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Jesus Needs New PR

WHAT: Joel Osteen has never heard of Mark Driscoll?!

BrianD (<-great blogger, btw) blogged yesterday about a very interesting excerpt from Cathy Lynn Grossman’s USA WEEKEND feature on Joel Osteen:

Ms. Grossman writes:

...In Osteen’s sermons, bad times can be reimagined as opportunities. Someone left you? Lost your job? Thank God! You didn’t need that person. A better job awaits. “God wants to double your blessings as he did for Job,” he says.

This all makes his critics livid. The Rev. Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president and powerhouse traditionalist, whacks him for “platitudes with attitudes.” The Rev. Mark Driscoll, who packs a Seattle megachurch for doctrine-laden sermons, says Osteen reduces the pursuit of God to “lollipops and skipping while singing hymns.”

Mohler? Driscoll? “I don’t know who those people are,” Osteen says, looking genuinely mystified….

I’m shocked. But I must say, I’m also a little jealous. I wish I didn’t know who those people are! Haha… I’m kidding.

But seriously, how does somebody like Joel Osteen not know who Mark Driscoll is? It’s DRISCOLL! On Easter Sunday, he probably could have walked outside in Houston and heard Mark yelling preaching in Seattle!

Not knowing who Mohler is? Eh, not a big deal. Lots of people aren’t familiar with him.

But Mark?

What makes this even funnier is the fact that Mark has often (and very publicly) criticized Joel’s “theology.”

So who else has Joel never heard of? George Bush, Sr.? I hear they live in the same neighborhood, but maybe they’ve never seen each other? Does he know he has a wife named Victoria?

Has he heard of Facebook?

Anyway, here’s my thought: Most of the blogs I’ve read regarding this story question what this news says about Joel. And I get that. That was my first response when I read it.

But then I thought: Perhaps I should be asking what it says about me? You know, am I too much in the know? I mean, it’s not like I can “unknow” Mark Driscoll and what’s-his-name, but do I (we) spend too much time wanting (and pursuing) being in the know? Some knowledge just happens to us. But often I go out looking for it.

So yes, it’s odd (and perhaps telling) that Joel is unaware of Mark Driscoll, but maybe, just maybe, he’s the one who’s better off.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

I like your premise in the closing lines, that it’s often too easy to try to be in the know, and finding information is far too simple. It’s hard, because there’s a fine line between educating oneself and making the pursuit of often trivial knowledge one’s god. As a person with way too many random facts about people, places, and things, I really wonder what good it really is. Unless I end up on Jeopardy one day.

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chris freeman

posted April 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

“I’m shocked. But I must say, I’m also a little jealous. I wish I didn’t know who those people are! Haha… I’m kidding.”

This reminds me of my children and how they end any demeaning comment or jab at their siblings with, Just Kidding!


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    posted April 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Welcome to MPT’s writing.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 10:47 am

someone needs to setup a google alert of his name for brand awareness…

or maybe he just DGAF, cos if i were joel osteen, i would just weave a toga out of $100 bills and not ever use a computer.

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Charles Brock

posted April 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

I’m not an Osteen fan but really? Is this something to criticize? I’m pretty in tune with culture but I have to say I am not a pastor fan boy either. I couldn’t care less about most of these guys. I barely know who Driscoll is and I am in the Northwest. Someone showed me one of his books and two pages in I had to put it down. His writing was horrible. I guess the point I’m trying to make is what if this guy is just focused on his church and not every other pastor out there? I don’t see that as a bad thing.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

Joel said he thought Mohler was a smart man a year ago on Larry King Live… guess he has a short memory.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

This can be compared to those that choose not to know what is going on in the world, I wonder if they are better off NOT knowing compared to those that are aware of the anguish. I guess we could ask is it better to be ignorant of those around us? Or to learn from them? Which in turn gives us a deeper understand of our own beliefs.

As for me, I know who Joel Osteen is, but I’ve never read his books or listened to his sermons. Tell me, am I missing out?

