He’s called “America’s Pastor,” and at a time when increasing numbers of people are looking for answers in an uncertain world, that’s saying an awful lot. Pastor of the largest church in America, the 16,000-seat Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Joel Osteen brings his message of hope to viewers all over the world though Joel Osteen Ministries, seen every week on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the Church Channel. TBN, founded 37 years ago by Paul Crouch and his wife Jan, has a long standing friendship with Joel and Victoria Osteen.
As a best-selling author and arguably the most popular inspirational speaker in America today, Osteen is changing the way people approach the issue of faith in God. “Many people are facing huge challenges today in a lot of different areas,” he said, “so when they come to church or to hear someone like me speak, the last thing they need is someone beating them down about what they are or aren’t doing. They need encouragement, for someone to assure them that they can leave their past behind and embrace God’s great future for them.”
Osteen certainly has known his share of success over the past several years. His books have been number one on the New York Times best-sellers list, more than 40,000 worshipers hear him speak weekly at Lakewood Church, and millions are inspired by his television broadcasts, his popular podcasts, and his sold-out worship events in arenas across the country.
But while it may seem that success happened overnight for Osteen, in reality he spent many years working behind the scenes, honing the skills that have made him what many experts are calling the voice of hope for a new generation of believers.
Raised in the church he now pastors, Osteen was an integral part of Lakewood’s ministry for many years before he ever stepped into the pulpit to speak. “My father, John Osteen, started Lakewood back in 1959 in a little feed store, and so it has been my home church since the day I was born,” Osteen explained. That little church held 90 worshippers, a tiny fraction of the throngs who now come each Sunday to Lakewood’s massive worship center in Houston’s former Compaq Center (where the NBA’s Houston Rockets held court for years).
Following a year of college at Oral Roberts University, Osteen returned to Lakewood, where for 17 years he headed up the church’s television ministry, producing his father’s weekly ministry program and learning the intricacies of video production. “I was happy working behind the scenes,” he recalled. “I had no dreams of being on the other side of the camera.”
But after years of deftly sidestepping his father’s invitations to preach, the younger Osteen finally agreed to fill in one Sunday while his father was ill and in the hospital. “I really didn’t want to do it,” he recalled, “but something deep inside me told me I should.”
So that Sunday, while his father listened with pride from his hospital room via a telephone line, Joel Osteen preached his first sermon at Lakewood Church. Little did anyone know that by the next Friday the elder Osteen would be dead at 77 from heart failure, and Joel would take over as senior pastor. “I never dreamed when I stood speaking that Sunday that my father would be going home,” Osteen recalled. “But I don’t think it was a coincidence that he asked me to fill in and I accepted. I think it was all God’s timing.”
After his father’s death, Osteen felt strongly that God wanted him to take the role of pastor at Lakewood. So the next Sunday, while he and the rest of the congregation were still grieving their loss, he preached for the second time, and with an initial sense of reluctance began leading what has become the largest and fastest growing church in the nation. “We certainly didn’t see what was coming down the road,” Osteen said. “We felt that if we could just maintain what we had we would be doing well. I didn’t have any background at all in preparing messages, preaching, or leading a church. But people responded and God has continued to bless our efforts.”
If Osteen was reluctant about his ability to fill the shoes of his father, his wife Victoria, who serves as co-pastor of Lakewood Church, had no doubts about her husband’s future. “I knew Joel had the discipline, the focus, and all the ability he needed to succeed,” she said. “There was so much inside of him waiting to blossom, so it was very easy for me to encourage him and help him reach for the future God had for him.”
Beyond the success they have enjoyed at home in Houston, the Osteens have also taken their inspirational message across the nation for Night of Hope celebrations in major venues like Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, and the historic 2009 “Night of Hope” in New York City’s Yankee Stadium—the first ever non-baseball event held in the new facility.
Osteen explained that the focus of the “Night of Hope” celebrations is to bring hope and joy to individuals and families facing uncertain times. “More than ever, there is a need for hope across our nation,” Osteen said. “People need to know that whatever challenges they are facing in life, there is a God who cares for them, who is on their side, and who has a future and a hope for them.”
Whether at home speaking to his Lakewood Church congregation, encouraging communities in Night of Hope Celebrations across America, or bringing his distinctive uplifting message to audiences across the globe via television, Joel Osteen has one goal in his heart: to help people reach their God-given potential.
“Our message is a message of hope that God is a good God,” said Osteen. “No matter what we’ve done, no matter where we’ve come from, God has a great plan for our lives. And when we walk in His ways He can take us places we never dreamed we could go. That’s what I want people to know.”
Find Joel Osteen on:
No related posts.