More than 40,000 members of Lakewood Church show up every week to soak up Joel Osteen’s latest message of hope, usually delivered with his trademark smile.
Osteen’s sermons are relentlessly positive, and according to CBS Sunday Morning, that has made him a target of critics, who say he sometimes sounds less like a preacher and more like a motivational speaker.
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, reporter Tracy Smith asked Osten, “You’ve been criticized for ‘Church lite,’ for ‘a cotton candy message. Do you feel like you’re cheating people by not telling them about the Hell part? Or repentance part?”
Osteen replied, “No, I really don’t, because it’s a different approach. You know, it’s not hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. They’re not doing what they should, raising their kids — you know, we can all find reasons. So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, ‘You know what? I may not be perfect, but I’m moving forward. I’m doing better.’ And I think that motivates you to do better.”
However, fire and brimstone preaching may be what the church needs again, given that thousands upon thousands of lukewarm churchgoers may unwittingly find themselves going straight into hell, because nobody warned them of their need for repentance and forsaking of their sins.
According to the bible, Osteen could be held accountable for not warning his followers: “If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.” (Ezekiel 3:18, NLT)