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."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. Degrin

    6. He sells religion.

    Oh wait, we already knew that.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  2. Charles

    The guy looks like a used-car salesman. It is simply not a face I can trust. His message is tired and derivative: Be good. Why don't people THINK about what that means instead of blowing their money on a smooth-talking face?

    April 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  3. Mac

    I'm not too religious but I have listened to Joel Osteen a few times. His message is clear and easy to understand. He is very positive with the things he says and it appears he tries to inspire others to be positive and do positive things as well. So what if there is NO god. Is that really the point. Here is a person who is doing good in the world and asking others to do good as well, and he just happens to be making a living doing it. We need more positive things in this world instead of the negative news media that constantly gives us negative material to make our days so delightful, and yes, they happen to make a living off of doing that. I think I'll go with the positive message.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • dalewalk

      And you are positively stupid!

      April 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • tor5

      I'll take Osteen's happy talk any day over dalewalk's baseless hate talk.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Mac

      And you are a negative A$$, that I am postive about.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  4. dalewalk

    What I see in Joel Osteen is a spineless, conniving, toothy little rat who wouldn't take a solid position if he was offered millions more than he already has sucked out of his parishioners. He's so afraid of offending anyone, he has to constantly wear his sickening smiley face every moment he's in front of the camera. To think that thousands of pathetic losers flock to his sermons just to hear his mealy-mouthed, child-like wispy fairy tales of his savior's sweet benevolence makes me ill. How is it that so many people are so easily duped by such an obvious snake oil salesman?

    April 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  5. Joe

    Having a famous pastor father and squinting and smiling alot can get you a long way. This guy is a pretty good motivational speak, thats about it.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • dalewalk

      Yes, he does motivate me.....to take a $hhit!

      April 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  6. Not so fast

    Wonder how much the building he preaches in cost?. I've seen it and it's a ridiculous monument to Satin.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • jayesue

      its the old Houston rockets arena- aka as the summit

      April 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Den Bover

      Satin lol. A whole monument to cloth!

      April 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  7. bee

    He needs to feed the poor and homeless in this country... not in Africa.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Adam

      Well why don't you feed the homeless and let Joel feed the Africans.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  8. Michael

    Did you learn how much money he takes from those poor saps?

    April 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  9. Emperor Vadik, CA

    And the ONLY thing you need to know about Osteen is.....


    April 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  10. CullThePopulace

    I go to church everyday.
    It's my backyard, among nature, the birds, the animals and plants with my dogs.
    God knows where I am, physically and spiritually.

    I don't need Osteen, a Catholic priest or some other prophet to tell me so. I don;t need a book, a class or a building of stone and wood either.

    It's me and Him. One on One, everyday.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • cpc65

      CullThePopulace, sounds like you joined that religion that Homer Simpson started. Amen, Brother! Or Sister. Don't forget to take the day off from work for the Feast of Maximum Occupancy. It's whatever day you want it to be!

      April 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  11. Madan

    Joel is so far best pastor in the world.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Joel is a LIAR!

      You are not very smart are you?

      April 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • watash

      If you believe that, send him your life savings to invest for you.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • dalewalk

      That's like saying he's the best rat in the world.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Adam

      You go Madan! People just hate him because he teaches to love everyone, unlike other Christian pastors who teach hatred.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  12. Not so fast

    He doesn't preach the word of God, another money seeker who lives high of the hog. May be plenty of money for everyone
    not true. Wonder if he would preach for free???

    April 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  13. watash

    CNN must be desperate to have this piece of hypocritical, crap on the air. Forty thousand idiots is what he has. Ghost worshippers, and Jesus freaks will believe anything he tells them. If you take the bible literally, Jesus' Mother was two timing her husband [Joseph] when she got pregnant with him. He might be called God or Ogg, or whatever you want to call him. but if he is the Father of Jesus as the Christians believe, Jesus was the product of Adultery which is against one of the ten commandments according to Moses.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  14. sortakinda

    Joel needs to give the money away to people who are starving to death. He should not accept the money at all and see
    how well he and his wife live. Let's see if he will just preach be a good Christian...I don't think so.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  15. sortakinda

    Why don't you suggest he give to the poor and the people in Africa starving to death.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  16. Saby

    I could not be a part of a church where I don't know the pastor personally. That's kind of a joke and it does not even need to be that way.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  17. Not so fast

    Joel is a decent person. He doesn't preach out of the King James version...so does he preach his own philosophy of religion, I think so. He's a smooth talker. Delivers speech's like life is absolutely positive..for some it is and for some not so. This life is not a bed of roses like Osteen preaches. He doesn't live in the real world. Don't get me wrong..I've heard him..sugar coats life which is not true. I think taking money from a congregation is theft by deception. There are plenty of these kind of preachers in Texas.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  18. glenda

    The more you donate to his church, the more you get back, supposedidly from God. He's a fast talker. Kenneth Robinson is one of the worst. He and his wife bought a 20 million dollar plane using church funds, then he and his wife showed children on tv, in a foreign country begging for food. His message was, we need more money to feed these children. Then he and his wife took off in their 20 million dollar plane. Since then, he's purchased 3 or 4 more planes. It's all a sham for money.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  19. goearthscapes

    I'm not sure why so many Christians give Joel such a hard time. He makes it very clear that God doesn't want him to preach a message of indoctrination, but a message of how a Christian should live their every day life. If a preacher slams nothing but hellfire and damnation down your throat every week how is a Christian supposed to grow in their walk with the Lord? Joel's approach is a very pragmatic and Christ centered message, which majority of Christians can resonate with, thus the reason for his explosive church growth. People congregate where truth resides.

    Before you worry about the splinter in Joel's eye how about you worry about the plank in yours.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  20. sortakinda

    Five things: 1. Elmer Gantry should have had a happier ending 2.Osteen will not ask Jessica Hahn to take dictation 3. If you stick your tongue behind your front teeth it looks like you are smiling 4. There's enough money in the world for Osteen to have half of it 5. Osteen's "Communion" isn't on TV because donors would want it mailed to them and that postage would cut into the profits of the "prophet." And one for good luck: Mike Murdoch and Osteen use the same hairdresser.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
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.