|Denomination||Non-denominational, Evangelical, Charismatic|
|Founded||May 10, 1959|
|Senior pastor(s)||Joel Osteen|
Lakewood Church is a nondenominational charismatic Christian megachurch located in Houston, Texas. It is the largest congregation in the United States, averaging more than 43,500 in attendance per week. The 16,800-seat Lakewood Church Central Campus, home to four English language services and two Spanish language services per week, is located at the former Compaq Center. Joel Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church with his wife, Victoria, who serves as co-pastor. Lakewood Church is evangelical and charismatic in belief.
Lakewood Church was founded by John Osteen and his second wife, Dolores (Dodie) on Mother's Day, May 10, 1959, inside an abandoned feed store in northeast Houston. John was a Southern Baptist minister, but after experiencing a baptism in the Holy Spirit, he founded Lakewood as a church for charismatic Baptists. The church soon dropped "Baptist" from its name and became non-denominational. From the beginning, Lakewood has been racially inclusive. By 1979, attendance was over five thousand, and the church was becoming prominent among Pentecostals and Charismatics. John and Dodie created and hosted Lakewood's weekly television program, which could be seen in 100 countries worldwide. Upon John Osteen's death on January 23, 1999 after suffering from a heart attack, his youngest son, Joel Osteen, became pastor.
Under the leadership of Joel Osteen, Lakewood's congregation increased almost fivefold. Attendance increased to 30,000 weekly, prompting a move from its location at 7317 East Houston Road to a larger facility. In late 2003, the church signed a long-term lease with the city of Houston to acquire the Compaq Center, a 29-year-old former sports arena. Before being acquired by Lakewood, tenants to the Compaq Center arena, once called The Summit, included the Houston Rockets, the Houston Aeros, and the Houston Comets.
Lakewood Church relocated to the Compaq Center on July 16, 2005. It is a 16,800-seat facility in southwest Downtown Houston along U.S. Highway 59, that has twice the capacity of its former sanctuary. The church was required to pay $11.8 million in rent in advance for the first 30 years of the lease. Lakewood renovated the new campus at an estimated cost of $75 million.
On March 31, 2010, the Houston City Council voted 13–2 to sell the property to Lakewood for $7.5 million.
In 2011, Joel and Victoria were sued for $3 million for using a piece of music without permission in the marketing campaign for a church DVD. The lawsuit was struck down in 2012. In 2012, Daniel Alvaro Guzman, a former Lakewood Church volunteer, sued the church for $10 million for having been wrongly accused of child molestation.
Lakewood Church believes that the entire Bible is inspired by God, and the church bases its teachings in this belief. The church also holds in account the belief in the Trinity, as well as the recognition of the death of Christ on the cross and resurrection.
From the commands found in the Bible, the church practices the following:
- Salvation: Each service offers an Altar call at the end in order for people to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
- Water Baptism: The church believes the bible asks for this symbol as a testimony to faith in Jesus Christ -in his cleansing power through his shedding of blood on the cross for us. Baptism is practiced every Saturday night in the church's Chapel.
- Communion: The church believes the bible asks for this act of remembering what Jesus did on the cross. It is offered once a month.
- Growing Relationship with Jesus Christ: Lakewood believes that every believer should be in a growing relationship with Jesus by obeying God's Word, yielding to the Holy Spirit and by being conformed to the image of Christ.
Lakewood offers different types of ministries, fellowships, and services depending on the age, marital status, and need of its members.
- Kidslife: Children
- Lakewood Middle School: Jr. High Students
- Lakewood Youth: High School Students
- Main Service: All Adults
- Lakewood Young Adults: In-college and Post-college Young Adults
During Weekend services, Pastor Joel Osteen, Victoria Osteen, John Gray or Danilo Montero preach. On Sunday nights, Nick Nilson or John Gray preach. On Wednesday nights, the Associate Pastors: Paul Osteen, Lisa Osteen, John Gray or guest speakers preach.
Members can connect through the LifeGroups ministry, which is the cell group version for Lakewood. In LifeGroups, 8-12 members meet in homes to fellowship, study the Bible in depth, and pray. The Church also holds retreats.
Various classes are offered through the Compass Classes ministry, meeting before and after weekend services.
The Celebrate Recovery and the Freedom Series offer help classes and fellowship to members who have a need in areas like addictions, hang ups[clarification needed], hurts, sexual issues, and chemical dependency.
Hospital visits and funeral services are also provided.
The church's weekly services are broadcast on Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television Network, as well as local channels in most major US markets. Lakewood also appears on secular networks, such as Fox Network, ABC Family, and USA Network. In 2007, Lakewood reported spending nearly $30 million every year on its television ministry. Osteen's sermons are also televised in more than 100 countries, with an estimated 7 million viewers each week.
Worship leaders include:
- Cindy Cruse-Ratcliff
- Israel Houghton
- Da'Dra Greathouse
- Steve Crawford
- Peter Wilson (from Hillsong London)
In 2002, Lakewood began a Hispanic ministry, Iglesia Lakewood, started by Hispanic Pastor Marcos Witt and his wife, Miriam Witt. Lakewood has two services each week in Spanish and translates all English services into Spanish. The weekly attendance at the Spanish services is approximately 6,000 people.
On September 16, 2012, Witt decided to step down as head pastor of Iglesia Lakewood and handed the ministry over to Danilo Montero and his wife, Gloriana Montero. The worship leader of the Hispanic services was Coalo Zamorano, a Christian music leader from Mexico, but is now Job Gonzalez and Ingrid Rosario.
Critics have said that Lakewood Church's ministry under Joel Osteen has de-emphasized traditional Christian teachings regarding the sinful nature of mankind and the need for repentance. Some observers also criticize the absence of traditional religious symbols in the former Compaq Center, such as a cross or altar.
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- "What We Believe". Retrieved 20 September 2014.
- Encounter Ministry
- Compass Bible Studies
- Celebrate Recovery
- Hospital Care
- Stephen Ministry
- "Interview: Joel Osteen on the Future of America's Churches and Him Pastoring One". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
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