March 14th, 2014
11:42 AM ET

$600,000 stolen from Joel Osteen's megachurch

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - Talk about thieves in the temple.

Some $600,000 in cash and check donations were stolen this week from Lakewood Church in Houston, according to the city's police department.

Incredibly, all of the money was from one weekend's donations, the church says. For many American churches, $600,000 in tithes would be a good month or even year.

The church, which is pastored by bestselling author and preacher Joel Osteen, told congregants the stolen money came from contributions on March 8 and 9.

The theft occurred between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. About $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks were stolen from a church safe, said Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva.

The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made, Silva said.

Lakewood Church also warned congregants to keep an eye on their credit and bank accounts, since some of the stolen goods include envelopes with credit card information on them. The church said there was no electronic data breach, though, and the stolen money is insured.

Officials at the evangelical church declined further comment.

According to Christian researchers, Lakewood is the largest church in the country, with some 43,500 members attending Sunday services. It meets in a former sports and entertainment arena just outside downtown Houston.

The church's popularity has been built on Osteen's relentlessly optimistic, and some say unbiblical, teachings, which often focus as much on self-help as eternal salvation.

"Part of my ... success is that I've stayed in my lane," Osteen told CNN in 2012, "and my lane is lifting people's spirits."

MORE ON CNN: No, Joel Osteen has not renounced his faith

Pastor Joel Osteen on the power of prayer

Osteen: I stick to issues I understand

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • evangelicals

soundoff (556 Responses)
  1. thefinisher1

    Tax atheism. End the debate😜😀😙😀😊😜😄

    March 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1


      March 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • bostontola

      I'm so glad you are a Christian.

      March 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • danab1234

      Tax brain-washed sheep.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
    • kudlak

      What funds would you tax?

      March 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • Alias

      They already do. Duh!

      March 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
  2. dieselserpent

    Is a thief stealing from a thief really theft?

    March 14, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
    • kudlak

      Maybe, if they're like Robin Hood and they return the money to the original owners.

      March 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
    • prezjk

      Maybe someone will give that to the government for all of the taxes Osteen does not pay.

      March 14, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
  3. pmar2014

    All I can say is good! Whoever stole it has more of a need for it than Osteen.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
  4. shawbrooke

    Ah yes. A headline that in today's context raises questions about how churches handle donations and in this context that's prejudicial journalism. The fact that the church ahs insurance for theft is the real news and should have been in the headline. As in $600,000 theft insured at Osteen's megachurch.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
  5. karali1975

    The righteous and the pious are the always the sleaziest thieves in the room. No Man of God should even have 600K to be stolen, and I would not be half surprised if this godless jerk took the money himself. These faux-pastors are nothing but thieves and greedy businessmen. Osteen is profiting off god and for that, there is a special place in hell for him.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
  6. pmar2014

    He'll make it up on the next weekend. Never understand the connection between having to give to a church and being saved. I would think being "saved" should be free. In any case it appears Osteen's fluff is pretty valuable. So, I'll give a try: "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Ok, now give me $100 for that.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
  7. camilletoe

    HAHA, this story makes me happy. Karma at its finest. Joel Osteen is a fraud who has made millions off his gullible followers, by perverting biblical teachings to suit his greed (Jesus would NEVER agree with his 'prosperity gospel' nonsense), and his wife Victoria is a mean drunk who attacks flight attendants. Theft hurts, doesn't it? Just ask the people you've swindled.

    I hope that whoever stole the money gave it to the poor, like the Osteens have never done.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
    • ephuzz

      Very true. Prosperity Gospel is 20th-21st century American Made Jesus. The Jesus made by these folks owns a Corvette, wears jeans, a cowboy hat, carries AT LEAST 3 guns, chews tobacco and smokes Marbs, and looks up to Ronald Reagan.

      March 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
  8. SeaVik

    Does anyone know if these guys have to pay taxes? That would be pretty messed up if not.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • ephuzz

      No taxes. Income or property. :-$

      March 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • karali1975

      No person who runs a religious organization is required to pay taxes, therefore, you and I are footing the bill for someone else's religious freedom even though they are constantly complaining they are being discriminated against by the government. It is total BS. I applaud Israel for passing legislation that requires orthodox jews to go into the draft – they were the ones pushing for military action yet they refused to participate – this is akin to that. We need to remind our fellow people of faith they are also people of America and if you want to drive that luxury BMW that jesus would have frowned upon down the streets we all paid for, they damn well better pay for it too. Sick of the hypocrisy in my own community. It is like the Robertsons preaching about faith and then taking millions from a network they peed all over.

