Joel Osteen is the pastor of America’s largest church, the 52,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston. He’s an internationally-recognized televangelist with more than 10 million weekly viewers in the United States and 20 million more across nearly 100 countries. His eight New York Times bestsellers and charismatic sermons emphasize hope, positivity and a compassionate God.
Osteen is also a recognized rainmaker. In 2005, Lakewood Church – which brings in around $90 million each year – moved to Compaq Center, the former arena of the Houston Rockets, for an estimated bill of $75 million.
We talked to Osteen ahead of his visit to the Pepsi Center in Denver on July 14 for a “Night of Hope,” a touring sermon series that takes Osteen’s ministering to stadiums, amphitheatres and arenas across the country.
Q: There’s so much written and spoken about the decline of religion and Christianity in America. Do you think the church as an institution can survive in the United States? How do you see the future of the faith?
Osteen: I’m probably a little bit biased because I’m optimistic. The places I go, I see arenas filled with people. We’ll come to Denver and see some 15,000 people there for a night of faith and inspiration. So I see the studies that faith is on the decline and things, but I think some of it is the way it’s worded. I think some people are turned off by “religion” – I say that respectfully – the part that makes people feel guilty, and condemned, and the rules and all.
But I think a lot of people today more than ever have a connection to God. So in one sense it’s going down, but in another sense I never would have dreamed I’d have grown up in a church where we started with 90 people when I was a little boy. Now, tens of thousands come out. It’s amazing to me every time I pull up to the Compaq Center where we have church where the Rockets played basketball. I think faith is at an all-time high in one sense. In another sense, there are different ways to connect with technology, and maybe church attendance in some areas isn’t what it used to be, but there’s different ways to connect these days.
Q: But America is increasingly secularizing. What words do you have for the agnostic, atheist, non-religious, non-Christian?
This article continues at [Denver Post] Joel Osteen talks hope, wealth and prayer ahead of Denver service