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. JOHN

    JOEL THE LAIR is misleading everyone . Jesus said to beware of false prophet who comes in sheep clothing . The reason he is smiling all the time is because he is brain washing everyone while flying in his private plane and living in his BIG MANSION . Oh by the way, he is not I repeat not a ORDAIN PASTOR at all . He just took over the church when is dad died. He needs to spend more time reading the BIBLE than telling everyone you can be a better you. He should teach how to bring someone to CHRIST.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Can you give an example of a few sermons of his that made you feel this negatively towards him? We hear/see you ranting but you failed to give examples of things he said that you disliked so much.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  2. JohnRJohnson

    Everything that can be said about this charlatan has been said. He's multi-millionaire traveling around with this trophy wife, pretending to be a spiritual man. It is nauseating. Some day, a majority of the public will catch on to the fact that these people who run so-called mega-churches are in it for one thing - MONEY.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  3. JustSayin

    I didn't know Joel was from Texas. That's him on the radio singing "Cause We're From Texas buddy and we will kick your azz".

    April 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  4. Not so fast

    Joel is a decent person. He doesn't preach out of the King James version...so does he preach his own philosophy of religion I think so. He's a smooth talker. Delivers speech's like life is absolutely positive..for some it is and for some not so. This life is
    not a bed of roses like Osteen preaches. He doesn't live in the real world. Don't get me wrong..I've heard him..sugar coats
    life which is not true. I think taking money from a congregation is theft by deception. There are plenty of these kind of preachers in Texas.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  5. sl5465

    Hey everyone, I am sorry I am a religious weak minded fool.
    I'm blonde and don't know any better.
    I love god, he is my friend, and I am too pathetic to realize there is NO god.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  6. NukeTim

    #6. How to live "high on the hog" off the tax-free contributions of church members.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  7. reverend al

    Osteen is a fraud just like all the other televangelists

    April 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  8. Jeff Lucas

    if you don't understand and believe in the Trinity Godhead, you're not a Christian.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • JohnRJohnson

      Being a "Christian" now days in an insult to what Christianity once was.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • sl5465

      So....Whats wrong with that? Religion is stupid...so are you if you believe in them.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  9. sybaris

    Bernie Madhoff pales in comparison to Joel Osteen.

    Religion, the ultimate ponzi scheme.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Ken

      Joel is a snake oil salesman leading people to Hell. When he says that he believes Mormons are Christians he shows how stupid he actually is about what the Bible actually says. Never do you hear him tell people what they must do to go to heaven. A historical belief in Jesus want cut it, the devils believe that.

      April 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  10. LouAz

    1. A fortune can be made telling people what they should be able to figure out themselves.

    2. Pick a god that needs to be wound up every Sunday which keep nsthe cash flow steady.

    3. Use one and only one book that is a mismatched set of fables and myths that can not be verifired in any way.

    4. Keep you hair long because most pictures of jeebus look like that.

    5 Get a blue eyed blond as companion as men are partial to them.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  11. Steve

    "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."

    The adjustment didn't mollify Catholics or the Catholic Church one bit, and the US Catholic Bishops even responded saying as such!

    April 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Ummm....Guess what....

      Who cares about the pedophile catholic church...they are the worst offenders ever. Assh0les!

      Religion is for the weak!

      April 25, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  12. heywood Jablowme

    Did you learn that this guy sells G -d like a commodity and will be punished in the end? Did you also learn that he has breakfast with Jesus every morning and Jesus thinks people should send Joel all of their money?

    This guys eyes arent brown because of DNA

    April 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • sl5465

      how thought provoking are statements from people, such as heywood, who are so lost they won't even spell the word God,,,,,,give me a break.....are you that afraid of criticism from your little gourp of agnostic buddies?......living in fear must be tough

      April 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  13. What we learned

    What we learned is he is a loser a liar and suck up..
    What we learned is we all would be better if he was dead!

    April 25, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • sl5465

      thank you bin Laden Jr......props to your mom. Miss your dad. The seals didn't.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  14. Cliftone

    It's always amazing to me how quick people are to JUDGE others and throw stones. This comment thread has gone away from the main topic; Are Mormans Christians? I'ts REALLY simple ... you either BELIEVE THE BIBLE = IS = THE WORD OF GOD or you don't ...

    John 3:16
    New International Version (NIV)

    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    John 3:16
    New King James Version (NKJV)

    16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

    John 3:16
    Amplified Bible (AMP)

    16For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([a]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

    John 3:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

    John 3:16
    New Living Translation (NLT)

    16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

    NOT TOO COMPLICATED ... we are saved by GOD'S GRACE and LOVE nothing else....

    April 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • What we learned

      What we learned by your post:

      That you too are an idiot!

