Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen has responded to critics who accuse him promoting the "gospel of positivity" and failing to address sin, condemnation and repentance, explaining that he is called to encourage people to "do better."
During a special Easter edition of CBS Sunday Morning, Osteen, 53, was asked by Tracy Smith if he ever feels like he is "cheating people" by never discussing hell and repentance.
"No, I really don't, because it's a different approach," Osteen replied. "You know, it's not hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. They're not doing what they should, raising their kids -- you know, we can all find reasons. So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, 'You know what? I may not be perfect, but I'm moving forward. I'm doing better.' And I think that motivates you to do better."
Osteen, with wife and co-pastor Victoria, leads Houston's Lakewood Church, now the largest congregation in the United States, with over 40,000 members. He has also authored numerous books and his broadcasts from the Lakewood Church in Houston each Sunday reaching more than 100 million homes in the United States and millions more in 100 countries around the world.
The CBS report notes that in the past, the pastor has been criticized a number of prominent pastors - including Al Mohler, Russell Moore, and Mark Driscoll - for "Church lite" and for promoting "a cotton candy message."
Writes controversial Christian blogger Matt Walsh: "Our nation wants a shallow Gospel that doesn't challenge us to make sacrifices and be righteous, and Joel Osteen has come to give us exactly that. He distorts Scripture and offers up a hollow, empty message, but he is adored because he does it with a smile...he is exactly what our society believes a Christian should be: nice, non-threatening, non-Biblical, and superficial."
In an op-ed for The Christian Post, pastor Shane Idleman similarly urges Osteen to use his gift of motivation to "motivate people to turn from sin."
"We don't beat people up with the truth, but we do lovingly point them to it," he writes. "The pulpit regulates the spiritual condition of God's people which affects the nation. A lukewarm, sex-saturated culture (and church) simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew. Most pastors, including myself, struggle with speaking about controversial issues, but it must be done. A motivational speaker might be able to avoid the difficult truths of the Bible, but a pastor cannot."
Others, however, such as prominent evangelist John Piper, argue that it's not necessarily helpful to call out "Prosperity Gospel teachers by name."
"The name that I want to name in terms of criticism is 'John Piper, sinner in need of grace, loving the gospel, wanting to protect the church,'" he writes. "I really don't want to go after particular people unless it is absolutely necessary."
Despite such criticism, Osteen continues to forge ahead, spreading his message of positivity and hope to millions around the world, notes Charisma News.
"Our general message speaks to staying in peace and being respectful and staying full of joy and staying positive," the pastor told northjersey.com. "I don't get specific about the politics, but our core message deals with [how] every day, you have to choose to be happy; you have to overlook things that are done wrong and things that are said.