Who is Joel Osteen?
Joel Osteen is the leader of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Born in Houston, Texas, Osteen is one of five children of John Osteen and Dolores ("Dodie") Pilgrim. His father, a former Southern Baptist pastor, founded Lakewood Church where Osteen is the current senior pastor. Osteen married his wife, Victoria L. Iloff, on April 4, 1987. They have two children, Jonathan and 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 out of New York.
After 17 years producing the church's television program, Osteen succeeded his father on October 3, 1999, as pastor of Lakewood Church. He had only preached once in his life, the week before his father's death. Today, Lakewood Church services, led by Pastor Joel Osteen, are seen in over 100 nations around the world. Joel Osteen's first book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, was released in October 2004. In December 2006, he was named one of the year's "Ten Most Fascinating People" by Barbara Walters. Former presidential candidate John McCain has described Osteen as "inspirational".
Currently, Osteen and several Lakewood Church personnel travel across the nation, presenting programs in large arenas. The event, titled "A Night of Hope", 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.
Osteen released his second book, titled Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day in October 2007, which also topped the New York Times Best Sellers List with a first printing of four million copies. Osteen told Larry King the new book will focus more on relationships and not getting stuck where we are in life. "Just my basic message of becoming all God's created you to be," he added. Osteen's popularity led to him being featured as one of ABC News' "10 Most Fascinating People of 2006", and was named "Most Influential Christian in America" in 2006 by The Church Report.
On the December 23, 2007, edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace brought up Osteen's lack of Scripture reference in his sermons, as well as his hesitancy to discuss sin as an integral part of life. Osteen responded: "And I am ultimately trying to do that, but I'm trying to teach people how to live their everyday lives, and so I do focus on it, probably not as much as some people would like."
Osteen says that he chooses to focus on the goodness of God rather than sin. Osteen explains that he tries to teach Biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude. In an appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight in January 2011, Osteen mentioned he had never attended seminary. Osteen's sermons and writings are often criticized for promoting prosperity theology, or the prosperity gospel, a belief that wealth and power are rewards for pious Christians.
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."
Political and social views
Osteen said that he is opposed to same-sex marriage in an interview with Fox News and other outlets. In an interview with CNN, he further said that he believes "that scripture shows that it [homosexual activity] is a sin". 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.
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