“Pastorship” is an office; pastor is a position. Both bear no relevance to the spiritual values of salvation of individual souls. The divine implications of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 – 37) illustrate the true meaning of “neighbor,” demonstrating that proximity does not justify goodwill.”
By Anthony Obi Ogbo | Houston, TX
Besides Justin James “J. J.” Watt, the popular American football defensive end for Houston Texans, the two most familiar faces on the local TV screens are Joel Scott Osteen, Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, businessman and philanthropist, and owner of the Gallery Furniture retail chain. Both have benefited immensely from Houston’s largess as fourth largest city in the United States; they may have also received grants through Not-for-Profit engagements, and in turn, facilitated millions of dollars in charitable ventures that benefited not only individuals, but also the development of the social system.
But Houston is not inconsiderate. The Clutch City population shower both the Lakewood Church and Gallery Furniture with unprecedented patronage while the media accord unimaginable coverage to their activities. Equally, the city government has been supportive too allowing both entities flexible policy actions and intangible rewards.
In the social community, both men however, are indeed perceived differently. The smooth-talking pastor, Reverend Osteen is viewed as a man of God who presides over more than 50,000 congregation members – dispersing sermons televised to over seven million viewers weekly and over 20 million monthly in over 100 countries. Mr. McIngvale known as “Mattress Mack” remained the unapologetic business guru who would tell you how he built his business from just about nothing and propelled it to the top. He is an innovative manager who singlehandedly designed his business transformation strategies and made his money, one-dime-at-a-time, to attain his current accomplishment. For instance, in 2014, McIngvale conceptualized, designed, and launched his new line of “Mack-O-Pedic” therapeutic mattresses.
In summary, both Rev. Osteen and Mr. McIngvale are successful businessmen – one making money by trading on ‘Scriptures’, whereas the other sells his skills in furniture production and sales. So, when the news of how both men handled their ‘faith’ during the deadly Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005, the social media went agog. Discussion threads rendered outspoken appraisal of actions and inactions; they specifically lambasted the supposed ‘Man of God’, Rev. Osteen for a lack of empathy in the face of the devastation and monumental emergency outcome following the disaster.
Harvey was not a Hollywood Movie. She made good all her threats and ravaged thousands of victims. For instance, just in four days, some Houston areas received more than 40 inches of rain with thunder, earth-shattering wild wind, and calamitous flooding. Hundreds of thousands of homes were displaced, while more than 30,000 people were endangered. But at the beginning, and in fact, peak of the moment, Houstonians were sleepless offering helps at various capacities. From Houston’s Mayor, council members and officials, to the media, church leaders and humanitarian organizations – all hands were on the deck. Emergency workers took calculated risks to save lives of many trapped and traumatized by the calamity. Business owners who were trapped broke their company protocols and gave verbal approvals orders for emergency workers to break into their facilities and use them for shelters.
This was when Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria chose to go to the twitters to offer prayers for the shattering moment. But their prayers were still normal, because worldwide, Houston received similar blessings. What gave the Osteens up for public denouncement was the report that they ‘refused’ to open their facility for relief activities because “the neighborhood was badly flooded and inaccessible”. A videos of Lakewood posted in the social media, however showed the opposite – revealing that the area was very accessible, and in fact, justifying the claims that the church leaders actually shut the door of a facility that could have provided shelter for up to 16,000 or more people given the size of Lakewood Church.
To make matters worse, Reverend Osteen took the mainstream media where he had much influence to stage-manage a defense of his ungodly action or inaction. Finally of sheer shame, he opened the doors out his church, called in church members and leaders, and went to the media to announce relief services. Of course, members of the church launched an image-redemption attack in the social media in their worship center and their Pastor.
Conversely, Mr. McIngvale who had been committed to rescue and relief activities even before Harvey, immediately turned his showroom into a shelter for victims when hostile storm did hit. He had welcomed those flooded out of their homes into his two Houston gigantic stores, holding about 400 survivors at some point. Victims were allowed to use exquisite and expensive brand new beds, beddings and sofas; relief workers were even seen taking nap-breaks in-between their hectic duties at McIngvale’s.
While these moments are still trending in the social media, the lessons of life may have again explained the thin psychological line between preaching Christ, and practicing the values that Christ lived and addressed. “Pastorship” is an office; pastor is a position. Both bear no relevance to the spiritual values of salvation of individual souls. The divine implications of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 – 37) illustrate the true meaning of “neighbor,” demonstrating that proximity does not justify goodwill. In reality, the process of church may be seen as downright business, and has no connection whatsoever in defining individual characters.
Matthew 7:12 forms the basis for the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (NIV). This Golden Rule decodes the moral philosophy of life irrespective of individual beliefs. In addition, the Ten Commandments invokes the ultimate distinction of religious practice and dovetails both the Mosaic Law, and the Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, charging the need for human decency, love, and kindness.
Reverend Osteen has indeed lavished time, money, and resources trying to clean his errors; this act brings to question his leadership competence in matters of faith and spirituality. Hurricane Harvey has indeed tested his spiritual sure footing, and without the klieg lights and camera cosmetic flashes, the bareness of Osteen’s natural face is clearly viewed. Many Lakewood Church members may have been mortified by the actions of their ‘revered pastor’; they still believe that ‘something went wrong’. But confession augments apology – thus, a public confession for falling short in his spiritual and moral responsibilities and a simple apology – rather than the thoughtless self-defense campaign, would have subdued the impending embarrassment. Is this confession late? Absolutely not.