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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. Cynthia Googe

    What is Joel Osteen's secret? This was the original question
    1) millions of people are looking for an answer to questions they never had before. If you've never had a problem you can't solve by yourself....why look for help?
    What are his secrets:
    – he is timely
    – he is not trying to split theological hairs
    – Call him a motivational speaker if you like. He isn't trying to Retain members to fleece for money. He is a place to start...for people who don't know where to begin. His Goal is to encourage people to Leave!! Find a Bible based church where they can
    continue.
    – he isn't out beating the bushes for attendance. People are coming in droves on their own. They need help. If you have never
    been to church before it is ( as many new experiences are ) threating. And many of our church's Aren't welcoming. But it's not
    deliberate. The Episcopal Church we aren't trying to be unfriendly...I have always thought of it as being respectful of other people's privacy. And we are,"trying to prepare clergy for a church in Desperate need of something more than " Sound Bite"
    Theology." Well, we are working on it.All these misunderstandings are barriers. Joel Osteen says, " Come on down!" He wants to help guide people. Some people will stay if they find that their calling is to help him. I see this as his " Calling" The Ministry of helping people find Their place in another, smaller community of worship. People like Joel Osteen who are called by God... know the plan he has for their lives. Imagine being Absolutely certain what you are meant to do...and doing a Fantastic Job! Nothing succeeds like success. And Money is Not a Crime. I'm sure ( I hope ) the person who, Thanked God he was an Atheist was being silly.. but it is interesting. Why are there some many people here concerning themselves with something they don't believe. If it doesn't exist, why do their care?

    May 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  2. chosen2

    J.O is a false teacher, the word of God is about spiritual prosperity, is about trusting Jesus christ for the salvation of the soul through the shedding of His blood in calvary for his chosen people. II Thessalonians 2:13-14 "13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" If you trust in Christ alone for the salvation of your soul, you are chosen2salvation.net assurance forever!

    May 4, 2012 at 4:54 am |
  3. Cynthia Googe

    I realized.. I don't know how much time I've spent in this lively debate. Obviously, we aren't gonna change each others minds.
    But we many be neglecting other things we need to do... and raising everybody's cortisol levels. There is nothing to win, but
    a lot we are losing. This will not change Joel Osteen' behavior... but I have had some angina while reading!! Atheist, Christian or what ever, I believe we are all good people. At this point, what if we just agreed to disagree? Think of all the other things we could be doing to help ourselves and improve the lives of those around us. I know this sounds so ,"PollyAnna" but honestly folks, we are just spinning are wheels. Is Anybody with me?

    May 4, 2012 at 3:06 am |
  4. Thank god I'm an Athiest

    Money is Good. Money is Good. Money is Good. Money is Good. Money is Good. God wants you to have lots of Money!!! X5

    May 3, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • OxfordVoter

      Excellent post.

      May 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  5. Shah-zayum

    Honestly...this guy is plastic...total Ken doll version of a human...Barbie attachment to boot. NOTHING he says is biblical at all. NOTHING he says is riveting or thought provoking...this guy only managed to "market" religion in a way that appeals to the indecisive and confused. He appeals to what matters to the "individual" not what matters to true Christianity...that's dangerous in my opinion...and it's just my opinion. I see him as used car salesman selling a sweet Porsche w/a VW bug engine to you know where...no bueno.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  6. LOIS

    Joel's comment that he believes that "gay people are not God's best people" irritates me. What a judgemental bigot. The bible also states "judge not lest ye be judged".

    May 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  7. Mary Memmons

    I think Joel is great. I bought a set of his CD's (so why can't he have the profit, if he made the CD? You folks out there don't profit from your work?). Any time I find myself in a negative place like some of you - and you know who you are - I listen to these positive CDs, and I remember that God loves me and has a plan for me to be of service to him. I'm kind of doubting here that his plan for service is to have you folks write hateful things on the Internet.

    May 3, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • sam stone

      is god's plan of service to have others speaking for him?

      May 5, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  8. Dave

    J.O. fits in the mold of a biblical anti-Christ. Christianity is not about amassing worldly wealth. It's about the simple saving power of the Gospel.

    We all fall short because of sin. God demands perfection. Jesus takes our sin on Himself and in return gives us His perfect record. For those that believe by faith, given by God's Spirit, we become the very adopted sons and daughters of God with all rights and privileges thereof and are restored into the relationship God planned for us and Him.

    May 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • 2011cnn2011

      If thats the case why did jesus say "first seek the kingdom of God, and all things will be added unto you" ? I think Gods mercy of salvation is the greatest gift, but God I think also blesses those who trust in him in this lifetime too. Gods way bigger than what anyone of us can understand...
      God is love, God is mercy, god is provision....nothing wrong with trusting in that...

      May 3, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Shah-zayum

      Agreed!!

      May 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Shah-zayum

      My agreement was with Dave btw...

      May 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  9. Starscream

    2 Timothy 4 Is talking about this guy

    May 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Dave

      Bingo! 2 Tim 4: 3 For the time will come when people 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  10. Mikee

    oel is such a good speaker. I heard in person here in Frisco Texas. The haters on here are just low esteem people that love hate more than love or friendship, as their words here indict them! Love it!

    May 3, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • 2011cnn2011

      Judge lest you be judged....Joel Osteen has love and joy, He can teach alot of you people a few things....Im Catholic...I love Joel...oops im Catholic..time to start judging me...

      May 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • sam stone

      mikee: as opposed to those who are convinced they need a savior?

      May 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  11. matt

    I have learned that he preaches everything except Christ Crucified! Mormons are Christians? What a fraud!

    May 3, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  12. DaveC

    What did we learn from Joel Osteen?
    1. Money is good. More money is better. A lot more money is great.
    2. God wants Joel Osteen to be rich.
    3. God will provide the best lawyer in Houston when your wife slaps a flight attendant (see 1. and 2.)
    4. God wants you to fly first class. Especially if you're going to Aspen
    5. God thinks the best way to help the poor and downtrodden, as mentioned by Jesus (remember him?) is to build a big shiny plush new building. Or two.

    May 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  13. danabashed

    I like the way this guy talks....now if he would say I do not accept money for any talk that I speak that you like...just go on and listen and we DO NOT ACCEPT ANY MONEY from any of you! Now that is Christlike! Man cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time....mammon being money!

    May 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Shah-zayum

      You have it right in my opinion

      May 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  14. PJ

    That smile could sell a million used cars.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  15. Mom

    On the video interview, Osteen never mentions Mormons. Did someone add that paragraph to the story?

    May 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  16. Frank

    Joel Osteen is more interested in spreading the word of Joel Osteen than he is in spreading the word of Jesus.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • itsme

      yup yup, big church big ego

      May 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  17. across12

    Believe it or not I like this guy. He lives in his dream and good for him I say. At least he doesn't go on the stage and fake to cure cancer or HIV like all the other hypocrites. Keep going brother.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  18. CURTIS

    Line up and hand us your money because only I have the answers and for just $29.99 so can you. This guy wins "Biggest Creep" award every year, hands down.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Vet.Vet

    You forgot about the root of all evil "Money" Mega Church, Mega Manson all from the sacrifices of the faithful believers!

    May 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  20. OldWestGambler

    Mr. Osteen is merely one of the more recent in a long line of hucksters whose primary skill is being able to separate gullible fools from their money.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • across12

      He didn't shove his hand in no one's pocket. It's a free country with free will pal. If you don't like it move on, no need to be hating.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • robert

      Brainwashed snake oil salesman....

      May 3, 2012 at 5:06 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.