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PROGRAMMING ALERT: Watch Jonathan Morris discuss his Sunday Service Experience at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas and his visit with Kayne West and Joel Osteen on Monday evening on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” at 7 p.m. ET.
This week I traveled to Houston, Texas for Fox News’ “The Story with Martha MacCallum” where mega-church pastor, Joel Osteen hosted West and his gospel choir.
The public embrace of West by arguably one of the world’s most well-known evangelical pastors launches West’s stated new mission as a Christian musician and evangelist to new heights.
More importantly for West, this single event transformed his image from Hollywood entertainer, who last year had pivoted suddenly and, for some, suspiciously, toward the Christian music market, into a legitimate and powerful voice for Christianity.
Osteen’s stamp of approval is seen in certain (and significant) circles, as a needed blessing by a religious kingmaker.
Time will tell whether West will remain committed to his new set of priorities where “every millisecond of my time will be in the service of God,” as he told me on Sunday afternoon.
Many Christians and theologians will criticize West’s choice of Osteen as his debut into the big world of American evangelicalism.
Osteen has a huge following but has been critiqued mightily for being a proponent of “Christianity Lite,” focusing only on those parts of the Gospel that make us feel good and leaving out the more difficult teachings of Jesus.
Both Osteen and West addressed this legitimate criticism during their question and answer session at the 11:00 am service at Lakewood Church. They proposed that their focus on God’s goodness and love and God’s desire for us to prosper and flourish is nothing to be ashamed of.
Osteen went as far as to say that, unlike his father before him, he is not a traditional pastor. Instead, he says he has been given the very specific call to “encourage” people, and he has to work hard at not worrying about what other people think of him.
My take on the Osteen/West connection is this: God has always preferred to work through imperfect messengers, and West and Osteen are quick to say that they fit that description.
When I told both Osteen and West that I am Catholic they expressed sincere admiration. I shared with them my journey to the Catholic priesthood and my discernment to request of Pope Francis a voluntary laicization (dispensation from my vows), which Pope Francis graciously granted.
Both Osteen and West were intrigued by my story and expressed a desire to work together with Catholics and others to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
West wasn’t afraid of tough questions, either. I asked him how his wife, Kim Kardashian West is adjusting to his new life choices.
He looked over to her as she stood by his side, as if to say, “Well, here she is, so that’s pretty good.” He went on to give a nuanced explanation of how they are getting used to these new dynamics at play in their marriage.
He admitted that he might be a little hard to deal with since he still has the “glow” and energy of a new convert.
So, what will West’s next move be? It wouldn’t surprise me if he has his sights set on the Vatican.