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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. William

    I find this amazing. What is so hateful about Osteen. Many have said that he has "polluted the Gospel" It blows me away how anyone could make such an authoritative claim. How many feel that they are the authority on who qualifies a a Christian. Are they all Gods qualified spokesman. Are any of them God's secretary in charge of who may or may not enter heaven. The phrase "gnashing of teeth comes to mind" I wonder if people who pass to the next world are as judgmental. If so I can easily imagine a lot of teeth gnashing there.

    May 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Its actually fairly easy to test someone and see if they believe what the bible says. Claiming that Mormon's are bible believing Christians is in fact NON christian. Despite what Joel teaches, the bible and more importantly, Jesus, doesn't exist to make our lives easier, our wallets fatter and give us "total victory." That's why he is a wolf in sheep's clothing and a false teacher.

      May 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  2. GBLAW

    Sadly, JO didn't take the morman issue a step further. Yes, a morman calls Jesus the Christ, and savior but the problem is the Jesus of the morman faith is NOT the Jesus of the true Christian Church. the "Jesus" of the mormans, is a created being, not the creator. The bible is clear, ALL things were made by and through Jesus Christ. How, then, can Jesus create himself. Also, I wonder if JO believes in the "Adam-God" beliefs of the Mormans or the baptism of the dead.
    The truth is that the God of the Holy Bible is a monotheisic God (One God) whereas the morman faith believes in many gods and believe they themselves can obtain god-hood (and only men at that), and that excludes them from being called "christians".

    May 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  3. Barbara

    I have no problem with Joel Osteen, nor his followers. Paul said "Let every man work out his own salvation, with fear and trembling." Perhaps Joel is not your cup of tea, but is this a reason to smear his name? Remember, in Galatins the Bible says "That a man soweth, that shall he also reap," simply put "We(myself included) get back what we send out." We cannot plant collards and get turnips. We seem to have a problem when others succeed, but not when we or our family members does. If Joel were our son we would not be badmouthing him, but prasing and thinkining God(yes I do nean God} for choosing and blessing our son the way he has. And yes we would be an employee of Lakewood, and most of our families too. We need to grow up, stop lying and tell the truth why we dislike him so much(God already knows), and that is because of his success, and has nothing to do with what he believes or teaches. If some of you haters(yes I did call you that) would get an ounce of the joy that Joel has and smile at least more than you do, who knows you may be able to get people to listen when you speak. If you do not remember anything else I said, do remember this "You will get back what you send out, in deeds and words," Be careful,"Someone is badmothing you and your family too." Because of the seeds you are sowing about others(Joel), Barbara.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      This man sat with Larry King, and denied basic doctrines of Christian faith. He could not bring himself to say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Neither could he acknowledge that there is a definite, actual place called hell. What do the epistles of 2 Peter and Jude mean to you? Do you think they are a misprint, or at most and allegory, and don't mean what they say?
      Do you think Paul would consider him (Osteen) a Christian?
      The truth is that J. Osteen does not believe the Bible he is holding in front of his congregation that he lullabies by his smooth talk.
      And finally, NO, if he was my father, my son or brother, I would not look at him proudly and starry eyed, but present the truth to Him and pray that he would see himself where he really is!

      You can call this hate, or whatever you will, but although you have many like minded with you in this blog, and in washed out Christianity we have in this country today, it is God who stets the Standard, and by His Standard are all things measured. And J. Osteen IS FOUND LACKING! . So are all those who agree with him.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  4. PRISM 1234

    Another article on CNN asks the question : "What's Joel Osteen's secret?", as if admiring his success.
    The success in our lives is measured by God's standard, not man's. What is our few years on this earth, comparing to eterrnity? As the Scriptures say " ..... For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?
    So what about his secret? ....he can't hold a secret.. He is transparent, and those who have the Spirit of God see right through him. He loves the praise of the world, like many Christians do today who fear speaking the truth.

    But God says that the fearful will be cast into the lake of fire together with all the ungodly, because they did not love the truth more then their life, to stand for it in spite of persecution. Therefore each one of us must examine ourselves where we really stand!

    This is God's Word, and this is His justice. He is the Lord!

    May 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  5. Jamal

    Guys like Joel Osteen are super smart.. They know how to make millions off of idiots who will buy their books and dvd's. Why fools are on their knees praying, he's laughing his way to the bank.

    I wonder if his wife is still assaulting flight attendants.

    May 1, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • ARkansasMom

      Jamal: Im not a fan J.O but judge ye be ye not judge, if one person hears GODS word and turns from sin...AMEN, giving him all their money is for GOD to deal with JO not us.

      VOICE OF REASON: feared is not mean to be scared its to respect and be reverant to THE LORD

      May 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Max

      What a way to make money, like the pooooop in the vatican...stealing money from poor people..

      May 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • William

      I see.... If you disagree with a religious leader then "He is stealing money from fools" because it is not possible for him to believe something that you don't? hmmm ... Not sure I understand that logic. If you do agree with him than he has properly earned that money as a true minister of God? Hmmm that seems funny. Easier I think to assume that all "hirelings" would flee when the wolf shows up ... not just the stealing bad ones. I would trust a religious authority not taking a wage. But I am Mormon and there is no paid ministry in Mormon church. Well except for college professors teaching religious classes I guess.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  6. SolomonSez

    Jesus warned us about guys like Joel Osteen. Paul warned us about Satan parading around masquerading as an angel of light. Osteen's message is a theology of glory – setting man up to be God – which was Satan's first lie that mankind swallowed in the fall from grace. Osteen preaches a theology of man's glory not a theology of the cross – that our salavation comes from Christ alone – whether we are rich, poor or down-trodden. Christ is our only hope. Osteen pollutes the message and is leading thousands to self relaince and sepration from God. Beware people – really listen to what he says. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing looking to devour you.

