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April 24th, 2012
04:51 PM ET

Five things we learned from Joel Osteen's visit

By Eric Marrapodi and Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) – Joel Osteen, the pastor of America’s largest church, swung by the offices of CNN's Belief Blog on Tuesday. He’s in town for a "Night of Hope" event at Nationals Park baseball stadium this weekend, which is expected to draw thousands of worshipers who wouldn't otherwise step foot in a church.

Before taking batting practice with the Washington Nationals and delivering the opening prayer in Congress, Osteen sat down for a freewheeling interview with us. Five things we learned from his visit:

1. Osteen's optimism is unflappable

No matter how negative the outlook may be regarding religion, the economy or politics, Osteen sees the good.

Churches in America may be bleeding members but, Osteen’s own church – and those of his megapastor friends – are growing. "Sometimes what works 40 years ago doesn’t work today," he said, explaining how he built a church with 40,000 regular attendees in Houston, Texas.

"The denominations aren't as big of a deal so they may not look for a church that just says the First Church for Baptists or Methodists or Catholics,” he said. “They look for place where people are believers of a like minded faith. And so I see those types of churches growing and that's the type of church our is."

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Osteen has grown his church from a congregation of 7,000 since taking over for his dad in 1999.

“I’m biased,” when it comes to Christianity’s growth prospects,” Osteen said. “You know we’re coming from a stadium here and I’m thinking how’s this young guy from DC going to have 50,000 people - whatever that stadium holds - and I see it everywhere we go it seems like more than ever we see people hungry for their faith.

2. He hates weighing in on politics but will– sometimes

Osteen said he thinks politics "divides people" but was careful to add that "some pastors are very much called to be in politics like I’m called not to, so I like to celebrate what they’re doing."

The issue of religious liberty has been a hot one recently, especially over a pending White House mandate that free birth control be offered to employees at certain religious institutions. While many conservative pastors called the mandate a threat to religious liberty, Osteen said that it’s "not my personality to call something a threat but I would agree with what their argument, the basis of it, that we don’t want government telling us what we can, something that goes against our faith."

He added that he stands with Catholics and other Christians who opposed the government mandate, though it’s not completely clear if he’s satisfied by a White House adjustment to the rule that mollified some Catholics, if not the Catholic Church.

"I would hate to think of the day," Osteen said, "where someone would come and tell me you have to minister on this and it goes against what the scripture says."

3. Osteen sees Mormons as fellow Christians

"When I hear Mitt Romney say that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that he's the Christ, raised from the dead, that he's his savior - that's good enough for me," Osteen said in an interview that aired on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

While Osteen said Mormonism is "not traditional Christianity," he believes Mormons fall under the Christian tent.

"Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ," the pastor argued. That goes a big step further than many other Christian leaders, who have not gone so far to say that Romney is unquestionably Christian.

Osteen also told Blitzer that he believes President Barack Obama is a committed Christian. Some conservative Christian leaders have questioned the president’s religion.

4. The point of Osteen’s TV broadcast is inspiring people and getting them to church

Osteen is often criticized for preaching a watered-down version of Christianity that is light on sin and heavy on feeling good. He said the goal of his TV ministry, which reaches 10 million Americans a week and costs about $20 million dollars a year, is to help get people into churches.

"I’m trying to throw a big broad net to try to get people interested in God and believe that he’s for them and has a purpose,” he said. “Maybe someone that would never be interested before but then at the end of each broadcast I encourage them to get in a good Bible-based church so you can grow.”

"I see our ministry as an extension of the church, the local church,” he said. “I realize in a 30-minute broadcast you can’t do all that. I’m trying to be really broad."
Osteen added that the TV broadcast partners with 500 local churches to help transition people from TV to church.

5. Serving communion to 40,000 people is tricky

Answering a question from an @CNNBelief Twitter follower, Osteen said Lakewood Church celebrates communion once a month, even though TV viewers don’t see it.
"There’s pros and cons of a big church,” he said. “Cons is I don’t get to know everybody, I don’t get to go to their ballgame, I don’t get to marry everybody, but the pros are you get all this community, 800 ushers come in to serve, getting there at 7 in the morning on their day off and coming in on Saturday to make all those wafers.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Faith Now

soundoff (1,154 Responses)
  1. vietnam

    Hi there, simply changed into alert to your weblog thru Google, and located that it's really informative. I am going to be careful for brussels. I'll be grateful when you continue this in future. Numerous other folks shall be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    April 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  2. jep

