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. ausphor

    Didn't know diddly squat about JO but decided to learn a thing or two after reading this story. So he has his big mother church in Houston and a weekly TV show that rakes in the money. He also goes on tour, Friday April 11 he will be in Anaheim, CA at the Honda Center with his road show, matinee performance @ 2:00 pm, tickets available from $30 to $1,000 and another performance @ 7:00 PM, tickets available from $38 to $1,000, hurry on down. He seems to do a tour every month, nice gig if you can get it. No wonder nobody gets to see the books, $600,000 a weekend is probably just the half of it.

    March 15, 2014 at 11:03 am |
    • ausphor

      Doing the numbers, the Honda Center seats 18.300 for a stage event, two shows that is 36,600 attendance if it sells out, at a modest $100 a ticket...$3,660,000, the lord provides big time.

      March 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
  2. chanvgap

    Why do I not feel even a tiny bit sorry for a Commercial Non-Profit losing 600k in TWO DAYS of EARNINGS?

    March 15, 2014 at 10:47 am |
  3. jerrywalters

    It is NOT a church ... Joel operates a business. Seriously, 'stolen from his church'? LOL.

    March 15, 2014 at 10:40 am |
  4. mickinmd

    "Talk about thieves in the temple."

    Yeah, start with Joel Osteen.

    March 15, 2014 at 10:24 am |
  5. bostontola

    Osteen wouldn't pump up the amount reported stolen for insurance purposes, he's an honest man...right?

    March 15, 2014 at 9:47 am |
    • Joeseph Eclaire

      His church in Houston is similar in location setting as the country of India.
      Which is an island of wealth surrounded by poverty and slums.
      I doubt he cooked the books only because the reality is these mega churches pull in some major coin.

      I remember years ago when I lived out in California the Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim. My boss was a member and seating was by how much you gave every year. And the who's who of society in Orange county all attended.

      The Rev. Robert Shuller who started out back in the day under a tent.
      It cost upwards of $10,000 a year just to clean the windows on that church.

      March 15, 2014 at 10:12 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        My Aunt prayed and Jesus helped her find her car keys...

        Maybe Joel Oilsheen should try that....

        March 15, 2014 at 11:00 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        My Aunt prayed and Jesus helped her find her car keys...

        Maybe Joel Oilsheen should try that.....

        March 15, 2014 at 11:02 am |
      • Vic

        Rev. Robert Shuller's grandson Bobby Shuller is also one my favorite preachers, he is a modest man. He left the Hour of Power at the Crystal Cathedral and started his own church, but it didn't work out. The Crystal Cathedral brought him back after that.

        Anyway, The Hour of Power moved out of the Crystal Cathedral last year, which the iconic landmark was sold to a Catholic Diocese in 2011, due to financial troubles.

        March 15, 2014 at 11:33 am |
        • sam stone

          "preacher" and "modest" do not go together, vic

          March 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
  6. crownedinoil

    I think its a wonderful thing that someone took his cash..,. God Knows his evil and all the other churches that steel from the people !!!!

    March 15, 2014 at 9:41 am |
    • crownedinoil

      I mean steal !!! lol.... thief !!

      March 15, 2014 at 9:44 am |
  7. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    As far as I know Mr. Osteen is an adherent of the prosperity gospel: Sow here, harvest here. Yet, Jesus said: "Sow here, harvest there!" Here on earth the true Christian will be rejected, and has to suffer a lot despite his charity. Of course, charity should be natural for a true Christian. Charity is an expression of true faith but the world will not reward our faith, on the contrary. Exactly this is what makes life as a Christian so hard. Christian practice charity, they love their fellow human beings with sacral love, but the world hates them nevertheless. That is just demonic.

    But when we give we should be aware that we as single persons, even as single Christians, are nearly powerless. We should not presume that we as single people could be as powerful as the Lord himself who was the Son of God, and had got the Spirit in abundance. Jesus Christ was a divine person; we can never achieve such a very high rank.

