Anyone catch the recent 60 Minutes interview with Joel Osteen? I've said before that I think he is sincere in his efforts but it would probably be better if he would just drop the pretense of being a pastor and give into his wish to be a full-fledged self-help guru. He admits that he has no formal theological education and doesn't feel really qualified to interpet the Bible for others. So he sticks to a simple brand of Christianity that conveniently sidesteps mention of sin and redemption.
Now, I'm no fire-and-brimstone kind of guy, but I do think that the reality of the human condition is that we fall short of what we were created to be and the gospel message is that God loves us in spite of these shortcomings and calls us to a new way of life. But that message doesn't play too well to the masses. So Osteen tends to make life look big and shiny and tidy on his tv broadcast. And no where is this more obvious than in his perfectly delivered sermons (this guy can really preach!). This is why I found it so interesting in the 60 Minutes interview when he revealed that he spends Wednesday through Sunday of every week crafting and memorizing his sermons for the tv taping (what pastor do you know who can give that much time to a sermon?). And even with all that prep, he still makes mistakes in his speaking. But, through the magic of TV, they edit together his identical sermons from the first and second service into a seamless, polished, and perfect sermon that . . . never actually happened (see the "Making it Right" video clip here). All of which gives gives the impression of a polished, smiling, perfect preacher who is the living embodiment of a polished, smiling, perfect brand of the prosperity gospel.
I've written before about my concern for the need to be authentic with youth. They need to know that those who lead the church are just as fallible as they are, just as prone to sin, just as in need of someone to point the way. Kids don't need a polished, smiling, perfect youth minister. They need a fellow "sinner" who makes mistakes, too, and will walk with them as a companion in all the messiness that is life.