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. Plain Ol' Dreamer

    When religion boils down to become a oneness of individualists' undertones, then will Time be as in readiness! The tradjectories of all will be an amplitudinal acronym of relative conveniences! People will parlor to their ownliness advents and discourage the allotted hierarchies treasured filthiness! The fullfillments of random's deniabilities will ensnare the lots who enmass themselves with seditions of the contrited! The people will lay waste their own scrupulousness ideals for that of the amassed lot! Change henceforth and be a baptismal presence instead of the seditionists' lay-wastings away toward hell's kitchens!

    I've read of the humanists in passing gestations! I've heard about today's monumentalisms in the disastrous laments! I look ever onwards and forwards with an eyeing contempt toward frivolities and their makers underpinning tonalities ever leveraging bitternesses to God and His godly! The rocks that bleed the waters of holiness shall endure evermore! Even until this End of Timed Fortuitousness, the godly will ever more endure and be the ammassings' lighted sculptors of a New Dawning of embittered social fragrenced attritions' allegories! Test! This is but a test! Only but a Test! Come what may I do say!

    1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
    As one's body being but a building husbandried by God does not make it a sinful flesh ideology! Even the goodly Samaritans are holy in their endearments sakedness issues! The Lord of all of God's Sons, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, our redeemer of lost souls is Christ Jesus! To God does go all of the people's godliness spirits while the remaindered does suffer the plagues that will be like bitterness and vileness to the ever onward marchings of generationed humanists into the very depths of the Celestial Cosmos!

    Is washing one's brain every once in a while not a needful thing to do? The cobbed webs of living one's Life is ever in need of renourishing and cleaning up the dustiness trails! Being ever attuned with one's own Faith be it Godly or ungodly reconnoiterings, all humanists will ever kindle their own lights to fathom their innerness depths of perceivements irregardless of others' potentialisms! God Himself may well love the Samaritans who do goodliness deeds more than a selfish Christian who sits upon the fences being ever the drunkard of the Holy Spirit's fullness!

    Pundits of prophetical angularisms be they political or even spiritual, are seemingly nowadays a combination thereof within the rankings files of presidentialism's here within the framed works of governmental leadorialship! The religious upon this land of spiritual and libertarian freedoms seem awashed by premonitions' philandering of amassings' drunkard like revelries surrounded by bits and pieces of presidential hopefuls' tastiness whines! Being now a voter for my very 1st time, I will write-in my choice due the fields' lacking of trued' honesties and their liable constraints! Christ Jesus will be my write in nominee!

    The perplexisms of adoring an adorned vehemouth of dia-tri-banal-isms' presidentiarianists where-in these dividedly united lands of stated conservencies seem to be drunk in their idealized libertarianisms' lie-bations! We seek to be led out from the atrosciousness left by the otherly types' venomous strangle-holds that excrudes of its' past illnesses borrowings! As the highly positioned elitists watch over their favorists' playgrounds of liberalists nationwide, the bets are hedged and in consuming orders do the elitists devour in their spawnings' proclamations! Eat! Drink! Be merry! Hope is dope on a rope!

    The "End Times" will ever come and go adrifted by spiritual soothsayers! Pay them no regards for they are aloof and too drunk with the holy spirits' whineries of abastionments! The True End Time will come when this earth's sun expands and literally devours the planets! Another End Time tale may be coming via the blasting from our galactic center a cosmic ray of such strong emissions it will literally fry our planet to a crispy critter! These two End Times should also include a humongous asteroid hittng the earth! In the meanwhiles, we humanists must strain ourselves to elect a King for the next 4 years!

    April 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • OOO

      Yawn :O

      April 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Mikismom

      @PlainOlDreamer........Oh you think you sound so wise....but you're devoid of wisdom. Your foolish soul will perish.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  2. Lunarota

    Ironic...."i would hate for ministers to be told what the can and cant do". Just like doctors trying to prescribe birth control or women who want to have abortions. Ridiculous

    April 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  3. 4th wright

    I saw him last year at US Cellular Field in Chicago. I do not think he's ever read the Gospels. Nowhere in there did I ever read that Jesus wants me to be rich, something Osteen said repeatedly that night. In fact, Jesus said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). Only God knows his heart, but his words ring hollow to me.

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

    Mormonism and Christianity are not compatible. Mormons disregard the Bible on subjects like monotheism and some very fundamental (and essential) salvation doctrine (i.e. they do not believe in the existence of hell, they believe personal righteousness leads to deification, etc. – all contrary to clear indications of the Bible; specifically, the existence of hell, salvation from condemnation by grace/faith alone, and the basic presupposition, as clearly expressed at multiple points in the Old Testament, that there is only one God). Further, the excuse for his message as presented in this article – that he preaches a watered-down version of Christianity (some would argue that his teaching does not reflect Christianity at all) to attract people to churches – is fundamentally flawed. If he is saying something other than the truth to his massive audiences for the purpose of attracting them to actual truth, is not his tactic at best deception? Is such deception compatible with scripture and the gospel of Christ? I think the answer is clearly no.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Robert

      MONOTHEISM and many other other Christian doctrines were a creation of the Council of Nicea in AD 325. Why would we want to believe Christian doctrines that were compromised on three centuries after Christ??? Why don't we find out what they REALLY believed in Christ's day???

