Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, responded late Friday afternoon to furor and debate circulating in evangelical circles following a controversial sermon she delivered last month about church attendance and worshipping God.
Osteen said that she could have chosen her words more carefully, but that she did not mean to imply that parishioners shouldn’t worship the Lord, calling such a critique and interpretation “ridiculous” in a statement exclusively issued to TheBlaze.
“While I admit that I could have been more articulate in my remarks, I stand by my point that when we worship God and are obedient to Him we will be better for it,” she said. “I did not mean to imply that we don’t worship God; that’s ridiculous, and only the critics and cynics are interpreting my remarks that way.”
Osteen continued, “Every Lakewood member knows what I was talking about because they have experienced first hand the joy and victory of a Lakewood Church worship service, and the honor, reverence and gratitude we show God.”
In the short, 37-second clip that has gone viral and led to intense criticism in recent days, Osteen, who co-pastors Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, along with her husband, Joel, is seen telling congregants that, when people obey the Lord and go to church, they’re not necessarily “doing it for God.”
“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God we’re not doing it for God — I mean that’s one way to look at it,” she said from the pulpit. “We’re doing it for yourself, because God takes pleasure when were happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning … just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy.”
She added, “When you come to church when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.”
The controversial clip has been viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media since late August, with some Christians decrying Osteen‘s message — but with others supporting and explaining her commentary.
Consider Steve Camp, pastor of the Cross Church in Palm City, Florida, who said that Osteen ”honestly believes that God exists to make us happy rather than holy.”
“It’s the age old sin of idolatry — that it’s not about God, it’s about us,” Camp told Christian News Network last week. “True worship for the humanist is about how we feel at the end of the day and what gives us meaning, as opposed to what gives God glory.”
Watch Osteen’s comments below:
But while blogger Morgan Guyton, who works in Christian campus ministry, disagreed with Osteen‘s wording, he offered a defense to some of her sentiment.
“While I would say what Victoria Osteen said differently, I absolutely affirm the basic insight that worshiping God is not supposed to be moralistic drudgery but actually a genuine source of deep joy,” he wrote on Patheos.
Guyton added that middle-class Christians sometimes look at worship as though it is a “moralistic duty.” This dynamic results on what he believes might be a slightly inaccurate view of the issue.
“There’s a very unhealthy attitude about worship in the middle-class American church that her rant pushes back against. Many middle-class American Christians think of worship as moralistic duty,” he wrote. “We worship God because it’s the right thing to do, just like paying your taxes on time, staying caught up on the dishes, keeping organized files of all your financial paperwork, and registering your son for the soccer team three months in advance instead of at the last minute.”
Guyton later added, “Victoria Osteen is absolutely right if what she’s saying is that God doesn’t need us to worship him for himself, but he wants us to worship him for our sake.”