The Faith and Ministry of Joel Osteen
By Kristi Watts and Russ Martin
The 700 Club
CBN.com- Kristi Watts, 700 Club Co-host and reporter: “I’m here in Houston, Texas in this huge arena. No, I’m not going to a music concert. And I’m not going to a sporting event. I’m going to church.
Welcome to Lakewood. It is the largest church in America. Over 44,000 people of every race, origin and nationality meet in this old basketball arena every weekend.
Turn back the hands of time to 1959. Pastor John Osteen and 90 other Christians decide to turn an old feed store into a church on the north side of Houston. Their goal was simple…to lead people to the power and love of Jesus Christ by plowing through denominational walls.
Four decades later, the baton was passed to his son Joel Osteen; and in less than 10 years, the ministry has catapulted to worldwide recognition, drawing visitors from all over the world.
Each week over 7 million viewers tune in to hear a message of hope and encouragement from ‘The Smiling Pastor.’
But Joel is not without his critics. Some Christians have criticized him for avoiding sin, satan and hell in his sermons. Others take offense that he lacks a seminary degree and accuse him of watering down the gospel with a ‘Christian Lite’ message.
Kristi: Recently, I got together with Joel. And what I found was the man in the pulpit is just as charming in person with his down home laugh and love for telling stories.
Kristi: What makes you mad?
Joel: What makes me mad? There’s not a lot that make me mad.
Kristi: Do you want me to tell you what your wife said?
Kristi: She said, initially when some people are late. And I said, ‘When some people or when you’re late Victoria?’ and she said, ‘When I’m late.’
Joel: That could be part of it. I asked her today – because the service – we start right on time. We have those digital clocks, I said, ‘Victoria, if I wasn’t there what would you do?’ She said, ‘I guess I’d go get another husband.’ I understand. I won’t ask anymore.
Joel met and married his wife 20 years ago. She’s not only his best friend but his partner. We’ll meet her later on.
Kristi: So how does a self-professed shy Texas man get in front of millions of people every single Sunday? Is it nerve wracking?
Joel: It used to be, but it’s not as much anymore. I just rely on the Lord to help me. I think He gives you grace to do what you’re called to do, but I don’t really think about it. I just think about I’m talking to that group that’s there. I’m amazed that I’m doing it myself.
Kristi: Are you still shy?
Joel: I’m still shy. I’m still reserved. I think that’s just my personality.
Kristi: This is the first time that I ever went to your church and it is so overwhelmingly exciting. Like you walk in and it’s part rock concert, part sporting event.
Joel: You know, I like to have a celebration every service like you talked about. It may feel like a rock concert or a pep rally, but there are enough things pulling us down in life. I’d like to come in and say, ‘We’re going to celebrate what God’s done for us. We’ve all got challenges. We’ve all got reasons not to celebrate, but that’s what faith is all about … say, ‘God we’re going to just celebrate who You are today.’
Kristi: You’ve got 40,000 people, how are you able to meet their needs individually?
Joel: We have a great support system. Not only our staff, but we have about 4 or 5,000 volunteers. And my father got us started in this in that we believe that every believer is a minister. All of us have something to do.
And no one is left out especially the children. In their state of the art facility, they don’t just have ‘children’s church’; they have a church for the children…. And it totally rocks!
Joel: We knew if we could get the kids wanting to come to church then the parents will come.
Kristi: How in the world are you able to get blacks, whites, Mexicans, Asians, young, old, poor, rich in one place?
Joel: My dad’s message was a message of hope and love and it seemed like everybody came - all different races. Even when my father died, I told Victoria. ‘I’m young. I’m white. I don’t know if I’ll reach everybody like my dad.’ But I was just thrilled to say, the same thing carries on. It’s a neat thing. When I look out there I think ‘this is what heaven’s going to be like.’
Joel’s passion to bring the gospel to everyone around the world is shared by his wife of 20 years, Victoria. I chatted with Victoria a little bit about her role in the ministry.
Kristi: The one thing I love about you and Joel is that it seems like you guys are a team. Even during the service you get up and minister as well.
Victoria: It’s very easy for me to just encourage people in their family life and in their children. It’s just very natural to me. It’s what I feel comfortable doing.
Kristi: What’s your heart? What’s the core message that you teach?
Joel: I feel like my message is to let people know that God is a good God. That He’s on their side… and that no matter where they are in life, no matter what’s happened, He still has a great plan for them.
Kristi: Twenty years from now, because you are in a completely different place than you were 20 years before, where do you see yourself? (That’s such a résumé question.)
Joel: I don’t know. I would have never seen myself here 10 years ago. You would have never convinced me that we’d have the building we grew up in seeing the Rockets play basketball and me ministering as well. I would hope to say that we’ll have more influence. We’ll have more credibility. We’ll have more reach. We’ll be able to help more people. That’s my prayer every day. ‘God let us never have a year that we go down or we get stagnant but that we can touch more people.’ Not fame wise but just more influence to make a difference.
And the key to making a difference is simple; to lead people to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Joel (speaking from the platform): “We never like close our broadcast without giving you an opportunity to make Jesus the Lord of your life. Would you pray with me?
I never like to have a service without giving an invitation. I never like to write a book without giving the invitation and presenting that truth. I believe this is the whole key to living a fulfilled life, to living your best life or to becoming a better you. I really believe it starts there, if their heart is pliable. They’ll receive the love that Jesus died and shed His blood for.
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