Joel Osteen vs. Switchfoot

I've been thinking a lot more about Joel Osteen. My last post got several great comments and they've had me on my toes thinking about this. One of the thoughts I had the other day about Joel is that in my mind he is sort of like a Christian rock star. He leads the biggest church in the country, and there are a great many people listening to what he is saying. His ability to please them all is limited just as yours or mine would be. He cannot meet everyone's expectations.

Take Switchfoot for instance... a Christian rock band, or a rock band of Christians? They have been selling records since 1996 and have released at least six full length albums and one EP over the course of their career. I love their music. In my opinion "The Beautiful Letdown" was one of the best albums of 2003, regardless of genre, and perhaps one of the best of the decade so far.

But of all the great songs on "The Beautiful Letdown", of all the beauty and meaning and inspiration, there is not one mention of Jesus by name. In fact, Jesus is never mentioned in ANY Switchfoot song. 72 tracks on 7 CDs... I searched all the lyrics to all the songs... Jesus is never mentioned.

What are your expectations of Switchfoot? Is it okay that they never mention Jesus by name?

And then there's Joel Osteen. He mentions Jesus in every message. He points people to Jesus BY NAME every week. He believes that Jesus is the only way, and his actions and words week after week support that.

So what are your expectations of Joel Osteen? Do you want him to take it upon himself to announce the eternal damnation of a billion muslims on international television? If so, why?


Waiting for the Rapture said...

Good question. I had to sit and think for a moment before answering. I suppose to me switchfoot has always clearly sang about Jesus. I never realized He was never mentioned. I suppose I hear them on Christian radio and just went with it.

I have actually spoken to a few of my long time "seasoned" friends about your last blog concerning this topic. I have heard the same response that I myself believe. Here's the difference. Joel is a Pastor. As a Pastor he is shepherd. His job is to lead people in the ways of the Lord, teach them the word of God, encourage them in their personal relationship..but at all times, work hard to stay in line with teaching the gospel. It seems to me Joel has in fact found a way to appease many! He preaches a watered down gospel. That is much more comfortable.

The bottom line for me, is yes, expectations are different for both. However what I would want from any public figure, or anyone has the power of a pulpit, a speech, a song, a voice to be no compromising of the bottom line. One does not have to go on TV and shout out to the world that without Jesus, you are in fact going to hell. However, I find it offensive if someone claims to be believe in Christ, yet refuses to speak this very truth. It is the bottom line.....we have a choice to make. I won't force my opinion on anyone. However I believe it is truly dangerous to not speak God's truth if asked.

Joel, or anyone who proclaims this faith, should be willing if asked to say, yes, I believe there is but one way....and if he/she is not willing, than please don't represent "us" as a faith.

Does that make sense?

Kyle said...

OK you asked for pestering :-) Switchfoot is in an entirely different situation, the analogy doesn't quite work. If Switchfoot was leading corporate worship then I'd say yes they have an obligation to call Jesus by name as our Lord and savior. But they aren't leading corporate worship, they are just making music as creatively as they can, they don't need to apply any congregational filters which worship leaders have to do. More power to them.

I never said Joel had an obligation to pronounce the eternal damnation of every Muslim. He does have the obligation to pronounce the eternal salvation offered through Christ Jesus. So if someone asks him in essence, "can you get to heaven without Jesus", and he doesn't want to answer that. Then that is a very very serious matter. We don't serve a pansy God, we should approach with some amount of reverance there. So when someone asks me if Jesus is the only way I come humbly and say unequivocally yes, the Father sent his son for our salvation. Jesus prayed in the garden and asked the father if there was any other way(take this cup). The Father responded no, his son had to die for us to be reconciled to the father.

If I am ever afraid to answer that question out of fear of offending someone, shame on me for my fear of man conquering my fear of God. If I ever let on that there could be another way, then I just proclaimed Jesus died in vein. That's a serious serious matter. One that Joel should not tread lightly upon. It's a distinction that is the difference between life and death.

Again, to make my point abundantly clear. I'm not saying we need to picket outside mosques or strip clubs or anything and tell people they are going to hell. I don't believe that to be an effective witness at all. But if someone asks me how do I get to heaven, if my response isn't simply, Christ Jesus, then I'm not speaking truth. Larry asked Joel simply, how do I get to heaven and Joel didn't want to appear "exclusive" in his response. Christ is exclusive unfortunately, I know it isn't PC, but that's what makes Jesus a radical.

