Osteen reflects on his life, ministry

Posted Friday, Mar. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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HOUSTON -- The Rev. Joel Osteen used to watch the Houston Rockets play basketball at the then-Compaq Center.

Today, he stands behind a pulpit in the same venue, preaching the Christian gospel in a simplistic manner, which helps multitudes rebound from their sins and heartaches.

Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, which was pastored by his late, father, John, for 40 years. Osteen became the spiritual leader of the evangelical congregation in 1999, the same year his father died.

Osteen ministers much differently than his father, who was a fast-talking and fiery preacher with a Baptist background.

The younger Osteen is more laid back and softer spoken and under his direction, Lakewood Church experienced massive growth.

In 2005, after completing $95 million dollars in renovations, Osteen moved his congregation to the 16,000-seat former Compaq Center.

Each week, he preaches to an estimated 38,000 people who flock in for weekly services and discipleship training, according to www.joelosteen.com.

And millions are watching him on television and reading his books and blogs.

Osteen, who turned 50 on Tuesday, answered questions about his remarkable faith journey in an interview earlier this week at Lakewood Church.

You've pastored the church for 14 years. If you had to do it all over, what would you do the same and what would you do differently?

"I probably would do a lot the same. I don't really regret anything. ... I feel like this is who I'm supposed to be. I do wish I could have ministered back then like I do now. But I do accept the fact that I've had to grow."

Early on, you made a clear choice to be yourself and to not minister like your father. How has that been advantageous?

"My dad had pastored for 40 years, and when he died, I felt like everybody wanted me to be like him because they had listened to him for four decades. I tried that at first. But I soon realized that God made us as to be individuals. When I started encouraging people and telling stories as I ministered, that's when it took off."

You teach what is labeled as the word of faith message, which was once only taught in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, but you have taken it mainstream, to Baptist and Methodists and various denominations. What are your feelings about that?

"There are a lot of people from different denominations and a lot of people who were not raised in church who watch. I was raised in the best of both worlds by a charismatic father. I learned about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I'm also able to take the same message to people who weren't raised like me. My goal is not to reach only people like me who are in our same camp."

People come to your church looking for hope, when they've hit bottom. What's the best way to get them moving forward?

"I tell them that God has them in the palm of his hand, and there's nothing they're facing that's a total surprise to God. It's important to find something to be grateful for. Otherwise, you get more and more bitter and discouragement just piles on. People need to know that it's not a surprise, that they can find something to be grateful for and move forward."

You talk about your failures and learning experiences. How is that advantageous?

"It opens people hearts when they see that I'm not up ministering because I'm perfect, or I'm not up here because I'm better than you. Being genuine and transparent, and letting people see that you have weaknesses too that you're dealing with is effective."

You preach messages that stress ignoring your critics with titles such as "Hit the Delete Button." But is there ever a time when you feel like the criticism is valid and you grow from it?

"Absolutely. There are things that people have said, not necessarily from the blogs, but from people who are friends. They'll say things like, 'Joel, here's some advice on how to say something better.' However, there is a group of people that you're never going to please, and if you continually try to, it becomes a problem."

The theme of Christian prosperity is taught a lot today and prospering is mentioned a lot in the Scriptures. How can a person teach that theme in a way that does not lead a person into self-centeredness?

"There's obviously a fine line. You have to teach it with balance. It's like I said in my latest sermon that you are blessed to be a blessing. Some people teach that you're supposed to be poor, but I don't believe that. But I also don't believe you're to focus on money. To me, it's a tool to be a blessing. When you excel, you use your finances to bless others."

How do you define prosperity?

"It's peace in your mind, health in your body, good relationships, money to pay your bills and to fulfill your dreams. So, it's not just money. If you have all of the money in the world, but if you are not healthy and have bad relationships, that's not a good situation."

You have the opportunity to take a good look at the worldwide church. What do you think God is saying today?

"It's an exciting day to be alive. I think faith is at an all-time high. Some people see it the opposite because there's a lot of negative things that go on. But we just sat in an auditorium with 14,000 people here for a Sunday morning service. When I grew up, a church of 1,000 was a big deal. But this is a day where people all over the world have churches of tens of thousands. Churches that are practical and relevant, and change with the times will thrive."

Where would you like to see yourself at age 75 and 100?

"I pray every day that we would not have a down year, that we would increase, not just in numbers, but also in influence, in wisdom and in helping people. My prayer is we continue to grow and get better."

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