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. noel

    Nice fellow that Olsteen...

    April 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  2. dOUG hAYNES

    Do any of you realize the full name of the church that Mitt Romney attends? It IS the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is at the center of ALL of their teachings. I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I converted because the teachings of the church are true! Their clergy are not a bunch of people that take money from the people they claim to represent, they are hard working men that support their own families and watch after the welfare of their ward families. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of everyhting that they do and represent everything that is right and true today. I am not perfect, but their teachings are as close to anything that I have found anywhere. We are Christians, because we worship Jesus Christ, we just came about it a little differently than everyone else. You can find that out easily enough.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Marge

      That might be true of some preachers of different faiths. But there are plenty of priest and preachers who are just in the faith to make money. They love the almighty dollar more than they do the flock.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Sailing Rose

      "Hard working MEN".....that says it all right there....and the mousey little women walk ten steps behind their men, not saying a damned thing......what a joke.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Chris

      The only people who complain about women's roles in the church are those who aren't apart of it. Go ask a woman who is a member and see if they feel like they are second class citizens. Because you won't find any.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  3. BubbaGMan

    He's laughing all the way to the bank. It doesn't take much for sheep to follow.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • noel

      hey bubba, don't let cnn and bsnbc lead you either ole boy...BAAAAHHH!!!

      April 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Thomas

      Wow, didn't know Osteen's personal accountant with access to his financials would be weighing in here.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  4. flashtrum

    If I'm a member of a 40k church I have to question where my "donations" are going.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • J.W

      Ask to see a copy of your church's financial statements.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  5. Dave

    When Osteen dies, he'll just be a regular Joe in heaven, wheras Mutt wil be a God, equal to God along with his Jayzuz...Joseph Smith.

    I doubt that Osteen knows a whit about Mormoism.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  6. immobee

    James 2:19- Even the demons believe and know Jesus is the Son of God, Christ our Savior. Is that good enough for you too?

    April 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  7. Martin

    Have to admit, he's a great serindipity salesman.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  8. Tex71

    6. Osteen is a salesman and will say or do whatever it takes to make the sale.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Barney

      Anyone who believes in Christ is a salesman. God asks us to spread the good news that salvation through His only son is available and free. Joy, peace, and love are a result of a relationship with God. All we have to do is believe in and follow the definition of love that is Jesus Christ. Wow, that sounds so awful.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  9. Martin

    John's success demonstrates just how desperate and lazy humans are for a quick feel good fix. John gives it and they return to another week of mental retardation. Evidently it works for his customers.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  10. Johnny 5

    Fossils. Explain those Mr Osteen.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Brainiac 5

      Did Joel deny them?

      April 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  11. Martin

    John is a slick charming theisic huckster, knows how to use music and pretty women to sell foder to the sheep. I'm glad I'm a goat.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • DavidLevinsn

      John who?

      April 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  12. Sailing Rose

    Sorry folks but this is not "christianity". This is big business and the big bad wolf in sheep's clothing. The only thing Osteen worships is the almighty dollar and the power it brings.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Barney

      Wow. That's interesting. Why don't you go to his church website and have a little look-see at the myriad ministries and ways that church helps people. You need money to do that. When is that last time you spent some money and put some effort into helping someone you didn't know? Joel makes a lot of money. Can't deny that. None of us is perfect, and to pass judgement on him because he makes a great living is hypocrisy at its best. He certainly deserves more than most that make the money he makes. He's working for God dude.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Sailing Rose

      "Working for God".....hahahahahahahahahah.....Barney you crack me up. And FYI, I believe in QUIET charity.....I do not need to establish a mega-church to do good deeds or give of my knowledge, time, resources etc......sorry honey, but I do not subscribe to patriarchal fairy tales.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Barney

      You can believe what you think. But go do your homework and ask all the families and people all over the world whether they care or not who in the world helped them. All they know is that someone LOVED enough to offer and help. Someone in the name of Christ. Stop putting your faith in man. Put it in God.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Sailing Rose

      Barney, I don't put my faith in "man".....I put it in myself......I don't need patriarchal fairy tales to guide my sense of what is good.....churches, especially ones like Osteen's, should be taxed.....if Osteen were to shed all of his material wealth and get down and dirty in some third world trauma zone (like some of us have) then maybe I would respect him and his barbie.....

      April 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • vic

      and here wanders in a feminist wishing God was a Godess heaven help us.!

      April 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  13. Kte

    #6 Wears WAAAAAYYY too much makeup!

    April 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Sailing Rose

      Bible thumpin' Ken and Barbie.....

