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. colin31714

    Who was it who once said that nobody ever went broke over-estimating the gullibility of the public? Barnum?

    March 14, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Barnum could be much more succinct... "There is a sucker born every minute"

      March 14, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
  2. danab1234

    Should five per cent appear too small
    Be thankful I don't take it all
    Cos I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

    March 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      lol... 5 points for referencing the Beatles

      March 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
  3. danab1234

    I need to start a religion and take advantage of all of the gullible people out there that think they are going to float around on a cloud when they die.

    March 14, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
    • juanalbion

      Go on then, what's stopping you? Bet it doesn't work.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Joseph Smith pulled it off...

        March 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          L. Ron Hubbard, Rev Moon, David Coresh, Hevean's Gate, Jonestown, etc.

          Not as hard as you think apparently...

          March 15, 2014 at 9:17 am |
  4. danab1234

    People, there are a lot of great causes out there if you want to donate your money. This clown that pretends there is an invisible magician in the sky is not one of them.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
    • juanalbion

      What are you, some kind of arrogant dictator?

      March 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • kermit4jc

      OH..so soup kitchens and helping the needy isn't good enough?????

      March 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
    • plumes1

      Yess I saw it coming from a long time ago. My theory is that its an INSIDE JOB. Hard times.

      March 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
  5. torchytodd

    Well, the thieves will probably put the money to better use than the people who are basically just throwing money at a scam artist.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
    • juanalbion

      Back in reality, that is most unlikely, but it would make a bigot feel better to say so.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
      • torchytodd

        It's not bigotry. I don't hate these people simply because they're religious. I think they're stupid for throwing their money at unproven things. Big difference.

        March 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
  6. bspurloc

    tax all religious places.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
  7. danab1234

    The brain-washed sheep are really going to have to empty their pockets this weekend to make up for that.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
    • juanalbion

      You must be an atheist since you don't understand even basic phrases like "the stolen money is insured."

      March 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
      • joey3467

        That is probable why Osteen stole it so he could make 1.2 million instead of 600,000

        March 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
      • doobzz

        "You must be an atheist since you don't understand even basic phrases like "the stolen money is insured.""

        You must be religious if you think that will stop Osteen from crying about it and guilting his flock into even more donations.

        March 15, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
      • plumes1

        Yess I saw it coming from a long time ago. My theory is that its an INSIDE JOB. Hard times.

        March 15, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
  8. danab1234

    Good. I hope they give it back to the gullible people that he fooled.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
  9. bobbaft

    $400,000 in checks....unless their name is a church, they're not going to be able to cash them.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Alias

    All hail Robin Hood!


    March 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
  11. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    LET's Religiosity Law #13 – If you believe any of the christian ass-clowns on television (or the radio) are “helping” you get closer to Jesus and not doing it to get your money, but also have the capacity to be shocked when their misdeeds/lies eventually come to light… well, you are an imbecile. This law is immutable.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
  12. SeaVik

    Vic – You don't seem to get it. The fact that the money is donated by people or organizations who pay tax doesn't change the fact that they pay LESS tax by donating the money. Tax that should go to support every citizen, not to a religious organization to decide how to use it.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
  13. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    Money stolen from an organization that steals money... ironic? Yes, very ironic.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
    • juanalbion

      You must be an atheist since you don't understand even basic concepts like people making donations of their own free will. I guess in your eyes giving to things that YOU believe in is okay, but giving to things YOU don't believe in makes it stealing.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Conning people out of their money... is stealing the last time I checked. Especially when it comes to that slimy snake-oil salesman Osteen.

        March 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Regardless if am an atheist or not (I am), if you are a 'follower' of Joel Osteen, then It is safe to assess you as a moron.

        March 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
        • joey3467

          And that is putting it nicely.

          March 14, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
      • the0g0to0the0t

        Just because I signed the check of my own free will doesn't mean I wasn't scammed into doing so in the first place.

        March 15, 2014 at 9:20 am |
  14. doobzz

    Why doesn't he just pray for it to be returned?

    More likely, he'll cry and weep over it at this weekend's services and fleece his flock for even more money to cover his "loss".

    March 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
    • larry188

      I smell an extra special collection coming up from Osteen to replace this stolen money. It's not like anything is beneath this guy.

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

        I'm sure the replacement money is already rolling in. I wouldn't be surprised to see a special donation section on his web page by the end of the day.

        Even though the cash part will be covered by insurance, I'll bet he cries about how this will hinder his "mission" so his sheep will cover it double or more. He'll come out way ahead.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
        • juanalbion

          You guys must be atheists since you don't understand even basic phrases like "the stolen money is insured."

