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. zandHcats

    One to Five: how to lure his no brain followers to "bestow" their money to him.

    Wake up people! This guy lives in a multimillions dollars mansion, it's totally immoral!

    May 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  2. really?

    Before I read this...... 1. $ 2. $ 3. $ 4. $ and 5. ignorant "christian" people giving $ ! Living the high life....huh Joel ? Let's not forget his B$$$$-chy wife attacking a flight attendant....his own dad would roll over grave in his grave at this outrageous, tax-free cult !

    May 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  3. blake

    Osteen preaches two gospels - the positive thinking gospel and the propserity gospel. Neither is Christian. And neither is he. It is no surprise that he views Mormonism as Christian.

    May 11, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Tony Hamelin from St. Louis, MO

      well said

      May 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  4. kindness

    Some thoughts to consider without a typical ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Trancend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and trancsend our own desire to know and have proof. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Let go and let god".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find a truth you can take with you in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life. You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf, the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed, your good deeds are forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated, your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over .
    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent....

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth.

    Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment. You don't get what you want you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    Your all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime .
    Its awsome .

    May 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Yoi

      Ecclesiastes 2 >>
      New International Version 1984


      Pleasures Are Meaningless

      1I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2“Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

      4I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harema as well—the delights of the heart of man. 9I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

      10I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

      I refused my heart no pleasure.

      My heart took delight in all my work,

      and this was the reward for all my labor.

      11Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

      and what I had toiled to achieve,

      everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

      nothing was gained under the sun.

      Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

      12Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,

      and also madness and folly.

      What more can the king’s successor do

      than what has already been done?

      13I saw that wisdom is better than folly,

      just as light is better than darkness.

      14The wise man has eyes in his head,

      while the fool walks in the darkness;

      but I came to realize

      that the same fate overtakes them both.

      15Then I thought in my heart,

      “The fate of the fool will overtake me also.

      What then do I gain by being wise?”

      I said in my heart,

      “This too is meaningless.”

      16For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered;

      in days to come both will be forgotten.

      Like the fool, the wise man too must die!

      May 11, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • really?

      really? do you think anyone took the time to read that.....lol......blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH.....no real jesus....just snake-oil sales men.....

      May 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  5. vdanker

    # 6. Money is everything.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • isso

      Money is not what you think it is. it's a control illusion

      May 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  6. augustghost

    and he's laughing all the way to the bank.....another snake oil salesman

    May 10, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  7. Cynthia Googe

    Ok,I'm leaving.. really I'm going but I have to say the comment about Blonde jokes and the Holy Sprirt...I don't know how that
    went down.. But at the moment.. I was moved to a fit of laughter...yeah, and "The Child of Satan".....sorry filled with the Holy Sprirt and laughing my butt off. Your hate is so absurd. I have a potential SNL skit in my head Ha ha!! y'all are killing me!!
    ps: will return for entertainment purposes only..te he

    May 10, 2012 at 3:33 am |
  8. jimbojoker

    Why are today's christian leaders so all fired up about trampling on the down and out isn't this the purpose of the christian faith. Is o't one of the main tenants of this faith to assist your fellow man especially when he has down and out. The Christian church much like Capitalism has morphed into an ugly beast. Did you happen to see the minister in North Carolina raving on and on about how to raise your children what the hell kind of religion is that. What separate's many of today's christian church's from radical Islamic sects, the answer only the oceans.

    May 10, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  9. Mike

    With Joel Osteen, everyone is so good that Jesus didn't need to die for them. No one is a sinner in need of a Savior lest he lose some of his congregation.

    May 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  10. Gallagher

    Joel Osteen is a child of Satan.

    May 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  11. maggie carrasco castillo

    If a minster is filled with the Holy Spirit, he wouldn't make jokes about blonde haired women. That thought shouldn't be in his head. What's next, skin color? I'll never watch his television show again.

    May 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  12. Forrest

    Joel Osteen is what more devoutly religious folks should be: Understanding and tolerant of others. Non-judgmental. Willing to accept a broader view of the world and accepting of others beliefs and opinions.