    How can somebody (for example a disbeliever) encounter a "single" person having the same spiritual power like Jesus? This marvelous person is the Christian Church, the body of Christ. The Church as a whole has a power similar to the power of the Son of God. If we as single persons want to apply that power to people we encounter we must be representatives of the Church as a whole, we must be ordained clergy of the Church. But even an ordained minister will never have the full power of Jesus himself but only a gift: being an apostle, being a prophet, being a teacher, etc.

    When the Church celebrates the holy sacrament of baptism, the effectivity of the sacrament does not depend on the minister and his gift. The invisible baptist is always God himself who baptizes us into Jesus. The Church only celebrates baptism but the power comes from God: We die, and resurrect together with Jesus. That power enables us to overcome our sinful flesh, and to love God and our neighbour. Anyway, the real faith causes unbiased, unselfish love. We love because Jesus loved us at first (he died for us on the cross when we still were sinners), and we love because Love (Jesus) is in us. We may expect an eternal reward after our earthly life. We will never practice love for the sake of an earthly reward – love must be natural for a true Christian.

    Of course, these people practicing charity as representatives or memebers of the whole Church, are allowed to make use of the benefits system of the Church. The first Christians were converted Jews. The Jews which did not convert to Jesus anathematized them (the converted Jews), and certainly many of them became unemployed though they were eager to work hard, and earn their own money, and to live on money which they had earned by hard (mostly manual) work. But as their fellow Jews denied them jobs they had to live on the aid of their Church, and St. Paul collected money for them worldwide amongst the gentiles who had converted to Jesus.


    Mr. Osteen and the pope have something in common: They are wolves in sheep's clothing. They are just interested in honor, power and riches. They don't take care of the souls of the Pentecostals and Catholics. They put at risk the soul's health of the Pentecostals or Catholics for the sake of their own benefit. Ain't they spiritual criminals. Jesus will treat them in a very special way when he returns. Fear and dread to Osteen's and the pope's soul.

    March 15, 2014 at 9:27 am |
    • Reality

      There are "red-necked" evangelicals like Osteen and then there are "red-necked" Lutherans like Helmut Braendlein.

      March 15, 2014 at 9:39 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        What is the meaning of red-necked?

        March 15, 2014 at 10:05 am |
        • Reality

          " A white person regarded as having a provincial, conservative, often bigoted att-itude."

          March 16, 2014 at 8:12 am |
    • ausphor

      You stated yesterday that the CC did not exist and that you wished it did. I will ask again, what happened? Did it die off after Karl Barth and Bonhoeffer died and why use the CC as your web address?

      March 15, 2014 at 9:46 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Thanks for your honest question.

        Indeed, the CC has died off. After WW2 reactionary powers gained mastery in the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany), and displaced the powers of the CC. The spiritual state of the today EKD correspondents with the state of the "Reichskirche" of the Third Reich which was the enemy of the CC. Reactionary powers have really gained mastery.

        I hope to get to know people having the same atti-tude like me via my website "confessingchurch". I am just an ordinary Christian, actually not able to found a church. I really would like to join an existing, faithful church. But in the case of emergency, I would be ready to start something new together with some Christian friends.

        March 15, 2014 at 10:15 am |
    • bostontola

      "Mr. Osteen and the pope have something in common: They are wolves in sheep's clothing"

      You must be a special Christian that God called upon to judge your fellow men. What a tremendous honor for you. Does that make you a Demi-God?

      March 15, 2014 at 9:51 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Also St. Paul anathematised the heretics.

        March 15, 2014 at 10:18 am |
        • bostontola

          You are indeed a special Christian, on par with St. Paul.

          March 15, 2014 at 11:31 am |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          That is what you imply but it is not my actual atti-tude. Every ordinary believer including me can take St. Paul as an example. Of course, not everybody is an apostle.

          I see no reason why an ordinary Christian should not be allowed to curse heretics.

          I do not know one single faithful Christian leader on earth at the moment. That may be a further reason why I as an ordinary Christian am allowed to curse heretics – it is a case of emergency (the lack of faithful Christian leaders).

