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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. Mr. Sadman

    Wow...he thinks Mormons are Christians? Sorry, but when you hold your own book in higher regard than the book that defines Christianity, that's a pretty big conflict of interest.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Rob

      I have a hard time with it as well. I think some of what Morman's believe is just wacked out.
      However, the book that you state defines Christians as Joel said. You accept Christ as the risen son of God. Pretty simple definition, and Mormans do believe that. So you could say they are sining Christians, which would be very little difference that all other Christians, that drink, smoke, lust, swear, etc.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  2. Marc

    Some of these comments are pretty disturbing. The sad part is that the world is full of professing Christians but only they and the Lord know the truth. The Lord Jesus himself said that "ye must be born again". I would disagree with him on point #3. I have read books and testimonies of converted Mormons and they speak of what they were taught and it wasn't Bible. As far as the President, he can say whatever it is that he wants to say, but anyone that is so passionate about abortion and vehemently opposes anybody that has any pro-life views is anything but Christian. The word of God is the only truth in this world. The word Christian means "Christ Like". I would say that our president along with many professing Christians are anything but Christlike. I can guarantee that our Lord would have some pretty strong things to say about the slaughter of innocent children under the umbrella of abortion!

    April 25, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • sam

      I don't know, God really had no trouble with the slaughter of children back in the old testament.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  3. WachetAuf

    I do not know Osteen, but he seems to view Christianity as an "inclusive" community. I would agree with that view. Unfortunately, for most Christians who are members of one of the Christian "sects", Christianity has become an "exclusive" club of like minded thinkers, much too tribal for me.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Marc

      You need to go read Matthew chapter 7. The word of God says that we are to enter in at the strait gate. It says that wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. The Bible also mentions a falling away from the truth in the last days and in 2 Timothy 4:3 it says, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having ITCHING ears". I would say that most of Mr. Osteen's congregation is there to get their "religious" itch scratched and to hear his "feel good" sermons. I can guarantee that he doesn't preach against sin or touch on the "rough" items that the Lord Jesus preached on when he walked the earth. We all need to get back to the Bible and hold it up in esteem where it belongs. Our nation is being destroyed from within because we have forgotten God and his Word.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Marc

      I would say that Christianity is anything but inclusive. We are to love everyone because God loves everyone. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. We know that God is a loving God but he is a demanding God. There is no doubt that true Christians have been persecuted all through the ages and the Lord Jesus himself said that the world would hate believers because it hated him first. There are many professors but few true believers. The Lord Jesus was very harsh on "religion" and "religious" leaders in his day. There is no doubt that "religion" will keep many out of heaven. If anyone is going to heaven they have to go God's way and God's way only. That sounds pretty exclusive to me.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  4. Charles Darwin

    God wants him to be rich.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  5. amen

    Another John Edwards clone. While you donate to his charity with your hard earned dollar, he vacations in Hawaii and the Carribean and wears $8,000 suits, and $600 haircut.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Ann

      If he's been blessed with money, why not get the best? Just because he's a minister, is he not supposed to travel to Hawaii, or have other good things in life? And, I would say that his money comes from his book sales and not from the church. As long as he's not stealing from the church and ministering to the less fortunate, I have no problem with it. The problem with most people is that we hold ministers at a higher standard on every little thing;they are human just like we are. And then you want to demonize them when they make a mistake. One more thing about his wealth: Someone once said that the best thing we can do for the poor is to not become one of them.i

      April 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Rob

      He quit taking a salary in 2006, and Lakewood church is well known for the financial accountability. You might want to do some reaseach before radomly posting. If you want to contribut to his wealth, you will have to buy a book.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • I wonder

      Rob,

      His "church" (and way too many others) suck up funds which could be otherwise spent on humanitarian efforts, just so the "flock" can go there for their communal "spiritual" lordgasms once a week or so. Doctors Without Borders and other secular charities maintain no such grand gathering grounds.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  6. klur

    Drive by his church everyday..It is more like a complex- he took over the old Rockets Basketball Stadium. I call it Joel Osteen Industries. He and his wife spend a fortune on clothes, shoes etc... I don't trust anyone who makes that much money preaching.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • I wonder

      klur,

      You are so close to the gullible attendees of these sideshows. Of course they are free to spend their money as they wish, but maybe you could get some flyers out to them in the parking lot some Sunday that their funds would serve humankind better if they were donated to Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross or some viable charity.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Rob

      He doesn't. His money comes from selling books.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  7. Shaun

    CNN user comments section: hatred, racism, negativity, judgmental, bigotry.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • of the Dead

      Well, that's atheists for you.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  8. JOHN

    Just another millionaire in the name of god con artist.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • veritas3777

      So true. It's absurd how people follow him, throw money at him, and believe that he is 'holy.' He must be so proud of himself, surely he realizes the magnitude of his con, surely he realizes that that's all it is. Man people of funny.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  9. Tom

    I love articles about God. It makes me laugh to see the non-believer comments. You are the first ones to comment with hate and self-righteousness. What a sad and narrow minded life it must be. I pray for you all.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • I wonder

      Tom,

      Do you believe in Allah? Worship Allah? I'm sure that lots of Muslims are praying for you too.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • WhatNow

      And then there are those who come out to judge all those who see the world differently and hold different beliefs.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Tim