    Osteen only sounds good to those who don't know the Bible and don't know Christ. In fact Osteen does not know Christ himself but he is a good motivational speaker and an upright man but he's no Christian. If he thinks the Mormon faith is true Christianity as the Bible teaches then Osteen cannot recognize a cult when he sees one. Any teaching that does not agree with the teachings and truths about Christ as the Bible claims is a false teaching and should be rejected. Christ said in the Bible "If you do not believe I am the one I claim to be you will die in your sin." Mormons do not believe in the same Jesus described in the Bible and for Osteen to say otherwise shows his ignorance of the scriptures and proof that he is what the Bible calls a false prophet. Osteen when on Larry King live he beat around the bush at every question concerning Christ being the one and only savior in fact he denied it.

    March 3, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Kay

      I am so glad that someonelse saw that Larry King show as well as myself. He would never answer Larry's questions with straight answerrs and he hemmed and hauded at every turn.
      I also saw him when Oprah visited his exquisite mansion. If my memory serves me right, he told Oprah that they never take any money from the church. That is a liittle hard to believe consideriing the home, etc. that was shown on the show with Oprah. His father was a struggling preacher when he started that church so it doesn't seem he would have a huge legacy to leave him. If that's his story and he is sticking with it, we should just sit back and let God take care of him.

      March 8, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  3. clintbyars

    Many Christians may think Joel doesn't preach on sin or judgment enough but I promise you, sinners know who he is and are drawn to Jesus through him. Jesus was called the friend of sinners because he didn't condemn them and he went to them to show them love. It's the goodness of God that draws people to repentance. Do your research and look at the fruit of his ministry, the television show if just a net that he's casting.

    September 30, 2012 at 7:28 am |
  4. clubschadenfreude

    preaching what people want to hear brings in teh big bucks. And it's okay, Joel, all of theists make up whatever they like and claim that some god approves.

    September 20, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  5. Medicated

    Both my husband n I would do Osteen in a NY minute. Just put his tie into that blabbering mouth of his n enjoy his 300lb bench pressing body...meow!

    September 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Joel Osteen weighs 300lbs?

      I guess he wears it well. I never would have guessed.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  6. One one

    This guy is basically a motivational speaker with a big dash of religion thrown in. That's ok if people are willing buy it and to pay for it.

    I will always remember him for the trouble he got into from an interview with Larry King.

    He refused to say that people ( i.e. Jews) would go to hell for not believing Jesus was their savior. Apparently he got straightened out by conservative Christian leaders and had to do some damage control.

    September 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  7. Richard

    Joel the mormons believe that God the Father was a man who walked the earth. You should definitely read the Book Of revelations. You will learn that mormonism is just a cult founded by a charlatan and led by charlatans. None of the big 10 or 12 have been to seminary and probably never studied the Old or new Testaments. Because someone says they are a Christian does not automatically make them one. and as Jesus said, " Many are called but few are chosen". People can call themselves Christain all they want but Jesus knows who his flock is and it ain't mormons. They call themselves saints, I call saints people like Mother Teresa or St Francis of Assissi, people who dedicated their lieves to God. Mormons dedicated their lives toward MONEY. Their sign on top of their so-called church should be a BIG $.

    September 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • clubschadenfreude

      "religion" equals "cult", the only difference is if you can exist long enough for people to call you "normal".

      September 20, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  8. glen soikie

    joel is good and represents good hes not perfect and i dont know anyone who is other than christ so please look past his short commings and look at your own

    September 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  9. JLS1950

    ONE thing I have learned from Joel Osteen recently: not only does not rarely quote scripture, he also omits to use it in decisions!

    May 15, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • pandoramn

      Actually, Pastor Osteen DOES quote Scripture. On every broadcast and every day to those of us who subscribe to the daily devotion. As for using it in making decisions...I only have to look at this inaccurate, negative post of yours to know that you are not without blemish...so do not cast the first stone!

      September 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  10. Gary Wolf

    OK,... where did CNN dig up these blogger-dudes. They are simply awful. The fat guy is in dire need of a personal trainer, not a personal savior. As to the guy whose puffy hairdo is concealing his two horns, he knows that what he does has very little to do with Jesus. His sheep are, well, sheep. I believe very few of his sheep read, and certainly have not read the Bible or studied their religion. People, this shyster is our version of the money changers in the Temple. Jesus is Big Business.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:51 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.