by Molly Dashiell, world editor
Hurricane season has just started this year, and already the Atlantic Ocean has seen incredible destruction on islands and coastal lands alike. Hurricane Harvey hit Texas incredibly hard, and thousands lost water, electricity, and entire homes.
As flooding rose and people fled, many churches in Texas opened their doors and allowed people to take refuge within their buildings. At the end of August, however, one notable church kept their doors closed. Lakewood Church, led by head pastor and well known televangelist, Joel Osteen, cancelled services on August 27th, 2017. The church was not opened that day to any displaced residents, according to the New York Post.
People took to social media and shared pictures that seemed to imply that the church wasn’t flooding, but was available to help with hurricane relief. After the backlash Lakewood Church received, Donald Iloff, church spokesman, responded, explaining that the church had not opened doors because of safety concerns about flooding in the building, and that there was a nearby convention center people could go to.
Iloff explained that Lakewood would not host any people in the church until it was once again safe, according to CNN. When Lakewood Church sent out an official statement, however, they claimed that the church had never closed its doors. The day after the church released their statement, they opened their doors and allowed people to take refuge in the building. This caused people to question if Lakewood Church was doing it out of goodwill or out of discomfort because of the backlash they had received, according to CNN.
One church’s response to a natural disaster may not reflect the church as a whole, but it does affect how the world views the church. There was massive news coverage on Osteen’s church not helping others, but very minimal coverage on Christians who were spending long days and sleepless nights helping hurricane victims. They brought boats to rescue those stranded, as well as food, water, and clothing. Some pastors found their church buildings submerged, so instead they opened their personal homes to according to USA Today.
Hurricane season hasn’t impacted the city of Chicago physically, but the body of Christ here isn’t removed from this conversation. As different problems afflict the church worldwide, because we are connected in Christ, we cannot sit idly by and pretend that we are somehow not affected. John 13:34 says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Most of the students here at Moody Bible Institute do not associate with Osteen’s church or doctrinal beliefs. However, this conversation gives the opportunity to examine our hearts and see if we hesitate to open our “doors” because it is hard or inconvenient.