The folks at Whitaker House were kind enough to provide me with a review copy of Richard Young's book, which is easily the most thorough book on the market involving Lakewood Church and/or Joel Osteen. It's a refreshing read in that it cobbles together the entire history of Lakewood from every source imaginable: Lexis-Nexus, Google, sermons, blogs other than this one, "Your Best Life Now", and even Lakewood tracts serve as sources. All without the seemingly obligatory "He Said/She Said" style that permeates much of the genre of religious writing that gives an instant platform to critics for the sole purpose of demonstrating "balance." The book, however, seems to waver at times between outright boosterism to merely organizational in nature - putting all of the collected reporting on Lakewood and Joel Osteen into one handy central resource.
That may be the biggest reason to recommend the book right there. While a certain group of folks such as myself may be dedicated Googlers to the point of relying on Google News Feeds as our lifeblood, such activity should never strike anyone as "normal," so I won't try to pass it off as such here. If you've not gotten a sense of the Lakewood history through numerous sermons, this is the book for you to catch up on it all. If you're not quite the newshound that I may be, this could just as well serve as a means of getting around that.
Young covers the controversies ... from Joel's appearance on Larry King to Victoria's run-in with Continental. But he also covers the straightforward telling of Lakewood's history. That often makes for some very uninteresting reporting in our modern media culture, but it adds a wonderful sense of context to the entirety of Lakewood and the Osteen family.
If there's a single complaint with the book, it's that it reads a bit too familiar to those of us who have followed Lakewood over time. In large part, that helps make the book an easy read. I often found myself picking up the book not really wanting to devote any great amount of time to reading for the night. But after breezing through so many pages, I'd find that I was halfway finished in what appeared to be record time.
Still, the familiarity in Young's writing isn't without good reason. Just for the sake of example, here is Young's telling of how Dakri Brown came to be involved with Lakewood.
From the book ...
He brings great enthusasm to the task, combined with a humble, giving, loving, and serving spirit. It is easy to see that the choir responds to Dakri. They want to sing for him. They respond to his commands and direction.
... and from Cindy's 2004 interview at Gospelflava.com ...
Dakri has a great relationship with them just on a personal level. They want to sing for him. They want to respond to his commands and direction. He has such a servant's heart towards them that they have that same servant's heart back to him. Again, I believe that the Lord has brought him to this house for such a time as this. I know that he is a huge part of why the choir has grown. He brings a lot of great things. He brings enthusiasm, and yet he has such a humble, giving, loving, serving spirit that it balances the energy that you see on the platform. Our people love him. He's such a great guy that you can't help but love him.
Young's book, by all appearances, seems to be an unauthorized biography of Lakewood., though perhaps not necessarily unwelcome. There's a noticable absence of direct interviews and off-the-record insight from those directly involved with Lakewood. What that seems to leave as a result is the author stating things rather authoritatively as his own observation when they come directly from others.
Still, if you're looking for only one resource to give a well-researched look at Lakewood's history, this is the book for you. The next year should offer a few more new additions, though. Shayne Lee has been rumored to be following up his book on TD Jakes with a compilation on other charismatic preachers, Joel Osteen among them. And of course, Joel's next book will come out in fall of 2007. Naturally, there should be another blitzkrieg of press (both good and bad) to accompany that.