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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. AJW3

    This guy is one of the 47% that do not pay taxes. Good Republican?

    April 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  2. thegadfly

    If Jesus were alive today, no way he would be the "pastor of America’s largest church".

    April 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • JoAnMi

      Herds of people followed him while he taught!

      April 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Elmo

      Agreed. He would be hanging at the bar or a bordello and keeping company with the outcast. That was his style.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  3. JT

    I wished I had no scruples as well for I would blow smoke up shee"s asses as well and make loads of cash. Unfortunately I'm an atheist and feel too sorry for these deluded simpletons.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  4. FR

    Religion, God and Joel Osteen are bulls***

    April 25, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  5. ewe

    The best part about how i envision heaven is that you haters wont be there. Now that's my definition of heaven. And you? Well, you'll be stuck in an eternity with nothing but like haters to keep you amused.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • AJW3

      Who made you judge and jury?

      April 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • JT

      Well, hope you and that good Catholic Adolph Hitler become good butt buddies.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  6. jonborg

    I still think he is nutty. And I thought he was only accepting Romeny's Mormonism for political reasons. But, he's okay with Obama's faith. Wow. He's nutty, but a little less that I thought.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  7. KMD

    Pretty easy to be super optimistic about the economy when you're rich as hell.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • AJW3

      And your income is non-taxable.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  8. decredico

    Dude is creepy.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  9. Michael S

    This guy is going to fry in Hell when his time comes because he has so completely misled so many with his Gospel of Prosperity BS. Jesus never taught this and in fact was opposed to a focus on material things in this life. He taught the rewards that were to come in the next. Americans are too greedy and too self obsessed to wait for Heaven, they want it here and now and do not consider the expense in their moral capital.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • JoAnMi

      Jesus said this in Matthew 6:31-33

      "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them."

      "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

      God has no problem with Christians doing well done here on Earth.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  10. ConnieH.

    My mom loves him and so I took her to see him at the then Honda Stadium in O.C. a couple of years back. His TV presentations may be "watered down," but his actual live assembly was pretty scripture based I thought. Although I don't practice any religion, I like him and feel that he's among the few Christian proponents who actually "gets it" when speaking of Christ's teachings on humility, love, acceptance and forgiveness. I also like that he advocates donations to the FEED THE CHILDREN organization that helps many poverty stricken families in the U. S. as well as abroad. He has my respect.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  11. Just to Clarify

    Osteen is not representative of Christians. He is not heeding Christ's admonishment of the rich man.

    Mormonism is not under the umbrella of Christianity, nor is Catholicism...but there are Christians among these groups just as there are among nominal protestant churches and the temporally areligious.

    Christian does not equal Republican; frankly social liberals are more in line with the Gospel in regard to social equality and treatment of the poor and widowed.

    Church philosophy should never be about "just getting people to church" but rather building community the other 6.5 days of the week...Starbuck churches only suceed in diluting the Gospel into a motivational speech that is quickly forgotten.

    And to all the narrow-minded folk using this comment post to vent about their distrust/disbelief of God; let it go, find a Christian, and experience the Gospel in all its messiness, worldly illogicality, and simple Awe-inspiring relief.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  12. Not so fast

    Making money off religion is just simply wrong when they don't teach correct doctrine. He's a feel good preacher. It's not hate towards Joel, it just when you haven't been schooled in religion or teach, atonement, the 10 commandments and doctrine which Jesus taught. People continue to not understand what beliefs and standards are and I've never heard him preach moral standards, atonement of Christ etc. These are important to anyone's salvation. if you don't believe in this that is fine..but it's in bold print in the bible if you believe the bible (King James version) because the words have been changed by the common man to fit what preachers want to preach. Makes life easy for them. They don't want to offend their congregation, but you can't just preach "feel good" doctrine.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  13. PJ

    He as such a sick, sweet smile I almost want to vomit; however, I am sure he will come to the same end as his predecessors Swaggart, Baker, Falwell. He sure is raking in the money from the fools in America who listen to his nonsense.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  14. justin opinion

    Osteen said he thinks politics "divides people".............. hmm I think there is something else that divides people even more than politics... now, what was it...?

    April 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • tired

      cats vs dogs?

      boxers vs briefs also is a very big divider among men.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • JoAnMi

      Not Religion.

      The Hate that comes from opposing Religions.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  15. Tomara

    I love joel osteen! He preaches the truth and the word how it is!!

    April 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  16. Writerscramp

    C'mon Joel .... quit living the lie !!!! and you know what I mean

    April 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  17. dalewalk

    Isn't CNN doing enough to publish worthless articles and broadcast useless dribble without having to now push a CNN Belief Blog at us? Belief Blog? And then following up with five things you learned about Joel Osteen? Are you kidding me? How dumb down are you going to treat your viewers? Stories don't come any more shallow than one about that beady-eyed sniveling, spineless fool. CNN Belief Blog....Really? Who's next, Benny Hinn?

    April 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  18. Lanfear

    Joel Osteeen is a brilliant man! Making money off of peoples beliefs. Throwing bilble quotes around to make people feel better. Really, I like him. Although I hate religion. He has made religion fit PERFECTLY into his life. He is genuinely a good person too, so live gives back to him nicely. Haters gonna hate!

    April 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  19. nyc90845

    Say what you will about him, and WOW is there a lot of hate in these comments....but from the few episodes I have seen, all he does is promote confidence and hope with the help of God- if you're not religious, he still just tries to uplift people.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Lanfear

      People just hate because they wish they were as successful as him. It's just like fat people who hate fit people, they are too lazy to do the work and get it for themselves...

      April 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  20. trenaro

    He is more a motavational speaker with Bible quotes thrown in. He has a $10 million dollar home – so whats he worth? What would Jesus do?

    April 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Sarah

      $10 million dollar home??? Sounds like he is skipping some select versus in the bible.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Sarah

      I haven't met or seen a believer that doesn't skip around certain parts of their own doctrines.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • The Law

      That could be said about anyone that has a belief.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • PJ

      He preaches that money is good and people should give it to him. Sort of like the Latter Day Saints.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:52 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.