Joel Scott Osteen, an American preacher and televangelist was born on March 5, 1963. He is the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant church in the United States, in Houston, Texas. Osteen’s televised sermons are seen by over 7 million viewers weekly and over 20 million monthly in over 100 countries. Osteen has written seven 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 New York Times Best Seller list. The book remained a The New York Times Best Seller for more than 200 weeks.
Osteen was born in Houston, Texas, and is one of six children of John Osteen and Dolores (“Dodie”) Pilgrim. His father, a formerSouthern 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 (1982-1999), until when his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack.[
Osteen’s father, John, founded Lakewood Church back in 1959. The son of a Texas cotton farmer, John Osteen was a Southern Baptist minister before his faith took on a more charismatic turn in the late 1950s. He founded his own nondenominational church in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Houston, and over the next four decades shepherded it into a dynamic, thriving congregation. The senior Osteen’s feel-good message, in which he exhorted churchgoers to have deep faith, and the blessings of the material world—good health, prosperity, and a solid family unit—would be theirs, caught on with Houstonians, and the church had grown to 5,000 members by 1979.
Joel Osteen’s father encouraged him 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 after his father’s death, Osteen began preaching regularly and later that year was installed as the new senior pastor of Lakewood Church on October 3, 1999. Since then, Lakewood’s attendance has grown 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 Governor Rick Perry and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Osteen 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, and is based in New York.
As of 2012, Osteen’s net worth is reportedly $56,508,500. He lives with his family in a $10,500,000 home.
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. He 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 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. 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.
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 message 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 is a prosperity teacher, Osteen responded that if prosperity means God wants people to be blessed and healthy and have good relationships, then he considers himself a prosperity teacher, but if it is about money, he does not. He has specifically stated that he never preaches about money because of the reputation of televangelists.
In an interview with The Christian Post on April 21, 2013, 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’.”