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. basehitter

    Wow! $600,000 in one week? I guess selling Jesus can really pay off. Especially when the product being sold is invisible.

    March 16, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
    • sam stone

      it's a great gig. that is why some of the big name evangelists have their kids follow in their footsteps. the sheep are too easily sheared not to take advantage of them

      March 16, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
  2. know1radio

    Reblogged this on Know 1 Radio.

    March 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
  3. new-man

    Joel does not collect a salary from the church. His income comes from his books etc. His brother is a surgeon who spends roughly 3-6 months per year in parts of Africa doing surgery. While some (as I don't know if it's all) of the medication and supplies are donated, this is still a huge undertaking for any organization, and as a few others have pointed out, they also do local charity work, the children's day-care for example is fully staffed and ( has different age ranges) and they are completely free.

    March 16, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
    • doobzz

      "the children's day-care for example is fully staffed and ( has different age ranges) and they are completely free."

      Of course they run free day care centers. You have to start indoctrinating them young, especially in today's information age.

      March 16, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
      • otoh2

        It's just free child care w/religious rah rah during services, like almost every other church provides. @new-man makes it sound like it's full-time during the work week or something.

        March 16, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
        • doobzz

          It's Sunday school.

          March 16, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
    • saggyroy

      How do you know? "Religious" organizations are not required to disclose their finances.

      March 16, 2014 at 4:47 pm |
      • kermit4jc

        EVEN if that WERE true...all the church I have gone to HAVE disclosed their finances

        March 17, 2014 at 1:43 am |
        • In Santa We Trust

          Can you provide a link?

          March 17, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          Cant remember themall..will do best I can..I mean I been to several over the years

          March 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
    • dandintac

      "...from his books etc."

      Yeah, and I'll bet that "etc" covers a lot of things. These mega-churches are tax-exempt money-making machines. They are a business, only instead of selling a practical product or service, they peddle delusions. People buy it, because they are convinced they are buying a ticket to heaven.

      I couldn't bring myself to do it. That's one thing I know for sure. Even if I was a believer, and knew how to go about it.

      March 17, 2014 at 10:01 pm |
  4. lookatuniverse

    Quran (Islamic Scripture)

    “Mention in the scripture Mary. She isolated herself from her family, into an eastern location.” [19:16]

    “While a barrier separated her from them, we sent to her our Spirit. He went to her in the form of a human being.”

    “She said, "I seek refuge in the Most Gracious, that you may be righteous."”

    “He said, "I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you a pure son."”

    “She said, "How can I have a son, when no man has touched me; I have never been unchaste."”

    “He said, "Thus said your Lord, `It is easy for Me. We will render him a sign for the people, and mercy from us. This is a predestined matter.' "”

    “When she bore him, she isolated herself to a faraway place.”

    “The birth process came to her by the trunk of a palm tree. She said, "(I am so ashamed;) I wish I were dead before this happened, and completely forgotten."”

    “(The infant) called her from beneath her, saying, "Do not grieve. Your Lord has provided you with a stream.”

    "If you shake the trunk of this palm tree, it will drop ripe dates for you.*

    "Eat and drink, and be happy. When you see anyone, say, `I have made a vow of silence, [to the Most Gracious]*; I am not talking today to anyone.' "

    “She came to her family, carrying him. They said, "O Mary, you have committed something that is totally unexpected.”

    "O descendant of Aaron, your father was not a bad man, nor was your mother unchaste."

    “She pointed to him. They said, "How can we talk with an infant in the crib?"”

    (The infant spoke and) said, "I am a servant of God. He has given me the scripture, and has appointed me a prophet.

    "He made me blessed wherever I go, and enjoined me to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and the obligatory charity (Zakat) for as long as I live.

    "I am to honor my mother; He did not make me a disobedient rebel.

    "And peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I get resurrected."

    “That was Jesus, the son of Mary, and this is the truth of this matter, about which they continue to doubt.”

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.”

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    March 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • igaftr

      Stop stealing advertising space.

      March 16, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
    • unsername1

      Go somewhere else!

      March 16, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
  5. unsername1

    Jesus said, and christians truly believe....If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also; I wonder church would provide thief an opportunity to steal another $600,000!!!

    March 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
  6. lvwood21

    put him on the polygraph...

    March 16, 2014 at 5:09 am |
  7. hearthetruthonline2014



    March 15, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
    • observer

      If you had truth you'd say it instead of spamming a website.

