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. Janet

    I am stunned by the vitriol of anti-religionist (including anti-Mormon) commenters. Between the inaccuracies and the name-calling, such commenters sound like temperamental bullies on a playground - ignorant and immature. Religion is a comfort to many, and if listening to Joel Osteen gives a person hope, comfort, or the determination to be a little better, what is that to anyone else? One of the LDS Articles of Faith is, in part: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent...if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." Why rale against people who believe that - in whatever faith or lifestyle they may be found? Why so angry? (That's a rhetorical question - no answer necessary).

    April 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Janet –
      You see Janet, while religion may offer comfort to believers, those same believers are also apt to attempt to force their beliefs on non-believers (not to mention other believers who happen to hold different beliefs), enlisting our secular government to do so. And that's the rub.

      April 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • John Calvin

      the problem with your point is that your relitivistic statment contridicts its self when you state your truth. i do like your charrity though.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  2. Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

    I did not learn anything from him. Bunch of religious freaks, brainwashed and trying to brainwash the rest of us. Religion is garbage and poison to today's society. We don't even need religion, it's all fake anyway.

    April 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Eriebdog

      Thank God I won't see you in Hell!

      April 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    April 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!*!

      April 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • just sayin

      Prayer is evidence of psychosis.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      Prayer is empty words to your fake sky god and your easter bunny jesus.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  4. biologixco

    Turns out I did learn five things about Joel Osteen:
    Gimme a "F"....F
    Gimme a "R"....R
    Gimme a "A"....A
    Gimme a "U"....U
    Gimme a "D"....D
    What's that spell?

    April 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      I agree.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Mikal from here

      I don't agree

      April 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  5. biologixco

    CNN Learned 5 things,
    But I learned just ONE.
    Joel Osteen is a fraud and charlatan, just like Joseph Smith was.
    How can he proclaim mormonism Christian?
    Where does Kolob and the Magic Underwear fit it???
    Joel Osteen, we are waiting for that answer.

    April 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  6. tom

    THere have always been snake oil salesman who have the gift of a silver tongue and can convince stupid people (sheep) to listen, believe and follow them even if it's right off the cliffs. These types of 'preachers' (yes...you esp Mr. Graham Jr) are nothing but big business dressed up as wolfs dressed in expensive suits.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  7. louis

    We learned as most of us already knew that anybody can be bought at anytime for the right price.. first being Mormow was being ina cult then wait a minute us rich white people don't like blacks so maybe be Mormon is okay.. KEEP ANY RELIGION/CULT OUT OF POLITICS THAT SPEND MY TAX $

    April 27, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • bizziel

      How about we tax the sh•t out of all religions that take in money or contribute any money to any politician, law or bill. Churches don't want to pay taxes stay the fu•ck out of politics.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  8. jayleigh

    I wish I could find a way to sell ice to Eskimos the way Osteen does. Honestly he is a hero in today's America where flash is greater than substance, and financial success determines who is right and who is wrong. Kudos to you Osteen for becoming the most famous preacher in America without anything more than common knowledge of Christianity.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  9. Don't give a rat's behind...

    Osteen? That's the company that make blenders? Oh, wait... I'm thinking of Oster.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  10. sucker born every millisecond

    Osteen = Wealthy Charlatan

    April 27, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  11. bizziel

    Who cares what this wolf in sheep's clothing has to say!? There is no god. Religion is a waste of time.

    In the beginning there was man....and then he crated god. Fact.

    April 27, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • DB1

      Complete moron. Feel sorry for any idiot who doesn't believe in god, higher power, etc. I would hate to wake up being you.

      April 27, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • bizziel

      Your a complete moron if you believe in any 2000 year old fairy tales written by ass backward sheep herders. Fact and knowledge are the enemies of religion. I would hate to be a brainwashed fool like DB1.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      I would actually hate waking up to be DB1, waking up with his imaginary friends. Wake up, moron.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  12. Dana

    #6 He can get people to believe in imaginary people so he can dupe them out of their money.