          March 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
        • doobzz

          Oh, please. Like that will stop him from crying about it so the flock gives more to "replace it".

          You must be religious if you didn't get that.

          March 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
        • otoh2

          I don't understand how cash that just came in the door a few hours previous can be certified and insured.

          March 14, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
        • doobzz

          I suppose it's like any other business, the day's receipts are counted as soon as the "closed" sign goes up. The insurance on the business covers whatever the day's receipts are, so long as there's a record of it.

          March 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
  15. nickegreenberg

    Osteen has just come out with a statement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R797dnu9Y6E&feature=youtu.be

    March 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
  16. seedenbetter

    Joel and his wife probably "stole" the money themselves and claimed it on insurance because they wanted a new Rolls.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
    • otoh2

      I'm not sure how the cash could be insured. Did someone record all of those contributions so soon after the service? Do they take pictures of the cash?

      (I know that years ago when my house was robbed - the police recovered everything (Yay!), but would not return any of the cash - even though we could roughly describe the silver dollar coins and the $2 bills)

      March 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
  17. boz238

    I may not agree with the doctrine of many of these mega churches, but obviously others do and are willing to contribute in something they find pleasure in and enjoy. Nobody is holding a gun to their heads. Look at the salaries of sports professionals, hollywood entertainers, and drug dealers to name a few members of our society. Don't hear a whole lot of rhetoric going on over their finances. But, the first time a preacher looks like he is making some money, people who are really opposed to religion in general want to jump on the bandwagon and discredit him. Seems to me Baker went to prison and paid for his crimes. If they are breaking the law, the kingdom will fall. Nobody gets of scott free. What is it I see everywhere, COEXIST.

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

      "Drug dealers"

      good comparison!

      "Nobody gets of(f) scott free"

      ... but I thought that was the whole point of having a savior, I.e. to pay for our sins, I.e. scott free.

      March 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
      • juanalbion

        Then your idea of a savior is wrong.

        March 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
      • guidedans

        Hi Midwest,

        Just a note, Jesus's sacrifice was not "Scott Free." Jesus paid an immeasurable price for our sins. We are recognizing that and honoring him as our Lord and Savior. No one gets off scott free. A price has to be paid for sin.

        March 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
        • joey3467

          No what you are doing is shirking personal responsibility and letting someone else take your punishment, which is highly immoral.

          March 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
        • guidedans

          Joey, The thing is, Jesus already took responsibility for our sins. We are just accepting the gift He gave us. He also already died for your sins. The gift is free for you to accept as well.

          It is not immoral to accept salvation from an all-loving God. You should really consider it.

          March 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
    • chris688

      Except that sports professionals and Hollywood entertainers pay taxes.

      March 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • rscalzo

      For the most part, they pay tax on that money. Even drug dealers get jammed up if they don't pay up. Yet churches get away scot free.

      March 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
  18. prezjk

    $600,000 in a weekend? It would take me more than 20 years to earn that. Oh well, at least I do it honestly. Maybe someone will give the stolen money to the government for all of the taxes Osteen does not pay.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • seedenbetter

      That would only cover .001% of taxes owed by this criminal organization.

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

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

      March 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
      • santiagodraco

        You mean feeding and sheltering Osteen's grandiose living style and pocketbook.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
      • joey3467

        Obviously that is not the case.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
      • doobzz

        Really, Vic? And Osteen drives a beat up old Chevy Vega, right? Wears clothes from Walmart? Lives in a tiny apartment in a run down area of Houston? He's just a regular guy, like the people who fund his mega church, right, Vic?


        March 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
      • joey3467

        Using that logic no one should have to pay taxes because every single time I pay for something it is with money that has already been taxed, and thus by your logic the company that I spend it with shouldn't have to pay taxes.

        March 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
      • ausphor

        You may want to look into the lifestyle of the Osteen family, employees and friends then get back to us on how much of the take goes to good works, feeding and sheltering the poor etc. Precious little would be my guess, if it was above 5% of the funds scammed I would be surprised. Thanks for letting us know that Joel is one of your favorites just shows how deep your delusion runs.

        March 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • plumes1

      Joel O Steels

      March 15, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  19. larry188

    There is money "stolen" from those people every day by that church. That's why this charlatan is worth $40 million. Just a humble man of god, right?

    March 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  20. pmar2014

    Osteen isn't even an ordained minister, only a Oral Roberts U dropout.

    March 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • Akira

      Joel says his dad ordained him at Lakewood.

      March 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
    • bobbaft

      You said ORAL!

      March 14, 2014 at 1:47 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.