You give religions more than $82.5 billion a year
We ought to start taxing churches. “Whichever faith you think is the one true faith, it’s undeniable that the majority of this church-spending is going to support false doctrines,”
Why I Called Out Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer
They are massively growing in popularity in the evangelical world and are seen as credible and helpful. Before I’m inundated with questioning emails I want to share why I distrust these two and think you should as well. So, don’t shoot me — at least not yet.
When I was a kid I could tell the difference between neighborhood kids who wanted to be my friend from the neighborhood kids who were my friends so that they could play with my toys. Joel and Joyce are the latter. They both teach a twisted form of Christianity that teaches obedience, giving and faith as a way to get things from God. They are both products of what is known as the Prosperity Gospel and The Word of Faith Movement, or the Seed Faith Movement.
Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel
John Piper does a great job of defining what the Prosperity Gospel is and why it is so sinister. Please take a few minutes to watch this before moving on the critiques of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen:
When I first heard her tell her story I was deeply moved and impressed. She is an amazing example of overcoming hurts and abuse. She will forever have my admiration and respect in that regard. Furthermore, she gives spectacular advice. If my wife or if one of my daughters went to her in a moment of crisis, I believe they would return with magnificently helpful advice. If they went to her for teaching, they would return with deadly heresy.
1. She teaches that Jesus literally stopped being the Son of God on the Cross (listenhere):
“He could have helped himself up until the point where he said I commend my spirit into your hands, at that point he couldn’t do nothing for himself anymore. He had become sin, he was no longer the Son of God. He was sin.”
2. She teaches that Jesus went to Hell and became the first-born again man (listenhere):
“Do you know something? The minute that blood sacrifice was accepted Jesus was the first human being that was ever born again. Now that was real it happened when he was in hell.”
3. She teaches that Jesus paid for our sins in Hell:
“There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell” -From The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Mak
4. She teaches that words have power and you can release the power of Heaven through your words.
5. She teaches that you need special revelation from God to understand what she teaches because it is NOT contained in the Bible (listen here):
“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really. That’s why you’ve got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I’m telling you. I’ve got to just trust God that He’s putting it into your spirit like He put it into mine.” From “What Happened From the Cross to The Throne“
“Now spirits don’t have bodies, so we can’t see them. Okay? There probably is, I believe there is, and I certainly hope there is several angels up here this morning that are preaching with me. I believe that right before I speak some anointed statement to you, that one of them bends over and says in my ear what I’m supposed to say to you.” From “Witchcraft & Related Spirits” (Part 1) – 2 A-27 Audiotape)
6. She teaches that she is no longer a sinner.
Unfortunately I could continue with examples of her utter misuse of scripture, false teaching and blatant heresy. In America, Christians have an embarrassment of riches. We can buy more books, download more podcasts and tune into more helpful teachers than anyone else on the planet. The lies that she teaches are easily lost in the hum of all the great teachers we hear. But this is not the case in the third world.
In many other countries their resources are far fewer. Uneducated pastors, who are doing their very best and uninformed Christians have this garbage pumped into their countries through radio waves and TV broadcasts. Because Joyce Meyer is endorsed here, she is trusted there. And, she can afford to spread her message with the money she makes from American Christians who buy her books, CDs and who attend her conferences. Her influence is severely disrupting the church in the third world. Her teachings are the unfortunate starting point for Christians in the third world and it is birthing even greater heresies.
The devastating reality that we have to come to grips with is that when we support her here, we support the churches she is undoing there.
There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. I love it when Christians are rich. That should mean more money to fund the mission. But there is a line to how much money we as leaders should spend on ourselves. I don’t know where the line is, but it is somewhere before the ministry purchasing million dollar homes for us and our kids. That line is somewhere before purchasing us a $10 million private jet. The line is somewhere before the ministry spending $261, 498 for 68 pieces of furniture. That equates to $3,845.56 per item. That line is somewhere before spending so egregiously that the U.S. Senate investigates us. Joyce Meyer lands on the other side of that line.
The following link includes audio from Joyce Meyer. Around 5:30 she is asked if people will get more money back to them if they give financially to her ministry.
Not only does she teach giving as a way to leverage more money from God, she is reckless with desperate people. She is not at all concerned if people give to her instead of paying bills. This is intolerable!
Questionable Example and Lack of Accountability
I challenge you to watch a typical message by Joyce Meyer. Here are a few of things you will notice:
She pauses about every five minutes for applause. And if people don’t applaud she is likely to say something like, “I’m preaching better than you’re acting.”
