While praying alone in the auditorium of Lakewood Church in Houston recently, I sensed God speak in my spirit. As I pondered just how and why God has used Joel Osteen to fill this massive auditorium with the masses week after week, I felt God respond to my query with a simple impression: “Joel Osteen is a friend to sinners.”
As the day progressed, the impact of that statement began to overwhelm me. I couldn’t think of another minister with significant public influence who could bear that title—not even a close second.
Of all the accusations Christ received, none were more controversial—especially from the religious crowd.
I began to reflect on the phenomenal ministry Joel and Victoria Osteen have had in our nation, beginning with their work as pastors. Since 1999, Joel has pastored Lakewood Church, the country’s largest church—in fact, the largest in our nation’s history. It’s a church where some 45,000 people attend weekly at one location. Lakewood Church buzzes nightly with discipleship classes facilitating its members and the nearly 50,000 people who receive a new believers book at the altar calls each year in the Lakewood services. Training and engaging the over 6,000 volunteers in Christ-centered ministries makes the 53-year-old Lakewood Church one of the healthiest churches in the country. The 90-minute weekend service includes 60 minutes of nonstop worship mixed with exhortation, prayer for the sick, a 90-second offering (with no announcements) and then Joel’s 27-minute message. Joel’s messages are skillfully and prayerfully laced with an average of a dozen or so Scripture references. (Joel has observed that multiple references to verses and books in the Bible to the high percentage of unbelievers in the television audience can be intimidating).
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