Joel Osteen

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Joel Osteen
Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church.JPG
Osteen at Lakewood Church, December 8, 2007
Religion Non-denominational Christianity, Charismatic Christianity, Evangelical, Word of Faith
Church Lakewood Church
Nationality American
Born Joel Scott Osteen
(1963-03-05) March 5, 1963 (age 55)
Houston, Texas
Spouse Victoria Osteen (m. 1987)
Children Jonathan, Alexandra
Parents John Osteen (father)
Dolores Pilgrim Osteen (mother)[1]
Religious career
Post Senior pastor (1999–present)

Joel Scott Osteen (born March 5, 1963)[2] 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 televised sermons are seen by over 7 million viewers weekly and over 20 million monthly in over 100 countries.[3][4] Osteen has written five New York Times Bestselling books. He has been widely nicknamed "The Smiling Preacher".[5]

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 Best Seller for more than 200 weeks.[6]

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.[7] 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.[4][8] 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.[4][9]


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. John Osteen died six days 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.[10] Under Joel Osteen, Lakewood's attendance grew from 5,000 to 43,000.[6]

In 2003, Lakewood Church acquired the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA Houston Rockets. Renovations cost $105 million.[11] The renovations took over 15 months to complete, and included the addition of five stories to add more capacity.[12] 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.[13]

Lakewood Church services, led by Pastor Joel Osteen, are seen in over 100 countries.[14] Osteen was selected by Barbara Walters as one of her 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006.[15][15][16] Former presidential candidate John McCain has described Osteen as his favorite inspirational author.[17] The Osteen family attended Easter breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010.[18]

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.[19] Osteen preached at Yankee Stadium in 2009, selling out the stadium.[20]

Preaching style

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.[21]

Osteen says that he chooses to focus more on the goodness of God and on living an obedient life than on sin.[22] Osteen says that he tries to teach Biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude.[23] 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."[9]


Osteen at a Nashville book signing, 18 May 2007

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 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.[24][25] Osteen has said that the book focuses more on relationships and not getting stuck where we are in life.[26]

As senior pastor, Osteen draws no salary from the church, which has an annual budget of $70 million. Instead, he relies on income from his flourishing book sales the most recent of which is I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life. Much of the content for his best sellers come from sermons he has preached at Lakewood. His book sales and related material have brought in a reported $55 million in total.[citation needed]

Personal life

He married Lakewood Church co-pastor Victoria Iloff on April 4, 1987. They have a son, Jonathan, and daughter, Alexandra.[27] His older siblings, Paul, Lisa, and Tamara, and his younger sister, April, are also involved in full-time ministry.[28] His half-brother Justin does missionary work out of New York.[10] As of 2012, his net worth is reportedly $56,508,500,[29] and he lives with his family in a $10,500,000 home.[30]

Political and social views

Osteen has generally avoided discussing controversial issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and politics.[15][31] When asked, Osteen said that he is opposed to same-sex marriage.[32][33][34][35] Osteen refuses to preach about homosexuality due to his belief that God likes, accepts, and approves of all people.[36] 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 welcome 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.[34] Osteen has also stressed that he does not approve of "homophobia," but that his faith is based on his reading of the Scriptures.[34][37] 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.[15][34]

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.[38]

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.[39][40][31][38][41][42][43] 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 message is heresy. Horton stated that the problem with Osteen's message is that it makes religion about us instead of about God.[44]

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.[9]

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."[45]

Internet hoax

Joel Osteen has been the target of an internet hoax.[46] In April 2013 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.[47][48] A Lakewood Church spokesperson sent out a Twitter message assuring followers the pastor had not resigned.[49] The story was widely covered and debunked by newspapers, websites, and television news programs.[50][51][52]


  • 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)[53]
  • Hope for Today Bible (2009)
  • It's Your Time : Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God's Favor (2010)[54]
  • 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)
  • You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner (2014)
  • The Power Of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today (2015)