She talks about herself constantly. She is the main character in every story she tells. Even when she talks about herself in a self-deprecating way, some how it comes across in a way that causes people to admire her more.
God talks to her and reveals new information to her… a lot!
Her ministry lacks real accountability. Her family and her close friends are the governing board. This is an organization that receives almost $100 million dollars annually, and with no substantive accountability.
Conclusion for Joyce Meyer
What I wrote and linked in the first section should have been enough to completely remove her from our sphere of trust. Her doctrine is horrific. Her hermeneutics are horrible. She is a woman who seems to have an unrestrained love for money and applause. Her finances are questionable at best. Her example is questionable at best. Her impact on desperate people here, as well as churches and pastors around the globe is wildly destructive.
I lament with you a sense of loss if she was a teacher you trusted. I lament that someone who is so wrong has so much influence with so many. I do not regret, however, pointing to her as a false teacher and as one who should be rejected.
Like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen has some really great things to say. He is encouraging and the man is certainly happy. This should not be held against him.
The man is confused on theology. He has much of the same doctrinal misunderstandings as does Joyce Meyer. They come from the same tradition. His doctrine is difficult to discern for many because he won’t talk about doctrine. He won’t talk about theology. He quickly back pedals when asked hard questions, as seen here in an interview with Larry King.
In fairness, Joel published a letter of apology after this interview.
While I commend him for his humility and courage to publicly declare that he was wrong, this is just one of too many instances. He frequently misunderstands important matters of faith and doctrine when being interviewed. He repeatedly gets the Gospel wrong. And he does so when talking to millions.
If we take Joel at his word, our only conclusion is that he is either incapable or unwilling to understand and explain how the Gospel intersects with all of life.
Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church
Osteen, the “senior pastor” of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas was born on the 5th of March, 1963, son of John Osteen, original founder of Lakewood Church. After attending Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Joel returned to Houston in 1982, and produced John Osteen’s televised sermons for 17 years, declining any invitation to preach, until January 1999 when his father suddenly passed away from a heart attack. After his father’s death, Osteen preached his first sermon on January 17th of 1999. Two weeks later, he was installed as the new senior pastor of Lakewood Church.
According to his web site, his television ministry reaches 200 million homes and, each week, over than one million people download Lakewood’s audio and video podcast, making their podcast consistently one of the top five in the world.
Named as one of Barbara Walters’ “10 Most Fascinating People of 2006”, and selected as the “Most Influential Christian in 2006” by the readers of Church Report Magazine , Osteen’s first book Your Best Life Now, was released by Time Warner in 2004. It debuted at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List, quickly rising to #1. It remained on the New York Times Bestseller for more than 2 years selling more than 4 million copies.
On July 16, 2005, Lakewood Church relocated from its old building in northeast Houston into its new home, a 16,800 seat facility southwest of downtown Houston along U.S. Highway 59, which had twice the capacity of its former sanctuary. The arena was home to the Houston Rockets when they won two league titles in the 1990s and the Houston Comets of the WNBA when they won four.
What is mind-boggling is that not only was the church required to pay $11.8 million in rent in advance for the first 30 years of the lease, but renovated the new campus at an estimated cost of $95 million. As said in a 2005 article in USA Today [Emphasis Added]
The facility, which took 15 months and about $75 million to complete, features two waterfalls, three gargantuan television screens and a lighting system that rivals those found at rock concerts. Two choir lofts with 12 rows of rich purple pews sit between the waterfalls, accented by live foliage.
Absent, however, is a cross, an image of God or Jesus Christ or any other traditional religious symbols. Osteen said his father never displayed such symbols and he simply continued the tradition. Instead, the new location will feature a larger version of the church’s trademark globe, rotating slowly behind Osteen as he preaches.
In 2007, Lakewood reported spending nearly $30 million every year on its television ministry.
A few years later, in March 31, 2010, the Houston City Council, faced with $100 million shortfall in it’s budget, voted 13-2 to sell the former arena for the Houston Rockets to Lakewood church for $7.5 million.
And how can Osteen and Lakewood church afford all this?
“Buckets of money — over $43 million a year gets collected in the church, another $30 million or so comes in the mail. It’s a cash cow and a family business. Osteen’s brother, sister and mother are ministers in the church. But the real money for Osteen comes from his book sales, which are re-packaged versions of his sermons. Your Best Life Now reportedly got a $13 million advance”
And certainly Joel and Victoria Osteen have made good use of all this money…
Osteen’s 10.5 million Dollar Home
In hib book, Your Best Life Now, Osteen talks about how his wife, Victoria, a striking, fashionably dressed blonde, wanted to buy a fancy house some years before the money started rolling in. He thought it wasn’t possible. “But Victoria had more faith,” he wrote. “She convinced me we could live in an elegant home… and several years later, it did come to pass.” … Osteen’s flourishing Lakewood enterprise brought in $55 million in contributions last year, four times the 1999 amount, church officials say”.
