“Five hundred people, including children, adults and even a man who traveled all the way from Boston were baptized this weekend with their Lakewood Church Family.” That’s the description on the Facebook post by Lakewood Church.
Baptized by a charlatan. Yeah.
A 60-second video of the event was posted January 29 on the Joel Osteen Ministries Facebook page. Sound-byte length interviews of some of the children are prominently featured in the clip. Their comments included …
“It means you’re going to wash your sins away.”
“When you get baptized, you’re going to follow Jesus.”
“I get to start over.”
“I’m free to be with Jesus.”
“Something touched my heart.”
The baptismal event orchestrated by Lakewood and – for at least those in the video clip – administered by Osteen himself, was lacking in a couple of things that most evangelicals will find common to the typical church’s practice.
The baptismal candidates, prior to their immersion, were not asked any prefatory, qualifying questions. There was no inquiry about the spiritual validity of their pursuit of baptism. No “Have you been saved?” or “Have you confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior?” There wasn’t even the Scripturally-offensive query of “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” Even this abysmally minimal standard that is typical of most evangelical churches was ignored by Osteen.
“The Gospel has been so watered down for so long that it has not even occurred to most that something beyond intellectual assent to a few basic Gospel facts should be demonstrated by the baptismal candidate. The typical baptismal candidate is simply asked to respond affirmatively to a few basic questions and is then lowered into the waters.” Justin Peters, Do Not Hinder Them (Source)
But for Osteen, even knowledge of “a few basic Gospel facts” is unnecessary, perhaps because they seem to escape the “pastor” himself. Most notably lacking in Osteen’s practice of baptism in this video – and one that is extensively mimicked in absentia in the wider evangelical church – is the notion of repentance. Not one of the candidates was asked, “Have you repented of your sin?” But for this toothy-grinned Texas charlatan, repentance is a dawg that just don’t hunt when coupled with the false prosperity gospel. Skip the “repent,” just “be baptized.”
While it’s possible these queries could have been reviewed prior to the actual baptism, the event was also lacking the typical pastoral pronouncement over the baptismal candidate: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” sometimes with the addition of “buried with Him in death, and raised with Him to newness of life.” Joel skipped this. Of course.
But, since Osteen isn’t actually a “Gospel” preacher proclaiming the actual “Gospel” of Scripture, none of those being baptized in accordance with the “gospel according to Osteen” were doing much more than assuaging themselves in Lakewood’s (rather dirty-looking) baptistry waters for the gratuitous satisfaction of man-made legalism and emotionalism. Apart from authentic regeneration, which does not happen apart from the authentic Gospel, these souls were just part of a show … and a somewhat viral Facebook video.
While the Biblically-astute rightly view it with intentionally discerning critique, one thing the baptism video did garner was attention. Mostly positive attention. At the time of this writing, it had over 1.5 million views and over 84,000 responses. The responses were overwhelmingly positive – nearly 72,000 “thumbs up” and over 12,000 “heart” emoticons. It also drew over 2,000 comments, which in themselves reflect the woeful state of Biblical literacy of the commentators … but, then, they are following Joel Osteen. You don’t get much “Bible” from following a charlatan, but, with Osteen, you do get a free, nifty mantra.
The Joel Osteen Bible Mantra:
This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today I will be taught the word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive; Ill never be the same. In Jesus name, God bless you.
Following the recitation, those Bibles – having been held up in the air for the repeating of the mantra – are returned to their under-seat, on-the-floor, or out-of-the-way positions. For a Joel Osteen “sermon,” they will not be needed again. (Which, again, is not unlike many evangelical churches.)
Below are a few unedited selections from the Facebook commenters for your perusal: (Obviously, for most of these folks, please pray that the actual truth of the Gospel will come to them.)
“That’s the dip of a new journey in life with Christ. God will release everything he has in store for you. Enjoy!”
“When I got baptized, it was my choice and it was the most exciting thing ever!!”
“I baptize myself everyday when I take a bath…Its between me & Jesus..I accepted the Lord..My father God & The Holy Spirit at age 4…I dont need a human to baptize me…The Lord stands alongside me everyday as I pray in the bath tub and dunk myself..Thats my way daily of my worship to my Savior.
Love you Jesus!!!!!”