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    Charles Brock

    posted April 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I guess but he said he wasn’t aware of two guys. That doesn’t mean he is oblivious to what is going on. I work in publishing and there are soo many Christian books that come out. One can’t be expected to be on top of everything going on in that world. That could literally take up his every waking hour.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

Sure, it’s true that Driscoll has been a heavy critic of Joel Osteen and a lot of other ministries in the past, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find Driscoll publically criticizing the ministries of any Christian over the last year or two.

The angry Calvinists bloggers have given Mark a lot of flack over the last couple years for no longer ripping down, and sometimes even supporting ministries that they love to target, especially Rick Warren. He’s even publically supported Osteen’s ministry, more recently when Joel was on Piers Morgan’s show and Piers tried to nail him down on homosexuality (which I think you blogged about as well MPT). When more than a few Christians used it as an opportunity to tear into Osteen, Driscoll was quick to jump on twitter and support Joel and talk about the difficulties of being put on the spot like that, and how Osteen did a great job.

Having had the opportunity to meet Mark and hear how some of his views have shifted over the years I know that he has remorse over how he’s treated Christians and their ministries in the past. He recognizes that it’s much easier to criticize a ministry when you stand outside of it, understanding it mostly through sound bites, third hand information, or the occasional TBN special. Most importantly, I think he’s come to understand that when Driscoll speaks, a lot of people are listening, and he needs to use that influence wisely instead of potentially crushing the ministries of others, ministries where people are coming to know Christ.

But more than anything else, I know that trying to support Driscoll in a forum like this is like trying to pull down a brick wall with my bare hands. When people only know half the truth they grab onto the closest thing that sounds even somewhat plausible and deathgrip it even when it begins to sound absurd. They favor their anger over their logic and are typically unwilling to even entertain the idea that perhaps they’ve been looking at a person or a situation through a distorted lens.

It appears that even Driscoll has realized this. It’s one of the reasons (among others) that he’s become much more tame in recent years.

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    posted April 28, 2011 at 11:17 am


    Do you any sermons or writings from Driscoll that show the kind of remorse and tameness you’re talking about? If so, could you please post them here?

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      posted April 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

      I don’t attend Mars Hill and though he’s on rotation of various pastors and public speakers that I podcast, I certainly don’t listen to every sermon he preaches so I can’t be of too much help there. I think if you listen to some of Driscoll’s earlier podcasts where he spent a lot of time over multiple sermons bashing other ministries, and compare it to more recent ones where he simply doesn’t, it should hold a lot of weight.

      I can give you a couple of resources you may find interesting though.

      One of the earlier ministries Driscoll liked to target were the local larger ministries, including (and perhaps especially) that of City Church and their lead pastor Wendell Smith, and his son Judah.

      I’ve heard Driscoll tell this story several times, perhaps even in a sermon (when you’ve heard things repeated a few times, the time and places you’ve heard them become less significant) but a major shift in Driscoll’s ministry took place when Wendell and Judah called Mark up and asked to meet with him. Driscoll thought he was walking into an ass chewing but was surprised when they only wanted to meet with him, see how he was doing, see if there was any way they could help his ministry out, and ask his blessing on planting a church nearby a Mars Hill campus. This began a pretty strong relationship between Mark and the Smiths that has sense prompted Mark to question how he’s treated a lot of ministers and ministries.

      The story may be on this podcast, it was taken at a Catalyst One Day conference I attended in Seattle.

      Here’s a blog Driscoll wrote where he talked about and publically supported a few local churches who are vastly different both from Mars Hill and to each other. I don’t think you’d have seen this from him even five years ago.

      And just to round all the bases, here’s a fun blog by an angry Calvinist trying to hold Driscoll to task for playing nice with others.

      Hopefully you find something interesting or useful in there!

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        posted April 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

        Thanks! I’ll check those out. While I’m not really a fan of Driscoll’s (nothing personal there, it’s because of my disagreements with the theology put forward by him, Piper, etc.), I am glad to hear that he’s mellowed out some.

