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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. Kevin

    "what worked 4 years ago may not work today", not "40 years", Listen twice, write once!

    April 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Is that listen twice thing from a book? It feels like I heard it before.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  2. larper2

    He is a self-appointed pastor who flunked out of divinity school. He just took over for his father when he died. His father went to and got a degree in divinity school.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  3. glorydays

    Marketing religion to the simple is quite profitable.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  4. DarqueSide

    Joel's only interest in growing the size of his wallet! He's the modern day snake oil salesman. If people are foolish enough to give this con man their money, then they deserve to be taken!

    April 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  5. jetcity

    2 priests at the church my grandfather goes to f***ed a lot of little boys back in the day.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  6. BoldGeorge

    This article forgot the most important point (that Mr. Osteen is not doing): leading people to Christ.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  7. Kris

    Oh Yeah, Just what we need another person who thinks they have Jesus' phone number....Blah, Blah, Blah. If he hates to weigh in on Politics then he should NOT DO IT. I'm so sick of this crap.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  8. Ray

    Christ said there will be many false prophets that will draw large followings...these new mega churches are the root of these false prophets.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • mick68

      How refeshing to see discerning Christians here.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • larper2

      As a christian he is leading people to Christ. Just don't lie about being a pastor when he is not.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  9. newmoon2

    Joel is a Joek. People (or should I say 'sheeple') are so desperate to be lead they'll follow ANYONE who makes them 'feel good'. Think for yourself, sheeple! You were given a BRAIN for a reason! Use it and quit letting others do your thinking for you.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • mick68

      All true. The actual christians in his church will suffer loss. Their time and money given to a con-artist rather than to God's true work.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  10. klamerus

    Sorry – but I believe he's a fraud. He says what is needed and his "schtick" is being positive and such. I'm sure many horrendous people seem "nice" or "positive" when they need to. It's how they get what they want.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  11. excitizen

    I wonder if he'll feel the same when Romney and his friends convert him to a Morman after his death. Hmmm, I think not. He did it to his father-in-law even though the man was completely against converting. Disgustingly arrogant cult.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  12. The Honey Badger

    He's a con artist.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  13. Jimmy

    Support your local church and leave people like Osteen to their own devices or should I say vices?

    April 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  14. mick68

    Man, alot of people here who think God is a fairy tale. Tell me then, why do you waste your time refuting a fairy tale? Surely you don't sit on forums convincing people that dragons don't exist. So, why here?

    April 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • JDinHouston

      Dragons don't exist?

      April 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  15. ziegfeldf

    Smarmy scammer.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  16. michaelak

    Ever wonder why the three Abrahamic religions are so violent? Look at the God of the Old Testament; if he loved everyone so much why did he kill so often? Almost all the wars are from Judaism, Islam and Christianity...You seldom see Buddhist plagues of locusts!

    April 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • mick68

      Violent- Thousands of Christians ministries feed and clothe millions of peoplem every day.

      You can find what you want to find sir, but when you stand before God, your self induced beliefs will fail you. I care not that you don't believe this, your decision, your consequences.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • JDinHouston

      In a Zen moment of rage I might be tempted to throw rocks at you, but then I would pause and contemplate on how that would screw up the harmony of my garden and I would return to my state of bliss..

      April 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  17. Seksi Vitez

    I just wanted to read the comments from all the haters I assumed would be on here. Sure enough, you hateful, jealous losers did not let me down.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  18. JDinHouston

    You forgot the most important one – Osteen loves money and worships it every day.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  19. opinionguru

    I am a true believing CHRISTian and love our Lord... However I doubt Osteen is spreading the Gospel... more like his own sales pitch.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • mick68

      Yep, exactly. Guys like him are what give the true Christians a bad name. He's on TV, gets media attention and money while the real believers work day and night for very little but reward in heaven.

      Joel will answer for his actions and his terrible witness.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  20. james

    Serving communion to 40.000 a day is not only tricky..but a tremendous waste of time.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • JDinHouston

      delivering the wafers alone must be one heck of a process – a 'what can brown do for you?" moment!

      April 25, 2012 at 4:45 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.