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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

soundoff (1,154 Responses)
  1. maggotfist

    Who?

    April 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  2. Bob Boise

    Osteen is a false teacher. Mormons are in no way Christian. If Osteen cannot tell the difference, he is a phony. His other doctrinal beliefs are suspect as well. The bible says false teachers speak lies to those who have "itchy" ears and want to hear lies(and be deceived). Another example of the Bible describing reality.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  3. charles d shobe

    I think Joel Osteen needs to read Revelation 3:16 again before assessing being a Christian! Joel states"because he says he(Obama) is a Christian then he is a Christian." Sorry, that does not make it! I could say I am an astronaut, but dosen,t make me one! Joel I love to hear you preace about Jesus's love for all, but in Revelations the lamb becomes a lion! Live it,walk it, eat it, sleep it Christianity is what the bible states is a Christian. Lets be realistic when we talk about being a Christian not everything is wonderful & free of a social morals. Jesus is truly Good!

    April 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Bob Boise

      Right! You can call a pig an eagle, but that doesn't mean it can fly. Deceit sells tickets, sermon CDs and warms pews.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  4. popseal

    In spite of CNN's unschooled and shallow analysis, the truth remains. Osteen is the quintessence of pop culture religion. His optimism misleads his followers into missing repentance, redemption, and regeneration, the three basics of New Testament Christianity. He apparently doesn't comprehend the Gospel clearly enough to teach it, or maybe he thinks he has something better? Osteen leads people into the error of working to forgive their own sins (though he never refers to 'sin'). The best he and fans can muster is an imitation of a life they don't really have. When their psychological energy gives out, so will they. The short of it, the Christian life is the experssion of Christ's regenerative life through the Christian. That life is the result of man's repentance and Heaven's redemption. Christ (His life) is received by faith and lived out in reality by that same faith. Osteen maybe be the best inoculation against genuine Christianity extant today.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  5. RHREESE

    The point of Osteen’s TV broadcast is inspiring people and getting them to open their pocketbooks. He may give a good serman, but bottom line is he is doing this for the money and not for God and common man. I just shake my head when I here about him and his followers. This is not what Jesus preach to everyone and is definately not the lifestyle that we should live by. Look at his wealth and lavish lifestyle. That is what he cherishes (possessions), not God and his word.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • jw

      And you know this how?

      April 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • CdrDave

      @jw: Very, very easily. Simply compare what JO teaches to what J esus (G od) taught. They don't agree.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  6. topperG

    Nothing more than a modern day Jimmy Swaggert. Living the lavish life off the offerings and taking advantage of the weak and those that don't know any better all in the name of selling BS. Religion is on the decline becuase as we move forward in life and find out all the predictions and revelations that were supposed to take place, haven't and won't. The more that science reveals, the less credible the bible becomes. Just another fiction novel written by man that was transformed into a way of life. And over the past couple decades, I think we are finding out the real story....have faith in yourself and live a life of simple Karma.....it works....

    April 25, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  7. apocalyptic demon

    Osteen and organized religions are hemroids on the a**hole of humanity.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  8. Maddie

    Another one who picks and chooses which parts of the Bible he thinks apply to him and ignores the rest. Living large while he ignores the commandments of the divinity he purports to worship. Money grabbing slime like the rest of the "televangelists" and the "God WANTS you to be rich" crowd. selves.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  9. watash

    Did CNN learn whether or not this charlatan pays any income tax on his millions? What about the rest of his brothers and sisters, do they pay any taxes?

    April 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  10. The Smiling Deist

    Every religion has two components:

    1. Myths/magical events.
    2. Man-made rules systems that are utilized to exercise societal control.

    It doesn't matter if the myths come from the Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, or Christian books/camps, they are harmful to all of us.

    If we are to evolve as a species, myths must be abandoned, even the cotton candy coated myths that emanate from the mouth of the smiling preacher.

    Man gave us religion. God gave us reason.

    http://www.deism.com/

    April 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • CdrDave

      You should read what your creator has to say about the matter. Religion is evil – He spoke of it. He even overturned tables at the temple and called them (the 'religious folk' of the day) thieves for turning his house into a den of thieves. You should also read the rest of what He has to say because it matters to all of us very much. I srael is a nation again and in her land (as of May 14, 1948). This was one of the biggest B iblical prophecies in thousands of years to come to past and it happened in our generation's lifetime. G od also said that the generation alive to see the *beginning* of these things would be alive to see the end. Time is short.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  11. John Pedant

    “Cons is I don’t get to . . . I don’t get to marry everybody." That explains his soft spot for Mormonism. Why are Mormons called "Mormons"? They have MORE MONogamy (that one and that one and that one and . . . yeah, that one).

    April 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  12. Ken

    If he believes Mormans are Christians, then he is a false prophet because he agrees with another false prophet, Joseph Smith.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Timothy

      Judge not

      April 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • CdrDave

      @Timothy: that's not judging. It's stating fact. Much different than conjecture and rationalization. Again, read G od's word (the only word) to see for yourself. The book of m ormon, the q uran, and any other text that says there is *ANY* other way to G od except through the name of J esus C hrist (or says that G od is so incompetent that He cannot maintain the Word He left mankind through mankind) is straight from the pit and will lead you there.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  13. BobbaFett

    Thanks CNN. Gosh what would we ever know about Christianity without you.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  14. Denvillian

    Olsteen's sermons are Self-Help talks. I've never heard him mention Christ or quotes from the Gospels. He is the OWNER of a huge Mega Church his Dad started.

    Read the Gospels. This was not Jesus' message. Jesus spoke out against money more than any other topic, and for feeding and clothing the poor – NOT the "prosperity Doctribne" or "Self_Esteem" message Olsteen "preaches."

    Makes me sick. Olsteen never went to Divinity school or got ordained either. I'll stick to my local Methodist Church, thank you.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Just A Guess

      You are free to believe as you wish...but my guess is that your "I'm right, he's wrong...Makes me sick." rant is not WWJD.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • blabla

      ROFLMAO Divinity School?
      LOLOLOL
      Did you say Divinity School? Like you learn to be divine?

      Does such a thing exist? And more importantly who is stupid enough to think you can learn to be devine?

      April 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  15. takeshi

    I am not a Christian, but I did happen to watch his show the other day with my mother who is. I was impressed by his message. I don't think what he does is harming anyone and if it helps some people lead a more spiritual life then so much the better.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • tor5

      You're right. I suppose some people have good reason for hating religion. But Osteen doesn't fit this caricature their attacking.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  16. watash

    There is a way to see if this guy is as holy as he claims. have him hooked up to a lie detector machine and let Charlie Rose interview him on nation wide T.V.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  17. Not so fast

    People are easily deceived. One third of the hosts of heaven chose Satan over Christ's plan. I talked to a lady of the
    church in Rockwall, Tx who couldn't feed herself and her daughter because she was told to donate all to God and he would take care of you. She believe this nonsense.He was caught for spending the churches money in the wrong way...and was imprisoned..many preachers like this...sad that people continue to be deceived.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  18. reader 2010

    Another snake oil salesman.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  19. hypocrites on parade

    This YouTube video tells the whole story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_1yc_vUMC8

    April 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  20. dalewalk

    Joel Osteen makes Pat Robertson look genuine.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • blabla

      Seriously, he is about as fake as they get. Won't be long before his cover is blown.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.