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Brad Hensley

posted April 28, 2011 at 10:55 am

I have to take a different perspective on this. I am a “pastor fan boy” because of what I get from different sermons and how each are delivered. I was a huge fan of Osteens father (not much Joel now) in high school and am a fan of Driscoll but I have to argue the point of being in the know. I think there is a fine line with the fascinations of people but if I didn’t push myself to get in the know, I would still be stuck in my grandmother’s religion which has some serious theology issues. IMHO

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    Charles Brock

    posted April 28, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I feel like I’m defending Osteen. I’m really not. Seeking knowledge and education is a good thing but being a pastor “fan boy” and reading every new book out is not the only way to do that. It works for you and thats great. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t have the patience or tolerance to spend the time trying to find the few gems amongst all the crap. Equating him not know who Driscoll is with being stuck in time seems like a stretch. Who knows though. Since I don’t follow Osteen either he might have serious theology issues. lol.

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      Brad Hensley

      posted April 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      You make some good points and I was a big Osteen fan but just don’t agree with some of the things he “dodges” now. I wasn’t trying to be abrasive with what I said. I do agree with what you, “Equating him [Osteen] not know who Driscoll is with being stuck in time seems like a stretch.” I also differed from opinion of the blog that we should expand our minds by finding truth for ourselves and through the way that other pastors bring the message but we do have to be careful in being a fan of the individual and obsessing over them instead of the message they bring. To clarify, I guess I should say that I am methodology fan. I love when pastors, like Driscol, or Perry Noble (NewSpring Church, Anderson-SC) or Rodney Arnold (OneLife Church, Knoxville-TN) create a “different” methodology to reach people. That is what I am more of a fan of… Again, I apologize if I came off as abrasive; it was unintentional.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 10:57 am

My poor ear drums wish I’d never heard of Driscoll.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

…Or maybe he is too isolated and self-absorbed in his own little bubble.

For the average joes like you and I, yes, it is a shame we spend so much time reading about who’s who. But for someone of the influence of Osteen, I refuse to accept that being so disconnected is a good quality.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

I know this is not why you posted this, but I had a strong, visceral reaction to the first paragraph of that quote, especially the part about “not need[ing] that person.”

That, that right there, pinpoints absolutely what’s wrong with Joel’s theology and with the self-help nature of a lot of American churches.

We NEED other people.

We are a COMMUNITY of humans, created in the image of God. And guess what? God’s Triune! God is community itself! To say we don’t NEED another person is like saying I don’t need my left eye. OTHER PEOPLE is the entire point of the Gospel. We can’t really die to self if we allow ourselves to think we don’t need others.

Guh, it makes me so sad and angry that I’m having trouble being coherent.

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Alex McLean

posted April 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

I would imagine he lives in quite a bubble with a lot of layers. I’m not surprised at all.

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Steve Thrush

posted April 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

i think you’re on to something here. seriously. i’ve been wrestling with this very issue myself. ~steveT

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posted April 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

Popularity means zero in the Kingdom of God. What Joel, Al, Mark – along with and me, you and all of us – should be way more concerned about is making sure Jesus doesn’t say, “I never knew you.”

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posted April 28, 2011 at 11:22 am

There have been many times in my life when I wish I could go back and unlearn something, or not have a asked certain question because the answer only opened an unpleasant theological can of worms. I had a major faith crisis for years when I was taught that we are all predestined to either heaven or hell.

But this unwanted knowledge led me to search out other answers, I started to read books about it, I read the Bible more, prayed more frequently, and ultimately, developed a stronger faith than I had before I’d ever heard of the ugly P word. I guess what I’m saying is that being “in the know” can sometimes start off in an uncomfortable place, but the process of working through it can bring about an even stronger faith than you had before. I know that every time I hear something Mark Driscoll said, I’m usually even more thankful for the loving Jesus I believe in and not the MMA, cage fighting, tattooed, sword wielding Jesus that Driscoll believes in.

