One can learn more about a church from its mid-week service (if they even have one) than from the main show, which is on Sunday. This is the reason I watched and listened to Pastor John Gray, who speaks each Wednesday night at Lakewood Church in Houston. He is a middle-aged black Pentecostal preacher, old school (though dressed mod) with the usual oratorical skills of the race. When Joel hired him to build up this service, the mid-week service had about 2000 to 2500; his preaching had brought it up to 11,000.
Pastor Gray opened by reminding the congregation that it was 20 years ago today, that founding pastor John Osteen passed to his reward. “We honor him tonight.” The widow, Doty Osteen, was in the service looking young, pretty and healthy. In 1981, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer with only months to live but the family relied on God’s report of life and health, not the doctors’ diagnosis of disease and death. After all these years, Doty remains a big player in the prayer squad at Lakewood.
The title of Pastor Gray’s message was, “GO GET IT!” His text was the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. He urged the people to do “their part’ if they are going to possess the promises of God. “Rise up for God’s glory; it is not a about you. Move and move now. Bethesda is here; the pool is here, here at Lakewood.”
He cautioned the congregation not to be too critical of the man, who had waited 38 years for his deliverance. He said, “At least he was by the pool. At least he was in church. He may not have had it all together but he was in the right place.” Most men never even get close enough to the water, which symbolizes the word of God, the truth. The pool also represents the church and the anointing oil by the elders.
“We always are asking God questions about why this happens or why something is not happening, putting all the responsibility on God. In this case God asks the question, ‘Wilt thou be made whole?’ In other words, Jesus was asking, ‘How bad do you want it?’ Jesus did not even bother to ask the man, ‘What is wrong with you?’ Nor did he tell him to get in the water. The miracle was not in the water; the miracle was in his heart and mouth. Nor did Jesus ask, ‘Do you want me to make you well.’”
Jesus just commanded the impotent man, “Rise, take up your bed and walk!”
“Men are often content to be partially free. To be completely free; we have to take personal responsibility. Misery loves company. Often people seek the company of other complainers and murmurers. The miserables will resent it, when one of their company rises out of the bed of affliction and walks away from their wretchedness, because it is evidence that they too can be made whole. But in reality, they don’t want to pay the price of wholeness. Don’t be satisfied with a partial healing or answer to prayer. Be made every whit whole!”
“God blesses when his reputation is at stake. He put his reputation on the line when he commanded the impotent man, ‘Rise up and walk!’”
Pastor Gray gave three point for receiving from God, whether it be healing, a job, a calling, a spouse, salvation, a financial need, etc.:
1. Eliminate distractions
2. Elevate determination, “It is my time; it is my turn. ‘PRESS toward the mark of the prize.’ His Word will come to pass.”
3. Eradicate doubt.
The Hebrew spies make the mistake of seeing themselves as grasshoppers instead of warriors and then they had the audacity to come back and speak to Moses that they were mere grasshopper instead of members of the army of the living God.
“Do something! Put on a suit even if you have no place to go. You are not going to get the job if you don’t apply for the job. ‘Faith without works is dead.’“
“The BLOOD of Jesus sets free!” shouted Pastor Gray. Joel’s critics tell me that Joel never mentions the blood, which is another point of misinformation. He preaches salvation through the blood (suffering and death of Christ).
The Osteens are actually in many respects old fashion; Lakewood, for a mega church, is about as close as you will get to “the old-time religion” with a flair of the new. For God loves to do a new work! Lakewood is Pentecostal, which may be the rub against his fundamentalist critics.
Three more points by Pastor Gray:
1. See what God sees; 2. Think what God thinks; 3. Speak what God Speaks.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”—Proverbs 18:21
“SPEAK LIFE, GO GET IT!” At the conclusion of his sermon, he had the congregation chatting, “GO GET IT!”
“Start clapping! Clapping shifts the atmosphere.” We often need to shift the atmosphere as did the lame man, when he took up his bed and walked. Be careful that you do not allow doubters and naysayers to be your circle of friends.
As happens at virtually every service at Lakewood, Pastor Gray gave an altar call. Among the crowd, which looked to be as large as the Sunday AM service we attended, many people stood confessing their faith.
Pastor instructed them, “Go to the New Beginnings room where there will be cake, cookies and refreshing drinks. No, I am only kidding; there will be none of that stuff there, just people who care and the Holy Ghost. You will get a free Bible and answers to any questions or additional prayer.”
Lakewood teaches men to take responsibility, which may be why so many oppose Joel. Some expect God to do everything.