    April 27, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  13. mema

    On Olsteen: It seems he is a motivational speaker and not a minaster of God. He tiptoes around any question where he should take a stand. Being a messanger of God is not a reapinsibility to take lightly. As the bible is clear in that these men will have an accounting. In charge of Christs congregation is a serious position. No where in the bible does it say that they would be popular for their teachings rather they.would be objects of hatred for his names sake. No where does the bible promise prosperity or riches other than spiritual wealth. Olsteen's failure to provide sound bible instruction and reproof is in effect missleading his congregation to their detrimate. Olsteen should stop representing himself as a man of God or otherwise start speaking out against the sinfull state of man and how this practice seperates one from Gods love and blessings. He has become a lover of money and prestigue, things Jesus was not. He spoke of being seperate from the world and of giving to the needy, leaving ones wealth behind to follow his to treasures in heaven where moth nor rust consume. Olsteens desires and teaching are earthly. He has no desire to lose even one donator so he tickles their ears with this easy no need to change approach to salvation and God. Because he puts himself high on his own petastool in leading many people he in effect has seperated himself from the one he professes to represent, GOD. He therefore stands in opposition to God and his will.

    April 27, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  14. Reality

    From one Bred, Born and Brainwashed ( The Three B Syndrome) in Catholicism but who was cured by reviewing the written word outside the "bible bun". One result:


    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 27, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • mema

      Reality, what you post is others opinions of Jesus. In the very least most admit of Jesus existance. There are many verifiable scrols that tell of Jesus and his life on earth. However the bible and its content is a matter of faith. I too was born and raised a Christian. Unlike you I continue to be Christian. Not because I am brainwashed or because of having been raised of this faith. I did reasearch and evaluated the evidence. I realize a large portion of the content of the bible is not something one can prove however, I have come to this conclusion based on how.the bible answers lifes questions that many are in search of. I do respectfully understand how and why someone may feel they were forced from youth to practice a religion that they did not nessesarily agree with. I am sympathetic to your situation. I however am greatfull for the instruction I recieved and would not change that for anything in the world. All I ask people who chose to disbelieve is to have enough respe ct for.perso.s of.faith to not make unkind or cruel comments about their faith or of their God. Its simply unlind and unbecomming.

      April 27, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  15. CSX

    Bible based? I wish his was! BTW, if the model is the hollering John the Baptist, Peter and John, he is missing the key message.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  16. CSX

    Oh my Lord.....again basic research shows BHO churches are pro gay and every other sin. He goes to counterfiet churches.
    Any blind man can see that. Lord help us.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  17. CSX

    I am not allowed to call him a fool. The Mormon Jesus was a man who sinned, the Christian God was ALWAYS GOD sinless.

    BTW, very basic research reveals itr was the LDS that said FIRST that ALL other churhes were in Apostasy. So they separated FIRST, and now they want to be called Christians with the ones they say is in Apostasy? Sorry, only the ignorant fall for that lie.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Hannah

      1. I am LDS. We believe that Jesus was sinless and perfect.

      2. The point is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the RESTORED Church of Jesus Christ, not a watered-down religion, but one that brings back all the doctrines of Christ.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  18. Gerry

    He is too soft and will never stand on the tough issues!!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  19. Gerry

    I hear his wife is a big spender and will only fly first class....such Piety!!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Bill

      What does what you hear have to do with anything?

      April 27, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  20. Plain Ol' Dreamer

    Joel, I see your conrivances and do know well your soul's ambitions! To lead by examples in your words are not enough! You must give all you have and be of the poorest of prophets to please God and Christ Jesus! Cast your treasures Joel, to be given to those most in need of being helped! Give your money to those who need surgery yet they have not the money! Give to the poor women who are with children and are penniless! Give Joel Osteen until you are yourself are in poorness! Give Joel till you bleed in spiritual understandings! Remember always that the rich will never gain entrance into heaven, never!

    April 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Plain Ol' Dreamer

      contrivances not conrivances

      April 26, 2012 at 9:55 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.