My Thoughts

Lakewood Church
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

I appreciate the discussion surrounding my question about Houston’s Lakewood Church Sunday night. As always, people thoughtfully presented many sides of the story. Thanks to Cody and Fajita for pointing out some of the positive implications of such a church. Here’s what I think about Lakewood Church, the Compaq Center, Joel Osteen, etc…

While I agree with Fajita that God certainly uses all types of models of ecclesia to expand his Kingdom, I believe the mega-church is on its way out. Too many people are beginning to realize what several of you mentioned: Community and accountability are next-to-impossible in these settings. I would go a little further…community, accountability, and “togetherness” may be best lived out in small group churches, where these aspects are part of the community’s “DNA”, not just a program added later. This was clearly the method used by the apostles in their church planting efforts: creating a city-wide church made up of networks of house churches. Why wouldn’t this work today? Emphasizing attendance over discipleship is alienating many nominal Christians who want to follow Christ with their whole hearts, but feel like the bar of discipleship has been lowered to simply “showing up.” Plus, many “mature” Christians don’t see it as their duty to coach or “bring along” young believers, and this problem is expounded in attendance-based mega-churches like Lakewood.

Here’s my other problem with Lakewood purchasing the Compaq Center: I think it illustrates the Western tendency to base success numerically. I watched the re-showing of the first service last Saturday night, and Osteen mentioned repeatedly how God had blessed them with this building and all the people. An interviewer on the after-service show encouraged viewers to “celebrate with those whom God is blessing.” What does this say about a house church of 8 people that meets on Sunday nights? Is it less blessed because it doesn’t have an arena? What’s more, the solution to perceived church growth in the West always seems to be “building bigger barns,” and lately, it seems, the emphasis has been on consciously or unconsciously outdoing other area churches with the new barn.

I appreciate what several of you said about the general message Osteen seems to convey in his preaching, and I agree — ultra-positive, rarely scripture based, and more like a self-help book than a challenging presentation of gospel. The church must not stop communicating Christ as the one way to salvation. The church must not gloss over the negative and even devastating events in life, but it must engage them and join people in these places of sorrow. I understand how Osteen would be wary of the “Hellfire and brimstone” preaching of the modern era — so am I. But he must not throw out the core principles of the faith for a “feel-good,” “self-help” gospel.

Finally, I certainly don’t want this to be viewed as a “bash Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church” blog entry. I do, however, think we can reflect on and learn some things from this situation, because in many ways it reflects many of the dangerous trends in Western Christianity today.

If any of you agree or disagree with this response, please post! Blessings today!


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