Apologetics Index

Joel Osteen

Dubbed “The Smiling Preacher,” Joel Osteen is the hugely popular pastor of Lakewood Church – a mega-church in Houston, Texas.

Lakewood Church is, in fact, America’s largest church, with its Sunday services drawing up to 40,000 people a week. [Mar. 30, 2006] In July, 2005, the church moved into the former Compaq Center – once home to the Houston Rockets.

Osteen inherited the church from his father, John Osteen:

Joel Osteen, whose gospel of optimism and telegenic good looks have turned him into a fast-rising star in the nation’s evangelical firmament, is nothing if not confident.

Just days after his father, the Rev. John Osteen, died suddenly in 1999, the minister’s son stepped into the pulpit for the first time, facing thousands of worshippers at Houston’s Lakewood Church.

“I had never preached before,” recalls Osteen, 41. “It was kind of a weird thing. I never wanted to preach, but I knew in my heart it was what I was supposed to do. I knew I was supposed to step up.”

In the five years since he preached his first sermon, Osteen’s rise has been meteoric. While his congregation has grown from 7,000 to 30,000, Osteen has become one of the most popular religious broadcasters in the country, filling arenas as far away as Madison Square Garden.
– Source: Fate put him in pulpit, Joel Osteen does the rest, Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 27, 2004.

Osteen’s detractors often refer to his message as “Christianity Lite.” This clip, taken from a June, 2005 interview with Larry King, shows how Joel Osteen fails to present a clear, Biblical gospel message:

Joel Osteen on CNN Larry King Live - You Decide - Complete 2:58 Segment

See the full interview:

Joel Olsteen on "Larry King Now" - Full Episode Available in the U.S. on Ora.TV

Indeed, his primary emphasis is on positive thinking, success and wealth – not on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Last Sunday morning, as usual, the ever-smiling preacher, best-selling author and religious broadcaster Joel Osteen took the stage at Lakewood Church, formerly known as the Compaq Center, the 16,000-seat home of the Houston Rockets basketball team.

After a warm-up of rousing original rock and gospel hymns with lyrics and videos flashing on jumbo screens around the arena, Mr. Osteen began to speak. “We come with good news each week,” he told the packed crowd at his gigachurch in his native Texan twang.

The news for Mr. Osteen has lately been very good indeed: two weeks ago he signed a contract with Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, that could bring him as much as $13 million for a follow-up book to his debut spiritual guide, “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” which, since it was published by Warner Faith in 2004, has sold more than three million copies. “I believe God wants us to prosper” is the gospel according to Mr. Osteen, 43, who offers no apologies for his wealth.

“You know what, I’ve never done it for the money,” he said in an interview after Sunday’s service, which he led with his glamorous wife and co-pastor, Victoria. “I’ve never asked for money on television.” But opening oneself to God’s favors was a blessing, he said. “I believe it’s God rewarding you.”

Again and again in the first book, Mr. Osteen exhorts readers to shun negativity and develop “a prosperous mindset” as a way of drawing God’s favor. He tells the story of a passenger on a cruise ship who fed himself on cheese and crackers before realizing that sumptuous meals were included. “Friend, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of those cheese and crackers!,” Mr. Osteen writes. “It’s time to step up to God’s dining table.”

Or, as he also puts it: “God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner.” […]
– Source: A Preacher’s Credo: Eliminate the Negative, Accentuate Prosperity, The New York Times, Mar. 29, 2006

This Apologetics Index entry is maintained by Anton Hein

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First published (or major update) on Friday, March 31, 2006.
Last updated on October 12, 2021.

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