    May 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Cynthia Googe

    There's a good chance he's a pedophile? He's getting laid all the time? Joel Osteen's voice makes me what to punch puppies
    for no apparent reason? As I said in my first comment," This is a vicious place. I am going to take my marbles and go home now." I should have stayed at home.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. rjp3

    What a bs article === Joel is a money grubbing capitalist – not a Christian – and CNN loves promoting that.

    May 9, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  15. Johnny

    Joel is totally fake. But I don't blame him at all for doing what he does. He makes a ton of money. It's just sad for those who spend time and money to listen to him spew BS through a microphone.

    May 9, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • Marcos

      he seems nice though.

      May 9, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • Marcos

      he seems nice guy though.

      May 9, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • rjp3

      Seems like a nice guy for a bigot.

      May 9, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  16. sarah Q

    There's a good chance he is a pedophile.

    May 9, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Bull

      You are a MORON! Try learning something about the man before you open your mouth

      May 9, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  17. Bill

    He is a scam artist. He also probably gets laid all the time though, so I have to hand it to him.

    May 9, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  18. Cynthia Googe

    The Bible is God's Ietter to humanity. Written over a span of 1,500 years or more, it is collected in 66 books by 40 devinely insired writers. As the authors are speaking for God,those who share the writings with others they are, in turn, speaking for God. God would love to have eveyone speaking for him. Or about him ( bearing wittiness ) to experiences when they have seen his works and felt the power of the Holy Sprirt. This is who it works. I imagine nothing makes him happier than for you to tell as many people as possible about him and for you to introduce him to as many other as you can. Joel Osteen wants to get as many people as possible into a Bible based church where they can hear more of God's word. He is a place to start for people who don't know where to begin. The guess about, " is it God's plan of service to have others speaking for him." Well as you can see, that's the whole Idea! If someone didn't understand this they would not realize how that question would invite ridicule. Joel Osteen would not respond with ridicule.. But everyone else? I doubt many other Chirstians would be able to hold their tongues. Then their would be the ones who would dying laughing.....before they began to eat you alive. I wanted the comments to stop for Everyone's Sake. The general tread of our comments... We need to be careful and think about what we say on this blog And any where else.

    May 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • false prophet

      IF he really wanted a Bible based church, he would tell the truth about revelation with respect to the pretibulation rapture and the role of Israel. He does neither. Sorry, you and the false prophet fail.

      May 8, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • rjp3

      Cynthia - in your opinion - which means nothing to others when it comes to religion

      May 9, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • Trini

      I can only use my own judgment. and all I have heard from Joel Osteen has rung true to me. God lives in all of us but we need to live up to him. Those who try to ridicule have a right to fear for denial is better that admitting they are lost and need help to find the way. May we all one day find the joy of the the lord. i know i will keep trying. God Bless and good night

      May 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  19. Marilyn

    This man is just making money from saying the same crap over and over and we are buying it, he needs to help out the poor not keep collecting it, Greed, greed greed He and all the other men that make money out of the word of god are shameful.

    May 8, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • TheMostWise

      What's wrong with stealing money from America's poorest population so that a wealthy religious huckster can relish the materialism of bling and enormous wealth?...it just sounds like a god thing to me....popular and well accepted by religious minds.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  20. false prophet

    1. Joel Osteen is fake.
    2. Joel Osteen may be the antichrist
    3. Joel Osteen's voice makes me want to punch puppies for no apparent reason
    4. Joel Osteen embraces the pretribulation rapture and is thus, by definition, not a real christian.
    5. Joel Osteen preaches of the biblical need to have the Jews return to Jerusalem yet in a lie by ommision fails to note that the Bible says the Jews will be drawn back in the end times by the antichrist. You can't talk of the Biblical need for Israel without talking about what the Bible ACTUALLY says about it in Revelation. This is why most Christian theologians are infatuated with Daniel and fear the Book of Revelation. OF this he is no more guilty than 99% of priests and pastors in this country.

    May 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • TheMostWise

      If you like blinking and bling...you'll just love the Olsteens.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:26 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.