      March 15, 2014 at 10:02 pm |
  8. socal4me

    I gott’a laugh,
    These enterprising “Christians” that run these mega churches aren't in it for posterity,
    We all know they’re in it for the money!
    I’ll take any average Church, with bake sales, and spaghetti dinners, over this conglomeration any day of the week,

    March 15, 2014 at 7:24 pm |
    • Akira

      In looking at the picture of his church, and I wonder if they can still smell the remnants of hot dogs and beer in that stadium. I hardly see how one can derive inspiration from that, but okay...

      March 15, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
    • Akira

      But then, one can attend these churches:

      #4. Churches Give Away Free Guns

      Earlier this month, the Kentucky Baptist Convention held its first in a series of events at the Lone Oak Baptist Church where attendees had the chance to win one of an assortment of 25 handguns, long guns, and shotguns, because raffling off lemon squares just wasn't putting enough [behinds] in the Lord's chairs.

      Lone Oak First Baptist Church

      Meanwhile, the Grace Baptist Church in upstate New York is raffling off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, as advertised by this flier that looks like the cover of an early '90s rap album:

      Grace Baptist Church

      Clearly, the best way to educate people who are confused as to whether a 2,000-year-old book gives them permission to carry semi-automatic weapons is to simply hand them guns without any kind of background check or training.


      March 15, 2014 at 8:34 pm |
    • aaseeger

      >> These enterprising “Christians” that run these mega churches aren't in it for posterity,

      Nope. They're in it for the prosperity.

      March 16, 2014 at 12:04 am |
  9. 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 2:35 pm |
  10. stanbeth

    I don't agree with everything that Joel precahes not enough on sin, at least what you see on tv anyway. My father in law and mother in law are retired pastors and have been to his church. He does preach the Bible and they do lots to help the poor around the world in the millions. Oh ya, I read one of his books, and he didn't flunk out ob Bible College.

    March 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
    • aaseeger

      Didn't flunk out of Bible college?

      Joel Osteen went to Oral Roberts University, but he wasn't studying for the ministry. He was studying radio and television communications. It should be noted that he did not graduate and that he never went to seminary.

      March 16, 2014 at 12:06 am |
  11. kudlak

    Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Matt. 19:21

    Why can't Christians just do this directly: sell what they have and give it to the poor? No middle man. Why not do something like make your own food hampers and drop them off on poor people's doorsteps yourself?

    Where does it say in the New Testament to sell all that you have and pay that to hear the apostles preach to you? Were Peter, James, and Paul charging people to be their religious leaders?

    March 15, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
    • Doris

      I can easily see how Saul could have been selling hysteria to the gullible. In today's time, it would be like Scott Lively spreading his word in Africa

      March 15, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
      • kudlak

        Paul created the first schism in the Christian movement. The "different Gospel" that he warned his people about was most likely the one of Peter and James; people who knew Jesus personally where Paul did not. Paul never denies that he got his gospel through direct revelation, not from actually listening to Jesus like the others did. In reality, he was probably the first "wolf in sheep's clothing" preacher.

        March 16, 2014 at 2:07 am |
        • kermit4jc

          Apparently you have not read the Bible...the Book of Acts and Galatians report that the apostles gave right hand of fellowship to Paul..after hearing his views on the Gospels..also...the epistle of Peter even has Peter counting Pauls letters as Scriptures.....

          March 16, 2014 at 2:10 am |
        • Doris

          Kermy: "the Book of Acts and Galatians report that the apostles gave right hand of fellowship to Paul.."

          LOL – oh Kermy really. I guess if I was Saul and trying to cover my a$$, I would have a really close buddy help with the cover....Luke to the rescue... LOL

          March 16, 2014 at 2:17 am |
        • kermit4jc

          uhh..I ALSO said PETER agreed..hello..read ALL my post..thank you

          March 16, 2014 at 2:22 am |
        • Doris

          Oh Kermy, you are a riot. PETER? really?

          The problem, Kermy is we just don't know enough about Saul by way of Peter. Way to fishy to be used as good evidence for anything. Many scholars think that the Peter the apostle was not the author of the Epistles of Peter and that they were most likely written after the death of the apostle.

