He stands up in front of a crowd of 16,000 flashing a confident white smile that he is so well known for. In a congregation hardly known for liturgy, they always begin the service the same way in their holy sanctuary–the former Compaq Center:
“This is my bible,” they confess together. “I am what it says I am, I have it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I will be taught the word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, and I will never be the same. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
On the other side of the world, another pastor–hardly known for smiling–preaches in a small church with less than 200 members. He boldly proclaims:
“The greatest heresy in the American evangelical and Protestant church is that if you pray and ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart, He will definitely come in.”
The former is pastor Joel Osteen and the latter is pastor Paul Washer. Both have a profound message for the world, but their messages are so different. They cannot both possibly be right, or can they? Washer is hell-bent on discrediting ministries that attempt to preach any kind of a “prosperity gospel,” and Osteen smiles as he suggests that “there are already enough people beating people over their heads with their Bibles. I want to give people hope.”
And it is exactly this message of hope that makes Osteen’s message so accessible to people. He boldly proclaims that God wants us to have our best life now, and thousands of Americans are responding all over the world. But Washer believes that his message is the “true gospel.” It is one that calls Christians to holiness and to be different from the world. But if you listen closely you will notice something missing from both of their versions of Christianity.
Neither suffers from a lack of extremes, but they both suffer from a lack of definitions. They both claim to be the solution to the Christian’s down-trodden state, but neither really coherently explain what they mean. Washer is against the world, but what does he mean by “the world?” Osteen wants us to live the “good life,” but what does he mean by good life? There are so many problems that could be resolved if these famous pastors would defining what they mean when they use terms like these.