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. Lou Who

    "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."

    That's how the world got Bush and Hitler...religious poeople care about faith over humanity.Thanks a lot children...

    April 26, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  2. George


    April 26, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  3. Johnnie99

    And I am amazed at what is clearly jealousy for the success of the man,. Who said preachers shouldn't be rich? I would imagine that this preacher pays all dues to the State and country and to God too.

    April 26, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Actually, I do believe Jesus said something about those who would preach his message going forth with nothing...and also that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.


      April 26, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  4. Johnnie99

    Blah blah blah.This man is wonderful – as a speaker and proponent of God. It doesn't matter here if you agree or not with him, or believe in God – how about some positive 'niceness' for a genuine and nice man?

    April 26, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Pwayne

      Wonderful teacher....get out your Bible and start reading....this guy is a wolf in sheep's clothing leading millions to an eternity in hell....the prosperity gospel he teaches is contrary to the teachings of Christ.....Christ talked about abundance in life but he was speaking of spiritual abundance not material things.....Scripture and Christ said in this life you will have trouble.....Christ suffered in this life as did each of his Apostles......open your eyes before it is too late for you.

      April 26, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Pwayne

      If you are not experiencing opposition in this life as a Christian than you need to take another look at the truth that the Bible and Christ taught.....Jesus was a revolutionary figure who opposed the society and people that he lived with....He was not a person who was sugary sweet ....and He didn't tell people what they wanted to hear......as Scripture says, the path to heaven is narrow and Few choose it...the road to hell is wide and most are following that path. Turn from Osteen ...he is bad news.

      April 26, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  5. Mike

    There's on thing you will notice throughout the comments here. The leftist who always call for tolerance, are the least tolerant of any group in the world.... and they're too ignorant to even know it....

    April 26, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Pwayne

      The Christian life is not about tolerance....but truth......The Bible is quite specific about what sin is....we must love the sinner but not tolerate the sin.....being a Christian requires us to know and speak the truth in love....tolerance means accepting everything without judgment....we cannot do that in this society in the midst of moral decay.

      April 26, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Milton88

      The proof that we are tolerant is that we don't go postal for all the religious criminal behavior and start a religious war despite the most vicious provocations and assaults upon our lives and our rights and our country.

      Consider yourself lucky I'm not hunting you down. Isn't that a positive thing? A peaceful thing? Yet you continue to violate every law known to man based on your individual interpretations of your religious rules throughout human history.

      I proclaim that it is more tolerant to refrain from well-deserved violence in the face of greater provocations than is experienced by delusional religious followers.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    Joel Osteen is a storyteller!

    “as long as the likely GOP presidential nominee believes that Jesus is the Son of God then he subscribes to the Christian faith.”, Mr. Osteen said.

    What actually means the word “believe” in the biblical context?

    It can mean two things:

    Firstly, that one regards something as historical true.

    Secondly, that one is pious through faith in Christ.

    In the Epistle to the Romans by St. Paul, Chapter 3, 20-26 we can read:

    Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

    This passage gives us a pointer that faith in Christ has something to do with righeousness or justification. The real faith or belief must lead to the righteousness of the sinner (you are no sinner, if you keep the ten commandments more than perfectly; love is the fullfillment of the law; you have got that supernatural love?).

    Yet, does someone get merely a label “righteous” or shall someone become righteous by word and deed???

    The whole context of the Epistle to the Romas makes it clear that by the true faith we shall become righteous by word and deed. It is not God’s will to stick only a label on our forehead: “righteous”.

    For example, read Romans 4, where Abraham’s faith is depicted. Abraham was that righteous (by faith) in daily life that he is still venerated by the mankind: Jews, Muslims and Christians. Of course his is not venerated for his faith, but because he lived a life of true righteousness in daily life. Abraham was righteous by word and deed, otherwise he would not be still venerated.

    Hence, we only believe that Jesus is the Son of God in a narrower sense, if we have become really pious by faith. This is the real faith.

    Faith is much more, than regarding something as historical true. Real faith changes a human being or improves his life.

    It is only that the salutary faith begins with the belief, that something is historical true.

    You hear the gospel that God delivered his Son for your sins and raised him from the dead for your justification. First, you simply should regard that as true, but secondly you should get sacramentally baptized. At baptism you receive a person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, which helps you to overcome the lust of your body and to love God and your neighbour. If you live a Christian life by the power of the Holy Spirit, you have got the real faith, in which you are righteous.

