Whatever Gets Them to Church

Victoria’s Secret, Spiked Heeled Choir Director, Idiot-proof Hymns, Mass Humanity, and more!

An article in today’s Washington Post fits right in with last week’s running dialogue on Attractive Worship on Touchstone’s Mere Comments.

The WP article is about Joel Osteen, “the smiling preacher.” Notice I didn’t say PASTOR — because if you’re sick, he ain’t calling; if you’re dead, he ain’t burying; if you need counseling, buy the books, tapes, or CDs; got a shotgun?, still no wedding.

But if you want to feel better about yourself after having been jacked up, entertained, and self-motivated at church, well … Joel’s your man.

Here’s some excerpts (read it all H E R E):

HOUSTON — The pastor once startled his own mother by exhorting the women in his congregation to shop at Victoria’s Secret to improve their marriages. Last weekend, his glamorous musical director led four services in a hot pink coat and black spiky boots, stomping around the stage and singing the praises of Jesus in rousing, original rock sounds.

The crowds he attracts in Houston come away inspired. “He pushes us to a level God wants us to be at,” said Juli Hain, who attends regularly. “He kicks us in the rear to take steps that will take us to a higher [personal] level.”

“Joel is doing it better than most,” said William Martin, a sociology professor and religion expert at Rice University. “He is purposely seeking to lower the barriers that keep people from going to church. They don’t know the hymns; they don’t have to learn the creed. It’s all there for them.”

He is unapologetic that he lives well in a $1 million house in an upscale neighborhood and that he is pouring the church’s offerings into the Compaq Center these days, not into charities.

“I feel like God wants us to prosper,” he said. “My dad grew up in the Depression. . . . It is not God’s will for anybody to live where you can’t support your family. . . . [Houston Astros pitcher] Roger Clemens just signed for $18 million — man, don’t tell me I can’t have a nice house and send my kids to college.”

The church service and the meet-and-greet are the only opportunities his followers have to get close to Osteen. Unlike his father, Osteen does not perform weddings or funerals. He avoids sickbeds and doesn’t do personal counseling. For those needs, the church employs another 60 ministers. Members said that is fine.

“I’m not here to meet the pastor; I’m here to meet God,” said Pam Hall, 47, who has been coming to Lakewood for 15 years but who acknowledged that Osteen does not know her name. “He is a great inspiration to me.”

The church is run by the Osteen family and a cadre of 4,000 volunteers, 1,200 of whom are needed for each service. It is a tightly organized Sunday operation at which ushers looking like Secret Service agents wear earpieces and microphones and manage to get 6,000 to 8,000 people to their seats quickly. Parents are able to check their infants and toddlers at the door with volunteer caregivers. They are given a numbered token, and if there is a problem with their child, the token number flashes on the big screen during the service.

He knows that some people just come for the music. And that is a good thing, he said. Whatever gets them in the door.

Thanks to NEWS FORUM for the link.

Someone left a comment on NF‘s site:

“At the risk of sounding judgmental, (okay, I am being judgmental) that just turns me off. I’ll stick with my poor, tiny church.”

Uh … no comment.

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