I was in Houston, saw the church earlier in the day and later looked it up online, wondering if Osteen might be there the next morning. I’d wanted to go to Lakewood to “experience the phenomenon” and hear Osteen in order to draw my own conclusions about his presentation. Of course as things happen he was in Israel. He’d asked Joyce to cover the church services that weekend. Since I’ve wanted to hear her in person and take my own measure of her presentation too, this was my chance.
First, Lakewood Church. The facility is the former home of the Houston Rockets and is located just off US Route 59, Lloyd Bentsen Highway, in Houston. So the interior is bowl-shaped like any arena with upper and lower ovals of seating. Since the church occupied the building some $91 million of renovations were implemented, including arena-style, flip up, cushioned, armrest seats installed on the floor and extensive television lighting and cabling installed above the platform. The platform or stage is located on one end of the oval, effectively eliminating seats behind it. Parking is available in city and corporate parking garages in adjacent blocks.
The church is huge. Escalators take you up to entry level and the arena-now-auditorium seats about 16,000. I’d guess about 7,000 attended Saturday evening because floor seats were occupied, along with about 90% of the lower, larger bowl, where I sat. The crowd was one of the most, if not the most, ethnically and racially diverse crowds I’ve ever witnessed in a church—not just a few people here and there different from the majority but a genuine mixture of differing races and apparent nationalities throughout.
The music service was surprisingly (I anticipated upwards of 45 minutes to an hour) short, maybe 30 minutes. The music, stage presenters and soloists, and the entire production were loud, backed by a praise band, well-rehearsed, and assuming you like the style, quite good. Joel Osteen’s sister played a key role, singing, praying, leading, and so did his older brother, a former physician. To say the congregation “got into” the music understates it. People were thoroughly involved, singing, clapping, moving, and apparently happy. Each song, each solo, each presentation earned an ovation.
Joel Osteen was introduced by his brother for a short remote video greeting and send off for Joyce Meyer. The Lakewood congregation responded to her as he asked, warmly with a thunderous ovation.
Joyce is now 67 years of age and has been preaching for about 30 years. Before this she led popular Bible studies in her hometown of St. Louis. Her active ministry, as we now know it, began with a radio format in 1985 and television in 1993. She’s not much of a joke-teller, but her experience, sense of humor, talent, and knowledge of the Word of God were immediately evident. In reference to Churchgoers she said things like, “You sing the song. You have the bumper sticker. You have your Christian jewelry on.” She joked, “Don’t make me come out there,” and “I’m preachin better than your actin.”
Her topic was “forgiveness,” from her next book coming out later this year. Before she finished she’d referenced and explained at least 9 passages of Scripture and quoted many more. Her content was biblical, well-presented, engaging, and convicting. It also demonstrated a wisdom born from life experience—in more than one instance she used negative illustrations about herself.
Her observations included:
--The Word has the ability to heal you everywhere you hurt.
--You can have lousy circumstances and a good attitude and be fine; you can have good circumstances and a bad attitude and be miserable. Your attitude is your attitude. No circumstances or person can change it.
--Do yourself a favor and forgive.
--Most of the ground that Satan gains in the life of a believer is gained through unforgiveness.
--“Angry Christian” is an oxymoron.
--We have to get over caring about how we feel.
--“Put on mercy.” We can choose to be merciful, which is not fair because we’re giving something to someone they don’t deserve. It’s not about being fair. It’s about doing what’s right on purpose.
--Everything God asks you to do will benefit you in the long run.
--Regarding people who are hurting us: we need to become much more concerned about how they are hurting themselves.
--You can’t do much about others or how you “feel,” but you can do something about what you do. When you do something long enough it will help change your feelings.
--The Disciples were a mess, but Jesus kept forgiving them.
--Legalism looks at what people do. It wants to exact a punishment or a price.
--Mercy looks for the why behind the what. It wants to understand the hurts that make the other person act as they do and exercise compassion.
In terms of the subject, she eventually said, “There is a gift of mercy. I don’t have it.” She went on to say not having the gift of mercy doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible for developing it, for “putting on” mercy as the Bible says.
At the conclusion of the hour long message, she gave an invitation: for people to signify by standing that they held some unforgiveness toward someone, which they now wanted to give to God and then forgive the other person; for people who did not know Christ to accept him as Savior, and she instructed them how this could be done and led in prayer.
There’s much debate, or at least there used to be, in the Christian community about the propriety of “women preachers” or women becoming ordained. I don’t want to get into that debate here.
There was also some concern awhile back about Joyce Meyer Ministries finances. No improprieties were ultimately demonstrated. In 2009, Joyce Meyer Ministries was approved by the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, an organization that independently evaluates the integrity of many Christian nonprofits.
I have not read any of Joyce Meyer’s some 90 books, among them a few bestsellers. In the end I can only attest to what I saw and heard last Saturday evening in Houston. On that night Joyce Meyer presented a biblically sound message with excellent content backed by a humble and engaging personality. I liked the message and I liked her.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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