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. That's a waste...

    How should we interpret it when the 5 things we learned from someone were not worth knowing?

    April 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  2. Tony V

    Do not be fooled into thinking this man represents Christianity as a whole. What he preaches is called a "Prosperity Gospel" which basically teaches that God existst to satisfy my desires rather than the other way araound. I will let some more learned and Godly men than me address this:

    John Piper on Properity Gospel

    John MacArthur on Properity Gospel and Joel Osteen in particular

    April 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Ben Hazak

      Great videos, Tony V!

      Truth and Grace,

      April 30, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  3. Chuck

    I really fail to see why people get so angry that Osteen is so wealthy. I've seen his television programs, and visited his church a time or two. I've just never dropped a dollar in the bucket, bought his books, or given to him or his church in any way, shape or form. I just let the bucket pass on by and don't feel the need to buy his books. Why should I when I can get it all for free? I give to the causes I feel are good ones....just not Joel Osteen or the wealthy Lakewood Church. Whats more, I don't feel in the least bit guilty about it. Giving is not mandatory....it's optional. People only make it mandatory in their own minds. Thats where the trouble is. If more people would quit feeling like they "HAVE TO GIVE" to Osteen and his church so many people wouldn't hate him. Personally, I like the guy....but that doesn't automatically mean I'm going to start sending him money.

    April 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Milton

    Five things I learned from Joel Osteen:

    1. Rich people (e.g. republicans) are willing to pay big money to hear a pastor tell them that they are successful because god loves them more, not because they are greedy.
    2. God wants Joel Osteen to wear expensive suits
    3. If religion was Amway, Joel would be at the diamond level.
    4. Joel would rather spend 20 million bucks to "get his word out" and alleviate imaginary suffering than to alleviate real suffering.
    5. The best way to make money is to start your own religion, just don't give them special Kool-aid since it tends to eat into your profit margins.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  5. The Dude



    April 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  6. The Dude



    April 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      Oh, so Jesus never existed:
      What about the six Roman Historians (Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius, Thallus, Lucian, and Celsus) and the Jewish Historian Josephus and the Jewish Talmud.
      Everything else you say is garbage because you cannot even get your historical facts strait.

      Stop using Bill Mayer as your source. Did you know that he is a comedian? He doesn't even believe that stuff himself, he is just stringing you along feeding you what you want to be fed so he can line his pocket book.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • The Dude

      The divine Jesus is a myth.

      The guy you are talking about was a persecuted hom0s3xual.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  7. The Dude



    April 29, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  8. fashion portrait photography

    Thank you for the good writeup. It actually used to be a amusement account it. Glance complex to far delivered agreeable from you! By the way, how can we keep in touch?

    April 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  9. asrael

    Osteen sees Mormons as "brothers in Christ". No mention of the other half of humanity; sorry, ladies...

    April 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  10. Worship Poseidon

    Wow, religious people are insane.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • John Calvin

      your religious also. i believe in a God, you may not. you just choose to believe and worship yourself as god. hence, your religious.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  11. doug

    proof that even today, the creepiest of cretans if so motivated can construct a BS line compelling enough to dupe the mentally inferior and reap the financial rewards.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  12. GAW

    Osteen keeps his admirers doped up on the drug of optimism.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  13. Paul

    He's great, that's why he deserves the tens of millions of dollars he makes in personal income. How do I donate?

    April 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  14. Jesus

    What I've learned from Joel is how to effectively milk the sheep of their cash. It's the kind of a lesson that all my colleagues in the religion business need to absorb.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  15. Shimon Cleopas

    Militants, lone or pack, do God justice w/ attacks on big Satan. How to transform “Death to America” into “Thank you so much America”? The only answer: by capturing the real Satan.

    Incidentally, capturing the real Satan also captures the one true God. How? By giving Christ A FAIR RETRIAL with the best witness.

    Knowledge of the 2 fish (Satan and God) was given only to Mary, so she can give birth to Jesus Christ who will crush the head of Satan. Mary was also given the secret recipe of the 5 loaves that entraps both fish (real Christ and phony Christ) into ARMAGEDDON. Mary’s 5 loaves proves that Christ is God and in the process entraps both fish (God and Satan) into final battle.

    Christ’s victory in A FAIR RETRIAL serves THE ULTIMATE JUSTICE followed by peace unity and harmony NOT JUST IN AMERICA.

    The Suggested venue of RETRIAL: Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, on or before December 21, 2012.

    SHOCK AND AWE is inadequate description when Washington DC suddenly discovers 2 big fish basking in its shallow Reflecting Pool that it failed to catch in Tora Bora.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  16. Shimon Cleopas

    1/9 The ultimate purpose of resources given by Divine Providence is the capture of God and Satan, 2012’s 2 most wanted fish.

    2/9 Capture of God and Satan transforms earth into paradise.

    3/9 Capture of God and Satan secures not just America

    4/9 Capture of God and Satan transforms “Death to America!” into “Thank you so much America!”

    5/9 Capture of God and Satan is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

    6/9 The rock-solid scientific evidence that Jesus Christ is God: a) engineers the return of Jesus Christ and b) obliterates Satan

    7/9 Vatican and the Evangelicals do not yet have the rock-solid scientific evidence that Jesus is God.

    8/9 Vatican and the Evangelicals do not yet have the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

    9/9 Until the two big fish basking in its Reflecting Pool are caught, Washington will continue to leak 2 billion tax dollars per week.

    SHOCK AND AWE inadequate when Wash DC suddenly discovers 2 big fish basking in its shallow Reflecting Pool that it failed to catch in Tora Bora.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  17. Russ

    Thing I learned from this dude is you can make a ton of money by becoming a televangelist. Is there a school for this? Seems to be quite a few people lined up with their wallets open to buy this guy another mansion.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Shepherd

      Yep, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and a myriad of others are living in the lap of luxury, provided to them by their "followers". Free money baby!!! The god business is good. Sheeple will hand over their money, without question, to be lied to.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  18. Elliott Carlin

    When Christianity began, it was a person; when it got to Rome, it became a goverment. While passing through Europe, it became a philosophy. Now in America, its a business.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  19. Terry

    Osteen cannot get through a sermon without reminding people to leave money in the plate. It is hard to fly first class, drive a Rolls Royce, and wear a Rolex without those plates being full. Wow, I just thought of something, "What would Jesus say about the wealth of ministers?"

    April 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  20. Eutychus Christian

    The hidden story of Jesus. “The Wonder of Jesus” by Eutychus Christian is life changing. It begins at creation and tells the story of Jesus through the patriarchs, the prophets, the nativity and the resurrection.

    The Kindle version is $2 at the link below.
    The paperback version is available on Amazon for $5.


    April 29, 2012 at 8:07 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.