    The sacramental baptism is a divine call for disciplship. After baptism you follow Jesus, not in order to get saved or in order to add on something to the baptism, but you follow Jesus, because at baptism you received a new life in Jesus and you died for the sin. You just live the life, which God has given you for free. A Christian practices righteousness not in order to get saved, but because he is yet saved.

    As far as I know the Mormons dont’t practice sacramental baptism, but a baptism, which is merely a meaningless bath.

    Hence, in a narrower sense Romney cannot believe that Jesus is the Son of God. It is not possible that Romney has the real faith.

    All true Churches keep the one holy sacramental baptism, which is not allowed to be repeated, and they teach that baptism is a divine call for discipleship. Someone, who becomes a believer first in his riper years and has yet received infant baptism, shall simply remember his infant baptism in faith and receive the Spirit.

    April 26, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  7. Reality


    Bottom line: Romney is Mormon because he was born Mormon. Should we hold this against him? After all, BO also believes in "pretty/ugly wingie thingies, bodily resurrections and atonement mumbo jumbo.

    Warren Buffett, THE AGNOSTIC, for President !!!!

    Bill Gates, THE AGNOSTIC for VP !!!!

    One should be voting based on rational thinking. Believing in angels, satans, bodily resurrections, atonement, and heavens of all kinds as does Osteen is irrational.

    April 26, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      "Romney is Mormon because he was born Mormon. Should we hold this against him?", Reality said.

      I agree with you that we should always consider, what someone was born. This should be a strong motivation for us to treat people of different belief very friendly.

      As you know, I am a Christian. I really want to practice, what you suggested, Reality: Considering, what someone was born ... , and hence having some understanding.

      Yet, Romney was even a Mormon bishop and he will become a national leader. Here we should be a little stricter. There is high danger that Romney tries to promote the LDS and America becomes a LDS-theocracy. We should always be aware that the state is always the most powerful force in a country. It is onlly that they always try to conceal it a little. As president Romney has great impact and can change things.

      Furthermore, from the Christian sight, a man, which has become a leader of a heretical church is to treat harsh, in order to show him that something is wrong. A Christian shall not even great a heretic.

      2. Joh. 1: 10-11: If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

      April 26, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Reality

      “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

      The Situation Today
      Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

      It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions to include the Lutheran form of Christianity.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  8. WASP

    OT for judaith belief means jews are waiting for gods apology.
    NT for protestants means they think god has apologized........but arent certain because he is still going to kill everyone.
    koran what can be said crazy guy in a cave rewriting what he was taught from the other two.
    mormon book.........again another crazy guy but this time in the woods rewriting what the other three taught him. lmfao

    April 26, 2012 at 6:04 am |
  9. David Crosby

    Jesus is still dead..And TV ministers have no place in American politics...

    April 26, 2012 at 5:00 am |
  10. Aloe Vera Guy

    Finally, a creedist Christian acknowledging Latter-day Saint Christians!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:26 am |
  11. charles d shobe

    I have read many opinions here – most are insightful and spiritual. However, the many who claim they know more about the bible & Christians are clueless of what the Holy Trinity is! There are 66 books in KJV & most Christian bibles. Try reading it & ask Christ to come into your life. You will be amazed how clear things become. Quit judging & start reading. Jesus is Good!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:28 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Funny how that very act lead me away from Christianity.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  12. Britney

    he reminds me of steve nuland from true blood

    April 26, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  13. thevibes

    you see you will not understand why that is because your natural man was born hating god. if you do not know god you will not understand what is being said. you are not save just because you go to church, you are not saved because you god baptised, you are not saved because you say you believe in god, you are not saved because a preacher told you to say a prayer, you are not saved because you read the bible. you are saved because of what jesus did on that cross. he bore the wrath of god. the wrath that was meant for you. when god saves, regenerates a person that person is a new. and it is very visible. it is who, who does the will of god and pesues after god and forsaking the world. i am sure you will not understand that because you have not come to know god. but if you do you will see and will realise what your life have been missing.
    15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

    i will say one thing. would it ot be better to know that you prepared yourself for a better end rather than loathing and wondering and going to and fro wondering if all this is real. sometimes even convincing yourself that it isnt.
    there are two things we all must face death and judgement. if you say that all this is stupid noncence it is your opinion but a stupid one at that. you cannot know god and hear his voice if you have not come to know him. i am happy that i had a chance to tell you at least. when the counter reaches 0 it will be too late. if you really want to know what is happening in this world, read your bible. it is laid out in black and white. no other gospel can do that. even what is going on today. so you can go ahead and make fun and laugh and scorn and be mean. but i kow and you know when you are doneand you go and lay on your bed. your heart tells you that there is a god and something spells true abot this.
    good luck................