          March 15, 2014 at 11:46 am |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          "...can take St. Paul as an example"

          Absolutely! Here's some perfect parallels:

          1) None of you actually met Jesus
          2) All of you create your own version of Jesus and God.
          3) Most (like Paul) have never even read the Gospels all the way through.
          4) You practice retro-theology. You assume a premise (Jesus was Messiah) and work backwards in the text to "prove" the theory using parts of the OT never intended to refer to the Jewish messiah.
          5) Most of you don't follow the religion of Jesus, you follow the religion Paul created/popularized about Jesus.

          March 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          Jesus and St. Paul teached the same using distinct terms. I see no problem.

          March 15, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          "I see no problem"

          I'm not surprised, but you didn't really answer the question. You say Jesus and Paul were in alignment, though they may have used distinct terminology.

          I would content that what Jesus and Paul taught were similar in some aspects (both believed the kindom of god to be immenant for example, i.e. both were apocalyptisists), but they varied quite a bit on who they believed Jesus was and how the kingdom of god was going to arise.

          Do you have any specific examples or is it just a feeling on your part that they were consistent with each other?

          March 19, 2014 at 11:59 am |
    • Alias

      Why don't you just tell us what response you are looking for?
      I'll tell you, and then maybe you can stop re-posting this garbage.

      March 15, 2014 at 10:10 am |
    • Joel Oilsheen

      Rainer Helmut Braendlein, I pee substantially in your helmut so you can drink it up and feel even more jealous of me.

      You're just jealous because your puny little attempt at a blog generates less ad revenue in 10 years than the donation plate dooollars I get in one prayer session. Now put your pissy helmut back on in case you slip on my hair grease trail and crack your fat stupid head.

      March 15, 2014 at 11:44 am |
  8. es44ac

    Oh brother.
    Yeah, $600,000 in one weekends donation.
    This dude is living large as they say.

    I'd be curious to an itemized list of wht that money does. Does it go to charity ?
    I'd venture to say a good portion of it goes to feed his book promotions and publishing.

    Meanwhile the God fearing congregation is no doubt as well cooking the books on their tax filings. For every dollar donated 3 gets written off under, you guess it, charitable contributions.

    Religion is still right up there only a few notches below dope selling Wall-Street speculation for the easy money as they say.

    March 15, 2014 at 9:03 am |
  9. pmar2014

    Call Osteen a huckster if you want but people go freely to his "church" and, presumably, get something of value out of the experience. The "parishioners" all have free minds and wills and know what Osteen is about. It's their money and if it makes them feel better giving it, so be it. In many ways, it's no different than buying a luxury item because it somehow makes you feel good.

    March 15, 2014 at 7:01 am |
    • sam stone

      or a drug

      March 15, 2014 at 7:20 am |
    • saggyroy

      However in a truly secular world, most likely Olsteen and his kind would be facing charges of fraud.

      March 15, 2014 at 8:02 am |
    • doobzz

      You are right, of course. But, people like Osteen are very good at manipulating and guilting people into giving far more than they can afford. When I was a fundie, there was great emphasis on tithing, and not 10% of your net, but of your gross income. The pastor wouldn't say that you'd go to hell if you didn't tithe, but that you would not receive "crowns" or "blessings" or the big palace when you got to heaven. God would be sad and disappointed in you. You might even suffer illness or calamity because God's protection would somehow be thinner over you due to the lack of dollar bills flowing from you to the collection basket. There were lots of promises about the money returning to you ten-fold, which of course it never did.

      There were always a bunch of "emergencies" too. Special collections for "missions" and "special needs" that were over and above the 10% you were supposed to give just to stay in God's good graces. Then there were the guest speakers who always needed money for their pet projects too. All of these guys are experts at crowd control and manipulating people into a state of giving freely, in order to receive God's "blessings".

      So I tithed on my small salary as a private school teacher, and ate a lot of mac and cheese, oatmeal, and peanut butter, while watching the pastor buy fancy new cars, build an expensive, lavish home in a gated community, and dress himself and his wife in designer clothes and jewelry.

      It's their choice to give, but they are also bullied, guilted and manipulated into a lot of it by expert con men. I'm just glad I finally wised up and got out of the cult.

      March 15, 2014 at 11:33 am |
  10. Reality

    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology idiocy. When do we put these guys and gals "out to pasture"??????

    March 15, 2014 at 6:58 am |
    • saggyroy

      'Man will not be free from tyranny until the last king is strangled with the intestines of the last priest' – Diderot.