      April 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  14. b4bigbang

    "Swarm" of earthquakes detected in Pac NW (4/19).
    Jesus predicted these occurances as part of the signs indicating the end times!
    Read about it in the Gospels!

    April 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • DavidLevinsn

      Good lord, you're right! I had no idea that there had been no eartquakes in the time between Jesus' ascension and now. THE END IS NEAR!!

      April 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  15. Marcus P Squeezum

    Joel can waffle a little at times but unlike the rest of the world I really have no right to pass judgement on him. I think he probably inspires some and aggitates others. Hopefully, he is making a difference in someones miserable life out there.

    April 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • testmo

      I'm from Houston and while you hear horrible stories about how his wife conducts herself I have nothing bad to say abut the man. I am against organized religion and an atheist, but I feel Mr. Osteen just wants to do what people want him to do and feels he helps them this way. Whether he believes everything he preaches or not I don't ever hear people accusing him of spreading hate or misinformation. I think more of the religious people and churches out there could pick up his lead and perhaps people wouldn't be so "bleeding" out of their churches.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  16. wAKE UP

    Joel Ogrifter and his smoking wife still at it.

    April 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Sailing Rose

      And so many sad folks, intellectually lazy and devoid, buying into this nonsense.....all some need to do is believe in themselves and not some snake oil salesman and his plastic bible barbie wife.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  17. JMorcan

    Mitt Romney – just the man to put the nails in our economic coffin. The only property worth buying from here on out will be Chinese Yuan.

    April 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      It might possibly be a tad more effective to put the Romeny comment on the Romney story, instead of the story on Joel "Gantry" Osteen.

      April 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  18. Ting

    So basically God works in mysterious ways and who are we to question God?

    You said:

    it is not evil for God to take life, because God is the Author of life. He can give it and He can take it away. That's part of the prerogative of being God. All that He creates belongs to Him. This is His world. He needs no further justification, because He is not compelled by any law higher than Himself.

    So we are no different than any other object in the universe? God created us and can destroy us at will. If you build a house, then you have every right to destroy it because you were the creator. Can you and your spouse apply that logic to your children as well? Why do morals apply to us and not to God? Because he is the creator? Pathetic.

    April 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Ting

      sorry. This was a response to Leo

      April 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Leo

      Ting, God knew full well when he created free will beings that we would be free to choose good or bad, he knew by his foreknowledge who would accept and love him, and who would rebel and reject him.

      He can NOT force you to go against your will otherwise it is not truly free will. This is an awesome God who does this rather than forcing us to only do good, which would make us robots.

      Man has the capacity of doing great good and noble deeds, and man can do rebellious evil deeds it is OUR choice to do this and we can blame only ourselves if we choose wrong.

      There is however great hope for God did not just leave it at that though he might have if he so willed, but rather out of love he reached down to mankind with a rescue effort. This rescue effort was not for him to toss some teaching our way and hope we would live better lives, but rather Gods rescue effort is that he came down himself to communicate in the most clear form possible his intentions and desires, and to make a sacrificial provision for pardon for mans crimes against God.

      So the incarnation of God becoming a man through Jesus is unique, and what Jesus did was take the penalty of the crimes of man upon himself so that human beings could be freed. He took the rap for the crimes against God, so that those that trust in him then could receive the pardon that the Father offered. This is another unique element, not only does God come down and reach out to man, but he gives him a free pardon of his crimes.

      The solution to the problem is not in making man better so as to make up for past deeds, for that doesn’t work. The solution is grace, it is an act of unmerited mercy on God’s part. It is not by any moral behavior that we qualify for salvation, it is actually our crimes against God that qualify us for his pardon and rescue. It is a pardon that God is willing to do graciously as we respond to that gift.

      April 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Leo

      Ting, If God the creator knows full well that someone is going to be against him, his enemy, who attacks his Children and knows ahead of time that this person will NEVER turn, would it not be his perogative to destroy this person rather than let this person continue to attack his children? By destroying that worthless enemy of God before he hurts anyone else, why would that NOT be just?

      If need to understand the big picture and not only look at the actions, but rather at the purpose. The question I would ask you would be, if someone was breaking into your house would you stop them before they did terrible things? or would you wait? Which would be worse?

      April 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • placate

      It's all a nice fairy tale you just spun. I'm sure believing it helps you feel better, right? Because that is the only reason to believe any of it.

      April 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Huebert

      The idea of god, you know the omnipotent guy who you say lives in the sky, having an enemy is ridiculous. God would have to create his own enemy. Why would he do that?

