Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen just received some of the most scathing criticism yet over his response to Hurricane Harvey — and it came from a fellow minister.
John Pavlovitz, a minister at North Raleigh Community Church in North Carolina, penned an open letter to the so-called “prosperity gospel” pastor calling on him to do better to represent Christianity in the future.
Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston both came under an avalanche of criticism when the facility wasn’t immediately opened for hurricane victims. Osteen claimed there were safety concerns and said the city did not immediately ask them to open the church as a shelter. It didn’t do much to silence the critics.
Accordingly, parts of Pavlovitz’s letter were blistering:
For quite a while, Pastor, many people have rightly concluded that the kind of opulence you sit nestled in no way resembles the homeless, itinerant street preacher Jesus who relied on the goodness of ordinary people to provide his daily needs. They rightly recognized that mansions are not places that servant leaders emulating this humble, foot-washing Jesus occupy. They correctly saw the massive chasm between the ever-grinning, your ship is coming in, name it and claim it prosperity promise that is your bread and butter—and the difficult, painful, sacrificial “you will have trouble” life that Jesus and those who followed him lived in the Gospels.
They also see the great disparity between your coddled, cozy, stock photo existence—and the sleep-deprived, paycheck to paycheck, perpetually behind struggle that is their daily life.
And yet despite their difficulties and their deficits and their lack (the kind you have been well insulated from for a long, long time), these same folks understand that when people around you are in peril—you respond. You don’t wait for an invitation, you don’t wait to be shamed by strangers, and you don’t make excuses.
However, the minister goes on to tell Osteen that he doesn’t think he’s a bad person, he may just need to recover his “why” in life:
I don’t know you. I don’t believe you’re a bad person. You’re quite likely a good, loving, and decent man—but good, loving, and decent people lose the plot, they get distracted, they get it wrong, they need to recover their why. […]
The even better news, Pastor Osteen, is that you are alive. You are still here and you have a chance now to show people that Christianity is far more than their greatest fears about it, much better than the worst they’ve seen of Christians, and more beautiful than the ugliness they’ve experienced in the Church.
You have the chance to leverage your resources and your platform and your influence to show a watching world something that truly resembles Jesus.
Don’t wait for an invitation.
Jesus already gave you one.