Just as Joel Osteen has decided for himself the message he will preach, he has also tailored his own vocation. In interviews, he has said that he is not called to explain the Scriptures or expound doctrine. In this book [Become a Better You] he adds, "I'm not called to explain every minute facet of Scripture or to expound on deep theological doctrines or disputes that don't touch where real people live. My gifting is to encourage, to challenge, and to inspire." (p. 90)To which Horton replies "Ambassadors do not get to choose what they say."
Seeing an erudite thinker like Horton take on Osteen reminded me of the comment once made about Richard Baxter going after some inferior opponents, "Wielding his club like Nimrod the mighty hunter going after a nest of wrens."
But that aside there are some valuable lessons that we can learn from this exchange.
How much of the Bible do Christians need to know? How do we decide whether a deep theological doctrine is relevant enough to be worth teaching? Would you ever preach through Ephesians? Could you? After all it is not as if Paul stops being doctrinal when he gets to the "where real people live" bits. Is there anything worth believing that hasn't been disputed at some point? Justification by faith alone anyone?
However, it would be wrong to turn from this feeling smug and self satisified. I have to ask myself not whether I am capable of being selective in what I preach, but at what points I am susceptible to this temptation. What am I tempted to leave out? To hold back on? To downplay? Why is this? Am I afraid of the reaction that I will get? Am I unclear as to what I ought to teach? Am I too controlled by the desires and aspirations, the moods and tastes, of my audience? Am I too succumbing to the temptation to please people and not God (1 Thess. 2:3-6; Gal. 1:10)?
Even if we can recognise failure at this point in others it is a sobering fact that we have never been innoculated against this same pressure and temptation. Watch you life and doctrine closely is the apostolic watchword to all preachers (1 Tim. 4:16)
If we roll back the centuries we can listen to Luther thunder against this approach:
Truth and doctrine, are to be preached always, openly, and firmly, and are never to be dissembled or concealed; for there is no offence in them; they are a staff of uprightness.--And who gave you the power, or committed to you the right, of confining the Christian doctrine to persons, places, times, and causes, when Christ wills it to be proclaimed, and to reign freely, throughout the world?Erasmus' Preface Reviewed, Section XXI, The Bondage of the Will
He does not say--preach it to some and not to others.
You see therefore, again, how rashly you run against the Word of God, as though you preferred far before it, your own counsel and cogitations.