      March 14, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
      • SeaVik

        It is sick. Seems like a violation of the const.itution to subsidize religious organizations by exempting them from paying taxes.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          The disgust becomes even more real when you see head line like this:
          "The Yearly Cost of Religious Tax Exemptions: $71,000,000,000"

          Religion is the longest running con game.

          March 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
    • Vic

      All that donated money is by congregants and Corporations who are solid taxpayers, and most of it goes for the function of the church, which includes feeding and/or sheltering the poor/destitute and/or homeless

      March 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
      • SeaVik

        Uh, yeah, but when they donate the money they deduct it so they don't have to pay tax on it. That means that what should be money used for every citizen becomes money to be used however the church sees fit. It is a blatant case of the government endorsing religious organizations which is unconst.itutional. But then, the religious right doesn't seem to know anything about what the const.itution actually says.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
      • seedenbetter

        You're just the type of sheep who should feel at home in their palace.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
      • kudlak

        "feeding and/or sheltering the poor/dest-itute and/or homeless"
        That's just some of this, and most churches' activities, right? A lot goes into recruiting more alms-giving members, making it more of a business than a charity. Most churches offer counselling services, to members who also support the church financially. How is that different than psychologists providing services for cash? Why not separate the charitable arm of all churches and tax the other parts fairly if they're providing similar services for similar payment?

        March 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
    • kudlak

      Not every religion gets rubber stamped as tax exempt. Remember the legal battles that Scientology went through? That leaves the federal government in the position of determining what is a proper religion and, if that isn't a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment, then what is?

      March 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
      • kudlak

        Oops, make that a 1st Amendment violation.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  9. jonathanlk

    That's probably pocket change for Joel. He is worth about 40 million. Were they in bit coins? These TV Evangelists are always made of money. Why do you think they are so joyful? They don't even know what to do with it. I think of Jimmy and Tammy Baker and their gold plated ROlls Royce. Ron Hubbard told the world "if you want to get rich, start a religion" when he was on the Johnny Carson show. The next year he published "Scientology". Instant millionaire and Of course he bought a giant yacht. Guru Mahariji and his solid gold toilet. Hey well I guess at least religion works for some people.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
  10. joey3467

    Yeah, went missing right into his personal bank account most likely.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
    • danab1234

      The same could be said about most of the other money.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
  11. sirhuxley

    Yep, bet you didn't know they were raking in that kind of cash, huh?

    Well, I also bet that most Americans are not aware that in 1957 a law was passed that exempts businesses like Osteens from paying any taxes (AT ALL), and get this, this is the very sweet part, their books cannot be AUDITED by the government!

    Its against the law to audit their books!

    So guess what that attracts to the "faith" ??

    Yep, thats right, MONEY LAUNDERERS, aka. criminals.

    So Senators and Congressmen, when are you going to repeal this crime-enabling law?

    When is 21st century America going to shutdown these criminal havens?

    March 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
  12. Akira

    Six hundred.
    One weekend.

    Prosperity Gospel had been berry, berry good to Mr. Osteen.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • bostontola

      I'm sure his salary and expenses are at the bare minimum.

      March 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
      • Akira

        Well, naturally. That's what a man who embraces the way Jesus lived would do.

        If that was a typical week's take, he's bringing in over. $31 million dollars a year.


        March 14, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • otoh2

          I'm not from Houston, but it looks like this church has a huge 'campus' , staff, etc."

          "... in 2005, Joel moved Lakewood Church into its present location, the former Compaq Center, a 16,000-seat arena that was once home to the Houston Rockets professional basketball team." –https://www.lakewoodchurch.com/pages/new-here/joel-osteen.aspx

          It's a huge entertainment-like business.

          March 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
        • Akira

          I'm quite sure Jesus never meant His ministry to be viewed as entertainment...

          Good grief.

          March 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
        • Vic

          It's a blessing from the Lord.

          Pastor Joel Osteen was going for a much smaller building for his church, and was completely taken by surprise when Houston's Christian community presented him with this arena. He was completely shocked and refused at the beginning. Then they brought him up to it. He told all about it.

