On Friday night, August 25th, Hurricane Harvey touched down in Texas with force and fury. The storm affected multiple cities, and caused a catastrophic amount of loss and destruction. This storm continues to move slowly, with reports of heavy rain forecasting that the storm won’t fully end until Friday. Houston is one of the cities in Texas that has been greatly affected and Lakewood Church is the biggest church in the city, and possibly the nation, which has brought a lot of scrutiny against it as a result. The criticisms center around the alleged delay of Lakewood’s response to the need for relief in Houston. To the public at large it appeared that many were responding to the need immediately, while Lakewood didn’t even attempt to offer any help, except with a tweet for prayer from Joel Osteen.
Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 26, 2017
From that tweet on Saturday the criticism became unrelenting, and because there wasn’t as much talk online about what happened behind the scenes, it seemed to confirm that Lakewood didn’t care. On top of that, after Lakewood spoke of the flooding in and around the church, videos of people seemingly disproving the narrative circulated quickly because there wasn’t any water when they recorded. However, on Monday, pictures began to surface, that showed flooding in and around Lakewood:
Despite this evidence, people continued to malign Lakewood’s response, as well as assume that shelter wasn’t provided for reasons of greed and selfishness. As I observed what’s been going on the past few days, I saw a common thread in the responses against Lakewood, and that was the dislike of Joel Osteen, his teaching, and his ministry. I also saw a cynical mistrust of preachers in general from those who aren’t Christians, and Lakewood’s response became the primary way to validate their mistrust. This became the foundation of the many responses, that ascribed an evil motive in a situation that many of us were not exactly privy to. Needless to say, it was very troubling that people used their critiques of him and the ministry as a valid reason to place a negative motive, and not really consider if they could actually be wrong.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m not a fan of some of the teaching that comes from Osteen, and I support the need for discerning between truth and error. I also understand that the visual of a preacher living in a big mansion will bring extra scrutiny because of the abuse and greed of pastors that has happened in the past. However, I also want to note that a lot of us really aren’t as scared concerning the dangers of slander and gossip as we need to be.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus makes a serious admonition to His disciples about the words that we speak, and how they will be examined on judgment day.
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
What Jesus is saying here is that you will have to give an account before Him in judgement for the things you speak in this life and this should cause us to be slow to speak in many situations. Social media has become the new frontier in breaking news and some of us have fallen into the trap of publishing the story first instead of publishing the story correctly. The reality of the situation at Lakewood has become increasingly clear through various faith-based and mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post, FaithWire, and others, and it has shown that there was much more work behind the scenes than previously known.
We have fallen into the trend of making sure that our outrage is known swiftly and publicly, and “dragging” someone for their perceived or actual moral failings is the new virtue. Do not allow the influence of social media to transform the importance of discretion, discernment, and the fear of the Lord. If you do, you will end up saying many things that you will have to account for in the end, and that alone has encouraged me to be wary of how I speak. May it encourage you as well. CBN investigated claims that Lakewood had closed its doors to Hurricane Harvey flood victims. Eric Rosales of CBN news caught up with Paul Osteen, associate pastor of Lakewood Church. Check out what he had to say in the video below:
To give online:
Mail: Eyes On Me, Inc.
9090 Katy Frwy, Ste 400, Houston TX, 77024