I have to admit I have been conditioned through my experiences to be against most things at the Lakewood Church in Houston. Many in our churches are spending much of their time putting down churches like Lakewood for their megachurch theology and systems. I went to Lakewood this past Saturday with 1/3 of me looking to criticize, 1/3 trying to figure out what works to bring so many people into one church, and the last 1/3 praying that God would open me up to the see what he is doing at this church.
Through this summer, I have been in many conversations concerning Lakewood and most of them have been negative. Many are upset that Lakewood would spend so much on a building. Others disagree with Joel's gospel of positive thinking and abundance. There are so many things that can be critiqued at every church and it seems like even more at the big churches because there is so much more going on.
As I entered the building, I was greeted by so many people. But the most amazing moment came when I walked out of the lobby and into the arena. Thousands of people were already there and it was 20 minutes early. By the time the service started there were probably over 8,000 people. I really enjoyed the worship. It was energizing and exciting to worship with so many others in a former basketball arena. I expected more of a concert atmosphere with more people watching the performers on stage, but most of the people seemed to be deep in worship praising God. I came out of the service uplifted not for what I got out of it, but because the name of God was praised. Actually, I didn't come out of the service feeling like I had received as much as I felt like God was praised as Lord. Their prayer time was also very effective.
Then, Joel got up and he was positive to the core. There has been a lot of controversy over his interview with Larry King. Joel didn't come out very strongly on the issues of how one is saved in the interview. In fact, Larry King asked him point blank some important questions that he seemed to dodge. I don't agree with all of what Joel says. I don't think it addresses people who may never receive physical healing or success in a worldly kind of sense. However, despite my difference in theology, there is no reason for me to come out and condemn him. Luckily for me as well as Joel, God does not judge us on the basis of correct doctrine for who could stand? Our salvation never rests on what we do, but on what Christ has done. As long as Joel Osteen and Lakewood hold up Christ Jesus as Lord and proclaim that, I will not condemn and speak harshly about their ministry. If the amount of time that some have spent arguing over Lakewood's ministry had been used to spend time in the mission of God rather than bickering over correct theology and practice, God might would be more pleased with us. I will not accept anyone's message who denies Christ as Lord and our only hope of salvation. There is absolute truth when it comes to this, but I will not condemn others for a difference of opinion on theology.
May God bless the Lakewood Church. May he bring more people to a saving relationship through Joel Osteen. And may I begin to recognize that he is not the enemy that many make him out to be. The megachurch is not the enemy. Satan is.
Allow me to use a ridiculous analogy. I can assure you that we would work with terrorists and they would be happy to work with us if aliens from space tried to invade earth. We would do this because we could look past our differences in order to fight with those who share this planet in common. In churches, we must see the same thing. Though there are many differences in churches, we are all Christians if we proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior. Let's not forget who the enemy is and let us never forget the reason for our salvation. It is not in how perfect we work out our theology and practice. It is only found in the perfect Passover Lamb who was slaughtered in order that we might have forgiveness. Blessed be the name of the Lord!