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. rr

    He is full of number 2. This guy has no idea why many Christians don't consider Mormons Christian. They read the book of Mormon not the Bible. They don't believe Jesus raised from the dead. They don't believe Jesus is the Son of God. There are so many reasons why Mormons are not Christian.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • ronbry

      Mormons most certainly do read the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. They do believe that he was raised from the dead and is the Son of God. What you think you know about Mormons is all wrong. Try educating yourself a little.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  2. CJ -Cutnshoot

    "don't look too good nor talk too wise..."

    -Rudyard Kipling

    April 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  3. PaulC

    I can understand his optimism. He is a multimillionaire where the dumb send him their social security check so he can buy a $3,000 suit. After all, Jesus would not want his favorite disciple to look shabby.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  4. AgonyfIips

    As GOD i have but 1 question.

    Is anyone good here good with a firewall, I'm getting spammed like heII from this guy and his followers.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • PulTab

      As Bill Gates I have but one answer. Send me $300.00 and I will fix that problem for you.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • AgonyfIips

      Wow, Bill Gates Cool ! But you just reminded me that Steve Jobs is somewhere around here & He says he can fix anything and he doesn't charge me, well not really anyway, he just grabs one of the many beautiful ladies and ravishes them.
      Thank GOD er, ME, that I didn't send him down to HeII afterall. He's still on a 12 month contract, and we'll review it then.
      But if he goes off with his GOD complex I swear I'm casting him down so far, he'll be eating charcoal for breakfast.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  5. Donald in CA

    Well, the good rev. hates gays. Tell me, how does a hater get into heaven?

    April 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • foxfire

      I don't believe he hates gays. He would give you a big kiss and more if you were alone andwas sure not to tell. Some things you can't hide. Actually I think he is rather smart, kind and knows how to handle people. He probably does a lot of good.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  6. Gary in Tampa

    This Osteen "fellow" couldn't be any creepier if he tried.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • foxfire

      For many years I was in church everytime to doors open...actually I had access to the church at all time but after some 30 years I saw how corrupt the Baptist organization was I forgot this phoney theory. You see I work for the Baptist full time untill I saw how they took advantage of their employees.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  7. PumpNDump

    1. He's a moneygrubbing televangelist.
    2. He preaches $ if you believe in "jesus" and give him money.
    3. He's just another businessman taking cash from unwitting dupes.
    4. He's pushing the flying spaghetti monster BS.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  8. Mark

    Forcing a child into a RELIGION IS CHILD ABUSE. I'm sure he won't be charged, but I that the IRS gives him a good look.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  9. Real Mitt

    Why wouldn't people realise that this is one of the promo articles from Mitt Romney's camp. It is to whitewash Mormonism.

    I am not sure any negative comments on Mitt Romneywill get posted here.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  10. hippypoet

    five things we've learned from this guy...

    religion is a form of control
    people are generally stupid
    people love old lies as much as new ones
    lots of money can be made from religion
    religion, since all based on imaginary creatures to explain the unexplainable of the time, is all a money making scheme!

    please keep in mind these lessons are as old as religion, you who still believe are just slow...like lenny! 🙂 Go easy on that thumb, mice have souls too right?

    April 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • edwardo

      Very well said !! applause applause!

      April 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • kanga

      Baseball stadium? wow what a way to make lots of money in one night.lol
      People should read the true inscriptions that are thousands of years old which tells the truth, " the seven tablets of creation"
      western christianity is a JOKE and a bunch of lies. These tablets where carved before the bible was even written and it goes to show how the bible is a replica of what is said on the ancient tablets, but some things are kept out because at the time is was unthinkable technology which then posed as a possible lie, but the technology has come to pass so it proves a lot. Please look into it yourself, you will see what I am talking about.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • hippypoet

      you mean the 613 commandments? those tablets? right... i'm sure its all true in essence...sure! your delusional if any of it doesn't sound like an explaination of a natural event or something like death where all we have is to guess... its all stone age beliefs and some people are still as smart as ug the stone age hunter who says thank you to the gods of the plains and stars for providing animals to hunt and light to hunt by. I have looked inside myself several times, and i have read a great many works on philosophy – that includes many different forms of the same book known as the bible, Torah, and Koran. Funny how none of them say the same thing in the same way but all who believe claim that theirs is the only true word of god...i call things like that clues. All the clues i have found add up to one thing, god is nothing more then an idea....a lovely idea sure, but just an idea – a hope at best and a poor excuse to kill at worst!

      April 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  11. Timothy

    Love one another as I have loved you. That's it, it does not get any simpler than that. And if Mr. Osteen's words inspire love and offer peace to the hearts of those who chose to listen, who are any of you to find fault with this man? And to those who post their anti religious views, God loves you unconditionally no matter what level of ignorance you spout.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Cindy

      God does not love me unconditionally, because he does not exist. Religion was invented because man was afraid of his own ignorance of science, so he explained it away by making up a fairy tale.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Mark

      Amen Timothy, Spot on

      April 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "And to those who post their anti religious views, God loves you unconditionally [...]"
      Yet if you don't believe in him, he'll torture you for eternity.

