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. Gary Wolf

    If you all knew what goes on behind the closed church doors in that cult, you would not be supportive.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:35 am |
  2. SensibleJoe

    Five things we learned from Joel Osteen:

    1. He loves money and power.
    2. He loves money and power.
    3. He loves money and power.
    4. He loves money and power.
    5. He's willing to overlook that Mitt Romney's religion teaches that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, because he loves money and power.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  3. Diane

    To the person that said the Bible is junk...well my friend, when it comes time for you to say adios to this life, you sure are going to be sad when your name is not in the Lambs Book of Life...and those pearly gates do not open for you. Saying "oops" surely isn't going to get you out of that one buddy! May God bless you because you surely are going to need it.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  4. joe

    I like Joel- He makes everything so simplified. Good for someone like me who needs religion to take away any means of independent thought and imagination. If God says it, and God wrote the bible, it must be true. Ah, freedom from thought, it's so relaxing.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • popseal

      Most church people don't quite understand me since I have Christ alive in me and don't readily (nor want to) fit into their local denominational template. For these 42 years, I've found that in every case where pop culture is in conflict with the Bible, the Bible proves itself right sooner or later, common criticisms of such a simple approach notwithstanding. As for this Osteen, he is another smiling Cheshire Cat who leads his naive 'flock' into oblivion.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  5. John

    In John 16, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit "will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment;.." If there is no conviction of sin leading to repentance, it could be a an indication of the absence of the working of the Holy Spirit. Success is not defined by the "numbers" warming the seats in Churches BUT by the transformation of lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • pockets

      Incredible how much "B U L L $ H I T, these clowns are peddling. Hustlers all of them. The bible is a piece of uncomprehenable junk, that's why 99% of the population have never read it. Its the greatest story NEVER read....

      May 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • PapaKat

      Your pockets are empty I see.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  6. BOB

    Methinks idolators are flocking this blog!

    May 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  7. Jataka

    Anyone who wears a perpetual smirk is a liar and a thief, just like Joel Olsteen.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • pockets

      Religion poisons "Everything", and those that preach this BS are the worst liars and thieves on earth. RIP Hitch, you were 100% correct.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  8. kate

    "When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and caring the cross."
    Sinclair Lewis

    May 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • PapaKat

      "When the fall of America comes it will be in the form of unbridled political correctness, liberalism and vanished values due to leftist ideology."


      May 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • Sergio

      Did you mean "carrying" the cross? How did you connect fascism with the cross???

      May 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • SensibleJoe

      Sergio, Sinclair Lewis' quote means that patriotism and religion will be the means to cloak dictatorship in the USA to make Americans buy into it. It's not an idle warning.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Gary Wolf

      Amen to that.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  9. ebwollet888

    Okay, so I approached this video with extreme cynicism. And, while I don't espouse Mr. Osteen's belief system, I do think his message (minus the theological aspect) is kind of refreshing...especially from a Christian. Many Christians are dogmatic, Hell-Fire-Brimstone types. From this video anyway, Mr. Osteen seems to be preaching compassion and understanding, qualities that most of us (I hope) would consider good attributes. Yes, he gets rich off of a mythical tale, but so do a lot of Hollywood actors, directors, and producers. And, how many of us non-Christians have spent our hard-earned money at the theater? And, the worst part of it is that we know we are being duped and yet we still give them our money for the mostly trash that they put out.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • namvet527

      When I listen to a preacher I want him to tell me the TRUTH of the Bible NOT some FEEL GOOD lying sermons. A lot of the Bible is very CONVICTING & will not make you feel good.
      Mormons are NOT fellow Christians. Some more "get along at all costs" message from Osteen.
      There is nothing wrong with wealth, Abraham was very wealthy. But it is HOW you OBTAINED that wealth & WHAT YOU DO with that wealth.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • PapaKat

      Momons are not fellow Christians? You are insulting Christ's message. That makes you a – what? Blasphemer! Ahhhh.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • SensibleJoe

      Actually, PapaKat, Mormons are not mainstream Christians. How many Christians do you know that preach Jesus and Lucifer are brothers? Mormonism does.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  10. RIck Springfied

    I've been to a service in former Rocket Stadium. Its a huge production. The part you see on TV comes after a 45 minute singing service. They also have home groups so you can connect to a smaller group of people. They also have mission groups who do local visitation and world missions. One thing his church does right is the membership requirements. Some of the mega churches such as Lifechurch.tv make you sign a compicated membership contract. It demands you pay 10 pecent of your before tax income. It requires you attend regularily and make at least one mission trip with the church per year. You will also actively participate in the home groups. If you fail at any one thing, they will reduce you to associate member status. Not sure what hell you get into as an associate but maybe you get "counseled" during sunday school times. On your calender year anniversary, a membership committee reviews your records and determines if you will be extended another year of membershp. Quite frankly, I attend where I can activey participate without the Gestapo watching my every move. I can coordinate multiple missions trips both domestic and foreign. I can give freely and by the spirit. I can also meet in groups as I deem beneficial to the spirit and church body. Lifechurch.tv can have their nazi system.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  11. Peteyroo

    Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, unicorns, leprechuans, and God/Jesus–yep, they're are real!