According to an article in the Houston Press, public records show Joel and Victoria Osteen’s home in Tanglewood is worth more than $1 million dollars.
However that was in 2002. While still holding on to the house in Tanglewood, which has since been “valued at $2.9 million”, the Osteens have upgraded. A July 2010 article in Houston’s Daily Digital Magazine, CultureMap, says Joel and Victoria Osteen
“…and their children moved to a 17,000-square-foot stone mansion in the Tall Timbers subdivision in River Oaks. The Osteens’ new home is situated on 1.86 acres and surrounded by an ornamental fence. The 411: It has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators and five wood-burning fireplaces, with a one-bedroom guest house and pool house. The Harris County Appraisal District valued it at $10.5 million.
The Tanglewood house is owned by Joel and Victoria Osteen according to Harris County Appraisal District records. The River Oaks home is technically owned by the Covenant Trust, which means the Osteens do not qualify for a homestead exemption on it. They will pay around $260,000 in property taxes on the new home this year.
The photograph above right is a screen shot of the photograph of Osteen’s home on the CultureMap site.
Joel Osteen and Prosperity Gospel
The Prosperity Gospel is much like all other religions in that it uses faith, it uses doing good things to leverage material blessings from God. Essentially, use God to get things from God.
“God has already done everything He’s going to do. The ball is now in your court. If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family” From Your Best Life Now, p.132
“If you are believing for your child to find God, go help somebody else’s child to develop a relationship with God. If you’re struggling financially, go out and help somebody who has less than you have … f you want to reap financial blessings, you must sow financial seeds in the lives of others … If you want to see healing and restoration come to your life, go out and help somebody else get well” FromYour Best Life Now, pp. 224, 250-51
This is not the Gospel. This is a false Gospel. Joel teaches that we open ourselves to God to get more from God. He teaches that we use our words to speak into existence a better reality. This straight from the Word of Faith Movement. This is not what is taught throughout the New Testament. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote. And remember that he wrote this while in prison.
Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
The IRS wants to know why this pastor owns five houses but pays no taxes
According to TheRichest.com, Meyer’s net worth is around $25 million. The website also listed some of the charismatic speaker’s assets and their worth.
In 2003, Meyer purchased a jet for a whopping $10 million. Her 2003 home was listed at $2 million. As of 2013, the Meyer family owns five different homes, including a $500,000 lakefront ranch.
Since 2003, Joyce Meyer has received an annual salary of $900,000, and her husband is given $450,000 by their ministry. Their mansion is also covered by ministry funds, as well as the bills that come along with the 10,000-square-foot structure.
“We believe that the Bible teaches that if you give, you will be blessed,” said Mark Sutherland, a representative of the Meyer. “She’s been saying it from the stage for years.”
For over a decade, Meyer has also been battling over the rules of her ministry’s tax-exempt status. One of her biggest contenders is Jefferson County Assessor Randy Holman, who does not believe that the family’s estate should be filed as exempt from taxes.
“She’s using the ministry for her own private gain,” Holman said. “That’s the position we’re taking.”
Rusty Leonard, the founder of Wall Watchers, made the request for a federal government investigation. Leonard believes that the ministry is breaking several tax laws and should consider refiguring the members of their board of trustees, considering that Joyce and Dave Meyer are the chairpersons.
“Before we’re going to encourage anyone to donate money to Joyce Meyer Ministries, I would call on Joyce to have an independent board that excludes members who are paid by the ministry, along with an independent committee that decides her compensation,” Leonard said.
Meyer sees no problem with her compensation, saying, “We do not agree that the ministry is in violation of any law. If the IRS were to investigate, we would fully cooperate.”
She has also shared that “there’s no need for us to apologize for being blessed. You can be a businessman here in St. Louis, and people think the more you have, the more wonderful it is … but if you’re a preacher, then all of a sudden it becomes a problem.”
Meyer’s most recent program, “Enjoying Everyday Life,” is now airing on ABC, BET, Daystar, TBN, and The Church Channel.
The Crouch’s Homes
Televangelists Jan and Paul Crouch of the Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network have purchased a Newport Beach house, in a gated community overlooking the Pacific,for close to $5 million.