Osteen at Lakewood Church, December 8, 2007
|Born||Joel Scott Osteen
March 5, 1963
|Religion||Non-denominational Christianity, Charismatic Christianity, Evangelical, Word of Faith|
|Spouse(s)||Victoria Osteen (m. 1987)|
|Parents||John Osteen (father)
Dolores Pilgrim Osteen (mother)
|Offices held||Senior pastor (1999 – present)|
Joel Scott Osteen (born March 5, 1963) is an American preacher, televangelist, author, and the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant church in the United States, in Houston, Texas. His ministry is seen by over 7 million broadcast media viewers weekly and over 20 million monthly in over 100 nations around the world. Osteen has written five New York Times Bestselling books. He has been widely nicknamed "The Smiling Preacher".
In 2004, his first book, Your Best Life Now, was released by Time Warner and debuted at the top of the The New York Times Best Seller list. The book remained a The New York Times Bestseller for more than 200 weeks and has sold more than 4 million copies. His next four books, Become a Better You, It’s Your Time, Every Day A Friday, and I Declare, have all also been #1 national bestsellers.
Early life and family
Osteen was born in Houston, Texas, and is one of six children of John Osteen and Dolores ("Dodie") Pilgrim. His father, a former Southern Baptist pastor, founded Lakewood Church, of which Osteen is the current senior pastor, in the back of an old feed store. Osteen attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he studied radio and television communications, but did not graduate and did not receive a degree from a divinity school. In 1982, he returned to Houston and founded Lakewood's television program, where he produced his father's televised sermons for 17 years until January 1999, when his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack.
John Osteen encouraged Joel to preach for many years, but he declined, preferring to work behind the scenes until January 17, 1999, when he accepted his father's suggestion and he preached his first sermon. That would be the last Sunday of John Osteen's life, as he died less than a week later of a heart attack. Two weeks later, Joel began preaching regularly and, later that year, was installed as the new Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church on October 3, 1999. Under Joel Osteen, Lakewood’s attendance grew from 5,000 to 43,000.
In 2003, Lakewood Church acquired the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA Houston Rockets. Renovations cost $105 million. The renovations took over 15 months to complete, and included the addition of five stories to add more capacity. Lakewood’s 2005 grand opening was attended by an estimated 56,000 people, including Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Lakewood Church services, led by Pastor Joel Osteen, are seen in over 100 nations around the world. Osteen was selected by Barbara Walters as one of her 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006. Former presidential candidate John McCain has described Osteen as his favorite inspirational author. The Osteen family attended Easter breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010.
Osteen and several other Lakewood Church personnel have presented a travelling series of programs in large arenas. The series is titled "A Night of Hope", and includes worship music led by the church's music ministry, a sermon from Osteen and a testimony by his mother, Dodie. In 2007, the tour expanded to include stops in several other countries, including Canada, England, Northern Ireland and Israel. Osteen preached at Yankee Stadium in 2009, selling-out the stadium.
In the first few months after he took over for his father as senior pastor, Joel Osteen tried to emulate his father's preaching style, but soon developed his own approach. His sermon preparation involves memorizing his remarks and listening to himself on tape. During sermons he has said he avoids making eye contact with individuals when manning the pulpit to avoid getting distracted.
Osteen says that he chooses to focus more on the goodness of God and on living an obedient life than on sin. Osteen says that he tries to teach Biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude. When asked why he does not focus more on sin, the Devil and Hell in detail, Osteen stated in an interview with CBN News, "When I grew up, the Devil was a reason why I had a headache or the Devil was the reason I got mad today. We always blamed the Devil. I think today when I say the enemy, I like to make it broader. Sometimes the enemy can be our own thoughts. We’ve trained ourselves the wrong way. Or the enemy can be our own lack of discipline. Some people preach about Hell like you're already going there, and to me the Gospel means 'Good News.' I'd rather say God is a God of mercy. So I think the people already know what they’re doing wrong, and I certainly believe in Hell. But to me, when I see thousands of people before me, it just doesn’t come out of me to say, 'You guys are terrible, and you’re going to Hell.' I’d rather say that God is a God of mercy. You’ve got to live an obedient life, but for every mistake you’ve made, there’s mercy there, and I believe we can do better".