          March 16, 2014 at 2:46 am |
        • kermit4jc

          actually I am doing study on Peter right now..for church....and yes..MANY do THINK such..but really...they have not given much to back up the claims..and yet..even if MANY do say..that does NOT mean it is true...truth is nOT always in numbers....yes..there is question to it..but it has shown to be reliable..and written at the time when Peter still lived between 62-64 AD...after James died..and when the troubles started in Rome..Peter was executed shortly after this...still Peter does refer to Pauls letters as Scripture..all evidence points to agreement between Paul and the apostles

          March 16, 2014 at 2:50 am |
        • Doris

          kermit: "but it has shown to be reliable"

          not sure what you mean here, but the authorship is highly contested today

          kermit: "and written at the time when Peter still lived between 62-64 AD...after James died..and when the troubles started in Rome..Peter was executed shortly after this"

          this is also highly contested. a number of scholars including Graham Stanton and Bart Ehrman feel confident that the 1st Epistle of Peter was authored during the reign of Domitian (~AD81) or even later perhaps in his honor, based on dating, literary style, language and structure.

          kermit: "...still Peter does refer to Pauls letters as Scripture..all evidence points to agreement between Paul and the apostles"

          Well with what is so uncertain about this authorship, one should start to consider the possibilities for motive behind lending support of Paul's objectives and alleged "stamp of approval", don't you think?

          March 16, 2014 at 3:08 am |
        • kermit4jc

          I don't even consider Bart as very good scholar..not cause he disagrees wirth me..but his methods are rather quesiotnable....he is a pseudo scholar...and again just cause it is higly quesiotnable..does NOT make it fact that Peter didn't write it! And further..there is evidence in the text it was written during that time of 62-64 ad....

          March 16, 2014 at 3:10 am |
        • kudlak

          Saint Luke the Evangelist, the semi-official author of both the Gospel bearing that name and Acts, was a disciple of Paul, correct? Why would you assume that he would report things in an unbiased fashion?

          That Paul was the champion of gentiles becoming Christian without first converting to Judaism is without question. He also speaks of others preaching a "different Gospel" to his own. Who else would these preachers be, but Peter and James, either directly, or their supporters?

          March 16, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          WHO eolse? Buddy..this is 20 years AFTER Jesus resurrection! A good amount of time of others preaching other Gospels! Goodness..you don't know the history

          March 17, 2014 at 1:39 am |
  12. Carmelle's Treasures

    Wow! $600K for the weekend? Sounds like a smaller Walmart Super Center as opposed to a church taking in those kinds of funds. Has Walmart gone into the church business? 😉

    March 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
  13. cleareye1

    This guy is just another in the long, long line of cheesy hustlers looting the plentiful suckers wandering about all religions.
    The creep that stole the ,=money will probably have a better use for it than jolly Joel.

    March 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
  14. weebitwidd11e

    largest Church? Now I know why many want Churches to pay taxes. Even Jesus told people to pay their taxes. So Churches should not object to paying.

    March 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • kudlak

      Yeah, I don't think that there is any biblical argument for why churches shouldn't pay taxes.

      March 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
    • cleareye1

      There is currently no greater injustice than allowing these money making enterprises to freeload off the rest of us. They should be paying taxes on any income they have and then justify their expenses like any business.
      Maybe then Hollywood could clean out the infestation of the Scientologists buying up property and taking it off the tax rolls.

      March 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
      • kudlak

        Well, some of any typical church's activity is charitable, but most of the rest is divided between providing various services to their regular members and recruiting new, paying members. Those parts really ought to be classified as business, not charity, and taxed appropriately.

        March 16, 2014 at 2:01 am |
  15. kprob

    I'm quite sure Mr. Osteen can cover the loss personally.

    March 15, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "Chump change"...literally.

      March 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • otoh2

      He's probably more concerned with the new onslaught of negative publicity and the digging into his finances and motives than from the loss of (part of/none of?) $600,000. Burglary can be a life-threatening crime sometimes, though, and that's scary.

      March 15, 2014 at 1:27 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 2:31 pm |
  16. rscalzo

    All tax free? What a scam.

    March 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
  17. Bootyfunk

    "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."
    +++ $600K in a single weekend? sounds like your path is lifting people's wallets. just do the math
    $600K x 56 = $33,600,000
    what a scammer.

    March 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      There is a reason selling snake oil is a good business....

      sucker born every minute.

      March 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
    • ausphor

      Not to mention the tours, probably another $30 million, Ka-ching.