      It's a good thing your god doesn't exist, otherwise he'd be a monster unlike any other. Compared to your god, the likes of Stalin and Hitler were sissies.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  12. edwardo

    Isn't it easier for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom?

    April 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • metalbagabon

      these super Wealthy Evangelists are defrauding God, since they are using his name to amass great fortunes, except for claiming to serve God they have nothing, they would have to work for their daily bread like everyone else

      April 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  13. blake

    Osteen is at best extremely naive and at worse a false teacher and heretic. The prosperity gospel that he espouses is just a step above the laughable tenants of Mormonism. Neither represents historical, Biblical Christianity.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Alex

      I agree.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Robert, I'd leave God's business to God because he will be the ultimate judge of all of us. Respectfully.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    Just think of the people that could of been helped with $10,250,000 if he just lived in a $250,000 home instead of a Ten and a half million dollar home he lives in. This isn't even close to what Jesus taught us. When are people going to realize he is the devil in disguise. God save his followers.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Adiani

      Joel has amassed immense personal wealth and lives a very rich and opulent life style denying himself nothing that is available in this material world. If he should one day find himself in heaven, he may feel that his standard of living has been down graded. Jesus told us to care for the sick and the poor. His millions could have gone a long way to ease that burden. But Jesus also warned that a camel has more chance of passing through the eye of a needle than a rich man has a chance of getting into heaven. As yet, we have not seen or heard of any camels succeeding in pulling that off. So I would say, Joel's chances of going to heaven are zero. Unless of course, Jesus was lying.......

      April 25, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  16. Dan M

    Genesis 1 thru 31. God made it and He made it good. All the garbage we are made to believe is life is man made. Joel gives a great sermon about the good god delivers us. We should all praygood........

    April 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  17. Dan

    yada,yada,yada. They are all about making money.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • metalbagabon

      the amount of money Osteen rakes in is unfathomable, He and Graham sure the live the big life off donations

      April 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • CB

      Yep, you got that right.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  18. Fred DuBose

    Joel and Victoria are American Idols of the "Faith-based" industry. Like Wrestlemania Americans love that slop. That's why we are a nation led by fools and phonies. We'd better put on our thinking caps, and stop making icons out of idiots.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  19. Bob Boise

    Here's an excerpt from another website: Osteen responds to Larry King. Here is the direct link to the transcript of the interview conducted on June 20, 2005 that I have found. And here is a shocking excerpt from the interview:
    KING: What if you're Jewish or Muslim, you don't accept Christ at all?

    OSTEEN: You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know ...

    KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They're wrong, aren't they?

    OSTEEN: Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person's heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don't know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know. I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

    Comment: Jesus said 'I am the [only] Way...No one comes to the Father except through Me'. I guess Osteen would say Jesus didn't mean what He said (must make Jesus a Liar?)

    April 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • teachymom

      Actually, John says that. The specific verses that claim Jesus said this are not corroborated in other ancient texts or gospels. John was written much later than the others, and while one can "like" its message, it is not likely to be as accurate as the others where Jesus did not say he is the ONLY way.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  20. Robert

    I've been a Christian for 30 years, have been trained at one of the most respected conservative seminaries in the country and for years have been a missionary at my own expense. (Those are my qualifications.) I can tell you, Osteen is certainly optimistic and he has a good heart, but he is apparently very ignorant. All you have to do is look at Mormon doctrine to know that it is not Christian. That doesn't mean that some true Christians (as well as many nice people who are not Christians) don't get caught up in Mormonism. They do because the Mormon church tries to withold what it truly believes to inquirers for as long as it can, hoping that the relationships they form will eventually lead them to respect and accept the unbibllical doctrines once the "cat is out of the bag", as it were. But Mormon doctrine is undoubtedly NOT biblical. It does, in fact, present a false gospel, which – how can I put this delicately – not lead it's followers to heaven, shall we say. But back to the point. If Joel Osteen thinks that Mormonism is biblical and that those who truly believe it are Christians, he is extremely ignorant of Mormonism and needs to take some courses at a good seminary.

    April 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Adiani

      One does not need Gods, Allahs of Jesus. One does not need Synagogues, Churches, Mosques or Temples, One does not need Bibles, Qurans or Gitas. One does not need philosophys nor dogmas. Your body, heart and mind are your temple. Empathy, kindness and compassion are all you need to live a life that will be of value to you and a gift of life and love to all who know you.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Ryan

      You are wrong to suggest mormons are not christians. They worship differently but so do catholics, baptists and other christian faiths. None worship the same. Those who suggest mormons are not christian fail to understand what it means to be christian and limit themselves. In the end it doesn't matter what we believe but rather the judgement of God. He will decide with we are christian. Lets say for a min that they are not christian but they firmly believe they are. God will see that they strove to follow christ and that they tried to be christian. So basically as long as someone is trying to follow christ that is all that matters.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • ronbry

      Please keep in mind that what you are saying is still by the narrow definition and interpreation of you and those who have trained you. You're still not the ultimate authority.

      April 25, 2012 at 8:25 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.