Ken said...

One quick response as I am on my way to a meeting... Yes, Switchfoot has no obligation to ever mention Jesus. But wouldn't they want to at least once? I mean, what statement are they making by NEVER mentioning him? 10 years... 72 songs... never once.

JC said...

Ken, you are so right on. Thank you for bringing to light the hypocrisy. Connie and Kyle are wrong. The analogy is totally accurate and it is not an entirely different situation. I'm sorry but if you are a "Christian" artist or any Christian for that matter, but especially if you have a platform then you are supposed to be an ambassador for Christ. You are a representative of Christ, and if you are leading worship I don't care if it is in a church "building" or on a CD on someone's radio, or talking to your neighbor, then YOU have an obligation to witness through words and/or actions. As, Ken said and obviously Connie and the rest have never seen Joel Osteen, or don't want to acknowledge, he asks people to accept Jesus Christ every week!!

As far as the Larry King thing - (two years ago I might add) do your homework from some other place other than YouTube before judging him! He has clarified his statement over and over again!

In addition, if you listen (I mean really listen with a nonjudgemental attitude and your denominational filter) to his message just once, you will realize that his whole message is just that - to lead people in the ways of the Lord, teach them the word of God, encouraging them in their personal relationship with God. I ask Connie - read your Bible and then compare it to one of Joel's sermons.

Gee, I'm sorry God that I am appealing to so many people!

Perhaps God has called Joel to plant seeds in the hearts of many?

It is sad to see how shallow so many people are that criticize Joel. I pray that some day the veils are lifted from their eyes.

Ken said...

But Joel DOES say that!!

The difference is that he did not answer the question about muslims and jews going to hell. That is a very different question than "Is Jesus the only way?" To answer that question, in my opinion, is to play God. We are not to judge others. That is God's role, not man's. My hope is that muslims and jews CAN go to heaven. Don't you wish for that? I certainly do not wish that all muslims and jews would go to hell. How hateful that would be!

So if I am a person that desperately wishes for muslims and jews to go to heaven (as I believe Joel Osteen does), then I would be motivated by love to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven (which Joel Osteen says). I do not feel that it would be love motivating a person to tell another person they are going to hell. Telling them Jesus is the way to heaven is much better, and in fact is more true to what Jesus himself says.

Also, if a muslim were to personally ask Joel Osteen how to go to heaven, what do you think he would say? I believe Joel would answer that Jesus is the way and would try to personally lead that muslim to Christ. Again, it is a very different circumstance for Larry King to ask Joel on behalf of all muslims and jews, as if God would judge all muslims and jews as a group instead of as individuals, and as if Joel Osteen has a right to speak for God in that regard.

I believe there may be people who call themselves muslim or jew who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and are going (or have gone) to heaven because of it. That is a possibility. One that I pray for! Joel Osteen was right to not condemn all muslims and jews as a group. Larry King set a trap for him and he did not fall to it.

More comments later! Thanks for all your posts. But hey, let's be careful to avoid any personal characterizations or insults. Judging from the quality of cooments so far, I think it is a stretch to call them shallow.

By the way, I do love Switchfoot's music and totally support their or any musician's approach to using the name of Jesus or not.

Ken said...

One other thing that came to mind a few minutes ago as I was talking to another friend...

Joel Osteen has 47,000 people coming to his church each week, and who knows how many watching on television. You cannot really say that he is or even could be a pastor to that many people, at least not in any Biblical sense. Most of those people are total strangers to him. Like I said, he is a rock star. He is a Christian celebrity putting on a show in the Compaq Center each week. He is an entertainer and motivational speaker to those 47,000 people, not a pastor. And I see nothing wrong with that.

Joel Osteen, if he is a pastor at all, is most likely pastoring a smaller group of key leaders. Perhaps 100 or so? He is probably a coach, a mentor, and pastor in that capacity. What we see on YouTube and Larry King is rock star Joel. Most of us will never see and could never judge Joel Osteen as a true pastor just by what he says in arenas and on television, anymore than we should judge Switchfoot by what they say on their records.

Another question: Does Switchfoot have a legitimate approach to ministry? If so, then I think Joel Osteen does to.

Waiting for the Rapture said...

