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. Reality

    Joel, Joel, Joel,

    We sent this prayer to you a few months ago but apparently it got loss in the mail:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (References used are available upon request.)

    April 25, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • mdsmithson

      "He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Reference please?

      April 25, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • mdsmithson

      If you are referring to the findings of Simcha Jacobovici, you need to do more research because his findings do not entail enough evidence for a claim like that.

      God Bless

      April 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • vic

      Look you Non-believers or athiest whats up with you guys. You either believe or do not believe .
      for believers it is called faith You eiither have it or or you dont ,I f you dont you have to altleast respect the basic human right of others to beleive in his or her relgion. If you dont beleive we respect you right to be atheist .
      But why do yiou have to feel so uncomforatble tin your athiesm to insult and distort or lie or bring dubious facts and claims to prove your point.
      catholic church is 2000 yrs countless empires rose and fell it still here as a proof of christ teaching " the gates of hades will not previal over it." today its 1.2 billion strong with 16 million addtion last year.

      April 25, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Ting

      catholic church is 2000 yrs countless empires rose and fell it still here as a proof of christ teaching "

      Cancer has been around longer than that. That doesn't make it a good thing.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      I respect your RIGHT to believe any loony thing you want to, I don't have to repect your loony belief though.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • vic

      western medice based on sicence had its orgins soon after the enlightment peroid in europe , so you distort fact and lie .
      iif your refer to quack medicine without scientific research as practiced in china or elsewhere i am sure its goes back even perhaps even more than 2000 years.
      Now I dont thave to go into history of church with athiest here or even debate because ifor those who do not beleive no explanation will suffice .
      for atheiest i it is either you believe or not if you dont you must feel comforatble iwith your atheism and not expect reassurance form beleivers..

      April 26, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      April 26, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  2. Ruth

    I see Joel Osteen as a person who preaches mainly of "self" and not so much on the character of God and what God can do for an individual.

    April 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • murphy

      he's some jedi, let me tell ya!!!

      April 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  3. preacherman

    Just got through reading some more messages. There's a lot of people here that are messed up real bad ... really badly infested with crazy mind viruses.

    April 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  4. paul

    Why is Joel so popular. He tickles the ear. and makes you feel good. I never or dont recall listening to his father preach but I think if Joel stopped and really dug deeper into the gospel for his messages and now the house of cards may come tumbiling down. But only God truly know his impact in this vapor of time as compared to eternity.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • preacherman

      Dude, you're messed up bad.

      April 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  5. kso

    holy cr@.p! did someone just say prophecy!?! why are all the adults dying off so quickly? it's like an extinct breed of ppl who actively decided to mentally reside in 4th grade sunday school.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  6. Jason

    Joel has stated in previous interviews that he has never attended seminary school or taken religious studies but he REALLY needs to because he is sounding more foolish than ever. I know many Mormons and many Christians and they will all agree that they are different. Joel must be afraid that he will get some sort of backlash if he says they are different but they are far from the same.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  7. p. Bosn

    Joel, I am sure is saved, Born again has trusted and given his heart to Jesus Christ. It seems though is afraid to make waves publicly. Since he preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ he need not back down or sell out. Nicey Nicey preaching get tyring fast.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  8. Greens47

    Very strange. Mormon belief is radically different than Christian belief. Basic terms like "Son of God", "God the Father" and "Salvation" have entirely different meanings to the person of the Mormon faith. In spite of all that separates them, even Protestants and Catholics generally agree on at least those elementary doctrines. Osteen has always been more a preacher of a Christianized "positivism" than historic Christian belief itself. He will most likely sell a lot more books now!

    April 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • deb4u

      Not sure what your sources are but any Mormon will tell you you're 100% misinformed. I was raised Lutheran and worshipped for 10 years in the Assembly of God church. I have been a Mormon for 29 years and would never have joined the LDS church if I would have had to renounce Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior (and there is only One). For the record we believe: the Son of God is Jesus Christ, God the Father is Elohim as described in the Old Testament and is the creator and Heavenly Father of every human being and Salvation is a gift given EVERY child of God obtained through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you really WANT to understand what Mormons believe I would ask that you seek out an actual Mormon and ask them. If you don't then kindly refrain from conjecture.

      April 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  9. pop

    Joel Osteen said God loves you. Yeah Right.... have you seen tornado, earthquakes, etc...

