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. OOO

    From the Celebrity Networth web site (he is worth 40 million!!!):
    Joel Osteen was born in Texas and has an estimated net worth of $40 million dollars. A pastor, author, and televangelist, Joel Osteen is the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He took over his father’s role as a pastor and televangelist, despite having very little formal religious training, in 1999. Since then, the Lakewood Church broadcast has grown exponentially and can be seen in 100 different countries.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Rob

      He does not take a salary.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  2. displacedmic

    Nice fluff-piece.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  3. lathebiosas

    "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." Uhh, the Government says no to slavery, genocide, death by stoning, selling your daughter into slavery, etc., etc., etc. Scripture seems to be okay with it. How do you minister on those issues? Just read the good parts on Sunday I guess.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Larry Platypus

      Good one.

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

      Do you know about the New Testament? You might want to check it out.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Eugene

      have you actually read the Bible – from beginning to end? if not, you have no basis for such a claim. read it, take the things you discover in context, and you'll realize the flaw in your comment. though I think osteen is a very false teacher, the Bible is truth.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • OOO

      Come on Eugene,
      I have read the bible, but you don't really have to. There are plenty of highly educated and respected professors, writers and others who have all spelled out the contradictions in the bible, and that the sources of the bible are suspect as well as the murky history of the bible.
      All you have to do is open your eyes a little.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • STLBroker

      Actually the Bible doesn't endorse those things it just mentions them because they were happening at the time. You know, being truthful about how evil man can be.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Ian

      Actually, not a good one. You have to know the context by which the scriptures were written and how they were very applicable, not too mention waaaaay progressive for the times compared to what was occuring to women. Perhaps study a little more in the cultures to which they were for.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      Yes I have read the Bible. There are several places in the New Testament where the Old is endorsed and "nothing is to be added or taken away", and Jesus himself says "no one can escape The Law of the Pharisees". And personally, I see Jesus' creation simply as an out once by people who couldn't live by the Old Testament law. He's the perfect mulligan, it's so clear.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Rob

      glad you think so. Nice to take a slice of a passage to make it represent your argument.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      Ian, I would think an all powerful omnipotent and omnipotent creator could inspire a book that was created for all times. The fact that we have to reference this book of archaic tales and stories to a point in history in itself tells how truly divine it isn't. It's just at book about how a localized group of people tell a tale of creation. Nothing special, just happened to be by a group of people who had the tools and means later on to spread it at the point of a sword.....

      April 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  4. tony

    Our Lord, Jesus Christ, was a humble man who preached kindness and goodness, caring for one another, being merciful and forgiving and did not wear armanis and he did not tolerate false prophets or the money changers in the temple. Whether you believe in his divinity or not, he set an example for all of us. Were we to follow that example we would not be in the mess we are in now.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      ...but his Father, now that's another story..........

      April 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • ImagineDave

      Were we to reject all fairy tales then we would make progress.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • jimtanker

      Actually there is no evidence that your jesus ever lived let alone did anything attributed to him. Come up with some evidence for that then you can start to work on the claims that he performed miracles.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  5. Jim

    Just another televangelist phony. Haven't we seen this movie before ?

    April 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  6. Stefanie Finn

    Wonderful and uplifting. Thank you.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  7. Rockie

    What a waste of my time to read all of these comments. I was looking for at least one person who would provide at least one piece of evidence for at least one negative statement. A picture of him with his arms around someone other then his wife (man or woman)? Evidence that he pays his living expensive from a church salary? Receipt for the $8,000 suit paid with church funds? Copy of church financial records showing money is not going to support ministries? It must be awful living in such negativity.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • sam

      So...why did you read the comments, then?

      April 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • ImagineDave

      You would be genuinely nice to people considering how much money the sheep are throwing at you.
      Praise be. He'll end up like all the others.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Bullwinkle

      People like Osteen thrive on people like you, Rockie. They totally depend on finding people who can look at very obvious examples of his greedy behavior and deny that it is greedy behavior.