I find this conversation to be excellent and love to hear others opinions. However I think it is best I bow out of this one. I promise you because I believe differently doesn't make me shallow, nor does it mean I don't read my bible. I actually have a very real and personal walk with Jesus. I think it is always beautiful and amazing to hear what others think and how they believe and to challenge my way and to hear my way and be able to do that and still respect eachother. It's iron sharpening iron.
God bless, Pastor

Ken said...

Thanks for you comments Connie. I very much appreciate them, and like you I too seek the iron sharpening iron. That's what this is all about. You are not shallow!

Kyle said...


I just googled "lifehouse lyrics jesus" and sure enough one of the first links is a Lifehouse song that calls Jesus by name. The song is "Take Me Higher". There may be more, but I don't really care to research since it's not really the point.


Ken said...

Try Switchfoot, not Lifehouse

David Golden said...

When I was traveling alone in Indonesia in 2000, I was cutting costs in every way I could. I took the "cheap" train from Jakarta to Semarang, riding with the locals (and without air conditioning!). I'm not particularly outgoing, but 2 men near me (Muslims!!!) struck up a conversation with me in English, asking about my life. One had a hard-boiled egg in his pocket and gave it to me since he saw that I had no food. When a woman came through taking orders for lunch, the other man ordered for me (since I couldn't speak the language), and then paid for my food without me realizing what was happening. Whenever I read Matthew 26:31-46, this is the first experience from my life which comes to mind. I also met some college students in Thailand (Buddhists!!!) who guided me around Bangkok, then organized a dinner in my honor on my last night there. Before we ate they invited me to pray, because they had a Christian friend who liked to pray before meals. Oh yes, I also have many wonderful friends in my church (Christians!!!). I've got some other great friends and relatives (Secular Humanist Atheists!!!) who've supported me my whole life, and been there for some hard times when I really needed them. I've also met some Muslims, Christians, and Atheists (no Buddhists yet) who have treated me like garbage. I'm glad that God isn't as concerned about labels and membership cards as we are. And I love those parables and stories of Jesus in the Bible where the ones who think they've got it made turn out to be wrong, and the ones who are despised turn out to be okay after all! The sheep didn't even have to say what church they were representing (probably Baaaaaaaaptist) when they clothed the naked, or give the date of their conversion experience, and they still got to go to heaven! Awesome!

Ken said...

Exactly. Well said.

Kyle said...

Ha! Shows what fans I am of both those bands ;-) Man, 27 years old and memory is leaving me faster than my previously sportish physique. Sad days.

Miss Shrina said...

Rodney and I always say, "Here comes a wimpy "Christian" song!" everytime one of those songs comes on in the radio, Switchfoot's Beautiful Letdown included! It bugs us to no end that they never come out and call Him by name. Some of these songs (other artists included) are being played in secular pop-rock stations and even when I was getting my haircut the other day. Heck, they could be talking about their boy/girl relationships and not God with the way the lyrics lead you to think (if you didn't know that it was Christian).

No, these artists might not be "pastors" with the specific call to shepherd the flock, but I say, what is their motivation in NOT mentioning Jesus by name? Are they afraid of not making as much money with less sales/popularity? Ugh. "Stand firm. Therefore, stand firm!" Ephesians 5 something (I think). I'm normally not critical of other Christians but when they don't mention THE chief cornerstone of our faith by name, I have a real problem passing a song off as "Christian". Hello, Jesus is the fundemental basis of our Christian faith. He's kinda essential to people getting it.

I like Joel. He is reaching the people who need to be reached by him. Last time I checked, churches and pastors are not "one size fits all". If you don't like him, then don't listen to him. But for goodness sake's Christians really ought to stop constantly critcizing one another. Aren't we all pursuing the same thing as Christians--grow in our walk and spread the Good News? Why, then why, must we have constant criticism of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when they are just doing things differently as God is calling them to do? Not wrong. Just different.

The end.

Ken said...

Thanks Shrina. I hear so many people bag on Joel but they love Switchfoot! Thanks for having and posting a different opinion than the masses.

"Why, then why, must we have constant criticism of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when they are just doing things differently as God is calling them to do? Not wrong. Just different."

GREAT POINT!!Exactly what I was trying to say. Thanks Shrina!

Anonymous said...

Switchfoot is ashamed of the name of Jesus and are living for themselves. It is a Christians job to
Live for Jesus and lead others to Him. They aren't living for's just the fact. What does Lord mean again? It's about Him not us