Joel Osteen, leader of the largest US church (in Texas , of course!), is allegedly notorious for being unwilling to commit to a position on controversial issues. This has added to the cynicism of some for megachurches which supposedly compromise integrity in the interests of creating a welcoming and inoffensive atmosphere. Yes whilst this might exist as a possibility in some cases, one has to wonder whether Osteen-bashing involves a little tall-poppy syndrome, maybe a little media misrepresentation, or perhaps a little ignorance of the competing tensions that church leaders face.
In a Piers Morgan interview several years ago, Osteen affirmed his view that homosexuality is sinful, but rightly stated that he doesn’t want this to be a major focus. He has been ambushed and attacked many times in the media since then by those wanting to push him to either restate or recant. As much as Osteen says that he wants to “stay in his lane” and focus on those things he knows best, to encourage people and lift their spirits, he also makes it clear that the Bible opposes homosexuality and gay marriage.
One has to wonder whether, when someone like Osteen (or Brian Houston in Australia) has such a large target on their heads, they could be forgiven for wanting to dodge such issues rather than run the gauntlet of sensationalist interviewers. It is easy for others not in the spotlight to presume to know what they would say or do in such circumstances, too. Osteen has an opportunity to influence many people with his messages which are positive and uplifting, whilst remaining thoroughly Bible-based. Far from avoiding a Scriptural grounding to his ministry, he attempts to make wise choices about what to focus on in the interests of maximum impact.
Perhaps there is a lesson for all of us here. We inspire people to live for God and to optimise their lives, not when we centre on right and wrong, but when a clear sense of what is right and wrong allows us to major on what is best and not what is worst. This is a matter of emphasis and influence, not avoidance, and we have to wonder who should most be impacted by such a ministry. Is it those who already have the luxury of knowing enough for themselves in order to be able to hold a position, or those who are being bridged to the possibility of entering into their own journey of discovery of the Bible’s message to which they would otherwise have been blissfully unaware?