On Sunday my kids wanted to attend a MEGACHURCH which is never a very good idea. The last time we tried it was at Willow Creek many years ago where something terrible happened: they liked the kids program so much that we had to bring them back the following week. So you can imagine I didn't want that to happen again.
And this time it was even worse. They wanted to attend Lakewood Church in Houston, home of pastor Joel Osteen whose smile has made appearances on my blog, including the post "How to Survive a Christian Bookstore." I really wasn't in the mood for an early Sunday morning motivation talk and don't care very much for prosperity teaching which I generally find shallow, selfish, unhelpful, dangerous, insulting to the poor and severely unmissional.
But my kids really wanted to go and so we were in the car a few minutes later. I was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and was expecting the evil eye from the ushers in suits who I expected would also act as fashion police to keep the standard high and Brooks Brothers profitable.
As it turned out, there were a lot of people dressed like me and we all received a royal welcome. The people were all friendly. The music rocked. Joel Osteen was predictably nice but I found his pep talks annoyingly shallow. If he had said "God has a victory in your future" one more time I would have ripped my t-shirt. But he didn't and when he introduced the visiting speaker, Dave Ramsey, I was quite relieved.
Dave Ramsey was excellent. His talk was practical, funny, helpful, peppered in Bible verses. It was reminiscent of Larry Burkett and Ron Blue, both mentioned in his talk. And he wore JEANS! Yes, JEANS! The only part where I found myself shaking my head and saying "Uh uh, don't go there girlfriend!" was when Dave, in response to a question from Joel Osteen, attempted to prove tithing a Biblical principle for the church today. I just don't find evidence of the Jewish temple tax system reinstalled for the new Jerusalem. The early church gave generously as God directed each of them but they did not continue the tithing system. John MacArthur agrees. But besides that, Dave's challenge to avoid debt and consult the Bible for financial advice was superb. Best quote:
"Read Proverbs again and again and you will have a Masters in Finance." Dave Ramsey
Overall - I expected to hate this church and was pleasantly surprised. I might even owe them an apology if I have judged them too harshly in the past. But that doesn't mean I am softening on the prosperity doctrine. In fact, it was a big theme last month in Cape Town at the Lausanne World Congress and appeared in this advance paper which I recommend reading and considering: All that Glitters is Not Gold, by Daniel Bourdanné.