    April 26, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  14. Alan

    Everybody needs to hear the good news about the gospels and how it can change a persons life. Joel is good at presenting the good news from the scriptures.


    April 26, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • kate

      ...But ignores the parts of scriptures that make people uncomfortable. :/
      He preys on people's likes and weaknesses in order to line his pockets.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • thevibes

      and what about the bad news from scripture. he does not inform people of that. and that is why he is in error. sin, true salvation, etc etc...................you love him because he makes you feel good. what about the warnings and commands given to us, why does he not inform people of tha. tell you why. because it will open people eys to how short they are of these commands and warnongs. it will frighten them and it will cause people to not want to come to his church. the gospel is already a scandal as it is. it is his job to present it as it is not tell some and leav out the rest..... your chice............

      April 26, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Vibes. I sorta understand what you are saying. Are you speaking more of a John Edward
      s “Hands of an Angry God” type of sermon?

      I have listened to Osteen before and he is lacking of that type of sermonizing. You need to ask yourself, should all pastors sound the same? Do all preach to the same audience? Saying that you feel one pastor's way of preaching the Gospel is bad is like being a Taylor Swift fan and saying that Pink is a horrible artist. Or the other way around. I know in some of the African American churches there are preachers that sermonize to their congregation like God was going to back hand the entire lot of them into the previous week. That they have thriving churches does not mean that the style should be duplicated into every African American church. It just means that for those that attend that church this is how they feel the Scripture should be conveyed to them. For members of the Faith that attend Osteen's church they feel his style is better. Just as society is diverse so are the worlds Houses of Worship.

      April 26, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  15. Darrell Rutz

    John 14, near Revalations! Jesus will teach you his love!

    April 26, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • thevibes

      you see the thig sis this, there should be no one style and another style. if any preacher preaches the truth without fear of people being angry with them then that is where the standard starts. but when joel preaches that its all good. feel good. makes sin not so bad. waterdown the truth . then he is in troubl. and he will answer one day. i do not need to tell you wich church to go to. you should go to a church where the truth is preached. not where you feel good because the pastor or preacher is on your level. he is a messenger or nothig...............

      April 26, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  16. thevibes

    You think it is about what he does. and your question was if i believe he realy is psreading the gospel. No he is not. because if he was i promis you what he says and does would be different. He may have started with that in mind but his current stance puts him in line of fire to the wrath of god.

    Mathew 7

    20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    April 26, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  17. Malavaina

    800 ushers, that means business is very good.

    April 26, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  18. rodbinnc

    Big Deal...Yet another "snake oil" salesman.

    April 25, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  19. LumpenMensch

    With all due respect if these are the things you learned by observing Osteen you aren't a very astute observer of human nature. The point isn't what he says the point is what he does and why he does it. What is his primary motivation? Do you really believe it is to spread the Gospel?

    April 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Malavaina

      His real motivation is the big money those mega churches make every week.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • AGuest9

      Which is no different than the catholic churches with their collection baskets, or synagogues selling tickets at Ticketmaster for their "high holy days".

      April 26, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  20. thevibes

    These days we live in many people fall away from true christianity. not many people really know what it really is anymore beecause many prechers today do not preach the true gospel clearly layed out in the bible. if many of you think that by just doing good, loving eveyone and feeling good represents what the definition of a true christian is then we are in trouble.
    what should happen when a preacher preches the tru gospel. a person realises where they stand, convicted by the holy spirit of the sinful nature. realises that they have no other hope but christ then turns away from they wicked ways, not of their own doing but through the real gift of salvation, regeneration. a turning away from sin and walking/living in a newness of life with a hevenly hope to be with god and see him one day. i am sure that many of you do not hear this sort of stuff at all because it is not preached much and as for joel he will not take a biblical stand on sin. i can tell you that what you see in his church is not go centered. if people realy gets saved in his church it is in spite of his preaching rather than because of it.

    true christainity calles for seperation from the world. if you love the world you cannot love the lord. if he is just preaching just to get people to come to church and mabey know god i can assure you he is a lost man and he is damming many people to an eternal demise in hell.
    read the bible people see for yourself....................................

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

      if he is just preaching just to get people to come to church and mabey know god i can assure you he is a lost man and he is damming many people to an eternal demise in hell.

      So even the folks that go to Lakewood church in Houston Texas are going to hell? Amazing! That is the loving god that you worship? Why on earth would anyone want to worship an evil deity like that? Because an ancient piece of literature tells you too or else? Nice.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:31 am |
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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.