      You are Joel Osteen's rightful and lawful prey. You defend it, so you deserve it.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • galaxy101

      @ Rockie... Don't think CNN permits a place for comments posters to provide you a picture (or pictures) you might "see" as proof. In regards to Osteen, being a "positive" preacher is no guarantee against being dead wrong and delusional.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  8. John

    He makes a fortune off rednecks, and yes, I am a North East Republican.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Rob

      I guess you have never been to Houston or you would know how stupid the comment is, but your a Yank so you can slide.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Jose Antonio

      I guess that makes you a Northern Baptist?

      April 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  9. paul

    I am sure most churches have gay worshippers, i don,t think it is right to critize them or judge them, gays goes back as far as humans do , i know the bible says that he created male and female, it also gave a definition of marriage, i have not read anything about /against gay,s. as far i know there is no definition give about them. i am sure gay,s are aware that medication is available if they wish to change course.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • JIM

      Surely you can't believe medication exists for gay people to "change course". IF you do, I suggest you contact your local physician very soon...for yourself especially.

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

      Paul, that post was a joke, right?

      April 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Bec

      You clearly need to take yours.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  10. cindy

    Although I am not religious, I find him to be a genuinely nice person.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • placate

      He probably is, but he has gotten thousands, maybe millions, following his teachings in the truth of a supernatural being without any evidence at all.
      Therefore he is a classic snake oil salseman.
      What did someone say once? You want to be a millionair, sell drugs. You want to be a billionaire, sell salvation.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  11. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
    Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers
    to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3

    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ
    and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.
    Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! Galatians 1:6-8

    April 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • You're from Texas?


      And that's all I have to say about that.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  12. Cyle

    i've got to start my own religion and cash in on this stupidity.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • WhatNow

      My husband calls them the "feel good" churches. They make you feel good while they take your money.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • STLBroker

      Romans 1:22

      Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

      April 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  13. Ace

    Are you people that hard-hearted and blind that absolutely anyone coming from a Christian perspective is a con-man and a liar? I'm so tired of this jaded generation.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Cyle

      god is a myth and the "donations" go to support his lavish lifestyle. he's wearing an Armani... open your eyes.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • sam

      Mmmmm....nope. This one really is a con man.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • markkoop

      Your response to this generation seems so jaded to me.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      I'm sure his Church and it's holdings, his money, suits, etc. would feed a lot of people in need. That's what his Jesus would do. He lives in defiance of exaclty what he preaches every day. You think Jesus will be wearing Armani "on his return"? I think guys like this would be the first to feel his wrath. All us atheists are looking for is a little evidence.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  14. Puhlease!

    If they churches don't want to the government controlling anything related their beliefs (such as the birth control insurance issue) then they should stop telling and influencing their paritioners on how to vote! You influence paritioners on voting issues, then churches should be TAXED!

    April 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • cindy

      Churches which enjoy tax exempt status means they're being subsidized by the government - separation of church and state? Not so much.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Rob

      I have never been in our heard of a Christian church that tried to tell or influance members how to vote.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • JesusrOcks

      How about you all stop being haters and get a life

      April 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Jose Antonio

      I agree. These guys also have 2 to 3 homes, a private jet, and some high end car collections. Look at the life style of Pastor Benny Hinn.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  15. Jack

    I bet he smiles in his sleep.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jill

      It's all the Botox.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • The Hill

      He's frozen that way. Not even I could break his crown.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  16. Jack

    Sending money to this con is worst than buying a lotto ticket, poor dumb Christian's will never understand....

    April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      Ever notice how often the words faith and misery accompany each other?

      April 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  17. PeterD

    O Lord Jesus. I have repented my sins, Please come into my heart and I make you my Lord and My Savior. Amen.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Jill

      Nice example of clinical schizophrenia!

      April 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • sam

      You had to come here to convert? I don't get it.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      Stop sinning. No repent necessary.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  18. Jack

    This thief loves to spend your money........with a smile.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  19. BadPolitx

    What a tool! He only does it for the money! Con man to the extreme.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  20. Don

    Perfect example of religion controlling weak minds. This is sad.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • lathebiosas


      April 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • STLBroker

      Romans 1:22

      Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

      April 25, 2012 at 6:06 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.