Sometimes I come across an article which is so appallingly bad, that I am left with just two choices; ignore it altogether and hope that no one else sees it, or, if it is getting some traction, reply to it. Chances are good the ones who wrote such flawed pieces will not be in the least interested in a rebuttal, but perhaps many who have read it will be open to a counter view.
So let me spend a few minutes on a piece which could be used in a Logic 101 class for examples of logical fallacies and twisted thinking. I refer to “Why You Should Stop Hating on Celebrity Pastors Like Joel Osteen” by Tyler Speegle – someone I have never heard of before.
You can read the piece for yourself, but he seems to think that we should never critique one of these celeb pastors – after all, “We’re all imperfect”. Um, puh-leese, tell us something we don’t know. The number of times I hear that absolutely useless phrase thrown around to cover up the clear shortcomings and sins of others is mindboggling.
Of course we are all imperfect – but that is not the point. Jesus said we should all strive to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). So instead of making lousy excuses, why not encourage one another to strive for the very thing Jesus commanded us to do?
But let’s begin with the unhelpful strawman title. To simply offer a biblical corrective to anyone – whether a big cheese celeb or not – is of course not hating. This is the idiotic language of the secularists who think that any disagreement is hate.
We expect pagans to be so patently wrong, but not those claiming to be Christian leaders. By this guy’s dodgy and unbiblical reasoning, Elijah was wrong to rebuke the Baalists, Jesus was wrong to rebuke Peter, and Paul was wrong to rebuke the Judaisers, to name just a few. They should have stopped “hating” and just got along with everyone.
He mentions a number of well-known pastors in his piece, but let me make things clear for him. I for one do not dump on celeb pastors just because they are celebs. If they are faithfully proclaiming the gospel, then I do not mind at all how famous they are or how large their church is.
If a Francis Chan or a John Piper is well-known and has a large congregation, that is fine, because they seek to stay true to Scripture. When I do critique a big cheese pastor it is for two reasons: they are not clearly preaching the Word of God, and they have a huge influence, and are thus misleading many, and perhaps sending millions to a lost eternity as a result.
I therefore have a solemn obligation under God – as does every single Christian – to expose error, refute falsehood, and correct improper doctrine. That is incumbent on every single one of us. What Speegle calls “hating on” is of course nothing of the sort.
This is what it is called in the Bible:
Acts 20:27-31 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way
1 Timothy 1:3-4 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith.
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
There are of course heaps more such passages. We are commanded to stand for biblical truth, expose falsehoods, and rebuke false teachers. So it has nothing to do with these folks just being cool and hip, etc. It has to do with the life they are living and the doctrine they are preaching. Both are vitally important and both must be closely monitored.
Let me take a core portion of his piece and analyse it a bit further. He says this:
One accusation that is commonly made about celebrity pastors is that they are “watering down the Gospel” and handing out licenses to sin. It is wrongly assumed that just because you have a growing, thriving church then you obviously are just telling people what they want to hear.
What if it wasn’t that, but rather it is because someone is preaching what people need to hear – about the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
If the apostles drew crowds in the thousands and saw their numbers increasing daily (Acts 16:5), why would we not expect to see the church grow in similar fashion today?
Discrediting a church and a pastor for its popularity and large attendance is equally wrong as discrediting another for its unpopularity and small attendance. What truly matters is the heart of the church and whose name is being glorified.
Um no, I do not assume a large church has watered down the gospel, as I already mentioned above. But we do know for a fact that there are plenty of warnings in Scripture about those who want their ears tickled, about those who will not adhere to sound doctrine, and about false prophets who will deceive many. Indeed, we know perfectly well that the most popular prophets in the Old Testament with the largest followings were the false prophets.
The numerous warnings about all this need to be taken very seriously, and not just dismissed as hate-mongering and being judgmental. And Speegle speaks of exactly what so many of these megapastors who are indeed a real worry focus on: “the love and grace of Jesus Christ”.
Those are indeed core gospel components, but the trouble is, so are things like sin, the holiness and wrath of God, and judgment to come. That is exactly the problem we have here: if you only speak about the “positive” things and never mention the “negative” things – which is exactly what folks like Osteen do – then you are not proclaiming the gospel.
As quoted above, Paul always proclaimed the whole counsel of God. Failure to do so means we are not preaching the gospel, but another gospel. And for Paul, another gospel sends people to hell, and he actually says that those who proclaim such false and truncated gospels should be accursed of God. It is that serious.
And he mentions that the early church drew large crowds. Of course they did, but they did so by proclaiming biblical truth by the anointing and power of the Holy Ghost. Many of the megachurches today have large crowds because people are hearing just what they want to hear: it is all about me.
It is entirely focused on self. “Your best life now” is not the gospel but is in fact the lie of the devil. It is never about me, but always about him. If you attend a church which only preaches a selfish me-centred gospel, and you never hear clear biblical truths about our sinful condition, the utter holiness of God, and his hatred of sin, then we are just getting candy-coated me-first pap.
The last line of what I cited above is also worth discussing: “What truly matters is the heart of the church and whose name is being glorified.” Of course. But tragically in so many of these big celebrity churches, it is the pastor who is being glorified. He is the star attraction. It is all about him.
Jesus Christ is seldom glorified in such an atmosphere of entertainment, self-centred messages, and celebrities. That is exactly why I and so many other people do write about these pastors. We really do believe that millions of people are likely being led to hell by such distorted and godless gospels.
That should concern all true disciples of Christ. And that should motivate us all to speak out. And contrary to how this guy concludes his piece, one can actually both offer critique of dangerous and destructive churches, ministries and pastors, and pray for them.
It is not either-or. The idea that we must all just shut up and only pray would certainly surprise the prophets, Jesus and the disciples. They all prayed, and they all spoke out when necessary. And that is exactly what we are called to do as well.
He closes his piece by quoting Philippians 1:16-17: “whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Yes I rejoice when the gospel is proclaimed as well. But that is just my point: many of these mega-celebs are clearly NOT preaching the gospel. That is why this is all so very serious indeed.
Truth matters. The gospel matters. Allowing people – masses of them potentially – to be deceived into eternal hellfire matters. It clearly is not loving or Christlike. Just the opposite. True Christian love warns, rebukes and corrects when it is necessary.
That is not hating on anyone. Sending people to hell – now that is hating on folks.