      April 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • What we learned

      Another thing we learned is that when you run out of toilet paper in your house you have plenty of bibles to use in place of toilet paper.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Wholly Mary

      Pure garbage.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Ummm....Guess what....

      There is no god or anything like god you pathetic weak minded fool!
      You need a serious reality check!

      April 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Not so fast

      Your are accountable for your sins. Grace doesn't save you. You don't understand the bible. Joel Osteen lives off what his
      people pay into this mega church. Nothing different from televangelist. He lives in a beautiful home, nice clothes, expensive cars and people there who can't pay their bills but will donate to him. Jesus was not paid for his preaching...

      April 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • sane

      If losing an only son is so much of a sacrifice, why wouldn't God just impregnate another human woman or two?

      April 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Jeff S

      I would be inclined to believe the Bible was the word of G if he had written the book. As it was, men born of this earth wrote the book. I'm surprised you would believe men that lived centuries before you did without knowing a single solid thing about them. All we know od them is what is in the book. Based on the amount of information you have on them you could equally believe an email from a dude in Africa has millions of dollars he is willing to split with you. How many people today around you do you trust when all you have is a few written words? What makes you believe these men were true to G's words when they wrote this book years after the events that are depicted?

      April 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • sybaris

      John 3:16, my favorite.

      Pretty wimpy god if it could only create one son.

      Kinda funny how it allegedly created the first humans out of dirt but had to use another mans wife to recreate itself.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  15. Bambam

    Five things we learned about Joel Osteen: 1. He's a hypocrite. 2. He's a greedy hypocrite. 3. He's a religious nut-bag greedy hypocrite. 4. He's a clown-faced religious nut-bag greedy hypocrite. 5. He's laughing all the way to the bank!

    April 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • sl5465

      everybody forgive Bambam, for he knows not what he says...or does

      April 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Irene Done

      Too true!

      April 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  16. tor5

    I wonder how many of these critical posters have ever listened to Osteen. I have. I probably wouldn’t agree with him about some things, but I can tell you that I’ve never heard him lecture about morality or ask for money. He just encourages people to be good, honest, positive forces in the world. You may or may not like his religion, but he’s not your typical judgmental, greedy televangelist. From all I can tell, he’s a pretty decent guy.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Bambam

      How does that Kool-aid taste?

      April 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Ronin

      People may hate the guy, but he looks like the happiest guy in the world. Even if it's due to his religious delusions, he still is a lot happier than most people in the world. You can't knock a guy with that kind of optimism.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • tor5

      Bambam: You might want to check your own cup, my friend. We all live in a world of propaganda. I'll just take Osteen at face value until there is evidence to the contrary. Your name-calling is not evidence, but the very definition of propaganda.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • toadears

      I liked his Daddy. The son is grandfathered in nepotistic spoiled brat who's wife has the audacity to complain in first class airline seats and throw a fit in public. uh praise the lord. He is a feel good preacher and a compromiser. As worldly as they come.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  17. Pwayne

    Joel Osteen is a wolf in sheep's clothing....he is misleading thousands with his prosperity gospel message. The abundant life that Christ talked about was a spiritual one...not about big homes, expensive suits and expensive cars. The pursuit of these things is not what Christ was talking about. Osteen and his wife are sickening to listen to. Osteen's proclamation that Mormon Mitt Romney is a Christian is simply not true. Mormon's do not believe in the Trinity, Father, Son, Jesus and Holy Spirit. The Mormons are not Christians and Osteen is not to be listened to unless you desire a place called hell.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Ignaqcio Lopez

      Pwayne is totally wrong about Mormons not being Christians and that they don't believe in the Trinity. Makes me wonder where all these bigoted Christians get there information. Knowledge is a terrible thing to waste and in Pwaynes case, it is a more terrible thing to posses wrong information and then to try to pass on as knowledge to others. Get your facts right Pwaynes.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Jeff S

      Strange. I just looked up the definition of Christian and it only mentioned that a person be "a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings." And you can argue whether the Bible actually teaches the Trinity.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  18. toadears

    1. He is a false prophet. 2. He inherited the business from his father who could actually preach. 3. He and his wife are spoiled brats that didn't have to work for anything they have. 4. He looks like a member of the Cleaver family. 5. He will say whatever it takes to win sound bytes.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  19. theoldfool1950

    When we can't handle the truth we go to someone who will tell us what we want to hear, someone who will give us the easy way out. That's Joel. And for this people pay him. I think they call that theft by deception. It's an awful thing to watch your culture decline because so many cannot keep up. Joel is not helping. He only masks the pain, like a drug. He is the king of winning the one sided argument, because woe to him who would criticize the word of the lord. We are all the problem.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  20. Dan

    This is the most amazing piece of fluff I've ever read on CNN. I've read Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton stories with more objectivity and depth.

    April 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Joseph

      Dan ... uh ... it's a blog....

      April 25, 2012 at 6:41 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.