Posted by: Damon Whitsell | March 17, 2013

The Secret to the success of Joel Osteen and The Prosperity Gospel

"If we say it long enough eventually we're going to reap a harvest. We're going to get exactly what we're saying" - Joel Osteen (From BrainyQuotes)

“If we say it long enough eventually we’re going to reap a harvest. We’re going to get exactly what we’re saying” – Joel Osteen (From BrainyQuotes)

This is yet another post showing the Occult New Age Roots of what Joel Osteen and other Word of Faith Teachers teach. Before you diss the idea hear what Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch have said on the issue.

Benny Hinn claims the Holy Spirit told him, “…that if witches and occultists can speak death by the supernatural power of words, then Christian can speak life and prosperity by the same power.” The Facts on the Faith Movement, J. Ankerberg & J. Weldon, Harvest House, 1993, p.23 Copyright ©2008


Benny Hinn: “Witches even..I mean..I’m not here to talk about witches but, but I’ll tell you this.

Paul Crouch: “They..they under they know the secret.

Benny Hinn: “,,,because see I had a witch tell me this. And I said what!? She said, listen to me, she said do you know that we are taught in witchcraft how to kill birds with words, and how to kill people with our mouth. I said what do you mean kill people? She said we are taught with words to bring disease on men. I said how? She said by speaking certain words (unintelligible) she said we can actually cause sickness that could very well kill.Christianity in Crisis (audiobook), tape II, side 3.


Kenneth Copeland: Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and that’s when the action takes place because that is when the spiritual force is brought up out of the mouth – whether it be fear or whether it be faith – and when that spiritual force comes out, it is going to give substance to that image that is inside of you. People say, ‘that is that New Age visualization stuff’. The New Age is trying to do this. And they get somewhat results out of it because it is a spiritual law. (Believer’s Voice of Victory (television program), TBN, 28 March 1991.)


The following by Dr. Gary Gilley, pastor of Southern View Chapel, is republished at Apprising Ministries with permission:

The New Age book and video by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, which gained popularity recently due to Oprah Winfrey’s strong promotion, teaches that we can “create [our] own happiness through the law of attraction.”  Whether it is cash, health, prosperity or happiness, all can be ours if we will just learn to use “the secret.”  Byrne tells us, “Disease cannot live in a body that is in a healthy emotional state.” But be warned: “If you have a disease and you are focusing on it and talking to people about it, you are going to create more disease cells.”[1]

Such rhetoric should sound familiar to anyone even faintly aware of the Word of Faith Movement, often termed “the prosperity gospel.”  This group has been infiltrating evangelicalism for decades and is now the fastest growing segment of Christianity in the world.  Some have estimated that up to 90 percent of those claiming to be Christians in Africa are of the prosperity gospel variety.

Well-known personalities within the movement include Kenneth Hagin (deceased), Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, Paul Yonggi Cho, Benny Hinn, Marilyn Hickey, Frederick Price, John Avanzini, Charles Capps, Jerry Savelle, Morris Cerullo, Joyce Meyer and Paul and Jan Crouch.

As implied by the title “Word of Faith,” the supporters of this movement believe that faith works like a mighty power or force.  Through faith we can obtain anything we want — health, wealth, success, or whatever we please.  However, this force is released only through the spoken word.  As we speak words of faith, power is discharged to accomplish our desires.

In Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraaff summarizes the theology of Kenneth Hagin (considered by many to be the father of this movement) as found in his booklet How to Write Your Own Ticket with God:

In the opening chapter, titled “Jesus Appears to Me,” Hagin claims that while he was “in the Spirit,” Jesus told him to get a pencil and a piece of paper.  He then instructed him to “write down: 1, 2, 3, 4.”  Jesus then allegedly told Hagin that “if anybody, anywhere, will take these four steps or put these four principles into operation, he will always receive whatever he wants from Me or from God the Father.”  That includes whatever you want financially.  The formula is simply: “Say it, Do it, Receive it, and Tell it.”

  1. Step number one is “Say it.” “Positive or negative, it is up to the individual.  According to what the individual says, that shall he receive.”
  2. Step number two is “Do it.”  “Your action defeats you or puts you over.  According to your action, you receive or you are kept from receiving.”
  3. Step number three is “Receive it.”  We are to plug into the “powerhouse of heaven.”  “Faith is the plug, praise God!  Just plug in.”
  4. Step number four is, “Tell it so others may believe.”  This final step might be considered the Faith movement’s outreach program.[2]

Kenneth Copeland states the faith formula this way: “All it takes is 1) seeing or visualizing whatever you need, whether physical or financial;  2)  staking your claim on Scripture; and 3)  speaking it into existence.” [3]

Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church in South Korea , borrowing from the occult, has developed what he calls the “Law of Incubation.”  Here is how it works:  “First make a clear-cut goal, then draw a mental picture, vivid and graphic, to visualize success.  Then incubate it into reality, and finally speak it into existence through the creative power of the spoken word.”[4]

If a positive confession of faith releases good things, a negative confession can actually backfire.  Capps says the tongue “can kill you, or it can release the life of God within you.”  This is so because, “Faith is a seed . . . you plant it by speaking it.”  There is power in “the evil fourth dimension” says Cho.