“That is just a wonderful and beautiful blessing to have Joel Osteen baptized you himself I wish I could have him baptize me”
“I believe in presenting my children to god when they are small then later in life when they feel ready they can be baptized in water”
“I personally dont believe you have to have a physical baptism to have a relationship with God as you can be spiritually baptized by the holy spirit at any moment, any place and it dwells inside us. Just my personal thoughts/beliefs”
“Lakewood is a healthy church, built on biblical principles, with loving and anointed leadership that love God and love people. It is evident in everything they do.”
“Joel Osteen is truly annoited with a spirit of peace and encouragement. It touched my heart when the little guy said something touched my heart!”
“I would love to be baptized by Joel! Just hearing him speak the word of God to me has made me a better person.”
“I would love to be baptized by Joel Osteen…….that would truly be a dream.”
“omg we need to do this after Miami to make up for the sins we commit there” [This comment included the following response from a tagged recipient] “I’m already baptized so I’m pretty sure I have immunity”
“I was baptized nine year ago but i was hungry to baptize again so a day before Christmast 2016 i baptize for the second time and than i gave my self totaly to the HOLY SPIRIT and than i see pictures of my self after the baptizing that the HOLY SPIRIT hold me upon that water and it was like i was sleeping upon that water….JALLELUJAHHHHHHH!!!!! GLORYYYYYYYYY TO THE LORD THANK YOU SWEET JESUS…..it was amazing….”
“It is a moment you will never forget.(better than winning sport awards)”
“Joel, can you pray for the people of this country. it seems some of them have forgotten their humanity.”
“Baptized in a pool is not right supposed to be running water a river or by the sea”
“Joel, please tell Trump we are all God’s children. Aren’t we?”
“That water looks dirty I would never let my child in there”
“omg what a blessing. How lucky for the people who got Baptist by joel osten”
“Theirs no power in getting baptized I the water only. Believers receive power when baptized in the Holy Ghost..”
“I want to get Baptized this year.”
“I can remember the last time I were baptized, it’s symbolic for me.”
“The baptism of young children is, in my estimation, one of evangelicalism’s most tragic departures from sound doctrine.” Justin Peters
Peters certainly does not include Lakewood within the mainstream definition of “evangelical.” False teachers and the churches they lead are not rightly evangelical because, in the case of Lakewood, Osteen’s positive-thinking prosperity gospel isn’t Christian. Still, at least a few of Lakewood’s Facebook comments questioned the validity of baptizing children. (Hopefully, they’ll find Justin Peters’ text on this massively misunderstood and highly abused practice.)
“Hello Ps. Joel, please clarify, to my knowledge Children do not meet all requirements necessary for baptism.”
“Jesus was baptized wen he was 30 years old..But those kids too young to baptized? I’m so confused please”
“I don’t get why children are baptized?? They should get baptized when they are older and truly understand the concept of what it means. For them it probably means something fun about getting to put your head underwater. Just saying.”
[A reply to this comment was given] “Most will be baptized again later in life”
“Even at the age of 13 they couldn’t possibly be fully understanding of the scripture and what it means that is why the majority of these children will be baptized again later in life”
And, at least one commenter had what is perhaps an unregenerate, but polemical, response to Osteen:
“Joell olsteen is one of the biggest Bible hustlers of all time”
In his recommended book on childhood conversion and baptism, Do Not Hinder Them, Justin Peters gives a needed warning to legitimate churches (Lakewood, again, would NOT be counted among them, to be sure) about the intentional need for caution.
“We should be very cautious when it comes to baptizing children. Only God Himself knows how many millions of people have been led to believe they are Christians simply because they have said a prayer and been baptized and yet show no real fruit of regeneration. We do our children a disservice of incomprehensible proportions when we tell them they are saved simply because they have made intellectual assent to the basics of the Gospel. These children grow up to become adults who never examine themselves to see if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) and never see a need to make their calling and election sure. (2 Peter 1:10)” Justin Peters
Peters emphasizes that “Not only do we do our children a disservice, but we are also doing the Gospel itself a disservice.” Unfortunately, we know that those baptized by a Houston charlatan with a prosperity gospel have been the victims of an illegitimate, “other gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9) that doesn’t save. Please pray for these souls, that they would hear the true Gospel, that God would regenerate through it, and that they – like we – would “abide in my word.” (John 8:31)
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)
The video is below:
(For our review of Justin Peters’ book on childhood conversion and baptism, Do Not Hinder Them, please go HERE.)
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]