First the Myth: The myth is that larger is better in America and certainly in Texas! Everything is big in Texas including the churches. The assumption goes that the larger the church the better. The larger the church the larger God's favor or blessing.
I want to suggest that this is a flawed assumption. Israel was a small nation and often outnumbered in battle yet God seems to have favored them not because of their size but because of their obedience. David was small in comparison to Goliath and was favored for his devotion to God. Zacchaeus was small but favored by Christ's presence in his home. Certainly size or large numbers does not always equal God's blessing or favor.
I do want to add that I am not opposed to church growth and think that growth in numbers is a sign of something good happening in a church. What I want to see is not growth in church attendance but in followers living for Christ. Let's count those numbers!
Now the Problem: Americans are by nature individualistic and self centered beings. Anything that appeals to these characteristics will draw Americans to it. Here are my assumptions about Joel that I have gleaned from his book, Your Best Life Now, and his website.
- It is all about Joel and a little about Jesus
- It is all about you and a little about God.
- It is all about blessing and favor and little about sacrifice and obedience.
Here is what I am basing my assumptions on...
Notice the title of the book is about "Your" life and "Now." When I read the book it was about how to discover a vision for "my life" and God wanting to "bless me." For example, if I see God's vision for my life to own a million dollar home on the Island of Maui that is what I should pursue with passion. In this scenario I am still in control of my life and my own self centered desires are free to work as long as I acknowledge God in it. There was very little in the book about God's vision for my life that might include sacrifice or surrender. What about me selling all my possessions and maybe investing in a non-profit organization to help the poor? (See the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10)
I went to the Joel Osteen website again today and did notice this time that God is mentioned. Nothing about Jesus yet. Joel's name is mentioned quite often and in fact I counted his name at least 12 times on the site's first page. I saw God mentioned 4 times. You can see where Joel will be, get an email from Joel, and get Joel's blog. Other than God being mentioned there were no graphics on the site that would lead me to believe this was about God (just my perception).
So my conclusion is that even though Joel's church is the largest it doesn't mean it is the best at producing fruitful followers of Jesus Christ. I wouldn't want a large church like this if it wasn't producing fruit. Jesus mentioned that a tree should be judged by its fruit and not its size. If you want to grow a large church like Joel's than I suggest you marry a good looking spouse, write a book on God endorsed self centeredness , and move to Texas.