      April 25, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Biblical Logic

      Monotheism is a clearly articulated truth of scripture, specifically that of the old testament (see Isaiah 44:6 – "I am the first and the last; besides me there is no god"; Isaiah 44:8 – "Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any"; Isaiah 45:5 – "I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is non besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other"). The Council of Nicea was not the originator of this belief.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  5. albert

    The number one thing people need to know about Osteen is that he is far removed from anything the Bible teaches. He is a phony Christian. He is not Christlike in the least bit. In fact, Jesus ran his greedy type of people out of the temple.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Guitar

      Exactly – Thank You Albert! Why people think they have to send their money to someone else to get through to God is beyond the pale. Gullible Saps!

      April 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Robert

      Perhaps far removed from our "modern" interpretation of what the Bible teaches. How do we REALLY know what the original interpretation was 2000 years ago? I'm not interested in the modern spin but upon the Bible by uninspired men the past 2 millennia.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  6. nofear

    everyone already knows all that needs to be known: the color of osteen's god is green, his followers' favorite color.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  7. David

    6. Faith in God is an extremely profitable business model, and Osteen has not been shy about taking the money of believers and using it to increase his incredible personal fortune.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  8. mairepaul@me.com

    Mormons are Chrisitians just like a duck is an airplane.

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

      Give the most basic definition of a Christian.

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

      This is like saying a banana can't call itself a fruit because it's not an apple.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  9. Dan

    It's crazy that Osteen says he wants people to get into bible-based churches when his own church clearly isn't based on the bible.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • just sayin

      lol He is another preacher part of God Inc. Making money in the God business. I cannot imagine knowing him on a personal level, it would get so exhausting and irritating having him talk how he does. He talks like a person talks to little children in school. His movements and voice inflection is mechanical and simply fake.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  10. Guitar

    Sham Artists – worth a purported $75 Mil! Does he really think Jesus would be banking that much money if he were around today? And yet, people keep sending their money to Osteen and his ilk, thinking that'll give them a direct line to god. Better advice: skip the middle man. God, people are gullible!

    April 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  11. Celina

    I wish his followers would realize that you DONT NEED TO FOLLOW A CHURCH TO HAVE FAITH!

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

      Right on.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  12. Pam DeRossitte

    Love ya Joel – keep up the good work!

    April 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Guitar

      Another disillusioned soul. So how much money have you sent him, and just how many 'bless you Sister' responses have you got in return? Not a very fair trade now, is it? Why do people think they have to send money to somebody else to get through to God? Gullible – Skip the middle man, he's no better than you are!

      April 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  13. ron

    CNN Beliefs article about Osteen saying Romney was a Christian was headlined as such. You had to read to the end of the article to find out he also believes Obama is a Christian. The headline should have read, "Osteen believes both Romney and Obama are Christians." Sort of an interesting over-sight?

    April 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      Good point

      April 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Kalessin

      I would expect an oversight like that more from Fox.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  14. nostow

    6. He's VERY rich
    7. gives little to charity
    8. Might be the Anti-Christ

    April 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  15. Bogalusa

    If there is money associated with something most likely that something is not associated with God...quote from the book, " It is all good and God is at the end."
    Maybe he is the real deal..but the money things bothers me.Thank goodness I am not God and have to judge others...I suck at reading minds and hearts.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  16. Dexter

    Another one who has risen to the occasion to mislead many and behind the scenes lives a life of materialism. Jesus Christ in both his ministry and technings quoted I'm no part of this world, otherwords while on earth he avoided any form of politics and only support the future government that God will establish for all those who abide by his commands. By the way Joel there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and unrigtheous here on earth, the earth will be brought back to its orginal state, you are not going to heaven, a mere young boy will touch the head of a cobra, this good news of the kingdom will be preached throughout the entire inhabited earth, seek first the kingdom (God's earthly government) try to put a few of these points together in its proper context Joel. Joel you simply need to meditate and understand Gods greatest communication tool to us the Holy Scriptures which you really have no clue of its significance.

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

    I don't know if he's a nice guy or not- only his wife really knows that. For all we know, he could just be a really good actor.

    What bothers me is that he's gotten rich off this church, and to me being a humble servant of God and being rich are mutually exclusive.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • jmcm1955

      He does not take a salary from his church. His personal salary comes from writing books. Yes, its a family business, but it has grown on a good business model. He's probably one of the most fiscally transparent televangelists out there.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  18. Sebastian

    Opiate.Of. The. Masses.

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

      And they are hopelessly addicted. Lousy opiate dealers!

      April 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  19. displacedmic

    I hate him because he betrayed Ned Stark.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • AKSean

      Winter is coming

      April 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  20. AtheistDude

    6. He's a con man just like all other evangelical preacher leeches!

    April 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • truebeliever

      No, he's not a con man. You can't read the motives of someone's heart nor read their mind. you just hate him because he believes in God, something you oppose at all costs, no matter what. You're free to hate what you want, but it does reveal the contents of YOUR heart: HATE. Time for you to come to the One you hate, be set free of your hate.
      p.s. – i don't believe in santa claus, but i dont' campaign on the internet like you do with the "anti santa-claus" agenda. you hate God SO much due to your lifestyle of hate, that you must in turn hate anyone who believes in Him. Sad. I bet you're a miserable, lonely man.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • OOO

      Thou useith the word "hate" a bit much.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • I wonder

      truebeliever, "i don't believe in santa claus, but i dont' campaign on the internet like you do with the "anti santa-claus" agenda."

      If Santa Clausism became the dominant 'religion' of the country, tried to influence the government, inst/itute laws and public policies and demand that it be taught in public education - start every school day with a reading from "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and have "Ho Ho Ho" on your money - I'm just betting that you would have something to say about it on an internet forum and elsewhere!

      April 25, 2012 at 5:58 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.