Joel Osteen and his ministry will share their spiritual message with the city of Louisville during a Night of Hope event at the KFC Yum! Center on Sept. 5.
During the two and a half-hour service, Osteenâ€™s wife Victoria, also a minister with their Lakewood Church, will speak. His mother will share her story of overcoming cancer as well. Local ministers will have a moment to voice their thoughts and prayers. â€œThe whole night is tied around hope,â€ Osteen said. â€œGod is for you. Good things are in store.â€
Osteen believes his central concept is â€œa great way to live a better life,â€ and that it is just as relevant to secular audiences as religious ones â€“ in fact, over half of his audience does not identify as churchgoing. In the past 10 years, over 2 million people have attended one of Osteenâ€™s Night of Hope events across many different countries.
According to the New York Times, Osteen is one of Twitterâ€™s most influential people, with almost 3 million followers. The Times have also listed Osteen repeatedly as a best-selling author.
John Osteen, Joelâ€™s father, started Lakewood Church in 1959 with a 90-member congregation. His son returned after college to produce and broadcast the services. When the father suddenly passed away of a heart attack in 1999, Joel felt commanded to take charge of the ministry.
â€œI knew down deep I was supposed to step up and pastor the church,â€ Osteen said. â€œI had never ministered before and never wanted to be a minister. I didnâ€™t think this was in me, but somehow I just had the desire.â€
Osteen believes his years spent producing the churchâ€™s services were â€œall part of Godâ€™s plan.â€ Today, he still edits his own sermons. â€œI donâ€™t think I would be where I am without that production background.â€
It didnâ€™t take long for Osteen to find his rhythm. Today, the Lakewood community is 43,000-strong and fills the former Compaq Center in Houston, Texas for seven weekly services. The facility was purchased from the Houston Rockets in 2003 and renovated to the tune of $105 million.
â€œI never dreamed it would grow,â€ Osteen said. â€œI feel very blessed and honored to be where I am. Thatâ€™s part of our message: Godâ€™s dream for your life is bigger than your own.â€
Osteen credits the messageâ€™s infective positivism, which is difficult to find in media today, with his success. â€œI think life pushes people down enough, and our message is about lifting people up,â€ Osteen said. â€œI think thatâ€™s one reason it draws people from all walks of life.â€
All kinds of people â€“ not just Christians â€“ can expect an extended hand from Osteen. Practical advice and encouragement are the â€œstarting pointâ€ that comes before conversion and doctrine with the Lakewood ministry. Religious semantics are not to be bothered with.
â€œIâ€™ve tried to make the Christian life relevant to people that werenâ€™t raised like me,â€ he said. â€œHow do you forgive? How do you have a good attitude? How do you have a good self-image? I think that applies to so many people. Iâ€™m trying to plant a seed in peopleâ€™s hearts and uplift them in some way.â€
For Osteen, the Christ-like life exists in basketball arenas and baseball stadiums, not only behind closed church doors. The Night of Hope format was â€œdesigned for people that werenâ€™t raised in church,â€ Osteen said. â€œWhen Jesus was on the earth, he went to the marketplace. He was called a friend of sinners. He went out to where the people were.â€
At the end of the day, Osteen still considers himself a traditional minister, and a continuum of his fatherâ€™s message. However, not everyone in the Christian community is supportive of Osteenâ€™s message and ministry. Some rebuke it as â€œprosperity gospelâ€ and claim that it only offers a false guarantee of success due to positive spiritual living.
Osteen doesnâ€™t see himself in the light cast by others. â€œHalf of my message is about overcoming obstacles and how you get through these tough times,â€ he said. â€œI believe prosperity means to have good relationships, to have good health, to be able to pay your bills, to be a blessing to other people.â€
â€œWe teach the Bible, we teach the scripture. We just do it in a practical, relevant way,â€ Osteen said. â€œWhether youâ€™ve been in this all your life or youâ€™re new, I think youâ€™ll get something out of it that you can use that week.â€