          March 14, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
        • otoh2

          I don't know, Akira, the writers of the stories had him providing a free magic fish dinner to 5,000 folks!

          March 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Vic: How is it a blessing? Isn't greed a sin or does this guy get a free pass because he's a con-man for his imaginary friend?

          March 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Number Two: Doctor Evil, Virtucon has branched out into a new and exciting business. People simply give us money, every week, and it is completely tax free! This new business is making more than sixty million dollars a year and we don't even have to threaten them with nuclear warheads and there cost basis is very low.

          Doctor Evil: What is it Number Two?

          Number Two: Virtucon Ministries – an evangelical outreach in an abandoned sports center, and that's just one location.

          Doctor Evil: That doesn't sound very evil to me.

          Number Two: Well, we brainwash them; and we broadcast our brainwashing on cable television.

          Doctor Evil: And they give us money to let us brainwash them; willingly; every week?

          Number Two: Yes Doctor Evil.

          Doctor Evil: Well so long as it's an evil ministry. Carry on Number Two.

          March 14, 2014 at 9:50 pm |
  13. xmfjpaweof

    Thieves stealing from thieves (and liars and sheep), what a shame.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • bostontola

      Robbing from the fleeced, the perfect crime.

      March 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
  14. texasmomma2014

    Sorry to hear this happened, Pastor Osteen has helped so many people, hope no one becomes a victim of ID theft.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
    • doobzz

      Helped lighten their wallets, for sure.

      March 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
    • danab1234

      He mainly helps himself.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
  15. ionymous

    Why don't they just check the security cameras? With that kind of money and prices so cheap, surely they have them

    March 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
    • otoh2

      Oooh, maybe there'll be a movie about it - similar to "Ocean's 11" !

      March 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
  16. Vic

    Joel Osteen is one of my favorite preachers.

    I have watched Joel Osteen's service on Sunday for a while, and I loved it. The guy delivers the message of Salvation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ without judgement nor condemnation and gives hope to everyone!!! That brings TRUE FAITH in people. That is TRUE WITNESS to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    God Bless.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
    • Doris

      Look there, Vic. I just threw a ball down the street. Go get it, boy!

      March 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • bostontola

      I'll take your word for it that he has the right message. Since some charismatic preachers have turned out to be frauds, bilking people out of their money, how can you be sure?

      March 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
      • sam stone

        I find it amusing that oilsheen was ripped off

        March 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • bostontola

          I wonder if the insurance company believes him or investigates...my money is on an investigation.

          March 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • fissilemissile

          @bostonola... Sounds like a case for Banacek!

          March 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • xmfjpaweof

      Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

      March 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
    • SeaVik

      Why does that not surprise me? An immoral mega-preacher is one of your favorites...

      March 14, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
    • camilletoe

      Wow, you really are a dumb sheep. The Osteens "follow" Scripture like Tim Burton's Batman "followed" the original comic.

      March 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
    • kudlak

      YOU don't believe in condemnation!?!


      March 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  17. oharris30

    WOW never cared for these so called pastors like joel olsteen and all the others. Jesus was a simple man with no treasures. sad that so many people in this country can help these people live this type of lifestyle when they have to work hard and struggle. news like this makes me wonder just how bad unemployment is in this country. people giving this kind of money to people like Olsteen must be doing pretty good.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • danab1234

      They must be extremely gullible.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
  18. In Santa We Trust

    $600K in a weekend – it really is the prosperity gospel for the Osteens and their ilk.

    March 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
  19. bostontola

    "Lakewood Church also warned congregants to keep an eye on their credit and bank accounts, since some of the stolen goods include envelopes with credit card information on them."
    If a company was so reckless with people's data there would be outrage and lawsuits.

    "The church said there was no electronic data breach, though, and the stolen money is insured."
    Pray for the security of your congregant's money, but take out insurance just in case. They are quite pragmatic when it comes to money, aren't they.

    March 14, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • shawbrooke

      Yes, as it should be. The insurance robs detractors of the opportunity to make negative hay. As the Bible says, wise as serpents. Good for him.

      March 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
      • bostontola

        600K is VERY good for him.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
  20. yvonne1wilson

    Reblogged this on Empowerment Moments Blog.

    March 14, 2014 at 11:55 am |
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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.