Hagin informs us that if you confess sickness you get sickness, if you confess health you get health; whatever you say you get. The spoken word releases power — power for good or power for evil is the commonly held view of the movement.  It is easy to see why the title “positive confession” is often applied to this group.

As you might guess, the teachings of the “Word of Faith” movement are very attractive to some.  If we can produce whatever our hearts desire by simply demanding what we want by faith, if we can manipulate the universe and perhaps even God, then we have our own personal genie just waiting to fulfill our wishes.  The similarities between Word of Faith teachings and The Secret are unmistakable.

The New Look:  Joel Osteen

Many Christians can discern the obvious error of New Age teachings behind The Secret and similar books such as Eckhart Tolle’s The New Earth (another Oprah favorite), as well as the over-the-top proclamations of many within the prosperity gospel movement.  However when similar teachings are repackaged, reworded and presented in a winsome fashion, a larger number will fall prey.  Enter Joel Osteen and his brand of the prosperity gospel-lite.  As we will see, Osteen teaches essentially the same theology as his Word of Faith mentors, but he gives it an updated twist.

Joel Osteen has become a household name due to his incredible success.  He “pastors” the largest church in America , Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, which in 2008 boasted average weekend atten dance of 43,500, almost double that of its nearest competitor.[5]  Osteen took the helm of Lakewood Church in 1999 upon the death of his father, John.  John Osteen was openly a prosperity gospel preacher who founded Lakewood in 1959 and had built it into a 6000 member church before his son replaced him.  Joel, who until that point had given leadership to the television ministry of Lakewood and had preached only once before, was thrust into the pulpit and immediately the church began to explode.  Today Lakewood services are broadcast in over 100 countries, Joel has written two multi-million seller books, and he, along with his wife, mother, and numerous musicians from Lakewood, travel throughout the world offering an event they call “A Night of Hope.”  While most churches struggle to find and keep members, people are willing to purchase $15 tickets to attend “A Night of Hope” and the auditoriums are usually packed.

Osteen has no theological training and it is obvious from his books, sermons and interviews on television that he has little knowledge of the Scripture.  Nevertheless, he has caught an unprecedented wave of popularity and could clearly claim the title as the most admired pastor in America .  This popularity of course is due largely to his message.  Eschewing anything controversial or negative (such as hell or judgment or even sin), Osteen proclaims a message of pure positivism.   The title of his first book, Your Best Life Now, summarizes what Osteen has to offer his many audiences.   If we will follow certain principles or steps (seven to be exact), so the storyline goes, our existence will be happy, healthy, and blessed with everything that would make this life wonderful.  This is a message that appeals to the flesh of unbelievers and worldly- minded Christians and would account for the superstar status that Osteen now has.  Of course this is a harsh accusation.  I am charging Joel Osteen with being a false teacher: a man who has twisted the gospel to entice the fallen nature of people, who has turned God into a genie, and who has distorted Scripture to present a warm and fuzzy yet warped form of Christianity.  In order to see if I am correct or just being mean-spirited, we need to turn to Osteen’s actual words as found in Your Best Life Now.

What the reader will find in this best selling book is a mixture of common sense, helpful practical advice, and a multitude of success stories interlaced with a heavy dose of deceitful teaching.  Let’s begin with the gospel.  It is not so much that Osteen presents a false gospel (which he seems to do in Your Best Life Now) but rather, no gospel at all.  In a 300 page book which will be read by millions of unbelievers, the closest Osteen ever comes to the gospel is, “Work out your own salvation.  Salvation is more than a onetime prayer.  It is constantly working with God, dealing with the issues He brings up and keeping a good attitude, fighting through until you win the victory.”[6] What Osteen believes concerning the gospel is uncertain, but what is undeniable is that the emphasis of his ministry is maintaining a positive outlook on life rather than a right relationship with God.   Except for this one sentence, the entirety of the book is taken up with “seven steps to living at your full potential” as stated in the subtitle.   This theme resonates with the thinking of those whose lives and minds are in conformity with this world system rather than being “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2).

It really should not surprise us that men like Osteen have caught the public’s eye since they are merely telling it what it wants to hear (2 Tim 4:3) which is: we need to make the best of this life, enjoy every minute we can, because this is the best it is ever going to be.  This philosophy is the world’s, not God’s who consistently calls us to live for higher values than this world and self (1 John 2:15-17).  As Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on the earth” ( Col 3:2).  Paul did not mean by this, as conservative Christians are often accused, that we are to ignore life on this planet and go hide somewhere until the Lord returns.  It means that we live for a higher purpose than personal pleasure and success “for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” ( Col 3:3).  Osteen makes no attempt to draw his readers to this higher purpose, to a life lived for God.  Instead God is to be manipulated for our own pleasure.  I think Osteen would appreciate Eliphaz’s advice to Job (later condemned by God), “Yield now and be at peace with Him; thereby good will come to you” (Job 22:21).

Let’s take some looks at specifics:

The Offer

Osteen’s attraction is found in what he is offering which is nothing less than a life of good health, abundance, wealth, prosperity and success, “If you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you” (p. 5).[7]  Since these are the things most people treasure and, since Jesus informed us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21), it is predictable that the seductive promise of a map leading to these treasures would find many adherents.   And it certainly does.  But what specifically is being offered?



The Power of the Spoken Word – Biblical or Occult Law? PART 1

The Power of the Spoken Word – Biblical or Occult Law? PART 2


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