    May 1, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • ArkansasMom

      AMEN well said

      May 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • ArkansasMom

      WELL SAID

      May 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Solomon Sez,

      Thank you for speaking the truth!

      God bless and keep you, also ArkansasMom!

      May 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • cnnOK

      Haters. Gonna. Hate.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • William

      Last I heard self-reliance was a good thing. Now it seems to be on of the 7 deadly sins. You may say that it is pride but I have trouble equating pride and self-reliance. If I were told that my son seems self reliant, I would think that is a compliment. In fact I would like my teenager to be more self reliant. But that would not requesting my son become prideful.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  7. John Calvin

    if Joel Osteen belives that mormons, catholics and barok obama are a christians, than we need to ask if joel osteen is a christian.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • johnlewisgilmer

      For most of Europe, the Roman Catholic Church was the sole source of Christian doctrine. The creeds and the decisions as to what would be and would not be part of the Holy Bible were the products of the Roman Catholic Church.

      While there have been corrupt clergy (and even corrupt Popes) the body of Roman Catholicism is 100% Christian.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:21 am |
    • William

      I think you have it backwards. A Christian is defined by his belief in Christ not by his belief that other are not Christians

      May 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  8. apostate

    #1 How to fleece people.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • wasso

      Rather, how to fleece people with a goofy smile..

      May 1, 2012 at 3:43 am |
  9. Ed

    LOOSER LOOSER pants on fire. Just keep that money coming in so I can brainwash more peole about my fairy tale. I'm a little short for my new Bently and private jet for this year.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • kiefern001@hawaii.rr.com

      I suppose Osteen would see the good in you too. Whatever that may be.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • William

      Maybe you should research the term brain-washing. It would not apply to someone stating their religious beliefs I think. If that is so, you would also be a brain-washer.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  10. Todd Morgan

    I'm Mormon and I like Joel Osteen. His messages are positive and are not divisive. He believes God can create something good out of any person and any situation. He teaches faith, reconciliation, moving forward with conviction and trust in God. I don't see why there have been so many hateful and hurtful comments on this board.

    Yeah he rakes in the dough, but he is also helping people, encouraging and inspiring them

    April 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • kiefern001@hawaii.rr.com

      Hurt and hate come from reaction to truth presented so palatably that there is really nothing to react to. The only thing left is to marginalize, disqualify, or even get rid of a messenger like that. Name-calling is probably the most common manifestation of this kind of kind of reaction. The level of unwillingness to consider the message is so entrenched - pounded into the psyche by "bad" church experiences, stereotypes and false perceptions, and just plain old dogged and pride-fueled rejection of anything that doesn't fit the person's self-justifying rationale or ideology. A metaphor for this kind of person would be one that turns beat red and has smoke coming out his ears. There's no rational explanation for it. It's like a baby throwing himself on the floor and turning blue because he didn't get his way.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • John Calvin

      Even the devel believes in God.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  11. JoeRay

    Olsteen is a conscious charlatan.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • kiefern001@hawaii.rr.com

      That's a pretty harsh judgment. I take it you have the god-like power to see his motives?

      April 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  12. EnjaySea

    Go easy on the guy. I can't imagine how he could be any more dishonest than any other preacher raking in money week after week for spreading the same unsubstantiated dogma that has been successfully separating believers from their cash for 2,000 years now.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  13. Bill.1942

    Having lived in Houston, I learned from Joel Osteen that you can rake in a very large amount of money while knowing and doing absolutely nothing. He does spread the wealth around by putting all of his family members on his payroll. He is also leading a very large number of misguided people straight to Hell.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • John Calvin

      amen

      May 1, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • John Calvin

      Amen.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • ARkansasMom

      YA really think GOD will send those who follow him to Hell or do you think JO will pay for it " WOE TO THE TEMPTERESS

      May 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • William

      I would like to know the big crime for which these people merit hell. Wow, careful about sending people to hell rhetorically.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  14. OustingHeresy

    Joel Osteen is a flat out heretic.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  15. OustingHeresy

    Joel Osteen is a heretic.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  16. Welled

    This is the one guy. Honestly. With that fruitcake southern drawl of his. And his oh my goodness Daisy the Yankees are invading Texas. What are we gonna do? His congregation with that Ding Dong look on their faces. What an act. I just love tuning into some fake stage monkey that teachs southern manners. Just what is a mint julip anyway y'all. A Hebrew with a southern accent of course. When I moved south and saw a hebrew and heard one for the first time after growing up in the north and in NY. I tilted my head slightly sideways thinking holy..... now thats is somethin. Of course I don't know if hes hebrew he could be any kind of semite who knows these days. The Hebrews can't even tell sometimes.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Ryan Schellenberg

      I didn't know they made people like you anymore.

      May 2, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  17. Daniel Uzza

    There is a way that seems right to a man,
    But its end is the way of death.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  18. politicallyinsurrect

    Osteen burns bushes with Moses.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  19. biologixco

    Osteen is a fraud

    April 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Chris

      I call him a fraud because he corrupts the Gospel. It's unfortunate that he accepts many forms of the Gospel and that he has such a big stage from which to confuse people about Christianity.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  20. VoiceOfReason

    I don't have a speck of a god-fearing bone in my body. Osteen seems like a nice guy.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • fiscal conservative

      I agree. No beef here.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • William

      And what do you make of all the Osteen haters?

      May 1, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
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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.