      March 15, 2014 at 8:00 am |
      • Reality

        Putting them "out to pasture" would be the better choice.

        March 15, 2014 at 9:42 am |
  11. Bootyfunk

    uh oh, the religious swindler got swindled.
    $600K and all from one weekend's take.
    so for the year, 600k x 56 = $33,600,000.
    oh noes, someone stole from a con-man.

    March 15, 2014 at 3:54 am |
    • saggyroy

      My bro-in-law at the time cashed his paycheck, had $400 cash on him, then went to a Benny Hinn event, and got his pocket picked. I had a good laugh.

      March 15, 2014 at 8:04 am |
    • nevadaj

      You're assuming that Osteen didn't take the cash himself.

      March 15, 2014 at 8:31 am |
    • jerrywalters

      times 56? why not 52?

      March 15, 2014 at 10:47 am |
  12. lynnlabatt

    Lmao...that's poetic justice for ya...that must hurt his heart real bad that he'll have to wait another week to scam money from his followers..seems like he loves money more than anything..so now he's on the other side of the fence being the victim instead of the predator..looks good on him LOL

    March 15, 2014 at 3:49 am |
  13. drgreenstreak

    I think we need a Forbes-style list of wealthiest god swindlers. Joel would be near the top. For longevity, it's Graham and Robertson.
    Ya know, when rich men get old, the ones business give away huge amounts of their fortunes. It's as if they are paying a penance or seeking redemption for years of being a greedy, selfish jerk.
    Preachers ain't that way. They want more and more and more.
    Everything has a cycle. Religious wackos are in the spin cycle.

    March 15, 2014 at 2:58 am |
  14. mycatkiggy

    This is disgusting. What a racket, tax exempt and you're hauling in that much, it's a disgrace. Your entire county should have no needy people in it if you're really doing what your supposed to for a church with that much money. Disgusting.

    March 15, 2014 at 2:11 am |
    • colorserenity

      This when there really are faith based charities that do so much for people. We have food banks in our large city that are run by churches. The churches get nothing from it, but they do get donations for operating expenses. They go out and get food from restaurants, stores, food outlets, etc (donations). The food banks feed hundreds of families each every week. We also have faith based housing for seniors and the disabled. The budget for these wonderful organizations is very small. Look at all the good they do. It's because people care and volunteer. $600,000 would give an incredible boost to these charities.

      March 15, 2014 at 5:21 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        The thing is that you can get all that without the push of religious dogma in your face. The churches would be better put to use as homeless shelters instead of brainwashing temples.

        March 15, 2014 at 5:54 am |
        • workingcopy12

          " The churches would be better put to use as homeless shelters instead of brainwashing temples." Not to put too fine a point on it, but would it not also be better for atheists to collectively pool their money to establish shelters instead of posting vitriolic statements on CNN all day?

          March 15, 2014 at 7:17 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          You mean Atheists who do plenty of charity work, not the least of which include UNICEF; Red Cross; OXFAM?
          I'm not discrediting the charitable work of churches, I'm discrediting the lie they sell with it.
          I do not see why you're whining about me posting here when you're also posting here...such hypocrisy!

          March 15, 2014 at 7:51 am |
        • saggyroy

          You forgot Doctors without Borders. We know how religion has kept atheism underground for 2000 years, and in that 2000 years they have built up a very good infrastructure for their charity work. The atheists are just getting started.

          March 15, 2014 at 8:07 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          saggyroy: Thank you. I think it frightens christians to their very core to sit back and watch as the voices they have tried for so long to suppress are no longer being suppressed.

          March 15, 2014 at 8:25 am |
        • ausphor

          The Gates Foundation, also backed by Buffet and Bloomberg, will do more good works in Africa than the RCC has done in hundreds of years. BTW they also do not want land or conversion in exchange for aid, notice the difference.

          March 15, 2014 at 9:57 am |
        • workingcopy12

          truth-I'm not whinning, just pointing out that (as saggyroy points out) that the church you malign haa been putting into place the infrastructure for charity–just as it was called to do. (the suppression argument is b.s.–atheists aren't called to be charitable in the fist place–they have no calling because that would require someone to call). My point about the vitriolic statements, however, appear confirmed.