    April 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • p. Bosn

      That stuff is a natural disaster not a God given disaster

      April 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  10. jake

    I thought Joel was a good man until i read his thoughts about mormons. Do you know a Mormons bible is worded under one man's belief. There is one question no morman can answer, but a true christain would know the answer. But if Joel is talking about a president. I will say that I have not seen a president canidate I can trust, but I like what I hear about Ron Paul. We got to clean house and balance the budget in the white house before Union bankrupts America. Every american who has a job should have insurance. What is very sad is only 48 percent of american people work. Did you know we have more criminals in prision than farmers in the USA.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Mike

      I think people can be Christians regardless of their faith simply by the way they act and help others. If you love unconditionally, help others and don't judge to me you're a Christian. In the end only God can say what you are, we are not qualified in any way to determine someone's value to God in his eyes. Shame on most of you, obviously you didn't learn a thing.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • deb4u

      Hi Jake – what is the question you think a Mormon cannot answer but a Christian can? I am a Christian practicing in the Mormon faith and would like to answer your question. The Book of Mormon is not based on "one man's belief's" but is scripture translated as guided by the Holy Spirit by one man – just as the books in the Old & New Testament were. The Lord has historically used imperfect men to communicate His gospel to us. The holy scriptures are a road map and as we read them and pray for guidance we can develop a relationship with the Living God. The Lord knows our hearts and if we continue to seek Him in all things He will bless us. So I ask you again...what is your question? God Bless!

      April 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  11. Ray W

    be clear, if Joel Osteen read the Bible ONCE, he'd know what I know' Mormons are not Christians, and neither is he. He is a feel good fake. Get real Joel. Preach God,n not Satan. John1:1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • p. Bosn

      You dont know that only God does. Your are right though I have friends that are mormans. By there works they put many christians to shame. Lucky for us he(God) looks at the heart other wise many who prefess to be christains would be put to shame

      April 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  12. Zach

    This idiot is nothing but a joke. He doesn't preach what people really need to hear; that they are all sinners on their way to hell and that they need to accept Christ as their savior to get to Heaven. I've seen his show and the closest he comes to doing that is a short 10-second bit at the end of his "sermon". It's such a shame that people are sucked into this watered-down version of church.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Mike

      Church is in your heart, not a building. Organized religion is a farce and I think even Jesus was against it.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  13. Joel Peters

    Joel Osteen has learned his craft well he's good looking, smart, he's keeping a low profile with his millions. He is sending out a message that "God wants you to be rich" So far he isn't an adulterer or druggie. He appeals to a large audience because of his middle of the road sermons. Now he is getting national coverage by offering his "gentle" political opinions while professing his aversion to politics.
    If you know anything about the Mormons they ain't christian. Their god comes from the planet Kolob and they agree with the bible only when it's interpreted correctly by their standards, not to mention the White Salamander and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Either Joel does not know his religion or he's gettin' tight with the right. Watch him !

    April 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  14. Mike

    If you've ever watched Joel's Olsteen on TV you'll know the point of his broadcast is anything but God. It's about him. From the letter "O" on the podium to the globe spinning behind him to the tickers about his books and appearances.... it's all about him. He's a media mogul and exactly the type of person Jesus wanted people to be weary off.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Mike

      “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ [from the Greek word christos meaning Anointed]; and shall deceive many.... For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matt. 24:4,5,24). “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things” (Luke 21:36). “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:37).

      April 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  15. Alex

    and that he is a gay pastor too

    April 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  16. really?

    Just another scammer

    April 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  17. I am John

    O'Church, you are filled with the spirit of the Laodecians!

    April 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  18. Edward.Pole

    Sorry Joel Osteen, I like you, I like what you have to say, it is far better than what my Catholic church has to say. But I will not support you or my Catholic Church stand on birth control. I will not allow the Church to dictate that my girls become the church's clown cars. Never!. This is a rule of Man, not of God. And you and the Bishops are just mere men, like I am. When the time comes many years from now, we will all be waiting at the Gates of heaven for our way in, none of us gets a free pass.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  19. DwayneW

    Joel Osteen's main and primary goal is to make money. plain and simple

    April 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  20. Elmo

    This guy is the poster boy for Jesus is a millionaire. If there is such a thing as a Barry Manilow Minister he is it.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:13 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.