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Joel on 60 Minutes

On the whole, it wasn't as bad as I feared. Sure, you get the obligatory talking heads counterpoint that shoehorns in some criticism of Joel. Halfway in, the report turns to money. And the reporter fishes for a quote by Joel on success ("Humbled by your success?"). But Joel doesn't take the bait ... and that tends to make the interview portion rather encouraging to see.

What you also see, though, is a bit of Joel as we see him: genuine, authentic, and caring. Reporters wrestling with issues of church & religion range the spectrum, from well-versed to ... well, not. But trying to fathom what it is that makes larger churches tick, I don't doubt, is a unique problem for many. At the end of the day, the majority in this world does not live a life experienced in a church community. And it's an even smaller percentage of people who experience that in a large church like Lakewood. Even then, not everyone sees things the same - it still boggles my mind that anyone would just arrive in time for Joel's message, leave immediately thereafter ... and that's it. But to each their own.

I think the newest round of media coverage on Joel just might be more of a challenge on the media. The first round has already worked in as much of the "money, success, self-help" angle. At the end of the run, it might just have to come down to the fact that there's an actual church going on. We might not be there yet (or really, ever), but as reporters look for new & unique ways to cover Lakewood and/or Joel Osteen, there's going to have to be new ways to do that. Byron Pitts interviews Joel on a tour through Lakewood, in the gym, and at a pickup game of basketball. Credit him for trying.

One factual error worth pointing out, though. Byron Pitts says that Joel got a $13 million advance for his book. Not true. The number comes from estimates of what Joel's book contract is worth. The innovative part of that contract is that it's a co-publishing deal where Joel ends up with a much higher percentage of each book than normal. Part of the tradeoff for such a deal is that there is a lower advance, and therefore greater risk on the part of the author. A simple check in the local paper, the New York Times (or even this fair blog) might have been a good way for 60 Minutes to check their facts:

"The contract does not adhere to the usual book deal with the author receiving an advance on future royalties. The royalty rate is 15 percent of the cover price of each book sold. Rather, the contract is known in the industry as a co-publishing agreement, where the author receives a smaller advance - perhaps $1 million to $2 million - but is then entitled to receive 50 percent of the publisher's profits."

Pre-60 Minutes Video

60 Minutes reporter Byron Pitts has a video post up at 60 Minutes, which serves as sortofa web-preview of the interview. There's also a video preview, which is probably taken from the show's own preview of the interview that runs at the beginning of the show.

Michael Horton Radio Interview

I wouldn't normally give this much of a platform to a critic of Joel's but since this coming week is one where we're sure to be seeing a lot of this to contrast Joel as his new book is released, I wanted to include this snippet of a radio interview with Dr. Michael Horton. It's conducted after he's recorded his segments for 60 Minutes and also covers some of his more standard critiques of Osteen's ministry.

I'll have a bit more to add to this over the course of next week. But for now, I'm really curious what he (and the talk show host) have been seeing. A sermon devoted to what snack foods we can eat? I must have missed that one. We should "deny" - Horton's own word - that we sin? I can't help but think Horton's given too short of attention to something he seems geniune in countering.

It's also worth noting that the interview here is conducted on a Christian talk radio station in New York and that Dr. Horton - despite his critiques - certainly seems to be a genuine believer interested, however imperfectly, in expanding the kingdom. It just strikes me that he's contradicting that by seeming to think that if any church is too big, then there's something inherently distrustful of its message or messenger. Suffice it to say, I think he misses a lot of what actually goes on in reality at Lakewood and his slam that Joel is essentially preaching a Christian Science message is particularly easy to rebut.

But like I said ... more thoughts this coming week.

(Good ol' fashioned MP3 clip here)

Oh, and it's also worth underscoring how Horton, in the 60 Minutes story linked below, cribs a talking point from Ole Anthony. Namely, the "cotton candy" line. I'm curious if Horton sees any merit in Anthony's ministry in light of some of the criticisms he faces from former members of his foundation (which some have substantively labeled a cult).

60 Minutes Preview

60 Minutes preview of Joel Osteen's segment. Ripping video in process.

Michael Horton to Counter Joel Osteen on 60 Minutes

CBS has already lined up their talking head to "counter" Joel Osteen for Sunday. Here's the press release from Michael Horton, theology professor at Westminster Seminary in California. It'll be a shame if all that ends up is a counterpoint talking-head segment. But that's a bit standard for 60 Minutes. If there were more of a discussion between the two viewpoints, I think it's fair to say more agreement than disagreement would come out. But why show that when you can show a food fight instead? Conflict sells, after all. Stay tuned for Sunday.

For Immediate Release
Dr. Michael Horton discusses Joel Osteen on 60 Minutes this Sunday

ESCONDIDO, Calif., Oct. 10, 2007--Dr. Michael Horton will appear on 60 Minutes this Sunday, October 14, to discuss the ministry of televangelist Joel Osteen and whether or not Osteen's motivational message is more about self-help than a true representation of the Christian faith. 60 Minutes airs on CBS Sundays at 7 p.m. ET/PT (check local listings).

When the producers of 60 Minutes asked Dr. Horton about the amazing success of Osteen's ministry, Horton replied, "The Christian gospel is not determined by success, but by faithfulness to the original message of Christ and him crucified. That may not fill stadium-sized church gatherings, but it's the message that true Christianity is centered on."

The Rev. Dr. Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, the host of the nationally syndicated broadcast of The White Horse Inn radio program, editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine, and a minister in the United Reformed Churches of North America.

Dr. Horton is also the author/editor of more than fifteen books, including: Putting Amazing Back Into Grace; Made in America; A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God Centered Worship; God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology; and Too Good To Be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype. He received his Ph.D. from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and the University of Coventry, and resides in Escondido, California, with his wife Lisa and their four children.



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