I Want To Be The Biblical Version of Joel Osteen



Joel Osteen has acquired a bad reputation in some circles. He is known for teaching a prosperity gospel, for avoiding the wrath of God, and for being squishy on key subjects, like homosexuality. Nevertheless, there is one aspect of Joel Osteen’s ministry that I want to emulate: his constant emphasis on encouragement.

Life is really, really hard. Parents grow old, kids get sick, friends get cancer, sons get addicted to drugs, and daughters get pregnant out of wedlock. Our bodies get older and weaker and fatter. We struggle to raise our kids in an increasingly post-modern world. We are constantly aware of our shortcomings as Christians. We need to pray more, read our Bibles more, and evangelize more. We need to do better, try harder, be more productive, get more done. Every day we are reminded that we fall short on pretty much every account.

Because life is so hard and exhausting, every day is a battle. Every day I must fight to believe in the goodness and kindess of God. Everyday I must fight to believe that God is working all things for my good and his glory. Every day I must fight to believe that I serve a God who turns mourning into dancing. What I, and everyone else, desperately need every day, is encouragement. I need fresh hope, fresh faith, fresh strength.

There are enough critics, watch bloggers, angry prophets, protesters, and trolls in the church and in the world. We need more encouragers. We need more people like Barnabas. Acts 4:36 gives us a description of Barnabas:

Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)…

His real name was Joseph, but the apostles called him “Barnabas”. Why? Because he was a constant encourager! Encouragement was so woven into his DNA that the apostles gave him a nickname which meant encouragement. Barnabas was constantly encouraging and building up and strengthening those around him. Encouragement oozed out of his pores.

Encouragement is a wonderful, healthy, biblical thing. Romans 15:4 ?says:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The scriptures are written for our encouragement, that we might have hope for the daily grind of life. In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Paul told the Thessalonians to, “…encourage one another with these words.” The Thessalonians were to encourage one another with the truths about the second coming of Christ and the final resurrection of our bodies.

Paul concluded his first letter to the Thessalonians by saying, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

We need encouragement every day. There are so many times when life is hard and awful and depressing and sad. Every day I need to be reminded of the rock-solid, unshakable truths about God’s ways and works. And every day, I need to encourage others with the wonderful truths found in God’s word.

Let’s not let Joel Osteen hijack the biblical practice of encouragement. Let’s be biblical versions of Joel Osteen. Let’s be sons of encouragement, like Barnabas. Is there a place for criticism and correction? Sure. But there are enough critics out there.


  • Hope Henchey says:

    Great thoughts!!!

  • Craig Cooper says:

    This is excellent, Stephen!! I couldn’t agree with you more. Life is hard enough as it is; we all need more encouragement. Thank you for offering fresh hope, fresh faith, and fresh strength. I appreciate you sharing this.

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  • Encouraged and discouraged. says:

    Would’ve loved this more without the Olsteen slam.

  • John Adams says:

    Joel Osteen is an apostate and should not be emulated in any way!!!

  • cyoder says:

    He does get a few things right, pearls in the midst of horse manure.

  • DonRL says:

    Encouragement is a good this it it is encouragement in a good thing.
    If we encourage other to continue to do as the are going without Christ then the will be encouraged into Hell.
    We should encourage others to change in whom they believe, if they do not believe in Jesus and believe in him so they can be saved. (This is called repentance.) See John 3: 16-21; John 14:6 and Acts 4:12
    Joel Olsteen encourages but not from a Biblical perspective. He encourages from a humanist perspective.
    His teaching is subtiy deceptive because he does not include the imperative of faith in Jesus Christ.

  • John Adams says:

    Satan gets “a few things right” too.

  • Robert Daniel Chang says:

    A positive article. I appreciate and honor Joel Osteen’s message of encouragement: it’s an essential part of what the body of Christ needs today. Like Barnabus did, his message needs to be yoked together with the central message his co-laborer in the Gospel Saul brought, who became the apostle Paul. But encouragement is at the heart of the spirit of prophecy, the testimony of what Jesus is speaking now(Rev. 19:10). We are to especially desire to prophesy (I Cor. 14:1), because he that prophesies “speaks to men for their upbuilding and constructive spiritual progress and encouragement and consolation” (I Cor.14:3 AMP).

  • Brenda Ringenberg says:

    I think Barnabas would like this and by Barnabas I mean the one in the Bible. I venture to guess that Mr. Piper likes it as well…

  • Aunt Bea says:

    I totally hear you John. If you consider the larger picture of Stephen’s thought is that there are so many critics, particularly now, and not as much emphasis on encouragement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Jesus taught more on loving each other than anything else. I believe that love is at least tow fold- encouragement and discipline. Jesus doesn’t just disciplines us, but he encourages us with constant reminders of his love and faithfulness. We should strive to be more like him in that regard. Stephen did say a “BIBLICAL” version of Joel Osteen. So even though Satan got some thing right, he is by far biblically correct. I think that is where Stephen was going with that.

  • Preston G. Atkinson says:

    Well…I’m not mad at you for writing it. I’ve said something similar for years. That is, the gift of encouragement is severely lacking today in activity in the local church. I don’t think it has ceased but its hard to tell. Peace.

  • Ok, right now, I just want to punch you in the face. You can also add Ted Kluck to the fray as well.
    jk … I totally get your point. I like how you use Olsteen for shock value. We could all be more encouraging like a modern day Barnabas.

  • Preston G. Atkinson says:

    (In Apostolic fashion) If Osteen was like Barnabas in the truest sense of Acts 4, then Osteen would sell his 1.7 million dollar estate and many other unnecessary things to make sure that the believers shared all things in common for the good of each other and the worth of the gospel to the shock of unbelievers and some “believers.” That is why Barnabas was considered “the son of encouragement.”

  • Nitoy Gonzales says:

    So true…we need encouragement that is Christ centered…thank you for this great article

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