          March 15, 2014 at 10:40 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Working: Saggyroy didn't point that out and it was whining on your behalf when you state about our posting while doing the same thing.
          My point about the suppression is valid. All humans regardless pf belief or disbelief are called to be charitable, so don't think you're special because you have imaginary friends.

          March 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm |
        • workingcopy12

          Oh, and congrats to the posters here–looks like you've identified at least 5 non-religious based charities. 3. Wow. Let's all party. 5? (I know there are more–but are there tens of thousands more?)

          March 15, 2014 at 10:43 am |
        • ausphor

          Bill Gates foundation awards a $23 million grant to Notre Dame University for the study of malaria and dengue studies. Partnering with a Christian organisation to get some results, no strings attached, no credit needed. Christians patting them selves on the back for all the good works they do when they could do so much more if they actually followed the teachings of JC.

          March 15, 2014 at 11:14 am |
        • MidwestKen

          What is it about charity or charitable orgs. that requires faith or a church?

          March 15, 2014 at 11:33 am |
        • otoh2

          St. Jude Children's Hospital, although named for its founder's (Danny Thomas) patron Saint, is a wholly secular organization.

          "We are not a Catholic hospital, nor are we affiliated with any religious organization."


          March 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          "Oh, and congrats to the posters here–looks like you've identified at least 5 non-religious based charities. 3. Wow. Let's all party. 5? (I know there are more–but are there tens of thousands more?)"

          You call us vitriolic, then post something like this. So maybe vitriolic isn't what you're about but conceit and arrogant are! Having an imaginary friend must truly make you better (or not).
          There are far more than 5 secular charities and if you would put the book of fairy tales down for a second you'd be able to use google and research that but I'm guessing you don't care. The fact remains that religion is not required for good deeds to be done. If anything religion has hindered people and held us back-still is.

          March 15, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
  15. pauleky

    Well, it's fitting. He's been stealing from the gullible for years.

    March 15, 2014 at 1:41 am |
  16. realbuckyball

    The real theft occurred in church, on Sunday morning.

    March 15, 2014 at 1:18 am |
  17. Keith

    Joel Olsten's church should not be in the religion section

    March 15, 2014 at 1:00 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      seems to fit perfectly, imo.

      March 15, 2014 at 3:55 am |
      • Keith

        it should be in entertainment, he isn't leading anyone to Heaven

        March 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Christianity is the longest running con game ever invented by man.

      March 15, 2014 at 5:56 am |
      • Keith

        I don't know about that but it is used to fleece the poor and ignorant for a long time now.

        March 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
  18. Jerel Young

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    The work is easy and the pay is decent. Most who start average at least $200+ per week, paid each Friday by check or DD.
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    If this sounds like something you wanna do, simply follow the steps below to get started NOW: 1. Click this link- http://comeworkwithme.weebly.com/
    2. Watch the short video showing how it works and the potential money you can earn
    3. Get started as you're shown how! It's FREE if you watch the video and DO AS SHOWN! Have a great day everyone!

    March 15, 2014 at 12:41 am |
    • nevadaj

      You must be thinking that an article about Osteen is a great place to scam folks, right?

      March 15, 2014 at 8:35 am |
    • MidwestKen

      Sometimes I miss the Report Abuse button.

      March 15, 2014 at 11:37 am |
  19. Jerel Young

    That's crazy people steal from the church. That let you know how they feel about him and church period.
    All I can say is Wow..

    March 15, 2014 at 12:40 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      yes, usually it's the church stealing from it's parishioners. funny when the tables are turned, eh?

      March 15, 2014 at 3:55 am |
  20. mikeyjt

    Another cult of personality. Nothing to do with God or Christ, but good ol' Joel, sucking down that money like it's manna from heaven. And all those suckers who pay into his act deserve to lose it all.

    March 15, 2014 at 12:31 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      it's just church on a bigger scale. they pass the collection plate at every church, guilt and fear money out of people, don't see much difference except that joel is scamming people on a larger scale.

      March 15, 2014 at 3:57 am |
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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.