      March 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
    • Akira

      Booty, with all due respect, how many weeks do you have in your year? I only have 52.
      Not that I don't agree with you, because I feel he is all about the scam.

      March 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
  18. jaxx7883

    What does it say about the intelligence of society today when we critisize a man who has dedicated his life to studying the bible and sharing what he has learned with all of the willing attendees of his church every week but are more than happy to pay $250 to go watch Miley Cyrus grind a light post for 3 hours?

    March 15, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      it says we are calling out religious con-men.
      at least miley cyrus doesn't lie about what she's selling.

      March 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
      • jaxx7883

        How is he a con man what has he ever done to receive such a label? Because he's successful?

        March 15, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
        • ausphor

          Do a little homework, the guy flunked out of bible college and probably has a team of writers to polish up the BS.

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

          he makes $600K a week - taking money from gullible parishioners. it's all going to god! haha. it's all going to osteen's pocket so he can buy mansions, expensive cars and italian suits. he's very successful - a very successful con-man.

          March 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
        • illmatico

          He is not a con-man, he is a hustler. All he is a motivational speaker nothing more. There is not way you can preach the word of Christ and than head home to you $10 million dollar compound. If he really did follow Christ lessons, he would live a humble life, give up most riches, not eat off of peoples backs. You know .. something like a Mother Theresa.

          March 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Mother Teresa...the woman who accepted large sums of money from dictators and stock frauds....and failed to stop the suffering of people even though she was able to do so because in her mind people's suffering were "kisses from Jesus"?

          March 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
        • ausphor

          Booty is right the money Mama T received was used to build up an empire, the girl was a sadist.

          March 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
        • kudlak

          Didn't Mother Teresa raise millions by promising to build hospitals, but all she had to show for it were new convents grinding out more nuns of her personal order?

          March 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
        • kudlak

          Well, con men do tend to tell their victims what they want to hear, and are good at selling that in such a way that people's better sense don't warn them that "If it sounds too good to be true, chances are that it isn't." Granted, they also say that "You can't con an honest man". Well, isn't trying to cheat mortal death a cheat?

          March 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
        • doobzz

          I'm always amused that most people who invoke the name of Mother Teresa don't know how to spell her name. Or that she never built a state of the art hospital despite the millions she raked in. It all went into the Vatican's general fund, despite being designated specifically for charitable purposes.

          March 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
        • kudlak

          Well, there were a number of abuse suits that the Vatican had to pay millions for back around that time.

          March 16, 2014 at 1:56 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "What does it say about the intelligence of society today when we criticize a man who has dedicated his life to selling snake oil and sharing his made up BS with all of the willing sheep who he can fleece."


      And I am will to bet a majority (not all) of Joel Oilsheen's critics have not seen, nor care to see, Miley Cyrus....so you successfully tore down your own "straw man"....way to go.

      March 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
    • kudlak

      If his congregants are expected to pay a fixed ti_the for the privilege of hearing his motivational speeches in public, how is that any different than paying for tickets to see Deepak Chopra say pretty much the same thing? Churches like this are basically where you pay a subscription fee for access to hear the wisdom of a Christian guru, right? If it's the same basic service for your money, why should it be treated any differently when it comes to taxes?

      March 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
      • ausphor

        See my post top of page 5. JO's tours probably take in as much money as his home based "church" and TV show.

        March 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
        • kudlak

          Maybe Oprah should declare herself a church? 😉

          March 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
        • ausphor

          She has the status of godess too many, go figure!

          March 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • kudlak

          She insists on telling we atheists what we believe, so she certainly could be a religious leader.

          March 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  19. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Alert: Wolves in sheep's clothing are around.

    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 12:14 pm |
    • doobzz


      March 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • cleareye1

      All true, but it could have been said more quickly.

      March 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
    • Akira

      Translation: "Everyone is wrong except me and my website , regularly advertised stolen from CNN! If I met Jesus himself I'd tell him He's wrong and has a specual place in hell as if I'm qualified to make judgements on anyone."

      March 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
    • kudlak

      So, there are "wolves in sheep's clothing" (con men pastors) who want to prey upon the sheep (lay Christians) and "good shepherds" (pastors preaching the true gospel) who want to keep the sheep to themselves so that they can regularly fleece them until they outlive their usefulness, at which point they then chew on their bones. Either way you go, Christians, aren't you being used?

      March 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
  20. Joel Oilsheen

    Rainer Helmut Braendlein, I pee 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 11:42 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.