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    posted April 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    So do you just skip over those Bible verses with the p word??

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posted April 28, 2011 at 11:43 am

I think that everyone has missed the point that Joel cleverly and covertly made. He knows very well who Mohler and Driscoll are. By saying “I don’t know who those people are” when asked to respond about their criticism of him, he carefully relegates them to anonymity. He basically reduced them to nothing and never said a bad word about them. I’m not saying that he’s right, just clever.

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    Charles Brock

    posted April 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I think maybe you are right Carl.

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    posted April 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

    No way. That wouldn’t be nice, and Joel is always always always multi-blinkingly nice.

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      posted April 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      Carl beat me to the punch on that observation. He’s dead on the money. It’s a very cleaver (and infuriating) way of responding to criticism, without actually “responding” to it directly (and at the same time sticking the knife in and twisting it a few times in the side of your detractors).

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posted April 28, 2011 at 11:58 am

Interesting post, MPT. And you make a very valid point. We (me included) often do as much celebrity-chasing in our little subculture as those who buy scandal rag mags.

As for un-knowing things, I am reminded of the immortal line Daryl Philbin voiced when Dwight Schrute mentioned going to a strip club: “The day shift at a strip club? You can’t unsee that!”

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posted April 28, 2011 at 11:59 am

Oh, and thanks for putting quotation marks around “theology” when referencing Joel’s “beliefs.” Spot-on.

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Charlie Chang

posted April 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I like Joel Osteen and if I were a single man I would want to pursue a relationship with him.

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ed cyzewski

posted April 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

The whole BellHellGate made me realize how that I need to repent, seek first the Kingdom, and go my separate way from people like Osteen, Piper, and Driscoll. I’m not judging or excommunicating anyone. I just need to focus on serving in my own community, seeking first God’s Kingdom, and seeking accountability with people who actually know me and who aren’t in the media spotlight.

Thanks for these wise words MPT.

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    posted April 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    That’s perfect, Ed.

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    posted April 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Also, disregard 1 Timothy. And 1 John.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm

While I agree we need to stop our tendency as Christians to follow the latest big names in theology and Christian fads, as a pastor I think there is value in knowing the theologians and pastors of the day who are impacting the masses as well as shaping Christian thought. We should be strong enough in our own theology and call to not simply melt under their words and criticism. But we need to be able to dialog with them as equals. They can challenge us in our ministry and theology. They can hold us accountable in ways to preach and serve better.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Not a big fan of Driscoll or Osteen — but, have to respect that Osteen just does his thing & doesn’t know his haters or react to the mud-slinging…

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    posted April 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Do you also respect that he preaches a false gospel?

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      Charlie Chang

      posted April 29, 2011 at 6:31 am

      Why does he preach a false gospel? Because you don’t agree with it?

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        posted April 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm

        The gospel Osteen preaches isn’t false because people disagree with it. It is false because by Osteen’s own admission it is incomplete and ignores key parts of the gospel as defined by the Bible.

        In an interview, Osteen said: “We believe in focusing on the goodness of God.”

        For Osteen, that means not talking about God’s wrath.

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          posted April 29, 2011 at 3:13 pm

          Uh… God’s wrath is bad?

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          posted April 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm

          So, by extension, God is bad, right?

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Phil crissman

posted April 28, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Speaking as someone who spent a lot of time in “word of faith” type churches… Not too surprised, actually. It’s pretty common for word of faith folks to only be aware of other word of faith teachers/preachers/churches. Entirely possible Joel might have been sincere there. I can’t know that, but, could be.

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posted April 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I agree Ed. Seek first the Kingdom.


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posted April 29, 2011 at 6:48 am

they probably haven’t heard of you either

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Michael Lettner

posted April 30, 2011 at 12:58 pm

@albertmohler tweeted when this article came out: “Joel Osteen says he doesn’t know who I am. He once said on Larry King Live that I am a very smart man. #guesshetookitback

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