      I was thinking along the same lines. Internet response boards make heroes out of even the most timid.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • veritas3777

      Hi Tom, there have been something like 60,000 gods throughout history that you don't believe in. The 'non-believers' that you speak of simply believe in one less god than you do. I'm sure plenty of people are praying to their gods for you as well. That's the funny thing, atheists believe in 0/63,000 gods, you believe in 1/63,000. Surely you are correct.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Matt

      Well Tom, maybe its time to look in the mirror? What does God say about judging others? I would like to apologize to others for Toms comments, God is about love, not the hatred and anger Tom is spreading.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  10. tj

    The truest tale ever told ; "To each his own"

    April 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  11. JT

    This guy is nothing but an hustler, he is laughing all the way to the bank. So many gullible people in the world, it's sad.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  12. lee s

    "He hates weighing in on politics but will– sometimes" But has no problem giving a prayer to congress? WTH are they doing praying anyway? They need to be doing their job, praying isnt going to help along anything they need to be accomplishing. They didnt get elected to chant a bunch of voodoo over the nations problems. Am I the only one that sees whats wrong with this?

    April 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • jo an

      I actually like Joel...don't think he is a very 'deep thinker' but he is good for the U S...just wish he was not a fundamentalist. The only reason he is opposed to gays is that in some little read place in the Bible the ancients said that being Gay was wrong...never mind they said it thousands of years ago before research!! They also believed the earth was flat and many more weird things....but the Gays get the brunt of their ignorance. Joel did not get a very good education...that is sad..he does well with what he has...

      April 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Rob

      Congress has been saying prayer since the begining. Maybe your in the wrong country? Shouldn't be an issue for you, as the 2-3 mins they use on prayer would not be enough to accomplish anything. At lease they seem to be in agreement for a min or two.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  13. DarqueSide

    I wonder how long before Osteen has to make a tearful appearance before his congregation, confessing to sins of the flesh or some other form of moral corruption. Seems all of these high-profile preachers for profit end up showing their true colors sooner or later.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • JOHN

      Right after he confesses to the IRS.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Rob

      So you judge him based on others? Do you know him? Seems pretty short sided to lump eveyone into a catagory.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • jo an

      I would not be surprised for his to say he is Gay...he may not be...but he certainly has a lot of feminine qualities...just sayin'

      April 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • light side

      Many of out here us will continue to uphold his hand in prayer so that time will not come (Darque side). Would it hurt to pray that he continues to be strengthened to help others? Just wondering.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • light side

      Many of us out here will continue to uphold his hand in prayer so that time will not come (Darque side). Would it hurt to pray that he continues to be strengthened to help others? Just wondering.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  14. JDinHouston

    Osteen follows his own denomination, which apparently prefers 20s, 50s and 100s and his many houses of residence, er, I mean worship.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  15. concerned

    His father was a pastor. Joel is an awesome motivational speaker. Watch his interview with Larry King and you will see why he is not called as a pastor. Follow Jesus and don't put your faith in a man!

    April 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  16. Rimmy

    Loves Mormons, Hates Gays. Don't be fooled by the smile.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • factual

      Unnatural and not biblical. Those are the facts!

      April 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • simon

      He never said he hates gays. I attend lakewood church and there are many gay people who attend. He even took much flak when our openly gay mayor asked him to pray at her inaugauration. joel is a humble spirit. He often weeps openly during his sermons. These are not shown on his broadcasts. His heart is tender. Why give him a chance and just listen to him with an open mind. peace

      April 26, 2012 at 3:50 am |
  17. b4bigbang

    Osteen's feel-good preaching is another fulfilled prophecy of the end times!
    2 Timothy 4:3
    We're in the end times!

    April 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Rob

      No one will know the end times. Read.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  18. ElwoodBlues

    Last time I saw The Joel Osteen Show, the only thing missing from the set of his 'Christian' church was a cross. He did, however, have a globe spinning a la Tony Montana from Scarface. Joel won't weigh in on any issues for fear that it might dissuade a potential customer from sending him some money.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • orion7x

      The message is more important than the shallow, looking right thing.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Bobby Bankston

      Exactly. Also, 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." Actually, what they look for is a church where they can go/tune in to feel great about themselves and their lives regardless of what the Bible says and not have to deal with pesky unpleasant Biblical doctrines like sin and God's wrath.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Pecoskid

      Let's hear an AMEN for that!!

      April 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Rob

      The globe is something from the founding of the church by his father. He doesn't weight in because he is not a spin doctor. If pressed, he will tell you what the bible says, and that is what he believes. Sorry if that doesn't agree with many people’s agenda's these days.
      If you listen to his broadcast, he preaches a sermon, quotes from the bible, and always gives everyone watching a chance to accept Christ and recommends you go to a bible based church. That is what a pastor is supposed to do. No other Christian broadcast does all of those things. So your all are speaking as people that seem ignorant or have never watched a sermon.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  19. s m

    olsteen should be careful about romney and mormons...it might come back to haunt him. trying to be too kind toward everyone can sometimes become a slippery slope (straight down).

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

      Is that a quote from the Bible?

      April 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Kiley

      Yes...Jesus said that, I think.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  20. jetcity

    I walk on water everyday up here in Seattle.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • mb2010a

      Yes, but can you do it when it's not wintertime?

      April 25, 2012 at 5:01 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.