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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."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. Dave

    Osteen is one of the most successful con-men of all time.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  2. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Learned from Joel Osteen ???

    I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:
    If anyone adds anything to them,
    God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

    And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy,
    God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city,
    which are described in this book.
    Revelation 22:18-19

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
    Instead, to suit their own desires,
    they will gather around them a great number of teachers
    to say what their itching ears want to hear.
    They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
    2 Timothy 4:3-4

    But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel
    other than the one we preached to you,
    let him be eternally condemned!
    Galatians 1:8

    April 29, 2012 at 6:15 am |
  3. Elvis Tribute Artist

    Hello very cool blog!! Man .. Excellent .. Superb .. I'll bookmark your blog and take the feeds additionally?I'm satisfied to seek out so many useful info here in the publish, we want work out more techniques on this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

    April 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  4. Everett Wallace

    Tell US joel WHat do you know about the power of the HOLYSPIRIT. You look clean and nice on the outside but it is your inside that is the problem. HE says clean the inside first do you understand. The Air you breath is One of the HOLYSPIRIT forms so ALL you have done in secret saying no one can see or hear me, HE has and HE is also known as the SPIRIT of TRUTH, all you religious leaders had time to repent for your sins against JESUS since 2005 you know when GOD THE FATHER exposed HIM in the flesh on Earth, the door is shut. You and your fellow preachers should read the old testament in the Holy Bible and recognize Who GOD THE FATHER is, you came against HIS anointed ONE not from man but from above you guys and gals are in BIG trouble, I'm sure you know what HE says about coming Against HIS ANOINTED.

    April 28, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  5. Jules

    He thinks Mormons are Christians? Mormons say they are on their website, but also say they belive in a "different kind of Jesus." They say that they accept the Bible as the Word of God "as far as it goes." but accept the Book of Mormon as the Word of God period. They do not believe in the immaculate conception or believe in the Virgin Mary. They believe Jesus was conceived the same way as you and I were. They do not believe in the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. So, what is it, Joel, that makes them Christians – the fact that it says so on their website?

    April 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Abi

      Hi Sir/ Madam, @ Jules

      re: He thinks Mormons are Christians? Mormons say they are on their website, but also say they belive in a "different kind of Jesus." They say that they accept the Bible as the Word of God "as far as it goes." but accept the Book of Mormon as the Word of God period. They do not believe in the immaculate conception or believe in the Virgin Mary. They believe Jesus was conceived the same way as you and I were. They do not believe in the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. So, what is it, Joel, that makes them Christians – the fact that it says so on their website?

      A few mistakes concerning our/my faith as it were. We believe that Mary was overcome by the Holy Ghost exactly as described in the KJV Bible.

      as follows: [35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The (a)Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the (b)Son of God.]

      We believe that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three distinct personages and together make up the Godhead. Maybe you can see the relationship in our understanding from what I've related here. All the Best.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:04 am |
  6. binky boo

    Stinky binky.
    I smell poop in my Magic Underwear!
    num num

    April 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • binky boo

      Evil mormonians hate me and I just dont know WHY?
      Why are they so evil?
      Why are they so creepy?
      WHY>?

      April 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  7. binky boo

    Joel Osteen was found with a young boy in his private quarters last year.
    Is he really a closet CATHOLIC>?

    April 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  8. binky boo

    Joel Osteen isn't Christian, so how would he know if the evil mormonians are Christians.
    I think NOT!

    April 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  9. binky boo

    Osteen is a fraud and charlatan.

    April 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  10. binky boo

    Why are mormoons so creepy and secretive?
    Do they secretly hide pedophiles like Mitt Romney hides his SECRET Swiss banks accounts?
    The creeepiness factor is off the scale.
    Ick.

    April 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  11. binky

    Mormons are evil.
    Find out what Mitt Romney and the evil mormoon "church" are up to
    Google: The White Horse Prophecy

    April 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  12. orlando website seo

    You really make it seem really easy together with your presentation however I in finding this topic to be actually one thing which I feel I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and very broad for me. I'm taking a look forward in your next post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

    April 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  13. adrian

    I used to think Joel was a true man of God. He's just an opportunist like judist

    April 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  14. NVIIIX1

    If there's anything we've learned from Nazi Germany, it's that we don't follow the Christianity of our leaders without checking the fine print.

    Doctrine is everything and Joel Olsteen's doctrine is undefinable.

    April 28, 2012 at 7:04 am |
  15. W.G.

    What I´ve recently learned about Joel osteen is how oppertunistic he is . Christians know that mormons are not
    Christians and for Osteen to pander to his republican church members or the GOP and say that Romney is a Christian
    is wrong and immoral . The Bible Clearly warns us about false teachers and prophets . Osteen fits the bill
    of leading the elect astray.

    April 28, 2012 at 5:19 am |
    • binky

      Joel Osteen is evil and will swim in the fiery lake with Joseph Smith and all the false prophet followers for all eternity!

      April 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  16. WOT

    Preach God's word not made up stories! now I know why my sister do not like his funt!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      This is a distinction without a difference.

      April 28, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  17. Denise

    6. Osteen has plastic hair. Watch out for the oil slick.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  18. WOT

    Osteen is a man, not a god, his words are not written in Stone either!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Denise

      He could write them in the grease from his hair.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  19. Perry

    As another poster noted, the primary notable thing about Osteen is his drippy plastic hair. Other than that, he's just another god-fraud sales guy.

    April 27, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Denise

      Yepper.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  20. Eriebdog

    Jesus the Christ is Lord, not Joel Osteen.

    April 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Kendra

      That might be true, but neither one is, nor ever was, divine, and both would have done well in sales.

      April 27, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      And you know what, Joel isn't Sparticus either! Definitely not.

      April 28, 2012 at 2:29 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.