As a friend and I were chatting over a nice lunch today he reminded me that it’s Friday the Thirteenth. Not that either of us is superstitious, but I happened to know that Joel Osteen is having an event this evening at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland (where the Cavaliers play basketball). Neither of us plan to go, but we took this news as an opportunity to reflect on the presentation of the Gospel.
Joel Osteen’s version of the Gospel appears to be “God wants you to have your best life now,” and tonight, for one night only in Cleveland, he’ll tell you how that’s possible. He’ll be accompanied by his lovely wife, world-class instrumentalists, and up-to-date technology. All this for the low admission price of $15 per person, plus a $3 facility fee.
My friend and I recalled that the Rev. Billy Graham came to Cleveland in 1994 for a multi-night Crusade at the Cleveland Stadium (where the Browns and Indians used to play). A number of folks from my friend’s church attended the Crusade every evening and sang in the massed choir (including “Just as I Am, Without One Plea,” of course). Some of the folks from our church went every evening, also, to serve as counselors with people who came forward onto the field at the invitation of Rev. Graham, to follow up with the Gospel with them and get information that could connect them to a local church. The Crusade had the massed choir, George Beverly Shea (of course), and all the technology the sound system of the old Cleveland Stadium could muster. Every evening Rev. Graham told the crowd how Jesus was our hope through the forgiveness of sins, and that His promise to everyone who believes is eternal life in the love of the Father. Hundreds of people came forward every night to demonstrate the beginnings of their faith or their re-commitment to that same faith. All this for the low admission price of – oh, wait, the Crusade was free!
Every night – no admission fee charged to anyone. Members of the choir – no fee to participate. Counselors on the field – no fee, either. No fee for attending the training sessions before the Crusade came to town, either. No fees for local churches for people connected to them, either. All good – all Gospel – all free.
Upon further reflection, this post makes me wonder who it was that Rev. Billy Graham thought would benefit from his preaching at that Crusade? It makes me wonder who Joel Osteen thinks will benefit from his preaching tonight? And I suppose it should also make me wonder who I think will benefit from my preaching this Sunday or ever,