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. Questions

    #6 And it's perfectly fine to be so stinkin rich that you poop gold nuggets even if so many people in your own community are poverty stricken. That's okay! It's God's will! Just stick fingers in ears and lalala it away! God loves rich people! He said so in the bible! (No, he didn't but let's just pretend he did!) All of his disciples were rich! (Uh, no they weren't, but that's okay! He wants JOEL to be rich. God told him! Well, no he didn't but Joel assumes it because he was born with really good hair.)

    May 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • good grief

      Really? is it the hair that is causing you grief?!?!?!

      May 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Tim

      yeah the oil slick from his hair is causing contamination

      seriously, who falls for this greasy guy Osteen? What a fraudster.

      May 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • The Deist

      Well, Tim, about 7000 ignoramus's

      May 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  2. GAW

    Osteen's approach is a simple straightforward positive thinking, heath and wealth message. It fits so well into the mainstream of American culture which is why he has the largest church in America.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Tim

      nah, it's the plastic hair. That sells well with stupid folk, and there are a lot of those.

      May 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  3. PaulC

    I am always hesitant to put too much faith in a self-appointed holy man.
    In my opinion Joel is a businessman and a very wealthy huckster.

    May 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  4. jim

    "Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ," the pastor argued. Good call, since there is at least a faint possibility that Romney will be President. A hustler like Osteen can't afford to be on the 'outs" with the political "ins".

    May 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  5. Max

    Listen to Osteen;Stay positive! Osteen is a great add-on in addition to reading the scriptures and listening to sermons by other pastors.

    May 12, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  6. on StreetWise

    Joel Osteen preaches a heretic gospel... PERIOD!

    He is a politic first, a con man second and a far distance christian last. When it comes down to religion, he and his followers would choose "Barrabas" over Jesus and send him to the cross... again and again. I follow one person, one gospel and the one true God... Jesus Christ.

    May 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  7. W.G.

    I don´t know about 5 things i´ve learned about Osteen but i have learned one thing . He´s helping a Heretic
    and he better open a Bible and sutdy 2 Peter 2 : 1-3

    May 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  8. joe800

    ..we learned that religion is BIG business...and the clientele cant tell SH&T from Shinola ...

    May 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  9. eroteme

    Joel only has one message and he repeats this message over and over. It is amazing, (to me,) that there are some who believe they are hearing something new with each of his 'sermons'.

    May 12, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  10. Randi

    Joel Osteen is correct. Did Jesus command the theif on the cross to go belong to a denomination before he could be saved, or to do some works – no He told him that this day he would be in Paradise with him.

    Faith in Jesus and following Jesus is what will save us.

    May 12, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • The Deist

      Oh bull$%^&(

      May 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  11. doug estes

    Osteen spends way too much time on his hair to be a true christian. You know that vanity thing. I wonder if his hair dresser fees are tax deductable?

    May 12, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • jim

      Count on it, his entire life is tax deductible !

      May 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  12. K

    What we should learn from Osteen is not to depend on anyone else "telling you" what God says....read the Bible and find it out for yourself.

    May 12, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • The Deist

      I did. It's all a bunch of archaic bologna

      May 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  13. K


    May 12, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  14. kookooman

    I think god would talk to all not a few, dont trust man or woman that says god talks to them.!!!!!!!!!!

    May 12, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • God loves all people.

      God does talk to all people. Most people just tune him out.

      May 12, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  15. kookooman

    If you relgious people believe in dinosouars, the bible was clearly written after they and other living animals of that time live on earth. Now you should be able to wake up and not live like narrow minded people 2000 years ago! Those people had no clue about history as we know history today.

    May 12, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  16. Cheryl Martin

    How can Olsteen think or any other pastor believe that Romney is a Christian when they have another revelation that comes after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. This new revelation was deemed important enough to develop a Book of Mormons. The final chapters of the Christian faith in found n the book of Revelation as given to the Aposttle john on Patomos. We as Christians can not seroiusly believe that God forgot to reveal everything to John and had to come back and give the rest to Joseph Smith. I am apalled at the pastors in America who would stand by and not speak to the truth of this cult. John Ankerberg is the only oerson I know that clearly defdines and explains what Mormonisn really is. Pastor Jeffery of 1st Baptist in Dallas made a clear staement as to why it was not Christainity but a cult but then he made the sad mistake of saying if he had to choose when voting he would choose Romney over Obama. Is that blatant racism or just that he would turn his back on the only true and living God due to personal political thoughts or fears He sound a lot like the kings of Judah and Israel who sought the aid od foriegn governments rather than trust God. Olsteen can call it like he wants to but he is passive. He reminds me of the scripture in Revelation to the church at Laodiceans where because the church was niether hot cold but luke warm God would spue them out of His mouth..

    May 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  17. Moderate Mainer

    Joel Osteen is far less concerned with the complexity of theological or political issues, or what is actually in the Bible. All he's interested in is his "prosperity gospel," something that bears little resemblance to the lifestyle and values advocated by Jesus and his disciples.

    May 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  18. Recovering Republican

    Most posts about Mr. Osteen from Christians will be negative, because Christians love to bash anyone not in their little clicks. If you wnat to see examples of how Christians should behave, go see a Budhist, cause most Christians are hate filled hypocrites who refuse to live and forgive as they have been commanded to do. Liberals are not killing the Church, hateful Christians are.

    May 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Erica

      As a Christian, when I read your post I thought, "He (or she) has got us there." You are right when you say that a lot of Christians can be hate-filled and judgemental. I am going to pose two reasons, one which is simple and I'm sure will make perfect sense to you, the other which is not-so-simple and will probably be very silly to you. First, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one, and many Christians are too religious but not Christ-like (I believe Jesus actually hated religion [see Mark 3 where He goes against the religious rule that stated healing on the Sabbath was forbidden]). The second reason involves the work of the enemy (satan). Satan hates God, but the only way for him to "get back at God" is to hurt God's people and to make people turn their backs on God. Thus, the enemy may be using some Christians by filling their hearts with anger and judgement, in order to make being Christian seem undesirable and in turn causing individuals to turn their backs on Christianity and ultimately God. A Buddhist, however, may not have the same anger, hate, and spirit of judgement because the enemy is not at work in his or her life. It's like a saying that goes "why would the devil want to fight who he already has?" The enemy wants Buddhists and all non-Christians to appear friendly and peaceful; conversely, he wants Christians to appear mean and hateful so as to make this pathway to Jesus less attractive. It's hard to really explain this without speaking it, but those are my thoughts.

      May 12, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  19. Art

    Does he preach aganist sin. No he only talks about prosperity. The wages of sin is death.

    May 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  20. bored already

    Joel is a an amazing con man. He reminds me of a traverling salesman selling his "miracle cure all" drug for "what ail's ya"- and has a legion of lemmings to command. And the lemmings pay him- tax fee.

    May 11, 2012 at 12:53 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.