Osteen's first book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, was released in October 2004, and reached the number 1 position on The New York Times Best Seller list.
He released his second book, titled Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, in October 2007. It also topped the The New York Times Best Seller list and had a first printing of four million copies. Osteen has said that the book focuses more on relationships and not getting stuck where we are in life.
He married Lakewood Church co-pastor Victoria Iloff on April 4, 1987. They have a son, Jonathan, and daughter, Alexandra. His older siblings, Paul, Lisa, and Tamara, and his younger sister, April, are also involved in full-time ministry. His half-brother Justin does missionary work out of New York. As of 2012, his net worth is reportedly $56,508,500, and he lives with his family in a $10,500,000 mansion.
Osteen has generally avoided discussing controversial issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and politics. When asked, Osteen said that he is opposed to same-sex marriage. Osteen refuses to preach about homosexuality due to his belief that God likes, accepts, and approves of all people. When asked if he thought God approves of homosexuality, Osteen said that homosexuality is a sin according to the scripture, but that gay people are welcomed in his church. He has said that sin is human nature, nobody’s perfect, and that he is not judging but that God is the judge. Osteen has also stated that he believes a person can be freed from a lifestyle of homosexuality; that it is a process and that God can free anyone of any sin or addiction. Osteen has also stressed that he does not approve of "homophobia," but that his faith is based on his reading of the scriptures. He has said that the church has a tendency to become overly focused on single issues (such as homosexuality) to the point of neglecting others.
In an interview on Fox News in 2008 during the U.S. presidential primary race, when discussing whether he thought that Mormons were Christians, Osteen indicated that he believed that they were. He further noted that he had not studied the religion.
Prosperity gospel criticism
Osteen's sermons and writings are sometimes criticized for promoting prosperity theology, or the prosperity gospel, a belief that material gain is a reward for pious Christians. On October 14, 2007, 60 Minutes ran a twelve-minute segment on Osteen, titled "Joel Osteen Answers his Critics", during which Reformed theologian Michael Horton told CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts that Osteen's method of teaching is heresy. Horton stated that the problem with Osteen's message is that it makes religion about us instead of about God.
When asked if he's a prosperity teacher, Osteen responded that if prosperity means God wants people to be blessed and healthy and have good relationships, then yes, he considers himself a prosperity teacher, but if it’s about money, he does not. He has specifically stated he never preaches about money, because of the reputation of televangelists.
In an interview with The Christian Post on April 21, 2013, Joel Osteen expressed his sentiments on being perceived as being part of the prosperity gospel. "I get grouped into the prosperity gospel and I never think it's fair, but it's just what it is. I think prosperity, and I've said it 1,000 times, it's being healthy, it's having great children, it's having peace of mind. Money is part of it; and yes, I believe God wants us to excel...to be blessed so we can be a bigger blessing to others. I feel very rewarded. I wrote a book and sold millions of copies; and Victoria and I were able to help more people than we ever dreamed of. But when I hear the term prosperity gospel, I think people are sometimes saying, "well, he's just asking for money."
Joel Osteen has been the target of several internet hoaxes. One hoax that circulated in April 2013 was a website that declared that Osteen had resigned from his position as pastor of Lakewood and that he had "rejected Christ" and begun to doubt his faith. The hoax website was supported by a YouTube video and other social media which have since been taken down. A Lakewood Church spokesperson sent out a Twitter message assuring followers the pastor had not resigned. The story was widely covered and debunked by newspapers, websites, and television news programs.
- Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (2004)
- Your Best Life Begins Each Morning: Devotions to Start Every Day of the Year (2008)
- Good, Better, Blessed: Living with Purpose, Power and Passion (2008)
- Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day (2009)
- Hope for Today Bible (2009)
- It's Your Time : Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God's Favor (2010)
- Living in Favor, Abundance and Joy (2010)
- Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week (2012)
- I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life (2013)
- Break Out!: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life (2013)
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- Rootsweb.com Vital Records – Harris County, TX – Marriage 1987
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- Pastor Rick Henderson, The False Promise of the Prosperity Gospel: Why I Called Out Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, The Huffington Post, 2013.08.21
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