the staff. When I look at the staff at Lakewood Church I see diversity. I just really would not draw a conclusion about a church I never attended or listened to its messages for a long period of time. I can draw a conclusion about Lakewood Church, which has influenced my life in a positive way and led me back to God.
I really consider Lakewood and Osteen to be my friends. They offer no explanation why bad things happen to good people, only hope for a better day. I cannot explain why I am so prosperous, I am just very grateful.
David McAnally, a state government worker, lives in Frankfort.