    May 13, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • 111ken111

      As you know. You will learn eventually and pray it is not too late.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • namvet527

      When you DIE & it is TOO LATE you will find out just how REAL JESUS the CHRIST is.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Sergio

      Pete, may God have mercy on you and open your eyes to see that there is more to life than just living and dying and that one day we will all give an account for our words and actions, good and bad, and all of us will fall short of God's demands, for we have all sinned and need a Savior. Before comparing the Only One who can save us to a fairy tale, be honest with yourself and read through the New Testament and see for yourself what it says about life and death. You have nothing to lose if you do and your soul to lose if you don't.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  12. 111ken111

    God loves all no matter what religion and scripture shows this (If one see the creations in this world sun, rivers, and believe in a creator and not the creation then he may well be saved). Same a Mormon may be saved. Scripture says there is only one God (Creator) but Mormons teach there are many gods. Believing in many gods is not believing in a creator but believing in the creation of many gods’ in one's mind and these are not of God and are not saved. Joel Olsten is a deceived one who does not know the will of God for supporting the Mormon religion. Mormanism is the religion of Satan even though many may believe in one creator then they may be saved.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Been drinking the hater-aid? Wow, the venom spewed against fellow believers astonishes me. What ever happened to "Love thy neighbor as thyself"? Or do you reject such namby-pamby sentiments?

      May 13, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  13. REUBEN


    May 13, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Ease up on the all caps!

      May 13, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  14. Chipster

    The fear, anger, jealousy, and judgment in these posts reveals far more about the responders than it does about Joel Osteen. It appears to me that we need more of Osteen's unconditional love for the good and potential in every person. His success and wealth don't offend me. What's in our hearts is what matters. He encourages people to love the Lord and the love ourselves as God loves us. Osteen also doesn't pretend to have all the answers or to be perfect but has faith in God's guidance. I believe that God always hears our prayers. He may not answer our prayers with what we want but He will always answer with what we need. We need to love one another and be kinder in our hearts.

    May 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Jeffrey Peltz

      You're right. Osteen teaches us to love ourselves as God loved us.

      But God teaches us to love others as he loved us.

      May 13, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • RAL

      I watch Joel Osteen on TV when I can. He is the type of messanger who speaks of a Loving Forgiving compasionate God. l aways wondered why some Preach Fire & Brimstone &Fear of God should you defy his teachings wen we know none of us aer Perfect. If God is our Father why shouod we fear him and listen to negativit in our house og worship? We should be happyto be there . Joel has the right Idea God loves us and wants the best for us he will never desert us all we must do is accept him as our savior and do our best maybe follow the Golden Rule.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  15. Yepyep6598

    It reminds me of a woman whose husband that beats the sh^^t out of her and she makes excuses for him why he did it "he is just stressed", and "I said the wrong thing and i shouldnt have." yep! Keep making excuses for him. And those plantation monkeys I called the congressional black cacus, they provide the entertainment for nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid they do flips, cartwheels, twirly twirls, for those pimps.

    May 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  16. Yepyep6598

    They dont beat them with whips anymore the white liberal threatens them by withholding welfare, the housing projects are the new plantations. 1 Trillion dollars in stimulus money the slaves didnt see a cent of it, yet they are voting for man that doesnt give a damn about them.

    May 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  17. Yepyep6598

    Now you all know that black democracts(slavacrats) are slaves of the white liberals like baby birds chirping and begging waiting for mama bird to bring the food to the nest. Slavacrats cant think, make choices, or speak out unless that white liberal gives them permission, it's called the slave to the master protocol.

    May 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  18. Ashley Harris

    Osteen makes me want to puke. He is not a Pastor he is a Con Man. Run People Run!!!

    May 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • namvet527

      I AGREE

      May 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  19. lolarites

    1. Saying you don't know to every question given to him means he can never told his is wrong.
    2. His greed knows no bounds.
    3. He looks like he's inbred.

    May 12, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  20. SurRy

    1. Joel Osteen is worth between $40 million (some have said $1 billion)
    2. Joel Osteen said it would "insult God" to apologize for his obscene wealth and they honor God by living in a $12.5 million dollar home
    3. Joel's wife and co-pastor, Victoria Osteen, assaulted a Continental Airlines flight attendant in 1995
    4. Joel had almost no theological education before taking over his daddy's televangelist empire when daddy died
    5. Joel blinks a lot

    May 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Osama

      Whats your point Mr. Lenin? Would you like him to give away all his money, just so he can be one of the people?

      May 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Alcohologram

      @Osama: I would like Mr. Osteen to give a sermon on Matthew 19:24 from the front steps of his multi-million dollar home, pass around a collection basket and tell his congregation to opens their hearts and pockets so he may glorify god with his wealth.

      May 12, 2012 at 4:14 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.