      April 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Leo

      Placate, I haven't spun anything for I have know doubt that there is a creator of the universe who makes if perfectly clear through his works, IE The Universe, The Solar System, The Laws of Physics, Life, and then eventually MAN. The Human Brain is the most complex object in the known universe, and you think it just happened to evolve through random chance and dumb luck? Life from non-life Abiogenesis is what you are banking on, yet it never has been proven. That's FAITH!! Hopeless Faith, yet Faith!

      April 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Leo

      No Doubt...

      April 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Leo

      Huebert, Compared to the Creator of All we are nothing, yet we think we are so wise we can question God.

      Creating free will beings as God did, gives these beings the full capacity to do good or bad.

      So you think it would be better for God to force everyone to do good? Not allow men to be free? Not be allowed to choose?

      That would be Slavery!

      April 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Leo
      You lost any creditability you might have had when you stated you know what ‘god’ thought.

      > God knew full well when he created free will beings that we would be free to choose good or bad, he knew by his foreknowledge who would accept and love him, and who would rebel and reject him.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Kalessin

      Naw..he didn't lose any credibility. He used logic.
      If one of the apsects of God is that he knows everything...then Leo didn't really go out on the limb to imply that God knew what was going on when he created mankind.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Sailing Rose

      he, he, he, he, he, he, he, he.......just another GOOD reason why women need not bother with religion......more patriarchal claptrap for the deluded masses.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  19. placate

    As nice as Joel and his like might be, I keep wondering what I would be thinking of myself, at age 85 or so, if I had spent a lifetime preaching something that had absolutely no evidence for it and almost certainly was false... and I had thousands, maybe millions believing it to their deaths.

    April 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • mandarax

      You might be lazing around your mansion thinking, "boy, fools and their money sure are easily parted."

      April 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • macian99

      Absolutely. I don't know how you can be at the top of a business-based religious organization and not be an atheist; I'm quite certain most of them are. If you're about the money, any loving diety would smite you for your exploitation of the believers, and these guys have no fear that's going to happen. My favorite example is Joseph Smith, who clearly had nothing on his mind other than a better scam than treasure hunting, which, after all, only bilked one gullible farmer at a time.

      April 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      yes, Joel Osteen has a fraudulent message, and yes he profits from it. And no, that does nothing whatsoever to separate him from other Christian leaders.

      April 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • vic

      wow! even athiest suffer from envy. He preached about God and made all the money. why dont the atheirst preach about No God and attract followers make the money,guys get off lazy butts and preach atheism then in a trully capitalist society we will see who wins.(lol!)
      its is bettter to be safe then sorry what if you died and God really existed . what excuse wil you give your Creator?
      " Olsten sounded kinda fake with all the money"

      April 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • contesting

      According to an atheistic worldview there is no true or meaningful basis for purpose, morals or value on life. On top of that you have to believe that something comes from nothing assuming that you follow popular science's evidence for the universe having a finite time frame as well as life having evidently no source. On top of that you would have to be able to accept that order in and of itself would naturally exist. For example, the laws of physcis organize our universe and allow for what we call life. According to an atheistic worldview there really is not a meaningful reason to have this discussion in the first place because meaning does not really exist. You may say that it exists, but you are just a pile of dust [speaking as an atheist] and what is that to me?

      Theism has the answers to these problems. Theism fits our natural inclination towards purpose and value in the human experience, as has been shown through the ages. Now, just because the shoe fits to our liking does not make it true, but I would not discard it so quickly. If religion were just an evolutionary development that helps to govern our species, then would atheists be the weak link? That sounds mean, but I also do not believe it to be true.

      There is a reason that the great majority of people are theists – we cannot swallow the idea of a meaningless, valueless existence. It simply does not fit in with our perception of reality. You might say that our perception is skewed, but maybe you are simply arguing yourself out of a truth that is staring you straight in the face.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      A more historically accurate reason for why so many are theists, is because those who have gone against the teachings of the church (especially the Abrahamic churches) have been met with scorn, and most often violence.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  20. Ting

    So to sum it up, God works in mysterious ways and who are we to question God? You said:

    it is not evil for God to take life, because God is the Author of life. He can give it and He can take it away. That's part of the prerogative of being God. All that He creates belongs to Him. This is His world. He needs no further justification, because He is not compelled by any law higher than Himself.

    So we are no different than any other object in the universe? God created us and can destroy us at will. If you build a house, then you have every right to destroy it because you were the creator. Can you and your spouse apply that logic to your children as well? Why do morals apply to us and not to God? Because he is the creator? Pathetic.

    April 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Ting


      April 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • mick68

      if I paint a painting and I destroy it, I have done nothing wrong. This has nothing to do with morals, and everything to do with ownershp. Very simple concept. Pathetic is your IQ level for not grasping this simple concept.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:44 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.