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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. Patty Biller

    DUDE IS OFF!!!

    April 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Artie Lang

    Amazing how many people/sheele still give money to these crooks. Just goes to show you how many dumb people are in the US and think this Guy will absolve their guilt for all of their sins. Hypocites! Stay tuned for the next story when Osteen gets caught with a minor cause he will also stray.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • toadears

      What is a sheele??? If you want to insult people en masse, you should really learn how to spell them correctly.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  3. atheist4sure

    Anyone who hasn't learned the lesson from the likes of Jim Baker, Robert Tilton, Jimmy Swagert and now our "unflappable" example in question Mr Olsteen would definately fall under this definition...
    .IMBECILE

    Imbecile was a medical term used to describe a person with moderate to severe mental retardation, as well as for a type of criminal. It arises from the Latin word imbecillus, meaning weak, or weak-minded. "Imbecile" was once applied to people with an IQ of 26–50, between "moron" (IQ of 51–70) and "idiot" (IQ of 0–25).

    April 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  4. Jim

    Did anybody WANT to know anything about Osteen?

    April 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  5. Stopabortion

    Christ already founded a Church 2000 years ago, We just need to humble ourselves and follow the TRUE CHURCH, for sure it is not "Joel's Church".

    April 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  6. kate

    Osteen's prosperity gospel is one of the many things that is wrong with American Christianity.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  7. Mark

    eventually there will be a scandal. it happens to all of them. can't wait.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Harsh Reality

      The scandal is that anyone would feel "obligated" to send him money to further his work. He is all about his big car, big house and hefty retirement. I do not like what greed has done to our faith based attempts at understanding God or the mass mind or whatever it is.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  8. Martin

    People are hungry for faith because rational thinking and reality are too hard for low IQ folk.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  9. Patrick

    Wonder if you guys will ever do a one-on-one with John MacArthur? Perhaps in response to this session?

    April 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  10. Martin

    Christian fundamentalists hate John. He's updated and refined the product and it sells very well to the sheep. Tax free too!

    April 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  11. Martin

    Americans are very materialistic and his success shows his feel good/prosperity show sells.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  12. Will E

    Sigh. Another Elmer Gantry to swindle people into continuing to believe in the mythical deities that live beyond the clouds and can only talk to us inside our brains, while he lines the insides of his pockets. Funny, that.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  13. Timothy

    No one can do no wrong under Osteen's religion. Sometimes you have to call a duck a duck.

    Feel-good, prosperity preachers like Osteen are into making millions for their back pockets.

    He isn't a pastor, he isn't a preacher, he is a motivational speaker.

    His Daddy would be embarrassed to see where his church went under his son's leadership.

    But then most family businesses fail when the kids take over, and get their hands in the cookie jar.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • judy

      amen...not to mention the traffic jam everytime he does his thing

      April 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • reformedmedia

      what's up with all these false prophets, and why isn't anyone saying anything?

      April 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  14. Mikismom

    He embodies the new age gospel of feeling good without being good. He will account someday. In the meantime, he can enjoy his earthly treasures.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • me

      Well put. I was wondering if I was alone in that thinking. Watching them peel out of the church parking lot cutting off people back into the rat race.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  15. macarter

    Good intentions is what i believe Mr Osteem started out with once he took over the church that the Lord used his father to build. But somehow, getting caught up into the world view of things he has forgotten the true meaning of the gospel of God. Which is Jesus the Christ born into the world, being God himself. He taught the world about the kingdom of God coming and how his creation could be ready for its coming, how he would die for the sins of the people of the world and how he would be raised up the third day and be seated at the right hand of his Father. This is the main thing that he has forgotten, the very thing that his father preach when he was alive. The only message that will save souls form the pits of hell that was prepared for satan and his host of fallen angels. I say one scripture that sums it up is this: 2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lust shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • turn it off

      You lost me at:
      "...that the Lord used his father to build."

      April 25, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  16. Pander Bear

    #6 – Osteen is hella gay.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  17. Canadian

    Satan believes that Jesus is the Son of God too but he is not going to Heaven. Joel needs to know that he does not decide on who is Christian or not, only God. By what I read in the bible and what I know about Mormonism they are a cult. There is more to the issue then Joel's self-proclaimed revelation. Joel is dead wrong! Sorry buddy, you got to read some more..... God will call you on it and you will have to give an account of your revelation to Him...

    April 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • OOO

      You know what Satan believes? Wow!!!

      You know "God will call you on it and you will have to give an account of your revelation to Him" Double wow!!!!!

      What stock should I invest in tomorrow?

      April 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • UUU

      @ Canadian – Well said.
      @ OOO – Of course we know what Satan believes... It's written in the Bible! You should probably crack the Bible open and read it more than criticizing people who stand up for Christ. Then you'd get a better understanding of God, the Bible, Satan, and what's true and what's not.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • L.K.

      Didn't you just "decide on who is Christian or not"? You need to READ you posts back to yourself. Why do idiots think they know everything about EVERY religion just because they visited a few sites?

      April 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  18. Patricksday

    If Joel thinks the Republicans have acted like "Christians" that says alot about him and who he serves. A Corporate Minister who will lead the sheep to even vote for an LDS Mormon.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  19. Mark

    A charlatan (also called swindler or mountebank) is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  20. God

    I can't be bribed. So for all of those sending money to Mr. Osteen in hopes he'll get you in good with me, I'm sorry to report that won't work.

    It's your deeds that matter. Not how much you give, not how much you go to church, and not how much you can put on a fake smile like Mr. Osteen, and convince people much poorer than you to give money.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • momoya

      So it's just deeds, huh?? What if somebody does great deeds by your standard, god, but yet thinks it's absolutely ridiculous to believe in you.. What then?

      April 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • TheWineDon

      I guess you (GOD) haven't noticed; Osteen and his bunch are Pre-destiny christians were works mean nothing and mere faith in the end brings salvation, in spite of past sins.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • reformedmedia

      "we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Isaiah 64:6

      "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

      April 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • wrussellcox

      Deeds have nothing to do with it. Only the blood of Jesus matters... Period. The Bible says "it is by faith you are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8 Go read it.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • reformedmedia

      "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

      "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

      April 25, 2012 at 6:29 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.