See also


  1. "Obituary: Pastor John H. Osteen". Houston Chronicle. 1999-01-26. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  2. "Joel Birthday-1963-March-05". Archived from the original on 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2007-05-08. 
  3. "Joel Osteen's still the name leaders know". The Washington Times. 2008-09-05. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "About Joel". Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  5. Romano, Lois (30 January 2005). "'The Smiling Preacher' Builds on Large Following". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Joel Osteen". World Vision. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  7. Christ Notes, Joel Osteen Books and Ministry Archived June 25, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Popular positive pastor Joel Osteen brings 'Night of Hope' to Utah". 2 October 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Joel Osteen: The Man Behind America's Largest Church". Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Matthieu, Jennifer (2 April 2002). "Power House". Houston Press. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  11. Somers, Meredith (29 April 2012). "Osteen draws 40,000 to Nationals Park". The Washington Times. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  12. "Nation's largest church opens in stadium". MSNBC. Associated Press. 17 July 2005. Retrieved 2010-03-22. 
  13. "God's Stadium". Houston Press. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  14. Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen Ministries. About Pastors Joel & Victoria
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006". 20/20. ABC. 2006-12-12. 
  16. Kwon, Lillian. Joel Osteen Dubbed 'Most Fascinating'. 11 December 2006.
  17. "Jonathan J Tibbs: Just as I Am...A Story of Joel Osteen...". CNN iReport. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  18. "Osteen and others attend White House Easter breakfast". Houston Chronicles. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  19. Joel Osteen Ministries Events
  20. "Joel Osteen preaches to sold out crowd in Yankee Stadium". Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  21. "Joel Osteen: By the numbers and other interesting facts". Christian Post. 25 April 2013. 
  22. "Fox News on Osteen". Fox News. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  23. "Joel Osteen Answers His Critics". CBS News. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  24. "". Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  25. "New Osteen Book at Three Million". Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  26. CNN Larry King Live: Interview With Joel and Victoria Osteen. 11 December 2006. Archived August 29, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  27. Vital Records – Harris County, TX – Marriage 1987
  28. Osteen, Dodie. "Choosing Life: One Day At A Time." New York: Free Press, 2001
  29. "Joel Osteen's Net Worth". Rich But Broke. 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  30. "After move to $10.5 million River Oaks mansion, Joel Osteen offers Tanglewood land for $1.1 million". Culture Map. 2010-07-09. Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 Blumenthal, Ralph (30 March 2006). "Joel Osteen's Credo: Eliminate the Negative, Accentuate Prosperity". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  32. "Joel Osteen: Being Gay Is A Sin, But I Don't Dislike Gay People". The Huffington Post. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  33. Tapper, Jake (March 29, 2013). "Televangelist Joel Osteen on the power of Twitter, and same-sex marriage". CNN. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 Piers Morgan (January 24, 2011). " Video". CNN. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  35. Tenety, Elizabeth (January 28, 2011). "Joel Osteen: 'Homosexuality is a sin'". Washington Post. p. B2. 
  36. Hafiz, Yasmine. "Joel Osteen Tells Larry King 'Scripture Says Homosexuality Is A Sin. But I Don't Want To Preach About It'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 January 2014. 
  37. "Joel Osteen Finally Comes Out On 'Gay' Issue". WorldNetDaily. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 "Transcript: Pastor Joel Osteen on 'FNS'". FOX News. 2007-12-23. Retrieved 2011-05-13. Now, as with most successful people, you have critics who say that what you offer is gospel 'lite,' the prosperity gospel. 
  39. Stephen Brooks (2013). American Exceptionalism in the Age of Obama. p. 51. ... Joel Osteen and T. D. Jakes, the most prominent contemporary messengers of the prosperity gospel ... 
  40. "Does God Want You to Be Rich?". Time. September 10, 2006. Retrieved 2015-03-19. 'Does God want us to be rich?' [Osteen] asks. 'When I hear that word rich, I think people say, 'Well, he's preaching that everybody's going to be a millionaire.' I don't think that's it.' Rather, [Osteen] explains, 'I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative, isn't it?' ... 
  41. Cathleen Falsani. "The Prosperity Gospel". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-03-19. 'God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,' Osteen wrote in a 2005 letter to his flock.... 
  42. "Meet the Prosperity Preacher". Business Week. May 23, 2005. Retrieved March 19, 2015. Osteen is also a leading proponent of what is sometimes called the 'prosperity gospel,' which teaches that God wants people to prosper in all areas of their lives—including material success. 
  43. 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
  44. "Joel Osteen Answers his Critics". CBS News 60 Minutes. 2007-10-14. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  45. "Interview: Joel Osteen on Life, Tragedy and Why He Shuns 'Prosperity Gospel' Label". Christian Post. 
  46. "Pastor Joel Osteen Is The Target Of A Complex Online Hoax". National Public Radio. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  47. "Famed mega church pastor is NOT giving up Christianity after hoax website said he had lost his faith". The Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  48. Bennettsmith, Meredith (9 April 2013). "Joel Osteen Hoax: Man Allegedly Behind Ploy To Discredit Leader Wants Televangelist To Change His Message". 
  50. "Joel Osteen target of elaborate Internet hoax". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  51. "Joel Osteen Turns the Other Cheek on Internet Hoax". ABC News. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  52. "The Man Behind The Joel Osteen Hoax". ABC News. 
  53. "Become a Better You - Books by Joel Osteen - Simon & Schuster". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  54. "It's Your Time - Books by Joel Osteen - Simon & Schuster". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 

External links