McLaren vs. Osteen

I just ordered my copy of Brian McLaren’s newest book, “Everything Must Change”. I can’t wait to get it. I read the first few pages at Border’s the other day, but they were selling the book at full price, so I went online and ended up buying it for $5 less after shipping on Overstock.com. It should be here in a couple of days.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing some comparative analysis. McLaren’s book came out within about a week of the release of a new book by “America’s Pastor”, Joel Osteen. What a stark contrast between the two pastors and about the messages contained in these books.

When I did a search for each book on Amazon.com, I found editorial reviews from Publisher’s Weekly for both books. Here is what they said about McLaren’s new book:

“Starred Review. McLaren, a leader in the emerging church, issues a salvo of arguments for radical hope in the face of profound dilemmas. The prolific author and pastor identifies the earth’s four deep dysfunctions that have created a suicide machine: crises in prosperity, equity, security and spirituality. What could change, he asks, if we applied the message of Jesus—the good news of the kingdom of God—to the world’s greatest problems? Here McLaren builds on the theme of his 2006 book The Secret Message of Jesus—that bringing about the kingdom means transforming the world we live in—to propose that we create a hope insurgency. Using a close reading of the Gospels to challenge conservative evangelicals’ emphasis on individual salvation, not to mention end-times theology and, by implication, the prosperity gospel, McLaren argues for establishing a beloved community based on justice, peace, equality and compassion. McLaren’s conclusions are not new, but his ability to be clear and persuasive—and get the attention of a segment of America’s Christians—are exceptional. While his critics will find yet more material for challenging McLaren’s views, his supporters will consider this book a riveting call to a new conversion. (Oct. 2)” – Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

And about Osteen’s new book, “Become a Better You”, Publisher’s Weekly had this to say:

“Megachurch pastor and bestselling author Osteen follows up Your Best Life Now with this disappointingly unoriginal Christian self-help book. The seven subtitular steps to improvement include instructions to develop good habits, better relationships and an inner life. Osteen balances mind-over-matter pep talks with claims that God wants to bless faithful people with successes. The future is always promising, because God never performs His greatest feats in your yesterdays. At the same time, in order to receive God’s blessing, one must back up prayers with action, obey, maintain a positive attitude toward life and do the right thing with the right motives. Some of Osteen’s advice is sound; for example, he suggests that if you are forgiving and kind to colleagues and friends, they’ll cut you slack when you have crabby days. Other suggestions—like writing down a big goal and posting it on your mirror or desk—are unremarkable. Laced throughout are anodyne first-person vignettes; Osteen struggled with frustration when his favorite restaurant announced a 45-minute wait. The hurried Osteen went to a nearby burger joint, only to have a brief encounter that changed another customer’s life. Voilà—God turned Osteen’s disappointment into blessing! Though this book is destined for strong sales, it offers nothing innovative. (Oct. 15)” – Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Even a search of their respective websites has much to say about each of them as pastors and as individuals. The website for McLaren’s church, Cedar Ridge Community Church, has a simple design and talks about the activities and community of the church on its home page. The website for Osteen’s church, Lakewood Church, has at least three pictures of Osteen and a very prominent link to where we can buy his latest book. It also has a few prominent story leads about Osteen’s recent appearances of Good Morning America and the church’s status in Outreach Magazine.

Their individual websites continue this same pattern. Osteen’s personal webite has more links of his speaking on Larry King, the CBS Early Show, and Good Morning America as well as links to purchase his books. McLaren’s personal website is simple in design and does have a very prominent link to his book. But it also has links to liturgical resources and invitations to dialogue and get involved.

Okay, I may be a little skewed toward McLaren. I’ve read many of his books and agree with his take on the current state of the Church and the direction that we must go now. But more than that, I simply have a problem with the way in which Osteen presents himself. The message of Jesus Christ was not meant for us to become a “better you”, it was meant to change the world. And Osteen’s use of the term “America’s Pastor” is disconcerting.

But I think what has gotten me most uptight is that Osteen’s book is currently one of the best selling books in the U.S. McLaren’s book has hardly made a ripple. But among young pastors, I think that we will almost all be reading McLaren’s book and I can’t think of one person that will pick up Osteen’s. In other words, Osteen may be able to make a lot of money, but McLaren will have a far more lasting impact on the Church.

When I get the book, I’ll let you know.

Switch to our mobile site